By Morgan Cairns
Whenever I invite a friend to take in a documentary, it usually prompts the same response. “A documentary?” they say, “aren’t documentaries… a little boring?” How is it that doc’s have come to have such a sleepy reputation? Are they not just pioneers of reality television?
Real Housewives aside, if anyone is going to change your mind on documentaries, it’s the Calgary Underground Film Festival, back this November with their sixth annual CUFF Docs film festival. With CUFF’s signature weird, wacky, and wonderful sensibilities in mind, everyone’s favourite genre-film purveyors have programmed a week’s worth of documentary films, BeatRoute has made a cheat-sheet to help you convince even your most skeptical of friends, that documentaries are, in fact, totally cool.
For the friend who was really excited about legalization: Weed the People
Who knew that weed served a purpose beyond making family get togethers slightly more tolerable? Weed the People takes marijuana out of your basement, and into research labs, exploring the benefits cannabis oils has on children with cancer, and the struggles parents have to go through to get it.
For the friend who knows all the words to Paper Planes: MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A.
Perhaps one of the most widely anticipated music docs of the year, MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. follows rapper M.I.A, from her childhood as the daughter of a Tamil political activist, to the current status as a world renowned artist and activist in her own right. Drawing from the rapper’s personal video recordings (she has a degree in fine art, film, and video from Central Saint Martins), director Stephen Loveridge’s intimate doc serves to shake up the genre, just as M.I.A shook up pop when she burst onto the scene in 2007 with perpetual earworm, Paper Planes. As Spencer Kornhaber for The Atlantic states in his review of the film, “This is not a normal pop documentary, because M.I.A. [is] not a normal pop star.”[Text Wrapping Break]
For the friend obsessed with Black Mirror: People’s Republic of Desire
In China, live-streaming platform YY has turned regular, everyday people into bonafide stars, earning thousands of dollars a month in tips from fans to see them perform. Playing out like a real-life episode of Black Mirror, People’s Republic of Desire follows three people -a singer, a comedian, and a migrant worker- as they search for fame, fortune, and human connection in the surreal online world.
For the friend with questionable browser history: The Cleaners
Opening an ‘incognito window’ or switching your browser to private won’t save you from these digital scavengers. From a stray nipple to terrorist videos propaganda, The Cleaners follows those who are outsourced from Silicon Valley to remove the content from the internet that is deemed to violate “community standards.” With interviews from journalists, ethicists, and former employees of various tech companies, directors Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck probe into the true effect these social media platforms are having on global discourse. So if you’ve ever wondered why your “tasteful nude” was removed from instagram, this might be the doc for you.
For the friend who only watches movies that pass the Bechdel Test: This Changes Everything
Inspired by the #TimesUp movement in Hollywood, This Changes Everything compiles interviews from the likes of Meryl Streep, Geena Davis, Amandla Stenberg, and other prolific actresses, writers, and directors in an effort to call out the systemic sexism that is rampant in Hollywood, as well as amplify the voices of the women working both on and off screen.
For the friend that treats their guitar like it’s their baby: Carmine Street Guitars
Operating out of Greenwich Village in New York, craftsman Rick Kelly and his apprentice make custom guitars, handcrafted out of reclaimed wood from old hotels, bars, churches and other New York buildings. With clients like Jim Jarmusch, Christine Bougie, Jamie Hince, and Bob Dylan, Carmine Street Guitars is something of a marvel in a world where gentrification takes over and mass-produced products are the norm. Featuring a slew of Kelly’s famous clientele, Carmine Street Guitars documents 5 days in the life of the small but mighty shop, and shows why you can’t beat one-of-a-kind.
CUFF Docs runs from Novemebr 28- December 2 at The Globe Cinema. For full lineup and showtimes, visit www.calgaryundergroundfilm.org.A Doc for Every Friend, Carmine Street Guitars, CUFF, MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A., People’s Republic of Desire, The Globe Cinema, This Changes Everything, Weed the People