Documentary Edge: 12 films to see at this year's festival

Bright Lights looks at the relationship and respective careers of mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.
Doc Edge

Bright Lights looks at the relationship and respective careers of mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.

Opening in Wellington on Wednesday night, the 12th Documentary Edge Film Festival brings together the finest examples of factual movie-making from around the globe. 

The diverse subjects this year include a code-breaking genius, a one-of-a-kind-billionaire and a tragic popstar.

Stuff had the opportunity to preview a dozen of the near 70 short and feature-length docos.

Everybody's Theatre is one of the Kiwi cinemas featured in The Reel People of New Zealand.
Petra Finer

Everybody's Theatre is one of the Kiwi cinemas featured in The Reel People of New Zealand.

10 films to see at this year's Documentary Edge Film Festival
The Common Touch scheduled for Documentary Edge Festival

Bright Lights

Shot in 2014 and 2015, Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens' tale offers an intimate portrait of Hollywood mother-and-daughter team Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, who both passed away within a day of each other late last year. Filled with memorable archival footage, surprisingly candid interviews and copious amounts of Coca-Cola.

Starring Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, Bright Lights is a documentary about their warm-hearted relationship.

California Typewriter

Focusing on one of America's last remaining typewriter repair shops, Doug Nichol's story offers a paean to the once ubiquitous writing tool. Amongst the most fervent advocates of its continued use is actor Tom Hanks, who admits to owning 250 of them, hates emailed thank you notes and refuses to use correction fluid.


The Cinema Travellers offers an inside look at the dying art of traditional cinema projection.
Doc Edge

The Cinema Travellers offers an inside look at the dying art of traditional cinema projection.

The Cinema Travellers

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Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya present an elegiac and emotional look at the dying art of traditional cinematic projection. They follow a showman as he takes his film-laded lorry around rural India and faces up to villagers' raised expectations and the lack of new product available on 35mm reels. Naturally the road to new technology does not go smoothly.

The Common Touch

The Common Touch is scheduled to screen at this year's Documentary Edge Film Festival.

Takes the Chasing Great template a step further by bolting it to a compelling story of one courageous Kiwi teen's message of inspiration. Made with a surprising degree of professionalism and flair for filmmakers so young, The Common Touch will deepen your understanding and admiration for internet sensation Jake Bailey and his memorable speech.


The Last Laugh

While its focus is mainly on the Holocaust, Ferne Pearlstein's documentary also looks at other "taboo" comedy subjects and whether they should ever be made light of. The impressive line-up of talking heads includes Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Sarah Silverman and Larry Charles, as well as a Seinfeld exec who says her only regret of working with the long-running show was to allow the "Soup Nazi" episode to go through uncut.

Mattress Men

Pitched somewhere between Sing Street and a Ken Loach drama, Colm Quinn offers a hilarious and at times heartbreaking look at two men's attempts to boost a struggling Irish bedding business. Owner Michael Flynn's relationship with "ideas man" Paul Kelly is somewhat strained though, particularly when the latter comes up with a lavish music video idea of questionable taste.

The Reel People of New Zealand

While many will lament their favourite local cinema not featuring, young American filmmaker Nick Homler has managed to unearth a fascinating cross-section of the quality and the quirky movie houses that grace our shores. Highlights include a memorable viewing experience on Stewart Island and some of the unique synergies between cinemas and other businesses.


Inspired by her own family wrestling with the topic, Delaney Ruston seeks out the latest research and top thinkers on the effect of screen time and social media use by impressionable minds.  Notable for revealing that the human brain isn't really capable of multi-tasking and that parents need to look at their own use before imposing effective restrictions on their charges.


Fans of Hitchcock and his seminal 1960 horror Psycho will be enthralled by Alexandre Philippe's dissection of the creation and legacy of its famous shower scene. Every one of the 78 setups and 52 cuts that composed Janet Leigh's character's demise is discussed in detail by an eclectic and engaging line-up that includes the likes of Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Bogdanovich and Bret Easton Ellis.


Jessie Auritt's tale of young powerlifter Naomi Kutin is likely to polarise audiences. While there's no doubting the super strength of the Jewish pre-teen, some will raise questions as to her parent's influence on her career, especially when it begins to take a toll on her health.

This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous

Arguably Canada's second-biggest You Tube star (behind Justin Bieber), Gregory Lazzarato first attracted fame with his bedroom-based beauty and fashion videos. Barbara Kopple's You Tube-backed film follows Lazzarato's journey to becoming Gigi and attempt to monetise her growing fame.

The Workers Cup

Part inspirational football story, part working conditions expose, Adam Sobel's film takes an intimate look at the Qatari authorities' attempts to put a positive spin on life in the labour camps building the 2022 Football World Cup infrastructure. Their solution was to hold a football tournament of their own but, despite providing a welcome distraction for those who have relocated from places like Nepal, Ghana and India, it isn't long before some begin manipulating it for their own ends.

The 12th Documentary Edge Film Festival will screen at Wellington's Roxy Cinema from May 10 to 21, before shifting to Auckland's Q Theatre (May 24 to June 5). For more information, see


 - Stuff


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