Founded in 2013 by documentary filmmaker Tess Motherway, the Dublin Doc Fest has become a staple in innovative and independent documentary filmmaking. The latest screening, hosted by the Irish Georgian Society, includes everything from silent artistic productions, to biting journalistic investigations, to sombre humanity profiles. Whilst every film showcased could merit its own article, I will focus on my personal picks from the festival.
Ryan Ralph’s Love and Other Drags exemplifies the currency and innovation this festival prides itself in. The film documents the life Stephen, a 24 year old drag queen from Belfast, and his dreams of stardom and performing in his persona, the Lady Portia Di’ Monte. Dismantling gender roles and societal stereotypes, the film focuses on the duality of Stephen’s life; the mundane and the extraordinary. It challenges the perspective of the viewer, especially those who would dismiss people like Stephen as outcasts or societal exceptions, and does so with unique humor and intellect.
Another standout production is Ciaran Cassidy’s The Last Days of Peter Bergmann, a sombre look into the suicide of a mystery man at Rosses Point in Sligo, and his efforts to ensure he would never be identified. Created primarily through CCTV footage and witness testimony, the viewer is brought into the world of ‘Bergmann’ as he meticulously dismantles all clues of his past life and identity, before ending his life. Indeed, by the conclusion it dawns on the viewer that the image of Bergmann on the CCTV is the only evidence he existed at all, depriving us of closure, and underscoring that there are no happy endings.
The final film is Gordie, created almost exclusively by Traolach Ó Murchú. This piece documents the reflections of a man and his traumatic childhood, as he recalls the sexual terror committed upon him by his now deceased brother. The unflinching subject matter is complimented by its fantastic camera work, with shots of snowy landscapes and childlike perspective low-shot angles bringing us uncomfortably close to the horrific realism of the event. The piece ends with the man’s sombre forgiveness of his brother, with a lingering shot of the gravestone, and the ambient stunned silence of the audience.
The Dublin Doc Fest was hosted by the Irish Georgian Society at the City Assembly House on Saturday the 28th February.