Written 31-10-2014 16:53:09 by Tue Steen Müller
Your filmkommentaren.dk correspondent has seen the 11 long documentaries in the Dok International Competition 2014. He thinks it would be fun to make HIS list of winners for that category. I.e. a main prize and two honorary mentions. The films have been seen at the Dok Market during the last week, and it has to be said that the general level of quality for the 11 is high and that I appreciate the diversity in themes and storytelling.
”Suddenly My Thoughts Halt” (Portugal) (by Jorge Pelicano) (2014), 100 mins.
For its cinematically conveyed love to its characters at the hospital in Porto and the humorous and original storytelling approach with an actor, who moves in and tries to understand and to interpret insanity, helped by intelligent patients with wise words and authenticity.
”Rules of the Game” (France) (by Claudine Bories & Patrice Chagnard) (2014), 106 mins.
This well made, excellently photographed and edited human documentary catches, what it means to be young and unemployed, and to be involved in a training programme, where you are taught to write applications and ”sell” yourself at job interviews. It’s light in tone, it’s universal, the youngsters keep their own personality in this apparent no-go situation.
”Toto and His Sisters” (Romania) (by Alexander Nanau) (2014) 93 mins.
Heartbreaking. Mum is in jail, one sister is on drugs, the other fights for herself and for Toto in this film about a lost childhood, misery and poverty. With a society that tries to get the small boy away. Yes, away but to what? Toto is good at hip hop, that takes him away… A film with a strong sensibility for character and narrative.
Written 31-10-2014 15:45:00 by Tue Steen Müller
I have just left a nice chat with a former Zelig film school student – one of a handful who go to Leipzig to watch films and meet people, build contacts and enjoy masterclasses. It helps that Leipzig is such a pleasant city full of people in cafés, a market on the main square, churches to enter (Orgel Koncerten), good food many places, and Curry Wurst of course und so weiter… in other words what surrounds DOKLeipzig makes you in good mood before you enter the cinemas or the market to watch the current horrors of the world we live in!
Back to the first sentence, yes the programme of DOKLeipzig is rich, not only of films on the big or small screen (10 parallel screenings!) but also of masterclasses/presentations/debates related to the documentary. Impressive it is, indeed.
I went to the masterclass with Jon Bang Carlsen yesterday, lots of young people, who had a good time (2 ½ hour) with a director, who has been part of my professional life since he started his long career. Danish Bang Carlsen was in Leipzig because of a retrospective homage to him, 8 films, on top of that he is also a member of the main jury. The audience was spoilt with several clips and with words/sentences from the director to explain his method. Let me give you some of them: ”I don’t want to be a victim of life’s coincidences” (referring to his ”staged documentary”), ”we all become part of the landscape” (referring to his Northern Jutland background), ”I have to be able to control the visuals”, ”I love framing”, I have to find a way ”to write the visuals”, ”our personal scars give us the energy”, ”there has to be a keyhole between me and my character”, ”I find it hard to believe in pure narrative”, ”you have to make yourself vulnerable… ”Blind Angels” (2007) was made by me in a period of contemplation”, ”you have to use the stuff that happens before the brain comes in”. Clips were shown from ”Before the Guests Arrive”,
”It’s Now or Never” and the connected ”How to Invent Reality”, ”Addicted to Solitude”, ”Blinded Angels”, ”The Right Amount of Violence”.
Photo by Jon Bang Carlsen from ”How to Invent Reality” (director left, main character Jimmy right).
Written 31-10-2014 00:06:29 by Tue Steen Müller
Czech Andrea Prenghyova, the founder of DOK.Incubator, was on stage to welcome the participants to the presentation of the 2014 film projects that had been developed during half a year with the help of Claas Danielsen and Ilo von Seckendorff from DOKLeipzig and a gallery of tutors – producers and editors and distributors – led by Danish Sigrid Dyekjær.
A clip from the press release from the website of DokIncubator: ”For the first time, the nine extraordinary feature-length documentary films were presented to over 180 the decision-makers of the international industry at the ceremonial atmosphere of the Leipziger Kabaret Pfeffermühle. The DOK.Incubator Workshop 2014 ends with a confirmed premiere of three of the films at the biggest documentary film festival at IDFA: Always Together /CZ/ as a story of a dream of an ideal family life that just went too far; Drifter /HU, DE/ an intimate portrait of a young rebel in desperate need of a lacking, supportive father and Queen of Silence /PL, DE/ – a documusical starring a deaf girl from an illegal Roma settlement, who escapes the reality into the Bollywood world...”
The creative idea of the organisers is to bring in film projects that are in or close to a rough cut stage and have them profit from comments from colleagues and so-called experts. And – at this final session – pitch their projects to (in this case) decision-makers from festivals, distribution side and television. In the pitch several of the nine called for sales agents, and there were many of them in the room. The idea of having the filmmakers make a verbal presentation, show a trailer and one or two scenes worked well and there are very promising films coming up: The three mentioned above and the Italian called ”Between Sisters” - go to the website where you can also watch the trailers.
The third edition of a well thought and developed training programme – if I may lift one little finger: Please play down the self-praise a bit, some of the project presentations by the tutors were overcooked marketing, if that still exist... more sobriety, please. Photo from a previous Dok.Incubator session.
Written 29-10-2014 23:26:39 by Tue Steen Müller
Copy-pasted press release from the festival: The documentary film CITIZENFOUR about the NSA scandal and Edward Snowden’s revelations was awarded the “Leipziger Ring” on Wednesday night. US American filmmaker Laura Poitras received the film prize of the Peaceful Revolution Foundation, which is endowed with 5,000 Euros, in the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church) in Leipzig. The “Leipziger Ring” is the first prize to be awarded during the ongoing 57th International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film. With this prize, the Foundation honours an artistic documentary film that shows exemplary civic engagement for democracy and human rights or was made with great personal commitment and courage in the face of resistance and restrictions of the freedom of opinion and the press.
The jury stated that Snowden had risked his life and freedom to make the world aware of intelligence service practices that hardly anyone would have believed possible. With her film, Laura Poitras had rendered a great service to the freedom of all people.
CITIZENFOUR is a US-German production from 2014 which celebrated its German premiere at the opening of DOK Leipzig. In a short video message, Snowden honoured Leipzig’s role in autumn 1989 and emphasised that “Leipzig reminded us that the wall and the GDR didn’t go
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Written 29-10-2014 08:35:33 by Tue Steen Müller
In his opening speech to the audience of DOKLeipzig Monday the 27th, departing festival director Claas Danielsen reflected on ”freedom” and gave good advice to the public broadcasters! I have copy pasted some sequences of the speech, the whole one can be read on the site, link below:
… One of the things that make it so rewarding for me to work with documentary and animated films is that in these genres there was always a great freedom to experiment and tell extraordinary stories in a very individual way. These films are free and resist censorship, predictability and formatting. Which latter point makes them such an unwieldy commodity for television.
Many documentary filmmakers rate their intellectual and creative freedom higher than their profit. They are often passionate people who act out of conviction. And yet: making a good documentary film today, from research to concept development to the protracted financing process up to the shooting and the long post-production period takes two or three years. A filmmaker can’t really work on more than two projects at the same time. The average author’s and director’s pay for a feature-length documentary in Germany is about 30,000 Euros. That’s not enough to support a
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Written 29-10-2014 00:12:21 by Tue Steen Müller
Time runs. From Jihlava to Leipzig monday, from one documentary film festival to the next one with a special bus, a symbol of festival friendship, this initiative has been called. And we were many, who accepted the generous offer of transport. 6 hours, internet, free coffee, beer and water to be paid for. Many slept for hours, some small-talked, some read or watched films online.
Arrival in Leipzig, accreditation at the festival centre at the Art Museum and off to the opening ceremony at Cine Star 8. Totally full with an extra cinema occupied. Speeches and jury presentation and then “Citizenfour” by Laura Poitras. An impressive documentation, I need to watch it again, it was late after the bus ride and I took what I think is called a “nickerchen” in German!
But before the film a video message from Edward Snowden was shown: I’ve never agreed to do an introduction to this film. Not in the UK, not in the US – not in New York or San Francisco or anything like that. But when somebody asked me if I would do it for Leipzig, I said yes and that`s because your history is an inspiration to me. It`s critical that we remember the lessons from history. And Leipzig reminded us that the wall and the GDR didn`t go down because of bombs or guns or violent resistance. It was brought down by ordinary people on the streets in the square on Mondays. Ordinary people against extraordinary powers reminded us that the legitimacy of governments is derived from this consent of the people that they are governing. And today when that principle is so often forgotten, we have so many governments, even in liberal democracies, western democracies, not just authoritarian regimes, that so frequently favor tactics of deception and secrecy we do remember that the consent of the government is only meaningful if it`s informed. Thank you and I hope you enjoy the film.
I am writing this in a new Motel One super-designed hotel next to Nikolaikirche, where the peaceful Monday-demonstrations took place 25 years ago.
Snowden's speech to be found on
Written 28-10-2014 08:42:15 by Tue Steen Müller
The website of the Jihlava IDFF announced last night:
OPUS BONUM – Best World Documentary Film Award
Best Film: Je suis le peuple (I Am the People), dir. Anna Rousillion
Member of the jury: Želimir Žilnik
CZECH JOY – Best Czech Documentary Film Award
Best Film: K oblakům vzhlížíme (Into the Clouds We Gaze), dir. Martin Dušek
Special Mention: Několik Let (Lets Block), dir. Martina Malinová
Members of the jury: Bohdan Bláhovec, Ivo Mathé, Tereza Czesany Dvořáková, Martin Kolář, Petr Hruška
FASCINATIONS – Best Experimental Documentary Film Award
Best Film: Hacked Circuit, dir. Deborah Stratmen
Special Mention: Sexuální boj zboží (The Sexual Struggle of Commodities), dir. r. Pavel Sterec, Vilém Novák
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Written 28-10-2014 08:23:28 by Tue Steen Müller
News taken from the website of the IDF (Institute of Documentary Films): For the sixth time at Jihlava International Film Festival, Institute of Documentary Film announced Silver Eye winners at the Closing Ceremony. The holders of the awards are three extraordinary documentaries from East Silver Market, selected in three categories, as well as three Special Mentions.
The aim of the Silver Eye award is to introduce the new talents to the international audience and to bring the attention of industry professionals to the new interesting films from Central and Eastern Europe, and to help the nominated films to find sales agents, broadcasters and festival releases. All Silver Eye winners receive the trophy designed by Czech artist Tereza Durdilova, as well as 1 500 EUR prize money. On top of that, the awarded films are about to enjoy the year-long distribution support within East Silver Caravan festival service, shipping them to more than 108 international film festivals.The awards are supported by MEDIA programme.
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Written 26-10-2014 09:26:06 by Tue Steen Müller
Take a look at the photo. It’s about Love, isn’t it? It comes from the film of Polish Wojciech Staron, ”Siberian Lesson”, that he made in 1998. On film stock. Here is the Jihlava catalogue description of the film: In an attempt at renewing the national identity of emigrants, after the fall of communism, Poland began to send teachers to areas, where Poles had settled. The director’s wife was one such “missionary”, and her commentary recounts her experiences of living on the remote Siberian plains.
Indeed it does recount and you get a fine impression of people and life in tough living conditions, but the film is also a declaration of Love from film director and cameraman Wojciech Staron to his girlfriend Malgosia. Caught by a caressing camera of the young Wojciech, who more than a decade later has established himself as one of the most prominent European documentarians with a unique ability to ”follow through emotions”. One of many quotable
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Written 25-10-2014 08:38:35 by Tue Steen Müller
Gustav Mahler was in Jihlava. His face is looking at me from the wall in the breakfast room of Grand Hotel, which was grand once, an art nouveau building from the outside but how could they put that terrible furniture into the lobby! Tasteless. Anyway, service is fine and kind. Back to business, well actually pleasure:
After having three one hour meetings with filmmakers participating at the training programme Ex Oriente, a masterclass was held by Peter Kerekes and it lived up, to what I had expected. Kerekes showed clips from the three films that have given him the well deserved reputation as a documentary auteur with his own style, ”66 Seasons”, ”Cooking History” and ”Velvet Terrorists”.
The Slovak told the audience why he is not able to make observational documentaries, he feels uncomfortable by being there and telling his characters that ”just don’t notice that I am here”! Reality is not in front of the camera, it’s in my head. For the ”66 Seasons” I did a deep research to make sure that they would talk about the past, what happened way back around the swimming pool in Kosice. I wrote everything down when having filmed, a good
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Written 24-10-2014 17:07:28 by Tue Steen Müller
Click below and you get the local organisers of the pan-European screenings of ”1989”, and in many cases also the location of the screening that takes place on November 5th. What a great effort that lies behind this initiative. The click also gives you access to watch the trailer of the film.
Written 24-10-2014 09:19:36 by Tue Steen Müller
SECOND CHANCE / THE ETERNAL LIGHT / AUDITIONING FOR PARENTHOOD
I am back in Jihlava after 5 years. I stopped working for the training programme Ex Oriente in 2009, where the final session with pitching took place in this cosy provincial town, where time seems to stand still. But where a documentary film festival is taking place for the 18th time. From the start under the leadership of energetic Marek Hovorka, who is always going for the different films and have established interesting sections for his programme. The festival has a huge industry programme, the excellent DocAlliance is here, the Silver Market, loads of masterclasses with directors like Godfrey Reggio, Peter Kerekes and Nicolas Philibert.
I went to the Silver Market and watched some short documentaries. Peter Kerekes came up – again – with a surprise, entertaining and thought-provoking. Title ”Second Chance” (photo, 12 minutes, he visits an old lady, whose birthday is October 28, the independence day of Slovakia (1918). To ask for her advice. His plan is to fight the corrupted policy of current Slovakia and his idea is to ask a country to invade Slovakia to establish better conditions – as communist leader in Czekoslovakia Bilak did in 1968, when he and others in the top of the communist party asked Brezhnev to help! Kerekes goes to Finland for help! It’s excellent!
More observational is Vitaly Mansky’s ”The Eternal Light”, shot in Ukraine on Victory Day, May 9, where the war veterans join around the memorial statue and the eternal flame that unfortunately has gone out. He meets a veteran in his home, stories from the war are told. 15 minutes, whereas Laila Pakalnina has made a two minutes piece, that in her classical search for weird situations has one shot on football players lined up side by side waiting for the result of a penalty shoot… for football freaks like me funny, will others understand.
At night a walk through the quiet and softly lighted town, following the white lines that take you from cinema to cinema, a fantastic idea that the festival has performed year after year. To a three hour opening of the festival, a show for more than one hour and a film about families adopting children, ”Auditioning for Parenthood” by Alica Nellis. For me a mainstream tv documentary full of talking generalities, have to talk to Marek Hovorka why a festival that advocates for film Art starts like that.
Written 22-10-2014 13:29:39 by Tue Steen Müller
1989 by Anders Østergaard & Erzsébet Rácz
Of course the film had to start with 1956 and it does so with very fine and moving archive footage of people searching for the remains of Imre Nagy, whose government was not accepted when the Russians invaded the country. Nagy was executed in 1958. That historical reference is important to include as the re-burial of Nagy, the rehabilitation of him, happened in the years around 1989, and with the support of Miklós Neméth, who served as prime minister 1988-1990 and is the main character of ”1989”, an intelligent, informative, entertaining and provoking documentary.
Yes, it deserves all these superlatives for its fresh look at what happened 25 years ago, when the wall went down as did the Soviet Union. Neméth, economist, coming into power, looked at a country close to bankruptcy and found the border control mechanisms extremely expensive – so he decided to have the borders opened, to tear down the iron curtain. He did so and had strong opposition from the hard-liners in his communist party, his rooms were bugged, and his manouvres were looked upon with more than skepticism from the GDR leader Erich Honecker, as the result was that thousands of Eastern Germans flew to the West through Hungary, before the wall went down in their own country.
They are all there in the film – Gorbachev, Helmuth Kohl, Honecker – and
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Written 21-10-2014 09:54:11 by Tue Steen Müller
”Finding Vivian Maier” is ”documentary of the Month” at the Cinematheque in Copenhagen with screenings from the 23rd of October, so Copenhageners – this is a must-see, it is lovely portrait of a mysterious woman, who her whole life was working as a nanny or governess, serving others at the same time as she, always with a camera around her neck, was taking photographs that she never showed to others. A person who ”never fit in”, an eccentric. She lived from 1926-2009. Close to her death, a quote from the website of the film...
”... Maier’s massive body of work … came to light when in 2007 her work was discovered at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side. From there, it would eventually impact the world over and change the life of the man, who championed her work and brought it to the public eye, John Maloof.
Currently, Vivian Maier’s body of work is being archived and cataloged for the enjoyment of others and for future generations. John Maloof is at the core of this project after reconstructing most of the archive, having been previously dispersed to the various buyers attending that auction. Now, with roughly 90% of her archive reconstructed, Vivian’s work is part of a renaissance in interest in the art of Street Photography.”
Of course one might say that it is the work of an artist that is interesting and not her/his life. In this case, however, the putting her life together piece by piece through the photos and interviews with those, who employed her and
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Written 20-10-2014 16:05:06 by Tue Steen Müller
The festival in Georgian capital Tbilisi ended yesterday and I found this message on the FB page:
The award ceremony is over and we would like to announce the results:
International Competition: The main prize of this section goes to "Judgment in Hungary" (dir. Eszter Hajdu). The special mention to "Ne me quitte pas" (dir. Sabine Lubbe Bakker & Niels van Koevorden)
Focus Caucasus: The main prize of this section goes to "Blood" (photo) (dir. Alina Rudnitskaya). The special mentions to "Zelim’s Confession" (dir. Natalya Mikhaylova) and "Biblioteka" (dir. Ana Tsimintia)
Cinedoc Young: Our special jury - the youth - gave the main award of this section to "The Barrel" (dir. Anabel Rodriguez Rios)
Our opening film "Do you believe in love?" (dir. Dan Wasserman) received the Public Prize.
Written 19-10-2014 06:10:58 by Tue Steen Müller
The premiere was in 2008, in Riga, the film about Klucis, ”The Deconstruction of an Artist”. Directed by Peteris Krilovs. And here I stand in front of the Arsenals Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art, where there is an exhibition of the artist (runs until October 26), a very good one and for one who knows his work from the film it is a pleasure to walk around and see all the posters and collages from the film, here hanging with no movements, in the film set in motion in an intelligent presentation and with a superb flown and rythm in the montage.
This is a quote from one of many texts, that has appeared on filmkommentaren.dk about the film:
”Latvian director Peteris Krilovs' documentary about legendary artist Gustav Klucis took several prizes at the National award ceremony in Riga a week ago: best director, best editor (Danish Julie Vinten), best script (Pauls Bankovskis) and best sound mix (Andris Barons). A big triumph for the company Vides Film Studio and its energetic leader Uldis Cekulis.
So well deserved. The same team has just completed a film from Krilovs. ”Obliging Collaborators”. Here is a promotion text from the internet:
With this full-length documentary, director Pēteris Krilovs delves into an
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Written 17-10-2014 08:03:59 by Tue Steen Müller
I am in Riga – again – to take part in a “Baltic Sea Region Documentary Film Research Seminar” arranged by LAC Riga Film Museum. It starts today and my job is to give a brief introduction to the Danish documentary fllm history. More about that in the coming days.
Last night I met with producer Guntis Trekteris to catch up on the theme: When is the premiere of ”Beyond The Fear”, the last film of Herz Frank, made in collaboration with Maria Kravchenko, who finished the work after the death of Frank.
Trekteris told me that idfa had rejected the film so the premiere will be in Riga as the opening film of the new Riga International Film Festival on the 2nd of December. The festival runs until the 12th of December and includes the European Film Academy Awards Ceremony. Also the film will be the opening film of the ArtDocFest in Moscow (December 9), run by renowned director Vitaly Mansky. It was Mansky, who said the following about Herz Frank: "Years will go by, and only 2-3 documentary film-makers will be remembered from each century." But even today it is clear – Herz Frank is on that list for the 20th century!”
… and the photo is me in front of the beautiful plaque of Herz Frank in Lacplesa Street 29, Riga. Photo taken by Lelda Ozola early September when we still had "indian summer"!
Written 15-10-2014 14:29:13 by Tue Steen Müller
Cecilie Bolvinkel from EDN is responsible for extensive ”Member of the Month” – interviews, that can be found on the website of the association. A fine one came out two days ago with Claas Danielsen because ” DOK Leipzig 2014 will be Claas’ last edition as Festival Director - EDN has talked to Claas about the festival’s past and present and his own future.” I have taken a text quote, but please read the whole interview, link below:
“The funding is and has been a huge challenge. It is as complicated as putting an international co-production together and the requirements literally get more bureaucratic every year. It’s unbelievable how many small sources of income we have to generate to make the festival happen.
Secondly, it was not easy to win the trust of many people closely connected to the festival who were suspicious of me as a “Wessi”, a person from western Germany. Having worked for an organisation branded by Discovery Channel before, some thought that I wanted to change their “Dok Film Week” into a TV festival. To modernise a festival with such a long tradition was a huge task for me.
Another challenge for every festival organiser is the competition between festivals for films and professionals attending. With IDFA only three weeks away, this of course is a problem for us like it is for the other autumn festivals.
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Written 15-10-2014 13:43:55 by Tue Steen Müller
No week without good news from The Flaherty, this time the following newsletter came in:
The Flaherty is very pleased to enter into a new collaboration with Colgate University named the Colgate/Flaherty Distinguished Global Filmmaker. This project will fund a filmmaker's travel to the US and a four-day residency including a series of interdisciplinary screenings and lectures.
Integrated into the itinerary is a Flaherty NYC screening, and, during the Colgate residency, a public event facilitated by the Flaherty NYC programmers. Each year the filmmaker visit will provide a significant means of examining the complexities surrounding documentary film, including the conceptual, logistical, political and aesthetic decisions involved - as well as contemporary theoretical concepts of the "global."
This fall the Colgate/Flaherty Distinguished Global Filmmaker collaboration will bring acclaimed Russian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa to the Flaherty NYC screening series on Monday, November 3 at Anthology Film Archives in New York City, and to Colgate University for an intensive weeklong exploration of film and filmmaking. The project will run for three years, thanks to support from the Colgate University's Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty and the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor CORE Fund.
If you click the link above you get to know about the films of the director to be presented, as always good and useful information.
Written 13-10-2014 11:06:25 by Tue Steen Müller
After DOKLeipzig and Jihlava IDFF have announced their programme, these (idfa and cph:dox) two significant documentary festivals have press released selection decisions, ambitions and visions.
Idfa (November 19-30) first – take a look at the website, link below – seven competition sections, six non-competitive and eight so-called ”special focus”, including one on Heddy Honigmann, so well deserved, and Honigmann is also the one who has made the ”top ten”, which is always interesting: Which films have important directors chosen? Lovely to see films by Victor Erice, Fernando Birri and Wang Bing on the list as well as two films by Johan van der Keuken, one ”The Reading Lesson”, 10 mins., that I have never heard about. By the way, Honigmann’s great new film ” Around the World in 50 Concerts” opens the festival this year.
It is impossible to go through all categories, and title-dropping is boring but let me just express joy that Danish Camilla Nielsson’s ”Democrats” is in competition as well as Hanna Polak’s ”Something Better to Come” and Nima Sarvestani’s ”Those Who Said No”, all three films that I know about from workshops and pitch sessions, and all three films that characterise idfa as a place for social and political interpretation of our world today. Also happy to see Davis Simanis (photo ”upstairs” on our website) represented in the Panorama programme with his cinematic ”Escaping Riga” and Egyptian Nadine Salib’s ”Mother of the Unborn” (photo) in the ”First Appearance” competition.
Cph:dox (November 6-16) is launching its full programme today, monday the 13th, and we will talk about that as we have already done, announcing the opening film, ”1989” by Anders Østergaard. The festival, however, wants to be
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Written 11-10-2014 10:24:20 by Tue Steen Müller
They have always been and they are still made, these gripping documentaries about people being arrested and sent to isolated islands for punishment. By the people in power. On this occasion, I remember several films on the camps on Makronissos in Greece, the best being one by Ilias Yannakakis and Evi Karabatsou from 2008. And now this important film from Croatia produced by the production company Factum, that has never hesitated to focus on controversial themes, untold stories from the past and the present. This time told by a granddaughter, who wants to know her family story. Starting point: Why was grandfather’s body full of scars?
It was not talked about, when he was alive. It was a taboo what happened in Yugoslavia during those years in the beginning of the 1950'es, when grandpa, ”an enemy of the state”, was away for four years. It took a generation to deal with it, it was the granddaughter, the film's director, who wanted to bring the story to the world. Which became a painful journey in itself. She had to address her mother, her sister, her father and a couple of ”aunts and uncles”, who were also sent to the island and were close to Marijan, the grandpa.
The mother carries pain from her life. She has, to say the least,
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Written 09-10-2014 13:08:47 by Tue Steen Müller
Sergey Sukhanov is the hero of this film. When in Eastern European countries for workshops I very often ask the filmmakers to say or write ”main character” or ”protagonist” instead of hero. But in this case Sukhanov is a hero. He is totally dedicated to his job, to be a cardio surgeon doing open heart operations and he has saved thousands of lives. It is a call for him, who is tough but fair when he discusses with his staff – or complains that they are not competent or attentive enough: I will deduct from your salary! He wants his colleagues to have the same dedication as himself: Being sick here is uncool! Tough but fair, well also heroes have unpleasant sides of their personality.
The chain-smoking surgeon (!) has problems with the local authorities. A new cardiac centre seems to be ready but there are still budget matters to be solved before it can open. He walks the empty corridors, checks the facilities, but when? An offer to head the presidential campaign for Putin locally is presented to the popular man, who, although doubtful, can see an advantage for his new centre, supported by Putin, and the population in the region of Perm.
This is the main theme of the film – a doctor, until then, far away from politics, decides to play the game of politics, not for personal gain but from an altruistic reason. The director of the film puts it
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Written 09-10-2014 12:05:22 by Tue Steen Müller
First an explanation of the title of the film, enigmatic and fascinating it is: It refers to the ten centimeters of space below the ceiling where there was no water... the space that saved lives at the unbelievable dramatic flood tragedy in the Krasnodar region near the Black Sea in Russia, in July 2012, an event that killed up to 200 people and left thousands homeless.
However, it is not statistics that interests the debutant director Anna Yanovskaya, it is the human dimension. She is using some archive material from 2012 – some shot via a cell phone from a roof top – to frame the visits she made to the city of Krymsk, where people more than one year after remember it all, while trying to rebuild their lives. The director uses a first person narrative, she is sometimes in the picture, ”I was in the epicenter of grief”, yes this is what it is about in a film that includes moving scenes of deep deep pain but also demonstrates the human being's will to go on...
A grandmother is in focus. Her grandson comes home from military service, the family gathers around the table, singing and drinking, drinking and singing, a wonderful typical Russian gathering, there is a tone and an atmosphere in these scenes – but the conversations keep on going back to what happened in July 2012. There is a lot of anger towards the authorities, ”they did nothing”, we see a mother holding a picture of her small son, a picture taken two hours before he disappeared, unbearable, as is the archive footage showing a man swimming, trying to grap a pipe, ”hold on”, they scream to him, but he can not, he is taken by the water and we are told that he did not make it, he drowned. A young man from the municipality (I guess) goes around to visit to see how the reconstruction is progressing. His meetings with old couples are caught by the camera, sweet bitterness.
Grandma is sitting outside her house, you read her face, grief but also survival will... a fine work, this is, personal, terrifying theme, maybe sometimes a bit messy in structure, still, the most important is that the director brings the viewer into the souls and minds of those who suffered and still do so.
Russia, 2014, 66 mins.
The film was in the national competition at the
Written 08-10-2014 17:43:16 by Tue Steen Müller
The day after DOKLeipzig (below), the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival (IDFF) announces its programme schedule, October 23-28. The newsletter from the Czech festival does also, as DOKLeipzig, focus on statistics in its first paragraph. After headline ”57 world, international or European premieres at this year’s Jihlava IDFF”, it goes like this ” This year, the traditional competition sections will offer a unique blend of auteur documentaries, most of which as world, international or European premieres. In the competition of world documentaries Opus Bonum the IDFF Jihlava will present 5 world premieres, 5 international premieres and 1 European premiere. In Between the Seas, the competition of Central and East European documentary film, there will be 4 world premieres, 2 international and 2 European premieres. The Czech Joy competition will present 10 world premieres.”
All right, let’s go to content, the films, where I can only salute that there are films from Guinea-Bissau, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Philippines, Japan and – I know I am repeating myself – “Euromaidan. Rough Cut” from Ukraine.
I will be in Jihlava 3 full days and apart from taking part in a couple of industry activities, I am looking forward to watch films and why not dig into the section “Czech Joy”, where there are films by Veronika Liskova, Miroslav Janek (photo) and Jan Gogola. I am a big admirer of Janek, whose films on Vaclav Havel and on Olga Havlova have been praised on filmkommentaren.
I have been to Jihlava several times, mostly for the workshop of Ex Oriente, but also for the festival, once in the jury, and a compliment to the film selection: it is always surprising and out-of-mainstream festival profiles.
Written 07-10-2014 15:59:50 by Tue Steen Müller
Today DOKLeipzig announced its programme for the festival, that runs from October 27 to November 2. Whether you like to highlight it or not, the press release stresses that the festival offers 41 world premieres – 29 documentary and 12 animation films. And there are several international premieres and all 80 films in competition are for the first time to be seen in Germany!
All right, duty done, statistics and ambition/rules of the game mentioned, yes I know that it is a competitive environment for a big festival like DOKLeipzig – what is more important is the content, the films that the festival has chosen and there is indeed a clear profile this year: Laura Poitras film on Snowden opens the festival, there are several films from and about Ukraine, there are Syrian filmmakers in the programme, films from South America, Asia, from Arab countries and Africa. The world is at its worst, documentaries are describing the situation, that’s how it should be, DOKLeipzig lives up to its reputation and tradition. In the officlal programme 198 films are being shown, in the “Sonderreihen” another 170 are listed, we have mentioned the retrospective of Jon Bang Carlsen as just one of them. He is one of very few Nordic documentarians to visit Leipzig, from the Baltic countries there are no documentaries. Seems like the Nordic go to cph:dox and idfa, the Baltics to Visions du Réel.
I have booked myself in to 5 full days in Leipzig during the festival, lot of watching, meeting people and saying goodbye to Claas Danielsen (photo), who stops as festival director with this edition. Some title-dropping from the feature length documentary competition: Sergei Loznitsa with “Maidan”, Ulrich Seidl with “Im Keller”, the French Bories and Chagnard who made the fine “The Arrivals” (winner in Leipzig in 2012) is back with “Rules of the Game”, Fernand Melgar who was in Leipzig in 2011 with “Vol Spécial” is there with “The Shelter” and Alexander Nanau (“The world According to Ion B.”) presents his “Toto and his Sisters”.
By clicking at the bottom of the link below you can get a pdf of the official programme of the festival.
Written 06-10-2014 12:01:56 by Tue Steen Müller
Sonia, the daughter, sits down at the computer to write the headline “My Family's European Genocide Story”... one of many stories, where a majority of a family ended up in Auschwitz, but in her case she is lucky to have her 93 year old mother Regina next to her, to tell her what happened. And it has to be told now while Regina is still able to remember. She is on her way to dementia.
It's a warm and moving life story that the two of them unfold in the flat in New York, and the director succeeds to have their personalities come out. Regina is wonderful, you sense how strong she must have been, a survivor and a fighter to give her daughter a good life. Sonia indicates that the mother stays alive because she is afraid that she – Sonia – can not manage it – the life – herself! That is one of the beautiful scenes in the film. Sonia comes out a bit pushy sometimes, talking down to her mother – like we do to relatives, who are getting old, don't we? But she is also the one to tell the story of her ill father, who when she was a child, was taken to an asylum, where she came to visit him. She saw him for twenty minutes, then he left.
Regina likes to sing, in Jiddisch, and a music teacher comes with his guitar to sing with them. These are not the most succesful scenes in the film. It sounds maybe paradoxical but I feel that the young man is an intruder to the scenes of intimacy that the director is able to establish between a mother and a daughter, who wants to know her family's story before it is too late. This is something we can all relate to, why did we not ask mother and father when they were there...
Having said so, and also having some reservations towards some small visual dramatizations that I don't find necessary: the documentary is a fine example of how close you can get and how respectfully and sensitive the director has dealt with the mother and daughter relationship.
Russia, USA, 47 mins., 2014
Written 06-10-2014 11:08:59 by Tue Steen Müller
It's one of those films, that had to be made and that you hope will be shown everywhere to pass the information about the absurd and inhuman condition that the LGBT community lives under in Russia after a law was set up that forbids "promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors".
… and to pass the information that brave people do something for the teenagers, who meet anger and violence, insults and intimidation from parents and school mates. “People like you should be burned” is one of the remarks that are brought forward in the film, that gives space for statements by mostly anonymous children, who contact the network/ internet group 404, named after the message we often get on the internet, “404-error, not found”. Many of them have tried to take their own lives.
Elena Klimova is the young woman behind the initiative and one of the two main characters. She talks well and the scenes with her and her partner Zhenya in their kitchen have a warm and intimate conversation atmosphere. They left their journalistic jobs or rather were pushed out because of their homosexuality and have taken on this mission to help – 22.000 joined the group, 1364 shared their stories the first year. The other main character is a young man – with open-minded parents and wonderful grandparents – who has decided to leave the country for Canada.
It affects you a lot this fine documentation that has a simple humanistic non-sensational approach to a theme, where you want to shout: Shame on you Putin et co.!
Russia, 2014, 76 mins.
Written 06-10-2014 10:56:36 by Tue Steen Müller
They have some verbal battles in the office, Natalya and Eugenia. They get on each other's nerves. They both work at the museum, have done so for a long time, but where one is for the material side of the life (Natalya), the other (Eugenia) is heading for the spiritual values.
The scenes with the two are among the finest in a film that in an observational style catches the museum for Lenin, that was set up in 1987, had a great time in the beginning and now is trying to regain a visiting audience. Natalya does her best – are you filming Askold, she says to the director, she obviously sees the film as a chance to promote the museum – and shows us around in the rooms in Gorki, where Lenin died 90 years ago. Come and have an ”Soviet-era experience”, says Natalya, who brings school kids to the place where they pay respect to the great leader in finest pioneer style.
Otherwise, they take it easy at the museum, the rythm is slow, the stairs are cleaned as is the statue, but at the meetings of the board, the voices are raised, and a new director is brought in. Who cancels one plan for modernisation to bring in a Chinese opera show – and belly dance could maybe also bring more visitors. Alas! By the way, indicates the film, next to the museum a church is being built...
It would have been easy for Askold Kurov to make fun of the museum. He does not. He brings forward the institution, lets the viewer see it, meet the ones, who work there and let them take the floor. A fine choice.
Russia, 2013, 52 mins.
Written 04-10-2014 21:15:56 by Tue Steen Müller
As a follow-up to the post below... here is a personal essay that I wrote for an academic book on festivals. It did not fit in, so here it is for you, a reflection on what is written on documentary festivals from outside and inside – promotion, reports but real critique on the festivals, does that exist? Hope it is interesting for you. (Photo from this year's ZagrebDox).
But first some film-biographical stuff: You need to know a bit about my background as a festival visitor, organiser and reporter/critic. Yes, I have a close relationship to the world of documentary film festivals. I have been privileged to cooperate with colleagues in Denmark to set up and conduct several national and international festivals in my own country. One of them changed my film life, the Balticum Film & TV Festival on the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. It came to life as a consequence of the fall of Soviet Union and ran from 1990-2000, when the Danish support to the independence of the Baltic countries around 1990 made it possible to start the festival with financing from our government,. Voilá, we started a festival for the countries around the Baltic Sea. Many of
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Written 03-10-2014 20:44:50 by Tue Steen Müller
It happens quite often. Mails arrive with sad news – ”they” did not take my film, nobody likes it, what should I do? Filmmakers are disappointed, the film that took them a couple of years to make are rejected by festival after festival. Why, is there something wrong with the film. The mail often deals with a film that I have seen and maybe even written positively about on filmkommentaren. I mostly choose the easy answer, which in most cases also is the right one: don't worry, you have made a good film, it will find its festival(s). And there are a lot of festivals and if you are not taken for idfa or DOKLeipzig or cph:dox or Sundance, there are other quite as good for your film. And there are so many good festivals nowadays, in Europe and in other parts of the world.
Nevertheless, the question remains whether we know enough about the festival's profiles and if the selection process is open to everyone. How many are involved in the first selection process before you reach those programming, the programmer(s) or curators as they are called today. Do those who screen as the first see the whole film or just the first 10 minutes...
Indiewire has made an article (link below) on this issue - ”5 questions you always wanted to ask a documentary festival programmer” - it deals with American festivals and is very informative, but the same questions could be directed to European festival programmers.
I have been invited to ask questions to festival people at the upcoming Jihlava International Film Festival (photo) – hope to get wiser on the role and way of working of different festivals.
Written 02-10-2014 10:19:48 by Tue Steen Müller
It's an inviting start: Beautiful Istanbul, boats on Bosphorus, people fishing on the bridge, a man in a car, a man doing dummies for clothes, a woman taking out her photo album and more people getting ready to tell what they remember... Back to the man in the car. He is on his way to the place, where he was decades ago, in the 1960'es, to an Armenian camp in Istanbul. “I spent my childhood here”, he says emotionally affected upon arrival to the abandoned building.
Cut to the next storyteller and the next and the next. Slowly the mosaic is put together. There was an Armenian school, there was a charismatic leader of the school, Hrant Gyuzelyan, who did not allow the children to speak Turkish, hard discipline at that time, and according to one of the characters he was the one who insisted on the camp to be built. Otherwise the children would go back to Anatolia, to their villages and forget about the Armenian language and culture they had learned in the school. Some lived at the camp for months, some for years.
Gyuzelyan is the hero of the film, many recall how he went from village to village in Anatolia to find Armenian culture still alive after 1915, where those
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Written 02-10-2014 10:05:35 by Tue Steen Müller
DOKLeipzig 2014 presents an ”homage to Jon Bang Carlsen”. A long text from the festival site follows below. The director is also to make a masterclass at the festival. To be recommended. Masterclasses with Bang Carlsen are always lively and entertaining and fine invitations to enter his world. We two editors of filmkommentaren.dk – Allan Berg and Tue Steen Müller – have followed the work of the director for decades, as film consultants who have supported on behalf of the Danish Film Board and Film Institute, and in writing. Allan Berg has made – primarily in Danish – a ”Jon Bang Carlsen. Collected Posts on His Work” (in Danish and English), it will take you a good amount of time to read about the many films of Bang Carlsen, and you will enjoy it.
A retrospective in 2014 – I attended the first international retrospective of the director in 1988 in Montecatini in Italy, quite an honour it was, the same year as Nagisa Oshima was there with his feature film series. Two years later, in 1990, Jon Bang Carlsen was in Montecatini again, where he with ”Baby Doll” won the ”Airone d'oro”, the golden heron, symbol of the city. I was there on both occasions and remember that Jon asked me in a press release to change the heron into a swan, sounds better he said, as ”hejre” in Danish at that time was a not very nice chauvinistic reference to women.
Back to Leipzig retrospective, here is the text from the site:
How authentic can a documentary be? Jon Bang Carlsen of Denmark delves into this question in his films. His work is deliberately perched on the
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Written 01-10-2014 13:48:02 by Tue Steen Müller
As one who does not have English as native language this film demands attention and concentration. You have to get used to the constant bombardment of words, archive photos and films, interviews but if you succeed to do so, it really pays off. This rich film gives you so much American cultural history that you feel deeply informed – and entertained. Because it is not – as many films full of words – a boring film, it has a light tone led by co-producer Warren Leming's wonderful, relaxed voice-off commentary that is miles away from an usual authoritarian television speak.
The starting point of the film is this poem by Walt Whitman: Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road. Healthy, free, the world before me. The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose. (Song of the Open Road).
From this the film travels through literature and music and politics and philosophy having Mark Twain, Woody Guthrie (close-ups on his guitar text label: this machine kills fascists!) and Jack Kerouac of course, with his iconic inspiration Neil Cassady, as strong characters of the story that again and again refers back to Whitman. Not to forget Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan. It's social history, it takes us to the horrible images from the Vietnam war and some veterans appear in the film. A gallery of people are interviewed, asked
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Written 01-10-2014 11:29:09 by Tue Steen Müller
The Georgian international documentary film festival has launched its programme for its second edition (October 14-19), well thought and competent, with competitive sections and side bars like ”Ukranian Voices”.
Here you find ”Euromaidan” put together by Darya Averchenko and Roman Bondarchuk, “Cornered” (photo) by Dmitro Tyazhlov, “Sickfuckpeople” by Juri Rechinsky – all praised on filmkommentaren – and “Ukraine Voices” from 2014 that I don’t know. Bravo, I wonder how many other festivals have a section like this, a tribute to the brave filmmakers in the haunted country.
In the main competition with 9 films you find good works as “Life Almost Wonderful” by Svetoslav Draganov from Bulgaria – Draganov has developed a special style, also used in his previous film “City of Dreams” – the warm human portraits in “Ne me Quitte Pas” by Sabine Lubbe Bakker & Niels van Koevorden and the impressive “Judgement in Hungary” by Eszter Hajdu.
In the “Focus Caucasus” only three out of ten films are known to me, all fine films: Emel Celebi’s cinematic homage to cleaning ladies in Turkey, “Ain’t No Cinderellas”, Georgian Ana Tsimintia’s brilliant “Biblioteka” and Alina Rudnitskaya’s “Blood” that was awarded some days ago at the Message2Man festival in St. Petersburg. Rudnitskaya is for me the chronicler of social Russia today. Again – to have a focus on films from Caucasus (including Russia and Turkey) is the right move for the festival in Tbilisi that hopefully will have as good an audience as I experienced last year at the first edition.
Read all about it on the website:
Written 30-09-2014 11:58:32 by Tue Steen Müller
Nordisk Panorama 25! - a documentary tour down memory lane. Yes, the first one was in Grimstad, this idyllic and romantic spot on the South coast of Norway. I was there and so was she, with whom I have shared my life since then. Grimstad 1990, unforgettable, a place in my heart... I was there on behalf of Statens Filmcentral (National Film Board of Denmark) and as part of the group that was to set up Filmkontakt Nord the year after. Therefore, a thank you for asking me to write about what has happened to Nordic documentaries in the quarter of a century that has passed. I have chosen to primarily go back to focus on directors and films, which I remember and which have made an impact on the Nordic and/or the international scene. You will probably miss some, especially ”newer” ones, I can’t cover it all. You will agree that nothing is so boring as extensive name- and title-dropping. I will try to control myself. And of course it is a personal choice that I have made.
SOCIAL AND OBSERVATIONAL
There was a pretty strong line-up of documentaries in 1990. When I look at the list of films and directors in competition (there were no films from Iceland and only one from Finland!), in my view, three stand out and have indeed put their mark on Nordic documentaries.
Sigve Endresen was there with ”For your Life” (”For harde livet”), 98 minutes of strong social documentary on drug addicts, a film that reached a huge audience in the cinemas of Norway and opened the door for the director to make another critical statement on how the society treats its outsiders – ”Big Boys Don’t Cry” (”Store gutter gråter ikke”) on young prisoners taking part in a rehabilitation project. It was at Nordisk Panorama (NP) 1995, followed by ”Living Among Lions”(”Leve blandt løver”) at NP 1998, on three young people who suffer from cancer. In 2002 he took part in NP with the portrait of singerKari Iveland, named ”Weightless” (”Vektløs”). The style of his films is direct, mostly with no sentimentality.
I remember that we Danes were jealous on the Norwegians, who could get documentary films reach the cinema. And also have them used in educational contexts - here we touch upon a typical Nordic issue that I have always highlighted at workshops abroad: the non-theatrical use of films for public education and debate.
As Jørgen Roos (also in my school time) took me to Greenland with his many films, giving me an insight to their culture and people, Ulla Boje Rasmussen is the documentarian, who has taken me and audiences around the world to her beloved Faroe Islands (Færøerne). ”1700 Metres from the Future” (”1700 meter fra fremtiden”) includes gorgeous nature sequences and fine portraits of the 16 (!) inhabitants, who get a tunnel connecting them to the rest of the world. The film is a classic in Danish documentary history with superb cinematography by Andreas Fischer-Hansen, also the producer. The two stood behind Nordfilm (right name!) that also made the follow-up ”The Light on Mykines Island” (”Tre blink mod vest”) (NP 1992), equally from the islands towards the North... I will send you to another island, said a filmconsultant years later, he happened to be me, to the director, let’s find an island in the South for a new film. Ulla chose Sardinia and out came ”Coro di Bosa” (NP 1998), which as the Faroe films had a fine international career. Boje Rasmussen has later on returned to the North making films in Greenland and Iceland, and one about the independence movement in Faroe Islands. The latter was at NP 2003, entitled ”Rugged Road to Independence” (”Færøerne.dk”).
1700 Metres from the Future
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Written 29-09-2014 17:18:55 by Tue Steen Müller
Filmen vises i morgen tirsdag den 30. september på DR2’s Dokumania kl. 20.45. Den kan stærkt anbefales. Den danske titel er forklarende, ”Ruslands værste fængsel”, en direkte oversættelse af originaltitlen ville være ”De fordømte”. Her følger en kort anmeldelse på engelsk, da filmen har haft og vil have et bredt internationalt liv.
You can choose to make a film about life in a Russian prison by picking one character as did Alexander Gutman years ago with his ”17 August”, a masterpiece, or you can do like Nick Read, director and cameraman - put the focus on a gallery of inmates (and one guard) and have them talk about what it means to be locked up, for most of them, for lifetime for the murders they have committed. (In 1996 death penalty was not practised any longer).
The cinematography and editing of the film creates a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere with a strong sound score of doors being locked, keys put into the keyhole, with voice-off’s of Maxim, Vladimir, Temirov, Albert, Sergei – whatever their names are. They talk well, they regret, not all of them, they put words on what it means to be in a 5m2 cell and very rarely see the light of the day. They are given the opportunity to express themselves.
The film is informative. It tells about the difference in the prison - in sitting alone and being with others. It lets the man who has been locked up for 40 years of his 62 year life describe the rules that the older inmates set up to avoid trouble and fighting. The hierarchy is outlined, those lowest are the rapist and pedophiles.
Two times the film leaves the prison (260 men, 800 murders, situated far away from everything in a forest big as Germany…) to accompany the wife and son of one of the inmates, as well as a mother for the short visits (3-4 hours) they are allowed to have. They meet their husband/father/son and the camera catches some small emotional moments before it retracts to let them have privacy.
An honest work, away from the many tabloid prison films that are just looking for trouble. A quote: It’s not hard to kill a man, it’s hard to live with it.
UK/Russia, 80 mins., 2013
Written 28-09-2014 17:26:36 by Tue Steen Müller
Politics. Freedom to say what you want. In films as well. The Message2Man – that had its 24th edition this year – and its organisers are of course backing this basis for any film festival. Nevertheless the festival cancelled a screening of ”Pussy against Putin”, made by the anonymous group called Gogol's Wives. Without any explanation I was told. The festival jury – read by the member Philip Gröning (”Into Great Silence”) – presented a statement raising this question but it was unfortunately wrapped into enigmatic and metaphoric language so the protest message did not come through. Why not say it directly that this is wrong... Even if the minister of culture and his entourage was present? Was it wrapped to protect the festival?
I talked to a jury member of the national competition and asked if he had found any critical or controversial films in the selection. Not really, he said, even if (my words) you can indeed say that the winner of the national competition deals with politics. The title says it all, ”Cardiopolitika” (photo) by Svetlana Strelnikova, who has a skilled surgeon as main character, who enters politics hoping it will help his profession to have better facilities. (See below).
We talked politics in St. Petersburg. Of course. At a moment where there is a war going on
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Written 28-09-2014 10:03:56 by Tue Steen Müller
It was a Swedish documentary that got the Grand Prix at the Message2Man 2014 festival: Forest of the Dancing Spirits (photo), directed by Linda Västrik (104 min. | 2013 | Sweden, Canada).
I copy-pasted a description of the film from a festival catalogue: In the deep jungle of the Congo, untouched by civilisation, live the Aka, a tribe of pygmies. Linda Västrik lived among the Aka from 2005 to 2012, and captured the fascinating life of this hunter-gatherer tribe. It is a life governed by magical rituals, myths and traditions just as it was centuries ago. Against the background of the personal story of couple Akaya and Kengole, whose greatest desire is to have children of their own, is a depiction of the harmony of human coexistence with the jungle, the source of all life and death. But thanks to the plans of the state forestry company, this coexistence will probably be short-lived.
In the short film category two films shared the award: the documentary Beach Boy by Danish Emil Langballe (28 min. | 2013 | UK, Denmark) and the short fiction Sunny by Barbara Ott (30 min. | 2013 | Germany)
In the national competition the winner was Cardiopolitika by Svetlana Strelnikova (64 mins., 2014). At a press conference in connection with the
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Written 27-09-2014 08:19:37 by Tue Steen Müller
A scoop for DOKLeipzig. Read the festival’s press release: The 57th International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film will open on 27 October 2014 with the long-awaited film “CITIZENFOUR” by Laura Poitras. In the last instalment of her 9/11 trilogy, the multiple award-winning director shows how the United States’ so called “War on Terror” is directed against their own citizens.
In January 2013, Poitras received a number of encrypted e-mails from an anonymous sender who identified himself as “citizen four” and claimed to have evidence of massive covert surveillance operations of the NSA and other intelligence services. In June 2013, she flew to Hong Kong with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera. The resulting film is a documentary thriller in which events unfold minute by minute before our eyes.
“CITIZENFOUR is a film that leaves a lasting impression”, says festival director Claas Danielsen. “Laura Poitras succeeds in making us feel the totality of modern surveillance almost physically. At the same time, she gives
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Written 26-09-2014 07:01:14 by Tue Steen Müller
Yes, she is a documentary superstar, Helena Trestikova. Filmkommentaren has had many posts about her films, which are shot over decades, always with a warm heart for its protagonists, and a social perspective. Now the DocAlliance gives you an offer you can not refuse:
From September 22 to October 5, 2014, the DAFilms.com documentary portal presents (FOR FREE) the first world online retrospective of unique Czech director Helena Třeštíková under the telling title “A Long Journey”. The works by the popular documentarist who has won a whole range of international awards, including Europe’s highest film award Prix Arte, are introduced on the portal in the form of more than 25 films made since the mid-1970s. Moreover, Czech viewers can vote for their favourite film by the filmmaker at www.dafilms.com and win an invitation to an exclusive film meeting with Helena Třeštíková… A quote from what we have written about Trestikova:
About Helena Trestikova at the Magnificent7 Festival 2013: ...a masterclass with a very well prepared presentation with 11 scenes from her films, through her work of long-time observation. She showed us clips from ”Marcela”, ”Katka” and ”René” (Best European Documentary in 2008) and talked about the ethical questions connected to being so close to her characters, helping them ”outside” the film as well, to get on the right track in their lives. Trestikova said that she did not really consider herself as a filmmaker, more as a chronicler, who has new films coming up this year and has plans to continue to film René and maybe also the family in ”Private Universe”. Deep respect for Trestikova for a constant non-tabloid humanistic focus on people outside the celebrity spotlight.
Written 25-09-2014 07:58:56 by Tue Steen Müller
Well, I was definitely away from my comfort zone… Around the table were Russian critics, journalists, a writer of a book on the banning of films in Soviet Union – and some younger filmmakers, who were there to say something about censorship today. They did not deliver many words, the old boys took the floor and kept the word for long, arguing with each other, quite dramatic sometimes. I was the last one to speak, told the story that I had heard a couple of weeks ago from Uldis Brauns, whose ”235.000.000” was censored and re-cut after a meeting between him and Goskino in Moscow in 1967. Otherwise I could talk about self-censorship and advertise films in the Danish series at Message2Man, a couple of the films deals with suppression of the free expression like ”Ai Wei Wei” and ”Burma vj”.
I have the feeling that the rest of the table did not understand what I said – the interpreter was not a professional – or were not really interested or were exhausted after the long arguments.
Andrei Smirnov (photo), film director and actor, was the first to speak. He did so passionately, arguing that hundreds of films, in Soviet time, were taken away from public screenings in most cases without any explanation. And if there was any, it was mostly pretty absurd why they were censored. Some photocopies of historical official letters banning films and film directors were distributed – they dealt with the fate of Klimov and Parajanov and were sent by the ”Committee for the State Security of the Council of Ministers of the USSR”. Critic Victor Matizev linked to the current situation saying that we ”are close to the formal installment of censorship”. Another critic, Andrei Shemayakin, pointed out that the censorship today was mostly of an economic nature, there is little money for documentaries which was confirmed by the couple of young filmmakers at the table, one of them made a film about gay and lesbians through crowdfunding.
Towards the end of the two-hour session a journalist started to talk politics, Smirnov got angry and left. Have to confess that I did not really get what the journalist said – but he was pointing at Russia being more advanced than France and Germany, where censorship is more in practice…
Written 24-09-2014 09:01:29 by Tue Steen Müller
My wise advisor asks me to de-personalise the important debate about whether DOX has a future or not. I will do my best to suppress my frustration. Starting with a concrete, constructive proposal: Don't stop DOX and - inspired by what they do at the Danish Film Institute - make a print issue to come out when the festival idfa is on and one when there the festivals/markets Sheffield/Sunny Side take place. That can attract advertising and you can have ad hoc editors/writers (and not a full-time employed editor) to contribute. Publication costs are not high in several countries. The paper editions are for longer, deeper texts, the online activity can include shorter contributions.
But does EDN want to continue DOX? Director Paul Pauwels is not clear in his communication. In the last printed issue of the magazine, that just came out, he writes:
“EDN will spend a lot of energy on defending the documentary genre in the ultra competitive (but often under-financed) media landscape and on becoming an advocate of its members and their interests. This added objective – approved by the EDN Executive Committee – calls for a new strategy and adapted tools, and in all honesty I had to conclude that DOX Magazine doesn’t fit with this new objective..”
… and in EDN Weekly 37, he says that the future of DOX will be discussed internally. One of his staff members has expressed that there will be an online DOX, an EC (Executive member) of EDN told me some days ago that this is doubtful.
Anyway, above is a proposal, there are probably many others. I will ask EDN to put this text on their Facebook page. This is where a letter to the members from Paul has been published stating that he does not want to respond to “a facebook campaign”. He refers to the debate on filmkommentaren.dk and the connected comments on FB that I use to bring readers to the blog. All debate on DOX should take place on EDN territory according to Paul. Which should not prevent you readers to contribute on this blog, all are welcome – EDN members and lovers of DOX – and come up with other proposals to continue the magazine.
Written 24-09-2014 08:11:41 by Tue Steen Müller
Second day in St. Petersburg started with a lovely tour to Russian Museum downtown at the square where a statue of Pushkin stands, always with birds resting on his stretched-out arm. The newly renovated rooms with the Russian avant-garde I had not seen before – what a pleasure to revisit masterpieces of Malevich, Filonov, Kandinsky and Tatlin.
After that off to Velican theatre where we watched young Danish Emil Langballe’s graduation film from the National Film School in England, ”Beach Boy”, a well balanced, cinematic non-moralistic portrait of a young black man and his relationship to a middle-aged British woman in Kenya. The young man makes a phone call to his girl friend, who is pregnant but is aware of his profession. The film is light and pretty much less demonstrative than the feature of Ulrich Seidl.
And then to Gare du Nord in Paris guided by veteran director Claire Simon, whose ”Human Geography” (104 minutes) appealed strongly to me, both because it is a very well made film but also because Gare du Nord is very familar to me. I have arrived there several times at 8am in the morning after 12 hours in train from Copenhagen, I have welcomed my mother when she visited us on vacation in ”la ville des villes”, and – alas – in November last year this was the place where co-editor of filmkommentaren.dk, Allan Berg, had his computer stolen, when we got out of a taxi…
Claire Simon is behind the camera, her friend Simon, of Algerian origin, is there with her to help her ask questions to people passing by. Small stories with people before they enter a train, observations, and talks with people working on the station. It becomes a film on Life and Love, superficial, what else could it be, but small stories placed in the heads of the audience for us to work more on. The focus is on people who ended up in France coming from all over the world, happy or not happy, with fine educations from back home, but apparently useless in the European country they have arrived to. IN that way the film is also a portrait of Europe of today.
Written 22-09-2014 20:45:02 by Tue Steen Müller
We already told that for the second time the AegeanDocs festival is running, it opened on the 20th of September (and runs until the 28th) with a screening of “The Act of Killing”. Producer of the festival Chara Lampidou sent me yesterday information about the festival programme and this welcoming text of festival director Kostas Spiropoulos:
If someone was trying to describe in two words the content of ΑgeanDocs2014, I would suggest: Looking straight into reality. Face to face, with no ifs and buts, eloquent blandishments or rounding offs. 70 Greek and foreign directors face reality. They see, or more correctly, they read the world and the people. It’s a composition of problems, situations, adventures, in which people are involved either as part of collective subjects or as characters.
How useful is the sight – or more correctly: the different glances - of the artists?
The first seventh part of our century heralds a future dominated by the asymmetry. The inability to understand and predict. It is not only the inequalities and the contradictions that spawn, aggravate or rekindle. It is, in particular, the inability of the political and scientific elite to understand, to interpret, let alone to deal with a complex universal reality. At such times the
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Written 22-09-2014 08:09:32 by Tue Steen Müller
Do you know the situation for Russian artists, was the first question that came from the audience at the Q&A after Danish Andreas Johnsen’s ”Ai Wei Wei” screening last night at the St. Petersburg documentary festival. The film about the Chinese artist was the first to be shown out of 8 Danish films picked for a programme called GlobalDoK = the Danes go abroad to find stories that can work globally.
No, I do not, the Danish director honestly answered – and the artist in the audience confirmed that there were pretty many similarities between the situation of Wei Wei and the one experienced here in Russia – censorship, aggression from the authorities etc… this is what a director wants to happen, isn’t it, that audiences can transfer what they see to their own life.
The opening was attended by around 40 people. Director of the Danish Cultural Institute in St. Petersburg, Finn Andersen, expressed his gratitude to be able to help the film festival to have the retrospective happen. The same thank you was adressed to the Danish Film Institute.
Message2Man is a huge festival. The main screening venue is Velikan Centre in a beautiful park, where families were having their sunday walk yesterday. The Centre has multiple screening halls and there are also cinemas in other parts of the city that show films from all over the world. To give you an impression of today’s programme: There is Michael Obert’s ”Song from the Forest”, Estonian humorous ”The Gold Spinners” by Kiur Aarma and Hardi Volmer, ”Ukraine is not a Brothel” by Kitty Green, ”Blood” by Alina Rudnitskay, ”Shado’man” by Boris Gerrets, ”Human Geography” by Claire Simon and ”The Will” by Christian Sønderby Jepsen. I check in for the last three mentioned. And there are many, many other films screened from mid afternoon to late evening.
Written 21-09-2014 21:20:24 by Tue Steen Müller
I attended the opening of the 25th edition of Nordisk Panorama friday night in Malmö, Sweden. It was a grand event because the organisers had picked the right film to start the festival. Below is the website description of Garden Lovers by Virpi Suutari, a film that is about love and full of love towards the characters, the many old couples, whose warm relationships still flourish, in beautiful garden surroundings. The film has a unique flow going from couple to couple, from situation to situation, some of them very ”Finnish” meaning wonderfully weird, always surprising, supported by constant wonderful camera movements (dop: Heikki Färm) and an amazing music score composed by Sanna Salmenkallio, who you will know from (among others) ”3 Rooms of Melancholia” by Pirjo Honkasalo.
The site description: …a documentary love story about Finnish couples who have a passion for gardening. The film with comic undertones looks at their stories behind the hedges. The garden provides a framework for tales of relationship conflicts and joys; it depicts the many ways in which life can flourish; it gives strength and unites, but it also becomes a meeting place for farewells. There is an invisible bond that grows between the couples in the film; they comment and comfort each other with their own stories.The film’s gardening stories celebrate fertility, play and love.
25 years of Nordisk Panorama. As one who was there at the first edition in Grimstad, Norway in 1990, I was asked to make a presentation of films from the 25 years that I liked, I called it ”from ”1700 Metres from the Future” till ”Belleville Baby” by Ulla Boje Rasmussen – and Mia Engberg. I ended the talk by showing a clip from ”3 Rooms of Melancholia”, for me the best Nordic documentary in the last 25 years.
Written 20-09-2014 07:58:42 by Tue Steen Müller
There is no photo attached to this post, you have to look up to the right, where you get three of them. Co-editor of filmkommentaren.dk, Allan Berg, suggested that I chose three obvious talents, who have made films which travel and are awarded, and who will – hopefully – give us more great works in decades to come. Here they are:
To the left Sara Ishaq, two films of hers have been on filmkommentaren.dk, both dealing with Yemen: ”Kamara has No Walls”, nominated for an Oscar 2013 and ”The Mulberry House” from 2013, a quote from the review of the latter: A family film? Yes. Private? No. Personal? Yes, as it is a film about a daughter, who returns to her roots... oops, now the words start to be klichés. Roots, yes but conveyed in a way so we non-yemenites easily can identify with the family, the three generations and its situation, in a film that captures the warmth and passes it on to us in a light tone that is broken when reality knocks on the door.
In the middle Salome Jashi, who after the short films ”Their Helicopter” and ”Speechless” made the middle length ”The Leader is always Right” an ” observational documentary from one of the patriotic youth camps in Georgia” before turning to what is her international breakthrough, ”Bahkmaro”, that gave her the main award in Jihlava 2011. The jury motivation was precise: “With an attentive and personal approach the filmmaker transforms an ordinary microcosm into a unique narrative and playful visual experience. Through an effective and assured cinematic language this film reveals the mood and the spirit of a society struggling with its internal hopes and contradictions. For its respect, artistry and quest for surprise the award for the Best film of “The Between the Seas” Competition goes to Bakhmaro by Salome Jashi.”
To the right Davis Simanis, Latvian documentary director and editor, whose film about the new national library in Riga won the Baltic award at the festival in Vilnius in 2013: ” ”Chronicles of the Last Temple”, a superb interpretation of the new and much discussed National Library of Riga, a film that shows Simanis ability to capture the grandeur of a building and its details in a super aesthetic form. His newest work ”Escaping Riga” presents in an original cinematic form two world-class 20th century geniuses, the British philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin and the Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein.
Written 18-09-2014 11:07:14 by Tue Steen Müller
Emanuele Vernillo, didactic tutor at Zelig School for Documentary, Television and New Media in Bolzano calls the decision “absurd”. Here is his text:
I am reading with big interest the discussions about the closing of DOX on paper. I want to add to these also my and our (ZeLIG) concern... If you think that the 'circulation of our concern' may help a discussion about this absurd decision, please feel free to publish it on your blog and wherever it would be useful.
As you know, we are a trilingual documentary film school, a very special institution where students from all over the world join together and attend seminars in german, italian and english. As you know and as anybody can easily understand, english becomes suddenly the main spoken language: inside this context DOX 'was' the only magazine which can strongly support the circulation of ideas, comments, critics about the documentary film scene all over the world. It is such an enormous loss for all the film-makers and particularly for our school. Which magazine can serve as substitute to it? We have made a subscription to 'Sight and Sound', but what DOX has been for the documentary film scene is not substitutable.
In these days I have taken in my hands the issue nr. 100, 'DOX in Dialogue': it was simply marvellous, the conversations between Luciano Barisone and Nicholas Philibert, Joshua Oppenheimer and Werner Herzog. Who is going to tell to our future students that this won't be published anymore?
Yes, there will be probably the digital editions... But I have the impression that we are not yet in an era where digital magazines are easily usable...
I can understand the financial situation worldwide, from which EDN is probably suffering like many other institutions... But a bigger effort not to renounce to such a big resource would be very welcomed!!
Written 17-09-2014 14:58:02 by Tue Steen Müller
PeÅ Holmquist, director and producer of documentary films, first President of EDN has written a letter about DOX:
In EDN Newsletter, week 37, I get the news about our magazine DOX:Doesn’t exist anymore! DOX has been there nearly from when we started EDN - quite a long time ago. In EDN Weekly, 37, I read “with deep regret I have to announce that I had to decide to terminate the publishing of Dox Magazine.?”
I think the EDN-director Paul Pauwels is making a big mistake. And as one of the founders of EDN I find it strange that this decision comes with a very low-key way and with an “I had to decide”.
I think/thought this kind of a decision would be much more profound and I think it’s not enough that this is a “one man decision”. About the reason to stop DOX we just get a few sentences from PP about the loss of money from Creative Europe. No discussion from the EDN Executive committee, no exact calculations are shown to us! It’s also typical that I myself didn’t find this news with the EDN newsletter? I missed it. I found it on filmkommentaren.dk and a very concerned note from Emma Davie, also one of EDN:s old members.
I think one problem lately with EDN is that the Business behind documentary film has taken more and more place. Less and less about the culture behind our genre. Why are we making these films? It’s certainly not because of the money. I spent 35 years of my filmmaking in the Middle East (10 of them also teaching Palestinian filmmakers) - this was also not because of money! We need to discuss our films and the reasons behind, and what kind of reactions we and our film get , etc ?
That’s why we need something like DOX . We have enough of Pitching Forums already.
I sincerely hope and I urge the EDN executive committee to initiate a discussion about Dox or a new DOX at the General Assembly in Amsterdam in November this year.
PeÅ Holmquist, documentary filmmaker. First chairman for EDN
Written 17-09-2014 10:25:57 by Tue Steen Müller
Last week Michael Moore, at the Toronto International Film Festival Doc Conference, 25 years after his "Roger and me" (photo) was released, presented 13 rules for making documentary films. A manifesto. He stressed that documentary filmmakers should not be called documentarians but filmmakers, and ”Also, I don't want people leaving the theater depressed after my movies. I want them angry. Depressed is a passive emotion. Anger is active. Anger will mean that maybe 5 percent, 10 percent of that audience will get up and say, "I gotta do something. I'm going to tell others about this. I'm going to go look up more about this on the Internet. I'm gonna join a group and fight this!"”
His full speech is to be found on Indiewire, link below, where you will also find colleague, documentarian, sorry filmmaker Jo Berlinger’s response to Moore, as thoughtful and analytical as Moore’s contribution is entertaining and provocative. Other filmmakers are also asked to comment in the fine IndieWire articles. A long quote from Berlinger:
“Not calling ourselves "documentarians" is a very old argument that ignores the amazing expansion of the form and the pushing of boundaries that
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Written 15-09-2014 10:19:10 by Tue Steen Müller
A ”EDN Weekly” newsletter came out. In a subordinate clause there was shocking news: ”… I had to decide to terminate the publishing…” of DOX Magazine. Just like that. Voilà. A big big mistake! After more than 100 issues the magazine that has been a key element in the profile of EDN, the death of the magazine was declared by Paul Pauwels (PP), the director of EDN. An online issue is under discussion, coming from the office, probably more a member´s magazine than what DOX was – the international documentary FILM magazine. PP, the terminator, who always communicates on behalf of EDN in first person, had made the decision after consultation with the executive committee of the association. The reason: first of all due to financial reasons.
A mistake. Yes, a wrong priority from PP. When EDN way back took over the publishing of the magazine, we did so because there was a need for a documentary FILM magazine and because we thought this was the right way to tell our members that EDN is not “only” about money, where to find them, workshops, pitching etc. but also about the art of documentary. Side by side of Sight & Sound, that comes out on paper and online, like several other national film magazines, DOX, published by EDN but always independent editorially to avoid it being a mere communication tool for EDN, the magazine has had EDN members as main readers but it has also been spread around to non-members as it was this last week in Riga where Eastern European documentarians were offered a free copy – a service to filmmakers who can not afford to be members of EDN.
In Riga Emma Davie, always a true supporter of EDN, and I, former director
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Written 13-09-2014 16:24:47 by Tue Steen Müller
Copy-paste quote from RealScreen on Martin Scorcese talking about his new documentary “The 50 Year Argument” on New York Review of Books, co-directed with David Tedeschi. A talk taking place in Toronto at the international film festival, read more, link below:
Despite his reservation over the characterization of non-fiction films, Scorsese said he enjoyed making such films. “There’s a sense of freedom in that I’m not shackled to a conventional narrative,” he said. “I find that the challenges are everywhere, but there’s more of a sense of freedom.” With The 50 Year Argument, the director said he and Tedeschi “had no plan” at the start of the project. “We had to find our way through. With non-fiction, it’s a bigger responsibility, it’s a bigger gamble.”
The director also discussed the impact that The New York Review of Books – and literature in general – had had on him over the past half-century. “Books fascinated me – and still do,” he said. “But they fascinate me also as objects; books themselves become very precious to me. “It took me a long time to learn to read a book, to live with a book.”
The 50 Year Argument marks Scorsese’s sixth doc collaboration with Tedeschi, and their first as co-directors. Tedeschi previously served as editor on 2011′s George Harrison: Living in the Material World, 2010′s Public Speaking, 2008′s Shine a Light, 2005′s No Direction Home, and an episode of Scorsese’s 2003 doc series The Blues.
Written 12-09-2014 18:43:04 by Tue Steen Müller
“GlobalDoK: Danish Film Institute Present” is the title chosen for a presentation of new Danish documentaries in St.Petersburg at the Message to Man festival (September 20-27). In collaboration with the DFI and with me as a helper for the programmer Mikhail Zheleznikov the following films were chosen: 1. Ai Weiwei The Fake Case by Andreas Johnsen (2013) 2. Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars by Berit Madsen (2013) 3. Ambassador by Mads Brügger (2011) 4. The Will by Christian Sønderby Jepsen (2011) 5. Armadillo by Janus Metz Pedersen (2010) 6. Burma vj by Anders Østergaard (2008) 7. The Good Life by Eva Mulvad (2010) 8. The Ghost of Piramida (photo) by Andreas Koefoed (2013). Andreas Johnsen, Andreas Koefoed and Anders Østergaard will meet the audience and the Danish Cultural Institute will host an afternoon seminar on Danish documentaries. I will be there to introduce and moderate. For the festival catalogue I wrote the following promotion text:
GlobalDoK... well, the selection for this series of new Danish documentaries includes films that are shot in China, Iran, Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Burma, Portugal, Norway/Russia – and Denmark/Germany. So to call it GlobalDK with a small o between D and K seems to be a good choice by the organizers.
Global, but is nothing interesting happening in Denmark? Boring country? No stories to find? Or do the Danish documentarians just love to travel? Or are the Danish film people engaged and committed in a way so they have to deal with the troubles of the Chinese world famous artist Ai WeiWei, the dream of the Iranian girl Sepideh, the international diamant mafia and its
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Written 09-09-2014 15:28:10 by Tue Steen Müller
The photo in the post below is a bit small but shows the wonderful screening situation in the house of Uldis Brauns. Here you have him in the garden.
Written 09-09-2014 15:24:10 by Tue Steen Müller
During the many years that I have followed Latvian documentary cinema, the name Uldis Brauns has always been like a magic enigma. Who is he, where is he, what is he doing? The master, that is how he is characterised by many, including his late close colleague Herz Frank. The man who directed ”235.000.000” (1967), a work that far too few know about, that story comes later. I did not see him at the Riga symposia organised by another big name Ivars Seleckis et co. and when I asked around, I was told that he lives in the countryside and is not involved any longer. A loner, he was said to be.
Finally I had my curiosity saturated. Sunday after the Baltic Sea Docs Uldis Cekulis, Arvids Celmalis, Kristine Briede and I drove to his place ”Upeskalni” near the nice town Kuldiga (often pronounced Cool Diga!) in the Kurzeme district of Latvia. 90 minutes from Riga you turn down a dirt road and drive twenty minutes to reach a house standing alone (2,5 kilometer to nearest neighbour) in what you can only describe as a paradisiacal garden
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Written 08-09-2014 22:23:30 by Tue Steen Müller
Hotel Metropole, Kuldiga, Latvia. Early monday morning, still wonderful ”indian summer”. I am waiting for my colleagues, to take breakfast before we go back to visit Uldis Brauns, Latvian documentary master, 81 years old, a gentle man. We were there yesterday, afternoon and evening, we have a follow-up today, the research team behind a film on the Baltic poetic cinema masters: Uldis Cekulis (producer and cameraman), Arvids Celmanis (sound engineer), Kristine Briede, whose idea it is, and me. More about that tomorrow.
I am thinking back on yesterday morning on the last day of the Baltic Sea Docs 2014, pitching in the morning and individual meetings in the afternoon. Did it go well, yes I think so, will some of the pitchers leave with good results. Well, in terms of financing there will not be a lot of immediate results but contacts have been made that can be developed later on, and Baltic Sea Docs is today also a place where young filmmakers can develop their skills and meet with experienced directors and producers. It is the policy of several producers to use the event – with workshop and pitching – to launch new projects attached to new producers and directors.
One of them was Guntis Trekteris, who presented ”Tal”, about the chess master, with young Stanislavs Tokalovs, who had done his research on the
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Written 06-09-2014 18:52:24 by Tue Steen Müller
Are you on drugs was the question, jokingly asked by panelist Esther van Messel from First Hand Film, when Russian producer Vlad Ketkovich was pitching the project ”My Beliefs” to be directed by Tatiana Chistova. Could be… Ketkovich, wearing a t-shirt with ”army” on the front, talked loud, laughed and performed, he did not need a microphone to talk about the young Russian people, who do not want to go to the army and therefore meet with a commission to express why not. The trailer presented was a hilarious – and sad at the same time – observation of what goes on in the room, where they ask a panel of officials to be transferred to civil service duty. And the two of them, director and producer, did a fine humorous dialogue to convey a project of great potential.
… All in all there was a good atmosphere in the room with a panel of broadcasters and distributors and sales agents – and all chairs for observers were full. And pitchers who were able to being out their personality.
This was the first day of the Baltic Sea Forum with 12 projects and it was
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Written 06-09-2014 07:34:44 by Tue Steen Müller
It was presented last year at Baltic Sea Docs and there it was on the big screen at Splendid Palace, the film that was made on the occasion of Riga being the Cultural City of Europe. A so-called omnibus film consisting of seven films by European directors, who have been asked to take a look at the beautiful city at the Daugava river.
Short films (from 12 to 20 minutes) in other words, a film genre that was once the one that opened a cinema screening before a feauture film. A time slot, to use a television term that now has been conquered by commercials.
But not last night at the Splendid Palace, previously called ”Riga”, a cinema dating back to 1923, and it felt natural that the first film was by Lithuanian film poet Audrius Stonys, whose love for archive material comes out in his fine, well-balanced tour on board some small fishing boats, shifting between today and before, celebrating men and tradition. German Rainer Komers went further out to the delta of Riga and gives the audience an impressionistic picture of what he saw and heard from man and surroundings, whereas Austrian artist Bettina Henkel stays in the old town of Riga, in ”“Theater
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Written 05-09-2014 18:18:38 by Tue Steen Müller
Press release (edited) of today from The Flaherty, great initiative:
Cinema Guild and The Flaherty announced today an exclusive digital partnership to create a curated series spotlighting the work of groundbreaking artists and filmmakers. Volumes in the series, titled "The Flaherty Presents," will be released annually on all major digital platforms across North America.
This new partnership aims to bring together The Flaherty's unique curatorial approach with Cinema Guild's noted distribution networks and to make many of the films and ideas gathered annually at the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar available in homes and classrooms across the country.
The series will launch with a spotlight on acclaimed filmmaker Eric Baudelaire, guest artist at the 2014 Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, available on November 25, featuring the following two films: "The Anabasis Of May And Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi And 27 Years Without Images" (2011, 66 minutes) and "The Makes" (2010, 26 minutes). Baudelaire's new film, "Letters to Max" receives its world premiere on September 12 at the Toronto Film Festival.
"We are thrilled to collaborate with Cinema Guild in making filmmakers of exceptional talent available to wider audiences," commented Anita Reher (photo). "This new partnership is part of The Flaherty's 60th year of celebrating the art of cinema."
"We have immense respect for The Flaherty; for what they accomplish at their now-legendary annual seminar, and for what they do every day to empower filmmakers and support documentary and independent cinema. We're honored to be entering into this partnership with them," added Ryan Krivoshey.
The deal was negotiated by Ryan Krivoshey, Director of Distribution for the Cinema Guild with Anita Reher, Executive Director, and Chi-hui Yang, Board Trustee, of The Flaherty.
Written 05-09-2014 18:09:51 by Tue Steen Müller
Press release of today from DOKLeipzig: Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung is proposing the Finnish documentary expert Leena Pasanen (49) to become the next director of DOK Leipzig. The City Council will decide on the appointment on 15 October. A selection committee composed of industry professionals chose Pasanen from 33 candidates. Her years of experience and excellent international network were among the deciding factors.
Leena Pasanen currently directs the Finnagora cultural institute at the Finnish Embassy in Budapest. Previously, she held various management positions at the Finnish television broadcaster YLE. Pasanen was responsible for documentaries on YLE 1, then led the cultural and documentary programming division of the digital special-interest channel YLE Teema and later worked as a programme coordinator. She also spent three years as director of the European Documentary Network in Copenhagen.
“I am delighted that Leena Pasanen has been nominated as my successor. She is widely respected internationally, a profound connoisseur of documentary film and a very experienced cultural manager”, says outgoing festival director Claas Danielsen.
If the City Council signs off, Leena Pasanen will succeed Claas Danielsen on 1 January 2015. She will begin a five-year contract as festival director of DOK Leipzig also serving as managing director of the municipal Leipziger Dok-Filmwochen GmbH.
Claas Danielsen has led the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film since 2004. During his tenure, he modernised DOK Leipzig and made it one of the leading international documentary festivals and major industry gatherings.
… If I dare take the October 15 confirmation as a formality, a big hug and congratulations to Leena, colleague in documentary and former director of EDN – as the one who writes these lines.
Written 05-09-2014 08:02:15 by Tue Steen Müller
I am sitting on the 11th floor of Hotel Albert in Riga. We are into the third day of the workshop that preceeds the pitching of the weekend. 22 projects will be presented after two days of intense discussions of the projects. Today is the day where the filmmakers take their time to make the final adjustments of the verbal/visual presentation including the re-editing of trailers where they have had the chance to get assistance from Swedish/Canadian editor Phil Jandaly.
Everything has been – as always – perfectly organised by Lelda Ozola and Zanda Dudina from the Film Centre, and the weather has been superb. I am looking at the churches of Riga and at the new National Library that we had the possibility to see from inside the other day. It is magnificent, wow to be a student sitting in one of the many reading rooms with a view to Daugava river and the skyline of the Latvian capital.
Riga is the Cultural Capital of Europe and the film activity is influenced by this. Tonight I am to watch ”Across the Roads, Across the River”, the omnibus film about Riga with short films by the directors Sergei Loznitsa (Ukraine), Audrius Stonys (Lithuania), Rainer Komers (Germany), Bettina Henkel (Austria), Jaak Kilmi (Estonia), Jon Bang Carlsen (Denmark) and Ivars Seleckis (Latvia). Before the screening I will have the pleasure to meet with Seleckis, the grand old man of Latvian documentary cinema, soon to be 80 years old. The reason is that he is the obvious Latvian choice to be part of the film about the masters of the poetic cinema in the Baltic countries. Seleckis is the man behind the trilogy from the Crossroad Street among many many films he has made about Latvian history and culture. On a personal level I owe to Seleckis that he was the first to take me and my wife on a tour round Latvia to see the beauty of the country.
The producer behind the film on the Baltic poetic documentary cinema is Uldis Cekulis. On the photo you see him relax outside the rooms in the farmhouse where we stayed on the island of Manija in Estonia, when visiting Mark Soosaar. Cekulis was the cameraman on the research trip.
Written 03-09-2014 12:05:25 by Tue Steen Müller
For everyone who has followed the tragic events in Gaza it is a must to watch the Palestinian artist and filmmaker Khaled Jarrar’s Infiltrators. I have written about Jarrar several times on filmkommentaren (one link below) and am happy that he will come to Copenhagen to show his films to the Danes. It happens in the framework of the Salaam Filmfestival on 07.09.2014 kl. 16:30. At the Cinematheque.
Written 03-09-2014 08:06:10 by Tue Steen Müller
… is a phenomenon. I have known him since the Balticum Film & TV Festival on the island of Bornholm in the middle of the Baltic Sea, going on from 1990-2000. He came there several times and 6 of his films were shown. He always came with his car on his way to Copenhagen or to Paris where he had things to do related to research for a new film or to his museum in Pärnu. It used to be called Chaplin Centre, now the name is simply Museum of New Art.
Sooo, filmmaker, art museum director and festival director of a festival that had its 28th edition this year in July. And on top of that, together with his wife Svea, Soosaar on the small Kihnu island Manija (35 inhabitants) has goats and sheep to take care of.
This is where we went for a visit. We (producer and cameraman Uldis Cekulis, filmmaker Kristine Briede, sound engineer Arvids Celmanis and me) came monday evening and left tuesday morning. Soosaar showed us around, milked a goat, great taste and talked about his current filming on the bigger Kihnu island. 3 half hour
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Written 29-08-2014 13:35:15 by Tue Steen Müller
Press release from the festival in Leipzig, says a lot about volume of documentaries world wide, plus animation films on top of that!: 2,350 film productions from 119 countries have tossed their hat in the ring for this year's International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film. The submissions came from all five continents. In addition to major film-producing countries like France, the US and Poland, the selection committee also received productions from Trinidad and Tobago, Benin and the Central African Republic. For the first time a film was submitted from the tiny Caribbean island nation of Dominica.
The submissions consist of 1,931 documentaries, 339 animations and 80 animated documentaries. The selection committee has also screened nearly 500 other films at festivals around the world.
Some 80 films will be selected from all these productions to compete for Golden Doves in five competition sections. For the first time, the winner of the Golden Dove in the International Short Documentary Competition will qualify
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Written 27-08-2014 13:05:41 by Tue Steen Müller
Well, you might not see it but it was pouring down in Copenhagen sunday, when Magnificent7 festival director Zoran Popovic, caught by his co-director Svetlana behind the camera, was expressing his joy to be close to Hans Christian Andersen in the Royal Garden with the three of us “singing in the rain”. After 10 years of festival visits to Belgrade, my wife and I finally had the pleasure of a week with the Popovic’s in Copenhagen… they adore Hans Christian Andersen about whom his cinematic biographer, legendary Jørgen Roos said that had he lived today, he would have made documentaries.
Written 26-08-2014 11:33:09 by Mikkel Stolt
During the closing panel talk Sunday at European Film College, English director Nick Broomfield suggested that all of us in the audience were in fact blessed because we are working in the documentary business of Denmark - the happiest place in the world with probably the best possibilities of getting a film financed. Well, we are also a bunch of cantankerous bitches and blighters who are never just satisfied.
But this weekend we were blessed with the presence of among other said Bloomfield, Russian director Victor Kossakovsky and emerging Ukrainian filmmaker Jurij Rechinsky, whose very moving and empathic “Sickfuckpeople” (2013) was shown on Friday night followed by a Q&A with the sneakingly charming director. About eight hours (and a couple of glasses of red wine and discussions in small groups) later we watched the brand new “The Tales of the Grim Sleeper” by Nick Broomfield. Quite a way to start at 8 in the morning, but it seemed that there was a bit more discrepancy between us all regarding our opinions on that film. Personally, I found it a bit disappointing and obvious considering some of his earlier work, but the talk and discussions afterwards was very enlightening and entertaining.
Entertaining is maybe not quite a satisfying word for the performance of Victor Kossakovsky which followed a screening of his remarkable and extremely cinematic “¡Vivan las Antipodas!”(earlier reviewed on this site). His passion is surpassed which we saw in a clip from behind the scenes on that film and I almost felt guilty with my tame Nordic temper, wanting to make films. He was a powerhouse of good remarks (“I want to make your soul soft”, “We are all guilty in giving TV so much power” and “Don’t tell me you wanted to be a filmmaker because you watched TV; no, you saw Fellini, Tarkovski, von Trier, whatever…”), expressed with his hefty accent which had us all on the edge of our seats – if not for the excitement, then for being able to understand what he said.
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Written 25-08-2014 19:02:47 by Tue Steen Müller
I have copy-pasted from Guardian of today, where Simon McBurney interviews Gaza documentarian Ashraf Mashharawi (photo), “joint winner of the Katrin Cartlidge award” that was given out at the Sarajevo Film Festival, that the director travelled to in spite of all the complications involved in, going in and out of Gaza. Read the touching interview and about Ken Loach:
“Ken Loach has called for a boycott of all cultural and sporting events supported by the Israeli state, and condemned the support offered to Israel by the US and UK. Speaking at the Sarajevo film festival, Loach was presenting the Katrin Cartlidge Foundation award to two documentary-makers from Gaza, Abdel Salam Shehadeh and Ashraf Mashharawi. The former was unable to attend due to the airstrikes, while the latter, who was at the festival, told Reuters he would be unable to return.”
"He was holding his twins," says Ashraf Mashharawi, leaning forward. "All his family around him. They had been able to shelter in their basement. But it was a direct hit and their house collapsed. It took two days to reach them. When we did, I helped to move the rubble from above them. He was sitting in the corner, holding his girls, one under each arm. They were all only slightly injured, so they must have died slowly."
Written 21-08-2014 09:29:21 by Tue Steen Müller
The photo refers to the film ”Red Army” by Gabe Polsky that at indiewire.com (link below) is described like this:
Soviet hockey players? As in the ones that were defeated by a young, inexperienced American team at the 1980 Olympics? In fact, the “Miracle on Ice” is just a blip in the story of Soviet hockey, as demonstrated by Gabe Polsky’s exhilarating documentary, in which the Cold War is fought on the ice. The Soviet Union’s Red Army team was the most successful dynasty in sports history. Players, trained from a young age, were stronger and more skillful than any others in the world and were meant to show up the West at every opportunity. Polsky, a child of Soviet immigrants who grew up playing hockey in the United States, finds a prime example of artistry on ice in Red Army team captain (and one-time NHL star) Slava Fetisov, who went from national hero to political enemy to American star to post-Communist Russian Minister of Sport. Polsky’s wildly entertaining film examines the many ways that sport both embodies and reflects social, political, and cultural realities…
Indiewire.com “lines up” the “auteur-packed Doc Lineup” at the coming New York Film Festival, the 52nd version that takes place September 26 – October 12. And it is indeed a great selection including at least four films that I so much look forward to watch:
Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Look of Silence”, Martin Scorcese’s “The 50-Year Argument” about the New York Review of Books, interview based (James Baldwin is there, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer…), Albert Maysles (83 years old) with “Iris”, last name Apfel, “about fashion- and interior-design maven Iris Apfel, who is herself just south of 92…”, Wiseman’s “National Gallery” (in London) and what I think is probably the most important: “Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait” by Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan.
A quote from Real Screen: “This section of the festival has become increasingly important to us, and to me personally,” said Kent Jones, the NYFF’s director of programming and selection committee chair, in a statement. “It’s kind of a commonplace to think of documentary as an add-on to fiction, something extra, and of course nothing could be further from the truth: cinema started with documentary, and it will always be at the core of the art form.”
Written 19-08-2014 09:19:09 by Tue Steen Müller
St. Petersburg, end of September (20-27), programme has been announced for the 24th edition of Message to Man. On top of the list, very much appropriate, is local master Alina Rudnitskaya with her latest fine b/w work ”Blood” (photo), one of 9 feature documentaries in competition, where you also find Ventura Durall’s ”Bugarach” and ”My Name is Salt” by Farida Pacha.
Message to Man has a competition for short-length documentaries, for short fiction and for animation. AND, what is special for the festival, there is a ”in silico” category with experimental works. For the fourth time and here is a repeat of what Mikhail Zheleznikov told me about this section last year:
“In this contest we present some purely experimental works, as well as more or less narrative documentary, animation or fiction shorts, which were too "avant-garde" for a more conventional international competition.
Experimental short film competition In Silico works well in the context of the whole festival program, and draws the audience. Besides, it really expands our options - now we can show almost all the crazy shorts that we like and easily get away with it.”
More than 20 crazy works are listed.
Later on I will write about the special retrospective of new Danish documentaries to be shown in St. Petersburg this year. Message to Man is a festival rich in programme.
Written 17-08-2014 16:27:33 by Tue Steen Müller
The Baltic Sea Docs has announced its mini film festival programme that runs parallel to the pitching of 24 new documentary projects primarily from the Baltic countries but also producers from Western European countries turn up with proposals that have a link to the Eastern part of Europe. Two Russian projects will be presented this year where no Ukranians are on the list. But, as the organisers informed me: … a Polish project deals with the experience of four young people at Maidan Square and one of the Russian projects, by Vitaly Mansky, is a reflection on his Ukrainian roots on the background of Ukraine today.
Back to the film programme: 9 films are screened, all carefully selected with a wide spread in geography… “Dance for Me” by Danish Katrine Philp, “My Name is Salt” by Indian Farida Pacha, “Two Raging Grannies” by Norwegan Håvard Nustnes, ”The Square” by Egyptian/American Jehane Noujaim and Bulgarian “Uncle Tony, Three Fools and the Secret Service” (photo) by Vesela Kazakova, Mina Mileva.
The title of the mini festival is “The Power of Silence”. Quite a subtile, sophisticated headline - I asked why and got this fine answer from Lelda Ozola and Zanda Dudina:
…There are a lot of under-water currents in each film that you keep thinking about after having watched. In other words you watch as if lightly, but then think a lot about issues raised - children travelling to other countries to reach their aims, adoption, economic growth, the quite silent people at the square of Cairo or in the salt field in India, etc, AND the wonderful lady Freda who worked with BEATLES during the whole existence of the group without walking around bragging about it. Keeping SILENT working in Liverpool as a book-keeper (title “Good Ol’ Freda”) ... She is so simple, so positive and so natural in her modesty, it's wonderful and powerful silence! … Hope that people who watch the films will understand. And hope that our good old friend from Danish screaming democracy will also understand us…
Of course, he will, I am looking forward to come back to wonderful Baltic Sea Docs in Riga for the 18th edition.
Written 11-08-2014 14:10:52 by Tue Steen Müller
Yes, the international film festival in the beautiful Basque city, taking place for 62nd time this year (September 19-27) launches an impressive retrospective called ”Eastern Promises. Autobiography of Eastern Europe... a look at movies produced since 2000 in the countries that lived under Soviet influence post-World War II. A cycle to discover the creative wealth of these film industries and the new talents to have emerged in the last decade.”
”The retrospective will bring together a total of 50 titles from Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldavia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Serbia, many of which have never been seen in our country...”
Among the 50 titles you will find three great documentaries: Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda's ”Czech Dream” (2004), Andrey Paounov's ”Georgi and the Butterflies” (2004)(photo) and Peter Kerekes ”Cooking History” (2009).
The occasion is of course ”25 years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall”. Which festival dares to make a retrospective of 50 documentaries, or 25... I would be happy to assist in the selection...
Written 10-08-2014 19:54:47 by Tue Steen Müller
The Jameson Cinefest International Film Festival in Miskolc, Hungary will not include the DunaDOCK masterclass as planned. On facebook, in the ScreenDaily, on Spiegel Online and of course in the Hungarian media, that I can not read, the matter has been dealt with: The festival (to take place in September) does not want a couple of Roma documentaries shown, critical to the society's treatment of the minority, one of them being a film classic of Pál Schiffer from 1978. As a consequence the DunaDOCK has withdrawn from the festival.
On a personal note: In the early days of establishing the EDN (European Documentary Network) I had the pleasure of meeting the fine man Schiffer in the middle of the 1990'es, introduced to me by Diana Groó, who is one of the four filmmakers behind DunaDOCK, and who made me watch several of the master's works.
Schiffer died in 2001, another master Bela Tarr backs the decision of DunaDock as does the Hungarian Filmmakers Association. Here follows the announcement of the DunaDOCK:
We regretfully announce that DunaDOCK will not present its MasterClass program at the Jameson CineFest International Film Festival in Miskolc this September.
To our greatest surprise we found out that CineFest can only host our professional program if it does not contain – contrary to our plans – any film dealing with the topic of Roma in Hungary, or if it does, the title, the description and the names of the creators of such films cannot be listed in the official program or in any other public forum.
This year – as previously – we selected internationally recognized Hungarian and foreign documentaries for our MasterClass, based on professional
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Written 06-08-2014 10:11:39 by Tue Steen Müller
... by offering a selection of short Balkan documentaries for free until August 17. On the occasion of the 20th edition, Rada Sesic, the festival’s programmer of documentaries, has picked what she herself calls ”... pearls of the documentary expression, powerful, lucid, intelligently structured, likeable, often even humorous. I believe, that showing the best of the regional short docs is really a treat, not only for the audience in the region itself, where the stories found its source, but for the whole world and its film lovers, because short forms are powerful, beautiful and memorable…”
The quote is from an interview with Sesic, first link below, the second one brings you to the films available.
11 films are recommended, let me point at “Real Man’s Film” by Nebosja Slijepcevic, here is the annotation:
“In Balkan every generation has its war. Sons are continuing fights started by their fathers. There are rifles and pistols in every hand. Concentration of arms has reached a critical point. Even the smallest incident would be disastrous to this fragile peace. Watching children playing with toy guns makes you wonder: what are we leaving to the next generation?”
Written 05-08-2014 16:08:41 by Tue Steen Müller
An old man stands at his kitchen sink. He is being addressed by his daughter. Cut. He sits down at a table, cleans his glasses, puts them on, takes a piece of paper, looks into the camera, looks at us and starts reading from the paper(s). I wrote a poem, he says, about ”cante”, about how it came into existence. He reads the lines about the Alentejo people being mute, but listening to the voices of birds and cicades, they got inspired to express Life through singing. Words were scarce, carefully treated. ”Cante” was born. The old man smiles, he has given his interpretation with humour and pride of being part of the Alentejo community, a region that although abandoned and far away from Lisbon, a region with unemployment and poverty, has its own rich culture and history that is being nurtured not only by the old generation but also by the youngsters and the kids in schools.
In this –to warn you: I will not be short of praising adjectives in this review – wonderful emotional journey into the history of ”cante”, its roots, its connection to the farming and cooking culture (you see how a bread soup is made, and how bread is baked and red wine is enjoyed) you are invited to enjoy the ”cante” singing by primarily male choirs constituted by Men with furrowed faces and well-fed stomachs, who make the most beautiful performances. You may close your eyes and enjoy, but it would be wrong as the camera catches superbly the faces and the English subtitles, as good as subtitles can be, give you the content of the songs.
What you discover is that the texts are story - telling themselves. Love songs from the countryside, in the beginning a tribute song to
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Written 04-08-2014 14:24:05 by Tue Steen Müller
Lucky film enthusiasts in Copenhagen: The award-winning documentary by Alan Berliner has been chosen to be "Documentary of the Month" at the Cinematheque in the Film House of the Danish capital. It will have five screenings. A fine Danish language intro is to be found via the link below. Here is a repeat of my review from 2012:
Famous for his film about his father, ”Nobody’s Business”, clever and funny with an excellent, playful montage, it was simply great to watch the newest documentary by Alan Berliner, also with a family member as main protagonist, also with a playful montage and also a tribute to Life even if it deals with Edward Honig, who has Alzheimer’s disease, sits in his chair through the whole film, with family archive material flasbacks here and there and everywhere, shot over five years, a wonderful experience, because Edward Honig was wonderful to meet, a poet and a translator of poetry, among others Portuguese Pessao, a man on his way away from the Life he had been praising again and again, sitting in this room full of books and papers not knowing why and where and what and who.
Berliner asks and asks and gets moments out of Honig, at the same time as he tells the story about him, twice married, haunted his whole life by feeling guilty for the death of his brother when a child, and treating his sons of second marriage really bad. He gets the second wife and the two children into the film as well as other key witnesses to the life of Honig. As well as the director’s own son in musical sequences with the old man. When Honig answers Berliner, he does it normally with a humourous reaction to his own situation, that makes Berliner make excellent associative sequences (often with trains through tunnels) that loosens up tension and gives us viewers a bit of free time to reflect... well it could be on ”la condition humaine” to use a kliché. There are many films about Alzheimer’s disease, and it is indeed hard to watch what used to be a strong, well formulated man get to the point where he expresses himself with sounds, that Berliner refers to as an inspiration coming from outside the window of the room where he sits. From the birds. ”Remember How to Forget”, Honig says, ”little boy, I like you, take me for a ride in your story”, which is what Berliner has done with respect and a storytelling that is non-chronological with an elegance, that makes you think what a wonderful thing FILM is.
USA, 2012, 78 mins.
Written 03-08-2014 12:04:02 by Tue Steen Müller
I got a letter from a friend from the Russian Documentary Guild with a link (see below) to an article that starts like this: ” Two amendments about distribution certificates and prohibition of offensive language in movies entered into force in Russian legislation on cinematography on the 1st of July, 2014. These amendments have fundamentally changed the system of production, film screening and distribution of Russian documentary film industry…”
And it continues like this, “So, from the 1st of July every right holder have to get the certificate even for a single screening of his film in public space wheter it's a movie club, festival or any other form of sreening or rental. Getting distribution certificate becomes complicated because of the second amendment – prohibition of offensive language in movies. This law contains not only prohibition of some offensive words, but also scenes of smoking, appeals to overthrow the government, extremism, etc. The list of prohibited words doesn't exist, an independent commission of experts will regard every project and make its own decision. What do the drafters of the law mean by extremism and appeals to overthrow the government isn’t clear either. Mechanism of the expertise is incomprehensible too: who will participate in this evaluation expertise and how this process will be held is explained nowhere…”
And it costs… “Getting a distribution certificate costs about 18-20 thousand rubles (from about $510-$570) for one film (this sum doesn’t include cost of the trip from other cities, and only right holders can get the certificate by themselves in Moscow). Directors who make films without support of the
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Written 02-08-2014 10:12:56 by Tue Steen Müller
So this is my choice for the Sight & Sound “The Greatest Docs Ever”. I have chosen films that I have used in my work as a teacher and consultant, films that I have come back to because they have meant something to me. I have been influenced by meetings with the directors - Herz Frank, Lozinski, Kossakovsky, Apted, Glawogger, Matelis - and by reading about and listening to clever words by Leacock and Pelichian, not to forget Lanzmann. What the films all have in common, I think, are a belief in the values of Life how hard and unfair it may be to you. A humanistic fundament, can you say so? 6 of the films are from the Eastern part of Europe where I have been working quite a lot and from where most of the original, artistic documentaries come.
Those which are multi-layered, philosophical, essayistic in a Chris Marker-way, sketchy and close to the term "camera comme stylo". To be stressed: This is a personal choice, if I had gone through film history decade after decade it would have been different.
1.Ten Minutes Older
Herz Frank (photo)
It's all there. The story of our lives. To be read in the face of a boy. An intellectual, concepedy documentary with Juris Podnieks as cameraman, "the story of good and evil" as the subtitle goes. I have shown it wherever I go to introduce that documentaries must be reflective and philosophical.
No words necessary, an obvious choice and Lanzmann's follow-up "The Last of the Unjust" is an appendix that shows that the director/journalist is still able to add quality to documentary film history.
3. Anything Can Happen
Playful and clever interpretation of what Life and Death, Joy and Sorrow is - the director's charming son runs around in a park, where he meets old people
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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.
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.
Written 30-07-2014 19:36:29 by Tue Steen Müller
Every thursday I receive the French email@example.com 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.
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.
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...
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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.”
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…
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
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.
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.
Written 20-07-2014 16:54:42 by Tue Steen Müller
Below there is a post explaining what is Caucadoc. And here are some words about the workshop which is at its second day out of four. On the photo you can see that the atmosphere has the playfulness that is required when you talk with filmmakers about their work. 9 projects have been selected to take part – 3 Armenian, 4 from Azerbjadan and 2 from Georgia – and the tutors are
Armenian Vardan Hovhannisyan, a well known character in the international documentary environment, where he as director had his breakthrough with ”A Story of People in War and Peace” referring to the Nagorno-Karabagh war. He is the founder of Bars Media, set up in 1993.
And Marina Razbezhkina, director and founder of the School of Documentary Film and Documentary Theatre, the very welcomed alternative to the state film school VGIK. Razbezhkina’s ”Optical Axis” was nominated as one of the 10 best films in 2013 by filmkommentaren.
And Gideon Koppel, whose masterpiece ” Sleep Furiously” (nominated as one of the best films in 2009 by filmkommentaren) was shown last night, followed by a masterclass session this morning.
And Nino Orjonikidze whose ”The English Teacher”, directed together with Vano Arsenishvili, won the ”Focus on Caucasus” award at the Cinedoc Tbilisi in 2013. And Salomé Jashi with the unique ”Bakhmaro”. And me.
Photo: Yes, there are many ”selfie” documentaries made these years, Marina Razbezhkina and I agreed upon and took a photo, an action documented by Vardan Hovhannisyan and by Nikoloz Gogochuri, producer of one the talented projects at the workshop.
Written 20-07-2014 16:06:03 by Tue Steen Müller
It is the fourth time that I am in Georgia and I love it. This time I am not in the capital Tbilisi but in Sighnaghi in the Kakheti region in Eastern Georgia. A four day Project Development Course is taking place in the Pirosmani Hotel, I am one of the tutors invited by Anna Dziapshipa and Salomé Jashi, producer and director of the wonderful documentary “Bakhmaro”, and the organizers on behalf of Caucadoc and their company Sakdoc.
Caucadoc is a very active initiative as you can read from the following quote from its website:
CAUCADOC is a project run by Czech NGO People in Need (PIN) and partner organizations from the South Caucasus: Sakdoc Film and Media Initiatives Center (former Internews Media Support NGO). CAUCADOC supports documentary filmmaking in the South Caucasus, making use of PIN´s experience organizing the world´s largest human rights documentary film festival One World.
CAUCADOC includes residential workshops dedicated to the development of creative documentary films from the South Caucasus, a series of master classes and lectures at partnering festivals Golden Apricot IFF, Batumi Art House FF and Tbilisi IFF, and a series of debates focusing on key issues related to audiovisual industry in the region. CAUCADOC also supports local initiatives in organizing screenings and follow up debates throughout the region, as well as the use of documentary films at schools.
CAUCADOC is funded by the European Union through the Eastern Partnership Culture Programme, and by Czech Development Agency. CAUCADOC runs in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia
Written 17-07-2014 18:57:08 by Tue Steen Müller
... of the Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival, running now and until July 27, initiated and run by film director, visual artist, politician and showman, Mark Soosaar, whose mark is still very strong on a festival with a huge number of films, competitions, out-of-competition screenings, from all over the world.
... including, I have mentioned this before as an example for other festivals to follow, ”a competition on air of Estonian Television... based on nation-wide televoting of the TV-audience”. There are five titles in this category and there are nominations (awards to be decided by the international jury) for three films ”for the important social message and the best artistic achievement” being Alina Rudnitskay’s ”Blood”, Niewiera and Rosolowski’s ”Domino Effect” and ”Ramin” by Audrius Stonys.
In another category, called ”Portraits of Neigbours” you find Ivars Zviedris and Inese Klava’s ”Documentarian”, in ”Survival of Indigenous Peoples” ”Abu Haraz” by Polish Maciej Drygas, and in ”Docs for kids” there are fine works like ”Joanna” by Aneta Kopacz, ”The Wild Years” by Ventura Durall and ”Happiness” by Thomas Balmés.
Take a look at the website, impressive it is with its list of films. There is a true international perspective.
I was in Pärnu twice for the festival and I can assure you that the atmosphere, the discussions and the hospitality is different from the main stream documentary festivals I know.
Written 15-07-2014 15:39:11 by Tue Steen Müller
From tomorrow and until end of September the New Museum in New York will have ”a major exhibition of contemporary art from and about the Arab world, entitled ”Here and Elsewhere”.
Palestinian multi-artist Khaled Jarrar based in Ramallah – we have written about his excellent documentary ”Infiltrators” on this site several times – was supposed to go but was denied to travel. This is a quote from +972 (link below to whole article):
“Khaled Jarrar… was supposed to be in New York by now… but Israel isn’t letting him go. Jarrar arrived at the Allenby border crossing at 3:00 p.m. yesterday. Rather than cross into Jordan, as he has done many times over the last few years, he was told he could not exit due to “an intelligence order.” After 10 hours spent waiting, he returned home at around 1 a.m. today…”
And quotes from Khaled Jarrar himself: “After a very long wait and without understanding what was happening, I was informed that there are “security reasons” that will prevent me from traveling until the 1st of August. For now, that means that I missed my morning flight from Amman to New York, that I will miss the opening of the show at the New Museum, and that I will miss my ‘artist talk’ with Lamia Joreige and Charif Kiwan, with Natalie Bell, that was supposed to happen on the 16th of July. Yesterday was the longest day of my life and a day of humiliation. I felt real racism on the part of the security at Allenby Bridge. When this one soldier was talking to his superior officer, I understood he called me “zevel” ["garbage," in Hebrew -NY]. I shouted at him that I was no “zevel” and he was impolite to call me that. No one listened to me, like I did not even exist.”
To call it a humiliation is a total understatement!
Written 10-07-2014 14:39:37 by Tue Steen Müller
Not a lot of energy, so It’s copy-paste time right now here in Copenhagen’s tropical heat... and it is easy when good news arrive online like the one about the upcoming ”remarkable creative documentary projects from Central and Eastern Europe”, which were presented in Karlovy Vary two days ago. Organized by the festival and the super-active Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival (to take place October 23-28).
The film projects presented by the makers are all to premiere this year or in 2015 and I happen to have met several of them on other occasions, and yes they are remarkable.
Like ”Anthill” from Estonia by Vladimir Loginov and Elina Litvinova, ” a portrait of a giant garage complex located in the largest housing estate in Tallinn. 700 garage box owners form an extraordinary men’s club, and vary from those who use the garages to maintain their cars and those who adapt their boxes for living. The complex is even more unique owing to the existence of private saunas, a restaurant, an animal clinic and other artefacts of life stuck in time 20 years ago.” It has some wonderful scenes, great characters, humour and a poetic camera style.
I also have great expectations to Magdalena Szymkow and her “found-footage portrait of a writer and reporter” = Polish master Ryszard Kapuściński. Szymkow, who made the fine film “My House Without Me”, was a collaborator of the journalist/essayist and a co-author and translator of his books.
One more, but read about all of them, link below, I met in Jerevan last summer: “Our Atlantis” by Georgian Arthur Sukiasyan. From the synopsis: “a documentary about an Armenian camp in Istanbul (Turkey), which was built by orphans in 1960s and later on taken away by Turkish authorities. This is a journey between the past and present of the camp showing how 30 years later children of this camp try not to lose their camp memories. And through this reconstruction, Our Atlantis tells the dramatic story of Karo and Flor who were together in this camp, not knowing that they were siblings, which they discovered by chance only 15 years later.” I saw astonishing footage one year ago.
Written 09-07-2014 13:41:44 by Tue Steen Müller
Another press release from idfa (see below) refers to the now finished Summer School, where projects at different levels are being tutored. Some are still on paper, some are bringing rough cuts to experienced editors. One of them was ”Ollie Huddleston, editor for such documentary luminaries as Kim Longinotto and Sean McAllister, tutoring two of the editing projects, starting out with a rough cut and refining things along the six-day workshop.
"Maybe it's comparable to what a grandfather feels", he laughs. "Rather than getting my hands dirty and raising the child, I can give it back to them and say: 'Fix it!' It's a kind of balancing act: you give them some ideas and then they run with it. Sometimes they've already spent two or three years working on the film, so I can't just jump in with hobnail boots and say: 'Do this, do that'. I say what I think, but of course it's up to them, it's their film.”, and he adds “If you think too much about what other people think, you can get really lost”.
Wise words and I have no problems in identifying with the grandfather comparison and the privilege it is to be invited to look at rough cuts. Sometimes you are able to help, sometimes the chemistry between you and the filmmaker is not good enough or you don’t speak the same language, communication is not easy.
Photo: Group photo of IDFA Summer School 2014 participants.
Written 09-07-2014 13:19:38 by Tue Steen Müller
Copy-Paste quotes of a press release of today from idfa and its IDFA Bertha Fund, whose action one can only applaud:
The IDFA Bertha Fund has concluded the May selection round of 2014. Nineteen documentary projects from countries like Nicaragua, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and South-Sudan will be supported by the fund.
The selection includes stories from unseen parts of the world, such as Dust (photo), which visually foregrounds the dust created by mining equipment exploiting the once-verdant grasslands of Inner Mongolia, and The Boxing Women of Kivu, a profound portrait of a female police officer in the DRC giving self defense lessons to rape victims…
Read more on:
Written 08-07-2014 11:04:26 by Tue Steen Müller
So many documentary films have been shot in Africa, but very few have been seen by African audiences. This heralds a new era of distribution for the continent… words by Don Edkins, who is the Executive producer of AfriDocs and the man behind Steps for the Future, Why Democracy, Why Poverty, and now also AfriDocs, helped as before by Finnish Iikka Vehkalahti from YLE.
AfriDocs is the name of a broadcast initiative that has a focus on “The best documentaries made in Africa and the first documentary strand across Sub-Saharan Africa... real stories weekly. Primetime.” Through the channels DStv ED (channel190) and GOtv (channel 65). In this way AfriDocs covers 49 African countries by satellite and 100 cities terrestrially across 8 countries across Africa.
This month includes a full week of African documentary films to be broadcast across Sub-Sahara to coincide with the Durban International Film Festival, the largest film festival in South Africa that takes place from July 17th – 27th.
There will be documentary films from thirteen countries in Africa – D.R.C., Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia. Films by African filmmakers Idrissa Guiro, Sani Elhadj, Licinio Azevedo, Rehad Desai, Judy Kibinge, Andrey Samoute Diarra, Osvalde Lewat, together with filmmakers Mika Karismäki, Thierry Michel, Roger Ross Williams, Abby Ginsberg and Göran Olsson amongst others, will be seen for the first time by a wide audience through this collaboration…
AfriDocs is an initiative of the multi-awarded South African documentary production and distribution company, Steps, in partnership with the Bertha Foundation. Impressive it is!
Written 07-07-2014 22:56:05 by Tue Steen Müller
In the post about the Moving Docs project that will take off next year, supported by Creative Europe, I wrote “”Brave New Culture” from Cyprus is also on board. Regret to say that I have never heard about it before...”
Rea Apostolides, who is the person behind ”Moving Docs”, wrote to me today to help me out of my ignorance:
“Brave New Culture is the company run by Yiangos Hadjiyiannis,who is the director of the http://www.filmfestival.com.cy/ lemessos international Documentary Festival. He is really lovely and his festival is fabulous (and takes place by the sea)”
Aha, I thought, the festival in Cyprus that I have heard so much good about both in terms of selection and atmosphere and quality. Last year it had producer Signe Byrge talk about “The Act of Killing”, Ove Rishøj from EDN had a focus on opening sequences and Tinatin Gurchiani talked about succesful Georgian documentary “The Machine Which makes Everything Disappear”. More about the festival from the website:
The ‘Lemesos International Documentary Film Festival’ is organized every August by the non-profit organization Brave New Culture & the Cyprus Bradcasting Corporation and it is a festival dedicated in presenting contemporary creative documentaries in Cyprus. In addition, through the organization of workshops and lectures, it offers the possibility to local professional directors and producers to get acquainted with the latest trends and tendencies in the documentary genre and to get informed about the prospects of fund raising and promoting their own projects in the broader European spectrum. Our intention is to search and invite films that are interesting in cinematographic terms but are also innovative and eye-opening in their sociopolitical approach. The main objective of our organization is to establish “Lemesos International Documentary Festival’ as a quality documentary festival which encourages the public to experience during eight summer nights a creative, timely and rich experience, full of stories and images characteristic of our times and which derive from our surrounding civilizations and cultures.
This year the festival runs from August 1-8.
Written 07-07-2014 09:56:43 by Tue Steen Müller
... is the name of a new support scheme from EU’s Creative Europe – Media Programme. Its task is
”To stimulate interest in, and improve access to European audio-visual works, in particular through promotion, events, film literacy and festivals.
Film literacy projects: to provide mechanisms for better cooperation between film literacy initiatives in Europe to improve the efficiency and European dimension of these initiatives.
Audience development projects: events focusing on the programming of important and successful non-national European films on various distribution platforms and promotional activities building on the marketing on promotion results of important festivals and awards.”
The first results – money-wise a bit more than 6 mio. € - of a call that was announced at the end of March – have been published and great to see a wide spread of countries being succesful with their applications, and not a centralising tendency one could fear after the launch of Creative Europe. OK, France and UK are there as benificiaries but Germany not, Italy is there, Romania, Estonia and Czech Republic as well, the latter with support to Doc Alliance Academy and to Institute of Documentary Film with a programme called KineDok.
I am – at the moment - not able to go closer to all 16 to see how many are documentary projects, but I have been given access to EDN’s ”Moving Docs”, see below post.
Photo of a film mentioned in the ”Moving Docs” application, see below: ”Velvet Terrorists”.
Written 07-07-2014 09:45:56 by Tue Steen Müller
With EDN (European Documentary Network) as the natural umbrella organisation for a project concepted and developed by Rea Apostolides, strong and visionary Greek producer and member of EDN’s Executive Committee, the ”Moving Docs” project was, by Creative Europe, granted 150.000€, 81% of the budget applied for - for a true international initiative with a vision to reach an audience outside the traditional festival circles, if I get it right.
I have been granted access to look a bit more into the application that was succesful.
What was impressive from a first glance is the group of players in ”Moving Docs”, they are called partner organisations: Planeta in Spain, that stands behind the unique ”Documentary of the Month”, Apordoc in Portugal, Doc/IT from Italy, SDI (Scottish Documentary Institute), Against Gravity Warsaw Poland, Doc Lounge Sweden, all known as strong and experienced promoters of European documentary life, whereas Rea Apostolides as manager of the project contributes with her company Anemon as does EDN headed by Paul Pauwels. ”Brave New Culture” from Cyprus is also on board. Regret to say thatI have never heard about it before.
The action starts February 2015, runs the rest of the year and includes cinema screenings, community screenings, festival screenings, vod screenings and educational activities.... you name it, they got it!
Creative Europe asks in the application for titles of films and a long list of potential highlights is mentioned. Among them ”Master of the Universe” (photo).
Some quotes from the 72 page big application: The objective of Moving Docs is to engage urban and rural audiences across Europe through regular and simultaneous screenings of the best European and international documentary films...structured around ”European Screening Days”, five unique media moments that connect European audiences... target groups are 20-40 years... (focus on) issue-based films... the action will use different strategies to target four different audience catagories: rural, urban, frequent and first-time doc viewers...
Much more will come about ”Moving Docs” from the organisers – here is only to be said: Well done, good luck - filmkommentaren.dk will follow your work.
Written 30-06-2014 13:15:35 by Tue Steen Müller
I like this tradition so much – the plaques that are put on the walls of the houses, where great artists have been living and working. To honour them and remember. They do so a lot in the Baltic countries and it is only just that a plaque of Herz Frank was unveiled some days ago in Riga at Lacplesa Street 29. In the presence of his two daughters and friends.
Guntis Trekteris, who produced ”Flashback” and is now finishing ”Edge of Fear” together with Frank’s co-director, sent me the photo. If you can not read the text, which is in Latvian and English, it goes like this:
”Prominent Latvian documentary film maker HERZ FRANK 1926-2013 lived and worked here from 1960 to 1993”.
Written 29-06-2014 15:41:29 by Tue Steen Müller
A triumph for the young Polish director Jan Matuszynski in Moscow yesterday where the Best Documentary Award was announced, given to him for his ”Deep Love”. I have seen this film twice before, read what I wrote from the American Documentary Film festival:
”I was asked to introduce the Polish film ”Deep Love” by young Jan Matuszynski, who was present and received quite an applause for his cinematically brilliant interpretation of the love relationship between Janusz, who got paralyzed when diving and Joanna, his girl friend, who worries as he insists to continue diving and break the record by going down to 100 meters, even if his medical status, as the doctors tell him, does not allow him to do so.
This is what I wrote back in November when I saw the film at DOKLeipzig: ”Deep Love” is a multi-layered story. It is about a man, whose life first of all consists of a passion for diving, a passion that had severe consequences for him when his head hit a rock, making him a handicapped man, who understands what the people near him says to him but can not talk himself and has a paralysed arm and leg. Nevertheless, he wants to get into the sea again and go deeper, encouraged by his close friend and co-diver, yet discouraged by his girl friend, who is afraid of what could happen to him if he realises his wish to go 100 meter down. Here lies the core of the film, the relationship between them, the love story with her in the centre, with her constant care and anxiety. A very strong story but for my taste a bit too dramatic and disturbingly set up with music and sound... on the big screen in Palm Springs, my objections were no longer there, I have to say. Reminding me of how important the watching situation is for your evaluation of a film.”
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