ARTIST Amel Alzakout was escaping from war-torn Syria on a flimsy migrant boat when it capsized, throwing her into the Mediterranean with more than 300 other passengers.

Crucial rescue operations were delayed by bureaucracy and 43 people died in what was the deadliest migration related tragedy in 2015.

Alzakout survived – along with incredible footage from her GoPro camera, which was strapped to her wrist so she could film the journey, never expecting it would record her near death.

Viewing it later was traumatic but, along with partner Khaled Abdulwahed, she has made it into a powerful film which will be shown as part of the Document Film Festival this month.

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Purple Sea not only shows the struggles of Alzakout and those around her to stay afloat but brings the experience into the full context of her life in Syria and the family she left behind to join Abdulwahed in Europe.

For Document director Sam Kenyon it is one of the highlights of the festival and particularly relevant in a year that’s seen hundreds of migrants trying to cross the English Channel.

“I watched it when there were media reports of journalists in speedboats whizzing up to sinking migrant boats and shoving cameras in their faces so it seemed a really important perspective,” he said. “It’s one of those films that makes you ask what is going on.

“It’s trying to fill in some of the gaps and stories we hear about in the media and news.”

The festival runs from tomorrow until January 31 and this year is online because of the pandemic.

Special events include two workshops and reading group events with writer and film curator, So Mayer​, inviting audiences to an “anarchival” reimagining of lost queer histories via their new short book, ​A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing, which explores queer art and cinema in juxtaposition to the historical erasure enacted by the Nazis through the infamous 1937 art exhibition Entartete Kunst (“Degenerate” Art) and a rare screening of Barbara Hammer’s 1990 classic of queer experimental cinema, ​Nitrate Kisses. A landmark of LGBT+ cinema, Nitrate Kisses includes archival footage from Lot in Sodom, one of the only Hollywood silent films to feature openly gay characters.

Document will open with a ​live, desktop-documentary performance by filmmaker and media artist, ​Kevin B Lee​, exploring ​Bottled Songs​, a cross-media project made collaboratively with researcher and filmmaker​ Chloe Galibert-Laine, depicting strategies for making sense of terrorist propaganda and its viral circulation in the contemporary mediascape.

The festival further explores the politics of viewing and the role of cinema in a world of perpetual emergency, through screenings and events addressing historic and real-time erasure of marginal lives, and the potential of cinema to disrupt the dominant flows of images and media that shape our understanding of the world.

OTHER highlights include the coming together of 2000’s LA and 1970’s Belfast in Mariah Garnett’s​ Trouble, an ​intimate and playful odyssey of family and sectarianism; Vietnamese filmmaker Truong Minh Quy’s lyrical, quasi-sci-fi, ​The Tree House; Jonathan Rescigno’s explosive portrait of a French former-mining town in ​Strike or Die and a new work by experimental pioneers the Otolith Group called INFINITY minus Infinity​, which explores the entanglements of climate and racism in the creation of the Commonwealth.

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Ukrainian filmmaker ​Iryna Tsilyk​ will lead a masterclass around her astonishing debut feature, ​The Earth is Blue as an Orange,​ moderated by the Scottish Documentary Institute.

Document’s annual ​Critical Forum​ discussion event will go ahead in an online format focusing on how the global pandemic has impacted the work of human rights film festivals, with guest speakers from festivals in Bologna and Sao Paulo.

“Whilst we’re still very much in the eye of the storm, both globally and at home, we hope that this 18th edition of Document can offer audiences an open, engaging and social space to come together online to explore the intersections of cinema and human rights,” said Kenyon.

“For me, filmmakers operating at the borders of non-fiction are producing some of the most innovative and exciting cinema that, at its best, can offer ways to look differently at the world – and an important counterpoint to the dominant flows of media that saturate our daily lives.”