Christian Abbot makes his annual pilgrimage to the world’s finest film festival which just so happens to take place in our great City of Sheffield. Taking in as many documentaries as his mind can handle, Christian provides us with his diary from the weekend. Below are films he managed to see at this year’s festival and his thoughts on each. Read Part One here…
Armed with Faith
Working as part of a bomb squad is never an easy task, working as part of one in one of the most dangerous parts of the world is a nightmare. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan is the setting of this most tense of documentaries. The film serves to ask a simple question, why would anyone want to work in such a dangerous field? Via the interviews with the men whom work as part of this profession, a variety of answers is given, but what comes through them all is a sense of duty in their work, a sense of pride knowing that it is a job that simply and unfortunately needs to be done. Often it is little more than the men’s faith that gets them into work in the morning and importantly back home to their families at night. The consequences of this work are felt through this film, particularly in the fate of one of the men profiled. It is an essential watch to understand the unthinkable.
Companion film to director Jeff Orlowski’s 2012 film Chasing Ice, he has shifted his focus away from glaciers and to the reefs of the world – both are sharing a similar fate. Shot over the course of 3 years and aided by volunteers from around the world in 30 different countries, we see the devastating effects of climate change first hand. It is an inconvenient truth that these reefs are dying and with them ecosystems of millions of forms of life. Within the next 30 years we could see a world without these beautiful works of nature unless we make a change now. Orlowski’s documentation will serve as either a reminder of how close we came to losing them or a time capsule to an extinct form of life. The film only showcases the inevitability of our actions but in inadvertently begs us the question, why are we allowing this to happen?
Give Me Future
An obvious homage to The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter, something the director acknowledged himself during the Q&A following the film and which the band in focus, Major Lazer, directly references within the film. The film fortunately stands on its own two feet despite this. Director Austin Peters follows the band as they make the first American tour of Cuba in over 30 years. The results of the tour are unexpected, audiences of a clearly different background are because of this but the main message of the film is a surprising one of unification and moving on. While there are setbacks due to government interferences and limitations from money and equipment, the final performance of the film is better than anyone involved could have hoped for. The final third of the film is almost entirely a music video for the band, a satisfying payoff after a turbulent two thirds of worry that the gig would not even go ahead. This is one of the more entertaining documentaries of the festival in that it prides itself of showcasing music and love. It also shows a change in times that should be celebrated, and of course, any fans of the band will more than love this one. For anyone who doesn’t, it’s still a good ride.
Brimstone & Glory
Easily the most visually stunning film of the festival and that is no surprise considering the topic of the film: explosives, fireworks, gunpowder. The cinematography is nothing short of breath-taking as we witness some of the most dangerous pyrotechnic stunts imaginable. Director Viktor Jakovleski takes us inside the workings of the most important religious festival of the year in Tultepec, Mexico. All that we know of health and safety, child protection and general common sense is thrown out the window as we witness men climbing three story high scaffolding held together by duct tape, children making explosives and people jumping head first into fire. The final third of the film is one massive showcase of the festival, its beauty and consequences. People dying and permanently injured. You find yourself wondering why anyone would put themselves in such extreme danger, but as one interviewee states, “you do it for the scar, to say you were part of it, to remember those you’ve lost”.
Carnage – Swallowing the Past
A personal favourite of the festival, one admittedly seen before due to a person interest and investment into the film. Carnage is a mockumentary, a projection of a future after the planet all became vegan within the next 50 years. It looks back at our known past and beyond into their future, asking why anyone would eat meat? This is a very different spin on the expectations anyone would have on the vegan community. This isn’t about bombarding people with the horrors of the meat and dairy industry but rather, it takes a step back and accepts the stereotypes of vegans and thrives in them. While it cannot be called the most, well-made film of the festival, nor the most visually arresting, it is arguably the most entertaining. It serves the purpose all documentaries should strive toward, which is to make you look at the world differently and see things from another’s perspective.
First and foremost this film wants to make you laugh, but it never forgets the message – stop eating meat. Admittedly, this is not the most objective review, but even if you have the biggest disdain for your non-meat eating cousins, then this film is especially made for you.