“Documentaries don’t just inform us about the world. They inspire, delight, and immerse us in the world.” This is how we are introduced to Docs @ The Byre, a diverse programme of cinema documentaries being showcased over the coming months. It is a common misconception that documentaries focus solely on educating their audiences; in other words, that they are a little bit boring. The Byre would like to “set the record straight” through this season of breath-taking and, in some cases, award-winning documentary films.
Leshu Torchin, the programme co-ordinator for Docs @ The Byre, tells The Saint, “Documentaries grant us looks into worlds we may not have visited and into lives of people we do not yet know; and in doing so, we can all come to be more connected and develop more understanding about the world.” So, for Ms Torchin, cinema documentaries are fundamentally important because of the connection they encourage between their audience members, filmmakers and subjects. It is no surprise, therefore, that the documentaries selected for screening over the next few months each explore themes surrounding human endeavours and the capacity of human strength, as well as isolation, community, and how one can lead to the other.
The first in this series was screened last night: Donkeyote by Spanish director, Chico Pereira. It was produced through the Scottish Documentary Institute – in fact, after the screening a Q&A was held with one of their producers, Flore Cosquer. These Q&A sessions are a trend in the Byre’s documentary season – after each of these screenings, audience members have the opportunity to talk to one or two of the people most involved in making the films. These are unmissable opportunities to speak directly to critically acclaimed directors and producers, and to listen to them talk about this fascinating and underrated film genre.
The second screening, Finlay Pretsell’s Time Trial, will take place on 27 March at 5pm (rated 18). Winning the award for best editing at the RiverRun International Film Festival, and gaining a nomination for best documentary at Edinburgh International Film Festival, Pretsell’s exploration of the highs and lows of professional cycling promises to be a wild ride. Additionally, Pretsell will be present at the Q&A session afterwards – this will be a fantastic opportunity to talk to the BAFTA award-winning director about his experience creating the film.
Third on the agenda is Piano to Zanskar, which will be playing on 24 April at 5 pm. Directed by Michal Sulima, it follows the journey of Desmond O’Keeffe, a retired piano tuner, as he endeavours to transport a hundred year old piano to an isolated primary school in the Himalayas, 14,000 metres above sea level. Sulima and his producer, Jerk Kotomski, will be available to talk during this screening’s Q&A session.
Finally, the stunning documentary Syrian Stories: Female Voice will round off this season of cinema docs at the Byre, showing on 22 May at 5 pm. It is a compilation of short films made by female Syrian directors as they share their experiences of being refugees. The film is poignantly topical, not to be missed by anyone interested in deepening their understanding of the Syrian refugee crisis. This is a rare opportunity to hear about the crisis from the narrative perspective of those personally affected. It is also a perfect way to support female filmmakers in an age of film where women struggle to get their voices heard and their work celebrated.
“I want to remind people of the cinematic potential of documentary,” Ms Torchin goes on to tell us. “These are not merely transparent data delivery systems for information; they can show us the world with all the tools available to film and media makers. They are films and as such they can be dazzling, moving and immersive.” This programme is seeking to establish documentary as a worthwhile film genre, filled with the magic of cinema but with a slightly more prominent focus on truth and reality.
Whilst these informative, important and often harrowing documentaries would sell themselves, the Byre has ensured they don’t even need to do that: every screening is totally free. We all know how notoriously expensive a cinema trip is, so take advantage of this special Byre film season with an educational outing to the movies that won’t cost you a penny. The events are ticketed so make sure you reserve your place either through the Byre website, www.byretheatre.com, or by calling the Box Office on 01334 475000.