You know what they say kids, truth is stranger than fiction. And this is especially the case when it comes to film. My track record of doc-watching is absolutely shocking. I’ve barely watched any docs apart from the odd animal rights expose and popular environmental docs. Since I love Film Festivals and Sheffield Doc Fest is one of the most coveted documentary film festivals in the world and only 50 minutes away, I booked 3 films on the Saturday of the festival and hopped on a train to Sheffield.
Sheffield Doc Fest
Granted, what ended up fitting my Sheffield Doc Fest schedule and gave me a range of venues ended up being… 2 environmental documentaries and the 1967 Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back. A girl tried, you know? Here’s what I saw…
When Two Worlds Collide (2016)
This documentary played at Sundance Film Festival this year and won the Best First Feature prize in the World Cinema Documentary category. So I knew going in that even if the film wasn’t perfect, it would have some redeeming qualities that would make it a worthwhile choice. The film follows the 2009 events in Peru where the Government claimed the rainforest from Peruvian minorities living there to sell it for profit. And also the subsequent peaceful strikes and violence that ultimately ensued.
You were always clear what side of the argument the filmmakers were on. But the coherency of that argument often was lost in favour of making sure the most horrific, eye-opening footage I have ever seen got the screen time it deserved. When the Government literally sent Police into the rainforest to shoo the Peruvian Natives off the land like vermin, they killed whomever got in their way and the Natives fought back. This is stunningly all caught on camera, up close. How the filmmakers still have their lives is absolutely beyond me.
Age of Consequences (2016)
A traditional environmental documentary with a twist. Age of Consequences asks the question: what effect does climate change have on our security? With droughts and floods forcing families to relocate, what does that do for immigration, terrorism and other huge world issues? With an enormous amount of expert testimony from Professors to high-ranking military officials, this film offers a lot of facts that are hard to dispute.
But with a lot of facts and country-hopping comes information overload. And that means an audience that is confused as to what the filmmakers want us to do now. Apart from use less water, don’t eat meat, ride your bike, etc. There’s this huge problem and you’re having it shouted at you… but, what are you to do with this information? Just lose sleep over it? The director described the film as ‘being gut-punched for 80 minutes.’ Which, whilst true, probably doesn’t have the same positive connotations he was going for. Whilst thoroughly well researched with engaging talking heads, a little less conversation and a little more action please.
Don’t Look Back (1967)
After the death and destruction of the first two films, I was ready for Don’t Look Back. Despite being a huuuuuge Bob Dylan fan I hadn’t seen this documentary before. Shot in a close-up cinema verite style that was popular in America in the late 1960s, the film follows Bob Dylan, his support (including Joan Baez) and his entourage as he tours around the UK. No talking heads, no interaction with the filmmakers. Just watching. This is Dylan before, but on the cusp, of going electric.
With Bob Dylan’s manager as one of the producers, you’re aware of the bias behind the camera. But to me, it wasn’t a good or bad portrayal of Bob Dylan. It was just Bob Dylan. I’ve always stated that I wouldn’t like to meet Bob Dylan because I’ve heard he’s hard to talk to, doesn’t like people, etc. But that’s because you only read one side of the conversation, the interviewer’s side.
Full interviews are played with the most dickish imbeciles working for newspapers asking the most insane questions and Bob Dylan trying to give an answer that he respects and gets behind. After watching the documentary, I think I’ll give more effort into finding the real man behind the music rather than some asshole I’ve come to think of him as.
Truth is stranger than fiction, right?
Have you ever been to Sheffield Doc Fest or seen any of the films mentioned?