Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
100 Greatest Videos Games Of All Time
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Empire Visits The Hobbit's VFX Team
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
4Music's Size Does Matter
Introducing your new favourite app
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 (439)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Screen To Stage: Shakespeare In Love
By Helen O'Hara

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
By Ali Plumb

Pete Docter And Jonas Rivera Talk Pixar's Inside Out
By James White

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
By Dan Jolin

H. R. Giger: An Empire Tribute
By Ian Nathan

How Edible Cinema Finally Allows You To Eat A Movie
By Ali Plumb

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
By Helen O'Hara

Are iPads And Smartphones Changing The Face Of Filmmaking?
By Ben Kirby

Screen To Stage: Let The Right One In
By Helen O'Hara

My Encounter With Shia LaBeouf
By James White


RECENT COMMENTS

Screen To Stage: Shakespeare In Love
"Have just re-watched this twice over the past few weeks and forgot how fantastic it was. I'm now des"  fire_and_water5025
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"This looks unbelievably good... wish I could afford to go!"  Roo
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"Nice to know Martin enlisted another author to help in his world-building. Time to get acquainted wi"  Imperion
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"@Y2Nield.com The original Hogwarts section and what was duelling dragons (has now"  Sexual Harassment Panda
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"Actually i recomend The Foucault Pendulum for several reasons, in the first place it explores the es"  andresfelipeurb
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"A great sneak peek, Ali. Aside from your confusion as to where Diagon Alley/King's Cross and Hogsmea"  bruciebonus
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"im due to go in October this year and having been before, i can honestly say i cannot wait. I agree "  kopite
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"still think it's a shame that they didn't make this in England. imagine getting the Hogwarts Express"  RX78
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"Were you actually there Ali? If so, surely you know that Marvel Land is Islands of Adventure and not"  Y2Neildotcom
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"I did the exact same thing with the books after season 1(even though I'd promissed myself to just re"  manufan
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Movies’ Most Quotable Lines
566 comments

'It's Just A Bit Of Fun': Why Defensive Fans Are Bad News For Movies
361 comments

Competitive Geek Baiting: Or, How To Start A Fanboy Fight
338 comments

The Avatar Backlash: Evaluatin' The Hater-atin'
303 comments

The Complete List Of Tired Movie Cliches
286 comments

Your Favourite Animated Film
217 comments

Note To Hollywood: How To Get People To Switch To Blu-Ray
192 comments

Food For Thought
132 comments

The Ten Moviegoing Commandments
127 comments

Just The Facts, Ma’am
127 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (167)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
David Parkinson (1)

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Gillian Robespierre And Jenny Slate Talk Obvious Child
Director and star on their acclaimed rom-com

The Empire Podcast #126: Jon Hamm Talks Million Dollar Arm, Mad Men And Beards
Plus Richard Ayoade pops in to talk about directing The Double

15 Of The Weirdest TV Cameos Of All Time
From Michael Palin in Home And Away to Ian McKellen in Corrie

Updated: The 36 Best Film-Related Ice Bucket Challenges
The viral craze that won’t quit takes in some of Hollywood’s finest

The Many Deaths Of Sean Bean
The actor talks us through his on-screen offings

Rogues Gallery: Powers Boothe
Sin City's Roark talks us through his most memorable baddies

Richard Attenborough: In Celebration
Saluting a man who made a lasting impact on cinema and beyond…

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! 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)