DocWeek debuts in 2013 as a public program of documentaries that will run in conjunction with the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC). DocWeek has scored a major coup for its inaugural festival, as its highlight guest is DA Pennebaker who jets to Adelaide with collaborator and wife, Chris Hegedus.
Pennebaker and Hegedus’ films will be shown throughout the festival with an evening of conversation with the filmmakers that will be followed by a screening of their tour movie with a difference, Depeche Mode 101. Pennebaker and Hegedus have been involved with doco standards such as Primary, The War Room, Don’t Look Back and Startup.com. DocWeek Director Joost den Hartog said Pennebaker was his number one choice to be the inaugural guest as the Don’t Look Back director and his peers Albert Maysles and Richard Leacock pioneered documentary filmmaking in the 60s.
“They defined that observational documentary genre that became so famous,” den Hartog explains. “These guys really pioneered it and they’ve been the fly on the wall of American culture for decades. It’s amazing the way they manage to get access and capture the moments and piece it together in the story. It’s just what they capture. There are no tricks. No narration. Hardly any music used. It’s the raw footage put together in a way that a narrative emerges, it’s amazing stuff.”
Den Hartog said he had always wanted to nab Pennebaker for the AIDC since his contemporaries Leacock and Maysles were previous guests of the industry conference, AIDC.
“They’re all friends and they collaborated on Primary, a landmark film which we will show in the program. But Pennebaker never came out. He was the number one choice. He was instantly enthusiastic and confirmed his attendance. Then three weeks after we had done the deal it was announced that he would win the honourary Oscar, as the first documentary filmmaker to ever win that prize. I couldn’t believe my ears.”
Aside from Pennebaker and Hegedus, DocWeek features guests such as Austrian director Nikolaus Geyrhalter (“He tells these quite socially engaged stories but only with images,” den Hartog explains. “There is no narration, not even dialogue in his films. They are visually spectacular.”) and Cnex founder Ben Tsiag.
“He was the co-founder of Cnex, which is the biggest internet provider in China. Then he had a heart attack and wanted to do something else and started this company that is committed to producing and financing 10 documentaries a year on a certain topic for 10 years. We’re showing four films, highlights from their collection. He’s an amazing guy. He’s coming over and he’s going to do a masterclass as part of our summer school program.”
DocWeek will not be a showcase of the latest documentary films that will be in contention for a prize.
“We’ve been very careful with positioning this festival in a way that its complementary to the festivals that are already around. It would be really foolish for us to try and compete with the Adelaide Film Festival or with any film festival in Australia. I strongly believe that film festivals are there to provide a platform for filmmakers. It’s a very delicate infrastructure and as soon as festivals try and compete with each other, the group that misses out is the filmmakers; we’re really trying to avoid that competition. So, that’s the reason we are not picking the best films of the moment. In Adelaide that’s the role of the Adelaide Film Festival. We’re celebrating documentary as a genre and we picked a few filmmakers and we show a body of work reflecting that. It’s very much a retrospective festival, except for our competition strand of four films by first time filmmakers after graduation [F4: First Factual Films]. The purpose of that strand is to showcase the best of emerging talent in Australia and to help filmmakers bridge the gap between their first and second films.”
Monday, February 25 to Sunday, March 3