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Manchester Met hosts 2017 Telling Tales Festival

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By Bridget Taylor

Last week, Manchester Met launched the 2017 Telling Tales festival, an international film and audio documentary festival organised by the university and sponsored by Torrside Brewery and Hindenburg software. The three day long festival featured an eclectic mix of films on show, ranging from a ten minute ode to the city of Manchester to an exploration of a team of international scientists working to protect Siberian salmon in Mongolia. External Partnerships Manager for Arts & Humanities at Manchester Met Lisa Vincent described documentary-making as “a practice that is growing globally”, and said how proud the team were to be showcasing documentaries from around the world, including Ecuador, Peru and Australia.

The evening began with the pilot episode of Sporting Bloodlines, the brainchild of genealogist Michaela Hulme, which takes an in depth look at the backgrounds of famous sports people to attempt to discover where they get their drive and determination to succeed. This episode focused on Anthony Crolla, boxer and world lightweight champion. Michaela traced Anthony’s family tree back to the late 19th century, when his Italian ancestors first settled in Manchester. The documentary painted a vivid portrait of the difficulties of surviving in the Ancoats slums of the time, when rival Italian ice-cream sellers would fight each other over pitches.

Urbis, by Nathan Starr, was a beautiful and fascinating look at the city itself, and how it transforms across the course of a day. The footage was a mix of 16mm and digital film, and the result was a dream-like portrait that, at one point, captured only light, reminiscent of a Turner painting. It portrayed the faceless bustle of the city, but also focussed on certain individuals – a policeman, a homeless man, and a group of teenagers – forcing us to notice them. It also drew out small details – the shadow of railings for example – again giving these everyday observations a significance. The music also blended well with the imagery, moving from a more chaotic, dreamy melody in the day, to a fast-paced regular beat in the night.

Protesting Trump was a very different look at the politics and dynamics of Manchester. An audio documentary, it combined speeches from the anti-Trump demos, which took place earlier this year, with interviews: one from a participant, and one from an American living here. The film-maker, James Skipper, was interested in the fact that there were protests here – 4,500 miles from America – and presented arguments both for the protests trying to ban his state visit, and against.

Dogs of Democracy by Mary Zounzari, was another political documentary that took a different perspective. It was an hour-long look at the dire economic situation in Greece, but with a focus on the stray dogs that roam around Athens, and the way the inhabitants of the city relate to them. The fate of the dogs is intimately tied to the fate of the people, as homelessness has grown, so has the number of stray dogs. One dog in particular stood out for accompanying the protests that took place in Syntagma square, becoming a ‘symbol of revolt and purity’, especially because as one protestor commented, “in Greece, we feel like the stray dogs of Europe.” The dogs also rely on the kindness of strangers – like the refugees who are currently migrating to Greece in large numbers – but they also are a kindness to strangers – recognising their humanity, when other people at times do not.

Ganzorig & the River Wolf by Rob Taylor, explored the fate of taimen, huge carnivorous salmon, locally known as river wolves, in the river Eg in Mongolia. Ganzorig is a local fisherman working with a team of international scientists to track and learn about the taimen, in order to protect them for future generations. It was a beautiful documentary – giving us an intimate portrait of the fish and their surroundings – and also a protest, as there are plans to build a hydro-electric dam which would destroy the fishes’ habitat, and the local community that depends on them.

Overall, this was a fascinating group of films, giving an insight into a wide array of different subject matters. Festival director and Manchester Met Lecturer in Documentary-Making Lisa Gold said, “What was important when choosing the films was that they were good quality documentaries, rather than basing them around any particular theme or genre.”

She added, “Documentaries are the fastest growing genre in film, which is happening because people’s stories need to be told, it can make a real difference to them, and we are all story-tellers – people are awakening to that fact.”

For more information about Telling Tales, visit the festival Facebook page.




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