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D For Docs [Joe Sikoryak, USA, 2017]

Professor Marty is a documentary film teacher who is exasperated by what he believes to be a class full of inattentive and uninspired students. He is overheard by one of his class complaining about this to a friend on the phone. “They don’t know their aspect ratio, from their elbow”, he quips as the student looks on in astonishment behind his back. It’s the final week of the semester and Marty’s class are to screen their projects, something for which he does not have particularly high expectations. To make things worse, the head of department has sprung upon him a surprise peer review to assess the progress of his first term.

What follows is a showcase of student documentaries presented by their respective filmmakers, each of them a send-up of the archetypes one might expect to come across in a college film class – the meticulous film nerd (who certainly does know his aspect ratio from his elbow, along with his lumens and stereo sound mixes); the kooky, cat-loving middle-aged woman and a self-proclaimed “artiste”, new to filmmaking and with an extensive background in (self-published) creative writing; the bizarrely overconfident young man complete with hyper-violent imagination and an obsession with technocratic doomsday scenarios.

The final film screened is by Willa (and whom the professor mistakenly calls “Willie”), the girl who overheard Marty in the film’s opening sequence. Her film is a thoughtful and philosophical questioning of our values in a fast-moving and modern society, one that signals her own fears and insecurities as she tries to find her place in the world.

D For Docs is a charming observational comedy that, through the pathos of Willa’s film, displays a deeper understanding of human behaviour. It’s a modest effort and, for anybody who has attended a film course, is certainly a relatable scenario.

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