At the start of last year I set myself the challenge of watching 12 documentaries that year and excitingly I did in fact succeed, if only by the skin of my teeth. I watched my first documentary of the year on the 3rd of January and my twelfth on Hogmanay finishing with just an hour and a half left of the year. I’m actually in an odd position writing this post because with the exception of that one last film, I’ve actually written about all the other documentaries I watched this year on here already. I always intend to write more about documentaries, and this year I actually did. I made a halfway house review, a double feature in November, and a review of the Being Human festival screenings – I even wrote about a television documentary series.
To be fair, these posts are usually more of a what I didn’t see, rather than what I did see (I still haven’t watched Taxi to the Dark Side) and indeed most of the documentaries I saw this year were not actually released this year. I only saw two films that were released this year and neither of them were in an actual cinema. (This being exacerbated by having spent a sizeable chunk of this year living in Inverness, and if I thought it took a while for documentaries to make it up to Stirling then Inverness took it to a whole other level.) I also heard very little about upcoming documentaries this year, so I’m not even certain exactly what I missed. So perhaps 2015’s resolution regarding documentaries should be to seek out more current documentaries, though quite how I’m going to manage that when even both the documentaries I saw as part of the Glasgow Film Festival in January/February actually count as 2013 films according to imdb?
The great documentary delight for me this year has been kickstarter. When you think about it documentary filmmaking is the ideal type of film for crowdsourcing. You reach out to your target audience and if enough of them like it to essentially pay for it in advance then it gets funded. The second film I saw this year The Last Impresario had a section in its credits thanking all its kick-starter backers and I thought “that’s brilliant” the ability to support the kind of films you want to see at your fingertips. I’ve supported two documentaries this year, one of which is now complete – my last film of the year She Makes Comics an excellent little film about female comics creators – and the as yet unfinished Beep about sound in computer games. Two films about subjects close to my heart, I may have only been able to donate enough to get myself a wee copy of the original film but in the end that’s all I want from them. Yet, arguably, the reach of a kick-starter film, even if it never makes it off the festival circuit into mainstream cinemas, is far greater. There are literally hundreds of names in thanks section of the credits of She Makes Comics. All those people will now have watched that film; will be excitedly showing it to their friends – in all sorts of places across the world where the film might never have reached. Distribution is the true enemy of the feature documentary so however much I want it to continue to be possible for documentaries to gain mainstream funding and distribution – I’m glad there’s a way for me to truly vote with my feet and my entrance fee for the documentaries I want to see. I’d argue it isn’t the only future for feature length documentaries but it is a future, and that makes me more hopeful for the future of the genre than half a dozen of those annual ‘break-out’ documentaries successes do.