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Doc Edge 2011 out of the blocks

Doc Edge 2011 gets a head start, announcing its first ten titles for its 2011 edition. Looking to build further on last year’s audience increase, the festival also has a small date change, kicking off a little earlier.

The major international title announced is Spike Lee’s If God is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise, a return to New Orleans five years on from Hurricane Katrina and Lee’s epic documenting of the aftermath of that event in When the Levees Broke.

Six other international titles are announced: Robin Hessman’s My Perestroika (USA); John Zaritsky’s Leave Them Laughing (Canada/USA); Most Valuable Players (USA); Julia Bacha’s Budrus (Israel/USA); Lorenz Knauer’s Jane’s Journey (Germany); and Nick Brandestini’s Darwin (Switzerland).

Picking up prizes around the world on the festival circuit My Perestroika follows five ordinary Russians living in extraordinary times – from their sheltered Soviet childhood, to the collapse of the Soviet Union during their teenage years, to the constantly shifting political landscape of post-Soviet Russia.

Leave Them Laughing is Oscar winner John Zaritsky’s tale of a California-based Canadian comic facing her death as she lived her life, “killing” audiences across the planet.

Budrus follows a Palestinian leader who unites Fatah, Hamas and Israelis in an unarmed movement to save his village from destruction.

Jane’s Journey, released this month in its native Germany, brings some considerable star power, with Angelina Joile, Brad Pitt, and even a bit of Kofi Annan to a biography of Jane Goodall, who studied chimpanzees for most of her life.

Darwin is not the man, but a town – if a place with a population of 35 can be called such. Stuck at the hot end of Death Valley, the near-ghost town’s survival depends on a fragile, gravity-fed waterline that descends from the mountains where top secret weapons are being tested.

The NZ films announced are Paul Trotman’s Donated to Science; Justin Pemberton’s Is She Or Isn’t He?; and Luke Wheeler’s Stand Up.

Trotman and Pemberton’s films screen as ‘another chance to see’, both having had their NZ premieres on TV, although both will screen as theatrical cuts rather than as the versions seen on TV. As a object lesson in respecting people’s dignity, Donated to Science is a beautifully told and crafted story. A trailer is available here. Is She Or Isn’t He? tells the story of a self-proclaimed ‘fat hairy woman with a penis’ and her 5-year search to find love and acceptance.

Wheeler was the winner Best Documentary (medium length) at DOCNZ 2006 for his film 4 Gees in a Flock, a 2007 finalist for Emerging Filmmaker of the Year at the SPADA Conference and 2009 finalist for DOC NZ’s Short Documentary Award for Rev Therapy.

Stand Up (which had the working title Funny Bones) deals with comedians and what makes them immune to the fear of getting up in front of a crowd in the hope of making them laugh.

2011’s Doc Edge will also feature the Doc Edge Forum and Doc Lab’s sophomore year. The industry events will run in February at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

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