Mikhail Barynin: 24 Snows

Written 30-06-2016 08:40:28 by Tue Steen Müller

Take a look at the photo. If you are addicted to documentaries like me you think of Nanook, don’t you? If you have been around for decades like me, you might also think of Estonian master Mark Soosaar, who travelled to Siberia to make his masterpiece ”Father, Son and Holy Torum” about the Khantys and their shamanism. But the smiling man on the photo is a Yakut, from Yakutia, at the very far North West of the Russian Federation. The film is about him, his look at his own life, his look at life in general; he is a hard working man full of a generosity that makes room for a grounded sense of wisdom that he conveys to the audience in an extraordinarily beautiful documentary, that is one of the 8 works competing at the Moscow International Film Festival that runs this thursday included. I have seen only 3 of the 8 so far but this one must be one of the favourites for the best documentary award.

Sergey… I was not given a last name, but it does not matter because you want to be on first name with this man, who loves life – ”life here means work” as he says – and who is able to formulate his love to the horses, the reindeers, to his family, wife and 4 children, and express his concern about who will take over his nomadic kind of work, that he has been doing for 24 Snows – seasons! He follows the herds to where they go, he has, again as he says ”cabins to stay in all over”, we see that, well we see so much from this permafrost region Yakut, in winter and in summer. The camerawork is excellent and the director takes us out where he is alone with the animals and to the village, where the family lives and where he rarely is. And comes along when Sergey travels 700 kilometer with the frozen fish, he has caught with friends at the lake. Or stays discreetly in the background when he kills the horses, he has given names, talking to them with a whispering voice before death is a fact.

Many anthropological studies never get close to its characters. ”24 Snows” deals with the Yakut culture through a temperament, through the charisma of Sergey, who is a man full of a humour that contributes to make the film entertaining. There are joyful scenes with horse racing, there is Sergey with his smallest child, Sergey being an amateur when it comes to get milk out of the cow at home in the village. He is a storyteller – the film uses both voice off and direct sound - and he has himself had a camera in hand, as we are invited to see in stunning b/w footage where he is cleaning horses, who got lost in the wilderness and when found needed to have big ice pieces cut away.

 I am normally very much hesitant to music in documentaries but here it is composed/used perfectly to accompany the often mindblowing images.

Hail the horse people, Sergey says, and this is exactly what this rich film does. I don’t remember to have seen anything so engaging from the tundra since Mark Soosaar took his trips. Jean Rouch would have loved it!

Russia, 2016, 90 mins.

PS. I also have seen the French film ”Tomorrow” that is screened in Moscow. It is about our world in global danger – nature, food etc. – and what should be done about it. Filmmakers go out to find out… It must have been selected for the festival because of its subject and not for its film quality.



Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ryan White: Serena

Written 29-06-2016 10:45:32 by Tue Steen Müller

This film about tennis superstar Serena Williams is one more of the many current documentary portraits of celebrities in the entertainment business and political life. Contrary to the classics in this direct cinema tradition (“Primary” (JFK), “Lonely Boy” (Paul Anka), “Stravinsky”) you sense that you don’t get it all, that the huge amount of people around Serena have had an influence on what to be filmed and what not to be filmed… control of the public image in other words. A limitation of course...

… and yet you get close to a lovely and lively, funny and serious, emotional, extremely professional sportswoman, who is also into the fashion business and who loves her sister Venus, very often the one she has to play against in the big matches. She is much more interesting for a film than Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi.

The grand slam tournaments are the red thread in the film - the director has followed Serena over the season where she had the chance to win all four tournaments within the same year. She wins the three and fails on the last one, where she loses to a skinny Italian… This constitutes the dramatic highlight of the film, after she lost she does not want to talk to anyone, her French coach leaves his hotel room not knowing about his future, cut to Serena in her bed with her teddy bear, a little girl with some grown-up comments and a text saying that she then stayed away from tennis for a long time.

The annoying elements of a film that is well designed with music to tell us what to feel - yes it is mainstream in that aspect - come up when the director asks some of the people around Serena to talk about/characterise her, unnecessary as she herself has all the charisma needed, and comments brilliantly on the media interest on her curves and muscles...

Unnecessary except for the coach, the Frenchman who is a good accompanying character in and outside the picture, the latter when he comments on her performances: I love you and I trust you.

USA, 2016, 90 mins.


Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Two of the Competition Films at MIFF

Written 29-06-2016 08:20:15 by Tue Steen Müller

- i.e. Moscow International Film Festival, that has a competition section for documentaries with 8 films. I have had the pleasure to get access to some of them, here are some notes on the two I have watched so far, a disappointment and a pleasant surprise:

It is no secret for readers of this site that Czech Helena Trestikova is a director, we have followed and highlighted for years for her long term observational documentaries on people living on the edge of society - “René”, “Katka”, “Marcela”, “Private Universe” to mention those who have travelled successfully all around. It is therefore understandable that the Moscow festival has picked her new film, made together with Jakub Hejna, “Doomed Beauty”, which has the actress Lida Baarová as the portrayed character, whose life and relationship to nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels made her enemy of Czekoslovakia. Trestikova filmed her at the end of her life - the film is professionally made - fine archive of course but it is, sorry for this reaction, unbearable to watch the old woman crying all the time having problems with expressing herself. I can not help think that the footage should have stayed on the shelf.

The Korean film, however, “Mrs.B - A North Korean Woman”, shot over several years, brings a fascinating, unbelievable story to the screen about a woman, who is smuggled out of North Korea to China to be forced into marrying a Chinese farmer. She turns into being a smuggler and drug dealer herself, and has the intention to get her North Korean husband and her two sons out of the country to live with her in South Korea. She succeeds, but after being interrogated by the secret services from both Korea’s if I get it right, she is thought to be a spy. But basically she wants to return to China to her Chinese husband and his farmer family.

It is a difficult film that Jero Yun has made and you sense that it has not been possible to say and show everything. But it lives strongly in the scenes where you are at home(s) in China with the husband and his parents, and with the Korean family members the director has chosen to interview. They convey the confusing claustrophobic atmosphere that these poor people are in. But first of all it lives because of Mrs.B., who wants a decent life and puts a lot of energy into achieve that. And if you take all the politics connected to the three countries away, the film is maybe first of all a love story.

Categories: Cinema, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Asif Kapadia: Amy /2

Written 28-06-2016 14:20:19 by Allan Berg Nielsen

I næste uge inviterer DR2 Dokumania til gratis visninger af Asif Kapadias (Senna) film over sangerinden Amy Winehouse's liv og karriere. Den dejlige film havde biografpremiere sidste år og denne velkomne serie repriser nu vil foregå i Aarhus, Viborg, Horsens, Svendborg og København.

Her kan man se filmen: JYLLAND Tirsdag den 5. juli DokuramAa Kunsthal Aarhus – i baggården J.M Mørks Gade 13 8000 Aarhus C / Torsdag den 7. juli Kulturjægerne Viborg Kunsthal, Riddergade 8 8800 Viborg / Fredag den 8. juli Jernlageret Horsens Havn, Jens Hjernøes Vej 10-12 (mellem Havnetrekanten og Lystbådhavnen) 8700 Horsens FYN Torsdag den 7. juli Dokken Ribers Gård ved Harders, Møllegade 36 5700 Svendborg SJÆLLAND Torsdag den 7. juli Videomøllen Krydset mellem Ravnsborggade og Sankt Hans Gade 2200 København N / Søndag den 10. juli Carpark Movie Nights Under Bispeengbuen mellem Nordre Fasanvej og Bispeengen 2000 Frederiksberg

Filmen starter klokken 22.30, men tjek det lokale event for, hvornår arrangementet går i gang. Man kan læse om arrangementerne på  Amy får tv-premiere på DR2/Dokumania til efteråret.

Jeg kan kun anbefale gensyn på gensyn, Kapadias helt særegent vellykkede film holder til utallige. Sådan skrev jeg om den: "... Jeg gik til filmen uden specielle forudsætninger, kendte ikke Amy Winehouse, kender faktisk ikke meget til jazz, har slet ikke forstand på jazz. To af mine venner tog mig med og med vilje lod jeg være at læse foromtaler og anmeldelser. Men jeg var fordomsfuld, ventede et musikerportræt, et stykke journalistik, ja, ventede et konventionelt værk bygget af arkivmateriale og interviews med Winehouse’s familie, venner og kolleger.

For så vidt netop hvad det viste sig at være, men i Kapadias film er disse byggesten brugt til at konstruere et filmværk, som i stedet får mig til at tænke på de store skæbnefortællinger som Jacobsens Fru Marie Grubbe (1876) og Duras' India Song (1975), og den mellemliggende store gruppe af sådanne alvorligt gjorte skildringer af intense kvindeliv i buers stigning og fald, korte eller lange, men uafvendelige..." Læs mere

Categories: Cinema, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

Youth in Randers 1978-1979 /2

Written 27-06-2016 12:46:42 by Tue Steen Müller

… seen by Finn Larsen and Lars Johansson, a photo exhibition at Øksnehallen in Copenhagen, running until August, curated by Finn Larsen and Hans Grundsø, with an exhibition newspaper catalogue of almost 100 pages that is in Danish AND English language and includes photos from the exhibition about how young people looked like, what they did in their free time, how they met the opposite sex, cigarettes, beer, mopeds - there is also a section on a rocker group - ordinary life interpreted in an extraordinary manner, a close-up of a generation in the sixth biggest city in Denmark some four hours away from the capital, where the exhibition now is to watch.

Yes, a classical documentary approach by two skilled photographers Lars Johansson and Finn Larsen, who later on have developed their own careers in film and literature and visual art - reminding us how important it is to have time to go deep and to catch the moment. Larsen, editor of the impressive newspaper catalogue, has been so generous to puiblish a great reflective article by Swedish legendary documentary photographer and filmmaker Sune Jonsson. Here is a quote:

“The reportage confrontation is a fragile method of documentary work. But even so unfavorable an assigment situation can be transformed: IF the photographer is given sufficient time, IF he is given time to gain a knowledge of the environment that will enable his pictures to function as documentary statements, IF he has the personal qualifications to deepen his empathy, his social commitment, and his responsibility as a fellow human being…”

A must-read article for documentarians as the exhibition is an inspiration. It is all about the Gaze as Albert Maysles would have put it.

Publisher of the newspaper catalogue: Finn Larsen 


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ung i Randers 1978-1979 /2

Written 27-06-2016 12:41:58 by Tue Steen Müller

- set af Finn Larsen og Lars Johansson, og udstillet i Øksnehallen i København indtil begyndelsen af august, med Larsen og Hans Grundsø som kuratorer.

Jeg tog derind i går søndag til det fine udstillingssted ved Halmtorvet og mødte en lys og inviterende udstilling, ordentlig lavet med masser af fotos, de fleste sort/hvide sat op i hvide rammer og med nøgterne tekster, der giver den nødvendige baggrund for oplevelsen af de tre udstillinger samlet i én og så filmen “Ungdomsbilleder". Jeg var der et par timer og tog så hjem til haven med udstillingsavisen i hånden, små hundrede sider, en præstation i sig selv, som jeg nød og fordybede mig i - i nok et par timer.

… en ung mand med krøllet hår på gaden med en smøg i munden ved aftentide. Han har - viser billederne - været på grillbar, nu tager han på knallert (sammen med to andre på samme køretøj) hen på et værtshus, hvor der er piger, hvor der er gang i den… og så sidste foto der tages af fotografen Lars Johansson, taget af Finn Larsen, går jeg ud fra.

En filmisk sekvens gengivet i forstørrede kontaktark på bannere, der daterede hænger fra loft til gulv. Det her fotograferede vi den dag i 1978, se på dem, se på hvad de gør, hvordan de ser ud, se på deres ansigter. Det er for mig udstillingens scoop, denne suite af bannere, der dokumenterer (sorry!) dokumentarismens styrke, hvad der kan komme ud af, som Johansson og Larsen har gjort det, at være sammen med unge i en dansk provinsby i længere tid, interessere sig for dem, fange dem i hverdag og (mest) i fritid, lige på og hårdt og nænsomt og kærligt. De har taget den tid, det tager at få noget vigtigt og ægte frem.

Som den legendariske svenske dokumentarist Sune Jonsson skriver i en artikel (citeret fra den engelske oversættelse) gengivet i udstillingsavisen:

“The reportage confrontation is a fragile method of documentary work. But even so unfavorable an assigment situation can be transformed: IF the photographer is given sufficient time, IF he is given time to gain a knowledge of the environment that will enable his pictures to function as documentary statements, IF he has the personal qualifications to deepen his empathy, his social commitment, and his responsibility as a fellow human being…”

Citatet bringer mig tilbage til avisen, de små hundrede sider, som er fremragende redigeret af Finn Larsen, og disponeret så dobbeltsider med en gengivelse af fire af de omtalte kontaktark-bannere kan foldes ud. Lige til at hænge op. Der er kloge tekster - tak for Sune Jonsson - en flot åbningstale af Johansson, da udstillingen åbnede i Randers, to ligeså flotte interviews med Allan Berg og Vibe Mogensen, som begge var med på holdet bag “Ungdomsbilleder”, filmen som blev lavet via Workshoppen i København efter udstillingen åbnede med succes dengang. Filmen, jo jeg så den igen, men den virker - og det er den jo - som et noget tungt museumsstykke, hvor fotografierne har beholdt sin friskhed. Se selv i avisen, kig forbi Øksnehallen og se hvordan - som en dokumentarist har udtrykt det - man kan lave noget “extraordinary out of the ordinary”.


Categories: Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

Wim Wenders: Himlen over Berlin

Written 27-06-2016 11:57:06 by Allan Berg Nielsen

Igen i dag og i morgen samt i dagene den 1.-3. juli viser Cinemateket i København ‘Himlen over Berlin’ (1987) eller ‘Wings of Desire’, som Wim Wenders mesterstykke hedder i denne engelsktekstede og nyligt restaurerede version. Morten Tang skriver videre i Cinematekets meddelelse: ”Det er et af 1980’ernes absolutte hovedværker. En storbysymfoni på metafysisk himmelflugt fortalt i et formsprog, som transcenderer både (filmhistorisk) tid og rum.

Hvordan ser verden ud for engle? To trenchcoat-klædte skytsengle iagttager Berlin og dens befolkning i smukke sort/hvide billeder. Englene kan se og høre menneskenes tanker og drømme, men de kan ikke tale med dem eller opfatte virkeligheden i dens komplekse farverigdom.

‘Himlen over Berlin’ er en lyrisk meditation over livet, kærligheden, tiden og forgængeligheden – og den synes at forudsige Berlin-murens fald to år senere. I modsætning til andre tyske instruktører i sin generation er Wim Wenders ikke politisk orienteret, men snarere poetisk og eksistentielt søgende. Filmen har en tilsvarende sanseligt billedæstetik skabt af fotografen Henri Alekan, der blev berømmet for sit kameraarbejde på Jean Cocteaus ‘Skønheden og udyret’…”

Program og billetter: link

Categories: Cinema, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

P. Lozinski: You Have No Idea How Much I Love You

Written 25-06-2016 15:31:57 by Tue Steen Müller

A couple of weeks ago I wrote articles for the Krakow Festival newspaper. One of them had the headline “Lozinski” and was about father and son, Marcel and Pawel. I saw that there was a new film by Pawel in the program, I had not seen it when I wrote the enthusiastic words about the two - later I read that he received an award in the National Competition for “You Have No Idea How Much I Love You”, I have watched the film with the beautiful title, it is amazing, let me give you an idea why I love it:

Three faces, talking faces, faces that express emotions, faces to be read, nothing else but these faces in close ups, a mother and her daughter, and a psychotherapist, who is there to make the two reconcile after a long separation. For

75 minutes you are in that room of intimacy and suffering and pain, studying how the intelligent, sometimes tough sometimes soft, therapist makes the two open up for the traumas that come from their childhoods' lack of care and love. Look at the still photo of the daughter, she is full of defiance towards her mother, she gets aggressive and sad when she talks about the divorce of her mother and father, it is embarrassing for the two involved and for the viewer… but liberating when the therapist interrupts, very often by saying “could we use another word” or by interpreting one of the many sentences coming from daughter and/or mother.

As a viewer you know these stories, in a way it is very banal - a child feeling guilt because of the parents divorcing, just one of the themes coming up, the reason it is so good stems from the filmmaking, the three are so good, they are so well directed, the editing goes smooth from one to the other, you listen while you watch either the one talking or the one listening. Like he proved in “Chemo”, Pawel Lozinski has this unique skill of going to the core taking away all the unnecessary and bringing to us a cinematic conversation piece of universal reach. (Lozinski, Father and son)

Poland, 2016, 75 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Moscow International Film Festival

Written 23-06-2016 19:09:16 by Tue Steen Müller

There was a lot of hard work behind the introduction of documentaries to the Moscow International Film Festival, done by Sergey Miroshnichenko, no presentation needed - did you see his “7Up Russian version”, excellent - and producer and critic Grigory Libergal - whose presence at the yearly Baltic Sea Forum brings competence to the table - and the result is now for some years manifested in a competition programme of 8 films and a programme of the programmers favourites called "Free Thought", including this bloggers favourites as well, “Brothers” (PHOTO) by Wojciech Staron, “Brothers” by Aslaug Holm and Zhao Liang's “Behemoth”, the two latter praised on this site by colleague Allan Berg. For years I have had contact with filmmaker, promoter, film politician and pr person for the festival Georgy Molodtsov, a true multi-talent, who has given me the possibility to see some of the competition films, which are all new to me - as they are World premieres. Apart from quality the festival invites the Moscow audience to watch films on the big screen, clearly part of the profile. Films with a big F.

Categories: Festival

Doc Alliance Selection 2016

Written 20-06-2016 22:43:42 by Tue Steen Müller

… sounds very formal, much better if you call it, like the organizers also do, “2016: Fresh Documentary Talents at the Upcoming Ninth Das Awards”, “Das” standing for "The Doc Aliance Selection Award”, that is to be distributed August 7 at the Locarno International Film Festival, the winner gets €5000. The selection process is very simple:

every festival that constitutes the Alliance selects a film and the focus is to “support new filmmakers and projects” as formulated by the projects manager Nina Numankadic, who also stresses that the selected 7 films will be screened at all 7 films. You can read about all the films on the website - link below - I just want to mention that DOK Leipzig has chosen “Train to Adulthood” as the film they want to promote, a good choice, Hungarian Klára Trencsényi is definitely a talent to follow. Last year’s winner was Iraqi Abbas Fahdel’s “Homeland” (Iraq Year Zero).

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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