Celebrity is making a name for yourself, becoming re-knowned, turning perhaps even into a star. Celebrity is a fiction, an avatar, a mask. In a concert hall chock full of fans, Romanian pop star Angela Similea asked her questioners: “Are you asking this question of me, or of the true Angela Similea?” Documentaries complicate this proposition even more: when documentary filmmakers want to deconstruct the fiction of celebrity, they sometimes create new fictions themselves.
This year fARAD brings a series of films dealing with both sides of fame: the mask worn under the limelight (ABBA: The Movie), but also the stature achieved by humble music professors who build stars and are celebrities themselves. The opening film, Risk, directed by Laura Poitras (whose Oscar-winning CitizenFour screened at fARAD two years ago), is only on the surface a portrait of a famous figure, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange; rather, her very personal documentary is a mediation on our own relationship to celebrity and of the risks we take when we ourself participate in fictional constructions. Editor Erin Casper is one of this edition’s special guests.
The festival also looks at many other forms of notoriety: from the classic ascension of a soccer star (Becoming Zlatan), through a thriller about the dangers of success in North Korea (The Lovers and the Despot), a meditation about the relationship between loneliness and our love of celebrities (Tokyo Idols), and a tragicomedy about the toxic mixture of politics, sex, and media in New York (Weiner).