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NZ Film Festival Special: More Documentary Highlights

Jul 22, 2014 Film & TV

War and pieces of matter.

In 2006, Matthew VanDyke decided to leave his comfortable life in Baltimore and confront his fears and his Obsessive Compulsion Disorder with a “crash course in manhood”. So he set off for Morocco with a motorbike and a video camera, rode across North Africa and up to Afghanistan, before working as an embedded journalist in Iraq. Then he snuck into Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya illegally, before returning home three years later, to the relief of his long-suffering girlfriend and family. An excellent OE, you might think, but it didn’t stop there… in February 2011, when the Libyan Revolution began, VanDyke set off for Benghazi as a freedom fighter and was imprisoned for six months.

Point and Shoot, his video record, directed by Marshall Curry, is a gripping account of history in the making — and the making of a man — in the tradition of Hemingway’s dispatches from the Spanish Civil War.

If sunlight is the best disinfectant, the E-Team squad certainly know how to let it shine. Directors Katy Chevigny and Ross Kauffman followed four members of Human Rights Watch’s Emergency Team, who risk their lives to investigate atrocities in flash points such as Syria and Libya and bring them to the world’s attention. One day, Anna Neistat and Ole Solvang are in a well-appointed Paris apartment trying to get Neistat’s 12-year-old son to bed; the next, they’re listening to the gruelling testimonies of Syrian villagers huddled in a cramped apartment as bombs go off.

The highlight of the film is the boyish Fred Abrahams smacking down a smirking Slobodan Milosevic at the Yugoslav Tribunal — as if it’s perfectly normal to “fuck with bad people” for a day job, as weapons expert Peter Bouckaert puts it.

Mark Levinson’s Particle Fever follows six gifted scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider project at the CERN lab in Switzerland in 2012, who are trying to demonstrate the existence of the Higgs particle by recreating the aftermath of the Big Bang.

It is the most expensive experiment in history, involving 10,000 scientists from more than 100 countries, all focused on corroborating British physicist Peter Higgs’ 1964 theory about the missing piece of the atomic jigsaw that might explain the origin of all matter. Regardless of whether the film manages to explain “super­symmetry” to your satisfaction, or how high-speed atomic collisions reveal the beginning of everything, the scale of the project is impressive and so are the dedication and brilliance of the participants.


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