EIFF: Documentaries Strand Events

This year’s EIFF programme reflects the ability of documentary film to amaze, inspire, challenge, provoke and fascinate audiences.

EIFF: Documentaries Strand Events

About EIFF: Documentaries Strand Events

The rise in the popularity of documentary cinema has been a remarkable trend in recent years, with filmmakers stretching the boundaries of the format, tone and style of non-fiction films. There is a strong musical theme that runs through this year’s films – from George Michael and Whitney Houston to punk rock and Scottish band Travis – as well as Scottish culture and themes also being wonderfully reflected.

This year’s festival features a strong and varied selection of new films, celebrating a filmic form that varies from the harrowing and provocative to the fun and downright entertaining. Documentary is a formidable way to travel the world, see strange and unusual sights and delve into fascinating real-life stories. Films in consideration for our annual documentary award are selected from this section.


***21st June***

Becoming Animal - 6.15pm Filmhouse 1
Shot in Grand Teton National Park, this immersive essay film draws together the distinctive sensibilities of filmmakers Emma Davie (I Am Breathing) and Peter Mettler (The End of Time) with philosopher David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous) to encounter the spaces where humans and animals meet. A subversive nature film in which our senses are piqued as we bear witness the so-called natural world, which, in turn, witnesses us.

Light Years - 6.20pm Vue Omni
“There’s a seemingly invisible feeling in Lucrecia’s pictures, something transcendental. Shooting a documentary portrait of Lucrecia Martel’s creative process during the filming of Zama was born out of my curiousity to unveil some of that mystery, that magic trick. Far from the idea of a ‘behind the scenes’, Light Years started out as a secondary film detached from the one she’s shooting. An intimate, observational documentary that would somehow allow us to get inside her head during that moment of creation.” – Manuel Abramovich

DocSalon 2: But is it documentary? - 6.20pm Filmhouse 2
We take the pulse of documentary filmmaking. Fiction/non-fiction hybrids, animation, re-enactments, VR and other experimental techniques can make us ask, Is it Documentary? At a time when documentary has never been more important, whether in combatting fake news or encouraging social change, are such experiments boon or bane? Join us for a public conversation, bringing together filmmakers, producers, festival programmers and you, the audience, to discuss what makes something truthful when documentary form is challenged. Hosted by Dr Leshu Torchin (University of St Andrews).

Science Fair - 8.40pm Vue Omni
This entertaining and affectionate celebration of the young science nerd was the deserving winner of Sundance’s inaugural audience award, delivering warmth, insight and some great science. The film follows youngsters taking part in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. In an era when – in the US, especially – science seems decidedly uncool, these youngsters are inspirational, engaging and brimming with ideas. This warm-hearted and thoroughly enjoyable film delivers humour and intelligence, with the young scientists serving as great examples of what can be achieved.

***22nd June***

Time Trial - 6pm Filmhouse 1
Following former British national road champion cyclist David Millar in his final season in the saddle, Time Trial is a fast-paced documentary from Scottish director Finlay Pretsell and Edinburgh-based Scottish Documentary Institute. Narrated by Millar, the film employs an immersive, intimate style that offers a unique view of its subject. The doc follows the highs and lows of life on the professional cycling circuit, as Millar tries one last time to reclaim his champion status. The screening on will be followed by an extended Q&A with the director, David Millar and renowned journalist and sports presenter Ned Boulting.

Saving Brinton - 6.10pm Odeon 4
Michael Zahs is a collector, pure and simple. Keen on generating interest in his collection of silent films – known as the Brinton collection, saved from the incinerator – he travels around to show his films and talk about their origins. A silent Georges Méliès classic film, long believed lost, about a woman with three heads was found among the collection. Film restorer Serge Bromberg views the film with excitement, and ensures the discovery is revealed at the silent film festival Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna.

Whitney - 8.40pm Filmhouse 1
Director Kevin Macdonald’s brilliant new documentary offers a rare, moving and insightful look into the life of one of the world’s greatest singers. Featuring unreleased recordings, never-seen-before home-movie footage, live performances and revealing interviews (that offer some dark revelations), the film celebrates Whitney’s talents, as well as detailing the sadder aspects of her personal life. Though the end is never in doubt – she died in February 2012 aged just 48 – this is an enthralling tribute to all that is great about the icon Whitney Houston.

Nocturno: Ghosts of the Sea in Port (Nocturno: Fantasmas de Mar en Puerto) - 8.45pm Filmhouse 2
The Spanish vessel ‘Ilha Brava’ arrives from the deep seas of the south Atlantic. 55 days at sea are interrupted by only five days docked in the port of Montevideo. The city exists as a hologram for the sailors, standing like a shadow behind the vessel that gives shelter. Men of diverse nationalities and religions, yet all share the same broken gaze, in which a dream of home absorbed through a screen is a haunting and entertaining presence during the long dead hours of waiting.

Light Years - 8.50pm Vue Omni
See 21st June for details.

***23rd June***

Saving Brinton - 1pm Odeon 4
See 22nd June for details.

Science Fair - 1m Vue Omni
See 21st June for details.

Becoming Animal - 1.10pm Vue Omni
See 21st June for detials

Meeting Jim - 5.40pm Filmhouse 1
The captivating story of Jim Haynes, a networker supreme whose open Sunday dinners in Paris are legendary and whose journey from the US to Edinburgh, London and Paris saw him make contacts and friends wherever he travelled. In one lovely scene he runs through his contact books, all geographically linked. On the way, he inspired all those who met him. This charismatic man – now in his eighties – has been a regular at Edinburgh’s festivals for years and he continues to charm and encourage those who cross his path.

Hal - 6pm Odeon 2
Hal Ashby made seven classic films of the 1970s – including The Last Detail, Shampoo and Being There – but always remained an elusive figure. This charismatic man worked as an editor for years, was married five times, had a history of drug abuse and looked like a hippie biker. He also made beautiful films rich with daydreams and vulnerability, and never really fitted with old Hollywood. His film career faded in the 1980s and he died of cancer in 1988, leaving behind a wonderful, idiosyncratic film legacy.

Postcards from the 48% - 8pm Filmhouse 1
Director David Wilkinson’s challenging – and prescient – film has no qualms about its stance and what it is trying to achieve. As a remainer, Wilkinson travels the UK to gather and represent the opinions of the 48% of people who voted to stay in the EU. Interviewees include Miriam Margolyes, Professor A.C. Grayling and Baroness Wheatcroft, all of whom offer eloquent, thoughtful and passionate opinions. The referendum may well be over, but Wilkinson wants the debate to continue. Join director David Wilkinson and some of the film’s contributors for an extended Q&A after the screening.

Piano to Zanskar - 8.55pm Cineworld
The winning film at last year’s EIFF Work in Progress, Michal Sulima’s delightful documentary debut is a joy, following 65-year-old London piano tuner Desmond Gentle. Desmond embarks on a journey – with some delightfully eccentric young companions – to take a 100-year-old upright piano to a primary school in Lingshed, one of the most isolated settlements in the world, some 14,000 feet above sea level in the Indian Himalayas. Using yaks, ponies and old-fashioned muscle this delivery will crown his 40-year-long career.

***24th June***

Whitney - 3.25pm Odeon 2
See 22nd June for details.

Nocturno: Ghosts of the Sea in Port (Nocturno: Fantasmas de Mar en Puerto) - 3.40pm Filmhouse 2
See 22nd June for details.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts - 6.10pm Odeon 4
Christmas Island is famous for one of the largest annual land migrations – that of forty million red crabs scurrying to the sea. It also houses a high-security detention facility, in which those seeking asylum in Australia are detained indefinitely. This stunning first feature by Gabrielle Brady follows trauma counsellor Poh Lin as she attempts to support detainees and explores the island’s terrain, its violent past and its inescapable present.

Time Trial(HoH Captioned) - 6.20pm Filmhouse 2
See 22nd June for details.

Meeting Jim - 6.20pm Vue Omni
See 23rd June for details.

The Eyes of Orson Welles - 8.35pm Odeon 2
The art, sketches, set designs and storyboards Orson Welles produced throughout his career act as an entry point for director Mark Cousins to delve into the life and career of one of cinema’s most talented filmmakers. Welles trained as an artist before becoming an actor and director, and Cousins has been allowed unprecedented access to a treasure trove of images that provide a fascinating glimpse into Welles’ visual thinking. This film is a journey through his life punctuated by delightful insight.

Piripkura - 8.35pm Filmhouse 2
Two of the last three members of the Piripkura still live as nomads in the Amazon rainforest, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Their most important possession is a torch that was lit in 1998 and has remained so ever since. The area where they live is encircled by farms and sawmills, whose almost inevitable expansion is taking place through violent means. This area of rainforest can only keep its protected status if there’s proof that the two men, Pakyî and Tamandua, are still living there.

***25th June***

The Eyes of Orson Welles - 6pm Filmhouse 2
See 24th June for details.

Pushkar Myths (Pushkar Puran) - 6.20pm Vue Omni
Twenty-nine kilometres from Ajmer, surrounded by the Aravalli Range, in the heart of the Thar Desert is a lake city called Pushkar. To the Hindus of the world, it is second in holiness only to Lake Manasarovar. During the full moon in the month of Kartik, the town and the nearby dunes become an enormous fairground. Thousands of villagers bring cattle, camels and horses to trade. Folk artists, musicians, Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds appear like a mirage in the desert, only to vanish with the decapitation of Brahmā’s fifth head.

Piano to Zanskar - 8.30pm Vue Omni
See 23rd June for details.

George Michael: Freedom - Director's Cut - 8.45pm Cineworld
This extended version of the moving and absorbing documentary about the life and music of George Michael makes for memorable viewing. Narrated by Michael, the director’s cut features more of his unseen and private footage as it charts his rise from young pop star with Wham!, on to worldwide success and his infamous High Court battle with his record label. Although only told from one side, George Michael’s honesty, intelligence and talent shines through. A powerful tribute to a great musician.

***26th June***

George Michael: Freedom - Director's Cut - 6pm Vue Omni
See 25th June for details.

Piripkura - 6.10pm Vue Omni
See 24th June for details.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts - 8.35 Filmhouse 2
See 24th June for details.

A Punk Daydream (Lamunan Oi!) - 8.40pm Vue Omni
A punk Daydream is an ecological film about tattoo stigma in Indonesia. The conflict of teen punk Eka with his parents is put into the context of a larger theme of systematic oppression from the past. As the tattooed Dayak tribe struggle to maintain its identity, the street punks reconcile a loss with every new tattoo. With both communities living on the edge of society, we explore what it means to have a place called home and to belong somewhere.

***27th June***

Pushkar Myths (Pushkar Puran) - 6.10pm Vue Omni
See 25th June for details.

Happy Winter (Buon inverno) - 6.20pm Filmhouse 2
Every summer on Palermo’s Mondello beach, over one thousand cabins are built ready to host the many families who will spend the summer holidays there. For them, the beach huts provide the perfect position to hide behind the memory of a social status compromised by the crisis of recent years. All of them are looking forward to Ferragosto, the Italian public holiday of August 15 for the Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary, when they will continue to pretend the economic crisis doesn’t exist.

Hal - 8.40pm Vue Omni
See 23rd June for details.

RBG - 8.50pm Cineworld
An inspirational insight into the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (or RBG, as she is affectionately known), a lifelong equal rights advocate. As a woman, RBG has fought personal and professional battles in the male-dominated legal world. The octogenarian Supreme Justice is at heart shy and a little diffident, and she is also an intellectual powerhouse. Her ability to spot legal strategies and arguments is spoken of in awe by colleagues. The family insights are also engaging, and the film is brimming with wonderful anecdotes.

***28th June***

Life After Flash - 6.10pm Cineworld
A fascinating exploration into the life of Sam J. Jones, beginning with his name-making lead performance in the 1980 fantasy classic Flash Gordon, that establishes what makes Mike Hodges’ film so iconic and enduring. Sacked from the film prior to its completion (his voice was dubbed by another actor), Jones’ subsequent career took many turns before he embraced his brush with stardom. He now attends conventions (with real enthusiasm) and has seen his performance celebrated in the Ted comedies. A life-affirming tribute to the film and its star.

The Image You Missed - 6.15pm Odeon 4
The tangled and violent history of the Northern Irish Troubles acts as an evocative backdrop for Donal Foreman’s film about his relationship with his estranged father, the late American documentarian Arthur MacCaig. Foreman grapples with his father’s legacy through MacCaig’s extensive 30-year film archive of the conflict, describing his father as “an American in Paris making films about Ireland.” Two filmmakers born into different political moments with different political stances who shared little actual time together, but are bonded by a region, social struggle and filmmaking.

Beautiful Things - 8.40pm Filmhouse 2
The many objects that we accumulate and that we believe to be essential begin their production journey in silent, secluded industrial and scientific sites. Beautiful Things describes this hidden mechanical liturgy within four different remote locations, where men work in complete isolation without interference from the world. They unconsciously trigger the long chain of creation, transport, commercialisation and destruction of the objects feeding our bulimic lifestyle. They are monks inside temples of steel and concrete. They repeat the same liturgy every day. And we don’t even know that they exist.

***29th June***

A Punk Daydream (Lamunan Oi!) - 6.10pm Filmhouse 2
See 26th June for details.

The Gospel According to André - 6.10pm Cineworld
Internationally renowned style guru André Leon Talley allows director Kate Novack rare behind-the-scenes access in this enlightening and deeply uplifting documentary. Featuring interviews with some of fashion's elite, as well as illuminating moments with a few of Talley's childhood friends, the film delves deep into André’s humble upbringing in 1950s’ North Carolina. What is unearthed is a stunning portrait of a warm, engaging, larger-than-life character. Follow his inspirational rise to the highest echelons of the international fashion industry.

RBG - 8.30pm Vue Omni
See 27th June for details.

Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story - 8.45pm Cineworld
Set against a backdrop of high fashion, music and Hollywood glamour in the 1980s and ’90s, this enthralling documentary charts the life of iconic make-up artist Kevyn Aucoin, who became one of the most in-demand make-up artists in the world before dying mysteriously at the age of 40 in 2002. Adopted and raised in rural Louisiana, Aucoin knew he was gay at a young age and also realised the world of make-up was his calling. Features interviews with Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.

Almost Fashionable: A Film About Travis - 9.15pm Cineworld
Music journalist Wyndham Wallace has always been clear that he is not a big fan of Scottish band Travis. When lead singer Fran Healy invites Wallace to join Travis on tour in Mexico, the journalist is intrigued and bemused. After soliciting the opinion of other writers, he heads off on tour, filming fans to get their views. A delightful, warm-hearted and tuneful look at Travis, examining why their fans love them, while offering a chance to see if a critic can change his views.

***30th June***

Beautiful Things - 1.10pm Vue Omni
See 28th June for details.

Life After Flash - 6.10pm Cineworld
See 28th June for details.

The Image You Missed - 3.35pm Vue Omni
See 28th June for details.

Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story - 6pm Cineworld
See 29th June for details.

Happy Winter (Buon inverno) - 6.10pm Vue Omni
See 27th June for details.

Miss María, Skirting the Mountain (Señorita Maria, la falda de la montaña) - 8.30pm Vue Omni
Boavita is a rural, conservative Catholic village embedded in the Andes and frozen in time. In the foothills of these mountains lives Miss María Luisa Fuentes. She is 45 years old and was born a boy. Behind what appears to be just another life mired in gender and identity conflict, lies a bitter, unimaginable family history, its deepest roots seasoned with hatred. The horrors of rural life in Colombia with all its religious morality have done nothing but increase the power of this solitary soul.

Almost Fashionable: A Film About Travis - 8.40pm Odeon 4
See 29th June for details.

The Gospel According to André - 8.45pm Cineworld
See 29th June for details.

What Walaa Wants - 8.55pm Cineworld
Growing up in the Balata refugee camp while her mother is incarcerated in an Israeli prison, 15-year-old Walaa is not like other girls. Headstrong and rebellious, she isn’t interested in finishing school or settling down with a husband. Instead, she’s determined to become one of the few women who serve with the Palestinian National Security Forces. Over five years, director Christy Garland (Cheer Up, EIFF 2016) creates a compelling and intimate coming-of-age portrait of Walaa who, despite challenging circumstances, remains fiercely committed to pursuing her dream.

***1st July***

What Walaa Wants - 1.25pm Vue Omni
See 30th June for details.

Miss María, Skirting the Mountain (Señorita Maria, la falda de la montaña) - 1.35pm Vue Omni
See 30th June for details.





While we take every opportunity to ensure the details for EIFF: Documentaries Strand Events are accurate, we always advise that you contact the event organiser before setting out for the event to avoid disapointment.

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