Crossing borders: Doc’s Kingdom @Play-Doc 2016

Doc’s Kingdom seminar keeps the same core features since its first edition in 2000: during five days, the same group of up to 100 people gathers each morning to watch films together; by the end of each day, we all assemble in a different room for a collective discussion in the presence of the filmmakers; mingled around in a circle, all participants – artists, students, teachers, critics, professionals from different areas of work, programmers and organizers – are then welcome to share ideas and experiences in relation to the films screened; as we go along the week and through the intensive series of screenings and discussions, the participants’ immersive experience is also amplified by the encounter with local culture and the social meeting in itself, taking advantage of living together in an inspiring place away from daily personal routines, even if only for a fleeting week (that might yet produce life long effects).

The shape of Doc’s Kingdom International Seminar on Documentary Film has nevertheless evolved along its 15-year-old existence. Since 2007, each seminar proposes a general subject as a starting point for the film programme, a theme or a question that can be tangibly discussed and be particularly inspired by the work of featured artists: for instance, Landscape – The Work of Time in 2008, with James Benning, Jean-Claude Rousseau and Miguel Gomes, among other guests; The archive-image in 2010, with Susana de Sousa Dias, Edgardo Cozarinsky and Hartmut Bitomsky; Idea of an island in 2013, with Cynthia Beatt and Rudolf Thome, Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, Rebecca Baron, Nicolas Rey and Eloy Enciso Cachafeiro, among others.

In addition, since 2013, Doc’s Kingdom does not publish a detailed screening schedule: the seminar’s catalogue handed out to participants upon arrival reveals all guest filmmakers and films screened, but not the order in which they will be shown during the week. In such a way, loaded with the map’s knowledge but without exact coordinates, participants commit to a collective journey figured out along the way. Last September 2015 in Arcos de Valdevez, it was on the way out of the last screening that the detailed programme was handed out to participants in the form of a poster, as a token of and a report on the travels made together.

Just across the border, the new cycle of Doc’s Kingdom in Arcos de Valdevez – where the seminar will again take place in September 2016 – was rightly inaugurated with the topic of borders and frontiers, with Galician filmmakers Eloy Domínguez Serén and Iván Castiñeiras Gallego among the group of guest artists. So, that Doc’s Kingdom and Arcos are visiting Tui and Play-Doc – after previously crossing the border with films like Jet Lag (2014) by Domínguez, A Raia (2012) by Castiñeiras and Arraianos (2012) by Enciso – is only the most natural step in a growing relationship of mutual attention.

During Play-Doc 2016, Doc’s Kingdom invites a dozen participants to watch and debate films together, during an all-day reunion with screenings followed by informal discussions in the presence of the filmmakers and other guests. The gathering takes off with a blind screening of a short work by Robert Kramer, after whose film Doc’s Kingdom (1987) the seminar is named.

by Nuno Lisboa Afonso