By now a popular staple in Buenos Aires’ booming film fest circuit, DOCBuenos Aires returns next week with an intriguing array of international and local productions which will definitely tickle the appreciation of genre fans. Now in its 17th edition, the showcase will be running October 12-18 at several venues throughout the city, such as the Gaumont and the Leopoldo Lugones movie theatres, the San Martín Cultural Centre, the Alliance Française, MACBA and the FUC Film School.
The star guest of DOCBuenos Aires is French filmmaker, anthropologist and photographer Stéphane Breton, who is coming to BA to present his work and deliver a master class entitled “Reflections on the art of watching others.” Famous for making his films alone and handling everything by himself – from cinematography to sound to editing – Breton will be attending the Latin American première of his latest work, Fire’s Daughters, in addition to other recent films he made from 2010 onward.
Breton (born 1959) has been challenging the neutral observation techniques of ethnographic documentaries since his first film. In his recent work, he has explored in visual depth the innumerable facets of the human experience throughout the world, from Nepalese shepherds escaping the confines of their village in Ascent to the Sky to the Siberian autumn plagued with cold, alcoholism and poverty in Dark Forests to female Kurdish freedom fighters in his latest Fire’s Daughters.
DOCBuenos Aires will also feature a generous selection of Argentine premières, including films by newcomers as well as some of the most widely respected names on the local scene, from Gustavo Fontán, Mariano Luque, Javier Miquelez, Lucas Turturro, Pavel Marcano and Andrés Perugini.
This edition includes a special sidebar called “Cinema by Artists,” which will be held at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) and provide a particular insight into the production of filmmakers who work as visual artists as well as visual artists trying their hand at filmic media.
And – in a first for Argentine festivals –DOCBuenos Aires will feature a virtual reality sidebar, where viewers will be able to watch seven recent productions from the United States, Israel, Switzerland, Australia, Spain, Mexico and Colombia in 360 degrees, with VR headsets, at the San Martín Cultural Centre. A particular highlight of this edition is the category entitled “Theatre of the Oppressed,” a form first created by Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal in the 1970s by fusing Bertold Brecht’s epic theatre with educator Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Among the directors featured in this category of the DOCBuenos Aires is Israeli filmmaker and video artist Avi Mograbi, who in his latest work Between Fences sets out to meet African asylum-seekers confined by Israel to a camp in the middle of the Neguev desert, calling into question the status of refugees in Israel using “Theatre of the Oppressed” techniques.
Another poignant sample from this approach comes in the form of Tadmor (2016), by Monika Borgmann and Lokman Slim, in which eight former Lebanese prisoners recall their time spent in Syria’s infamous Tadmor prison, where Bashar al-Assad’s regime used physical and psychological torture on detainees.
A similar narrative emerges in Palestinian filmmaker Raed Andoni’s 2017 Ghost Hunting, the first production to win a Silver Bear for documentary film at the Berlinale. In this haunting film, which comes off as a blend of docu-drama and experimental therapy, Andoni, a former detainee of Israel’s notorious interrogation centre al-Moskobiya, places a newspaper ad looking for other ex-inmates who should have backgrounds as craftsmen, architects or actors. At the end of the casting, which seems more like role play, a replica of al-Moskobiya is built in a warehouse based on the men’s sketchy memories. In that hairraising setting, Andoni’s cast reenact interrogations, tortures and humiliation, alternately playing victim and torturer in order to dramatise their nightmarish experiences and repressed traumas. The director, who also appears before the camera, inserts poignant and brief animated scenes to represent his flashbacks of the time he himself was detained there.
On a completely different note, the DOCBuenos Aires will also celebrate the 100th birthday of Jean Rouch with a tribute to the French filmmaker and anthropologist who is considered one of the founders of cinéma-vérité, a style and set of techniques that have endured to this day, even in the work of fiction film directors such as Harmony Korine, Amos Gitai, Andrea Arnold, or Ulrich Seidl. With a career spanning six decades and more than 120 films, Rouch, who was also claimed by the Nouvelle Vague as one of their own, pushed the boundaries between fiction and documentary in his approach of shared anthropology.
BA fans will get to see Rouch’s seminal film Moi, un noir (Me, a Black, 1958), an ethnofiction film about young Nigerian migrants and Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a Summer, 1961), a documentary film made by Rouch with acclaimed philosopher and sociologist Edgar , as well as the filmmaker’s famous 1964 short, Les Veuves de quinze ans (The 15-Year-Old Widows).
WHEN AND WHERE DOC
Buenos Aires runs October 12-18 at Gaumont (Rivadavia 1635, tickets at 40 pesos), Leopoldo Lugones (Corrientes 1530, 40 pesos), San Martín Cultural Centre (Sarmiento 1562, 40 pesos), and free-admission at Alliance Française (Córdoba 946), MACBA (San Juan 328) and the FUC Film School (Pasaje Giuffra 330). More info: docbsas.com.ar.