Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014: 10 of the best documentaries

This article is from 2014

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014: 10 of the best documentaries

Is the Man who is Tall Happy?

Featuring That Guy Dick Miller, Anthony Baxter's A Dangerous Game and #chicagoGirl


‘A disturbingly beautiful and monstrously miserabilist trip into the gutter of civilization’ (filmcomment). Controversial French photographer Antoine d’Agata explores the underground world of drugs and prostitution in countries including India, Cuba and Ukraine. Occasionally stepping in front of the camera, he challenges the boundaries between documentary and personal exploration. This does not look like one for the faint-hearted, less because of the on screen blurred images of naked bodies but more as a result of the unflinching voiceovers from prostitutes describing their experiences.
Filmhouse, Fri 20 & Sun 29 Jun.

Cathedrals of Culture

If there is ever a case to be made for 3D it seems likely that it would be through using it to capture some of the most remarkable buildings in the world. Six filmmakers – among them Robert Redford, Wim Wenders and James Marsh – explore six architectural icons in order to understand the relationship between humans and their built environments. From a prison in Norway to a scientific research centre in California, the short films range from the personal to the anthropomorphic, hopefully prompting questions about the spaces we live in.
Filmhouse, Sun 22 Jun.

#chicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator

Most people use their phones for playing Candy Crush Saga or Facebook stalking – not for running a revolution. Yet this Damscus-born American teenager uses social media to help her friends in Syria, creating Facebook events for demonstrations, planning escape routes through Google maps and uploading videos of protests after having blotted out the faces of the demonstrators. This documentary follows her as well as her network on the ground, exploring the impact as well as the limits of the internet in protest and resistance.
Filmhouse, Mon 23 Jun; Cineworld, Sat 28 Jun.

A Dangerous Game

After the success of You’ve Been Trumped, which exposed Donald Trump’s dodgy environmental and ethical practises as he developed his Aberdeenshire golf course, Anthony Baxter is continuing where he left off. The first film made the director realise that people all over the world were having similar issues with big billionaires bulldozing local wildlife and objections to develop more golf courses. In particular, the film focuses on Dubrovnik which uncannily mirrors the problems that the Aberdeenshire residents faced. Given the impact the first film made it looks worth seeing this follow-up.
Cineworld, Tue 24 & Sat 28 Jun.

Doc of the Dead

Recently, society has been bitten by the zombie bug. From the director of The People vs George Lucas, this documentary investigate the craze, tracing its history with contributions from talking heads including Simon Pegg, Robert Kirkman and George A Romero. It promises to go further than a simple history, however, asking these leading figures what they would do in a zombie apocalypse and getting them to wade in on the thorny issue of slow vs fast zombies. From zombie marriages to zombie-like behaviour in nature – as long as it connects to the undead, this film will cover it.
Cineworld, Sat 21 Jun; Odeon Lothian Road, Sat 28 Jun.

Finding Vivian Maier

Street photographer and nanny Vivian Maier was unknown until seven years ago, when John Maloof bought a box of her photographic negatives at auction. As they were developed, Maier became an internet sensation and the subject of several exhibitions. This documentary traces Maier’s mysterious life, trying to explain why she never showed her photographs and rarely developed them. More than one critic has pointed out that Maloof, as one of the directors and the owner of the majority of Maier’s work, is not entirely disinterested in promoting the Maier brand. Despite this though, it is worth seeing as a snapshot into such a fascinating talent.
Filmhouse, Thu 19 Jun; Cineworld, Fri 20 Jun.

The Incomplete

Jan Soldat has a reputation for making short films on sexual topics which many of us would consider taboo, from zoophilia to a profile of two S&M loving pensioners. His most recent work focuses mainly on a naked and chained man on a bed, Klaus Johannes Wolf, who wants to become the perfect slave. Self-mockingly, Wolf describes himself as ‘Gollum’ after the Lord of the Rings’ character, developing this into the Golem or ‘the unfinished’. Seeing this incomplete side in all of us, Soldat’s film aims to tell Wolf’s story in an honest and nonjudgemental way.
Cineworld, Sat 21 Jun; Filmhouse, Thu 26 Jun.

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?

The philosophical sounding title actually comes from one of Noam Chomsky's books about how children learn to construct the interrogative. It is only one of many topics that is represented by hand-drawn illustrations during this ‘animated conversation’ (geddit?) between noted intellect Chomsky and director Michel Gondry. Hopefully the neon line drawings will kid you into believing the celebrated thinker is easy to understand, as the conversation hops around from structural linguistics and paleoarchaeology to his recently deceased wife.
Filmhouse, Fri 20 Jun; Odeon Lothian Road, Fri 27 Jun.


German documentary maker Thomas Heise brought a film about daily life in a crematorium to last year’s film festival. This time he turns his emotionally detached eye on everyday life in a Mexican juvenile prison in the lead up to Christmas. The film chooses to focus on three boys, two in prison for murder and one for robbery. Filmed in black and white, this looks like an unflinching yet honest account of juvenile lawbreaking in a country struggling to deal with poverty and crime.
Cineworld, Thu 26 & Sat 28 Jun.

That Guy Dick Miller

Gremlins, The Terminator, The Little Shop of Horrors and Piranha – all these films and more have featured an appearance by Dick Miller, a character actor who has worked with some of the best in the business. Miller has appeared in hundreds of films meaning that his face has a nagging familiarity for film buffs. Although he has played anything from tiny background parts to starring roles, his name is relatively obscure. Featuring interviews with directors, actors and family members, this documentary aims to shine a spotlight on one of Hollywood’s most recognisable unknown actors.
Filmhouse, Thu 26 & Fri 27 Jun.