With Doc/Fest kicking off on Friday it’s easy to forget that it brings with it a unique opportunity for everyone to see some of the best documentary cinema for free. Once again there will be two free outdoor screens. The Beijing Screen on Howard street and the Guardian Screen on Tudor Square.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

In Pursuit of Silence

Beginning with an ode to John Cage’s seminal silent composition 4’33”, the sights and sounds of this film, the experience of which the Austin Chronicle describes as “reminiscent of seeing 1982’s Koyaanisqatsi for the first time,” delicately interweave with silence to create a contemplative and cinematic experience that works its way through frantic minds and into the quiet spaces of hearts. As much a work of devotion as it is a documentary, In Pursuit of Silence is a meditative exploration of our relationship with silence and the impact of noise on our lives.

Notes on Blindness

Notes on Blindness is a feature film and Virtual Reality project based on the audio diaries of writer and theologian John Hull, who – after decades of steady deterioration – became totally blind in 1983.
To help him make sense of the upheaval in his life, he began keeping a diary on audio-cassette.
Over three years he recorded in excess of sixteen hours of material – a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, which excavates the interior world of blindness. Neurologist Oliver Sacks described John’s account as ‘the most extraordinary, precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read. It is to my mind a masterpiece.’

Mavis!

Mavis! is the first feature documentary on gospel/soul music legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples and her family group, The Staple Singers. From the freedom songs of the ’60s and hits like “I’ll Take You There” in the ’70s, to funked-up collaborations with Prince and her recent albums with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Mavis has stayed true to her roots, kept her family close, and inspired millions along the way.

Kedi

KEDi is not a documentary about house cats or the strays you occasionally see in your back yard. KEDi is a film about the hundreds of thousands of cats who have roamed the metropolis of Istanbul freely for thousands of years, wandering in and out of people’s lives, impacting them in ways only an animal who lives between the worlds of the wild and the tamed can. Cats and their kittens bring joy and purpose to those they choose, giving people an opportunity to reflect on life and their place in it. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to ourselves.

¡Vivan las Antipodas!

What would be the shortest route between Entre Ríos in Argentina and the Chinese metropolis Shanghai? Simply a straight line through the center of the earth, since the two places are antipodes: they are located diametrically opposite to each other on the earth’s surface.

During his visits to four such antipodal pairs, the award-winning documentary filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky captured images that turn our view of the world upside down. A beautiful, peaceful sunset in Entre Ríos is contrasted with the bustling streets in rainy Shanghai. People who live in a wasteland are connected to people dwelling next to a volcano. Landscapes whose splendor touches the soul are juxtaposed with the clamor of a vast city. These antipodes seem mythically connected, somehow united by their oppositeness.

To find out times and locations and see what other films are being screened for free, visit the festival website.