LSFF: 5 to See Documentaries

This selection explores the fertile ground where fact and fiction in filmmaking collide. The short, international documentaries screening at London Short Film Festival – programmed from all corners of the globe – cultivate a heightened sense of “truth” by offering dialogues between subject and audience, giving little in the way of answers but provoking many complex, often troubling questions.

Protocols, Jan Soldat, 2017.

Three male interviewees are shot entirely in a static close-up, shrouded in shadow and only distinguishable from their background by the contours of their heads. This psychological documentary delves into the carnal desires of three men who dream of being dismembered, slaughtered and eaten. Despite offering no respite in the form of visual context, Soldat unobtrusively asks the viewer to ponder a certain strength – and even spirituality – that underpins these base yearnings, and to consider the pain of lives lived in secret. Regent Street Cinema, 17 January, Regent Street Cinema.

Because The World Never Stops, Axel Danielson & Maximillian, 2016.

From the directors of New York Times Op-Doc Ten Meter Tower, comes a frank and at times surreal behind-the-scenes look at a live news broadcast. Comprised entirely of footage captured by the studio cameras, the film has the presentational veneer expected from any evening news channel. However, it offers candid moments, capturing the reporters as they jokingly scrutinize their own line readings, despair over the weather, or simply stir a cup of coffee whilst staring into the abyss. On the surface it charmingly humanises the faces we see on the news, but it also incites the curious idea that what we deem as authoritative and informative is little more than a thinly veiled performance. 19 January, Regent Street Cinema.

Nyo Vweta Nafta, Ico Costa, 2017.

Based on the experiences and relationships of Costa, Nyo Vweta Nafta weaves a unique and enchanting portrait of the hopes, fears and political awareness of people in Mozambique. The grainy 16mm and floaty editing induce a timeless, dreamlike state that is punctured by mentions of “Samsung Galaxy”, Europe’s obsession with super-fruits and the implicit racial discrimination in Portuguese colonialism. Built around “small episodes between various characters who are no more than themselves”, the overlap between construction and fiction finds resonance in the smallest of moments. 18 January, Curzon Soho.

The Disinherited, Laura Ferrés, 2017.

“I enjoy working with real elements, but shaping them at my will, using strategies from fiction to create a better truth.” Casting her father as himself, The Disinherited sees Ferrés play out the final days of the family coach business in a tender, solemn, but ultimately uplifting piece of work. Following the economic crisis, business has been reduced to nothing more than shepherding obnoxious revelers from club to club. Bearing the brunt of this economic downturn is reflected gracefully in the framing of Ferrés father. Utilizing negative space, his figure is small and helpless; lost amidst the exquisite compositions. The most beautiful image is a wry half-grin as her father refuses to relinquish his dignity – finding fun and frolics in the funereal everyday. A delicate and tightly constructed portrait that is both affectingly personal and quietly political. 19 January, Regent Street Cinema.

The Kodachrome Elegies, Jay Rosenblatt, 2017.

Through the use of archival footage, including some filmed by his own parents, filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt presents a mournful and nostalgic evocation of personal and political American history, encapsulated and immortalized in Kodachrome film. Accompanied by the somber strings of III: Molto Adagio by Beethoven, Rosenblatt constructs a triptych of memory. It begins with the happiness and hopefulness of early parentage, through the disquieting eeriness of the American Dream, and culminates in the harrowing, ghostly footage of JFK’s assassination. Ending on the note that in 2009 Kodak ceased to produce Kodachrome film, Rosenblatt leaves you wrestling with the notion of an America lost forever – perhaps never there in the first place – facing a profoundly uncertain future. 18 January, Curzon Soho.

London Short Film Festival runs until 21 January.

Alex Lancastle

1. Protocols, Jan Soldat, 2017.
2. Because The World Never Stops, Axel Danielson & Maximillian, 2016.
3. Nyo Vweta Nafta, Ico Costa, 2017.
4. The Disinherited, Laura Ferrés, 2017.
5. The Kodachrome Elegies, Jay Rosenblatt, 2017.