Masters of Dox: Gibney, Herzog, Leth and Appel


The Masters of Dox section this year brings the latest titles by documentary veterans: the American Oscar winner Alex Gibney, the Danish experimental documentary master Jørgen Leth, the German film veteran Werner Herzog and the Dutch Jon Appel, known for his penchant for emotionally charged stories about ‘ordinary heroes’.

Alex Gibney’s latest film Citizen K focuses on the unusual case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch and now a dissident and human rights fighter. His wealth in the nineties was accompanied by a powerful political influence, but Khodorkovsky spent the 2000s in prison. The anti-Putin movement transformed him into an emblematic victim of the corrupt political regime. His story is the starting point for a film research of post-Soviet Russia which under Gibney’s baton becomes an acute and shrewd analysis in the manner of a political thriller.

Jørgen Leth in a poetic and very personal film diary I Walk registers his concrete and symbolical attempts to put his life back together after a disastrous earthquake in Haiti in 2010, where this iconic director has been living since 1991. In order to process his own and the broader national trauma, Leth starts to film his daily life with his cell phone the following year, turning his constant need for film language experimentation into an emotional note about facing trauma, as well as the anxieties of aging.

The film camera has taken Werner Herzog many times to many locations around the world, and this was his first film made in Tokyo. In a meta-narrative film Family Romance LLC, constantly combining documentary and fiction, Herzog paints a stunning portrait of the Japanese company specialising in renting out surrogate family members and its founder Yuichi Ishii. The commodification of relationships and the (im)possibility of emotional attachment in the age when literally anything can become merchandise and have a place on the market is the central issue of this fascinating work.

Once the Dust Settlesby Jon Appel also took us to several locations: Italy, Ukraine and Syria. Focusing on the fate of cities destroyed by large natural and ecological disasters or war atrocities – Amatrice, Chernobyl and Aleppo, this cinematic triptych is based on evocative stories of survivors who, in an attempt to rebuild their lives in a devastated environment, testify of the strength of human spirit.