Open City Docs 2016: Our picks of the festival

2016 has already been a real delight for the documentary connoisseur in the UK. The end of April saw the inaugural edition of the Frames of Representation festival which concentrates on films navigating the boundaries between fiction, non-fiction and art. Next was the UK’s premier doc event, Sheffield Doc/Fest, showcasing an array of the most important and interesting the medium has to offer. Now comes the always fascinating Open City Docs which will be championing the art of creative documentary across a host of London venues (including the Regent Street Cinema, ICA, Bertha DocHouse and more) from 21-26 June. 

Open City Docs has a focus on the less-travelled roads of non-fiction filmmaking and returns in 2016 with another exceptional line-up. Proceedings kick-off on 21 June at Picturehouse Central with a screening of Tadgh O’Sullivan’s The Great Wall, a contemplation of border protection that will feel alarmingly present in the current political climate. Equally apposite will be David Bernet’s Democracy which lays bare the process of lawmaking in the EU. Other stand-outs include Mauro Herce’s incredible Dead Slow Ahead, a hypnotic portrait of an enormous freighter which could as easily be categorised as existential horror as documentary, Helmut Berger, Actor which premièred to rave reviews at this year’s Berlinale, and the unbelievable, nebulous real-life yarn Author: The JT LeRoy Story
Also showing is Pete Middleton and James Spinney’s poignant presentation of the insights of John Hull, Notes on Blindness, while others to look out for include: Salome Jashi’s tragicomic allegory for modern Georgia, The Dazzling Light of Sunset; Sergei Loznitsa’s archive doc The Event; Petra Costa and Lea Glob’s study of the nature of performance, Olmo and the Seagull; Antione Viviani’s poetic essay film about technology and our changing relationship with it, In Limbo; and Abbas Fahdel’s sprawling five-and-a-half-hour opus about Iraq during and after invasion, Homeland (Iraq Year Zero).  This year’s festival features two ‘In Focus’ strands which concentrate on the work of specific filmmakers: the Ross Brothers and Vincent Moon. The former are US sibling duo who blend observation with traditionally fiction narrative techniques to paint their own brand of Americana – displayed in their trilogy 45365, Tchoupitoulas, and Western.

Vincent Moon has a varied career taking in web series, photography, ethnomusicology and documentary and there will be a live audiovisual performance by him, Rituals, on Friday 24 June. Other filmmakers in attendance will include the Harvard Sensory Ethnographic Lab’s Lucien Castaing-Taylor (co-director of the brilliant Leviathan) and Czech documentary legend Helena Trestikova whose latest feature Mallory will also be showing. There will also a variety of other events and discussions, as well as a series of curated shorts showings, by the likes of Marc Isaacs and Gideon Koppel. The festival will draw to a close with a screening of Ognjen Glavonic’s documentary thriller Depth Two on 26 June back at Picturehouse Central.

The Open City Documentary Festival 2016 takes place from 21-26 June. For info visit

Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson

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