when the dust clears

Words about and images of matters political, social, and military

London International Doc Fest.1

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The London International Documentary Festival enters its eighth day. I enter my third.

After a mixup with dates, Full Disclosure screens tonight with Beneath the Sky at the Frontline Club, a center for international journalists just north of Hyde Park.

Soho, May 19, 2011

LIDF is more a collection of screenings sprinkled across this sprawling city than a conventional festival with a single hub—a filmmaker’s lounge or main screening venue—around which everything spins. For that reason, it feels as if there’s no there here—until one arrives at an event.

Last night, Elisa Mantin screened In the Shadows of Death, a doc about Roberto Saviano, the crusading Italian reporter who exposed the workings and lucrative business affairs of the Camorra, the Naples’s mob. A heavy-hitting panel discussion followed—two UK and one Italian journo who specialize in organized crime plus an Italian criminologist at Oxford. The moderator invited filmmaker Mantin up about a third of the way through. All of the panelists knew or have met Saviano, who now lives in a bubble of bodyguards and safehouses because of Camorra death threats. This is not a Salman Rushdie situation where his fatwa can be negotiated away, they say. The Camorra never forgets, so Saviano will be a target forever, unless something miraculous happens.

In the Shadows of Death screening, Courthouse Hotel, London, May 19, 2011

In the Shadows of Death director Elisa Mantin and Oxford criminology professor Federico Varese

The night before, Eva Weber and Marc Isaacs spoke and showed clips from their rather provocative docs. Isaacs presented bits of City of Men and The Lift, for which he stood in one elevator for hours at a time and interviewed the people who got on. His work is uncomfortably direct; his approach to people clinical. In the same affectless voice, Isaacs poses an apparently random (though probably not in actuality) series of questions, from the utterly mundane to the existential.

Weber showed sections of The Solitary Life of Cranes, which is about heavy crane operators, not birds, and Steel Homes, which features video of people rummaging through items in storage lockers with audio from conversations with the locker renters. Cranes, which is brilliantly shot from these enormous mechanical structures that tower over London, has a wonderfully meditative quality. Like Isaacs, we hear subjects reflecting on issues small and the great. There’s no issue, concern, or point driving the doc. Weber also showed chunks of The Intimacy of Strangers, which is constructed from surreptitiously recorded cell phone conversations. Voices don’t necessarily connect to the person we see on screen, a device Weber says she uses in most of her docs.

More to follow after tonight.

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Written by bxpnyc

2011/05/20 at 08:50

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