Carmen Bryce reports on the Dublin Doc Fest, which recently took place as part of the 10 Days in Dublin arts festival.
The Dublin Doc Fest (DDF) served documentary aficionados with a generous helping of beautifully crafted shorts as part of the ‘10 Days in Dublin’ arts festival.
DDF is an exciting new short documentary film festival that showcased work from both Irish and International documentary filmmakers, its objective to provide a new platform for short documentary film and to place it centre stage. It is the only purely short documentary film event in Ireland.
In this first instalment on 4th July at the Sugar Club (D2), the festival delivered work exploring art and the artistic process, memory, addiction, hope and the strength of the human spirit from award winning documentaries and filmmakers such Colm Quinn, Martin Bleazard, Andrew Telling, Hedvika Hlavackova, Siobhan Perry and Ross McDonnell.
The festival invited an audience to sink their teeth into an assortment of documentaries that each offered a brief but provoking insight into vastly contrasting topics, from springboard diving to drug addiction.
The festival got underway with Off The Board by Siobhan Perry, which took a look at the world of spring board diving in Ireland. The doc, which received ‘Special Mention’ at the Galway Film Fleadh 2012, is a slowly paced, stylised short, easing the audience gently into the evening’s screening experience.
Set against a melodious soundtrack, the movement of diving in the docu is represented through vivid and striking images of the young divers while they narrate their experience, motivations and fears as competitive athletes through disembodied voices.
Colm Quinn’s Needle Exchange offered a very contrasting tone, style and content. Produced by Andrew Freedman for Venom Productions, Needle Exchange tells the story of two recovering drug addicts who practice tattooing on each other and find over time that they mark each other in more ways than merely physical.
The engaging, touching and at times, darkly humorous documentary, had already screened in festivals such as the Galway Film Festival, the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Worldwide Short Film Festival and Paris Documentary Festival to name a few.
Another memorable screening at the Dublin Doc Festival was Jan Blom by Martin Bleazard, which tells the story of a rowing coach from Holland who found himself in the Port Alfred township of South Africa after his partner died and started an organisation to train disadvantaged children in sports and basic education. The story of Jan Blom is uplifting and inspirational, warming the hearts of even the most cynical viewer.
Remember Me, My Ghost
A highlight of the festival was Remember Me, My Ghost by Ross McDonnell, in which a resident of the notorious Ballymun flats in Dublin’s northside recounts her bleak experiences living amongst drug abuse, social deprivation and the constant threat of violence.
The documentary was developed out of McDonnell’s stills project ‘Joyride’ in which he photographed teenage residents of Ballymun. The initial focus of the project was as a fictional feature with the script developed through interviews with Ballymun’s real life protagonists. However, upon McDonnell’s return to the area the tower blocks had been demolished so he decided to take another approach for the short.
Instead, we get a heartbreaking story of a woman who has her hopes of a new life for her young family violated and crushed but ultimately finds her way through the other side to a better future.
Festival Director Tess Motherway told Film Ireland she would love to see DDF become a fully fledged and internationally renowned event.
She said, “As festival director, I couldn’t be happier with how the first ever screening went. I was delighted with the turn out and have been receiving nothing but positive feedback for the selection of films, the way they were put together, which was a huge motivation – to screen short documentary film as a curated event, and for the event itself.”
Tess added, “The essence of the festival is to specially curate short documentary film in an engaging way – to counteract the trend of showing short docs as opening acts to larger features. I believe Ireland has some of the best documentary filmmakers in the business but unfortunately they receive little acknowledgement closer to home. As for short documentary film, it is a hugely underappreciated form of film and that’s why I wanted to create a new platform for short documentary film in Ireland.
“There was a lot of work put in, as I work full time in the industry myself, and spent most evenings over the last few months promoting, watching submissions, selecting films and getting the right formats for screening. It was important for me to show high quality films in high quality formats. What also sprung from submissions, and which was also something that I wanted to create, was a mix of funded, professional and student films side by side – not separated, but shown together for their quality and merit.
“I would love to see DDF grow bigger in the future, to become a fully fledged and internationally renowned event, on par with other documentary film festivals such as Sheffiled Doc Fest and to create a hub for audience and filmmakers alike,” she added.