Open City Docs Fest @ UCL

It is a real delight when universities open their cinema theatres for large public screenings. Lasting for four days, the Open City Docs Fest with its basis at UCL gathered, screened and performed vital talents from around the world.

Launching this year’s edition with the incredible re-scored Yuri Ancarani’s award winning short film Il Capo, the festival’s Opening Gala welcomed Matthew Akers’s documentary Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present. With astonishing camera care in interpreting the artist’s persona and skillful approach to Abramovic’s preparation for her retrospective at New York City’s MOMA in 2010, Akers’s film is a marvelously professional work. It did not convince me entirely though for its prolongation of public emotions towards the artist’s performance, during the “The Artist is Present” MOMA retrospective of her work, did not reason Abramovic’s ambition of force in her career as performance artist. Perhaps Abramovic doesn’t want to be alternative anymore at the age of 63. But inviting 30 young artists to attend a workshop at her home, as we learn from the film, is something special and outside the traditional system of institutions. It’s nevertheless what singles her out, as a prominent performance artist and this is not emphasised in the film despite its extended length.

Divided into nine strands including sound waves, city scope and the image of the engineer, areas rarely seen covered as thematic explorations in the festival circuit, Open City Docs Fest also vented a dynamic programme of special screenings, workshops and live music performances. A packed screening of 5 Broken Cameras was the highlight not only for this year’s festival but also for the documentary making current. Shot by Emad Burnat’s five destroyed cameras during the struggle against land loss and olive trees burning for a wall built between his West Bank village and invading Israeli settlements, the film is a powerful personal story told through the camera and images skillfully edited by Guy Dividi. 5 Broken Cameras won the Audience Award at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest and it will have its UK release in the next few months. So check REVma -/+ in the near future for an interview with the directors.

Open City Docs Fest is also awesome online at and be sure to visit it when it’s back in town next year.
Guest Editor|Georgia Korossi – writer & curator based in London & Athens