, Salem, MA


March 7, 2013

Reel stories

Celebrating the truth and beauty of today's documentary


Tomorrow’s screening of the film, which Echols made along with Academy Award-winning directors Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, quickly sold out.

The festival has therefore added a second screening, Tuesday, March 12, at 8:30 p.m.

“But you also have ‘In No Great Hurry,’ a wonderful, small film, a real discovery,” Cultrera said.

The documentary profiles a photographer who always took his time taking pictures and didn’t stumble into success until he reached his 80s.

There is also a film about a fashion show in a Philippine prison, about a Finnish punk band whose members are mentally disabled, and one presenting two elderly women taking care of a small herd of cows.

“It’s an absolutely stunning film,” Cultrera said of “Women With Cows.” “It’s strange and wonderful at the same time.”

While a number of the films share complementary themes, each was chosen for its individual merits, Cultrera said, and the qualities that make a documentary successful will be the topic of one of the festival’s three forums.

Paul Van Ness, owner of CinemaSalem, where most of the films will be screened, has thought a lot about what works well in a documentary.

“The idea of effectiveness for me has to do with beautiful production values,” he said. “Because you can tell a great story and be creative in doing it, but if it isn’t gorgeous, people aren’t going to watch it.”

The kinds of documentaries Van Ness grew up watching in school have a bad reputation, which he feels they deserve.

“They were very didactic and paternalistic,” he said. “And their definition of truth was objective. They were boring.”

But in the last 10 years, as documentaries have developed new standards for truth — and truth will be the topic of another forum at the festival — they have also incorporated a wider variety of techniques to tell their stories.

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