“If you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don’t you think you’d get a little psychotic?” was the question posed by the film maker Gabriela Cowperthwaite whilst making her documentary ‘BLACKFISH’ in 2013. Documentaries can be a hard sell, but they can also be the drivers of great change and shifts in public opinion. Cowperthwaite’s film along with campaigning and demonstrations brought about great changes at Seaworld, attendances have plummeted and orcas are no longer being bred in captivity.
Why in these difficult times do we often veer away from the glorious escapism of fantasy feature films to watch movies that are rooted in the real? Once viewed as worthy and stiff, in recent years documentaries have risen to prominence thanks in no small part to some world changing films. They focus on such diverse topics as war, climate, multinational industries, sex, death, racism, money and everything else in between, they can be a gripping as any drama.
There are so many critically acclaimed and historically important documentaries out there and of course there is no way they can all be referenced in this short piece, but those of you with a genuine curiosity about the lives of individuals, the natural world, problems of society etc have flocked to No6 to view many of these films over the years.
Who could forget the collective experience of watching Asif Kapadia’s tragic ‘AMY’ on the big screen. Sitting in the dark with strangers and learning about the fascinating life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg in ‘RBG’ and then subsequently gasping in horror that she didn’t live long enough to see out Trump’s administration. ‘FOR SAMA’ the story of hope from war torn Syria, oh and not forgetting the holding of breath and hiding behind hands for ‘FREE SOLO’.
Documentaries have a key role in navigating many global challenges in the 21st century, and research has shown that 85% of adults had seen a film that provoked them to do something even if it was only to talk to family and friends about it, two thirds found documentaries educational and gave then insights into other cultures.
Still the most democratic source for the viewing audience is via public service broadcasting but with reduced budgets and viewing slots, the BBC’s Storyville series is one of the last remaining bastions of PSB documentaries.
This year there has been a great crop of documentaries including; ‘MY OCTOPUS TEACHER’, ‘COLLECTIVE’, ‘CRIP CAMP’, ‘THE MOLE AGENT’ and ‘TIME’ but can I recommend ‘STRAY’ a title from one of the biggest and one of the most distinguished players in the documentary film world Dogwoof. It is a beautiful film seen through the eyes of three stray dogs wandering the streets of Istanbul, it explores what it means to live as a being without security or status and gently weaves together the dogs’ story and that of three homeless, Syrian, refugee boys. Watch via the streaming platform www.dogwoof.com and select to support No6 cinema with your purchase.
See you all at No6 in September.