By Jennie Orton
VANCOUVER — “Documentaries by their nature tend to be very personal works,” says Dorothy Woodend. “I think that is why they have that power and impact on people.” Director of programming and head film wrangler for DOXA, Woodend has cultivated a large respect for the visceral impact the documentary medium has on a varied audiences.
To see evidence of this, check out the essays on the DOXA website put together by this year’s guest curators: writer Rebecca Carroll, film curator and researcher Thierry Garrel, and producer Zeina Zahreddine. Each of the guest curated programs are very personal and they carry with them a lifetime of personal investment; Zahreddine was moved to tears while writing her essay for the site.
“They’re very different in their approach but they ended up being kind of united by this fundamentally personal approach to the films they wanted to put into their program and their essays as well,” says Woodend. It is this direct conduit to the human experience that Woodend believes unites not only the filmmakers and the audience, but also those who seek to celebrate and bring these films to the world’s attention.
“I think documentary filmmakers, because they are on the ground and they are imbedded and they are making the work, they are imbedded in the community and they have a personal stake in the stories,” she muses. “You need to have something burning in your gut and in the story you want to tell to make it happen.”
The burning guts this year are evident. Carroll’s program concerns itself with issues within our perceptions of race and identity and features three films including Black is…Black Ain’t, film-maker Marlon Riggs’ last film, finished posthumously by friend and co-director Christiane Badgley. Garrel’s program, entitled French French includes a retrospective of last year’s guest curator Claire Simon. And Zahreddine’s program is Arab Spring/Arab Fall, an investigation of new Arab cinema emerging out of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, a culture dear to her heart.
“It’s a highly experimental and fearless film culture,” says Woodend, “looking at these new film-makers who are creating their first work and being informed by these cultural changes that had come about in their lifetime.”
So how do you approach a film festival with over 80 films? “Pick up a program guide, ‘cause we really agonize over the program guide,” laughs Woodend. “We don’t copy and paste from press releases. We take the time to watch the films and write about them and try to capture their essence.”
DOXA runs May 5-15, for showtimes visit www.doxafestival.com.BC, British Columbia, documentary, DOXA