1.06 Troubleshooting

Lisa Rovner

The documentaries to inspire you out of creative holes.

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Lisa Rovner is a French-American filmmaker and artist living in London who’s currently making her first feature documentary supported by the BFI. Sisters with Transistors is the remarkable story of the female pioneers in electronic music whose radical 20th Century experiments redefined the boundaries of music.

Streetwise - Martin Bell

Directed by Martin Bell, this doc has what must be my all-time favourite opening sequence. “I love to fly," says Rat, a skinny teenage boy standing on the railing of a wharf at dawn. "Nothing around you but clear blue sky... No one to hassle you. No one to tell you what to do... The only bad thing about flying is having to come back down to the fucking world." Fully dressed, he jumps into the void, splashing into the Seattle harbour. Inspired by a Life magazine article on homeless youth by Cheryl McCall and photographed by Mary Ellen Marc, Bell's wife, it follows the heartbreaking stories of runaways on the streets of Seattle and humanises their struggle. In an age of fast-paced films full of attention-grabbing language, this slow-paced character study is an exquisite example of the quiet humanity the medium can achieve while being a powerful tool for advocacy.

Hearts of Darkness - Eleanor Coppola

Making films is hard; watching this essential part of film history reminds you it's hard for everyone. This intimate portrait of Francis Ford Coppola, shot by his wife Eleanor, chronicles the hellish, catastrophe-plagued production of Apocalypse Now. We witness Coppola subjected to the wrath of the filmmaking gods: typhoons destroy sets, his actors have mental breakdowns and he can't write the story's ending. An estimated six-week schedule ends up taking 68 weeks to film. The documentary, which takes its title from the Joseph Conrad novel that inspired Apocalypse Now, reveals how the director struggled with physical and mental exhaustion, near-financial ruin and his own insecurities. Something we can all relate to...

All films by Jonas Mekas

In Walden, Lithuanian-accented Jonas Mekas – one of the prime shakers of left-field American cinema in the second half of the 20th Century and one of my biggest inspirations – says: "I live, therefore I make films. I make films, therefore I live." Merging documentary and avant-garde filmmaking, his deeply personal, diaristic films are made up of scenes of the mundane and the extraordinary, vulnerable 16mm poems that experienced together present the best meditation I've seen of what it means to be human, what it means to love, what it means to be lost, what it means to be a filmmaker and what it means to be alive.



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