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11 Vital Documentaries At The 2015 BFI London Film Festival
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11 Vital Documentaries At The 2015 BFI London Film Festival

Picture of Eva Menger
Updated: 12 January 2017
As well as showcasing the best new fiction films, the 2015 edition of the BFI London Film Festival is presenting an extraordinary of challenging documentaries from around the world. Here is our pick of them.

Censored Voices

When a group of young kibbutzniks interviewed Israeli soldiers that just came back from the Six Day War in 1967 – the war that led to Israel’s victory over its neighbouring states – they had little idea of how rare their images would turn out. The Israeli army hid the recordings as they feared it might feed doubts among the Israeli people, but documentarian Mor Loushy gained access and used them for this eye-opening documentary, which shines a new light on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Sherpa

Discover the world of Sherpas, an ethnic group living in the Himalayas who breathe mountain life and are an integral part of the Everest climbing industry as guides and climbing supporters. With the event of a tragedy in which 16 Sherpas died at a start point – director Jennifer Peedom arrived during the avalanches in 2014 – this story grows to be an emotional and intriguing tale shot against the most extraordinary scenery.

Frame By Frame

Although working for the press is no longer seen as a crime in Afghanistan, it still takes a lot of courage for journalists to try to create a truthful image of the country. First-time directors Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scrapelli follow four Afghan photojournalists on their mission to reframe the country’s lost identity.

The Fear of 13

Convicted murderer Nick tells the story of how he asked to be executed after he had completed 23 years on Death Row. Over the course of a four-day interview, he shares his emotions, confessions and thoughts, which confuses the audience again and again.

Francofonia

How was culture experienced in Nazi-occupied France during World War II? With Francofonia, director Alexander Sokurov attempts to find the answer to this urgent question. The central point of the film is the Musée du Louvre and the question of how this institution was operated during the occupation. The film takes an original and educational journey through the history of French art and culture.

Public House

Gentrification is a big issue in London and this documentary portrays what it does to locals. When the Ivy House Pub in Peckham is threatened with closure after it is sold to property developers, the entire neighbourhood rallies against it through all kinds of creative action. This film shows the strength of the resistance to gentrification in the English capital.

Stray Dog

Through the eyes of Ronnie ‘Stray Dog’ Hall, director Debra Granik shows us how Korean and Vietnamese war veterans still struggle with their conscience and memories while leading an ordinary life. An American biker who owns an RV park in southern Missouri, Hall tries to combine his job, family life and commitment to his bikers community while grappling with his warrior past. This documentary is a necessary reminder of the damage war does to everyone involved.

The Pearl Button

Good news for those who admired Patricio Guzmán’s debut documentary Nostalgia for the Light for this is the sequel. In The Pearl Button (El botón de nácar), Guzman traces Chilean history via an exploration of the country’s never-ending coastline and the fate of the tribes that inhabit Patagonia. A must-see for everyone interested in the beauty of nature.

Something Better To Come

What is it like to grow up on one of the world’s greatest landfills? This documentary follows the Russian Yola, who has spent her entire life living on the outskirts of Moscow. Polish director Hanna Polak created a funny yet touching representation of Russian lives we seldom hear about.

In Jackson Heights

The great documentarian Frederick Wiseman calmly depicts how gentrification plays a huge role in the life of New York City. Jackson Heights is a perfect example of the American melting pot with no fewer than 167 languages being spoken there. This lovely documentary takes a look into the everyday lives of the area’s locals, making for a detailed representation of a vibrant community.

Tender

In her first full-length documentary, Australian artist Lynette Walworth follows a group of people that are trying to set up a non-profit funeral service for their own town. As we follow the dedicated volunteers dealing with the various challenges that come with their mission, the death of a community member transforms it.