Over the last nine years, the DOXA Documentary Film Festival has presented hundreds of some of the best documentary films to Vancouver audiences. As DOXA celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2010, this tradition continues with almost 60 documentaries being shown over the ten day festival from May 7th through 16th. Included in this year’s program are three queer films and a new short by Canada’s John Greyson.
The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls
Leanne Pooley, New Zealand, 2009, 84 minutes
Saturday, 8 May 2010 @ 6:30pm
New Zealand’s favourite singing, dancing and yodeling lesbian twin sisters reveal all in this riotous and rollicking film. From their “coming out” to Jools Topp’s recent brush with breast cancer, Leanne Pooley’s Untouchable Girls is bursting with music, hilarious archival footage and home movies, as well as interviews with the Topps’ infamous comedy alter-egos including Ken and Ken, Prue and Dilly Ramsbottom, Camp Mother and Camp Leader, and the bowling ladies.
Born in a country where sheep outnumber people, Lynda and Jools Topp began their musical careers busking on Queen street in Auckland. After joining the army (“It was a free trip to the South Island,” says Lynda; “Like a sleepover with guns,” offers Jools) they quickly joined whatever movement was going, be it same sex rights, Maori rights, or nuclear disarmament. Described by friend and fellow activist Billy Bragg as “an anarchist variety act,” the Topps leaven their serious political commitment with equally serious mischief. Another comrade puts it more simply: “They’re two very very naughty girls.”
Whatever they’re doing, be it pulling a gypsy caravan via tractor across New Zealand, or performing around the globe, the sister’s boundless energy, musical and political savvy, courage in the face of discrimination and infectious zest for life is like a blast of pure unadulterated joy.
Part concert film, part memoir, and almost ridiculously fun, Untouchable Girls features interviews with the twin’s parents, who are as dryly funny as their daughters, as well as archival footage of the sisters in their farm girl days leaping over fences and falling flat on their faces. But beneath the hijinks and quirky characters, the twins have coped with some truly hard situations, including being on the field at Hamilton in order to stop the Springbok tour of the South African rugby team. Fighting apartheid meant facing down 30,000 angry rugby fans as well as the riot squad. But it was Jools’ diagnosis with breast cancer that proved one of their most difficult and hard won battles. They got through it together in inimitable Topp style.
Untouchable Girls captures the twins at their full-tilt greatest, a juggernaut of celebration and a first-class crowd pleaser.
Winner: People’s Choice Documentary Award, 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.
Cameroon: Coming Out of the Nkuta (Cameroun: Sortir du Nkuta)
Céline Metzger, France, 2009, 52 minutes
Tuesday, 11 May 2010 @ 6:30pm
Since 1972, homosexuality has been punishable in Cameroon by up to five years in prison. In Cameroon: Coming Out of the Nkuta we meet Lambert, a young man who was rounded up in a bar with a group of 30 and thrown in jail. Lambert’s lawyer, Alice Nkom is a strong advocate for lesbian and gay rights and her first goal is the legalization of homosexuality, taking the issue out of the penal code.
The film also introduces us to Muriel and Tatiana, a couple who don’t identify as “real lesbians,” and Elvis and Serge, two gay men who met in a bar and have become friends. All four want to be accepted by their families, have a life and a future in Cameroon. Perhaps the bravest character in the film is Nathalie, an unapologetic lesbian activist who does community education with Alice and eventually opens a bar that caters to homosexuals.
The great power of Alice Nkom as an activist is that she is working within the legal system, as well as in the community, educating people and dispelling stereotypes. When she starts the Group for Families with Homosexual Children, her first client Lambert, who was released from jail, joins Alice as a public advocate in the struggle. Although most of the country is more concerned with poverty, the fight for equal rights continues and Alice, with her infectious optimism, is in it for the long haul. Filmmaker in attendance.
Preceded by – Covered
John Greyson, Canada, 2009, 14 minutes
In 2008, the opening ceremonies of the first Sarajevo Queer Film Festival were closed down by a violent mob that accused the organizers of blaspheming the holy month of Ramadan. Eight people were hospitalized and the festival was cancelled. This experimental documentary profiles the courage of the four women who organized the festival. A counter-narrative uses excerpts from a Susan Sontag essay to critique the peculiar subculture of YouTube cover versions, and the ubiquity of bird imagery in pop songs.
Anatomy: Muscle, Skin, Heart
Natasha Gadd, Rhys Graham & Amy Gebhardt, Australia, 2008, 78 minutes
Saturday, 15 May 2010 @ 4pm
This stunning three-part series shows the work of three of Australia’s talented new generation of documentary filmmakers. Eachstory explores how sexuality and the body work as driving forces in the creative process.
Muscle unflinchingly follows three-piece physical performance troupe Acrobat (Simon Yates, his partner Jo-Ann Lancaster, and collaborator Mozes) as they set off on tour following a difficult and dramatic period of physical and emotional collapse. With candour and intimacy, Muscle delves beneath the stylized, artificial realm of circus performance to explore the complex relationship humans have with their bodies and the devastating impact on the heart and mind that results when the body proves, ultimately, to be fallible. Winner: Best Director in a Short Documentary, 2008 Australian Directors Guild Awards.
Skin examines the relationship between artist Ex de Medici, equally renowned for her vivid paintings as for her groundbreaking tattooing, and Geoff Ostling. Geoff is a 65-year-old retired history teacher, a gay man in the leather community and a devoted church going Christian, whose body has been etched with a tapestry of flowers by Ex’s needles and ink. The film charts their journey as Geoff’s body suit — their collaborative artwork — is completed after 25 years. Now entirely tattooed, Geoff is forced to confront his mortality as he and Ex undertake to have Geoff’s skin preserved and exhibited after he dies. Winner: Best Short Documentary, 2009 Worldwide Short Film Festival, Canada.
Shot with tender intimacy, Heart explores the origins of creative inspiration when artist Jacqui Stockdale embarks on a portrait of her long time muse, Rose. The film cuts between archival and present day footage, exploring the heart of this sixteen-year-long artistic collaboration and love affair between Jacqui and Rose. As past storms of their personal life swirl around them, we witness the changing nature of love within the artistic process. Winner: Best Documentary, 2008 Melbourne International Film Festival.
Doxa Documentary Film Festival
DOXA Documentary Film Festival runs May 7-16, 2010. Single tickets for screenings (excluding Opening Night) are $10 each plus one-time $2 Membership. Festival Passes allow access to all films except Opening Night and are available for $125. Tickets are available at Bibliophile Bookshop, Videomatica, Biz Books and online at www.doxafestival.ca. For further information, call DOXA at 604-646-3200.