Tallinn Capital of Culture 2011 rounds off January with a feast of real life for cinema goers

  • 2011-01-20
  • By Laurence Boyce

FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT: ‘Pink Saris’ is one of the ‘heavy subject matter’ films presented in Tallinn.

TALLINN - For the past decade it seems that audiences have increasingly looked for the opportunity to find their entertainment in real life. Aside from the multitude of reality shows that litter the televisual landscape the documentary form has become progressively more popular on the big screen. From the crusading works of Michael Moore to the wonders of the natural world in the likes of “March of the Penguins” it seems that real life is also reel life. For 10 years the “Docpoint Festival” has given the citizens of Helsinki the chance to experience an eclectic mix of documentary features from across the world and, last year, brought the festival across the water for its Estonian cousins to enjoy.

As it gears up for its second year, the program for the second edition of the Estonian version of “Docpoint” shows that it’s increasingly becoming confident in presenting a carefully chosen selection of films that mixes social commentary with unashamed entertainment, difficult subject matters with raucous humor and established directors with upcoming filmmaking talents.

Indeed, contradiction is at the heart of the opening film “Cubaton” which follows a struggle between two Cuban residents. One sees Cuban music as an important expression of the culture and heritage of the country. The other sees it as a means to fame and fortune. Just who will come out on top in this cultural struggle? Its examination of how music sits at the heart of a culture whilst encompassing ideals of both history and revolution will surely strike a chord with many Estonians and looks perfect for setting the stage for the rest of the festival.

Discerning audiences would be wise to look out for the extraordinary Italian film “Mouth of the Wolf” a stunningly shot and endlessly fascinating story of a petty criminal and his unconventional relationship. Blending elements of fiction amongst reality, it’s a unique and gorgeous character study that’s full of invention and humanity. The same will also go for “Pink Saris” by the highly regarded UK filmmaker Kim Longinotto. Studying the dreadful conditions that some women suffer in some of the poorest areas of India, the film exposes the hypocrisy of the legal system and the bravery of those who fight against social injustice.

Also intense is “The Battle for Barking” which looks at the fight in an English town against the British National Party (a right wing group, whose policies based on immigration have caused much controversy in the country) during the last elections in the UK. It’s fascinating – if sometimes disturbing stuff – showing just how easy it is for people to be swayed by the far right whilst giving a clear indication to the lengths people will go to fight for what they believe in.

For those who are worried about the subject matter becoming too heavy, may find their loads lightened with the likes of “Men Who Swim.” Featuring a group of men who attempt to find some meaning in life in synchronized swimming, this is full of wry humor as it subverts male stereotypes with style and grace whilst managing to be sympathetic and moving. There won’t be much time for sympathy in “Lemmy,” the story of the lead singer of Motorhead, as the central character has never been renowned for his holding back. Expect many stories about women, wine and song, with the emphasis on the wine and women.

There is also a selection of shorts from Finland and Poland, the latter including “Declaration of Immortality” containing a short from Marcin Koszalka who is one of the finest young documentary makers working in Poland today. Home grown films are not ignored with Jaak Lohmus’ “Tantsud Linnuteele” which follows the cinematic career of Lennart Meri, the man who would go on to be Estonian president for 9 years. The film not only honors the memory of one of Estonia’s greatest figures but also examines the state of its film industry under Soviet rule.

Supported by Tallinn Capital of Culture 2011, which has certainly been progressive in recognizing film as an important part of cultural celebrations, “Docpoint” is set to become an important date on the Baltic film calendar.
“Docpoint Festival” will be held from Jan. 27 – 30.

For more information go to www.tallinn.docpoint.info