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Overlooked: 2013’s (Potentially) Underappreciated Docs

Overlooked: 2013's (Potentially) Underappreciated Docs

Everybody’s making their 2012 lists, and posting them twice, and at last the Academy’s doc shortlist was nice. And Sundance just announced the bulk of next year’s documentary festival and awards brew. And here’s a naughty nonfiction wish list for the upcoming year that I hope doesn’t become true:

“The Expedition To The End Of The World”
(Daniel Dencik, Denmark, 88′)
It’s the heavy metal b-side to “Chasing Ice,” with more than a dash of Herzogian sublime and humour. Artists and scientists drift through remote inlets in Northeast Greenland on a magnificent wooden schooner, riffing on the big questions of environment and existence.

(Petra Costa, Brazil, 82′)
A poetic, personal melodrama, in the good way. The filmmaker sets out for New York in search of her actress sister, who she hasn’t seen since childhood. Memory, loss and yearning mingle dreamily in this striking elegy.

“Fuck For Forest”
(Michal Marczak, Poland/Germany, 90′)
Okay, this will get festival play. It has ideological sex, good drugs and wonderfully bad music. FFF is a “porn aid” NGO that, among other activities, fornicates for the rainforests. But will a U.S. distributor touch it?

“In The Shadow of the Sun”
(Harry Freeland, UK, 85′)
This would seem to sit in Sundance’s wheelhouse, so it was a surprise not to see it selected for the World Documentary Competition. A black albino man fights against superstition and racism in Tanzania, where albino body parts are thought to bring good fortune. Simply, unforgettable.

“Mercy Mercy”
(Katrine Riis Kjær,Denmark, 94′)
An Ethiopian family gives up two children for international adoption to a well-intentioned Danish couple, and things go crushingly awry. Filmed over five years, director Kjær was in tricky terrain, an observer who must’ve had the impulse to intervene, though does not. A tough, but necessary choice, and film.  

“Public Hearing”
(James N. Kienitz Wilkins, USA, 110′)
This brilliantly conceived satire adapts, literally, a mundane transcript from a civic hearing about a local Wal-Mart expansion in upstate New York, somehow infusing the proceedings with a Mamet-like terseness. And in 16mm black-and-white! And with the 5 minute-break played out in real time!

“The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear”
(Tinatin Gurchiani, Georgia, 95′)
Hey, agents, here’s a young talent to meet with at Sundance. Gurchiani returned to Georgia, from film school, with ideas for a feature. Yet, she was most struck by the possibilities of the real life stories around her. She issued a casting call for young people, and follows some of them into their worlds. Gurchiani blends intuitive, fresh interviews with sensitive observation and wispy stylization.   

“Wrong Time Wrong Place”
(John Appel, the Netherlands, 80′)
This premiered last month as the opening film at IDFA (so hardly unspoken for), but was denied even a finalist nomination by the jury. They must’ve been spending too much time in the coffeshops. Appel is a Dutch master, and this meditation on chance and fate, set against the tragedy at Utøya, has him working in top form.

All films were screened on the Fall 2012 European doc fest circuit, and hopefully is heading to the American doc circuit in 2013.

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