The Docs That Made Me… with Ali Sargent

From form, pace and style, to sound and framing, as a new doc filmmaker you can learn a lot by watching a wide range of documentaries. We asked our Fellows to share the films that most influenced them.


Throughout the call for applications to the One World Media Fellowship, we will be learning about the films that most influenced some of our past Fellows. For the first blog of this series, we asked filmmaker and OWM Fellow, Ali Sargent to share the films that shaped her filmmaking style and the lessons she learned from them.


1. Balancing multiple styles

Raoul Peck  •  2013  •  100 mins  •  Haiti
Haitian born filmmaker Raoul Peck takes us on a 2-year journey inside the challenging, contradictory and colossal rebuilding efforts in post-earthquake Haiti.

I’m a fan of everything Raoul Peck does, and to me this film strikes a perfect balance between the poetic, the political and the personal. The film is precise but also lyrical. Not only does Peck describe “disaster capitalism” before it was such a widely-used term in Europe and the US, but he examines the process in post-earthquake Haiti from several angles, including within the very human, very problematic subjectivity of an aid worker through a series of personal letters woven throughout the film.


2. How to show two perspectives

Gabriel Mascaro  •  2015  •  75 mins  •  Brazil
Seven adolescents film their family’s housemaids for a week.

This film taught me more about how to show, using the camera, two intertwined perspectives on the same world, close together but so far apart, and the ways that social class deeply shapes how we feel and think.


3. Using different forms to shape perception

Chantal Akerman  •  1976  •  88 mins  •  USA
Impersonal but beautiful images of Akerman’s life in New York are combined with letters from her loving but manipulative mother, read by Akerman herself.

This film uses a series of letters from Akerman’s mother as the camera travels around New York. It is contemplative, inviting us to look properly at everything that happens in the frame. It made me think about how different forms of communication shape our everyday perception, and the way we tell stories.


4. The intimacy of audio storytelling

Sayre Quevado  •  2017  •  13 mins  •  USA
A short documentary told through an intimate conversation between Quevedo and an ex-lover.

This short is so simple and really haunts me. It’s an example of how powerful audio storytelling can be, with one carefully selected segment of conversation. It showed me how to use audio to draw viewers into intimate and absorbing worlds, and not to overlook our own everyday, personal stories. I think that the way the conversation plays out, the way it reveals the characters’ relationship – whether edited or not! – has maximum dramatic impact.


5. Working as a collective

Filipa César •  2017  •  96 mins  •  Guinea-Bissau
Filipa César turns his gaze to Guinea-Bissau, where at the beginning of the 1970s the advocates of a militant cinema captured the freedom struggle and the first years of independence.

This film taught me a lot about ways to work with archive and collective filmmaking processes. Spell Reel looks at the life of archive film from Guinea-Bissau’s war of independence. César re-screens the archive to audiences in Guinea-Bissau, letting the new meanings and tensions the images have for people come alive. It made me think a lot about the role of the filmmaker, and how to make films a more collective process.


Apply to the OWM Fellowship!

The Fellowship supports new talent from around the world to produce engaging and creative media in developing countries. Selected fellows receive a £1000 production grant, one-to-one mentoring and a year-round programme of industry workshops and webinars.


Deadline for entries: 2 April 2020