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The Lives of Others - Open City Doc Fest free weekend of talks and screenings on documentaries (28-29 March)

28-29 March 2015.


For a full schedule and to book places, click here.

The Lives of Others is Open City Doc Fest's FREE weekend of talks and film screenings exploring character-driven documentary filmmaking, at UCL on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 March 2015. 

The weekend includes discussions on the art of the interview, finding characters and the ethics of documentary-making, as well as film screenings and a case study with award-winning filmmaker Sean McAllister.
This event is free, but booking is required for the sessions. 


Many of the greatest stories told on screen are those about real people. From the eccentric (Little Edie in Grey Gardens) and extraordinary (Philippe Petit, Man on Wire) to the more everyday (Tony Walker, The Up Series), documentary filmmaking has the power to convey the lives of real people in the most compelling form. But how do non-fiction filmmakers find their characters and how do they go about presenting their life on film?

Open City Docs brings you a free weekend of panel discussions, talks and film screenings exploring character-driven documentary filmmaking. This event is an ideal opportunity for documentary filmmakers who want to hone their craft and find inspiration for their next project. It's also a great chance for aspiring documentary filmmakers to learn from those non-fiction filmmakers who have made great character-driven work.

This event is free but booking is required. Booking for individual sessions is now open through Eventbrite.

Contact if you want to help volunteer at this event.

Saturday 28 March

11.00 – 12.00: Panel Discussion - Finding Characters

Character-driven docs can’t exist without compelling contributors. But how do you go about finding the subjects of your documentary? Filmmakers discuss their experiences finding the characters that have appeared in their films. Speakers include Katharine Round and Vanessa Engle; Open City Documentary Festival programmer Oliver Wright will moderate the discussion. 

12.15 – 13.15: The Art of the Interview

Once you've found your character, capturing their story in their own words is vital. Learn about asking the right questions, avoiding the cliche of talking heads and how to get the most from an interviewee on camera. Richard Alwyn (The Beslan Siege, Catholics)joins Open City Documentary Festival founder Michael Stewart in conversation to talk about the art of the documentary interview.

14.00 – 15.00: Case Study: Sean Mcallister talks Japan: A Story of Love and Hate

Sean Mcallister (Liberace of Baghdad, The Reluctant Revolutionary) talks about his film Japan: A Story of Love and Hate (2008). The film follows 56-year-old Naoki, who had it all in Japan’s bubble economy days, but when Japan’s economy crashed in the early 1990’s he lost everything, ending up divorced (for the third time) and penniless.

You can watch the film prior to the event at DocAlliance by streaming or download at very little cost:

15.30 – 17:00: Film Screening - Point and Shoot (2014), Marshall Curry

Matt VanDyke left home in Baltimore in 2006 and set off on a self-described “crash course in manhood.” While traveling, he struck up an unlikely friendship with a Libyan hippie, and when revolution broke out in Libya, Matt joined his friend in the fight against dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

  Sunday 29 March

11.00 – 12.30: Pratap Rughani and the Dance of Documentary Ethics

What practical and philosophical questions surface in judgments about the ethics of documentary filmmaking? In this session Dr Pratap Rughani, Course Director of MA Documentary Film at University of the Arts,explores a number of ethical challenges in his own and others' documentary film practice. Come with questions / scenarios to discuss.

13.30 – 14.30: Panel Discussion – Close to home: The Personal Documentary

How do you decide to turn the camera on those closest to you, or even on yourself? Personal documentaries allow the audience intimate and unparalleled access and our panel of filmmakers join Tony Dowmunt (course convener of MA Screen Documentary at Goldsmiths University) to talk about their experiences making films about characters that are close to home.          

14.45 – 15.45: Film Screening – The Peddler (2009), Eduardo de la Serna, Lucas Marcheggiano, Adriana Nidia Yurcovich 

Daniel Burmeister is a filmmaker who drives around Argentina in a beat-up old car, going from village to village making films as he goes. This film follows the tireless and irrepressibly optimistic Burmeister from the moment he arrives in yet another little village.  Using all his charm and persuasive powers, he manages to get almost everyone in the community to play a part in his comedy.