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Armstrong opens festival

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Adelaide’s second documentary festival lives up to its expansive title – Splendour, Fear, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, Wonder, Death and all the other things you love.

And the opening night screening about cyclist Lance Armstrong’s downfall easily fits into a few of those categories.

DocWeek is part of The Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) and its director Joost den Hartog says The Armstrong Lie is an incredible and gripping film by Alex Gibney.

“He started to make a film about Lance Armstrong’s comeback, The Long Road Back,” he told AAP on Wednesday after the launch of the 2014 DocWeek program.

But when the doping scandal unravelled, Gibney confronted Armstrong saying: “You have been lying to my face and I think you owe me an explanation”.

He again got access to Armstrong, who becomes a “very active participant in the film”.

“It’s quite an incredible documentary where the actual story changes while the film is being made,” says Den Hartog.

The other opening night screening is the Australian premiere of The Last Impresario by Gracie Otto, about Michael White, described as “the most famous person you’ve never heard of”.

The talent spotter, film producer, theatrical impresario and friend of the rich and famous helped transform Britain’s cultural scene in the 1970s.

“Now in his 80s, this party boy hasn’t slowed down and isn’t planning to do so,” says Den Hartog.

DocWeek features more than 40 films, including the Asia-Pacific New Documentary Program with films from China, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Malaysia and India.

Another highlight is From The Bottom of the Lake, Claire Young’s portrait of film director Jane Campion.

“We follow Jane and her co-writer Gerard Lee as they create the critically acclaimed series Top of the Lake from note book to Golden Globe.”

Den Hartog is particularly excited at being able to feature the “most important documentary filmmaker of the moment, Alex Gibney, with the most talented one, Marshall Curry”.

Gibney’s Armstrong film is one of nine of his to be screened, including Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa about child abuse and the Vatican, and Park Avenue: Money, Power and The American Dream.

The Curry offerings include If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, looking at the lines between activism and terrorism.

There’s also a series of documentaries on motor city Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy last July, halved in size and has been dubbed the graveyard of the American dream.

“The city is dead, long live the city,” says den Hartog.

“Kick out the Jams celebrates the resilience of mankind, the grass roots community building and the creative entrepreneurialism and arts resurgence that happened as a natural response to the breakdown of the dominant economic forces.

“Against a soundtrack of the MC5, Kick Out the Jams, takes you on a journey through a broken down cityscape filled with sheer beauty.”

* Adelaide’s DocWeek runs from March 4 to 9, 2014.