I'll post some notes here about this year's DocumentaMadrid (the biggest documentary film festival in Europe) because it relates to both Berlin and my wrap-up post on this year's Berlinale (here). First, the cutest and cleverest film at DocumentaMadrid was without a doubt Mauerhase, a history of cold-war Berlin from the perspective of the bunnies that inhabited the Mauer no-man's-land. You see a lot of bunnies in this film, doing lots of bunny- type things while thinking all sorts of not-at-all bunny-like thoughts -- man, those Berlin bunnies are really DEEP. Here's a clip of Manfred Butzmann's original Mauer art which appears in the film. Ganz toll!
Then there was Budrus, the film that Rosa saw at the Berlinale and I missed, although I tried several times to get a ticket. The word was out from the first screening; then it won the Panorama Silver Audience Award. I was so pleased to get a second chance in Madrid and I liked the film very much. Its coherent and personalized portrayal of the first case of Palestinians using strategic non-violence to protest the separation wall was a wonderful counterpoint to what has seemed like so much video masturbation on the documentary scene this year. El Gaucho from Argentina was the only other Documenta offering that I saw that merits mention -- a quiet film that gradually but very effectively opened up the solitary life of a top rodeo performer in Patagonia.
Other than that I saw quite a lot of aimless documentaries, even more than in the Berlinale, and my conclusion from the far side of Europe is even stronger that 2010 is a bad year for film. I will say this: hey documentary filmmakers, please try to structure your work around some sort of narrative, a fable, a tale, something that will teach us something, at the minimum. The goal here is to open up new worlds to viewers. There's more than enough intellectual masturbation out there -- just look at blogs (ahem). And making a film is a HELL of a lot more work than the 15 minutes it takes to throw something up on a blog.
At any rate, check out Mauerhase; the Pirate says, for those who understand German, no need to pirate: it's on YouTube.