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Go documentary wild at this year’s Open City Doc Fest in London

By Joseph Walsh

London’s Open City Documentary Festival might be small but it’s perfectly formed – and this year’s line-up is bigger than ever. Here are just five reasons why you should make space for this film fest to your calendar. 

The ground-breaking films

Featuring films that travel from the icy plains of Greenland (‘Winter’s Yearning’) to the scorching heat of Kenya (‘The Last Male on Earth’), this year’s packed seven-day programme allows you to travel the globe without leaving your cinema seat or enduring any nasty jabs. Be sure to check out the weather-appropriate environmental doc ‘The Hottest August’, and ‘Midnight Family’, which follows a family of ambulance drivers in Mexico City.

The venues are ace

Hackney’s Total Refreshment Centre, an event space and recording studio, played a crucial role as a hub for London’s emerging jazz artists. It doesn’t host live gigs anymore but is being celebrated at the ICA at Emma Warren’s Sunday Listening Session, where she will talk about the importance of creating spaces for creativity while playing records that trace the history of this music landmark. If you want to stay central, the Open City Doc festival hub in Chinatown is your base for talks, parties and Q&As. That makes a good starting point for visiting the ICA on the Mall and Curzon Soho, which is also hosting talks, Q&As and more.

It’s great for budding filmmakers

Are you bursting to make a doc but don’t know how? You can learn from filmmakers who will be sharing tips on how to get that first effort made in a series of workshops and talks. Alternatively, turn up for Q&As with the likes of awarding-winning ‘Midnight Family’ director Luke Lorentzen, or Lucy Parker, director of ‘Solidarity’, which explores the timely issue of assaults on workers’ rights.

You’ll discover tomorrow’s stars of documentary filmmaking today

Since the festival began it has seen up-and-coming filmmakers pass through its doors, like the Academy Award-nominated Gianfranco Rosi, whose ‘Fire at Sea’ potently explored the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. Some of this year’s directors could be tearfully thanking their mum, statuette in hand, in years to come – and here you’ll get to see them first.

You’ll rediscover some classics

Need to brush up on some essential docs or fancy a change from the current diet of action films? A retrospective on the works of uncompromising filmmakers Zhao Liang and Naomi Kawase might be just the thing. Bold, innovative and deeply personal, their films are a gold standard for documentary filmmaking.

Open City Documentary Festival runs Wed Sep 4-Sep 10. For tickets and more info visit

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