Dogwoof has become internationally recognised as one of the most prolific documentary distribution companies today, embracing topics as controversial as political terrorism in Better this World and fierce environmental activism in If a Tree Falls. Its May season of docs continues the investigation into the realm of unknown and untouched production, as the company teams up with Notting Hill Gate Picturehouse and Stratford East Picturehouse cinemas.
Abendland jumps out as a particularly intriguing, even mysterious, documentary about nightshift work across Europe, from law enforcement to mail processing. It glimpses into a 24-hour workaday world which revolves around nonstop production and relentless delivery. The seeming detachment with which the film’s camera gazes, held back as if blending in with its surroundings, avoids judging our current industrial fixation. Rather, it portraits the almost ghostly men and women who work while the rest of us sleep, either guarding over us with some paternalistic force or making sure our power remains switched on.
The same mysterious quality can be found in Lise Birk Pedersen’s Russian doc Putin’s Kiss, which follows political youth Masha as she begins to question her own centre-right beliefs when up for election. Her role in the Nashi movement, an organisation which supports the existing administration, becomes unclear as her political impressions begin to shift after engaging in both partisan and democratic discussion. The mystery lies in the types of political groups which evolve and affect our governments without our knowledge. In many ways, Masha reflects the confused and uncertain utopian youth, struggling to enter politics without bowing to its pressure and expectations. She’s part of an organisation we hear very little about in the UK, hovering just beneath the radar, yet signifies an entire formative consciousness wrestling with political positioning.
Town of Runners delves further into unseen territory, as it reveals the area of Bekoji in Ethiopia, which has won 32 World Championships owed to its athletes. As one local observes that ‘sometimes it seems everyone in this town is crazy about running’, Jerry Rothwell’s documentary recognises a community of stern competitors who wish to flee the nest and succeed on the world stage. There’s more to this film than gold medals and accolades; it’s about the idea of victory itself, crafted and shaped into an achievable goal through sport but emblematic of perseverance, will and passion.
While Chris Paine’s documentary about the revenge of the electric car may seem to stick out a little, it again digs into the unfamiliar recent history of the automobile industry. Six years ago, electric cars had been virtually withdrawn from the commercial sector, yet are welcomed back as Paine’s film explores Nissan, GM and Tesla Motors. Naturally, we’re all looking at ways of reducing emissions, and prudence plays an equally vital part as idealism. Implementing ready-made strategies is a small step in contributing to the protection of our environment: Paine’s doc reminds us of that fact.
It looks to be a dynamic and illuminating mini-season of documentaries from Dogwoof, and as always, spotlights some attention on the lesser known activities from around the world.
ABENDLAND (See trailer)
PUTIN’S KISS (See trailer)
TOWN OF RUNNERS + Q&As with director Jerry Rothwell (See trailer)
REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR (See trailer)