Sheffield Doc/Fest - Day 2
By Rob Aldam
Day two of Doc/Fest began with another Varda and some glorious sun. I first saw Vagabond in my early teens, and it was one of the films that first peaked my interest in world cinema (odd where watching late night foreign films in the hope of nudity can lead an impressionable boy). The cleaned up print looks superb, and a few sound issues aside, it remains a great non-judgemental study of an outsider.
There are moments in film festivals when you know you’re watching something special, but they don’t usually happen in consecutive films. Point and Shoot is a masterful piece of documentary film-making from beginning to end. Marshall Curry maps out the transition of Matthew Vandyke from introverted teen to rebel fighter/documentarian, via a voyage of discovery. His story is truly fascinating, skilfully raising many issues whilst allowing the story to be told using humour, compassion and subtlety. It’s films like this which make documentaries such a powerful medium.
Roger Ebert’s critique is sorely missed by the film world. Eloquent, insightful and passionate, his love a film and his support for new talent set many aspiring film-makers on their way (not least Martin Scorsese). Whilst Life Itself is partly a celebration of his life, it’s much more than that; a moving, entertaining and a fitting tribute to a man who never stopped doing the thing he loved most. There are lovely contributions from Scorsese himself and the irrepressible Werner Herzog,
Concerning Violence is the first expository documentary I’ve seen at the festival this year, and whilst it makes you work, it’s well worth the investment. I have a passing knowledge of Frantz Fanon, but here his final book, The Wretched of the Earth, is quoted liberally as a focal point of Göran Olsson’s polemic. Narrated by Lauren Hill, the Swede uses archive footage to illustrate Fanon’s point, and whilst it’s debateable how relevant some of it is, this is a film which makes you think long after it finishes.