The Greatest Documentaries of All Times

Written 01-08-2014 11:28:15 by Tue Steen Müller

The international film magazine Sight & Sound has ”polled 340 critics, programmers and filmmakers in the search for authoritative answers”, which are now published in two parts (click on link below) – ”the top 50 documentaries as nominated by 237 critics, curators and academics” and ”the greatest documentaries ever made, as voted by 103 directors”.

Why... they give the answer themselves: ”The new Sight & Sound documentary poll is the result of a “why didn’t we think of that before” moment. In the light of the amazing recent success and cultural impact of several nonfiction films, a group of curators, myself included, were chewing over what the BFI might do specifically for documentary films and television. It soon became obvious that we were not sure exactly what it was that we were trying to discuss.”

And the result: “What’s remarkable about the Top 50 documentaries list is that it feels so fresh. One in five of the films chosen were made since the millennium, and to have a silent film from 1929 at the top of the list is an absolute joy. That allusive essay films feature so strongly throughout demonstrates that nonfiction cinema is not a narrow discipline but a wide open country full of explorers. The current print edition of S&S contains only the highlights of our results; the real explorers among you will want to browse the full results and commentaries which goes live online on the 14th August.”

Let me reveal the top three of the critics etc.: 1. Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, USSR 1929. 2. Shoah, Claude Lanzmann, France, 1985. 3. Sans Soleil, Chris Marker, France, 1982 – and the top three of the filmmakers:  1. Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1929. 2. Sans Soleil, Chris Marker, France, 1982. 3. The Thin Blue Line, Errol Morris, USA, 1989.

Not that surprising – the freshness that is mentioned above comes in when you examine the list more detailed and find films like “The Act of Killing” and “Leviathan”.

I was asked to participate in the voting as critic/programmer. Tomorrow I will bother you with my list.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Robert Drew 1924-2014

Written 31-07-2014 15:43:33 by Tue Steen Müller

Richard Leacock died 2011 and yesterday one more from the Direct Cinema movement of the 1960’es that changed the documentary history, passed away: Robert Drew. As USA Today puts it in their factual obituary:

Drew formed Drew Associates in 1960 with the goal of applying his magazine experience to films. Among those joining him were such future directors as Pennebaker (Don't Look Back, The War Room), Maysles (who with brother David made Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens) and Richard Leacock (Happy Mother's Day).

"I wondered why documentaries on television were dull," he told The New York Times in 2013. "I had no doubt we could make a lighter camera, and I started with that premise and started finding people who could do that." Referring to the creative trio above, where – seen retrospectively – Drew was maybe the perfect executive producer.

The trade magazine Realscreen (link below) calls Drew a “documentary pioneer” and highlights the masterpiece “Primary” (1960), where Drew ”convinced” JFK to take part in a film about his campaign. JFK became in many ways the character of Drew’s films – in 2008 ”he released A President to Remember, which used footage from several of his Kennedy films, and at the time of his passing today (July 30), his entire collection of films is in the process of being preserved by the archives of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, of which he was a member.”

Sooo much of today´s observational documentary filming (create “the feeling of being there” as Leacock said) owes to the pioneers of Direct Cinema, whose films are available on dvd’s today. You just do a little googling to see where. And check the vod's and YouTube.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Europe Créative MEDIA Doc Results

Written 30-07-2014 19:36:29 by Tue Steen Müller

Every thursday I receive the French called e-MEDIA, last week number 387. It gives for the professional sector useful and precise information about upcoming deadlines for applications to get support from the (now) Creative Europe – Media, as well as paragraphs on festivals and results of supported projects. The angle is of course French but there are always links that give the whole picture – below you have one that will take you to the list of the companies that have received 25.000€ to develop their documentary.  

87 projects in development were supported, 36 of them documentaries in the so-called single-project scheme. (There is also a scheme for slate-funding).

Being the first round under the new Creative Europe-Media and having heard the usual rumours about (one more) centralisation to be performed from the offices in Brussels, I studied the list and was happy to see the diversity of countries, and that the smaller and weaker countries were there. Let me mention three projects that I was happy to eye:

”River Tales” by Activist38 in Bulgaria ( = Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova), ”Next Stop: Utopia” from Greece (= Marco Gastine as producer and Apostolos Karakasis as director) (photo from previous film of Karakasis, "National Garden") and ”Dangerous Liaisons, Russia’s Soft Power” from strong Latvian company Mistrus Media (= Gints Grube). And there are Czech projects, Italian, Belgian – whereas the big countries France and Germany are not at all ”eating it all”. 

A new ”appel à projects” will be published this autumn.

If you click the link of the newsletter – above – you can get in contact with the Media France and get on the list to receive the information.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docs at Venezia International Film Festival

Written 27-07-2014 10:40:18 by Tue Steen Müller

August 27 until September 6 it's time for the 71st edition of the festival in Venice, a festival that in its selection increases its interest in showing documentaries – remember that the winner last year was ”Sacro Gra” by Gianfranco Rosi.

The Line-Up, as it is called on the website of the festival, has an Official Selection and Autonomous Sections. In the main competition you find ”The Look of Silence” by Joshua Oppenheimer, 98 minutes, by the team behind ”The Act of Killing”.

Here is a quote from the newsletter from The Danish Film Institute announcing the film’s Venice participation: "The Look of Silence" revisits the Indonesian genocide, this time telling the story from the victims' perspective. "The Look of Silence" follows a family whose son was killed in the Indonesian genocide, accused of being a communist. The youngest son in the family, now grown up, vows to confront the people who killed his brother. It is these encounters that make up the core of the film…” (Photo: Lars Skree)

In the “Out of Competition” you find Gabriele Salvatores “Italy in a Day” and Ulrich Seidl’a “Im Keller”, in the International Critics Week I am happy to find Ivan Gergolet’s “Dancing with Maria” that has been pitched at several sessions, I have attended, now an Italian, Argentinian, Slovenian coproduction.

… and then the long awaited film “Messi” by Alex de la Iglesia.

… and a well deserved life achievement to Frederick Wiseman.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

News from Paris in Sarajevo: WARM Festival 2014

Written 26-07-2014 21:26:38 by Sara Thelle

The First World WARM Festival took place in Sarajevo June 28 to July 4, concurrent with 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. This new festival focuses on contemporary conflicts through exhibitions, film screenings and conferences. Behind the festival lies the Warm Foundation, a project that grew out of the reunion of reporters and photographers in Sarajevo in 2012, regathering twenty years after the beginning of the siege of the city during the Bosnian war (1992-95). WARM is dedicated to war reporting and war art, as well as history and memories of war, and dedicated to the promotion of emerging talents and to education as well as bringing together people with a common passion for "telling the story with excellence and integrity". This interesting initiative is headed by Rémy Ourdan, long-time war correspondent at Le Monde, and works out of Sarajevo, Paris, London and New York. The plan is to open a center in Sarajevo hosting research, archives, co-production and -publishing, a residence and the development of an educational program.

The festival offered a vast program this year. Five intense days with brutal, overwhelming and important insights into contemporary conflicts and into how stories about war can be told through different medias. It all being set in the city of Sarajevo only adds to the impressive atmosphere. Here’s a short account of what I saw.

The festival opened with an outdoor exhibition Every State of War, an excellent selection of cartoons from around the world, notably Syria and Iran, curated by Plantu, cartoonist for Le Monde and founder of Cartooning for Peace (an association created to promote tolerance and mutual understanding between cultures as a reaction to the Mohammed cartoons). Another exhibition, Chris Hondros Testament, showed the work, photographs and writing, of the American photojournalist Chris Hondros who died in Libya in 2011. And now to the film program...

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DokuFest XIII Announces Full Slate!

Written 25-07-2014 14:28:39 by Tue Steen Müller

At the same time as Sarajevo has its festival with a documentary competition programme, the Prizren, Kosovo based DokuFest takes place, August 16-24 with quite an extensive selection – quote from press release, ” Culled from a record number of nearly 2.400 submissions, the festival will showcase a fine selection of 237 films from 56 countries across 6 competitive sections and more than a dozen specially curated programs.”

That the festival aims at a wider audience is obvious, it opens with ”Everyday Rebellion” by the Arash brothers from Austria and closes with the Oscar winner ”Twenty Feet from Stardom”. There is a focus in USA with classics shown as ”Hoop Dreams” by Steve James and ”Hearts and Minds” by Peter Davis. There is tribute to Michael Glawogger and ” films about music, technology, and recent conflicts in Middle East, environmental issues and human rights are all part of the program..”.

The festival is super-professionally presented, documentaries all over, long and short, there are new films like James work on the critic Roger Ebert, “Life itself” and “Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait” by Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan.

Let me give the floor to the charismaric festival director: “This year DokuFest is full with films that show us that there is no other art form capable of moving us to tears, bringing us joy, taking us to places of horror and making us stand and want to change the world we’re living in, all at the same time.” said Veton Nurkollari, Artistic Director of DokuFest. “From the work of emerging filmmakers to the masters of the craft, and from filmmakers who are first timers to the ones who are returning, we are delighted to present an outstanding selection of films for this year’s edition.”

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Documentaries at Sarajevo Film Festival

Written 25-07-2014 10:27:38 by Tue Steen Müller

The competition programme at the upcoming film festival in Sarajevo (August 15-23) has been announced. Nicely put in categories there are 5 world premieres, 5 international premieres, 5 regional premieres and 4 B&H (Bosnia Herzegovina) premieres. All together 19 films – and as a viewer I don’t care about this categorisation, which is pure promotion – from what I can see the selection is competently selected by Rada Sesic, who writes the following words (a quote) on the site of the festival:

“A decade of transition in which many countries faced with several difficulties has passed. After the new political systems, and somewhere even completely new states in the region were established, the film has become more than a mere cultural matter. It has become a sophisticated way of expressing identity of a nation and creating a recognizable voice that echoes as far as abroad. On film one often reflects and examines political reality and attempts of establishing dialogue and solving mutual conflicts. In that, documentaries are particularly important…”

I am happy to see the great “Mitch” by Damir Cucic and Misel Skoric as well as “Uncle Tony, three fools and the Secret Service” (photo) by Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova in the programme. Both of them raised problems in their respective countries, the latter with rude verbal attacks on the makers of a fine, warm film. Another controversial film is “Judgement in Hungary” by Eszter Hajdu, a film that I have on my “must see” list. “Everyday Rebellion” by the Arash Brothers is there and so is Croatian Tatjana Bozic “selfie-documentary” “Happily Ever After”.

And then there is a gala screening out of competition of “My Craft” by Serbian Mladen Maticevic. I know the direcvtor’s previous work and is more than curious…

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Tsimintia Ana: Biblioteka

Written 23-07-2014 08:30:40 by Tue Steen Müller

There are no users of the library in the provincial town in Georgia. But there is quite a number, around 20, of employed librarians and administrative people. Who do a little or nothing at all. They sit, they move along the bookshelves, they browse the newspapers and magazines, they talk to each other about food, they knit, small things surrounded by literature, that nobody apparently wants... All women, well there is one man who uses the library, he is reading a newspaper, and in the group photo that the director lines up in the beginning of the film, there is man in the back. Some of the women have a desk, one has been moved away from her desk, she sits in the corridor, looks at some magazines and dreams of going to another country to meet a man. Or she argues with the others and tells them that they should all go on strike as their salaries are too low! As a viewer (and as a librarian educated 1972 when people read books...)  you think that it might be more obvious to cut down in the staff... The women are single, this is their world, their lives are there, you imagine, this is where they go to have a good time. To pass the time.

Ana Tsimintia has made a fine film. She has an eye for people and situations and she knows the place. She knows how to wait for moments to come, her camera reads faces. And she knows the place: Her mother works there and she - Ana - has come there since she was a child. Private photos in the beginning of the film give this information.

It is the first feature duration documentary of the director. She demonstrates an impressive sense for rythm and montage, music comes in a natural way, dancing feet to national music take the viewer to what must be another floor of the building, there are great wordless sequences... it's all very promising and this film must have a long festival life waiting for it. The Georgian National film Centre and Finnish YLE (bravo!) have supported the obvious talent, who is now working on a project called Pioneers, presented at Caucadoc (see below) about children, who are attending activities at the Pioneers Palace. The director did that when a child... ”I will never forgive my mother that she sent me”, she writes in the exposé!

Georgia, 54 mins., 2014



Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Caucadoc/ Anna Dziapshipa

Written 22-07-2014 07:26:41 by Tue Steen Müller

For those of you who want to know more about Caucasian documentaries, go to the website below, the one of Caucadoc, where you can find around 40 films described with all necessary information and trailers to watch.

People from Russia and from former Soviet republics do often use the word “hero”, when they describe characters in their films and film projects. I tend to correct them to say characters or protagonists, whereas the word hero should be used when it is appropiate. For me Anna Dziapshipa is a hero or maybe better a star, not only because she has invited me to Georgia several times... but because she has been the organising force behind workshops, training programmes, the above mentioned online catalogue of Caucasian documentaries and close colleague of Salomé Jashi on “Bakhmaro”.

Now she is preparing her first film as a director. The working title is “Stories from the Family Albums” and here is the description of the film that she sent to me:

“Several months ago my friend showed me footage from his family archive. We were watching the material and he was telling me his childhood story. Gradually, I had a feeling his story became mine; it felt like collective Déjà vu. At some point, I realised we share the same past living in Soviet state that suddenly collapsed and growing up in an Independent country which had several wars in last 20 years. Actually it was a visual of last Generation born in USSR. I was watching his family archive chronologically and vividly felt influences, but could not understand did country history influenced family lives or was it vice versa? For the first time I was thinking of a family as a microcosm of the country and home video as a most powerful memory engine. Unlike official archive family camera chooses details with unconditional love and attention, during a demonstration it depicted a child with a flag – son of cameraman and his wife, she seems nervous, very close shot - her eyes, you know exactly which year is that, what she expects, what is the future. We all know, we share the same feelings and memories while watching others.”

Anna Dziapshipa is a brilliant photographer as those who are FB friend with her have evidenced and if you want more, go to her website, link below.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Caucadoc: Pirosmani is Online

Written 21-07-2014 14:11:41 by Tue Steen Müller

Morning atmosphere. Sitting on the balcony outside the restaurant room of Hotel Pirosmani (for those who don’t recognise the name of the painter, link below), fresh air, 8am. It’s already hot so a bottle of mineral water is within reach. The square outside is like a stage that will slowly be occupied by the inhabitants of this small town in Eastern Georgia, Sighnaghi, which has been an object for modernization towards attracting tourism. And tourists come during the day.

Old people are the first to enter the stage walking with a stick and/or placing themselves on a chair in the shade chatting and waving good morning to newcomers. Stray dogs find a place outside the sun as well, taking some steps once in a while. A green old car comes to the hotel with bread from the baker, a woman carries newspapers and magazines to be sold at the other corner of the square. I ask one of the filmmakers, who are up for breakfast if the cigarette shop is open. No, he laughs, you are in Georgia, that is too early. A nanny strolls with a baby trolley, local buses come with people who go to work in the buildings around the square, including the monster of a new building for the municipality. It’s all calm and nice.

We enter the conference room and Salomé Jashi introduces the ”I am a character” exercise. 40 minutes are given to the filmmakers to write their speech which is delivered in a plenary session. It works quite well, you see who can ”talk visually” and who can interpret how they see one of their characters. It’s fun and the young filmmakers are trained in standing in front of their colleagues, which is not that easy for several of them.

Nino Orjonikidze and I take over to present what to put in a project one-pager – the next exercise for the participants, who have some hours to bring down their many pages to one. The one-pager of ”Bakhmaro” is shown as a good example, as well as the one of ”The English Teacher”. From there to watching the trailer of ”Bakhmaro” (photo) and ”The English Teacher”, both of them from my point of view very professional and inviting. Finally director Shorena Tevzadze and producer Nikoloz Gogochuri generously show their trailers (one of them more a research scene) to discuss with the colleagues what works and how to proceed.

The rooms are full of working people and very often, you hear ”Pirosmani is Online” = the internet connection of the hotel that falls out, and comes back again.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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