If there’s one thing that gets film festival staff pumped, it’s finding projects that expand the definition of what a doc is. So when Patricia Finneran, festival director at Silverdocs, says she noticed this year’s submissions often redefined the traditional doc form, you can tell she’s enthused about it.
She speaks of Chicago 10, a doc by Brett Morgen that blends archive of the protests surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention with stop-motion animation, and which features name actors doing voice-overs based on transcripts from the subsequent trial. Finneran appreciates that, rather than a recreation, Morgen created an animated hybrid.
Another film challenging tried-and-true doc techniques is War Torn: Stories of Separation, directed by David Modell. A series of shorts that were originally created for the Internet but eventually made their way onto British TV, War Torn uses still photos of wives and children of British soldiers fighting in Iraq. It’s the voice-over by the wives and lack of moving footage that give an oft-covered topic (the devastating outcomes of war) a new resonance. ‘It’s storytelling from a different direction,’ says Finneran.
Other recent films tackling war-related issues have also benefited from the amount of time they’ve had to focus on a subject, adds Sky Sitney, Silverdocs’ director of programming. Films like Taxi to the Dark Side (Alex Gibney) and No End in Sight (Charles Ferguson) were years in the making, so access was extraordinary. The results are films that provide insight into the long-term implications of war. ‘The perspective is so much larger and broader,’ says Sitney. Unlike films submitted last year about Iraq, which often came from the perspective of a soldier or individual, this year’s films step back and look at it from a macro level, she furthers.
Topics like the environment, war and politics aren’t a new trend, though, she reflects: ‘They haven’t just suddenly appeared this year – it’s been a tidal wave that’s reaching a peak.’