Open City Documentary Festival

24th–30th
April 2024
across London

Announcing 2023 Programme Highlights

The 13th edition of Open City Documentary Festival, celebrating the art of non-fiction filmmaking, will take place across venues in London from 6 – 12 September. We are delighted to announce In Focus programmes with filmmaker Mary Helena Clark and artist Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley. We will also be presenting a 5-programme iteration of selected works from No Master Territories: Feminist Worldmaking and the Moving Image curated by Erika Balsom and Hila Peleg as well as The Invisible Self, a programme of feminist films made in India between 1985-1991 curated by Shai Heredia.

The full festival programme will be announced on 27 July 2023.

In Focus: Mary Helena Clark

American artist Mary Helena Clark makes enigmatic, associative, oneiric films that propose cinema as both a trance-like and transparent experience, one “that operates on dream logic until disrupted by a moment of self-reflexivity, like tripping on an extension cord.” Whether working with 16mm film, video or installation, with found footage or her own images, Clark uses the language of collage in order to bring together disparate sounds, images and texts that suggest an exterior logic or code, a puzzle to be solved, a mystery to be cracked. In Focus: Mary Helena Clark, is the first UK survey of her work and includes all her short films as well as a screening curated by Mary Helena Clark.

In Focus: Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley is a London-based artist working across media including moving image, animation, performance and print. Using a range of digital tools, particularly early 3D game engines, Brathwaite-Shirley’s practice creates worlds that serve as archives of black trans experiences designed for black trans audiences in the present and future. Her digital environments reconfigure historical power relations to allow voices from the black trans community to be centred, speaking to each other across temporalities and geographies whilst ensuring that spectators who are not part of this community acknowledge their culpabilities in its historical erasure and ongoing marginalisation. In Focus: Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley presents three recent works by the artist in London for the first time, covering formats ranging from film to interactive video games. 

No Master Territories: Feminist Worldmaking and the Moving Image

No Master Territories: Feminist Worldmaking and the Moving Image is dedicated to works of nonfiction that invent new languages for the representation of gendered experience. Concentrating on the period of the 1970s to 1990s, a time when women’s liberation movements took hold internationally, it responds to the contemporary imperative to recover the breadth of women’s contributions to film history in a global context.

Curated by Erika Balsom and Hila Peleg, No Master Territories originated as a gallery exhibition and film programme of over 100 works by 89 individuals and collectives, on view at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, in summer 2022. Open City Documentary Festival is proud to present a 5-programme iteration with selected works drawn from the original exhibition.

The Invisible Self

Rooted in the social and political struggles of the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s, this programme of feminist films made between 1985-1991 journeys through the lives of women who challenged traditional patriarchal structures in India. The complexities of women’s invisible labour as reproductive machines, sexual objects, home makers, and keepers of tradition, morality and cultural history are made starkly visible. By highlighting the interconnectedness of the individual and social self, these films offer an encounter with diverse forms of feminisms. Personal liberation is embedded in collective liberation.

With works by Deepa Dhanraj, Reena Mohan, Mira Nair and Nilita Vachani. Curated by Shai Heredia, founding director of Experimenta India.