Taking place in London over four days from June 21st, Open City is a live festival celebrating the documentary film form in all its unusual guises.
Open City will showcase over 100 of the best international documentaries, including the opening night film Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present, following the artist as she continues to redefine the boundaries of art and prepares for a major retrospective of her work at MoMA, New York. There is a whole strand devoted to The Artists’ Documentary, including Barbara Hammer’s Audience, and the UK premiere of Trespass the Salt by Larissa Sansour and Youmna Chlala, as well as rarely seen performance documentation by Carolee Schneeman, Marina Abramović and Fanko B.
Other featured strands include Protest Works, taking us from Egypt’s Tahrir Square: The Good The Bad and The Politician, to Chile’s student protests and the London riots: A Spark From Tottenham. The ‘Still Lives’ strand explores intimate stories and personal journeys, and ‘Sound Waves’ features an exciting programme of screenings, workshops and live performances exploring the sonic landscape. Highlights include Practical Electronica, Ian Heliwell’s innovative portrait film of the influential electronic music pioneer Fred Judd, and Tess Girard’s symphonic documentary: A Simple Rhythm.
What makes the festival stand out is not only its showcase of the hottest docs around the world, but a real aim to challenge and expand our understanding of what a documentary is. It’s a festival aiming to nurture young talent too, with its ‘My Street’ project, an open competition to submit a short film telling a story about where you live. There is also an afternoon of workshops and live events, specifically curated for young people and a Cinema Tent, complete with bar, happy hour, live music, performances, and events such as ‘What’s Up Doc’, an evening of short comedy docs (because docs can be funny too.) A welcome break to festivals which focus heavily on industry, here it’s all about the films, the people, the happy hour, and the urge to discover more about the wonderful, disastrous and unusual world that we live in.
Open City Docs Fest runs from June 21st – 24th across venues in central London and University College London’s WC1 campus. Bespoke Cinema Tent and pop up festival bar in Torrington Square.
Text: Joe Cohen