Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Empire's New Tom Cruise Cover
The Jameson Empire Awards 2014
Vote: The Greatest 301 Movies Of All Time!
Rebecca Hall:
My Movie Life

The actress picks the movies that shaped her
Mountain Dew Green Screen
Register now to see X-Men: First Class!
Empire Blogs
Words From The Wise

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Festival report: CPH:DOX Part Two

Posted on Tuesday November 13, 2012, 11:53 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Festival report: CPH:DOX Part Two

The interesting thing about the hybridisation of documentaries is that nothing is always what it seems. And just as City World (see last post) suggested something more expansive than a child's-eye view of life, so I Have Always Been A Dreamer, by Sabine Gruffat, led me to expect something smaller than a compare-and-contrast view of two huge cities: Detroit, USA, and Dubai, UAE. Though certainly informative, the film can't help but suffer comparisons with two recent docs on the Motor City – mostly Detropia, by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, and also Julien Temple's BBC film Requiem For Detroit? – while the Dubai section doesn't have as much history to work with. I found my mind wandering a bit, which was also, unfortunately, the case with The Last Station, by Cristian Soto and Catalina Vergara. A very beautifully lit and respectful study of a remote old people's home in Chile, this mosaic piece felt like an Old Master come to life, but, in the context of a busy festival, its near-glacial pace worked against it; I should probably see it again.

From here we go to four films that wilfully mix fact and fiction, starting with Caesar Must Die by the Taviani brothers, a film I first saw in San Sebastian and remains one of my favourite festival experiences of the year. It was interesting to see this film cued up as a doc, because, although it sort of is, I had previously seen it as fiction, which it also sort of is, showing a cast of violent Italian prison inmates acting out their own interpretation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The blurring of real life and fantasy is brilliantly balanced here – right up until the end when the slam of a cell door brings the high of this imperfect but emotionally electric performance to a sad, grey end.

A film that seemed to be much more simple and yet proved to be anything but was Searching For Bill by Jonas Poher Rasmussen – the only film I'll be mentioning that wasn't in competition at CPH:DOX. It had a lot going for it, but by the end I felt a little cheated. This is a film that sets itself up in chapters, has myriad characters that all, tacitly, seem to be headed in the same direction (ie, toward the title character Bill, a con artist whose diary is found), but by the end shatters like a shot glass in any number of (unsatisfying) directions. I assumed it was a comment on post-recession America, and there's a lot about it to commend it, but its shaggy-dog storyline is just that, I suspect.

I preferred, but not by a great deal, Roland Hassel by Måns Månsson, the study of a retired detective investigating the assassination of Norwegian prime minister Olof Palme in 1986. Palme's story is fascinating in its own right, leading to some incredible, and certainly plausible conspiracy theories, but this film doesn't really go there, instead telling the true and truly Zodiac-like tale of a man dedicated to history. Local critics thought it could have been better, but I liked Hassel as a character, and though the film's international prospects aren't great, he seemed a good ambassador for Palme's odd story.

And speaking of ambassadors, local hero Mads Brugger – who played The Ambassador in the hilarious yet horrifying Danish exposé of the same name, following the trail of corruption to blood Diamonds in Africa – was on hand on CPH:DOX's closing night to give the festival's main award to The Act Of Killing by Joshua Oppenheimer, the hands-down winner of the main competition. To say this film deserves to be seen is an understatement; there are really few words to describe the images it shows or, more disturbingly, the memories it conjures with. I must admit that I have some issues with the length and structure of the film, but these aren't by any means huge. And I also think that most audiences won't notice either throughout this somewhat jaw-dropping expedition.

As with Brugger's The Ambassador, this film is an intervention of sorts into foreign parts, this time Indonesia, where, in 1965, an attempted coup against the country's authoritarian president resulted in the deaths of half a million “communist” agitators. But as this often spine-chilling film shows, the rules of engagement weren't as simple as state versus enemy: the government drafted in some freelancers – aka gangsters – to help them clear up. In other hands, this film could have been a John Pilger-esque piece about the killing fields of the east, but Oppenheimer has gone for something different. He sees the grotesqueness of this situation and wishes to prod it; as a result, he finds certain gentlemen who were involved in this genocide and invites them to make a movie of it.

But the most shocking part of the story is how amiable those men turn out to be, principally the lovable Anwar Congo, who recalls and shows for us how he invented a new, cleaner way to kill Communists after deciding that beating them to death was messy and inhumane. Congo is a genuinely ambiguous “hero” (in the narrative term); much less the others. One lobbies for election while boasting about how he'll cream money from his constituents on breaches of planning permissions, another constantly snipes at the others – on camera – about how the film will sully their “noble” cause. And he's right: everybody on camera in this film reveals a shocking side of their society, from the journalist who claims he saw nothing, to the politician that let it all happen, not to mention the village voters who scorn any candidate that hasn't brought them “gifts”.

The groundswell on this film is quite small at the moment, but its legend is sure to grow, since The Act Of Killing doesn't just tell a story, it dramatises it too – in ways you wouldn't believe, with sequences involving dancing girls, lilting Tiki-style muzak, cheesy amateur gore effects and lumpen re-enactments that look like mid-80s Australian soap opera visions of GoodFellas, but much, much cheaper. The whole is a nightmare where, for the viewer, civilisation seems to disintegrate – which, in a sense, is what so horrifically happened in 1965. “I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal, and frightening in at least a decade,” says executive producer Werner Herzog, who knows insanity when he sees it. He's right. Oppenheimer's film recalls Apocalypse Now. Except this time for real.

Login or register to comment.

Currently No Comments

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (432)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (56)

Words From The Wise (34)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Not For The Faintheart(ed)
By Damon Wise

The Transsiberian Connection
By Damon Wise

Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
By Damon Wise

When Damo Met Shane Meadows
By Damon Wise

It's That Guy From That Thing
By Damon Wise

It's Not All Work Work Work
By Damon Wise

The Dopeness Of The Wackness
By Damon Wise

Busy, busy, busy...
By Damon Wise

Poncey Drinks, Torture Porn And Fairy Cakes
By Damon Wise

In Pictures: Keira And Sienna At The Festival
By Amar Vijay


RECENT COMMENTS

Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
"When do we get it though? Having seen the trailer so many months ago I'm desperate to see it.  r1x
Read comment

Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
"Apparently Tarsem told the little girl in the Fall that Lee Pace really was paralysed which made her"  spyro
Read comment

The Transsiberian Connection
"Session 9 is a great film! If it wasn't the the silly ending, it would be a modern Horror classic"  Cethan
Read comment

Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
"Completely agree on The Fall. Almost certainly my favorite film so far this year."  Will Goss
Read comment

Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
"Nice write-up on The Fall. I decided many months ago that I was looking forward to this, despite the"  Acho
Read comment

When Damo Met Shane Meadows
"Meadows is a bit of a legend alright. Dead Man's Shoes is being shown in Dublin this weekend, as par"  Acho
Read comment

It's That Guy From That Thing
"I feel like I've been hearing about the visitor for months. Damn festival circuit, getting to see th"  Acho
Read comment

An Australian In Edinburgh
"I didn't know you're Australian Sam. No reason why I should've, I guess. Any chan"  Acho
Read comment

Just Listen To That Serenity...
"Hiam Abbass was at the showing at the weekend? GUTTED. Saw it earlier this week and I've been dying "  Daniel!
Read comment

It's That Guy From That Thing
"The Visitor was a good film, very good at points, but it did threaten in its first act to become a m"  Daniel!
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
4 comments

Busy, busy, busy...
3 comments

It's That Guy From That Thing
2 comments

When Damo Met Shane Meadows
2 comments

Poncey Drinks, Torture Porn And Fairy Cakes
2 comments

The Transsiberian Connection
1 comments

The Dopeness Of The Wackness
1 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (296)
Helen O'Hara (166)
James Dyer (85)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (54)
James White (28)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Best Barry Norman Anecdotes From His Empire Podcast Interview
From nearly punching Robert De Niro to the real story about ‘And why not?’

Empire 300th Issue: The Directors' Cut Cover
Spielberg, Whedon, Fincher, Abrams Mann and more take over

Fired! Losing Your Job In The Movies
The lowdown on getting dismissed on film

20 Not So Super '-Men' That Won't Star In A Film Any Time Soon
Forget your Batmen, your Spider-Men and your Ant-Men… Meet 3-D Man (and his pals)

The Making Of Locke: A Filmmaker's Journey
Steven Knight takes us through six pitstops (via Heston Services)

Tom Hardy: A Viewer's Guide
The essential, the recommended, the one for the fans... and the one to avoid

Ten Things To Know About The Spooks Movie
Under the hood of The Greater Good

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get Limited Edition Collectable X-Men Art Cards

Subscribe today and get 6 issues of Empire plus a set of collectable X-Men Art Cards for only £20!

Subscribe today

Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Just £25
Receive limited edition subscribers-only covers every month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)