Cats, cats, cats…arguably the greatest gift the internet brought was non-stop cat coverage. The big screen has been slow to see the same potential, but Cedya Torun’s return to his Turkish homeland in Istanbul is a wonderful showcase for stars who have no interest in being in a film. Kedi follows a number of diverse moggies through their daily routines in the city. As in Venice, cats seem to have a tight grip on the underworld, and Torun doesn’t bother with any anthropomorphic analysis or talking heads, other than a few stories about how cats and people get along. One lively character sits outside a restaurant, and seems to have trained the proprietors to bring him his food at a pre-arranged signal; such delightful details make Kedi and charming, original documentary for when a story just seems like too much bother.
Asif Kapadia returns to the super-doc format that brought us Senna and his Amy Winehouse film; football fans who saw the infamous 1986 Argentina-England ‘hand of god’ game couldn’t be blamed for thinking Maradona was more twit than talent. As a prostitute-banging, coke-snorting egomaniac cheat, Maradona doesn’t offer much as someone to hero-worship; this film starts with him heading to Naples in 1984, wowing the locals and crime-bosses alike, and then Kapadia positions the Argentina vs Italy 1990 World Cup match in the same city as the moment that the Italian public, and much of the world, turned against him. It’s interesting to see Maradona sporting a ‘man fur’ ie a Doris Day-style fur coat, and there’s some slabs of vapour-wave music to capture the 80’s theme. But it’s not a complete picture, nor a particularly deep one, and there’s also a big problem. Football isn’t filmed, it’s captured on tv, and when you blow tv footage up to cinema screens, it looks like dirt. If Maradona has any fans left, this doc may be an eye-opener, but in lieu of any new information, the unfortunate fact remains that Maradona is best known today as an unscrupulous cheat rather than a sporting god.
Ron Fricke’s visually stunning documentary has no commentary; it’s a feast of images taken from all over the world, capturing geographical and sociological phenomenon and leaving the audience to gape in wonder and draw their own conclusions. Baraka is a Sufi word for spiritual grace, and Fricke’s film captures just that, from the opening shot of a snow monkey sitting in his rock pool, looking as peaceful and pleasantly bemused as viewers will be watching the cavalcade of volcanoes, mines, monasteries, dances, tribal rituals and various other ephemera. Baraka is a mood piece, investigating the lesser-seen riches of the world, and one best enjoyed in the highest definition possible.
Not all of Werner Herzog’s documentary ideas are fun to watch; his 2005 doc The Wild Blue Yonder has audiences queuing at the exits when screened at the Venice Film festival. But Grizzly Man shows the maverick director at his best, patiently and idiosyncratically telling the moving story of Timothy Treadwell, an environmentalist who set out to live with grizzly bears, a species with which he had a keen affinity. Unfortunately for Treadwell, the feeling was not mutual, and he ended up being killed by the creatures he loved. Herzog narrates in his own voice, his off-kilter tones adding a layer of humour to what could easily be a downbeat story; Treadwell comes off as a well-meaning but naïve individual, a perfect hero for this absorbing portrait of a man whose passion for nature led him to extremes of behaviour, and to a sad demise.
Writer and director Jamie Kastner scours through the sparkling dumpster of archive disco footage and pulls together a slight but fascinating picture of the era, a time when music was hot stuff and clubs were pumping out a vibrant, glitzy sound that made an indelible cultural mark before fading away into other genres. With interview subjects from Thelma Houston to a reluctant Village People, who seem rather suspicious of the film-maker’s motives, the artists seems far less enamoured of the period that the scholars who Kastner enlists to tell the story; their high-brow theories seem at odds with the rather more practical experiences of music industry veterans. Secret Disco Revolution works best as a cinematic juke-box, showcasing a number of notable disco hits, and a few rarities that should have fans of the era reaching for their Spotify playlists.
Artist Douglas Gordon teams up with Phillipe Parenno for this art-installation piece, a feature film documentary in which, through a multi-camera system, a football match between Real Madrid and Villareal is shown from the point of view of one man ; Zinedine Zidane. With a throbbing soundtrack by Mogwai, and occasional but unimportant subtitles to reveal the thoughts of the great man, there’s no conventional narrative here, but if you can get into the swing, Zidane is a film that captures the idea of work like few others. As Zidane huffs and puffs in off-the-ball runs, it suddenly becomes apparent that the game feels very different than when seen on television, and reveals the amount of work it requires to provoke the seconds of activity that chance the course of the game’s destiny. The experiment was done before with George Best, but this version has a mood and energy of its own.
Klaus Kinski was, without much doubt, a genuinely unhinged individual, capable of brilliant on-screen performances and with a somewhat dubious off-screen life that’s been well documented in several books. This documentary is a record of a live 1970’s stage performance given by Kinski in a packed theatre where he gives an astonishing, ranting performance that quickly turns into a screaming match between him and the audience. A spoken word piece from the point of view was always going to be controversial, but Peter Geyer’s assembly of archive footage depicts a man at the end of his tether, a horrifying but hypnotic document of Kinski at his best and worst.