Everybody loves a good documentary.
From true crime, to food, to political history - we all have a favourite genre. Nothing quite beats a Friday night in with a takeaway and an engrossing doc to get stuck into.
In recent years, Netflix seems to have the documentary model locked down. Making A Murderer, 13th, and Fyre are all titles which cut through popular consciousness and into the zeitgeist unlike many other documentaries in recent memory.
But for some reason, this collective passion for a good documentary hasn’t translated to the cinematic experience. It’s rare to hear someone say of a weekend they’re going to the flicks to see that latest Oscar-winning documentary instead of the newest blockbuster.
It’s a strange phenomenon where documentaries are often celebrated, but the artform itself is underappreciated and rarely considered by the average moviegoer to be worth the price of admission.
There are, however, a plethora of important and engaging documentaries heading to Manchester next week. Documentaries which you should seriously consider heading over to the Odeon at the Great Northern to catch in the cinema.
If there are any documentaries worth heading to the cinema for this year, it’s these five:
From the makers of Netflix’s own Chef’s Table and the Emmy award-winning 13th, comes this documentary exploring the ascension of artificial intelligence and what that means for the future of humanity. If those Boston Dynamics videos of that terrifying robot dog opening doors and all that other wild stuff terrifies you, then this is the one for you.
It’s a documentary exploring creativity and identity as the very meaning of humanity shifts into something nobody knows quite how to grapple with.
What happens when robots become smarter than humans? Will the technology be used against us? Do we even need to develop artificial intelligence?
These are all questions posed by popular media like Terminator and Ex Machina, but they’re genuinely serious questions with implications which could change the course of human (and robot) history.
This is definitely not one to be missed.
Chasing the Present
What do you do if you have everything you ever wanted but you’re still crippled by debilitating anxiety and panic attacks? What has gone wrong with the modern world when every popular measure of success is doing nothing to help your wellbeing? These are the questions asked by Chasing The Present.
James Sebastiano is a materially successful young man who suffers from panic attacks and crippling anxiety.
He’s not alone. Globally, an estimated 275 million people suffered some form of anxiety disorder in 2016. This makes it the most prevalent mental health disorder in the world.
Armed with this information and a desire to break free from the clutches of modern life which are pressing all of us down, James goes on a journey of discovery to find how to reconnect with his self in a way which few know how to do.
This is essential viewing for all who feel lost in the manic myopia of modern civilisation.
Knots: A Forced Marriage Story
Forced and child marriages are happening all over the world, and in the US many of them are being done legally. Knots: A Forced Marriage Story tells the first-hand accounts of three women who survived such an ordeal.
These brave women take us through their story, highlighting the human rights abuses hiding in plain sight of us all.
The film takes us on the journey of the three women - Nina, Sara, and Fraidy - as they fight alongside advocates, lawmakers and experts to end these atrocities.
Chèche Lavi (Looking For Life)
Despite a recent political development in the UK which will go unmentioned, immigration has been a fact of human existence since the dawn of humanity.
In a world with horrendous wars and crippling global inequality, that fact is becoming more true than ever. Families from war or poverty stricken countries are fleeing to pastures new, with the hope of starting a new life and finding safety for themselves and their loved ones.
Chèche Lavi is a story of immigration, friendship, hope and loss.
As two Haitian immigrants find themselves stranded at the US-Mexico border, difficult decisions lead them into two very different futures. Tackling the quiet desperation often felt by immigrants lost in a strange land, and humanising an over-politicised topic, Chèche Lavi puts a face to an often faceless story.
For those of you who don’t know, Billie Holliday was one of the greatest singers of all time. She was enigmatic, soulful, controversial and mysterious. Like many of the great artists, her accounts of her life were often intertwined with fiction, perpetuating a myth of her persona which still carries to this day.
In 1971, a journalist decided to attempt a definitive biography of Billie. Her efforts spanned eight years, involving over 200 hours of recorded interviews with people who had populated the iconic singer’s short life. Sadly, the biography was never completed, and the tapes were never heard by the public. Until now.
These tapes provide the narrative throughline of the film, which plays out like a film noir mystery. The film deftly balances dramatisation, animation and still imagery to traverse the compelling and complex legend of one of music’s most mysterious and untimely deaths.
Catch these incredible documentaries at MANIFF...
These are just five of the plethora of documentaries playing at Manchester Film Festival next week, alongside a host of Q&As, narrative features and short films.
There will be something for everyone at MANIFF 2020.
See you there!