I remember about ten years ago there was a lot of talk about documentaries and people were quick to say that a golden age was upon us. There seemed to be more feature-length documentaries around than ever before, perhaps due to the proliferation of affordable, digital cameras.
Bowling For Columbine was a massive smash, Spellbound and Etre Et Avoir charmed large audiences and Touching The Void prompted many a pub conversation about whether or not it was right to “cut the rope”. Distributors were going to Cannes and Sundance with an eye out for the next documentary hit and with serious money to spend on them.
It wasn’t long though before market forces evened things out. Too much money was being spent on substandard product and the crunch seemed to come around the time of In The Shadow Of The Moon, a marvelous documentary that sadly didn’t perform at the box office compared to what distributors had spent on it.
Watching documentaries in the lead up to Stranger Than Fiction I couldn’t help but think that a new golden age of documentary has arrived. These films might not be selling for massive sums at major festivals but the quality across the board is at a standard that I believe we haven’t seen before.
What happened before was a bubble. A few great films arrived at the same time and people perhaps got carried away. I think we’re looking at a much more sustainable future for documentaries now. Searching For Sugarman and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry are out right now and I’ve not doubt they’ll find an audience. They are superb films that demonstrate the amazing quality of the documentaries being made at the moment.
And in Stranger Than Fiction, starting in the IFI Thursday August 16th, we have a whole host of films that have achieved that standard and no two of them are even close to similar. From the thrilling The Imposter, which opens the festival tomorrow evening, to the immersive, emotive Detropia, which closes the festival on Sunday there is sustained quality across the programme.
5 Broken Cameras is a powerful film about non-violent resistance in theWest Bank. Anton Corbijn: Inside Out opens up the life of the elusive artist who famously photographed U2, Depeche Mode and many others. The Interrupters and One Mile Away give insight into mediation in distressed communities and the potential for change from within. Planet of Snail is a beautiful, touching film, that might just change the way you look at life. Reluctant Revolutionary is a first hand account of the Arab Spring and how it affects ordinary citizens. The Gentleman Prizefighter is a revelatory look at one of boxing history’s most fascinating characters and Very Extremely Dangerous is a thrill ride with an ex-con in search of redemption.
Every film in the festival is a European, Irish or Dublin Premiere. This is likely to be your first chance and perhaps your last chance to see some of these great films.
Keep an eye on filmireland.net for coverage of the festival as it happens.