Sheffield Doc/Fest review

The graduating editors of the NFTS got to spend the weekend at this year's Doc/Fest - delegates pass, hotel and travel expenses paid by the school. So off we trotted up the M1... traffic accidents and randomly somehow getting lost in Coventry notwithstanding, it was great to spend some time with the others who went away from the edit suite. And see some films, of course. Here are some thoughts on some of the films I saw.

The good:

Even though it's been released theatrically, I still hadn't seen Man on Wire (dir. James Marsh) before going to the festival. But I'm so glad that I got to see it on a cinema screen. The scale of the stills and archive footage of the event itself and those leading up to it could never be fully appreciated on a home television. And the documentary itself is fantastic - it's mostly led by interviews of those involved, chiefly the wire-walker himself (Philippe Petit) - who is just as charismatic as you'd expect of the person who dreamed up the stunt before the towers had even been built. What's more, it helped turned the Twin Towers back into the things of beauty and achievement that it's been difficult to see them as since 2001.

Japan: A Story of Love And Hate (dir. Sean McAllister) is also worth a mention. It's a film of juxtapositions - English filmmaker in Japan, Japanese worker with anti-establishment leanings, previous and present situations for its lead character Naoki... everything about it seemed to enhance the story of Naoki and a side of Japan not often seen in the Western World.

The interesting:

A work-in-progress Manic Street Preachers documentary 'No Manifesto' was screened at the festival, largely attended by fans of the band. At times it read a little like a PR piece for the band, at others confused about what it was trying to do when it tried to seamlessly blend input from the band members on certain events with speculation from the fans about the happenings (as if they wanted the band to say something specific but just filled it in with the nearest available source if it wasn't there).... which was at least partially explained when the director Q&A revealed that she made it because she was a fan of the band, and had got the band on board after compiling a reel of fan interviews and archive footage. This also explained the level of detail wherein we saw extended scenes of band members making their breakfast or talking about their compost heaps. I've certainly been so much a fan of something that I've wanted to know everything possible on the topic. And with that in mind, I'm sure it will sell well to the MSP fans out there. But within the context of the festival it fell short, somehow.

The downright hilarious:

We Are Wizards - a documentary about the growth of 'wizard rock' bands in the US. Admittedly, a certain degree of knowledge of the Harry Potter books will help massively here. But seeing the boys of 'Harry and the Potters' happily decide that they've come out on top over the high school kid who won class president over one of them because they're in a documentary and he's not, or listening to the 'Draco and the Malfoys' lyrics of "My dad's rich and your dad's dead".... Fantastic stuff.