“The Harvesters” is a short observational documentary about three Maasai men harvesting honey in the Mau Forest in Kenya. Without any dialog and with a pensive camera, “The Harvesters” is a carefully composed portrait of often invisible labour in a now extinct forest.
“Passion Play” is a short documentary that thrusts the viewer inside the middle of a visceral re-enactment of the last hours of Christ’s life, as portrayed by the local towns people of Angles, Philippines. Every Easter the town organizes a passion play that culminates in a procession and crucifixion of the same person who feels it is his pentane to by nailed to the cross after surviving a near fatal fall some twenty years ago. This dialog-less mediation on religious traditions and spectacles gradually separates itself from reality and embraces a bombastic “Hollywood” style orchestral score to emphasize the performative and theatrical aspects of worship. The subjectively of shock and delight, worship and sacrilege, meet in a tense document of passions not for the squeamish.
Aquarela is a unique and truly visual journey into water, the very substance that is making all life forms on earth possible. In this film, the magnificent, artistic documentary-maker Victor Kossakovsky, plunges into the ‘spirituality’ and essence of water and takes audiences on a visually poetic and dramatic journey reflecting their own personal connection to water at every level.
Founded in 2016 by Sol Calero, Ethan Hayes-Chute, Derek Howard, Christopher Kline, and Dafna Maimon, CONGLOMERATE explores the potential of the Television Network model, utilizing the organizational structure and output format of “television” while building a collectivity-focused network. While the overall project is conceived of as a Gesamtkunstwerk, each video segment ties into and utilizes a different artistic practice or gesture. At times these segments form an entire TV show or video work, while at others they appear as a structural element facilitating a greater whole, without hierarchical division. Through the multiple ways the different elements and modes of collaboration are woven together, the Blocks form a kind of network of voices, perspectives, relations, skills, and collective affective labor. The varying degrees of involvement of CONGLOMERATE’s makers and contributors create platforms within platforms, or artworks within artworks, where one artist’s practice can be featured within another’s. This flexibility and continuous shifting of vision and responsibility from maker to maker offers a new potential model for the sustainable and independent realization of larger art projects.
Michael Shannon Michael Shannon John tells the story of the five children (whose names comprise the title) of John Hanmer, a Canadian police officer who lived a troubled life before suffering a tragic death. The film explores how the children, scattered around the world, have each been forced to resolve their father’s troubled past without him.
La Hautière is a feature-length creative documentary about alternative and archaic forms of religious worship that continue to influence life on a rural farm in Brittany, France. No one can say whether it is because ofMerlin’s magic forest, the Holy Grail legend, the mysterious megaliths erected throughout the region, or the rich Celtic heritage, but this area is a religious melting pot. Catholicism, Celtic, Pagan, Cathar, Druidism, and even black magic, are all being practiced in some way on this particular farm, creating an intense and unique mixture of spiritual believes. Through observing different ceremonies and rituals and the people who participate in them, their shared origins and modern day value begins to emerge.
Varicella portrays the tender and trusting relationship between two sisters who share a common dream: becoming a soloist ballet dancer. Nastia, 13 years old, and Polina, 7 years old, are studying at one of the most prestigious ballet academies in Russia through being selected among 5500 talented children from all across the country. In order to make their dream come true, they practice intensively at the academy for six hours every weekday.
“Dayragr” follows a Canadian musician/artist as he organizes 15 bands and performance art acts into a festival in the summer of 2010 in Berlin. Teaching guitar lessons to little kids, shredding band practices, and welding metal sculptures amidst a myriad of personal issues, ego trips, and chronic acts of kindness, relentlessly collide in this document of a specific time, place, and attitude, from an ex-pat perspective. Featuring performances by the Fuzz Kids, Pelarine, The Man I love, Romanizer, Gemeine Gesteine, Arises, White Noise Supremacists, Slashing Gales, Skitish, Helga Wretman, Charlamagne, Michele di Menna, Hush Hush, and Talaband.
Flanked by her phlegmatic sidekick, Dariko is the only outside broadcast journalist at a local Georgian television channel. With derisory resources, she races from one report to another to give an honest, if not objective, image of the current events that shape her environment: from the capture of a “giant” owl to the obituaries – where we thus learn that the bearer of the Soviet flag fluttering over the Berlin Reichstag in 1945 has just been buried — passing via the elections. Noticed with Bakhmaro (2011, screened as part of the Focus Georgia, VdR 2015), Salomé Jashi provides, with humour, distance and a consummate sense of framing, a pseudo-ethnographical portrait of a community that, due to modernity and technological miniaturisation, has never ceased to gather material about itself. The multiplication of camera angles (journalist, filmmaker, amateur filmmakers) in The Dazzling Light of Sunset induces a relative competition between images and their distinct depth of focus. She turns the micro-events that punctuate this tragi-comedy with absurd overtones into revealing examples of a country whose transition still looks chaotic.
Shot entirely through a peephole of a door, Doctor Korbes chronicles the voyeuristic relationship that develops between a filmmaker and his compulsively hoarding neighbor. What starts as surveillance footage prompted by a mysterious break-in, evolves into obsessive documentation of bizarre occurrences over a two-year period. The camera bares witness to the comings and goings of a variety of people: prostitutes, the fire brigade, the police, all seen from the perspective of spying on one’s own neighbor. A 7 minute excerpt can be watched below.
With this film Victor Kossakovsky grants himself a childhood wish. Haven’t we all asked ourselves as children where we would come out if we dug a tunnel right through the centre of the earth? Haven’t we all wondered at some point what was happening just at this moment beneath our very feet at the other side of the planet? In this film those reveries turn into reality. In breathtaking images and a stunning montage we go on a trip to the world’s rare inhabited land-to-land antipodes. We discover the wonders and contradictions of nature and people around the globe. With unprecedented camera movements and exhilarating new perspectives our conventional view of the world is challenged. On the evocative title follows a revolutionary film, that gives three cheers to our planet and its people in all their antagonisms and commonalities: Vivan las Antipodas!
Breathing Room is a personal visualization of how strands of memory saturate a specific space. A continual tracking shot travels through an elderly man’s home, exploring the dilapidated domestic space in it’s owner’s absence and presence. A disappearing boy, a frightening dog, a ghostly book, and a bursting furnace animate the rooms and personify the layers of history that have settled here over a lifetime.
Set in a sizzling New York City, The Hottest August is Brett Story’s visionary look at a culture on the precipice as both climate change and disaster capitalism eclipse our future. Despite an edgy undercurrent of anxiety, the film locates a warm humanity in interactions with a cross section of New Yorkers expert at “rolling with the punches,” as one Staten Island couple says outside of their garage. The rich set of characters includes a futuristic Afronaut, Hurricane Sandy holdouts, a Zumba instructor, and 1920s-style dancers who could be deckhands on the Titanic. While this smart, incisive essay taps into passages by Zadie Smith, Karl Marx, and Annie Dillard, Story’s presence can be felt strongly throughout: she acts as free-ranging poet/meteorologist with a farsighted ability to forecast our uncertain destiny.
What kind of religious expression should be permitted in a secular nation? Holy hell, something is brewing! Just a few years old, the Satanic Temple has risen from the depths to become one of the most controversial religious movements in American history. Hail Satan? bears witness as the temple evolves from a small-scale media stunt to an internationally recognized religion with hundreds of thousands of adherents. Naked bodies writhe with snakes on altars as protesters storm the gates of state capitols across the country. Through their dogged campaign to place a nine-foot, bronze Satanic monument smack dab next to the statue of the Ten Commandments on the Arkansas State Capitol lawn, the leaders of the temple force us to consider the true meaning of the separation of church and state.
Brandishing their sharply honed cinematic swords, director Penny Lane and producer Gabriel Sedgwick strike a cunning balance between cheeky, brazen entertainment and defiantly serious storytelling in this wickedly topical documentary that bares its horns to speak truth to power.
Around the world, far-right leaders and political movements are gaining ground—from Trump to Duterte to Le Pen to Bolsonaro. To what extent does disseminating their stories create a platform for their views? The Brink raises this question as it follows Steve Bannon, after he has left his perch as Trump’s White House chief strategist and as he continues galvanizing what he calls the “global populist movement.”
Filmmaker Alison Klayman’s deft and vigilant fly-on-the-wall camera records everything, from hotel-room meetings with Trump-supporting midterm candidates looking to kiss Bannon’s ring, to intimate convenings with far-right leaders from France, Hungary, Belgium, and Britain, all plotting their next move. When journalists arrive, we witness their attempts to puncture Bannon’s facade of disarming charm and challenge his beliefs. What is most fascinating—and instructive—is the way Klayman subtly reveals patterns in Bannon’s rhetoric and behavior, searingly capturing the way he states one thing but means something entirely different. As we watch him operate, we slowly learn how to deconstruct his methods, which have proven central to his foothold in political life—chilling as they are.
Under the guise of nonfiction, Shaw’s vérité-style trilogy imagines a dystopian—and increasingly familiar—social order in which marginalized societies strive against extinction. Through transcendental experiments and cathartic rituals, these future humans seek feelings of desire and faith that have been expunged from the species’ capacities. The medium-length Quickeners (2014), Liminals (2017), and his latest, I Can See Forever (2018), redefine the bounds of archival cinema, conveying sci-fi narratives through various retro-analogue formats and clinical voiceover narration.
Directed by Corinne van der Borch and Tone Grøttjord-Glenne
This is a coming of age story set in New York, about hope, sisterhood and belonging as the three young homeless sisters Tai, Rainn and Brooke race against all odds and circumstances towards a brighter future.
filmmaker Chelsea McMullan gets the low-down with legendary American poet, essayist and one-time presidential candidate Eileen Myles, perambulating and talking poetry through the streets of their adoptive home of New York.
Originally premiered at this year’s Venice Biennale, the 20-minute film is set against a 1970s cinema vérité aesthetic, and draws parallels between the experimental spiritual gatherings of the ’70s and the effect-laden release of contemporary hedonistic subcultures. It follows a group of 8 dancers as they enact ecstatic rituals in an attempt to access a new realm of consciousness with the potential to save humanity.
My Prairie Home
Directed by Chelsea McMullan
In Chelsea McMullan’s documentary-musical, My Prairie Home, indie singer Rae Spoon takes us on a playful, meditative and at times melancholic journey. Set against majestic images of the infinite expanses of the Canadian Prairies, Spoon sweetly croons us through their queer and musical coming of age. Interviews, performances and music sequences reveal Spoon’s inspiring process of building a life of their own, as a trans person and as a musician.
Following the fragments of Federico Fellini’s most famous unfinished film, Il Viaggio di Mastorna, this short meditative documentary cinematically reveals how Fellini’s story of a man wandering through the afterlife became a graphic novel. Told by Milo Manara, the illustrator who brought Fellini’s vision to life, this richly textured documentary is a tribute to the legacy of a master filmmaker.
Deadman’s tranquil pacing and glorious vistas gently build to a climactic, clever and moving showdown between two opposing camps, between an ancient, peaceful way of life and the seductive yet violent mythology of the Wild West.
“It’s not as if we haven’t been here for a while” is a self-portrait of an artist struggling to accept the fluidity of her own nature. Filmmaker Kathleen Hepburn paints herself into a filmic landscape, whose narrative structure and cinematography is both ethereal and exact, allowing her and her audience to understand the truth of the present moment while recognizing the impermanence of all things
The Sea to Sky Corridor, a seventy-kilometre stretch of highway north of Vancouver, is changing irrevocably. Globalization is in the process of transforming an industrial resource economy into a recreational profit-centre. HWY 99 examines a transitional moment in the life of a paramedic employed by a multinational highway construction firm currently developing the Corridor.
Derek Howard is a director and cinematographer who earned a BFA from Simon Fraser University. His collaborations on short and feature length documentary and fiction films have led to screenings at the Venice Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, HotDocs, IDFA, Clermont-Ferrand, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (Montreal), Festival des Films du Monde (Montreal), and many others.
Derek has participated in the International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam’s Summer School, IDFAcademy, Reykjavik International Film Festival’s Trans Atlantic Talent Lab, and the Berlinale Talents program. He co-shot Chelsea McMullan’s musical documentary “My Prairie Home,” which screened in competition at Sundance 2014, as well contributed additional cinematography on her more recent feature, “Michael Shannon Michael Shannon John” (HotDocs 2015). Derek was the assistant director and 2nd camera on renowned director Victor Kossakovky’s Venice Film Festival premiering “Vivan Las Antipodas” (2011), and “Aquarela” (2018). He just completed filming Brett Story’s Sundance supported documentary “The Hottest August,” (True/False, SXSW, & Hotdocs 2019) as well as Jeremy Shaw’s Venice Biennale premiering art piece “The Quantification Trilogy” (VIFF, NYFF, Tate Modern). Most recently, Derek directed a short documentary that premiered at the VIFF (2018) and True/False (2019), as well as a music video for acclaimed Canadian musician Rae Spoon (Calgary International Film Festival 2018). He is based in New York.