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The Open City Docs Festival 2013: Preview & competition

I Am Breathing

Preview by Jack Foley

OPEN City Docs Fest is devoted to exploring the world we live in through the vision of documentary film, and today reveals its programme for 2013.

Taking place at numerous venues across London, this year’s event runs for four days between June 20 and 23, 2013.

Highlights of this year’s festival include:

- A Grand Jury chaired by Jeremy Irons.

- The international premiere of Baltimore doc The 12 O’Clock Boys at the Opening Gala.

- The director’s cut of acclaimed film The Act Of Killing, alongside a masterclass with its director.

- The hotly anticipated Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer doc.

- A screening of the Cannes-accoladed film Sofia’s Last Ambulance.

This year’s Open City Docs programme of 100+ films includes world premieres, exceptional masterclasses and a grand jury of award-winning directors, producers and authors.

The festival takes place at numerous venues across London including the Open City Docs’ special cinema tent, The Bloomsbury Theatre, The Hackney Picturehouse, and venues around University College London campus.

Open City Docs Fest nurtures the next generation of filmmaker by running workshops and screenings throughout the year across London, and is highly accessible – tickets start from just £6.

Bold programming includes a discussion on the rise of interactive docs, a focus on where drama meets documentary and films from every corner of the globe.

This year, the festival will open with The 12 O’Clock Boys, a fast-paced and dangerous coming-of-age story from Baltimore. It focuses on Pug, a 13 year-old boy, whose sole ambition is to join the infamous 12 O’Clock Boys biker gang. While the bikers invade the Baltimore inner-city streets, the police are forbidden to chase them, for fear of endangering the public. The screening will be followed by live music from DVA and an opening night party.

The Act Of Killing is sure to become one of the festival’s biggest talking points and has already been dubbed 2013’s most controversial film. It’s a deeply troubling film with the potential to change how audiences think and feel about cinema, focusing on the gangsters who slaughtered Communists in a 1965 massacre in Indonesia, documenting their killings through bizarre narrative cinema.

The screening is part of Open City Docs’ Theatre Of The Oppressor strand of films – a fresh perspective on a major trend in international documentary this year. The festival welcomes the director to London for an exclusive masterclass on cinema, trauma and memory.

Open City Docs is screening the much-anticipated Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer at The Bloomsbury Theatre at this year’s festival, bringing the sheer devastating power of their art to life and illuminating the ongoing political struggles in the domains of gender and social equality.

The festival will end with Sofia’s Last Ambulance by Bulgarian director, Ilian Metev. This documentary won the France 4 Visionary Award at Cannes in 2012, and whose unlikely heroes save lives against all the odds, while chain-smoking and filling their days with their own brand of humour.

Michael Stewart, Open City Docs Fest director, said: “This year we’re asking questions. Questions of filmmakers, questions of artists and also questions of ourselves – part of a provocative programme of films that we are confident will help shape the news agenda in 2013, inspire a new generation of filmmakers and entertain broad audiences from right across London and beyond.

“We want to celebrate the documentarian who changes things. Not only changing their world, but changing our understanding of the wider world. Open City Docs’ unique set of masterclasses, workshops and special events will go some way to equipping audiences with the tools to create their own films.”

Win tickets to see I Am Breathing at The Open City Docs Festival 2013

To mark the return of The Open City Docs Festival 2013 to London, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win a pair of tickets to a screening of acclaimed documentary I Am Breathing at The Bloomsbury Theatre on Friday, June 21 at 6.30pm. Simply answer the following question…

Q. What is the name of the man at the centre of I Am Breathing (clue, the answer is in the full line-up below)?

Simply send the answer to Open City Docs competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Open City Docs Fest films are organised into thematic strands, that offer unique perspectives on real lives often never seen on screen that challenge the nature of what documentary can be.

Strands include:

Science Frictions: Films investigate the impact of medical science on our daily lives. Featuring:

Legally Wasted by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Dan Reed explores the many-headed Hydra that is the market for ‘legal highs’ in the UK. It will be shown conjunction with a director Q&A with a leading criminologist.

Challenging Behaviour is a UK premiere and asks fundamental questions of how we bring up children with autism.

I Am Breathing is an intimate look at human life and legacy as a dying Yorkshire man named Neil Platt records a message to his son. It is another UK premiere, screening on Motor Neurone Disease Global Awareness Day.

Hybrid Forms: examines films that transcend the nature of documentary, fiction and art. It features films such as:

To The Wolf, a dark yet beautiful portrait of Greek mountain farmers and their dysfunctional lives, overshadowed by the Greek economic crisis

Wonder House, an international premiere looking at what first makes a scientist explore the world

Elena, a UK premiere of a Brazilian film about a young girl’s cathartic search for her sister, and with it, her identity

Moving Lives focuses on intimate meetings with extraordinary characters, featuring films such as:

Grass, an international premiere of a Turkish film about family, identity and struggle.

A Dream In The Making, a UK premiere of a Polish film set in Warsaw, following a young man with big dreams of becoming a stuntman

Matthew’s Laws, a UK premiere asking profound questions of how society should make room for people with autism – this will be accompanied by a director Q&A, chaired by Jonathan Wolff from UCL’s Philosophy dept

Power Struggles explores anxieties over access to energy, its sustainability and solutions for the future, with films like:

Black Out which depicts Guinean children’s search for light at airports and petrol stations so that they can continue studying after dark

Powerless, an international premiere about an Indian Robin Hood-figure who taps into the Indian electricity lines and diverting electricity from the rich to those who can’t afford it

Solar Mamas, a film showing a Bedouin woman’s journey to becoming a solar engineer against the wishes of her husband and her community

City Stories covers cinematic negotiations of the urban environment are covered by the strand:

Andreas Dalsgaard’s film The Human Scale, which attempts to reconcile the design of modern mega-cities with human intimacy. This film screening will be followed by a panel discussion with representatives from Publica and Gehl Architects.

Grasp The Nettle, a world première of a UK group’s efforts to establish an alternative society outside of consumerism, eventually occupying Parliament Square.

Tchoupitoulas, which follows the Zanders brothers’ night-time adventure in the heart of the vibrant city of New Orleans.

World Visions showcases new narrative perspectives on global journalism, such as:

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, on one of the biggest global news stories of 2012 – the trial of three members of Pussy Riot, a feminist collective who protested the Russian church and state.

Iceland, Year Zero which focuses on the aftermath of the collapse of the three main banks in Iceland of 2008, which plunged a nation into bankruptcy.

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear, a fascinating portal into post-Soviet Georgian society through intimate interviews with teenagers by Tinatin Gurchiani who won Best Director at Sundance.

The Theatre Of The Oppressor strand takes as its theme the new trend in cinema focusing on perpetrators as protagonists. The strand features films such as:

The Act of Killing, a disturbing powerful work on the nature of catharsis, through recreating the narrative of mercenary killings during the massacre of communists in Indonesia in 1965. The screening will be followed by a directors’ Q&A, and the director will also be hosting a masterclass on the filmmaking process and its ethics.

No Man’s Land interviews a mercenary in his sixties, revealing the cruelties and paradoxes of power.

Duch: Master of the Forges of Hell, a film by masterful Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panth focusing around an interview of the man who ran the notorious S-21 Khmer Rouge Prison where at least 12, 280 people lost their lives.

Music Docs; are films at the intersection of sound, art and storytelling.

Nocturne a UK premiere of Tony Palmer’s documentary on Benjamin Britten, examining the artist’s role.

Turning steps into the world of Antony And The Johnsons on a live tour, a series of intimate portraits.

In addition to the exciting and extensive screening programme, there will be the opportunity to participate in interactive workshops and masterclasses with acclaimed directors. To find out more, visit the website

Watch the trailer: