Watching a 15-hour documentary probably isn’t most people’s idea of fun — perhaps even torture. I wasn’t too thrilled before a film professor back at university screened “Shoah,” Claude Lanzmann’s eight-and-a-half-hour documentary about the Holocaust. The 1985 film is almost entirely contemporary interviews, and an especially tact student commented that the experience of watching it would itself be a Holocaust.
It turned out that “Shoah” is a thoroughly engaging and powerful film. While it could have been considerably shorter, its length is necessary to do justice to the scope of experiences of the victims, witnesses and perpetrators and fully immerses viewers into their stories. The experience of watching “Shoah” is part of the reason why I’m looking forward to the 15-hour “The Story of Film: An Odyssey” which is one of the more exciting screenings happening at Dokufest.
“The Story of Film” is the work of the Northern Ireland film critic Mark Cousins. Originally broadcast as a 15-part miniseries on TV, Cousins’ epic film will be shown at Dokufest, split into two screenings over two days. The documentary chronicles the history of film, from its humble beginnings in the late 19th century up to the behemoth industry of the present day and even a look into the future.
I haven’t had a chance to see “The Story of Film” yet, but the many critics say this expansive chronicle of cinema has something special. It’s not merely vast and comprehensive. It has a narrative that focuses on the artists not the industry. New York Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote, “Hollywood is not the center of this story, though it is not the villain, either. Mr. Cousins pays tribute to the romanticism of commercial cinema and also uses it as a foil for the classicism of directors like Yasujiro Ozu and the radicalism of various rebels, eccentrics and visionaries.”
Dokufest — especially with its Punk Protest Prizren theme this year — seems a fitting venue for Cousins’ film. The film festival is Kosovo’s most important cultural event of the year and has been growing in prestige outside the country, but it remains off the beaten path of the big international film festivals. Yet it’s in the space of relative obscurity that a rebellious spirit can add something truly special to the ongoing story of world cinema.
“The Story of Film” is being shown in two installments July 13 and 14. Both halves begin at noon.
The article was originally written in English.
Photo credit: Stills from "The Story of Film"
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