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Documenta Madrid

Documenta Madrid is an international film festival dedicated exclusively to documentary film. Documenta is a continuously evolving festival and aspires to improve year after year as a showcase for the best in international documentary film, one which brings us closer to both the classics as well as the latest offerings in the genre. 



Peter Hutton will present a broad retrospective of his work at DOCUMENTA MADRID


At his year´s 7th festival, DOCUMENTA MADIRD is offering broad programming in it´s parallel sections, including a series entitled "USA INDEPENDENTS" retrospectives of three filmmakers -Peter Hutton, Ben Russell and Joseph Strick- who have left their mark on recent history for their creative and revolutionary visions of the genre. 

Peter Hutton has been a crucial figure in American documentary and experimental film for forty years. Hutton is the last link in the North American landscape tradition starting in the 19th century with Thomas Cole and the Luminists, and that over the 20th century has been developed in the film work of Henwar Rodakiewicz, Paul Strand, James Benning and John Ford. In addition to his background at the San Francisco Art Institute, his experience as a sailor defines his poetic vision of the world. His work reflects the tension between nature and civilization through portraits of cities, landscapes and rivers, from the Valley of the Fjords in Finland to the harbors of Bangladesh. In addition, as a teacher he has given courses to filmmakers such as Hal Hartley and Mira Nair.


His work, made up of a set of thoughtful and luminous place studies told through the intimate lens of a diary, has been shown at major festivals and museums in Europe and the United States. In addition, Hutton has received from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Fellowship, among others. The retrospective to be presented at the festival, the most comprehensive to date (along with the one put on by the MOMA and subsequently to be shown at the CGAI in A Coruña) will be accompanied by an intriguing master class called The Image in Film and its Eclipse, to be held in the Cine Estudio at the Círculo de Bellas Artes this upcoming May 14 at 12 noon. Admission is free until maximum capacity.


The second independent American film director included in this series of retrospectives is Ben Russell. Born in 1976, Russell has carried out his creative work in multiple media, switching back and forth from film festivals and art galleries. His work, psychedelic, visceral and avant-garde, has been shown in a variety of spaces ranging from a 14th century Belgian monastery to Japanese film archives.


His work most notably uses ethnographic elements more typical of the early cinema and elements of Surrealism. In Workers Leaving the Factory (Dubai), Russell calls into question the isolating effects of globalization by emulating the primary technique of the Lumiére brothers in Workers Leaving the Factory. His experience in photography and video art have encouraged him to challenge the spectator to feel different sensations when watching his films, while also appealing to their social conscience. Some of his films have been compared to those by the French filmmaker Jean Rouch.


His experience in the Peace Corps in Surinam inspired his acclaimed full-length film Let Each One Go Where He May (2009), for which he received the Critic’s Award at the Rotterdam Festival and the Grand Prize at the Documentary Film Festival Punto de Vista. The director follows two brothers on their walk from the capital, Paramaribo, to the towns of the Maroons, descendents of African slaves that rebelled against their Dutch captors three hundred years ago.


The third filmmaker whose retrospective will be screened as part of the series USA Independents is the director, producer and screenwriter Joseph Strick (1923, Braddock, Pennsylvania). He learned to film in his Air Force service as a camera operator during the Second World War. His camera then went to work to serve for a subversive conscience. In 1949, he participated in the Cannes Festival with Muscle Beach, a mild critique of Californian subculture that converted fitness into a kind of Olympic sport. Starting in the 1950s, he and Ben Maddow and Sidney Meyers made a series of experimental documentaries called The Savage Eye (1960), for which he won a BAFTA award and the Critic’s Award at the Venice Film Festival.


After being nominated on numerous occasions, he won the Oscar for Best Documentary for Interviews with My Lai Veterans (1970). In addition, he did numerous adaptations of literary works such as a version of Ulysses by James Joyce (1963), and authors such as Henry Miller and William Burroughs. A member of the film movement ‘Off-Hollywood’, he was part of a group of intellectuals who brought the work of their favorite authors out into the limelight and described reality in groundbreaking ways.


Wang Bing, the director of the river-films


The work of the unique Chinese documentary filmmaker Wang Bing (Jingyang, 1967) is an invitation to travel. Bing debuted more than ten years ago with hisfirst “river-film”, the widely acclaimed Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks, which won the Grand Prize at the Documentary Festival of Marseille and the Award for Best Full-Length Documentary at the FICCO (Mexico). The then made three more feature-length films that have won praise from critics for their originality in narration and aesthetics. Feng Ming: A Chinese Memoir (2007), his second film, premiered at the festivals of Cannes and Toronto and won the Grand Prize at the Festival of Yamagata.


The third, Crude Oil (2008), filmed at an oil exploration site in the Gobi desert, is a fourteen-hour exploration in
the capacity film has for highlighting the ups and downs of far away lives by transporting the spectator across time and space.


Wang Bing’s filmography combines different trends in recent Chinese documentary film, and also features a participatory dimension and civic commitment. In his films, the director deals with the darkest aspects of a country experiencing the decomposition of the Communist regime, one that is becoming a world power in giant steps. At last year’s DOCUMENTA MADRID, Bing won the Second Jury Award for Original Full-Length Film with L’argent du charbon and will be serving on this year’s International Jury.

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Coronado Penélope
(Documenta Madrid)

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