From Syrian refugees to convicted “spies” to a Japanese suicide cliff – DokuFest has selected a range of films produced by the “Field of Vision” project and announces its first selection of films for this year’s festival.
“Field of Vision” is the visual journalism wing of The Intercept, a respected US-based publication, and was set up by Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook. Field of Vision follows The Intercept’s recognizable brand of daring and critical journalism, combined with a visual feature that makes it a documentary and artistic delight.
DokuFest’s selection includes the following films, with a focus on the past year’s burning issues:
The Journey from Syria (dir. Matthew Cassel) Done in cooperation with the New Yorker, multimedia journalist and filmmaker Matthew Cassel follows the journey of Abdul Shalhoub from Istanbul towards the EU. The six-part series (all six will be shown at DokuFest) follows the difficulties and challenges that the father of two – whose family is still in Syria – as he crosses the Mediterranean in an inflatable boat, goes through the Balkans – all with the goal of securing a better future. Unlike most of the coverage of the refugee crisis, “The Journey” offers a personal, relatable touch to the biggest humanitarian crisis in modern history.
Speaking is Difficult (dir. AJ Schnack) 12, 5, 4, 27, 6… the numbers of gun violence victims and their frightened 911 calls are juxtaposed will scenes of calm and everyday life in the cities and communities they took place at. A sikh temple, Sandy Hook School, the Century Theater, the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords – director AJ Schnack confronts us with the terrifying reality of the recent spike in armed attacks in the US – without a single gun being shown on screen.
LIKE (dir. Garrett Bradley) “You’ll pay and I’ll give you love or a like,” says an off-screen narrator, explaining the work ethic of the “click-farms” of Bangladesh. Garrett Bradley shows cheap labor in the Facebook age in its stark reality in this short film – and all of it is, surprisingly, legal.
The Gatekeeper (dir. Yung Chang) Japanese teenagers in their school uniforms are shown gingerly climbing amongst the cliffs of the Tojinbo cliff range. An older gentleman is shown observing them from afar with binoculars – and we learn that the pensioner has set up shop close by, trying to save the desperate souls who come to Japan’s “suicide cliff”.
The Surrender (dir. Stephen Maing) Since The Espionage Act came to force at the advent of World War I, this much-revised piece of legislation has been invoked 11 times in cases where government officials where deemed to have given classified information to the media – seven of the total eleven cases taking place during the Obama administration. “The Surrender” follows the story of former government employee Stephen Kim, who famously leaked information to Fox News journalist James Rosen, as he stoically prepares to begin his prison sentence.
The Above (dir. Kirsten Johnson) The main character in this short documentary doesn’t do much speaking – and completes the same task, day in day out. The setting is Kabul, Afghanistan and the focus of this documentary is an “all-seeing” tethered surveillance blip, which has a very specific goal in the occupied territories in Afghanistan.
For more information about the “Field of Vision” project and what its aims are, read this insightful interview by its main producers on The Intercept.