Open City Documentary Festival unveils full program

The Open City Documentary Festival presented the full program for its 11th edition, scheduled for this fall, on Wednesday (July 28). The festival will run from Sept. 8 to 14 in London, ...
July 28, 2021

The Open City Documentary Festival presented the full program for its 11th edition, scheduled for this fall, on Wednesday (July 28).

The festival will run from Sept. 8 to 14 in London, and from Sept. 13 to 23 online. The hybrid approach to this year’s event follows a fully digital model used in 2020. The documentary film festival will feature 47 new non-fiction films including 10 world premieres, 26 UK premieres, and films from 26 different countries overall.

The world premiere of Icarus (after Amelia) (pictured) by Margaret Salmon and Inner Outer Space by Laida Lertxundi will open the festival on Sept. 8 at Curzon Soho. The former is a quasi-anthropological study of female labor in Britain, filed during the extended lockdown period between March 2020 and May 2021. The latter is Lertxundi’s first film since relocating to the Basque Country from California.

On Open City’s closing night, Sept. 14, the festival will screen a rare 16mm projection of James Benning’s 2004 film Ten Skies. The screening will also mark the launch of Erika Balsom’s new book of the same name, which is about Benning’s film.

The Open City festival will include four award categories this year: the Open City Award, the Emerging Filmmaker Award, the UK Short Film Award and the International Short Film Award.

The jury for both feature film categories includes researcher and curator Matthew Barrington, curator Hyun Jin Cho, film scholar and critic Elena Gorfinkel and filmmaker Lucy Parker. The jurors for the short film awards are filmmaker Maeve Brennan, producer Qila Gill, lecturer and writer Clive James Nwonka, curator and writer Adam Pugh, and film curator and writer Róisín Tapponi.

All award winners will be announced on Sept. 12.

Open City is also screening major works from the past year that haven’t yet been seen in London cinemas. This includes C.W. Winter and Anders Edström’s eight-hour epic film The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin), which covers the life and work in a small, rural community outside of Kyoto, Japan. And Jill Li’s Lost Course, which covers a six-year battle between local residents and officials who sold off communal land in the Wukan village in southern China.

Open City will also celebrate the work of three women filmmakers in the first UK retrospectives of Renate Sami and Alia Syed, and a tribute to Haneda Sumiko.

Syed’s work investigates the nature and role of language in intercultural communication, and her retrospective is accompanied by an exhibition at the independent non-profit gallery space, Mimosa House, titled Meta Incognita. Sami’s films are diverse in form and content, covering the poetic, observational and political. And Sumiko is one of Japan’s most prominent documentary filmmakers and one of the few women working in non-fiction cinema during the post-war period. Two of Sumiko’s early films A Women’s College in the Village (1957) and The Cherry Tree With Gray Blossoms (1977) will be screened at Open City.

The festival returns to traditional venues this year like the Bertha DocHouse, Curzon Soho and the ICA, and will extend for the first time to the Genesis Cinema in East London and Ciné Lumière-Institut français and the Goethe-Institut in West London.

The Festival Hub in Chinatown will host the free Expanded Realities exhibition and a program of talks and workshops.

Feature and short films that will be screened for their world premiere at Open City this year include:

A Human Certainty (Morgan Quaintance, UK)

Boots on the Ground (Kiran Kaur Brar, UK)

For Dan (Luke Fowler, UK)

If From Every Tongue It Drips (Sharlene Bamboat, Canada)

Inner Outer Space (Laida Lertxundi, Spain)

Pervading Animal (Graeme Arnfield, UK)

Piano Practice (Maria Anastassiou, UK)

RENATE (Ute Aurand, Germany)

To Pick a Flower (Shireen Seno, Philippines)

The Still Side (Miko Revereza & Carolina Fusilier, Mexico)

Here are the films nominated in Open City’s award categories:

Open City Award

After the Crossing (Joël Richmond Mathieu Akafou, 2020)

From Where They Stood (Christophe Cognet, 2021)

Icarus (after Amelia) (Margaret Salmon, 2021)

Taming the Garden (Salome Jashi, 2021)

Emerging Filmmaker Award

Bicentenario (Pablo Álvarez Mesa, 2020)

Lost Course (Jill Li, 2021)

Shady River (Tatiana Mazú González, 2020)

The Blue House (Hamedine Kane, 2020)

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.