Sergey Kachkin: Perm-36. Reflexion/ 2

Written 23-03-2017 22:32:22 by Tue Steen Müller

As the /2 says I have written about Kachkin’s film from Perm before – in August 2016 – where he told me that the film - the most obvious place to show it - was rejected by the local Flahertiana festival because it criticises the local Ministry of Culture in its talk about the prison camp, stalinism and Soviet times. What happened then with the film? Today I received an email from the Russian director, I quote from it, a report from an independent filmmaker, who travels to have his work shown:

Perm-36. Once we agreed that as soon as I have the screening outside of Russia I should let you know this and maybe you can make a post on your blog. So, it will be on March 24 at 12:00 in Tartu, Estonia. This is World Film Festival:

I write you know in a bus which brings me from Moscow to Tartu :)

On March 27 will be another screening in Saint Petersburg in one of the main cinema theatres of the North Cultural Capital as we call it. 

Actually, the film is very demanded in Russia but much less abroad... I've screened the title at many independent venues or cinemas... well, it's hard all the time to gather the audience but I've got much of help from some independent media, internet sites and radio stations... You can have a look the news here on the film's web page:

So, only in Moscow, I had eight screenings. Then there were in Yekaterinburg at Yeltsin Centre, in Perm three, then other places. Also, some screenings should be during the summer. Well, I'm satisfied in a way. But it takes me much to promote all the screenings and negotiating with media...

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2017/ On the Edge of Freedom

Written 21-03-2017 14:38:19 by Tue Steen Müller


I heard myself saying “don’t do it, stop” several times, alone in front of the screen, when the young Russians and Ukrainians were climbing unfinished buildings and cranes. To take photos of themselves. Or videos. Scary like hell. And I am after having seen the film not sure that I understand why they challenge themselves in that way. Says someone from another generation. Yes, I understand that this could be the way to money as they are selling tours – especially the Ukrainians who go underground to make “tours in the drainage system” – and document them, put them on the social media. Create an identity.

Let me educate you as I was from the texts in the beginning of the film: Roofing is the exploration of heights. Digging is the exploration of underground area. In Moscow Angela (the photo) goes up, in Kiev Vlad goes down. With friends around them. They are all very young and beautiful, and cool, they are looking for a way in their lives, which they stage. They pose like fashion models, at least Angela does, she gets ill, a blood cot in the arm, she takes care of her medicine and seems to have recovered towards the end of the film.

Vlad, the Ukrainian, experiences the Maidan revolt and makes a tour to Pripyat, to the Chernobyl Zone, he is well formulated and talks about the digging as “going from one reality to another”, seeing “an urban renaissance”.

This ignorant critic has seen an energetically made, professional, visually scary, fascinating close-up documentary about youngsters in Moscow and Kiev, who are playing with their lives or searching for a meaning, for freedom the title says… Well…

The film will be shown at CPH:DOX tonight March 21 22.30 at Empire, March 23 10.30 at Nordisk Film Palads and March 25 at 22.15, Empire Bio. Broadcast on DR3 March 27 at 20.30.

Denmark, 2017, 75 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2017 /Kirsten Johnson

Written 20-03-2017 22:22:56 by Tue Steen Müller

90 minutes with Kirsten Johnson thursday morning 23rd of March at Cinemateket, that’s a good time investment. I can guarantee that knowing Kirsten’s knowledge and commitment, and having attended her classes and Q&A sessions several times. Of course it is good if you have seen her film ”Cameraperson” – but if not there is a screening at 16.40 that same day at Grand Teatret with the director present.

”Cameraperson” was on my list of the best documentaries of 2016, here is some text from my review:

It is a film that deserves all the attention it can get. BECAUSE it puts the cinematographer and his/her work in focus through Kirsten Johnson, who says – a text in the beginning of the film – ”for the past 25 years I’ve worked as a documentary cinematographer. I originally shot the following footage for other films, but here I ask you to see it as my memoir. These are images that have marked me and leave me wondering still”.

Memoir, yes, the film comes out as not only an offer to reflect on ethical and aesthetical choices of a cameraperson, it is also an autobiographical essay, as – luckily - Johnson connects what she is doing behind the camera with her own private life as mother of twins with a mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and a father/grandfather playing with her Viva and Felix, the names of the twins. In other words private footage is included in a film that is very rich in its thematically structured narrative…

… and has the most wonderful scene towards the end of the film, where Kirsten Johnson goes back to the family in Bosnia that she had filmed before – to show them the footage that constitutes her pleasant memories from her first visit, where she was the cameraperson for a film on the war. A scene full of dignity from both sides.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX /To Stay Alive - A Method

Written 20-03-2017 16:44:40 by Mikkel Stolt


If you are a fan of either Michel Houellebecq or Iggy Pop or both: read no further and go and see this film immediately. For those of us who is something less than a dedicated fan (I’m more of a Tom Waits and Haruki Murakami kind of guy myself) there is, however, plenty of reasons to watch this “feelgood movie about suffering” as the front credits say.

I’m not going to tell you the narrative since there isn’t really any, except towards the ending: Iggy is coming to visit Houellebecq (who here is called Vincent) and after a truly spellbinding and kind of nuts dialogue scene, Vincent is showing Iggy Pop to his basement where he has built or created… something. It’s wonderfully staged, and just watching their faces, bodies and clothing are priceless. One look nerdier that the other, in their own way.

Beside the scene mentioned above, the film consists of Iggy Pop reading or reciting the words of Houellebecq in different settings and the crew’s visits to three somewhat unfortunate souls who all suffer or have suffered from different form of poor mental health. They also express themselves in poems (some recited by Iggy Pop) and other art forms but somehow the essayistic form of the film lacks the ability to really grab you in all the scenes. Maybe the staging gets too evident or too pointless with camera trackings and other visual means and maybe there just IS too much text after all.

However, the film grows on you after watching it, and you have never seen a film about creative force and mental illness just like this. And as “Vincent” says I my favourite scene: “Art shouldn’t be a movement”. Luckily, Iggy Pop - who you could argue was part of the punk music movement - agrees in the most self-ironic way. I want to watch that scene again…

Erik Lieshout a.o.: “To Stay Alive - A Method”, 2016. Seen at CPH:DOX. Filmkommentaren: 4/6 penheads 


Categories: Cinema, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2017 /Where is Rocky II?

Written 19-03-2017 16:55:50 by Mikkel Stolt


Since he saw an old BBC documentary from 1980 about American pop artist Ed Ruscha, the director has seemingly had an obsession to find the topic of that doc; a piece of artificial rock that Ruscha planted in the Mojave Desert in California among other rocks. What became of it? Is it still there?

Bismuth hires a private detective to help find the rock, but soon we learn that he also hires a couple of scriptwriters. Bismuth was on the scriptwriting team on the unfathomable “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (dir. Michel Gondry”) and it is therefore no surprise that ”Where is Rocky 2” is composed in a puzzling way, combining with what looks like (staged) documentary scenes; scenes with the scriptwriters working, and scenes from the fiction film on which they are working.

I’m a sucker for meta-films and for films playing with the genres – thus giving us a chance to ponder which reality we prefer or can relate to and ultimately understand. Bismuth has called this film a piece of “fake fiction” which is a great term I intent to steal.

However, something goes awry during the last fifth or so of the film, at least for me. The essence of the story itself is something like: “Is a piece of art still art if nobody knows it’s there?” and the film’s problem is probably that the documentary-like scenes with the private detective (who plays himself) turns out to be the most engaging ones. The film that the scriptwriters are working on doesn’t add much but a flavor of trivial storytelling techniques, and it’s like the structure and the conundrums are both too obvious and too obscure. Towards the end, it seems just unnecessary and too apparent to reveal the film crew in a certain shot with the actors.

Still, until the last five or ten minutes I was rather amused and it is definitely worth a look – unless you hate this sort of thing. Then don’t look. It’s still a film of some significance even though YOU don’t watch it.

Pierre Bismuth: Where is Rocky II?, 2016. Seen at CPH:DOX. Filmkommentaren: 3/6 penheads. 


Categories: Cinema, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokumania /THE FEAR OF 13

Written 19-03-2017 10:36:37 by Allan Berg Nielsen


Filmen har den danske titel Manden der ville henrettes. Den var med på CPH:DOX 2015, DR2 Dokumania sendte den forrige sommer, og nu tager Dokumania den op igen. Det sker på tirsdag 21. marts 20:45. Det er også denne gang en god disposition, fordi David Sington er en vigtig instruktør, han har lavet mere end 30 dokumentarer for BBC, og det er en god disposition, fordi det er en vigtig film, en konsekvent egensindig konstruktion, som fik et stort publikum på CPH:DOX til at give den prisen. Men filmen fik omvendt The Guardian's meget erfarne Peter Bradshaw til at afvise dens radikale fortællegreb:

“… Director David Sington effectively turns the film over to Yarris (hovedpersonen, red.), who is allowed to narrate the documentary on-camera and control its pace, tone and content. For me, he feels like a ham actor auditioning for the role of himself in a movie version: he delivers what sounds like an overwritten, over-rehearsed monologue in a breathy-mellifluous voice. His story is important, yet the style is mannered. I wondered if it might have been better as an interview, with Sington interrupting him, questioning him, getting more perspective on his (important) story.”

Independent's Geoffrey Macnab blev lige modsat begejstret over grebet: “…What is fascinating about Sington's invigorating documentary is that the inmate Nick Yarris recounts his story in his own words. He is formidably articulate, an autodidact who knows how to emphasise all the urgency, suspense, drama and macabre humour in the events that led him to be condemned to die. His account is complemented by reconstructions similar to those found in Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line. This is virtuoso film-making only partially let down by its artifice.”

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Categories: TV, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

CPH:DOX 2017 /The President from the North

Written 18-03-2017 12:23:11 by Tue Steen Müller


It’s a Dane writing this review. Important to say as the main character of this film, Ahmed Dualeh, is Danish, well he is born in Somalia but has been living in Denmark for 47 years – and he speaks the most perfect, classic Danish. An accent is there but the vocabulary is huge, which is heard, when he in first person tells the amazing story about his life in the country he loves and where he settled in 1967. He became a captain of ships at Maersk, he set up his own company and became a millionaire, he established a family… but he has his heart in Somalia, where he was born in poverty, adopted by an Italian family, and where he – voted by exile Somalis – became the president of Jubaland in 2012, the republic in the South of Somalia. As it turns out there are many other, who want that job, and also a position as prime minister is not reachable for the charismatic idealistic man, who wants to help his native country and dedicates a lot of time to go to political meetings and to meet people in the streets. Most of the time outside Jubaland, in Mogadishu or in neighbouring Kenya as Jubaland still is a dangerous place because of warlords.

The structure of the film goes from here to there, from Denmark to Somalia, from the family to politics. Very simple and efficient. His wife Zhara is worried about him – and their life together - as he is so much away from home. In a scene she is packing her suitcase, cut to him trying to catch her by phone, no success, cut to a daughter who tells him to stop all that travelling, cut to him and wife on what is said to be the last tour, where he is bringing computers and other technical equipment to a school in his native region in Somalia.

Apart from the drama, which is actually not described as a drama, of the couple who has been together for 45 years, the film lives through the way he – and she – is described. An almost constantly smiling, well formulated positive Danish Somali and his adventurous life with Zhara. You will be in a good mood watching this film, which of course also in a Denmark of today full of restrictions towards foreigners is a very timely documentary.

Denmark, 2017, 65 mins.

The film will be shown at CPH:DOX Sunday 19.3 at 21.30 Park Bio, Saturday 25.3 12.30 Empire Bio, Sunday 26.3 13.30 Nordisk Film Palads.    


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2017 /The Unforgiven

Written 18-03-2017 10:46:56 by Tue Steen Müller


1992. Celebici in Bosnia-Hercegovina. A prison camp for Serbs. Esad Landzo, 19 years old was a guard. He killed and tortured, he was one of the worst, say survivors who remember what ”Zenga”, his nickname, did to them and friends and relatives. In 1996 he was arrested and in 1998 sentenced to 15 years in prison at the Court in den Haag. He sat in a Finnish prison from 2003 till he was released in 2006. He now lives and is married in Finland.

Facts about a war criminal, who is the main protagonist of this important documentary that puts focus on the question whether you can forgive. Esad suffers after his release, ”my old demons come back, they don’t let me sleep”, ”I am a dead man walking”, ”I need my life back”. His life story is told, you meet his parents, there is archive material from the camp, showing strong emotional material of prisoners sitting in a squat position, waiting for the next atrocity to be committed. He visits a psychiatrist.

It all builds up to the confrontations. Esad writes to some of the former prisoners to ask if they will meet him. And the film takes its time to let us viewers meet them - before the confrontation - to hear, what they remember, and to see them get ready to meet Esad – at the camp. Several other people are built up as characters in the film. Accompanied by the man, who was a doctor at the camp, and who seems to be respected by the survivors, as well as by Esad, they come to meet Esad, who asks for forgiveness, ”I am not here to excuse”, ”I want to apologize”, he says to one after the other, a broken man talking to people, broken as well, they have scars on their souls – it is very tense, very sad to watch these authentic and actually mostly silent scenes that reminds you that the best documentaries do not give answers, they raise questions.

Lars Feldballe and his Finnish producer have worked on this film for years, with respect for the theme and the involved, they have avoided tabloid journalism to make a film that will have a long life ahead. Hopefully not only at festivals but also whereever post-war traumas are being dealt with. It deserves to be used like that.     

Finland/Denmark, 2017, 75 mins.

The film will be shown at CPH:DOX Monday 20.3 at 8pm Empire Bio, Wednesday 22.3 at 4.30pm Nordisk Film Palads, Saturday 25.3 Nordisk Film Palads. At the two first screenings there will be debates. More about who and what on


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2017 /The Trial

Written 17-03-2017 17:14:41 by Tue Steen Müller


… with the subtitle ”The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov”, a film that premiered at the Berlinale, now to be shown at CPH:DOX and at DocuDays in Kiev on the 25th of March with the director and guests present.

I mention the latter as Oleg Sentsov is Ukrainian and for those, who do not know the story, here is the laconic film description from the festival in Ukraine:

Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian filmmaker, Euromaidan activist and native of Crimea. After the Russian annexation of Crimea, he became an active opponent of the occupation. In May 2014 he was arrested by the Russian security

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2017 /Modern Times Review

Written 17-03-2017 08:08:40 by Tue Steen Müller

First day of the 2017 CPH:DOX. I went to the new festival centre, Charlottenborg, got my accreditation, ran into always energetic Frank Piasecki Poulsen, who ordered me to go up to see the impressive colourful so-called social cinema, where the morning had hosted a lot of young people discussing ”democracy”, meeting journalists and opinon-makers. Poulsen also told me to see his ”blue room”, where he resides with his ”Every Day” videos and a small kitchen, that is open – with Frank as cook – at 6pm every night… amazing! CPH:DOX is much more than a film festival-

I was happy to meet Norwegian Truls Lie, the man behind ”Modern Times Review” (MTR), the European Documentary Magazine, that

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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