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11 May 2011

Preview: London International Documentary Festival 2011

Seven highlights, as recommended by us.

By Sean Gittins

Taking place at numerous venues in London from 13-28 May, the London International Documentary Film Festival 2011 (LIDF) will show over 130 films from 44 countries, and host several workshops and debates. Covering a number of themes including recent changes to the Arab Middle East, explorations of the city and the nature of privacy, the LIDF not only features the work of new film makers but also premieres of documentaries crafted by Academy Award winners Steven Soderberrgh, Martin Scorsese and Brigitte Berman. Here are some of the highlights coming up over the next few weeks:


Directed by Asif Kapadia, this biopic of Formula One driver Ayrton Senna eschews the traditional voiceover documentary style in favour of a more visual approach. Not just a film for sports racing fans, the film uses vast amounts of unseen footage to depict the physical and spiritual life of this sporting icon.

LIDF Visions

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A workshop aimed at new filmmakers, the LIDF has teamed up with Abingdon Film Unit to create training opportunities for up-and-coming documentarists. A chance to learn new skills from industry professionals and develop films to be presented at a pitching session, three successful projects will get the chance to be assisted in their productions for the next 12 months.

Our Generation

Exploring an unresolved and complex issue, this film investigates the Australian government’s continued policies of assimilation and paternalism towards the Aborigines. Hoping the film will not only open a dialogue on a long ignored issue but also give a voice to the Indigenous peoples of Australia and their culture, the makers have included many interviews with the Yonglu alongside civil rights leaders in the documentary.

Focus on Pakistan: Filmmaking for social change

A collection of shorts exploring various themes including faith, the effects of terrorism, struggle and the counter-culture, these films aim to show the hidden complexities and often ignored elements of life in contemporary Pakistan. Given Pakistan’s recent ubiquity on the stage of world news, these documentaries should provide a timely insight into a multifaceted country and its people.

Invisible City

Structured around a variety of topics including squatting, the journey of Christmas trees and street sweeping, this collection of short documentaries on London surveys the stories behind people, spaces, communities and objects that make up the capital.

California is a Place & Fragments of Different Everyday Life

Drea Cooper, director of California is a Place, says he placed huge emphasis on the “aesthetic and the visual” depictions in the film. Via such methods, both documentaries aim to emphasise the effects of globalisation and state economic policies on California and its many citizens.

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel

Oscar-winner Brigitte Berman’s film promises to give an intimate portrait of Hugh Heffner, the infamous owner of Playboy. With interviews featuring Hefner and many 20th-century cultural icons as well as archive footage, Berman says she hopes the film will challenge people’s preconceptions of Hefner, moving beyond the sexual escapades and reveal him to be a complex and politically motivated character.

Ticket and program information for the LIDF can be found at