Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Download Ex Machina
Before the DVD release on 8th June
Win Premiere Tickets
To see Mission: Impossible in Vienna.
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 (444)

Under The Radar (335)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (36)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

A chat with Jury chair Lee Daniels & the results of the 11th Dubai Film Festival
By Nev Pierce

Paying the rent, rats and selling out: A lesson from Virginia Madsen
By Nev Pierce

Movies And Medinas: Empire Reports From Marrakech International Film Festival
By Phil de Semlyen

Dubai Film Festival: The unlikely appeal of camel beauty pageants…
By Nev Pierce

Mission: Probable - Dubai's attempt to attract Hollywood
By Nev Pierce

The Dubai International Film Festival: Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe turn directors
By Nev Pierce

Night Visions 2014: The Harvest, Let Us Prey and Nuntius
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2014: Marcos Ortiz and In Darkness We Fall
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2014: Pablo Larcuen and Hooked Up
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2014: The Spanish Contingent
By Owen Williams


RECENT COMMENTS

Paying the rent, rats and selling out: A lesson from Virginia Madsen
"It's not that long an article, Nev Pierce. It's just our attention spans have got shorter! Really re"  Cookiedough
Read comment

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
"Or don't..."  Owen Williams
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Juan Francisco Pardo Q&A
"Sadece on altı dakika içinde iyi bir görsel hikaye anlatmak önemli beceri ve bel"  skndrdmr
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Opening Gala
"That really amazing."  ommrudraksha
Read comment

2013 IIFF - The Winners
"Hi Simon, Trying to get in touch with you. Hope this works. I enjoyed your piece on Enter t"  matthewpolly
Read comment

Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar
"although its old now :(, of course he was gonna win it :), one of the many idols of why i wanna be a"  SONYA ALALIBO
Read comment

Brisbane International Film Festival: First Report
"I think it is pretty clear the story revolves around The Blacksmith, in The Man With The Iron Fists,"  owenyunfat
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Thanks for the feedback! I hope I didn't give the impression that Cloud Atlas is a write-off; I just"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Hi Damon With regards to Cloud Atlas, I fear that it will face the same problem a"  ChesterCopperpot
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"No worries! I just try to describe things as I see them, and I often forget that, as Empire has grow"  Damon_Wise
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Sundance Part Six: In The Loop
13 comments

Damo's Top Ten Of 2009
9 comments

Basterds Blog
9 comments

The Times BFI London Film Festival Preview
9 comments

Sundance 2010: Four Lions blows everyone away!
8 comments

Sundance 2010: The Killer Inside Me causes outrage!
7 comments

Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!
7 comments

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
7 comments

The Wrestler
6 comments

Where to see Moon...
6 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (299)
Helen O'Hara (181)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (21)
Owen Williams (21)
Simon Braund (6)
Nev Pierce (5)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)
Will Lawrence (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
Ian Nathan (1)


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Please Explain! With Arnold Schwarzenegger...
Plus Emilia Clarke on pranks, smiles and 'The Robot'

Terminator Genisys: Empire's Verdict
It wants your clothes and your (re)boots

100 Greatest Movie Characters
Your all-time favourite heroes and villains exclusively revealed!

Bonfire Of The Vanities: When Personal Projects Go Wrong
15 hubristic horrors that went straight to movie jail

Podcast 167: Emily Mortimer, Robert Sheehan, Corin Hardy
It's the live Edinburgh special round 2!

Hollywood Jackanory: Stars Reading Things Out Of Context
From Ian McKellen vs. One Direction to Hugh Jackman vs. baking innuendos

Before And After: How 10 Books Changed On Their Way To Becoming Movies
...And how their authors reacted

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month!

Subscribe and save 44%

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device

Subscribe and save 44%

Subscribe now and save up to 67%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)