Filmkommentaren

DocsBarcelona Films

Written 27-05-2022 12:00:46 by Tue Steen Mller

There is quite a distance from “The Territory” by Alex Pritz to “Maija Isola” by Leena Kilpeläinen. Both are films that have seen selected for the Official Panorama competition program of this year’s DocsBarcelona. “The Territory” is a product made according to the standards of National Geographic, “Maija Isola” is a classic creative documentary on the life of the Finnish artist, whose name is connected to the world famous brand of Marimekko. “The Territory” comes with awards from the Sundance festival, “Maija Isola” has been to design and architecture festivals. “The Territory” is full of music and sound effects, no second you are left alone as a viewer, the sound tells you what to think and feel of the important topic: the Amazon being deforested and the fight to survive for the Indigenous Uru-eu-wau-wau people of Brazil. For me a complete over-kill sound-wise, whereas the makers of “Maija Isola” chose to ask the brilliant composer Finnish Sanna Salmenkallio to guide us through the fascinating life of Maija Isola. 

To be honest I had never heard of Maija Isola before so I thought, why the film had been chosen. Watching yesterday, the answer was given. What a life (1927-2001) she had as an artist, a traveller, many men, constantly in the process of creating, with the connection to Marimekko as the backbone. She tells the story herself via her diaries and via her daughter, who lives in a house full of the mother’s creations, it’s a chronologically told adventurous film with lovely archive footage from the places, she went to, Paris being number one, but also Algeria, New York and sometimes back to – mostly – snowy Finland. It is simply a pleasure to be with clever, reflective Maija Isola in her search for what is the meaning of it all. And despite the many love stories her happy moments being alone. It’s a film with many layers and a huge respect for the audience. "Master of Colour and Form" is the subtitles to the film, indeed, we see that!

Diversity has always been what the DocsBarcelona festival has been seeking, I can say so having been involved in the selection until this year. I have written about the fine “Fire of Love”, I liked “Dreaming Walls” about Chelsea Hotel in NY, there were great moments in the French “Penelope My Love” on autistic Penelope and her mother, the director of the film, “A Thousand Fires”, “President” and “Nelly and Nadine” are masterpieces written about on this site before, the same goes for “Myanmar Diaries”, whereas “Aya” is too much staged and made up to be at a documentary film festival.

There are still some films to be seen and some I have forgotten about. That’s how it is at a festival. Awards will be announced tomorrow.

 


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Sara Dosa: Fire of Love

Written 22-05-2022 14:15:22 by Tue Steen Mller

Katia and Maurice. Volcanologists. Scientists and Filmmakers. A couple. Married in 1970. Decided not to have children. That would have prevented them to do their work or with a better phrase: to Live their Passion. The dangerous passion that killed them. A quote from Wikipedia:

”In June 1991, while filming eruptions at Mount Unzen in Japan, they were caught in a pyroclastic flow, which unexpectedly swept out of the channel that previous smaller flows had been following and onto the ridge they were standing on. They were killed instantly along with 41 other people…”

Click above and you will know what a pyroclastic flow is.

Which you actually don’t need to know, it’s enough to watch the unique footage they shot during their work, Katia getting closer and closer to the lava, challenging nature, taking photographs, documenting – with Maurice filming. When they were not rushing from one volcano to the next, they wrote books and made films from their 16mm footage. To earn their living.

I have been to 23 eruptions, Maurice says, so no problem if I die tomorrow…They lived to be 49 and 50. But they live on thanks to this fascinating love story narrated by American Miranda July, whose mesmerizing voice puts it all together information-wise and creates atmosphere.

Love story – the film also includes lovely, charming tv interview clips where the flirt is obvious. He, the performer, she always smiling, what a charisma. Away from the volcanos there was burning love. 

Canada, USA, 2021, 93 mins.


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DocFests in Belgrade and Warsaw

Written 13-05-2022 18:11:32 by Tue Steen Mller

Beldocs in Belgrade started two days ago, Millenium Docs Against Gravity takes off today. The latter in 8 cities and with an online version from May 24.

Both have industry sections and both have a focus on Ukraine. In Belgrade it makes me happy to see that “Outside” by Olha Zhurba closes the festival – and that excellent “Museum of Revolution” by Srđan Keča was the opening film. Both documentaries have been reviewed on this site. In Warsaw is shown “House of Splinters” shot in Ukraine by Simon Lereng Wilmont and co-produced by Ukrainian company Moon Man.

High quality program at both festivals – Let me highlight (Warsaw) “Young Plato” from Ireland by Neasa Ni Chianáin and Declan McGrath as well as the lovely “Skál” by Cecilie Debell and Maria Tórgard, a love story from Faroe Islands. In Belgrade you can only welcome a retrospective of films by elimir ilnik and the great documentary by Mantas Kvedaravičius“Mariupolis” (PHOTO on FB link) from 2016. (I just read that the film material Mantas was shooting in Mariupolis has been edited and will be shown in Cannes.) In memoriam of a fine filmmaker murdered by the Russians in the war.

… and then Belgrade has a Danish focus without any actual reason but thanks for that and for showing Jørgen Leth’s classic “The Perfect Human” and “The Five Obstacles”, made together with Lars von Trier. More about Beldocs here:

https://www.beldocs.rs/en/films/

Back to Warsaw where the festival runs all year round as it says: with an online platform, with distribution in cinemas and a considerable number of audience. To quote the site of the festival:

The cinema section, taking place in seven cities (for the tenth time in Wrocław!), attracted 65 295 attendees. Viewership numbers of the online section add up to 40 418 e-tickets. Assuming that most people don’t watch movies alone, our online audience must have been larger: international festivals multiply online viewership numbers by 1.7. Therefore, our online edition reached a total of 68 711 people. The total number of attendees of the 18th edition of our festival, which ended last Sunday, is 134 006.

Take a look at the program:

https://mdag.pl/19/en/warszawa/sections


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Marusya Syroechkovskaya: How to Save a Dead Friend

Written 09-05-2022 11:56:02 by Tue Steen Mller

Filmed by Kimi Morev and Marusya Syroechkovskaya 

Edited by Qutaiba Barhamji

Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, 103 mins., 2022

I have previously posted a beautiful text by Marusya - http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/5021/

 

where she writes about her film. 

I write this using her first name. I met her in Moscow in 2019, and in Riga, and in Prague talking about/pitching her film that I am totally in love with and have seen a couple of times. Together with producer Ksenia Gapchenko.

The title could also have been “Marusya and Kimi” putting the focus on what it is, a love story, with a start, a middle and an end – told in a film language that is touching, that is sweet and funny – and sad as it evolves, with the self-destruction of Kimi, who dives more and more into using hard drugs and “looks at the camera and not at me” as Marusya says. A tragic love story, yes, but full of warm scenes with the two, scenes you can only characterize as poetic.

Poetic: When I met Marusya in Moscow, she tried to explain – in vain – the system where you can create music by touching the image. I still don’t understand it but the film shows me, when Marusya’s fingers on a photography go from the head of Kimi to his arms and hands, to his legs and feet. Amazing!

Not to forget the many faces of Marusya being filmed by Kimi, caressing her, teasing her saying that he wants close-ups of her pimples, or caught when she is posing for the camera or dancing as if she was Anna Karina in a Godard film.

The music plays an important role in the film. Nirvana, Kurt Cobain – it’s not my generation’s music, I am older, much older, from the generation of “happiness is a warm gun in hand” as Lennon sang. 

As the film progresses Marusya, they were married and divorced, continues to film Kimi, she becomes more and more one who documents, what happens to him, who “has been in and out of a mental hospital five times in two years”.

It’s not easy for her so she also turns her camera, her shield, towards Andryusha, the 18 year older brother of Kimi, a lost soul, who reflects on how much better and easier it is to die from an overdosis…and she follows a couple of times their strong mother introduced up-front in the film at the funeral of Kimi: He had so much pain, Marusya, she says.

The love story is told voice-off by Marusya, the right solution, with breaks of documentary archive material from riots in the streets where demonstrations are being “handled” with brutality – and with clips from new year speeches of the President of Russia.

That is not so important for me, when I think about the film I return to the sequences of love and hope and passion of the two. How – funny and sad – how Marusya sees how their life could have been, followed by the surrealistic floating ending of the high-rise buildings, where they were together. Superb, simply.

I knew in beforehand how good an editor Qutaiba Barhamjiis is – what he has done here is extraordinary. There is so much tense energy in all the scenes. He lives in France, Marusya and Ksenia have left Russia, wish them all the best whereever they are.


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Sidabrinė gervė 2022

Written 05-05-2022 16:23:57 by Tue Steen Mller

The national award ceremony in Lithuania takes place 6th of June. With many categories and a lot of nominations attached. I take a look at the ones for Best Documentary that has a very strong line-up. 

I had seen four of the five but got a link to the fifth Mončys. emaitis iš Paryiaus (Re. Linas Mikuta, Prod. Jurga Gluskinienė), a well-made classical (good cinematography, fine mix between archive, shots from France and Lithuania including interviews with his sister and sons) bio about the interesting Antanas Moncys, who performed his sculpturing art in – primarily – Paris but kept his cultural roots in his works, being a samogitian, i.e. from a region in the North-East of Lithuania. Shame on me who has been to Lithuania so many times, being ignorant about Moncys, but now I know about a great artist working from wood and at the next voyage I will try to visit the museum dedicated to him in Palanga.

No further intro needed to  Mr. Landsbergis. Sugriauti blogio imperiją (Re. Sergei Loznitsa, Prod. Uljana Kim)that I saw at IDFA, where it received the main award and where the protagonist, professor Landsbergis, was present to talk to the audience after the screening for more than an hour. Charisma is the word. What a man!Read more here: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/4991/

And I am getting sad to write about  Pavyzdingas elgesys (Re. Audrius Mickevičius, Nerijus Milerius, Prod. Rasa Miškinytė), such a great film (English title: Exemplary Behaviour), read all about it here: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/4648/ The sadness comes from knowing Audrius M. and his long preparation for a film that he could not see finished himself, he died in 2017.

And ”The Jump” by Giedré Z, an international film success, loads of festivals and awards already, an amazing achievement by the director, who has been present at so many festivals to meet the audience and has taken care of the national distribution herself.  Šuolis (Re. Giedrė ickytė, Prod. Giedrė ickytė, Uldis Cekulis) Read more: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/4125/

Švelnūs kariai (Re. Marija Stonytė, Prod. Giedrė ickytė) – ”Gentle Warriors”, a debut of the young talented director with Giedre Z. as producer. I saw it being pitched, I saw a very promising rough cut but have not seen the final film that also has had a fine distributed in Lithuania. 


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DocsBarcelona 2022

Written 02-05-2022 20:38:33 by Tue Steen Mller

The programme is out for the 25th edition of DocsBarcelona. Twenty-five editions!!!

Which means that I have become 25 years older as has the founder of it all Joan Gonzalez, who back then in a workshop in Granada proposed to EDN (European Documentary Network), represented by Anita Reher (now head of Nordisk Panorama after years at Flaherty in the US) and me, to establish what became DocsBarcelona.

I have been there all the time to see with admiration how Gonzalez has expanded what in the beginning was a so-called industry event and later a festival and then much much more.

Here is a quote from this site last year in December:

The L’Acadèmia del Cinema Català included on December 2 six new Membres d’Honor to salute their contribution to the film industry in Catalonia. One of them was Joan Gonzàlez, director of the festival DocsBarcelona and producer of more than 100 documentaries, and with a background at the TVE and TV3. In 1996 he created DocsBarcelona that also exists in Medellin and Valparaiso. DocsBarcelona distributes documentaries to more than 80 places in Spain, and now DocsBarcelona headed by Gonzàlez is working on “nextus” that aims at making documentaries part of the school curriculum.The prestigious award to Joan Gonzàlez is the first one given to a documentarian... continues

 



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Marusya Syroechkovskaya: How to Save a Dead Friend

Written 11-04-2022 20:35:09 by Tue Steen Mller

Filmed by Kimi Morev and Marusya Syroechkovskaya 

Edited by Qutaiba Barhamji

Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, 103 mins., 2022

With the subtitle … a message from a silenced generation here is the director’s personal statement:

”On the 24th February 2022, Putin and his government expanded his cruel and devastating war on Ukraine. 

I fled Moscow as the ensuing crackdown on opposition voices inside Russia increased to drown us all out. 

Honestly, I was scared for my wellbeing amidst the establishment of a new law against “fake” news (even calling the war in Ukraine a “war” or expressing disagreement with it now means the threat of up to 15 years in prison); people being getting arrested, beaten, and tortured (not only while protesting but one can also get arrested just standing on the street); the police coming for you at your house; those against the war finding a “Z” graffitied on their door... 

There is a website created by the so-called Committee for the Protection of National Interests with a constantly updated list of “traitors --enemies, cowards and runaways”, from whom, according to Putin, society must cleanse itself: "Any people, and even more so the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and simply spit them out, like a midge that accidentally flew into the mouth”. 

Putin is brilliant at isolation, gaslighting. He excels at separating and dividing. He is the poster image for an abusive relationship, but this relationship you cannot leave. I can only agree with a fellow filmmaker Erika Lust with her portrayal of Putin as a great example of a destructive and exploitative patriarchal mindset - violent and oppressive, abusing power and violating human rights in the name of greed. 

By allowing Putin to stay in power for so many years, allowing him to methodically destroy Russian civil society unchecked as he shut down independent press, and any possible horizontal ties between people all these years, we, the Russian people, fertilized the ground for this terrible war. 

We didn’t stand up for ourselves, or when we tried, our voices were not loud enough. 

However, there is no point and no use in self-pity. Our responsibility now is to not stay silent, to keep doing whatever we can to stop this violence by any possible means. And to offer a narrative to the endless stream of Russian lies and propaganda. 

There are no doubts Ukrainian people will win this war and Ukraine will rebuild itself. But I can't see how Russia will be able to move forward. Putin has taken care of that. 

So, for the moment, I am a citizen of nowhere, somewhere, anywhere except Russia...and although this love story was born on the ground sown by an autocratic government, it is a love story that could happen wherever voices are silenced. 

March 24, 2022


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Marusya Syroechkovskaya: How to Save a Dead Friend

Written 11-04-2022 20:30:05 by Tue Steen Mller

Filmed by Kimi Morev and Marusya Syroechkovskaya 

Edited by Qutaiba Barhamji

Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, 103 mins., 2022

Kimi passed away on the night of November 4th, 2016. 

He wasn’t just my lover and husband, he was also my best friend, my dreamy soul mate. But he was giving up -- on his future, dreams, his looks even...he was sinking more and more into self-destruction, and it was hard for me to see how the person I love so much destroys himself. He didn’t accept any help from anybody, it was impossible to get through to him, and the only thing I could do was just to be with him. 

How do you keep someone who does his best to disappear? I wanted to be there for him, but the whole situation hurt me a lot as well. Then my camera provided me the distance I needed, making everything looked not real. Maybe filming for me became the same as drugs became for Kimi—an escape from reality, from everything that didn't work out for us. This experience made me think about the nature of film as a medium that captures time and keeps everything and everyone in one collective space. It reminded me of watching old wartime newsreel footage and realizing that although these people died a long time ago, somehow, they are still here, alive in the footage. Was it maybe the way to save Kimi? Or maybe I could save him if he somehow becomes music? Maybe scanning Kimi’s body with the sonification app VOSIS and turning it into music is also a way of keeping him and letting him stay for as long as possible. In the end, music and his poems are is what left of him. 

I also wanted to save the time, space, and things that formed me and Kimi as we were growing up, and HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND is also a tribute to films of Gregg Araki and Harmony Korine; artwork of David LaChapelle; to lots and lots of music: from post-punk and grunge to emo and witch house; to Windows Movie Maker transitions, early web aesthetics, and internet forums - back when the internet wasn’t yet controlled by corporations and censored by the government, when it was a place where you could freely express yourself and find belonging, occupying your dial-up for hours. 

How do you find a language for the film that spans 12 years and wasn’t meant to become a film while it was shot? The idea was to give a feeling of how it was to grow up in the 00s, to dive into sunny summer days and kaleidoscope of formats, pulsating visuals, and sounds coming from all directions. 

As time passes, as we see a chain of similar New Year addresses by presidents, the winter dark days take hold, isolating people from each other in their apartments. Our immediate outside world, once so enticing now becomes more and more violent, with less music and fewer friends around. Colors become muted, less saturated; cuts become longer. And Kimi is fading away into the darkness. 

When you lose someone close — someone who knew you well — part of your story disappears along with him. All that is left to do is to pick up the remaining memories before they turn to digital dust. 


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Rita Baghdadi: Sirens

Written 11-04-2022 14:46:34 by Tue Steen Mller

”With jet-black hair, leather boots and an uncompromising sound, metal band Slave to Sirens smashes every obstacle to pave the way for other female musicians in Lebanon. In Rita Baghdadi's instant Sundance audience favourite, we follow the band's five young members as they struggle with music, each other and the unrest in the country. The overriding protagonists are the band's biggest egos: the two headbanging guitarists who share a complicated past! Withexplosive chemistry and youthful stubbornness the five women play as loud and fast as they can for a brighter (or darker) future.”

That is the synopsis from cph:dox website. Inviting it is. I saw on my computer a film that has been to Sundance and many other festivals this year, including One World in Prague, where I heard members of the intl. jury talk positively about it. I managed to see it via the website of the Copenhagen festival and I can only echo what has been said: Talented interpretation of creators who have difficulties in fitting into a conservative society due to their sexual orientation, the music they play – and the emotional conflicts between Lilas and Chery. It’s all about catching the atmosphere of where the protagonists are and who they are. The film does that in a fragmented nervous rhythm – before and after the explosion that changed Beirut August 4 2020 and made people go to the streets.

Lebanon, USA, 2022, 78 mins.


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Daniel Roher: Navalny

Written 11-04-2022 12:56:31 by Tue Steen Mller

Det er jo ikke fordi historien om Navalny ikke er kendt og fortalt igen og igen. På nettet, i tv-reportager og i dokumentarer. F.eks. har BBC i 2021 produceret ”Manden Putin ikke kunne dræbe”, som kan fanges på https://www.dr.dk/drtv/program/manden-putin-ikke-kunne-draebe_273354.

Det er en klassisk BBC-dokumentar, hvor arkiv veksler med interviews og hvor der gives baggrundsinfo om andre forsøgte giftmord. Og tales om myrdede oppositionspolitikere som Boris Nemtsov og journalisten Anna Politkovskaja. Og om Navalnys opvækst, politiske karriere og tvivlsomme deltagen i nationalistiske demonstrationer. Hans pro-russiske holdninger til Krim og Donbass er blevet kommenteret i stærke vendinger af ukrainere på de sociale medier.

Ikke desto mindre skal I gå ind og se ”Navalny” i de biografer, som CPH:DOX sender den ud til. Det er en docu-thriller, som festivalen skriver, formet over den skabelon, som producenten CNN bruger med en charmerende, artikuleret hovedperson i centrum, som mestrer internettet, hvor han ekvilibristisk taler direkte til seeren og i en helt fantastisk satirisk dokumentar (et scoop) fører rundt i Putins Palads ved Sortehavet. Den kan I se på YouTube.

Tilbage til Daniel Rohers dokumentar og til den sekvens, som er hele filmen værd, en perle på højde med Heynowski/Scheumann’s interview med Congo-Müller i sin tid: Navalny har med fantastisk hjælp fra Bellingcat’s Christo Grozevog journalisten Maria Pevcikh tracket, hvilke FSB-agenter, som har fløjet til Tomsk i den periode, hvor Navalny var der. Deres telefonnumrefinder de og Navalny ringer op til flere af dem, der lægger på, når han spørger dem, hvorfor aktionen gik galt. Med Navalny i centrum sidder de tre i billedet og reagerer på hvad de hører. 

Men én vil gerne tale, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, som fortæller at giften – novichok – var placeret i Navalnys underbukser og hvis ikke flyet var landet i Omsk efter 40 minutter, var aktionen sandsynligvis endt som planlagt. Med Navalnys død. 

Daniel Roher var bag kameraet i huset i den tyske landsby, da Navalnys opkald blev foretaget. Alt blev optaget og den del af de 49 minutters samtale mellem Navalny og Kudryavtsev, som er med i filmen, er helt forrygende.

Julija Navalny er med sin mand hele tiden, deres to børn er udenfor landets grænser. Hun er stærk, når hun insisterer på at ville se sin mand på hospitalet i Omsk og hun er til stede i retssalen, når hendes mand tegner hjerter til hende på glasburet, som bruges når fanger i Rusland bringes til retten. Navalny rejste hjem til Rusland, hun rejste med, gud ved om hun ikke hellere ville være blevet i den tyske landsby med grønne marker og æsler, som de giver gulerødder. 

Bulgarske Christo Grozev fra Bellingcat er den tredie hovedperson. Han er graver-journalist og har undersøgt adskillige giftmord-historier. Her er han den saglige informator og han bringer respekt for det arbejde Bellingcat udfører, lige nu i Ukraine.

Navalny sidder i fængsel nu, han har sultestrejket, han har kontakt til sit hold udenfor, de af dem der ikke er fængslet eller gået i eksil, han kommunikerer, opfordrer til demonstrationer. Hvor længe han skal sidde i fængsel, vides ikke, der tales om 20-30 år…

USA, 2022, 98 mins.  

 

 

 


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