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Sundance 2014: World Cinema Docu Comp Observes Cave, Carax and Colonization

While the U.S. Documentary Competition is generally known for it’s politically charged intensity, the World Cinema Documentary Competition tends to be a little more well rounded. Rather than bluntly educating and strongly suggesting, the imports are often more observational in their approach, asking us to engage and form our own opinions on the subjects, or often the cultures, presented. Think last year’s Best Director Award winner The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear by Tinatin Gurchiani, or Qi Zhao’s Fallen City as prime examples, but let’s not forget there are also films of social urgency, such as Jehane Noujaim’s The Square, which just made the Oscar docu short list this week. This year’s programme looks no less diverse.

Possibly the biggest name on the list, Hubert Sauper returns with his hotly anticipated doc We Come as Friends (see above picture), his first feature since the Oscar nominated Darwin’s Nightmare. As is usual for the World Docu Comp, three films hail from IDFA, having had their world premier last month at the massive documentary festival in Amsterdam. Derki’s The Return to Homs, Thomas Balmes’s Happiness and Berit Madsen’s SEPIDEH – Reaching for the Stars all see their North American premiers here. Two films in the programme this year tackle the weathered tail of addiction, but with a modern twist – both are tragedies of technological obsession and the consequences that follow. South Korean helmer Valerie Veatch’s Love Child covers the trial of parents accused of neglect and accountable for the death of their infant from playing online video games, while Israeli directors Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia took to a rehab center in Beijing to document the ‘deprogramming’ of internet addicted teens for their film Web Junkie. And after a year full of incredible films about films (namely the Sundance darling Room 237), it’s nice to see this trend continuing with Tessa Louise-Salome’s portrait on the man behind films like Holy Motors and The Lovers on the Bridge, Mr. Leos Carax. And there’s plenty more, and we can’t wait to dig in.


The 12 films in this section are world premieres unless otherwise specified.

20,000 Days on Earth (U.K.) — Directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. A docu-drama hybrid and examination of the artistic process that imagines 24 hours in the life of Nick Cave.

Concerning Violence (Sweden-U.S.-Denmark-Finland) — Directed by Goran Hugo Olsson. A synthesis of newly discovered archival material documenting Third World struggles, accompanied by text from Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth.”

The Green Prince (Germany-Israel-U.K.) — Directed by Nadav Schirman. An account of one of Israel’s prized intelligence sources, who was recruited to spy on his own people for more than a decade.

Happiness (France-Finland) — Directed by Thomas Balmes. A portrait of social change as seen through the eyes of an 8-year-old Bhutanese monk whose village is about to be connected to electricity. North American premiere.

Love Child (South Korea-U.S.) — Directed by Valerie Veatch. Covers the 2010 trial of a young South Korean couple accused of neglect when their addiction to an online fantasy game resulted in the death of their infant daughter.

Mr. Leos Carax (France) — Directed by Tessa Louise-Salome. A portrait of the maverick director behind such films as “Holy Motors,” “The Lovers on the Bridge” and “Pola X.”

My Prairie Home (Canada) — Directed by Chelsea McMullan. A musical documentary portrait of Canadian transgender singer Rae Spoon, featuring visual interpretations of the artist’s songs. International premiere.

The Notorious Mr. Bout (U.S.-Russia) — Directed by Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin. A profile of war profiteer, entrepreneur, aviation tycoon, arms dealer and documentary filmmaker Viktor Bout.

The Return to Homs (Syria-Germany) — Directed by Talal Derki. A portrait of young revolutionaries fighting for justice in the titular Syrian city. North American premiere.

Sepideh — Reaching for the Stars (Denmark) — Directed by Berit Madsen. A young Iranian woman challenges traditions and expectations with her dream of becoming an astronaut. North American premiere.

We Come as Friends (France-Austria) — Directed by Hubert Sauper. A look at colonization a human phenomenon from the director of “Darwin’s Nightmare.”

Web Junkie (Israel) — Directed by Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia. A look at a Beijing rehab center where Internet-addicted Chinese teenagers are deprogrammed.

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