For those of you looking for a little extra excitement in the coming weeks, May promises to be a month of rousing and intriguing documentary events, with barely a day going by without a must-see screening, discussion panel or festival to attend. Whether you’re a film, photography or radio documentary fan there is something for everyone on offer, with many events completely free of charge or at little cost. Here’s our roundup of the best occasions to pencil in this month to get your end-of-Spring doc fix.
Sunday 1st May
Gayby Baby Documentary iTunes Release & Mass Screening
You may remember Maya Newell from our 11 Women to Watch in Documentary article, where we placed the inspiring young director up there with doc legends such as Kim Longinotto and Liz Garbus. This month she embarks on one of her most exciting projects to date; the mass screening of her debut documentary Gayby Baby, to be released globally on iTunes at midnight (UK time) on May 1st. The release coincides with International Family Equality Day and comes as part of the film team’s “Press Play for Family Equality” initiative which aims to draw attention to the untold stories of LGBTQ families. Viewers are encouraged to download and view the film on the release date and participate in what is being pegged as “the largest worldwide movie night of all time”. Centred around four children raised by lesbian and gay parents including WWE wrestling lover Gus (pictured above), Gayby Baby promises to be an education in love, equality and modern family values. Pre-order the film now on and start liking and sharing on social media to become part of the project.
Gayby Baby Official iTunes Release, 12am Sunday May 1st 2016, preorder on iTunes here.
Monday 2nd May
Directed by Tweedie Free Online Release
The Whicker’s World Foundation team first became aware of upcoming director Duncan Cowles’ work during a Shorts on Tap event in January and have been huge fans of his work ever since. Creative, revealing and undeniably witty, his documentaries and short films home in on a number of topics, from UK asylum seekers to the complex relationship between father and son. This month he releases his award-winning documentary Directed by Tweedie for free on his website, a film which premiered at Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2014 and went on to win Scottish Short Film Award at the Glasgow Short Film Festival in 2015. The film follows the director as he attempts to teach the art of filmmaking to his elderly grandfather, from letting him loose in the garden with a GoPro to setting him the task of filming and interviewing his highly amused wife. Visit Duncan’s website here on May 2nd to watch the film alongside his other work including family documentary Radio Silence, which was nominated for Best Factual at the BAFTA Scotland New Talent Awards in 2014.
Directed by Tweedie Online Release, 9am Monday May 1st, watch here.
Tuesday 3rd May
Ravensbourne Shorts Presents: How to Accidentally Make an Award-winning Documentary, A Masterclass with Will Jewell, London
Any documentary director would be ecstatic if their debut film was screened at Cannes before going on to make the Raindance and Helsinki International Film Festival official selection, which is exactly what happened to director Will Jewells with South Coast in 2008. Yet this acclaimed introduction in to the UK’s grassroots hip hop scene didn’t have the most conventional of beginnings. Started as a short promo video by a screenwriter with no experience in documentary filming, South Coast quickly snowballed in to a feature film that took 5 years in the making and accumulated over 150 hours of footage. In a May workshop hosted by Ravensbourne College, Jewell will explore the secrets of his unlikely success and teach his audience how to identify and develop their protagonists and narrative strands within a documentary structure. An insight in to one of film’s most haphazard triumphs, this class aims to teach its audience how to succeed, whether purposefully or not, in the world of docs.
How to Accidentally Make an Award-winning Documentary, 6pm-8pm Tuesday 3rd May, Room 211 Ravensbourne – 6 Penrose Way, Greenwich Peninsula, London, SE10 0EW +44 (0)20 3040 3500
Price: Free for Ravensbourne students, graduates, staff and alumni. External guests £32.84, order tickets here at How To: Academy.
Wednesday 4th May
A Masterclass in Documentary Photography with Stuart Franklin, London
On a wide, empty road with not another soul in sight, a lone man in a white shirt stands before four military tanks, his motive self-explanatory yet his identity still unknown. Those of you who have been living on planet earth anytime within the last 27 years will have undoubtedly seen the infamous Tank Man photo of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. What you may not know is that the person behind the lens of that iconic photo was English documentary photographer Stuart Franklin, who has since gone on to enjoy a fascinating career from capturing prison life in Libya to health workers in war-torn Syria. This May he participates in the How to: Academy in London, where he will talk his audience through photography past and present, highlighting some of the work that has defined generations and crystallised history’s most pivotal moments over the past 100 years.
A Masterclass in Documentary Photography with Stuart Franklin, 6.45pm-8pm, Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design, 16-17 Greek Street, London, W1D 4DR, +44 (0)20 7152 3435
Ticket Price: Standard Ticket £25
Thursday May 5th
In the Dark Radio Presents: Radio Americana, Bristol
Whicker’s World Foundation’s favourite radio collective In the Dark will this month descend upon Bristol’s American style bar and restaurant Plead the Fifth for a star-spangled celebration of all things USA. For the third year running, In the Dark will participate in the Bristol Food Connections Festival by combining some of the best American radio with its other famous tradition: food. Whilst the audio experts play a carefully-selected collection of spoken-word stories from across the pond, guests will enjoy a sumptuous three course dinner of traditional cuisine from the sweet land of liberty. The purpose of the evening? Simply to answer one question: do Americans really make the best radio? We can’t wait to find out…
Ticket Price: £25, pre-booking essential, click here for tickets
Thursday 5th May
Oxford Brookes Documentary Club: Oxford Filmmakers Night, Oxford
We have been thoroughly impressed by the scope of events offered by Oxford Brookes University’s Documentary Club, who remain dedicated to providing free, independent doc screenings around the local area. Keeping up their reputation, this Thursday 5th of May the club will be screening six short documentaries made by local filmmakers. Highlights include The Unanswered Question, a film from OBU’s first year Digital Media Production students about the much-debated existence of ghosts in Oxford, and Not Just Homeless, where a group of formerly homeless people came together with students and staff to document the lives of those sleeping rough in the city, from the streets to the local food banks. A celebration of Oxford’s distinctiveness and diversity, the event aims to encourage Oxford residents from countries across the globe to have their unique voices heard and their talent realised.
Oxford Filmmakers Night, 7pm-8pm Thursday 5th May, JHB Lecture Theatre, John Henry Brookes, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane, Oxford, OX3 0BP
Ticket Price: Free, book online here
Saturday May 7th
10th Anniversary Festival of EICTV Cuba Documentary Summer School, London
Ten years ago, University College London opened the doors to its documentary filmmaking summer school in the exotic location of San Antonio de los Baños, 30 miles outside of Havana, Cuba. Giving aspiring filmmakers hands-on practical experience of planning and shooting a movie, the course has become world-renowned for its innovation and experimentation in the field of documentary. Taught by Cuban director Enrique Colina, the intensive workshop is held at internationally-renowned film and television school EICTV. In celebration of a decade of success for the summer school, UCL will be holding a screening day of previous students’ work spanning from its first-ever summer to last year’s exciting new films. With introductions and discussions from leading industry professionals such as director Russell Porter and Universidad de Salamanca professor Guillermo Mira Delli-Zotti, the day promises to be as educational as it is alluring, with small bites and tasty daiquiri cocktails on offer throughout the day.
10th Anniversary Festival of EICTV Cuba Documentary, Saturday May 7th from 10am-6pm, UCL: IAS Common Ground, Wilkins Building, South Wing, University College London, WC1E 6BT, +44(0)20 7679 2000
Ticket Price: Free but must pre-register on Eventbrite
Tuesday May 10th
The Look of Silence Screening + Masterclass with Joshua Oppenheimer, London
So your Netflix subscription has expired and there’s nothing good on TV? Have no fear, for this Tuesday the 10th of May the University of Westminster will be screening Joshua Oppenheimer’s masterpiece documentary The Look of Silence for free at Regent Street Cinema. The film follows the story of the courageous Adi Rukun, an optician who in 2014 went undercover to confront the men who killed his brother alongside hundreds of thousands of alleged communists and leftists in the 1965 Indonesian Genocide. Interviewing the killers under the ruse of an eye examination, Adi must come to terms with the repercussions of the horrific massacres and the lack of sympathy of its perpetrators, including his own uncle. The screening will be followed by a 2 hour masterclass with Joshua Oppenheimer, whose previous film The Act of Killing won Best Documentary at the 2014 BAFTA awards. Guests wishing to attend the masterclass should note that there is an additional charge and that they must register for the screening and the workshop separately here on EventBrite.
The Look of Silence Screening + Masterclass with Joshua Oppenheimer, Screening 4pm-5pm, Masterclass 6pm-8pm, Regent Street Cinema, 309 Regent Street, London, W1B 2UW, +44 (0)20 7911 5050
Regent Street Cinema – 309 Regent Street, London, W1B 2UW
Ticket Price: Free, masterclass tickets student £6.47/ standard £11.74
Tuesday May 10th
Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival presents Screening: Bombay Beach, Glasgow
The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival , led by the Mental Health Foundation, is one of the world’s largest social justice festivals, overseeing 300 events all over Scotland each year. Aiming to challenge the stigmatisation of mental illness, the annual festival runs from the 10th-30th October, with promotional events taking place throughout the year to encourage the public to start opening up about mental health issues. This May festival organisers are holding a screening of powerful doc Bombay Beach directed by Alma Har’el and winner of the 2011 Tribeca documentary competition. Developed in the 1950s as a resort for the rich and famous, Bombay Beach is today a crumbling town set within the barren landscape of the Colorado desert. It is home to young bipolar sufferer Benny, whose illness causes both despair and joy for his family, as well as aspiring football player Ceejay who dreams of success despite his traumatic past. The screening is followed by a conversation with Scottish rapper Loki, who will discuss the film’s main themes and the complications of growing up with dreams in an impoverished environment.
Bombay Beach Screening, GMAC Film, 103 Trongate, Glasgow, G1 5HD
Ticket Price: Free, pre-register here
Wednesday May 11th – Friday May 20th
Chinese Visual Festival, London
Celebrating the best experimental art, literature and film in the Chinese speaking world, Chinese Visual Festival returns this May for its 6th consecutive year. The festival works in partnership with the BFI, Bertha Dochouse and Kings College London to create a cross-cultural fusion of film, music, art, panels and discussions to suit all interests. Events take place from the 11th to the 20th of May in a variety of venues across London and feature pieces from Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tibet and beyond. Some of the many documentary highlights include a screening of director Du Haibin’s A Young Patriot at Bertha DocHouse on Wednesday the 18th of May, as well as showings of two of Jin Huaqing’s masterpieces The Tibetan Girl and Living with Shame, followed by a Q&A with the multi award-winning filmmaker on Thursday the 19th. For a full outline of events please visit the Chinese Visual Festival programme webpage and participate in one of this month’s most thrilling events.
Chinese Visual Festival, events and venues throughout London
Ticket Price: Standard Screening/Event £8, Early Bird CVC Festival Pass £40, free for King’s College London students, full price list here
Thursday May 12th-Saturday May 14th
Wales International Documentary Festival, South Wales
Held over three days in Blackwood, South Wales, Wales International Documentary Festival seeks to support the country’s best independent filmmakers and have their work showcased before an international audience. The festival plays host not only to over 50 film screenings, but also to various essential industry networking events, panel discussions and masterclasses on film and radio documentary making. The commissioner’s brunch on Friday 13th May promises to be a worthwhile event for endeavouring filmmakers, as some of BAFTA Cymru and Creative Europe’s top decision makers meet to discuss documentary tactics and the commissioning process. The series of tutorials running on Saturday the 14th include a class on cinematography, a pitching masterclass with head of Newport International Film School Sally Lisk-Lewis and an instructive editing session with award-winning film and media makers.
Wales International Documentary Festival, various venues in Blackwood, see website for details
Ticket Prices: 1 day roaming day ticket £6.50, 3 day ticket £15, call the Blackwood Miner’s Box office on +44(0)1495227206 to book tickets or book online here
Saturday 14th May
Screening: This Is Exile, Edinburgh
Save the Children’s first ever documentary This Is Exile will screen this month in Scotland’s capital city, where viewers will be transported in to the harrowing plight of the world’s forgotten refugee children. Of the 4 million people forced to flee their home country to escape the civil war, half of them are children and This Is Exile allows them to tell their story in their own words for the first time. Filmed over the course of a year, the crew follow a group of refugee kids as they attempt to build new lives in Lebanon alongside their families. It is not always easy, as the poverty, cultural differences and social exclusion of a new environments mixed with the trauma of their experiences force the children in to existences they couldn’t have imagined before the war. This is Exile is screening for free on the 14th of May and will be followed by a Q&A with the audience.
This Is Exile Screening, venue to be confirmed, keep up to date via Eventbrite
Ticket Prices: Free, pre-register here
Wednesday May 18th
Screening: Terms of Love Short Film and One in Four Documentary, London
Nottingham Women Filmmakers present two films from director Carol Zlotowitz Savage, each exploring the topic of domestic violence. Carol uses her experience as a councillor in women’s refuges to inform and guide her films, the first of which, Terms of Love, is a 30 minute narrative drama. Through its main character, university student Jess, the film focuses on the nature of coercive control. This is a pattern of manipulation where the violence is more than just physical and the partner creates a process of systematic emotional manipulation to strip away of the victim’s sense of self. One in Four is a feature documentary intended to debunk many of the common misconceptions surrounding domestic abuse and the wider issue of gender inequality in society. It uses compelling true stories of survivors to challenge dominant perceptions of domestic abuse and expose its greater financial and social effects. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the director and film team, where they will offer a number of free online resources for sufferers and their loved ones.
Screening: Terms in Love Short Film and One in Four Documentary, 6.30-9.30pm Wednesday 18th May, The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD
Ticket Price: Free, pre-register tickets here
Thursday May 19th
Screening: Atlantic, Headford, Galway
Irish film fans can enjoy an evening of critically-acclaimed documentary at Campbell’s Tavern in Headford on Thursday May 19th. Narrated by Emmy award-winning actor Brendan Gleeson, this Dublin International Film Festival winner is an exposé on the mismanagement of ocean resources from Ireland to Norway and onwards to Newfoundland. Created as the result of a massive crowdfunding campaign, the film reveals the plight of three fishing towns across the Atlantic ocean. In each town we see a different take on the issue, with local residents in Ireland in particular struggling to maintain their culture and way of life as a result major industry overfishing. Destroying the delicate balance between nature and humanity, director Risteard O’Domhnaill asks if there is any sustainable form of fishing in the modern world, and if so, what can the Irish government do to protect their oceans and fishermen from harm?
Screening: Atlantic, 8pm-11.30pm Thursday May 19th, Campbell’s Tavern, Cloughanover National School, Headford, Co. Galway, Ireland +353 93 35454
Ticket Price: €11.20, pay on entry or book here
Friday May 20th
Screening: Alive Inside, Worthing, West Sussex
One of our favourite documentaries of 2014, Alive Inside – a Story of Music and Memory continuously has its audiences laughing and crying in quick concession as it probes the ability of music to help those with memory loss disorders. The story of social worker Dan Cohen, the film explores the treatment of dementia sufferers and the US healthcare system that is supposedly failing them. Cohen offers his patients a unique form of music therapy where he gives them access to the beloved artists and songs of their youths, hoping that the melodies will hold the key to retrieving their lost memories and sense of selves. A triumphant story guaranteed to touch the hearts and minds of its viewers, this Boston Film Festival and Sundance audience award-winning film is being shown by Sussex Community NHS Trust and Guild Care on May 20th. Rachel Mortimer, director and founder of social enterprise project Engage and Create, will be making a guest appearance at the screening and answering questions on the topics engaged in the film.
Alive Inside Screening, 6pm-7.45pm Guild Care Centre, Methold House, North Street, Worthing, West Sussex +44(0)1903 528600
Ticket Price: Free, more information on the Dementia Action webpage
Thursday May 26th-Monday May 30th
Southend on Sea Film Festival
The eight annual Southend on Sea Festival kicks off this year with a variety of colourful showcasings that stay true to the festival’s aim to promote and encourage new British film. One of the highlights of the fest includes the world premiere of Keith Bosner’s documentary Essex Disco Fever, a nostalgic look back at the thriving disco dancing and retro style that permeated 70s and 80s pop culture. Essex’s largest film festival, Southend doesn’t limit itself solely to the UK, and the itinerary is sprinkled with a generous helping of classic films, world cinema and audience favourites. At what other festival could you watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers tap up a storm in Shall We Dance, before viewing Skins star Lily Loveless in her latest role in coming of age LGBT drama Fear of Water? The longer-running festival fringe begins on the 15th May and ends on the 4th of June, with a host of short events including a dementia-friendly screening of Disney’s classic Mary Poppins on Sunday the 15th (2pm). The glitzy opening gala and world premiere of much-anticipated action film London Heist on the 26th also promises to be an exciting evening, more info here.
Southend on Sea Film Festival, various venues, see here for full festival schedule and tickets, +44(0)1702 618747
Ticket Prices: All main festival tickets are £5 unless specified otherwise
By Megan O’Hara