Open City Documentary Festival

across London
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Student Screenings

Daily programme of free screenings and in-depth conversations with festival filmmakers, hosted by tutors from the Documentary & Ethnographic Film MA (UCL). For students in higher education only. All screenings take place at Close-Up Film Centre at 11am. 

These screenings are open by application only. Applications are now closed.

Thursday 7 September: Anhell69

Theo Montoya | 2022 | Colombia, Romania, France, Germany | 72 min

As Montoya set out to shoot a fiction film with a cast of queer friends in Medellín, reality intervened, with many of the participants dying before the film’s completion. Anhell69 is a reaction to this world that refused to allow queer futures to exist within it.  Weaving fictional scenes where Medellín’s youth become increasingly drawn to the ghosts that dwell in the city with documentary footage of Montoya’s friends who themselves come to haunt us, the film is at once an elegy and an act of refusal. It strives against the boundaries of reality, its violence and its cinema, queerly rejecting definitions and conventions. In their place, Anhell69 strives to be a trans film, boundless in scope and embracing contradictions – between life and death; fiction and documentary; horror and love; the present and the future and between the world of cinema and the one in which we live.

Followed by a conversation with Theo Montoya hosted by Dieter Deswarte.

Theo Montoya, originally from Medellín, Colombia, is a director, cinematographer and producer. He is the founder and director of the production company Desvio Visual, which is dedicated to the creation of auteur films and experimental films. His first short film, Son of Sodom, was part of the Official Short Film Selection at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival and many other festivals around the world.

Friday 8 September: To Remain in The No Longer

Joyce Joumaa | 2023 | Canada, Lebanon | 37 min

In 1962, Brazilian modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer was invited to design an international fairground in the city of Tripoli, Lebanon. Situated across 70 hectares, the Rachid Karami International Fair – Tripoli was a flagship project of Lebanon’s modernisation policy and is now listed by UNESCO as being of Outstanding Universal Value. The site was never completed and exists today in partial ruin. Years of mismanagement and inflating costs suspended construction which ceased fully with the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975. The centrepiece – a vast modernist dome – was used as a munitions storage facility by occupying Syrian armed forces until 1990.

Joyce Joumaa’s To Remain In The No Longer examines the architectural, social and political significance of Niemeyer’s fairground. Through archival materials, interviews with local people, 16mm and digital images of the buildings as they stand today, the film reflects on both the fraught history of this site and its connection to the ongoing financial crisis in Lebanon today.

Followed by a conversation with Joyce Joumaa hosted by Ed Lawrenson.

Joyce Joumaa is a video artist based in Montreal. After growing up in Tripoli, Lebanon, she pursued a BFA in Film Studies at Concordia University. Her work explores the political phenomenology of language, post-colonial education and video documentation as a fictional archive. She is the recipient of the 2021-2022 Emerging Curator Residency Program at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Saturday 9 September: Up the River with Acid

Harald Hutter | 2023 | France | 63 min

A tender 16mm portrait of the filmmaker Harold Hutter’s elderly mother and father, filmed over the course of 2 days in the small French village where they live. Horst Hutter is a retired university professor now suffering from advanced dementia, his wife Franciney Prévost is a poet whose moving writing accompanies the film.

The couple are filmed in the soft colours of their domestic interior as Horst struggles to remember his daily routine. Some habits seem lifelong, others newly formed by the intrusion of dementia. His memory is fading and his sight and hearing are almost completely lost. Amongst these scenes, recorded conversations between Horst and Franciney gather memories from their lives together and the moment they met and fell in love.

These quotidian moments are observed in long, still compositions as Hutter achieves the kind of intimacy that comes with familial closeness. The resulting film is not just a document of his father’s journey with dementia, but also the love story of his parents.

Followed by a conversation with Harald Hutter hosted by Richard Alwyn.

Harald Hutter was born in Montreal, Canada in 1981. He holds a BFA in Art History from Concordia University and an MA in Film Theory from University College London. His first feature film Up the River with Acid won the Grand Prize at Cinéma du Réel and received a Special Mention for the Loriden-Ivens / CNAP Prize in 2023. His short films have won prizes, have been nominated by the British Council and have screened at numerous festivals internationally. Harald is currently at different stages of development on a number of documentaries and fiction films. Harald is Chair of the Film Art department at the Paris College of Art jointly run with Emerson in Boston.

Sunday 10 September: Hit Him on the Head with a Hard, Heavy Hammer

Rebecca Jane Arthur | 2023 | Belgium | 49 min

Taking her father’s handwritten memoir as a point of departure, Rebecca Jane Arthur sets out to retrace his journey as a child evacuee during the Second World War. Using the text as a script, Arthur elicits performances from those encountered in Wales and in South London parks that are almost hypnotic in their repetition – a repetition echoed by the alliteration in the title. Whilst in his memoir, her father battled with the difficulty of writing about one’s family without mythologising them, here Arthur dialogues with his words, returning to the sites of his childhood to reflect on mortality, memory and familial bonds. A re-enactment of sorts that collapses the 80 year-gap between both journeys to contemplate “how we pen our pasts and how they can be re-told”.

Followed by a conversation with Rebecca Jane Arthur hosted by Lasse Johansson.

Rebecca Jane Arthur (Edinburgh, 1984) is a visual artist who works predominantly with the moving image. She is co-founder of the Brussels-based, artist-run production and distribution platform elephy, contributor to the Belgian online film criticism platform Sabzian, and a PhD in the Arts candidate at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent. Barefoot Birthdays on Unbreakable Glass (2023), Hit Him on the Head with a Hard Heavy Hammer (2023), Chantal in Green (2023), Three Sitters: Norman, Brian, Frances (2022), Island Flyer: A Postcard from the Isle of Wight (2022), Liberty: An Ephemeral Statute (2020), Ready-mades with Interest (2017).

Monday 11 September: Le Roi n’est pas mon cousin (The King is Not My Cousin)

Annabelle Aventurin| 2022 | France, Guadeloupe | 30 min

Bringing together poignant interview clips, excerpts of text and symbolic imagery, The King is Not My Cousin is a familial documentary essay centred around resilience, history, and sacrifice. Filmmaker Annabelle Aventurin chronicles her grandmother’s experience from Guadeloupe, a journey of resilience and sacrifice across the Atlantic. The pair revisit anecdotes and historical experiences whilst exploring the meaning of Caribbean identity on colonial impact. Passages of Karukera ensoleillée, Guadeloupe échouée (“Sunny Karukera, Stranded Guadeloupe”), a book written in 1980 by Aventurin’s grandmother, point to the harrowing reality and repercussions of slavery. The mixture of the fond yet wounding first-person narrative creates an authentic composition of sound and moving image.

Followed by a conversation with Annabelle Aventurin hosted by Lucy Parker.

Annabelle Aventurin is a film archivist, programmer and filmmaker. At Ciné-Archives, French Communist Party and workers’ movement film collection she coordinated, with the Harvard Film Archive, the restoration of Hondo’s films West Indies (1979), and Sarraounia (1986) and soon Polisario. In 2022, she completed her first documentary film, Le Roi n’est pas mon cousin (30 min, France/Guadeloupe) which has been screened and awarded in multiple festivals

Tuesday 12 September: Coconut Head Generation

Alain Kassanda | 2023 | France, Nigeria | 89 min

Once a week, students from the University of Ibadan meet to watch, reflect, and discuss films. The film club has become a safe space to screen works centred around intersectionality, feminism, and politics from directors like Med Hondo to John Akomfrah, whilst leaving space for spirited debates and critical thinking. This youthful collective refutes the expression that the younger generation can be imperceptive and idle through using the means of film to position themselves as an organised union to protest and challenge Nigeria’s complicated politics.

This observational documentary transitions from the safety of a small lecture hall to the streets in the height of the #EndSARS movement – a series of mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria. Filmmaker Alain Kassanda makes an argument for young Nigerians’ determination to fight for their country and freedom of thought.

Followed by a conversation with Alain Kassanda hosted by Ellen Evans.

Born in Kinshasa, Alain Kassanda left the DRC for France at the age of 11. After studying communication, he has been staging cycles of movie showings in various Parisian theaters. He then became the programmer of an art house cinema for five years, in the suburbs of Paris, before moving to Ibadan, in southwestern Nigeria, from 2015 to 2019. There he directed Trouble Sleep, a medium-length film centered on the road, depicted from the perspectives of a taxi driver and a tax collector. The film received the Golden Dove for best film at the Dok Leipzig festival in 2020 and the special mention of the jury at the Visions du réel festival. This was followed by Colette and Justin, a feature film intertwining his family history and the history of the decolonization of the Congo. The film was part of the international competition at Idfa in 2022. Coconut Head Generation is his third film.