Original article written for The Local Denmark, available here.
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Film fans and budding cinema enthusiasts are in for their annual autumn treat as the world’s third largest documentary film festival opens its doors this week.
Running from November 5th to 15th, the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival (CPH:DOX) was founded in 2003 and has now grown into a mammoth event that encompasses concerts, art exhibitions, professional seminars, exclusive screenings and many other activities under the guise of celebrating the world of documentary filmmaking.
CPH:DOX is devoted to the support of independent and innovative filmmaking in its attempt to build bridges between curious audiences and a diverse palette of art forms within the frames of music and visuals. This year’s festival will be as experimental and as innovative as ever, featuring curation by Olafur Eliasson (you may remember him from his newly-opened Circle Bridge or his global warming ‘wake-up call’) and hand-selected film recommendations from the likes of astrophysicist Anja Cetti Andersen, DR2 Deadline host Martin Krasnik and the former climate minister, Connie Hedegaard.
Ahead of the twelfth edition of CPH Dox, The Local has compiled a list of 10 must-see documentaries that we feel are worth watching.
1. Muhammad: The Messenger of God
Perhaps the most controversial of this year’s batch of films is Iranian director Majid Majidi’s ‘Muhammad: Messenger of God’, one of only two films ever created about the prophet of Islam. With Islam’s strict ban on imagery depicting the prophet, this film has courted controversy and has even resulted in a fatwa against its creators. The first screening of the film will be held at the newly-opened Imam Ali Mosque in Copenhagen and will feature a Q&A session with director Majidi. (Screening times)
2. A Syrian Love Story
Putting a human face on the hordes of refugees that are knocking on Europe’s borders, A Syrian Love Story is the tale of a couple who met in prison many years ago, both doing time for their protests against an oppressive regime. Filmed over five years, the film drifts through the horrors of war and the challenges that they pose to two people who love each other – and their country – more than anything in the world. (Screening times)
3. Above and Below
Whilst science is looking at how to establish the first colony on Mars, there are others, closer to home who have already prepared themselves for what life on the Red Planet is like. The sands of Nevada are home to a parallel society, who, in preparation for apocalyptic scenarios on our earth, have forged a bare and survivalist existence in isolation from the rest of the world. (Screening times)
4. Time / Out of Joint
Einstein would have loved this one, a film set as a sturdy essay that immerses itself to the point of drowning in the concept of time and its potential reversibility and relativity. If it sounds complex, that’s because it is – prepare for a wave of intellectual jargon that will make you question the way things work in our universe. (Screening times)
5. Banksy Does New York
Like him or not, Banksy has become a fundamental player in redefining the way we look at and interact with art. Yes, this fad has been capitalized on by everyone who wants to be hip, but Banksy’s art is still at intriguing as his identity (or lack thereof). Chris Mourkabel’s documentary explores some of the mayhem that Banksy has created in New York, a city at the centre of the street art debate. (Screening times)
Part of the ‘Curated By Olafur Eliasson’ series, Behemoth explores one of those problems that we all know exists and want to do something about but in the end wind up contributing to through our purchasing habits. Filmed in the dire, apocalyptically sordid confines of a mine in China, Behemoth Is a tale of struggle and of the underside of a cash-driven economy that has little remorse for those born to toil for it. (Screening times)
7. Bike Vs Cars
We love our bikes here in Denmark. We also love the many kilometres of paths that allow us to cruise from A to B with relative ease, but that is certainly not the case in most of the world’s other cities. The bike vs car debate may not be as intense here as it is elsewhere, but this documentary sheds varied perspectives on some of the clashing forces in the argument between two wheels and four. (Screening times)
8. Arabian Nights Vol 1 – The Restless One
Part of a compelling trilogy set in an economically-ravaged but ultimately positive Portugal, this is the first in a long line of poetic anecdotes that delve into the far reaches of one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. Inspired by the classic Arab text ‘Thousand and One Nights,’ this film is both witty, morose and slightly overwhelming. (Screening times)
9. Of The North
An anthropological foray into what life is like at the northernmost place on earth, featuring footage taken by people who actually live in a hostile and unforgiving wilderness of sub-zero conditions. If you thought that Denmark is cold, this may make you think twice through its unfiltered look at life in the Arctic. (Screening times)
10. The Pearl Button
Soft, poetic genius from Chile, the serene country that gave us the likes of poet-diplomat Pablo Neruda. This is a study of the beauty of nature and the harshness of man, and of indigenous folk and their calm, collected ways. Water is a central element here, set against a backdrop of tense recollection and reflection. (Screening times)