True/False 2014: Demonstration

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Is it weird to call a documentary about protests delightful? Probably. But that’s what I thought of Demonstration, even though people got injured and things got set on fire and the police rolled in. There were plenty of serious moments, but I watched most of the film with a smile.

My three favorite things about the film:

  1. Student moments Demonstration was created by a team of 32 Spanish film students, led by Victor Kossakovsky, a past True/False honoree. There are a few points in the film when you can tell that it was made by people who were not professionals. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying this as an insult (no “Boo rookies!” here), and I’m not saying that Demonstration is anything less than an amazing film. But there were small moments when you could see behind the curtain a little bit, like a scene in a sunny square where you can clearly see the camera’s shadow. I loved those moments, because they made the film seem so real to me. Sometimes I watch documentaries and find myself wondering how they could possibly be real — this must have been scripted, this must have been reenacted, etc. Demonstration felt real and true and honest, and I loved it.
  2. Crazy journalists The creators of Demonstration captured the action of the demonstration. And then they captured the people who captured the action: the journalists. There are several scenes in which the cameras focus on the people with the cameras, poking a little bit of fun at how they all flock to the same moments. As a journalism student, I couldn’t help but laugh and make a mental note to myself to remember my professors’ lessons about finding unique stories.
  3. Amazing music I don’t know whose idea it was to set the protest footage to the music from the ballet Don Quijote, but it was an amazing idea. Part of me is a little concerned that it removed the reality of the protest-driven destruction a little too much — remember, I watched people get shot at and set things on fire and still called this film delightful — but in general I really appreciated the pairing. There were times when the images and music matched — light, cheery lines for the flocks of journalists, big dramatic swells for protest clashes — and other times when they were juxtaposed for an even more interesting effect. I want to see the real ballet, too!

I’m usually wary of “artsy” documentaries like Demonstration, ones that use music and montages instead of the traditional narratives I tend to cling to. But I’m glad I gave it a chance, because I really enjoyed it. I hope that some of the students who were involved in its creation keep working with documentaries — it would be great to see them come back to True/False in a few years with films of their own.

Note: This review is part of a series of reviews of movies I saw during the 2014 True/False Film Fest, an annual four-day film festival in Columbia, Mo. More reviews coming soon!

Jodorowsky’s Dune — Happy Valley — Private ViolenceDemonstration — Stop-Over (L’Escale) — Miraculous Tales — Rich Hill

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