Usually seeing a film at the film festival means seeing it in the most favorable circumstances – all the technical stuff will usually be done well, sometimes the filmmakers will often be there to talk about the film and there is usually a large, appreciative audience which helps the atmosphere no end. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work out, sometimes really unfairly. I had a really bad example of that this year, seeing two far too similar films, Planet B-Boy and Doubletime, back to back (fifteen minutes between the two of them).
Planet B-Boy is a commercial but very impressive documentary about the break dancing world championships. As well as doing a great job of showing the dancing it also manages to do a very good job of showing the people involved – what sort of people they are, where they’re from and so on – with a great deal of economy. There’s a strong preference for showing things with little narration and relying on images and body language to convey what’s needed. It’s all very slickly done.
Doubletime is a much smaller scale film about jump rope and double dutch teams trying their hands at a version incorporating much more dance than they are used to. There’s less emphasis on the performances, in part because the teams are just learning, but otherwise the objectives seem broadly similar. Thing is, it’s all very much bare talking heads and dry observation with nothing to break it up. There’s nothing wrong with doing things this way, it’s a perfectly standard way to make a documentary. Normally it works pretty well, quietly and non-intrusively showing the characters of the people involved.
I normally don’t find any problem with clashing styles either – usually the differences in the worlds portrayed make it easy to snap out of one film and into the next. It’s just that being so close together in both time and content made Doubletime really suffer. The fact that it wasn’t really trying to do the same thing and wasn’t primarily aimed at showcasing entertainment was neither here nor there, I ended up just not enjoying it so much purely because of scheduling.