The oppressed and isolationists have their day

  • 2012-01-18
  • By Laurence Boyce

INSIGHT: U2 and the creative process.

TALLINN - Once again DocPoint returns to the cinemas of Tallinn to provide some cinematic slices of real life that usually contain more drama, intrigue and surprise than your normal Hollywood blockbuster. As expected, this year’s program is a mix of the highly political, achingly personal and riotously entertaining that should appeal to a broad audience.

One of the chief highlights of this year is the wonderful “Two Years at Sea.” Acclaimed after screenings at the likes of the Venice Film Festival, the film by UK filmmaker/artist Ben Rivers is a portrait of Jake, a man who has retreated from society, preferring to live in a run-down house in the middle of a forest. Shot in simple black and white, it’s a contemplative and patient film as Rivers reveals the beauty of Jake’s surroundings and the serenity of his lifestyle. The piece makes a virtue of stillness and isolation and is a wonderful experience. Also beautiful is “Water Children,” a story of Japanese artist Tomoko Mukaiyama and her installations that take in women’s experiences of menstruation. While the subject matter may initially put some people off, director Aliana van der Horst treats it with respect as women talk about their experiences of a process that defines their femininity. But the film is also an essay on the creation of art as van Der Horst sees her original intentions behind making the movie change and her relationship with Mukaiyama evolve. It’s this multi-layered nature of the film that makes it so rich and interesting.

There are more politically charged works with the likes of “Lost Land,” which examines the movement supporting the independence of Western Sahara. Telling the story in a simple and direct manner, the film paints a picture of a people oppressed by Moroccan rulers and forgotten about by the rest of the world. Often disturbing and offering no easy answers, the film is a powerful statement and call to action. Also charged is “Bad Weather” which focuses on the small Indian island of Banishanta Island which is made up of a community of sex workers who struggle with their livelihood and forces of nature which are slowly causing their island to figuratively and literally erode. With compelling female central characters the film allows them to discuss their lives as sex workers in a way that is matter-of-fact and avoids the sensational. With some beautiful camera work amongst the happenings, the film manages to be both slightly disturbing yet also hopeful. More playful is “Big Boys Gone Bananas*,” director Fredrik Gertten’s account of the fight against banana company “Dole” who threatened legal action for his film “Bananas*” that criticizes banana plantations. Soon Gertten gets people on his side whilst Dole threatens various festivals into dropping the film: a media war begins. An account of a big corporation versus the individual and the importance of freedom of speech, it’s a strangely joyful affair as people refuse to bow under the pressure brought by big industry.

The documentary has always been an excellent platform for music and some of the biggest stars in the world get the cinematic treatment. First up is “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne,” which takes a look at the rock singer and his colorful – to put it mildly – past. Whilst one would think that years of starring in “The Osbournes” would have meant we know everything about him already, there are some interesting revelations in the film as Osbourne and his colleagues talk candidly about the lead singer of Black Sabbath. Taking in everything from the sex, drugs, rock and roll and biting the heads off bats, the film both confirms some of what you may think but also show Osbourne to be more articulate and clever than some may give him credit for. Less badly behaved are U2, but “From the Sky Down” is no less interesting as the band share the creative process behind “Achtung Baby,” one of their most important albums. It’s certainly a great insight into exactly how the band works and manages to be interesting even to those who wouldn’t count themselves as fans of their work.
Want more? Well, you can look forward to “A Boatload of Wild Irishmen” – a great film about Robert Flaherty, considered the ‘father’ of documentary filmmaking. “Field of Magic”– a beautiful Lithuanian film about a group of people who have been eking out an existence next to a rubbish dump and much, much more. Who needs fiction when real life is so much more interesting?

DocPoint Tallinn takes place from Jan. 26-29.
Go to for ticket and venue information.