Cinema as Community,
Cinema as a Tool of Justice,
Cinema as Ecstasy 

As we worked towards the 2021 edition of the Open City Documentary Festival, exhausted by the experience of the past year and filled with the desire to inhabit the cinema space together again, we had to rethink the way we do things. After all, is it possible to keep doing things in the same way? What is a festival and who is it for? Is it a selection of films or an encounter? A festival is more than the sum of its parts. As a presentation context a festival is the construction of a temporary and collective situation, an experience of itself.

One ambition of a film festival should be to bring together the filmmakers of the past and present with those of the future. Our programme this year is a resolute attempt to resist the tyranny of the new, to reconnect with our desires, to consider what it means to be in the here and in the now. We will celebrate the work of three important women filmmakers – Renate Sami, Haneda Sumiko and Alia Syed – and we will finally have the chance to see, in the cinema, key works of 2020 that have not yet screened in London. Events organised with the London Community Video Archive and the Bartlett School of Architecture invite us to reconsider what it means to return to the city after lockdown and reclaim public spaces, such as the cinema. Several long-durational works heighten, and are heightened by, the communal viewing experience. Inquisitive, challenging, poetic – the festival continues to champion films that express themselves politically and aesthetically, that expand cinematic language and force us to look anew at the world. Cinema as a joyous experience, an experience of truth and ecstasy.

After a year of absences and sacrifices, we want to emphasize presence. This edition of the festival has been conceived with the non-fiction film community of London and across the UK in mind, considering our necessity to come together but also the importance of doing so gradually, and safely. We are mindful that many of our audience members will not yet be ready to come to the cinema or to travel to London, so for the first time the festival will take place in a hybrid form. Whilst all the events are intended – at the time of writing – to take place in person, a fully captioned online viewing platform will make a selection of the festival programme accessible throughout the UK.

Open City Documentary Festival aspires to address the expanded field of non-fiction cinema, from artists’ moving image to documentary to expanded reality. In conceiving the festival as a discursive space, we seek to provoke dialogue, creation and research through the collective participation in screenings and events. We have worked collaboratively with many organisations and individuals to put together the programme this year: Alia Syed, Ana Vaz & Olivier Marboeuf, Another Gaze, BFMAF, CREAM, Ed Webb-Ingall, Elena Gorfinkel, Erika Balsom, Fireflies Press, Goethe-Institut, Hope Strickland, Lucy Parker, Luke Fowler, LUX, London Community Video Archive, Mimosa House, not/nowhere, Onyeka Igwe, Ricardo Matos Cabo – as well as our UCL colleagues at the Bartlett School of Architecture and the Slade School of Fine Art. We want to thank them all for their involvement.

Welcome to Open City Documentary Festival 2021!

View the 2021 Programme Catalogue online

Open City Documentary Festival creates an open space in London to nurture and champion the art of non-fiction cinema. Based at the UCL Centre for Public Anthropology, we deliver training programmes, an annual documentary festival, the bi-annual Non-Fiction journal and events throughout the year that aim to challenge and expand the idea of documentary in all its forms.

The festival takes place in venues across London between 8th – 14th September 2021 and online 13th – 23th September 2021, and consists of international contemporary and retrospective non-fiction film, audio and cross media, as well as filmmaker Q&As, panels, and workshops. Tickets to screenings can be booked online or in person at the relevant cinema venue. Tickets to our Talks and Workshops can be booked online only.

We take public safety seriously and will be closely following government guidelines regarding COVID-19. Should there be a change in guidance, we will adapt the festival accordingly.


Festival Team

Albert Millis – Immersive Coordinator
Anna Stopford – Volunteer Coordinator
Arzzita Nash – Guest Services Coordinator
David Leister – Projection
Dora McKay – Events Coordinator
E.J. Lee – Technician
Eva Coulibaly-Willis – Guest Services Assistant
Georgie Cowan-Turner – Marketing Assistant
Huda Awan – Content Producer
Lucy Wardley – Festival Producer
María Palacios Cruz – Festival Director
Marta Berto – Marketing Manager
Oliver Wright – Director of Film Programming
Olivia Hird – Production Manager
Passport – Branding and Design
Ricardo Matos Cabo – Co-programmer (In Focus: Renate Sami / Haneda Sumiko Tribute)
Rosi Hirst – Finance
Sean Welsh & Megan Mitchell (Matchbox Cine) – Captioning
Will Swinburne – Technical Manager

Programme Advisors: Jonathan Ali, Wanling Chen, Jesse Cumming, Carmen Gray, Marcus Jack, Anjana Janardhan, Viktoriya Kalashnikova, Emily Wright

Venue Coordinators: Marta Calderón, Will Chapman, Elizabeth Dexter, Sophie Duncan, Ann Palomares, Max Tindley

UCL Public Anthropology Team: Laurence Avis, Rosi Hirst, Ripley Parker, Michael Stewart

Open City Documentary Festival team would like to thank:

All festival volunteers, all participating filmmakers, artists and speakers.


Rebecca Jane Arthur, Ute Aurand, Erika Balsom, Matthew Barrington, Bertha DocHouse (Jenny Horwell, Elizabeth Wood), Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival (Jemma Desai, Hamish Young, Peter Taylor), British Georgian Society (Jason Osborn), June Campbell, CBA (Javier Packer-Comyn, François Rapaille), China Exchange (Freya Aitken-Turff), Ciné Lumière (Diane Gabrysiak, Thomas Rileys), Cineteca Nacional de México (Dora Moreno, Tzutzumatzin Soto Cortés), Luis Coutinho, CREAM Westminster (Michael Mazière, Lucy Reynolds), Curzon Soho (Michael Garrad), Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen (Anke Hahn), Simon Duffy, Ava Eldred, Embassy of Sweden in London (Sofia Lundström, Pia Lundberg), Embassy of Switzerland in the UK (David Beck), Ted Fendt, Fireflies Press (Giovanni Marchini Camia), Eduardo Florez, William Fowler, Susana Gámez, Grace Gilroy, Goethe-Institut (Maren Hobein, Ibrahim Hussain), Elena Gorfinkel, Il Cinema Ritrovato (Guy Karim Borlée), Gary Green, Sara Hawley, George Hood, Genesis Cinema (Christina Papasotiriou, Bobbie Hughes), ICA (Nico Marzano, Nicolas Raffin), IMCINE (Jannike Curuchet, Mónica Martínez Orihuela, Fernanda Rio Armesilla), Instituto Cervantes London (Ignacio Peyró, Juan Blas Delgado Ramos), Institut Ramon Llull (Susana Millet, Marc Dueñas), Japan Foundation (Darian De La Cruz, Junko Takekawa), Kanatasha, Kiroku Eiga Hozon Center (Yuko Hamasaki), Brigitte Keijzer, Korean Cultural Centre UK (Jaemin Cha), Marie Logie, LUX (Matt Carter, Benjamin Cook, Alice Lea & Charlotte Procter), Olivier Marboeuf, Mimosa House (Daria Khan, Divya Osbon), Chie Moriwaki, Andrew Northrop, Richard Palmer, Pieter-Paul Mortier, Aily Tanaka Nash, not/nowhere (Taylor Le Melle, Jennifer Martin, Rhea Storr, Daniella Valz Gen), Garbiñe Ortega, Jayne Parker, Matías Piñeiro, Ben Rivers, Alfredo Ruiz, Daniella Shreir, Sophie Strang, Peter Todd, Ana Vaz, UCL Anthropology (Wendy Chandler, Ana Ghica, Martin Holbraad, Rikke Osterlund), Wallonie-Bruxelles Images (Hervé Le Phuez), Wallonie-Bruxelles International (Simona Palma, Jonathan Bangels), Mark & Frances Webber, Ed Webb-Ingall, Henri Williams