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Different Ways of Telling Stories

In this, the latest of an occasional series I look back at some of the films I saw in 2014 at a variety of festivals including IDFA  and  Sheffield Doc/Fest. As usual I’ve roughly divided them into groups according to narrative approach; within each group of similar films I’ve listed in order of preference from best to worst (my favourites are in bold). Of course this is highly subjective and some of the films I disliked intensely have won awards, so you’ll have to make up your own mind. Some films could easily be placed in a different category but I’ve put them in what seemed to be the most prominent storytelling style for that film.

However, whether you agree with my selection or not, you may find inspiration to help you decide what techniques will be most useful in developing and shaping the narrative of your own films. Having a clear idea of how you are going to tell the story will help you pitch your idea more effectively to potential funders.

Use of Statistics

The Forecaster (courtesy of IDFA)

The Forecaster (photo courtesy of IDFA)

  1. The Forecaster – The story of economist Martin Armstrong who invented a model that can predict the highs and lows of the world economy
  2. Misconception – A look at population forecasts for China, Uganda and North America
  3. That Sugar Film – Damon Gameau conducts a 60-day Supersize Me-style experiment by eating 40 teaspoons of sugar a day – the average amount of sugar consumed by teenagers

Family Dynamics

No Lullaby (photo courtesy of IDFA)

No Lullaby (photo courtesy of IDFA)

  1. The Circus Dynasty – A tale of love and sawdust between two circus families 
  2. No Lullaby – A family-based psychological thriller that unpicks the history of three generations
  3. Always Together – Observing the claustrophobic life of a self-sufficient Czech family


Queen of Silence (photo courtesy of IDFA)

  1. My Beautiful Broken Brain – A young woman attempts to come to terms with her new life after suffering a life-changing brain haemorrhage
  2. The Queen of Silence – 10-year-old deaf-mute Roma girl Denisa struggles for acceptance and finds solace in Bollywood dancing
  3. CAPTIVATED: The Trials of Pamela Smart – Explores the effect of the media on the defendant in the first ever full trial to be shown on TV
  4. Chameleon – Enters the weird world of charismatic Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a controversial African undercover journalist


How to Pick Berries (photo courtesy of IDFA)

How to Pick Berries (photo courtesy of IDFA)

  1. Under the Electric Sky – Follows DJs and festival goers at America’s largest dance festival in Las Vegas, the Electric Daisy Carnival
  2. Paris is Burning (1990) – An observational documentary set in the drag queen dance halls of 1980s New York City
  3. Placebo – Explores the strained relationships of medical students at India’s most prestigious medical school
  4. Rich Hill – Portrait of three boys growing up in a poor US mining town
  5. How to Pick Berries – Follows migrant berry harvesters in Finnish Lapland and explores the tensions created with the local berry pickers
  6. Tanjuska and the 7 Devils – Witnesses the tough love meted out to a 10-year-old Estonian girl when she stops speaking

Stranger than Fiction – Using Reconstruction to Tell a Story about Real Life

antoine in car film still

Ming of Harlem (photo courtesy of IDFA)

  1. Ming of Harlem – Twenty One Storeys in the Air – The bizarre true story of a man who kept a tiger and an alligator in his NYC apartment
  2. Those Who Feel the Fire Burning – A poetic approach to exploring the issues surrounding the migration of refugees to Europe’s shores

Recording History

The Great Museum (photo courtesy of IDFA)

The Great Museum (photo courtesy of IDFA)

  1. Print the Legend – A tale of two tech start-ups as they go head to head in the race to develop the biggest and the best 3D printing company
  2. Night Will Fall – A harrowing recreation of a film about German concentration camps originally edited by Alfred Hitchcock, but never shown  -until now
  3. The Great Museum – Goes behind the scenes of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna as the staff attempt to bring the museum up to date


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