Tag Archives: Documentary

Vertov remade

Michael Nyman’s Palimpsest of Man With A Movie Camera

In a new work called NYman With A Movie Camera, Michael Nyman has conducted a really interesting experiment by taking the music he wrote a few years ago for Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera, and employing it again, this time for his own remake of Vertov’s original using his own visual archive as source material. Nyman’s archive largely consists of footage he has filmed himself since the early 90s in different parts of the world he has visited to give concerts. This produces the first difference between Vertov’s film and his own version. Where Vertov’s film is a utopian pre-Stalinist vision of the Communist city, Nyman’s becomes a dystopian vision of global post-communist capitalism. Continue reading

Music Documentaries

Back from ‘Sights and Sounds’, a small but stimulating and enjoyable conference on music documentary in Salford. Films about music and musicians have been a major strand of documentary since the 1960s, so it’s odd, especially given the huge predominance of music in popular culture, that they’ve escaped systematic study, even among documentary scholars. This was therefore a pioneering event, and a lot of ground was covered.

It’s a subject in which I have a special interest, since this is the field that I entered at the start of the 1970s with two films I made for BBC2. Continue reading

Documentary attitudes

Back from Pamplona, from one of the new crop of small documentary film festivals which have grown up all around the globe in the last several years. This one goes by the name ‘Punto de vista’ or ‘Point of View’, in homage to Jean Vigo, who described his own A Propos de Nice of 1930 in terms of le point de vue documentaire—what you might call ‘documentary with attitude’. Vigo presides over the festival through the presence of his 78-year-old daughter, Luce Vigo, who lives in Paris and attends every year. This is a small scale event so everyone gets to meet her, and imbibe her quiet but exemplary sheer love of cinema. The subject of this year’s festival retrospective, New Yorker Jem Cohen, spent the week, between his screenings, making a short portrait of her which was projected at the closing ceremony, but it’s difficult in only a few minutes (or words) to do her justice. Continue reading

¡Documentary Now! Again

Very difficult, when you’re running a conference, to properly take it in when the moment arrives, so these notes on the third ¡Documentary Now! are not your normal conference report. ¡Documentary Now! was initiated in 2007 by Mike Wayne, of Brunel University. The following year, while Mike was away on research in Venezuela, Alisa Lebow (also of Brunel) and myself, now at Roehampton, decided we should try and keep it going, and succeeded in raising funds from our respective institutions for the second edition. Following Mike’s initiative, we wanted to keep it free and centrally located, and thanks to Ian Christie, we were able to hold it in the splendid new cinema in Birkbeck’s Gordon Square building. For this third edition we managed to repeat the funding trick, and also received generous assistance from Brian Winston, the Lincoln Chair of Communications. We shifted from November to January, and benefited from the best of conference assistants, Holly Giesman, a PhD candidate in documentary at Roehampton. Many thanks to one and all! And thus we gathered last Friday afternoon, the snow and ice and slush of the preceding week finally gone, and although very wet and no sign of the sun, at least a wee bit warmer. Continue reading

Imagining Documentary in Atlántida

Arriving in Atlántida, the location for Uruguay’s documentary festival Atlantidoc, gave me a very strange sensation. A sleepy coastal town near Montevideo, I had the feeling that I’d been here before, or somewhere very much like it. Searched my memory for other seaside towns in Latin America visited over the years, but none quite fitted the bill. Later I realised. It wasn’t a place but a film I was thinking of: a Argentine documentary from a few years ago by Mariano Llinás appropriately entitled Balnearios (‘Bathing Resorts’). For the next few days I feel like Kafka’s butterfly dreaming he was a man who couldn’t decide if he was really a man dreaming he was a butterfly. Continue reading

Reality Effects in London

Over on ‘Open Spaces‘, Patty Zimmerman recently wrote about the vitality of cinema studies south the Rio Grande. She talks about attending a conference in Mexico and how she ‘heard brilliant analyses of films I didn’t know about. I listened to debates that never migrate al norte. I met passionate scholars mining the theoretical complexities of Mexican and Latin American cinemas beyond the confines of national identity formation. It was exhilarating. I loved being thrown into a place where I didn’t have any of the usual coordinates.’

Here in London we have been fortunate over the last few days to enjoy the same thing on a smaller scale at a conference attended by scholars from Brazil and Argentina, brilliantly devised and organised by Jens Anderman at Birkbeck, in the second of a series of three events in the three countries under the general title of Reality Effects, which included screenings of three recent films which all challenge the conventions of documentary. Continue reading


The task was not so easy. The participants in the workshop had to make a three-minute documentary in four days. The subject was Santiago de Compostela, where the workshop was held as part of Curtocircuito—ShortCircuit in Gallego—one of a number of new film festivals which have grown up in Spain, as in many other countries, in the last few years. Continue reading

Another film on Che Guevara

Here comes another film on Che Guevara. This time it’s a documentary with the somewhat naff title of Chevolution, directed by Trisha Ziff and Luis Lopez,  opening at the ICA in London on 18th September. In fact there’s been a constant stream of films, both dramas and documentaries, about el Che for several years now, and the only other twentieth century historical figure who has possibly had more films devoted to him over the same period is Hitler. Which makes you think. Continue reading