The LIDF is the UK’s largest documentary festival and offers an unprecedented snapshot of the contemporary world. The festival adopts a questioning, critical attitude to the cultural, social and political issues of the day, engaging with filmmakers, their subjects, and our audience to create a highly distinct environment for cultural interaction.
As of 2013 the LIDF has been named as a qualifying film festival by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We are very proud of this accolade that recognises the work of the Festival’s founders and the teams that have run the LIDF over the last 5 years.
Recipients of the festival’s prize in the Documentary Short Subject category will now qualify for consideration at the Annual Academy Awards® (OSCAR®) without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.
Due to the this new status the Festival will now take place in November of each year.
The LIDF believes that film is a powerful tool for connecting people, for creating debate, for stirring empathy, compassion and ultimately action. As such the festival exists as a part of the public sphere of dialogue and interaction, not just a film festival, but a festival of ideas.
The responsibility of filmmakers towards their subject is often talked about – quite rightly, there are ethical and moral dimensions in claiming and representing slices of reality, intimate lives and moments, or broad historical subjects. But, there is also a responsibility on us as an audience. We cannot be passive, or uncritical in the reading of a film. And this responsibility to be active in our appreciation of the films is even more important today when documentary films are powerful providers of knowledge and opinion, with the potential to inspire direct action.
This is why the ‘conversations’ we host, the panel discussions, are so integral to the festival. We hope that these conversations extend long before lights up and provide even greater depth and appreciation of both the works themselves and their subject matter. The films are always both pretext and context for discussion. Always entertaining, moving, and provocative. Our encounter with the images is an opportunity to go beyond the films themselves and escape the, all too common, sense that there is nothing anyone can do about anything.
If documentary films are so welcome today it is because they prepare a route that leads from empathy, to insight, to action. Empathy and compassion are everything, and at the same time nothing if they remain merely an emotional state, however powerful. Documentary films are also an antidote to the trivialising and closed public discourse we are too often surrounded by. In these films complex realities are allowed to remain complex, rhetoric and slogans are avoided and conclusions open ended. It is for us to work out our own conclusions, to revel in this complexity rather than be oppressed by it. The stories we tell and the stories we choose not to tell say a great deal about our assumptions, often naive, about ourselves and the world we live in.
We cannot suggest that any film, or any cultural output, is a panacea, yet it can be part of a process in which the key protagonist is the viewer, the reader, the interpreter. The film/audience relationship is at the heart of the festival. The films we show can take us by the hand and provide that rare thing: that collective moment when, with the help of others, we can see ourselves, and our relations with others, just that little bit clearer.