The annual London BFI Film Festival is set to open this week and amongst its impressive list of 243 features it includes some amazing shorts and an exciting array of debut documentaries. The official date of the festival’s 61st anniversary edition, which will take place at venues across the UK capital, runs from the 4 - 15 October. With such an exciting festival due to start I wanted to compile a list of the five must see documentaries currently on or released this week. These films form part of the incredible and diverse range of new releases showcasing at independent cinemas, online at global film website MUBI, streamed original content produced by Netflix and of course part of the BFI Film Festival itself.
OUR LAST TANGO
BERTHA DOCHOUSE: FINISHES THIS THURSDAY 5TH OCT!
12A / 85 mins
DIR. GERMAN KRAL
‘Their explosive relationship brought the world a new dance’
Originally premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 as well as at Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Japan and the Berlin International Film Festival, this semi-dramatised documentary finally graces the British screen showcasing across the country from 22 September. Written and directed by German Kral and produced by Wim Wenders, Our Last Tango tells the life and love story of Argentina’s most celebrated tango dancers Maria Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes. A film about two dancers becoming international stars and making the Argentine tango famous around the world, this documentary is also an intimate commentary on the pairs personal relationship and their painful separation which tore them apart. Now in their 80s and no longer on speaking terms, Kral films these two tango greats as they discuss their past and the dance that changed their lives.
BRITAIN ON FILM: BLACK BRITAIN
BARBICAN CINEMA: 8/10/2017 16:00
12A / 91 mins
A series of archive films, Britain on Film: Black Britain explores the vital history of Black Britain throughout the 20th century. Footage spanning from 1901 to 1985 provides an amazing opportunity to enter a world that explores stories of migration, community and the struggle against inequality. All the films are from British archives and help celebrate and uncover a black British culture and life on screen. Films in the programme include Hello! West Indies (1943) a short which introduces West Indians serving in Britain during World War I and Black Police Officers (1966) a documentary about views from a midlands street about a then controversial issue; ethnicity in the police force. Check out the Barbican website here https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2017/event/britain-on-film-black-britain-12a to book tickets and find out what little-seen footage is on offer.
THE ROHINGYA PEOPLE: 'A SLOW BURNING GENOCIDE'
FRONTLINE CLUB: 25/10/2017 19:00
DIR: SHAFIUR RAHMAN
'The United Nations has stated that the Burmese military has been driving Rohingya Muslims out of the Rakhine state, killing civilians and burning their land to the ground. Around 400,000 Rohingya people from North Western Myanmar have become refugees in the space of two weeks'
The wonderful Frontline Club will be screening this short doc by journalist Shafiur Rahman. A panel discussion featuring Anastasia Taylor-Lind and Dr Azeem Ibrahim will open a discussion on this crisis after the screening. This is a hard hitting documentary with lasting images and harrowing tales from those affected. Not one to miss.
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON
NETFLIX: AVALIABLE 6/10/2017
RUN TIME: 105 mins
DIR. DAVID FRANCE
A Netflix original The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) is a powerful documentary by Academy Award Nominated director David France. His new documentary, an entry into the Tribeca Film Festival Documentary Competition, centres on self-described “street queen” Marsha P. Johnson. A legendary fixture in New York City’s gay ghetto, who along with fellow trans icon Sylvia Rivera, founded Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.), a trans activist group based in the heart of NYC’s Greenwich Village. After Marsha’s body was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992, her death was recorded as a suicide. However, Marsha’s close friends and the S.T.A.R alliance have firmly rejected this proposal. France constructs this documentary as a whodunit, which casts activist Victoria Cruz cast as a detective to solve the mystery of her unexplained death and celebrate the lasting political legacy of Marsha P. Johnson.
THE GREAT WALL
MUBI: 17 DAYS TO WATCH
RUN TIME: 71mins
DIR. TADHG O’SULLIVAN
‘The film’s central idea, that walls of all kinds are everywhere erected to protect power and exclude the powerless, is a timeless one’ MUBI is renowned for showcasing incredible and ground-breaking films, old and new. It is forever updating and changing its content meaning films have a shelf life of around 4 weeks before they are removed and a new film is put in its place. This month it is exclusively showing Tadhg O’Sullivan’s The Great Wall (2015) from September 21- October 21. Tadgh states that he found inspiration for this film from Kafka’s ‘The Building of the Great Wall of China’ using this short story as the films narration. He saw it as a perfect lens for this subject which documents the intensifying migrant crisis in Europe. A pertinent documentary, The Great Wall investigates the barriers to entry erected by E.U. member states: concrete, wire, and electronic surveillance. The film flows from the Mediterranean coast inward to metropolitan seats of power, offering political insight through the juxtaposition of modern imperial authority and desperate migrant poverty.