Announcing full programme of 2023 Open City Documentary Festival


Open City Documentary Festival is excited to announce the full programme for its thirteenth edition, taking place in person from 6th to 12th September.

The festival welcomes returning and new audiences to venues Barbican, Bertha DocHouse, Close-Up Film Centre, Curzon Soho, Genesis Cinema, Institute of Contemporary Arts, LUX, Rich Mix, Tate Modern and our Festival Hub in Chinatown.

We will celebrate the art of non-fiction with 93 films and 12 Expanded Realities projects. The new film programme includes 6 World Premieres, 1 International Premiere, and 19 UK Premieres and films from 44 different countries.

Opening and Closing Nights

The 13th edition opens with Nowhere Near (Miko Revereza, 2023), a poetic essay film that traces the filmmaker’s decision to leave the United States and return to the Philippines. His journey to rediscover the country of his birth means leaving his family and becoming an exile from the country where he was raised and lived for 26 years. 

The festival will close with a joint screening of Margaret Tait’s last film Garden Pieces (1998) and artist and filmmaker Luke Fowler’s Being in a Place: A Portrait of Margaret Tait (2022). Where Garden Pieces is a vibrant live-action and hand-drawn garden portrait, Fowler’s latest film is an unconventional biographical portrait of the late Scottish filmmaker and poet. 

Wider Film Programme

Once more, the festival celebrates the work of women filmmakers with two historical programmes. No Master Territories: Feminist Worldmaking and the Moving Image is dedicated to works of non-fiction that invent new languages for the representation of gendered experience. Concentrating on the period of the 1970s to 1990s, it responds to the contemporary imperative to recover the breadth of women’s contributions to film history in a global context. The Invisible Self is a programme of feminist films made between 1985-1991 that journeys through the lives of women who challenged traditional patriarchal structures in India.

“In Focus” programmes on Mary Helena Clark and Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley constitute the first in-depth surveys of both artists’ work in the UK.

Familial connections, the importance of location as well as retracing ancestral and historical journeys are also prominent this edition. Annabelle Aventurin’s Le Roi n’est pas mon cousin (The King is Not My Cousin, 2022) chronicles her grandmother’s experience from Guadeloupe, a journey of resilience and sacrifice across the Atlantic. Rebecca Jane Arthur’s Hit Him on the Head with a Hard, Heavy Hammer takes her father’s handwritten memoir as a point of departure as she sets out to retrace his journey as a child evacuee during the Second World War. Screening alongside Arthur’s film, In a Nearby Field (Laida Lertxundi & Ren Ebel, 2023) follows a woman, a man and young child who live together in the Basque Country, hinting to the delicate balancing act of maintaining a family and a creative practice. Ava Vaz’s A árvore is a “ritual-film” about her father – the late artist, musician and mystic of the forest Guilherme Vaz.

Up the River with Acid (Harald Hutter, 2023) is a tender 16mm portrait of the filmmaker’s elderly parents as he documents his father’s onsetting dementia whilst portraying the kind of intimacy that comes with familial closeness. The World of Dementia + The Brightness of the Day is a programme curated by Ricardo Matos Cabo which also looks at the issue of care for the elderly from the distinct perspectives of Japanese documentary filmmakers Haneda Sumiko and Satō Makoto  

One of North America’s largest and most important university-based motion picture collections, Harvard Film Archive, is collaborating with Open City on a number of programmes for the 2023 edition. Curated by Haden Guest, SMALL WORLDS. AVANT-GARDE DOCUMENTARIES FROM THE HARVARD FILM ARCHIVE interweaves distinct yet complementary modes of avant-garde non-fiction cinema made by independent artists. Haden Guest will also deliver the illustrated lecture Anne Charlotte Robertson and the Art of the Diary, situating Robertson’s diaristic film practice within the longer history of the diary as an art form. 

Dóra Maurer’s rarely screened and newly digitised Hétpróba (Seven Trials, 1982) will show at Tate Modern, following an exhibition of her work in 2019-2021. Maurer employs a range of cinematic strategies in this intimate portrayal of an opera singer and her four teenage children.

The works and legacies of influential Black artists and writers Toni Morrison and James Baldwin are examined in Quiet As It’s Kept (Ja’Tovia Gary, 2023) and I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Dick Fontaine, 1982). Gary’s film is a contemporary cinematic response to The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison’s first novel, published in 1970. Fontaine’s portrait of James Baldwin, recently restored by Harvard Film Archive, documents the writer’s difficult return to key sites of the Civil Rights Movement

Maryam Tafakory returns to the festival with Mast-del (2023) which continues the artist’s investigation into representations of women in post-revolutionary Iran. Jenny Brady’s Music for Solo Performer (2022) and Graeme Arnfield’s Home Invasion (2023) form a double bill of essayistic approaches to technological systems of control and care.

Open City Documentary Festival 2023 features new works by Alain Kassanda, Ana Vaz, Annabelle Aventurin, Bani Khoshnoudi, Blanca García, Bo Wang, Graeme Arnfield, Harald Hutter, Ja’Tovia Gary, Jenny Brady, Joyce Joumaa, Julia Parks, Laida Lertxundi & Ren Ebel, Luciana Decker, Luke Fowler, Margaux Dauby, Mary Helena Clark, Maryam Tafakory, Miko Revereza, Miranda Pennell, Morgan Quaintance, Nour Ouayda, Peter Todd, Rebecca Jane Arthur, Riar Rizaldi, Rita Morais, Ruth Maclennan, Sally Lawton, Sanaz Sohrabi, Theo Montoya, Ulises de la Orden and Ute Aurand.

Talks and Workshops

Returning in 2023, the Critics Workshop is an immersive programme for 10 selected participants developed with the Another Gaze editorial team to discuss the methodologies and practice of a politically engaged film criticism.  

Cross-(r)evolutionary Sound Archives by Only Voice Remains is a sonic archive building workshop focused on collecting and reconnecting echoes from revolutionary movements across borders and time. 

There will be a special event to mark the publication of Alia Syed: Imprints, Documents, Fictions. Published by Courtisane festival in collaboration with Open City Documentary Festival, the first monograph to be devoted to Syed’s work features new essays by Jemma Desai, Inga Fraser, Peter Gidal, Rahila Haque, Salima Hashmi, Anjana Janardhan, Ruth Noack and Henrietta Williams, as well as writing by Syed herself 

WHOSE HISTORIES?: feminist pasts, feminist futures is a study day that examines feminist ways of telling feminist film history, taking Lis Rhodes’s 1979 text “Whose History?” as a framework for presentations by and conversations with artists, scholars and curators.  

In connection with the exhibition And still, it remains’ by filmmaking duo Arwa Aburawa and Turab Shah co-presented with LUX, a workshop on Working Collectively is an invitation by Other Cinemas to Black and non-white communities grappling with collaborative filmmaking.

Hosted by T A P E Collective, the talks Local: City & the Storytelling and Emerging / Established and No In-between respond to T A P E’s mission to demystify the film industry. 

Collaborative Processes and Questions of Care is a series of conversations which look to long-term filmmaking teams to reflect on questions of care over time. Developed and hosted by Elhum Shakerifar, the sessions aim to look, inspire and provoke. Artist Talks by Miko Revereza and Mary Helena Clark will give insight into their filmmaking practices. Matthew Barrington from the Essay Film Festival will host a panel discussion on the meaning and legacy of the essay film with filmmakers featured in the festival programme. 

Presented in partnership with Alchemy Film & Arts, On Location: The Challenge and Opportunities Of Documenting Place is a panel that examines the ethics, curiosities and opportunities of long-term site-sensitive research in documentary practice from an artistic and curatorial perspective. 

Open City Documentary Festival 2023 will launch the first session of Filmmaker meetups of London, hosted by artists Therese Henningsen and Morgan Quaintance to provide a chance to hang out, meet other artists and gossip about cameras, image making, potential collaborations, favourite art works and more in a relaxed and supportive environment.  

Expanded Realities 

Expanded Realities, the festival’s cross media (AR/VR/XR+) exhibition showcases storytelling at the intersection of art and technology. Alongside the aforementioned In Focus: Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, there are a number of projects available to experience for free at our Festival Hub. A South Asian Queer Pamphlet is an installation which presents a vision of queerness defined by performance and rooted in South Asian culture and history. Atuel is a surrealist documentary game inspired by the topography and wildlife of the Atuel River valley in Argentina. Control Negative is a project which immerses the viewer into a world where the control over their environment they have come to expect is subverted and taken away. Location is a key element in projects including Only Voice Remain: Making Collective Prophecies, Montegelato and On The Way to Colonus, transporting the viewer to Iran and Kurdistan, the Montegelato waterfalls in central Italy and the town of Colonus. Returning is the UCL showcase of work developed by students and faculty from departments across UCL, demonstrating the range in which VR is utilised for research and storytelling at London’s global university. 


If you are a member of the press with a particular interest in any of the screenings, please contact for press information, images and interviews. 

About Us

Open City Documentary Festival creates an open space in London to nurture and champion the art of non-fiction cinema. Based at the UCL Anthropology, we deliver training programmes, an annual documentary festival, the bi-annual Non-Fiction journal, and events throughout the year. 

Celebrating the art of non-fiction, Open City Documentary Festival aims to challenge and expand the idea of documentary in all its forms. Alongside our screening programme, we bring together filmmakers and other practitioners to explore and debate the current landscape of documentary. The festival takes place in person between 6th – 12th September 2023, and consists of international contemporary and retrospective non-fiction film, audio and cross media, as well as filmmaker Q&As, exhibitions, panels and workshops.