Interviews with Michael Moore, Alex Gibney, Laurie Anderson and more…
OVERVIEW: As the US documentary sector is revitalised, European factual film-makers are fighting for funds
Only the brave
This week, Screen’s writers delve deep into the world of feature documentaries to explore the real-life stories behind the real-life stories.
Courage is one of the themes to run through many of them.
Matthew Heineman’s Cartel Land portrays the fearless community leaders trying to bring hope to ordinary Mexicans living amid the country’s drug wars. Davis Guggenheim’s He Named Me Malala is the story of the extraordinary Pakistani teenager who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban and inspires millions to live without fear.
Laurie Anderson’s Heart Of A Dog is an affectingly personal portrait of grief as well as a meditation on the impact on her country’s psyche of the 9/11 attacks. Cosima Spender’s Palio transforms the 90-second bareback horse race around Siena’s Palio into a gripping thriller, while Alex Gibney tackles the Church of Scientology to give former members of the organisation a chance to share their experiences.
It has been an incredibly rich year and is capped by the return of Michael Moore, the undeniable big beast of the non-fiction world. He made his almost joyous new film Where To Invade Next — about what the US could learn from other countries — almost entirely under the radar. He discusses why he chose to make the film that way and how he reconciles his personal wealth with his left-wing ideals.
While everyone agrees documentary film-making is enjoying a halcyon age, dark clouds are looming as cash-strapped European public broadcasters (the backbone of financing for non-fiction film-makers on the continent) are turning away from the genre. We look at the arrival of Netflix and Amazon into this space and whether their deep pockets might help to fill this gap.
Courage is evident too in Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette, the first big film to be made about the women’s suffrage movement. It’s a fictionalised story of one woman’s journey to activism but the events it depicts are very real and remain fiercely relevant today.
Louise Tutt, contributing editor