Despite the resurgent interest in the feature documentary, the short documentary finds little chance to get the attention it deserves outside of rare venues such as 4Docs, so it’s great to see Rushes Soho Shorts give the form its own stage in the Documentary Category of the festival. The selected three finalists also show the rich diversity of styles and subject matter tackled by filmmakers working in the short doc form.
Not many people can say they found their true calling in life after watching The Legend of Bagger Vance, and I’m pretty sure only one can claim the film led to a celebrated career as a professional golfer following a motorcycle accident which took his left leg.
To pull directly from the short synopsis of Peter Montgomery’s Manuel de los Santos, the film is ‘a documentary portrait of inspirational golfer Manuel de los Santos‘. Simple and to point right, but unfortunately that’s exactly what can be said about the film itself. Clocking in at a slender 3:48, Montgomery gives us interviews of Santos discussing his lucky discovery of the game post-accident, intercut with 5D footage of him on the range. To be fair there is a beautifully lit, slo-mo Weisscam shot of Santos’ unique swing which builds throughout (the struck tee spinning through the air looks great), but when it finally pays off I felt sure we’d be hit with the Nike swoosh and ‘Just Do It‘ tagline.
Santos was on track to becoming a professional baseball player, having trained from a young age in his native Dominican Republic: Was it difficult to let go of that dream? Was it hard becoming accepted in to the sport as a disabled black man? How did he develop his famous swing with only able bodied trainers couching him? None of these (or any other) questions are raise or answered, which makes Manuel de los Santos not so much a documentary, but more of an EPK in need of a sponsor.
Before I say a single word about Benjamin Wigley’s playful documentary about the mysterious, unwrapped objects Nottingham fashion designer Paul Smith has been receiving through the post for the past 20 years in PS Your Mystery Sender, I have to do the honourable blogger declaration and point out that Ben’s been a personal friend for many years and sometime writer here at DN. OK, now that’s out of the way CONGRATS ON THE WIN BEN! *cough* If I could just regain my composure long enough to say that Ben takes what could have been a straight forward ‘show and tell’ piece to camera and weaves in flights of poetic fancy (voiced by Benjamin Zephaniah), alongside surreal reconstructions to add depth to the unsolvable mystery of Smith’s random objects.
Take a listen to our PSYMS interview with Ben.
Here’s the trailer for PS Your Mystery Sender:
Created through the Diesel New Voices scheme, I first heard about Orlando von Einsiedel’s Skateistan: To Live and Skate Kabul when Danni returned from the Underwire festival raving about it. As a piece of documentary film Skateistan hits all the right notes of a great documentary, taking something I felt very familiar with (skateboarding), placing it in a new, unfamiliar context (Kabul, Afghanistan), to reveal truths which aren’t immediately apparent. Skateistan is a film which makes me believe that hope will always exist, even in the must unlikely or grim places, plus the lush cinematography of young hijab wearing girls, skating through ravaged streets is a potently positive image that will stay with me for a long time to come.