Posts tagged LP Films

HOT DOCS: Films to Beat the Summer Heat

Heat is bearing down on us here in Shanghai, and the long days at the LP Films office are spent alternating between sat icy under air conditioning, and glowing red around monitor screens and processors in the edit suites. The city tipped 40 Celsius this week, with a feel factor of 50 degrees thanks to the humidity, humidity which sees our assistant editor Apple flop in each morning like a wilting flower, reviving only after some intense sitting down and a good bout of, “Oh my gosh it’s soooooo hot outside.”

Point being, it’s maybe best to stay indoors these days. So why not kick back under some cool air with an ice tea (or something a little stronger, to your taste) and enjoy our pick of 5 great documentaries about summer and blistering heat.

No Cameras AllowedNo Cameras Allowed, 2014

Music festivals are a staple of the summer, and we’ve been enjoying a wave of them in Shanghai over the past couple of months. The music festival documentary is a true classic genre, and the best ones catapult beyond being simple concert footage to capture the heart of what it means to stand in the middle of a crowded field, covered in mud and glitter with thousands of party people.

The undisputed daddy of the genre is Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh, 1970), but for sheer audacity we have to pick James Marcus Haney’s No Cameras Allowed as our favorite. With no money for tickets, Haney does what many have done before and jumps the fence. Or digs under the fence. Or pretends to be security. Or pretends he’s in a band. From Coachella to Glastonbury, Haney sneaks his way into 50 festivals around the world, filming himself as he goes and capturing some of the best festival footage seen in cinema. There’s a pure joy to his endeavor which goes right to the heart of the festival experience.

Fata Morgana

Fata Morgana, 1971

No documentary list is complete without Werner Herzog, and no Herzog doc is complete without death, disease and casual acts of anarchic hubris. Fata Morgana was no different. The crew were beaten by police following a coup in Cameroon, the director contracted some nasty parasites and a cameraman was mistaken for a mercenary and sentenced to death (but later released).

And yet the film itself is one of his most peaceful. Herzog spent weeks driving through the Sahara desert capturing Fata Morgana, mirages which appear on the horizon. Along the way we take in wrecked planes and lost objects in the strangeness of the dunes, to the music of Leonard Cohen.

the back of beyond

The Back of Beyond, 1954

Back to the desert and this time the Outback. John Hayer was commissioned by oil giant Shell to make a film that would associate their brand more closely with Australia. Instead, he crafted this love letter to his homeland, one of the greatest examples of Australian cinema to date. Like Soy Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964) The Back of Beyond transcends mere propaganda, becoming a lyric poem to the landscape and the people. The story essentially follows a mailman delivering packages to remote Outback ranchers, but takes in the millennia of scorched landscape and life along the way.

From the Sea To The Land Beyond

From The Sea To The Land Beyond, 2012

No one understands summer like the British. UK is a country where the sun notoriously rears its head for all of 5 minutes each year, and Brits make the most of every second. Penny Woolcock’s tribute to the UK coastline is formed from 100 years of archive footage, from small fishing communities to ship building industry. But it’s the sections on seaside holidays which really capture the essence of this small island nation…building sandcastles, rockpooling, arcades and dads with trousers rolled up to their knees in chilly northern seas. Top marks too for a soundtrack by post-rock band British Sea Power.

Bombay Beach

Bombay Beach, 2011

A young bipolar boy, an African American teen escaping gang violence and an elderly oil field worker are at the heart of Alma Har’el’s mythic and musical portrait of life on the edge of the Salton Sea. Bombay Beach is a town on the shores of this vast lake in southern California, a town built as a tourist resort which is being swallowed up by mud, water and salt. A quirky and poetic slice of Americana in the same vein as Gummo (Harmony Korine, 1997) but with more love, and with another killer score, this time from Zach Condon (Beirut).





Art Brightens Our World

The first thing that happens when we arrive at Yang Cheng Wei’s home is he presents us with cookies, little plastic wrapped ones. He is courteous to a fault, in spite, perhaps, of his shyness. His mother smiles with pride. Their living room is decorated with art books, pens and photos. A vast Gongbi style scroll leans half complete against the window.

“When he was little, he was so sweet, everyone loved him,” she tells us. But when, by the age of three, he still couldn’t speak, she began to realise something might be wrong. He was taken to the Shanghai Mental Health Center, where he was diagnosed with autism. “We were devastated,” she continues.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental intellectual disability which, along with other Autism Spectrum Disorders, affects roughly 2% of the global population. Whilst symptoms can vary from individual to individual, it typically manifests as inhibited communication skills (both verbal and non-verbal), leading to difficulty in perceived normative social interactions. This can lead to difficulties in education and employment, with many autistics unable to live completely independently in adulthood. However, our understanding of ASDs is constantly expanding. Today, some argue that these conditions should be seen as differences, rather than disorders, and that society should adapt to better accommodate autism.


This is the thinking behind the Special Olympics, our reason for visiting Weiwei. The organisation was founded in 1968 by Eunice Shriver, sister of President John F. Kennedy, who noticed a lack of sporting opportunities for children with intellectual disabilities. Today, it operates in 170 countries, providing a constructive program to build skills, confidence and opportunity for 4.5 million children and young people. The organisation has brought together global policymakers and influencers in it’s campaign to end the ‘cycle of poverty and exclusion’ on people with intellectual disabilities.

We’ve been working with the Special Olympics since 2007, when the games came to Shanghai for the first time, but didn’t see Weiwei out on the track. In fact, he has forged his own path with support from his mum. The artbooks and paintings around the room? All his work.


“When they found out he couldn’t talk, no kindergarten would take him.” Then, his mum explains, one headmaster noticed he could draw, ‘…extremely well for his age.’ Weiwei has been painting ever since. He is particularly fond of Gongbi, a realist style based on intricate lines or ‘boundaries’ and dating to the Han dynasty. His work has caught national attention. A profile in Youth Daily was followed by exhibitions at Shanghai Contemporary Art Theater, Liu Haisu Museum and the prestigious Rockbund. He has donated a piece to Special Olympics for a fundraising auction.

Weiwei’s mum shows us the family photo album where she keeps his newspaper clippings and show programs alongside pictures he painted as a young child. “If he hadn’t studied painting, his quality of life would be very different now. He is proud to be himself,” she says.

“Art brightens our world.”


You can watch our video profile on Weiwei by visiting LP Film’s official Vimeo channel.