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Life is Art: Hong Kong’s cultural documentary film fest

Summer doesn’t have to be all about blockbusters. Denise Chan checks out the documentaries on offer at this year’s Life is Art film festival and selects five of the best

Sick of substandard sequels? Cagey about comic book adaptations? Revolted by reboots? Life is Art is here to lift your celluloid blues. The annual film fest is back with a fresh line- up of documentaries covering all aspects of art from architecture to photography by way of cooking and dance. With movies in nine different categories it can be hard to know which are the real gems. But that’s what you read Time Out for, right? Damn straight. So here are five can’t-miss films in this year’s lineup.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week

If your back catalogue of records isn’t satisfying your fix for The Beatles then this one should do the trick. Eight Days A Week, by Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, chronicles ‘the touring years’ when The Beatles performed more than 1,400 times across the planet. The film moves from the band’s origins in Liverpool through their famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, which kick-started Beatlemania, to their final days as a group. Chock full of exclusive unseen footage, this is essential viewing even for anyone who thinks they’ve seen all there is to see of the Fab Four. September 16, Broadway Cinematheque.

The First Monday in May
China Through the Looking Glass became the most attended fashion exhibition in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s history. This documentary looks at the construction of the 2015 exhibition and the attendant multi-million dollar fundraiser, the lavish parade of celebrities that is the Met Gala. The Costume Institute’s chief curator Andrew Bolton and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour explain their conceptualisations and designs for the respective events they are responsible for. Like a real life The Devil Wears Prada, the camera follows Wintour’s daily routine, where she ruminates on whether or not fashion qualifies as art. August 26, Broadway Cinematheque.

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures
Robert Mapplethorpe remains a controversial photographer, best known for his homoerotic and nude images that once provoked national debate in the USA. Although the film eschews the questions raised by his photography, the life of Mapplethorpe is told from his childhood, from his rise to fame in the 70s to his death in 1989 due to Aids. Before his passing, Mapplethorpe was increasingly self-absorbed, working tirelessly to attain fame. Acclaimed directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato show how the man dedicated his life not only to becoming an artist but also to turning photography into a respected and fine art. September 3, Palace IFC.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict
Lisa Immordino Vreeland turns her lens on Peggy Guggenheim, the bohemian socialite and colourful art collector. Art Addict documents Guggenheim as she seeks to escape the cultural and political upheaval of the Second World War and dedicate herself to championing the works of the 21st century’s most seminal artists. Vreeland examines Guggenheim’s relationships with a parade of totemic figures such as Duchamp, Cocteau, Pollock and Rothko through generous amounts of archival footage and interviews. The film demonstrates how the collector’s passion for contemporary art entwined with these masters. September 13, Palace IFC.

Kampai! For the Love of Sake
Sake has been gaining increasing popularity outside of its homeland in recent years. Kampai! For the Love of Sake capitalises on this and takes viewers on a journey that unveils the secrets of sake production. The film investigate the origins and history behind this rich, complex product while examining the challenges that the sake industry currently faces, demonstrating how the ancient drink has been forced to adapt to the growing demand of the global marketplace. September 10, Broadway Cinematheque.

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