Docs, docs and more docs - SDI soaks up EIFF 2017

It was a big year at Edinburgh IFF for SDI. Alongside the UK Premiere for our feature film Donkeyote we had our annual Bridging the Gap shorts showcase screening, the Edinburgh Pitch and appeared on our fair share of panels! 

Now that we've had a few days R&R we've compiled a round up of some interesting doc screenings we managed to catch and we have a short piece from one of our Bridging the Gap filmmakers, Thomas Hogben, on his first time at the festival as a participating filmmaker. Enjoy!


As female perspectives are often neglected in mainstream filmmaking, festivals are often the best place to see films with more diverse narratives. SDI producer Sonja Henrici, and assistant producer Rachel Stollery tell us a little bit about what they thought of three films in this year's programme:


Amazona was presented at Edinburgh Pitch in 2015 - where it won Best Pitch, from which it went through to DokInkubator selection and finally premiered in competition at IDFA 2016. It's great when films pitched in Edinburgh wind their way back to Edinburgh for their UK premiere. We all know way too many international (subtitled) docs struggle to find an outing in the UK.

Amazona is a beautiful woven film which depicts motherhood's "fascinating tug of war between freedom and responsibility with all the guilt and sacrifice they entail."

Filmmaker Clare Weiskopf, pregnant at 30, travels deep into the Colombian jungle to confront her mum (Val) about her childhood in Colombia. While deeply personal, her journey lets us all reflect about our own expectations and disappointments in parent/child relationships.

The film paints no black and white picture about how we feel about either Val or Clare. We have sympathy with Clare's struggles for having had such an absent mother "I feel I have no centre" she says; and her father, except for photographs, is entirely absent in the film, as well. We witness Val's reluctance to take responsibility for her past actions - but also understand (even if we don't condone) why she made the decision to travel into the jungle to fulfil her own destiny.

A beautiful shot of mother and daughter sitting in Val's house, silently, unable to communicate, each lonely in their own situation, is a very poignant moment.

Val's refusal to heap guilt on herself is also understandable, "I can only live my life as my life". But we do see her suffer quietly for her own shortcomings about her youngest son Diego, who left for the city as young as 11, and is now struggling with life on drugs.

Powerful central images punctuate the film - we see Val feeding a just-born kitten to a hungry snake; while we may mourn the loss of innocent young life, she comments on the beauty of the snake.

Talk about each us living from our own map of the world! This is a beautiful study of fraught lives after fraught decisions, but ultimately reconciliatory in tone.

An accomplished feature debut with exquisite editing and sound design.


Tokyo Idols

Tokyo Idols follows the Japanese cultural phenomenon of 'Idol' girl bands driven by an obsession with youthful sexuality and increasing internet popularity. It is a critical examination of the role the idol industry plays in contemporary Japanese culture; the film comes across many incongruities, which obstructs any definitive perspective. Instead it creates an opportunity to wonder about the complexity of personal struggle in an ever-changing technologically motivated world.

Director Kyoko Miyake takes us to a Tokyo performance where we meet Rio Hiiragi - known to her followers as RioRio. She is the Idol with whom we accompany in her journey to become a famous pop singer, or so she hopes. The 'RioRiobrothers' are a group of Rio’s male super fans, somewhere between the age of 20 and 40, who spend most of their income devoting their time to following her, at her gigs and on the Internet.

With a structured timeline, infused with talking heads, and the storyline of Rio’s journey on her tour of Japan, Miyake peppers the film with other idol wannabes from as young as 14 who perform to men as old as their fathers. Tokyo Idols is a provocative look at the J-pop industry and its focus on traditional beauty ideals. By delicately balancing Idols like Rio and her "brothers" within a wider remit of male superfandom, Miyake confronts the gendered power dynamics in hypermodern society.


Black Box Shorts: Female Perspectives

(not in running order)
5 cité de la Roquette by Baba Hillman/France/2016/9 mins
Athyrium Filix-Femina (For Anna Atkins) by Kelly Egan/Canada/2016/5 mins
Jícaro by Rosa John/Austria/2016/2 mins
Mandres by Cassandra Celestin/Greece, USA/2016/7 mins
Mehr Licht! by Mariana Kaufman/Brazil/2017/10 mins
Memory of August by Margaret Rorison/USA/2017/6 mins
Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can't Fix by Jennifer Proctor/USA/2017/10 mins
Rooms by Stephanie Hutin/USA/2016/5 mins
Three (Trei) by Robert Braga, Dragoș Hanciu, Andrei Inizian/Romania/2016/6 mins
Venus Delta by Antoinette Zwirchmayr/Austria/2016/4 mins

Programmed by Kim Knowles.

Hollywood scenes are cut together in Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can't Fix, the opening film directed by Jenifer Proctor, to depict a visual montage of the famous femme-fatale, murdered in the bath trope. Kim Knowles chose Nothing… to open the programme as a metaphorical deconstruction of the female character, to force us not to think about but to think through the process of femininity. The second film Mer Licht, by Brazilian director Mariana Kaufman, is a study of light and our relationship to it. As her actor stares deep into a light bulb, beautifully framed by the camera, it makes your eyes feel tired when watching. An adverse reaction to the film, however something quite telling of the filmmaker’s skill and intrigue. Kaufman compares light and dark... the bright white light of purity, with the dark cave of dirt and perhaps even underground daemons. Mer Licht plays with the audience’s senses, transcending further than sight and sound.

Three (Trei) by Romanian Robert Braga is minimalist and moving. An old woman breaks the fourth wall where Braga "contemplates the experience of being an outsider whilst emphasising the space that connects us". Margaret Rorison’s Memory of August, is a series of silent clips of time the director spent with her grandmother, another moving and emotive piece.

Some are much shorter than others and some have no sound. The experimentation with silent film alongside specialist camera techniques and creative editing allows for a linguistically void interpersonal space to develop in the auditorium. By tapping into the unspoken emotional realities of these filmmakers the films create a ponderous cinematic viewing experience away from direct narrative fiction, or other, more socially present documentaries. 


While Sonja and Rachel may be seasoned EIFF veterans it's great when you hear of a filmmaker discovering the sea of opportunities the packed two weeks offers for the first time. Bridging the Gap filmmaker Thomas Hogben jumped right in and made the most of his Access All Areas festival pass. Here he tells us what it's like to go from casual observer of the mammoth fest to a participating filmmaker right at the heart of the action.

The 71st festival.

It's hard to imagine the sheer number of films that must've passed through Edinburgh's annual celebration of filmmaking and with that all the filmmakers who have made the journey here to see their story appear on the big screen, with fingers crossed an audience is there to enjoy it with them!


It’s a daunting prospect, showcasing your film for the first time, and even more when it's at a festival of "real" film fans, the sorts that will pull no punches when it comes to voicing opinions online and even worse saying nothing at all! We were lucky as the Bridging the Gap showcase took place on only the second day of the festival. The wait was short but daunting nonetheless.

On arriving at the festival, it felt like coming home. I studied Film and Photography in the city for four years, and lived there for a further three, prior to leaving the big city lights to return to the wilderness of the Highlands. In the seven years I spent in Edinburgh I took for granted the benefits of such a prestigious celebration of film on my door step. I would swan into the odd screening and tag along to a industry event or two, but it was never a focus. Instead I would plan trips away to Berlin and Paris, scouring for screenings and exhibitions of my peers work. It seems so foolish in hindsight, especially looking back on some of the premieres EIFF has had, as well as those who have used it as a springboard to propel themselves onwards in the film industry. The likes of Danny Boyle and Bill Forsyth are touted along with many others by the festival, and for good reason.


There were laughs and there were tears. People clapped and people cheered... What more can you ask for?

The glitz and the glamour is not lost at the festival either, the red carpet is present, the hoardings are hung and the photographers gather outside the Filmhouse, Cineworld and the other venues awaiting the stars. It was a strange experience to be allowed on the other side of the fence this year, standing outside the Filmhouse for photos before descending into the theatre to join the crowd (people came!) and enjoy a widely diverse, engaging and down right fantastic showcase of emerging film talent at our Premiere of the short films made with the support of the Bridging the Gap programme. There were laughs and there were tears. People clapped and people cheered. What more can you ask for? It was a great night, but this for me was only the start of the festival, and I was determined to capitalise on it this year, after letting it pass me by far too often.


When you have a film in the festival the whole thing feels so different, you are able and in fact encouraged to embed yourself into the event. There are industry meet ups and events throughout the 12 days. The Traverse Theatre bar is alive all day and most of the night with filmmakers coming and going. There is always an after party somewhere, and you really never know who your going to bump into. Brushing shoulders with Richard E. Grant was quite the highlight for me!

The diversity of films on show this year was astounding.

And then there’s the films. The diversity of films on show this year was astounding. Everything from arthouse experimental projects (like Einst by Jessica Johnson, which consists of single locked-off shot held for the full duration of the film as a woman goes for a swim in a hill lake) through to the Premieres of Hollywood blockbusters (the likes of Pixar's Cars 3).

The challenge, as I'm sure with every festival, is to actually get to see the films! It’s hard, some days there are industry events in the afternoon, screenings and premieres scattered across the venues as well as the opportune meetings that crop up from bumping into old friends and fellow filmmakers. But I think I found the secret… the Videotheque!

For those not familiar with this, it’s a secret darkened room where those involved with the festival can sneak away and preview a wide variety of films which will be showcased throughout the festival. Once you have completed the signing of embargoes and promise not to utter a word about anything you should see you're allowed to delve into the treasure trove of films. Now, you're certainly not getting the full cinema experience; crammed into a booth, headphones on staring at a computer screen but it lets you get up to speed with what's out there and explore a really wide cross section of films prior to choosing which to see in all their proper glory on the big screen.


It’s like plugging yourself into the mains and supercharging your filmmaking batteries.

Access to the Videotheque meant I could spend my mornings there and then get out and see films and go to industry meet ups in the afternoon, before the odd afterparty at night. I felt like a sponge, just saturated with films. It’s like plugging yourself into the mains and supercharging your filmmaking batteries. I’ve come away with more drive, more determination and more connections to not only make a film but get it out there for the world to see. And that’s what festivals are all about, immersing yourself in films and making connections so next year it's your film that's the talk of the town!

Having seen so many films this year it's hard to pick a favourite but for me the stand outs were Charlie Lyne's short doc Fish Story for its quirky style, 1745 by Gordon Napier, the story of two escaped slaves in the Scottish wilderness and Justin Edgar's The Marker for its dark and powerful story. Finally, best in show was Donkeyote by Chico Pereira, a delicate, humorous and heart warming tale which has really stayed with me. Roll on next year!


Thomas' film Teeth explores the relationship we have with these dental companions and how they impact our lives. All the Bridging the Gap: Rebellion shorts, including Teeth, are now available for festival distribution Watch the trailers here.