Celebrating the art of non-fiction, Open City Documentary Festival creates an open space in London to nurture and champion the art of creative documentary and non-fiction filmmakers.
The festival aims to challenge and expand the idea of documentary in all its forms, providing a platform for emerging talent as well as established masters working within the documentary form.
Alice Riff | 2018 | Brazil | 100’
A public high school in São Paulo is preparing for the upcoming student council elections. In the classrooms and school halls, alliances form and students pick sides based on their hopes for the future of their education.
Four teams plan campaign strategies, canvas their fellow students, and plaster the walls with their slogans. As the polling day nears, the heated public debates reveal the student body’s political differences and shared visions.
Observed with compassion and humour, Elections is imbued with the youthful spirit of its subjects while holding up a mirror to the country’s wider political turmoil.
Wednesday 4 September 6.30pm | Curzon Soho.
Luke Lorentzen | 2019 | USA | 81’
The Ochoa family careen across Mexico City in pursuit of accidents and crime scenes. Soaked in the red and blue lights of their private ambulance’s sirens, the family must dodge the police and navigate standstill traffic while racing their competitors to the incident.
In a city that operates less than 45 government-run ambulances for the city’s population of 9 million, the for-profit first responders provide a crucial stop-gap for the critically injured patients that they care for.
Midnight Family invites us along for the ride as the family grapple with the financial stresses and moral dilemmas of offering a vital service within a broken system.
Thursday 5 September 6.30pm | Curzon Soho.
Laura Coppens | 2019 | Switzerland, Germany | 70’
Supported by the Embassy of Switzerland in the UK
Is there a viable alternative for commerce to that offered by capitalism? Taste of Hope offers one possibility in the form of a tea factory in France owned by a workers’ collective.
After spending years struggling to gain control from Unilever, they now face a new challenge as their idealism clashes with the harsh realities of the market.
An elegantly crafted observational film, Laura Coppens’ attentive anthropological feature guides us through the factory floor into general assemblies and out into the supermarket, as the collective try to reconcile their utopian vision of communal existence with the ever present stress of the bottom line.
Thursday 5 September 8.30pm | Curzon Bloomsbury.
Brett Story | 2019 | USA, Canada | 94’
"How are you feeling about the future?"
Filmed in New York City over a single summer month, Brett Story’s dystopian sci-fi documentary paints a complex portrait of a city straining under the pressure of economic uncertainty, social conflict, and impending environmental disaster.
Labelled as “a film about climate change, disguised as a portrait of collective anxiety”, the film’s series of unpredictable encounters with New Yorkers across the city reveal a community gripped by fears for a turbulent present and an even more precarious future. Yet, amidst this climate of unease, Story finds warmth, humanity, and perhaps even some hope.
Friday 6 September 6.30pm | Curzon Soho.
Juan Pablo González | 2018 | Mexico | 61’
Plus short film Las Nubes
Juan Pablo González | 2018 | Mexico, USA | 20’
After Nando—a young horse-wrangler from a small farming town in the Mexican state of Jalisco—takes his own life, his surviving family and neighbours retrace his final hours, slowly piecing together the events that led to his death.
His village is no stranger to tragedy, having witnessed a spate of suicides amongst its young inhabitants in recent years, upon whom the effects of rapid modernisation and ensuing economic hardship have placed particular strain.
Juan Pablo González—who himself grew up within the community—patiently recalls the lost through the memories of those they left behind, crafting a quietly devastating study of a grief-stricken town.
Please be advised that this film contains discussion of suicide that some viewers might find distressing
Friday 6 September 6.30pm | Curzon Bloomsbury.
Floor van der Meulen | 2019 | Netherlands, Belgium, Germany | 72’
Plus short film Sighting [Audio]
Action Pyramid | UK | 2018 | 7’
In March 2018, Sudan died. He was the last male northern white rhinoceros left on earth. Floor van der Meulen's precise, compelling debut feature depicts his last days, spent in protective custody under a constant watch of armed guards and surrounded by a coterie of keepers, journalists, salesmen and scientists, whilst tourists stand in line for photos and the chance to hear his story.
At the centre of this human circus stands Sudan, weary but majestic, a grand monument to the true cost of our own rapacious greed and egotism.
The Last Male on Earth is a moving, tragicomic countdown to extinction.
Saturday 7 September 3.30pm | Curzon Soho.
Rosine Mbakam | 2018 | Belgium | 70’
Plus short film Private Black Motherhood and Public White Protest [Audio]
Stacia Brown | 2017 | USA | 13’
Supported by Wallonia-Brussels International
Sabine is a Cameroonian hairdresser who runs a small salon, Jolie Coiffure, in the Matonge district of Brussels. Despite having been in Belgium for almost a decade, she is still awaiting a decision on her asylum application.
This intimate portrait captures Sabine’s daily life at the salon, perfecting her craft whilst whiling away time talking and laughing with an eclectic cast of patrons and visitors, many of whom also harbour the same fears about deportation.
Shot entirely within the confines of the salon, Mbakam’s engaged, attentive camera reveals the reality of life in this little known corner of the city.
Saturday 7 September 6.30pm | Curzon Bloomsbury.
Various | Various | UK | 90’
Followed by a Q&A hosted by Owen Hatherley, author and culture editor of Tribune.
Laura Grace Ford (formerly Oldfield Ford) is a London based artist and writer concerned with spatial narratives, contested space, architecture, fiction and memory.
Drawing on cognitive mapping and the dérive Ford interrogates place by mapping the psychic contours of the city. Ford has curated a combined programme of archival TV documentaries, placing Battle of Trafalgar (1990) alongside an episode of Summer on the Estate (1991) and will be present to discuss and contextualise the programme.
“These films make visible London's unofficial and unrecognised narratives, stories that exist beyond the official text of the city. Screening them here is an attempt to rekindle and revive a particular historical moment so that we might visualise or re-member (literally piece together) a radically different social imaginary. By showing these films I am unlocking memories that might otherwise remain unretrieved” - Laura Grace Ford
Saturday 7 September 8.40pm | Curzon Soho.
Teresa Arredondo, Carlos Vásquez Méndez | 2018 | Chile | 80'
Supported by Cervantes Institute London
Only days after the 1973 military coup against the Allende government, a group of nineteen union members in a paper factory disappeared without trace.
The case remained a mystery for forty years, until a policeman involved in the massacre finally broke the pact of silence.
Taking his confession alongside testimony from the victims’ families —all voiced by actors—the filmmakers forensically unravel the events leading to the murders, using stark 16mm photography to depict the landscape like a crime scene.
A bold and formally rigorous work, The Crosses bravely unearths a dark moment in Chile’s political history that for years had been buried in silence.
Sunday 8 September 1.45pm | Curzon Bloomsbury.
Guillaume Brac | 2018 | France | 96'
Set over the course of one long, hazy summer, Treasure Island is a sundrenched portrait of a private beach and water park in the socially disadvantaged suburbs of Paris.
Guillaume Brac's languorous camera drifts freely through the park’s beaches, lakes and trails, encountering an eclectic cast of characters: mischievous youngsters breaking into forbidden areas, uber drivers catching a few hours of sun before the night shift, and teenage employees slacking off to flirt with customers.
However, the tensions and pressures of city life never feel too far away and another, harsher world awaits beyond the park’s walls, when the summer ends.
Sunday 8 September 5.15pm | Curzon Soho.
Plus extended conversation
Naomi Kawase | Japan, France | 43’
Presented in partnership with Japan Foundation
About to give birth to her own child, Naomi Kawase turns her camera back on to her adoptive mother and great-aunt in this riveting examination of family, motherhood and the female body.
An intensely intimate and candid film, Birth/Mother (2006) captures images of her great-aunt’s ageing body while Kawase reflects on her own journey to becoming a mother.
The film offers a more complex portrayal of the relationship between the two women than Kawase’s earlier shorts, but the connection between them remains undeniable.
Naomi Kawase will join us after the screening of the film for an extended in-conversation event.
Monday 9 September 6.30pm | Curzon Soho.
Found and archival materials are repurposed and reconstructed in this short film programme, setting up a series of unexpected collisions between analogue and digital media.
The films in this programme include:
A Room with a Coconut View
Tulapop Saenjaroen | 2018 | Thailand | 28’
On the Border
Yoshiki Nishimura | 2018 | Japan | 7’
Jessica Bardsley | 2019 | USA | 13’
every dog has its day
Alison Nguyen | 2019 | USA | 6’
Sid Iandovka, Anya Tsyrlina | 2019 | Switzerland, Russia, USA | 7’
I Have Sinned a Rapturous Sin
Maryam Tafakory | 2018 | Iran, UK | 8’
Simon Liu | 2019 | Hong Kong, UK | 13’
Stuart Pound | 2018 | UK | 1’
Please be advised that films within this programme contain stroboscopic imagery, and references to sexual assault which some viewers may find distressing.
Monday 9 September 8.30pm | Curzon Bloomsbury.