Cinema Vérité Festival Tehran

Written 26-11-2014 14:13:04 by Tue Steen Müller

From November 30th till December 7th the DEFC (Documentary & Experimental Film Center) organizes the 8th edition of Cinema Vérité Iran International Documentary Film Festival.

There have previously been appeals for boycott of this festival, that of course is supported by the government, several have asked me whether they should let their film go there or not, my answer is yes, ”take a look at the programme of the festival” and I have listened to what EDN’s film consultant Ove Rishøj Jensen has said, he has been there and knows the people behind the festival.

And this year he and EDN (taken from EDN website) ”… are in collaboration organising the first edition of Cinema Verite DocPro. It is a three-day seminar focusing on the international documentary market. Taking place in the framework of the 8th Cinema Verite documentary film festival, Cinema Verite DocPro will offer Iranian filmmakers three days of seminar sessions, focusing on a variety of aspects connected to working with international documentary projects. Among the topics covered during the seminar are pitching of documentary projects, international financing possibilities, how to construct documentary narratives and project consultations…” The workshop runs December 4-6.

The festival has a fine programme – let me mention Oppenheimer’s ”The Look of Silence”, ”Deep Love” by Jan Matuszynski, ”The Man who Made Angels Fly” by Wiktoria Szymanska   , ”Two Ragin Grannies” by Hpåvard Bustness, ”A Diary of a Journey” by Piotr Stasik, ”National Gallery” by Frederick Wiseman, ”Five Broken Cameras” by Guy Davidi and Ema Burnat, ”Concerning Violence” (photo) by Göran Olsson, ”Happiness” by Thomas Balmes as well as there are retrospectives from Visions du Réel and a panorama of Japanese documentaries. Read more on the website, which is still a bit incomplete.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Camerimage Poland

Written 26-11-2014 10:03:36 by Tue Steen Müller

The 22nd edition of Camerimage in Poland, a festival that has its focus on cinemetography ended on the 22nd of November. The festival includes documentaries in its award-giving and distributes life-achievement awards as well. One was given to a well-known, world famous documentarian:

“It gives us great pleasure to announce that the recipient of this year's Camerimage Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking will be Kim Longinotto (photo), one of the most acclaimed cinéma vérité filmmakers in the world, a true activist whose life's mission is to shed light on the problems of women in different parts of the globe, and to inspire people to seek the change within themselves first.”

In the documentary category of this year’s competition two films were awarded, to the cameraman/men, two from Russia and one from Colombia:

Golden Frog — Grand Prix: Blood

cin. Yura Gautsel, Sergei Maksimov

dir. Alina Rudnitskaya

Special Mention: Monte Adentro

cin. Mauricio Vidal

dir. Nicolás Macario Alonso

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Eszter Hajdu: Judgement in Hungary

Written 24-11-2014 17:52:21 by Tue Steen Müller

It's never too late to review an important documentary. I had for years known about "Judgement in Hungary", seen clips, some very rough cuts, always in doubt whether it would be possible to make a feature length documentary (primarily) located in a court room. I hesitated but a day during the Jihlava festival, at the videotheque, I watched it, I saw no more films on that day deeply impressedby what I saw. Hajdu and her team has succeeded to make a film, shot over several years, into a drama that will stay as an artistically formulated document over xenophobia in our times in a European country. A story about horrific attacks on an ethnic minority.

Content - taken from the One World Festival catalogue:

For three years, a film crew followed the trial of four members of a Hungarian criminal gang accused of a series of racially motivated murders of six Roma, including children. It took more than a year just to apprehend the culprits, and the case dragged on, mainly because of a lack of evidence and gross police misconduct. Thanks to the constant presence of cameras in the courtroom, director Eszter Hajdú succeeded in capturing the dramatic progress of the closely watched trial, which created a media frenzy. Will the trial conclude with a verdict that brings the survivors of three Roma families some measure of closure? Can they trust in the fairness of the Hungarian state?”

The verdict is given on Day 167 of the trial! For those who have not seen the film, I will not reveal what the judge states in this final scene. Watching the film you wonder, what will be the final result. What I can say is that the building of the film is unique. You get to know the 4 accused of killing six people, including one child, you see the relatives being questioned in the court room, and first of all you have a main character, the judge, who presides over it all like a conductor of an orchestra or like the director of a play on good and evil. He shouts at both parties, the accused and the witnesses, making them understand that they should behave according to his codex. The judge is ”a mental sadist”, one of the accused says! Sometimes it is like a performance of an absurd theatre piece followed by a constant sound of a typewriter/computer, where every word being said is put down. In and out the court room the accused are being led by guards with covered faces. In and out the stage. Step by step the drama is built. Accompanied by music here and there. Sentimental, no, but bringing the tough images of the crimes to the eyes of the viewer.

No wonder that this film has got so many awards and after its international premiere at idfa 2013 still travels.

Hungary, 2013, 108 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amir Labaki on It’s All True

Written 24-11-2014 01:27:34 by Tue Steen Müller

Festival director and film critic Amir Labaki is in Amsterdam for IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) and is interviewed for the fine Daily News of the festival – an online press service of the festival, in general to be recommended, in this  case specifically to know why the high quality documentary festival has the name it has. Here is a small quote from the interview by Nick Cummingham:

”… And then there’s the festival name, inspired by Orson Welles’ unfinished ‘masterpiece’ about Rio. “Welles came to Brazil and tried to make his film, but he couldn’t finish it. The Americans called him back, cut his budget, took away the prints and he could never work on it again. When I was starting the festival two things happened.

In Berlin, I saw the documentary (also called It’s All True) about the Welles film and it was obvious that it was as important to Welles as Que Viva Mexico was to Eisenstein. And then Beatrice Welles, Orson’s daughter, came to Brazil in 1995 and I immediately thought of the festival title, to say thank you to Mr Welles because he came to Brazil to make a great film about my country – but also because it’s a great title for a festival…”

Indeed it is – the 20th edition takes place April 9-19 in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo – I was a jury member in 2002, pure pleasure, and the winner was ”August” by Avi Mograbi, a film that by no means has lost its actuality.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sebastião Salgado: Genesis

Written 22-11-2014 18:27:19 by Tue Steen Müller

This is how the ICP (International Center of Photography) introduces the exhibition: ”Genesis is the third long-term series on global issues by world-renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado (born Brazil, 1944), following Workers (1993) and Migrations (2000). The result of an eight-year worldwide survey, the exhibition draws together more than 200 spectacular black-and-white photographs of wildlife, landscapes, seascapes, and indigenous peoples—raising public awareness about the pressing issues of environment and climate change.”

Right they are in using superlatives. It is an outstanding presentation of a great photographer’s fascinated interpretation of nature and people. So full of love, the black and white photographs are. Of course there is a message: Look at what a beautiful world we have!

The film by Wenders, “The Salt of the Earth”, co-directed by the son of the photographer Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, gives a fine insight to the way Salgado works and what he thinks about his profession, try to watch that when it comes to a cinema near you, and if you visit New York, it is a must to go to the ICP.

I have taken a still photo from Wenders film to accompany this text – there are cp on all Salgado’s work – but google him and you will find the Genesis photos. An inspiration for all documentarians.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

On the Bowery

Written 21-11-2014 16:57:46 by Tue Steen Müller

I was there yesterday – on the bowery in New York. And of course remembered the 1956 docufiction classic by Lionel Rogosin. That carries the title “On the Bowery”. Back in the hotel I watched the trailer of the film, beautiful images, strong social document. You can get it from the distributor Milestones, and that is exactly what it is according to Martin Scorcese:

"A milestone in American cinema… On the Bowery is very special to me… Rogosin’s film is so true to my memories of that place and that time. He accomplished his goal, of portraying the lives of the people who wound up on the Bowery, as simply and honestly and compassionately as possible. It’s a rare achievement."

The changed Bowery has a great museum, New Museum, that right now hosts a colour- and joyful exhibition of the British artist Chris Ofili, to be strongly recommended for his sensual portraits of African women. His small “Afromuses 1995-2005”, 26 diptychs, watercolor and pencil on paper, are attractive and unpretentious, as are the huge paintings. The exhibition runs until end of January 2015.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Proposal to continue DOX Magazine in print

Written 20-11-2014 04:42:47 by Tue Steen Müller

All members of EDN received this mail yesterday before the General Assembly to be held at the General Assembly at idfa in Amsterdam. The proposal will be presented by PeÅ Holmquist:

Dear EDN member,
In relation with the General Assembly of Sunday, November 23d, we received one written proposal, to be discussed during the meeting in Amsterdam.
We''re forwarding the text of the proposal, as received by the EDN office.

Proposal to continue DOX Magazine in print

The three of us have expressed our strong disappointment with the decision to stop the printed version of the DOX Magazine. Many have shared our concern at losing an important forum for nurturing the documentary culture and the genre as an art form.

As Emma Davie has put it: If EDN focuses just on the business of documentary and not the culture behind it, it runs the risk of forgetting to feed the creativity which the market needs to thrive on. Films like "The Act of Killing" do well not because they have listened to a market but because they come from a passion, an enquiry into form, an awareness of a tradition behind it. This enquiry is fed so little in any magazine. DOX is unique for providing us with inspiration in this way. We need this as filmmakers to survive in this business as much as any strategies for dealing with dwindling tv sales...

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Idfa, Ally Derks and Leo Messi

Written 20-11-2014 04:04:56 by Tue Steen Müller

Idfa started yesterday, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, the 27th edition, amazing it is in itself, and ” what differentiates IDFA from other European doc festivals is its appeal to public audiences and professionals alike”, a quote from realscreen (link below), very right so, there is definitely an audience for documentaries in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, and idfa has had a key role in building it to what it is today.

Realscreen has an interview with Ally Derks (photo), who founded the festival and is its charismatic leader, recommends some films and admits wonderfully that even if she comes from the country of football, from where Johan Cruyff comes, the man who stood behind a new way of playing football and implemented his philosophy at FB Barcelona, that she did not know Messi!

She talks about Álex de la Iglesia’s documentary about the best football player in the world: …“I liked the film but I had no idea who [Messi] was. He’s like God,” she says – explaining that all screenings of Messi sold out an hour after its selection to IDFA was announced on local television…”

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Laura Poitras: Citizenfour

Written 19-11-2014 00:45:42 by Mikkel Stolt

This is by every standard a remarkable film – not because it tells us about the extensive surveillance of all but everybody, but because we get to meet an otherwise obscured person of such significance to today’s society and because the access and the tension are unsurpassed. Even if the whole film only consisted of the scenes in the Hong Kong hotel room where the director meets whistleblower Ed Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, it would still be a remarkable film. Come to think of it: It would be an even better film. And with THAT approach (and a small buildup to those hotel scenes) it would possibly have been one of the most thrilling documentary films with a capital F.

The filmmaker is enough of a filmmaker to acknowledge this but in my view also too much of an activist-journalist to completely trust us to gather info elsewhere on the subject matter. But we all have, haven’t we? And I don’t need it here. I want to be in that hotel room – I want to feel the natural excitement, the anxiety and the occasional relief.

Yes, the subject matter is of great importance, and too much awareness is not a bad thing. Only here I feel, that what we non-criminal regular-Joe-spectators need is to feel the power of the authorities – not to be told about it. I know I oversimplify things in the film a bit here, but the core of hotel scenes does it so splendidly. It’s a radical form of observational cinema which is really getting to you, and that’s the way I’d rather think about this film.

This review will self-destruct 10 sec. after your reading.

USA, Germany, 114 mins.


Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Tabitha Jackson and Herz Frank

Written 18-11-2014 16:47:00 by Tue Steen Müller

Sundance Documentary Film Program director Tabitha Jackson talked at the DOC NYC, the documentary film festival that runs in new York right now, until the 20th of November. Jackson who used to work at Channel 4 in London, and was one of those commissioning editors that I always loved to have at a panel in EDN workshops, because she was able to formulate constructive criticism and not just say ”yes” or ”no”, presented the profile and policy of the Sundance Documentary Film Program saying that “The lingua franca of non-fiction filmmaking should be the language of cinema and not the language of grant applications.”

There is a fine report on Jackson’s keynote speech at the festival in the “Filmmaker” – what I loved to read – a quote – was this:

… she found a rallying cry for sensitive and artistically compelling documentary practice in the work and words of Latvian filmmaker Herz Frank, whose 10 Minutes Older, an excerpt of which she screened, contained for Jackson “every emotion you might experience in an entire lifetime” in the single shot of a child watching a puppet show.

She quoted from Frank’s writings: “The first rule of the documentary filmmaker is, have the patience to observe life. If you are observant, if you look not only with your eyes but also with your heart, then life for sure will present you with some particular discovery. And then the reality recorded by you will gain an artistic point of view, become inline with art and always excite people. The facts and events will become old — they become history — but the feelings we felt regarding those events stay with us. Therefore, art is the only living bridge between people of various generations and time periods.”

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Marcq My Son the Terrorist/Toomistu Soviet Hippies

Written 17-11-2014 16:06:13 by Sevara Pan

Around three weeks ago I had a pleasure attending Leipzig Networking Days, a much anticipated annual pitching event brought about by Documentary Campus in the framework of its development workshop Masterschool. It was my third time at the event and I always see it as a wonderful opportunity to get informed about the up and coming films that are still in the making. Since I no longer work for Documentary Campus, nor do I partake in the selection process of Masterschool projects, I was pleasantly surprised to see it venture out the beaten path. Besides classical documentaries of human interest and social issues, this year's programme perked up with a couple of nature/wildlife documentaries (“Killing Bambi” and “Scarface”), occasional thematic amalgams (“Sex and Oysters” and its transdisciplinary 'food/sex/science' bend), and projects of a cross-media nature (“Dressed To Kill”).

Since Masterschool is a development workshop that presents its projects to the public in the form of a conventional 8-minute pitch, I feel in no position to offer an exhaustive review of the films' dramaturgy or their visual approaches. Nevertheless, I would not want to miss an opportunity to introduce you to two of the pitched projects that I personally consider compelling. The first and one of my personal favorites is the project “My Son, The Terrorist” by a UK-based production company Latimer Films. “My Son, The Terrorist” is directed by Nick Marcq, the person behind the BAFTA-nominated film The Real Notting Hill (which, as I have learned, was his first feature) and produced by the former Channel Four commissioning editor Tamara Abood and Matthew Hay, whose name some might recollect thanks to his rather polemical “Going To The Dogs” for the Cutting Edge documentary strand on Channel Four.

As the title explicitly suggests, the film recounts a story of “radicalization through the prism of the mothers” whose sons had sunk into the cycle of on-going brutality and ravaging. The statement borrowed from the film's synopsis that goes, “Behind every horror is a perpetrator and behind every perpetrator – a mother,” seems to propel the film. Set against

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014/ Doc Alliance

Written 16-11-2014 18:23:35 by Tue Steen Müller

Hurry up, Breaking News: CPH:DOX has announced the list of films that will be available for free streaming in cooperation with Doc Alliance. Over the course of 48 hours, on 16 and 17 November, the following five films will be screened online: "Web” (photo), "The Iron Ministry", "Palestine Marathon", “American Interior" and "Me and Dad – No Expectations of Applause". You can read more about the films and stream them on

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

CPH:DOX 2014/ Winners/ Oppenheimer and Nielsson

Written 14-11-2014 22:46:07 by Tue Steen Müller

The main competition awards of this year’s cph:dox, the DOX:AWARD went to two brilliant documentaries according to the jury – and the editors, who have praised both ”The Look of Silence” by Joshua Oppenheimer and his many named and anonymous collaborators – the main award – and the special mention award that went to Camilla Nielsson for her ”Democrats”.

Nielsson also received the Real Talent Award to be shared with Lea Glob, who was awarded best NORDIC:VISION AWARD for ”Olmo and the Seagull”, a film made together with Petra Costa-

Furthermore the NEW:VISION AWARD was given to ”The Dent” by Basim Magdy, and the FACT:AWARD to Katy Chevigny and Ross Kaufmann for ”The E-Team” with a special mention for ”Virunga” af Orlando Von Einsiedel.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014/ Eurimages Award

Written 14-11-2014 19:43:08 by Tue Steen Müller

As someone close to the philosophy of Eurimages (the cultural support fund of the Council of Europe. Established in 1989, currently numbers 36 of 47 member states), that is not the EU, I am happy to bring this message from yesterday's award ceremony:

For the second year running the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award of €15,000 was awarded for the best project pitched at CPH:FORUM - CPH:DOX’s international financing and co-production event.

The winner is ‘On Screen Off Record’ by Rami Farah (photo) and Lyana Saleh produced by Signe Byrge Sørensen of Final Cut For Real. The project is a reflective film about the Syrian conflict in a media-conscious manner. It focuses on how we act and interact with media in current time, especially in a conflict that was over mediatized and little comprehended.

The jury has chosen ’On Screen Off Record’ for the following reasons:

”For the way familiar footage was presented, allowing deeper understanding of the complexities of the conflict that affects us on so many levels, for the quality of the project and the team, the organic co-production structure the Eurimages Co-production Development Award goes to ‘On Screen Off Record.’”

The film has been developed with support of IMS, Danida and Timbuktuprisen and it is produced by Final Cut for Real, in partnership with the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University.

Eurimages is a support fund for the co-production, distribution and exhibition of European cinematographic works, established by the Council of Europe in 1988. Since then, Eurimages has supported 1488 European co-productions for a total amount of approximately 451 million EUROS.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014 - Extra Screenings

Written 14-11-2014 11:06:07 by Tue Steen Müller

Press release from the Copenhagen festival "that has yet again experienced a severe demand from the audience and a great number of films has guaranteed full theaters during the festival - now CPH:DOX sets up even more screenings of the most popular films like ‘Foodies’, ‘Nas’, ‘Me and Dad - No Expectations of Applause’, ‘In the Basement’ and ‘Little People Big Dreams’ - and not least ‘Citizenfour’ with up to 7 extra screenings!

Documentary films are popular. And especially one film in particular has been popular at this year's CPH:DOX. Laura Poitras' film about Edward Snowden, ‘Citizenfour’, is the fastest selling film at CPH:DOX ever and the film's premiere was sold out even several weeks before the festival.

To cater the enormous demand to watch the film, it has now gotten no less than seven extra screenings from Saturday the 15th of November up to Wednesday the 19th of November - the highest number of screenings a film has ever gotten at the festival.  

CPH:DOX’s festival director Tine Fischer is extremely enthusiastic about both the film, which she regards as one of the most important documentaries recently - and the fantastic reception it has had:

“We are pleased and overwhelmed by the huge interest for Laura Poitras' splendid film. The film is without comparison one of the most important historic testimonials about/of NSA’s mass-surveillance of all of us, and we have chosen to offer seven extra screenings because we as a festival recognise the need to tell the story about the attack on democracy that that mass-surveillance is an expression of, which is both captivating and has a political aspect”.  

The extra screenings of ‘Citizenfour’ already starts this Saturday - the other screenings start from this Monday. You can see the entire list below or here

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014 /Camilla Nielsson

Written 13-11-2014 21:29:59 by Tue Steen Müller



Camilla Nielsson

Jeg havde egentlig tænkt mig at anmelde Camilla Nielssons ”Democrats” på engelsk, men da jeg så Kim Skottes slappe afvisning af filmen, på ti linier i dag i Politiken, skiftede jeg mening og skriver dette som en stærk anbefaling til alle dokumentar-fans: Se filmen i morgen i Cinemateket eller lørdag i Grand Teatret. Den er et mesterstykke.

For filmen placerer sig ind i den trio af fremragende nye danske dokumentarfilm, som har haft sin premiere i forbindelse med cph:dox: ”The Look of Silence”, ”1989” og så nu ”Democrats”. Den er et smukt opbygget stykke klassisk dokumentarisme, som nænsomt introducerer to vidt forskellige karakterer, i temperament og udtryk, to mænd som får til opgave at skrive en ny forfatning for Zimbabwe i den periode, hvor landet lededes af en koalition mellem Mugabes parti og oppositionens leder Tsvangirai. Camilla Nielsson og hendes fotograf Henrik Bohn Ipsen har sensationelt fået adgang til de to hovedaktører Paul Mangwana and Douglas Mwonzora og det er tydeligt, at de har haft tillid til filmholdet, som skildrer hvordan de to modstandere, Mangwana fra Mugabes parti og Mwonzora fra oppositionen nærmer sig hinanden. I et interview som jeg har lavet med instruktøren for Det danske Filminstituts blad, der udkommer i forbindelse med idfa festivalen I Amsterdam, hvor filmen naturligt nok er udvalgt til hovedkonkurrencen, siger instruktøren: you’ve got to have love for your characters and do everything you can to give them confidence in the job you’ve been assigned.

Der er masser af varme og kærlighed i filmen, som skildrer hvordan en forfatning i et diktatur bliver til under store anstrengelser og med stor modstand, men den bliver til og blot det må give håb for landet. Når der er en sådan energi og så kloge mennesker I det politiske system, så må der da ske noget, når den onde mand, som Mwonzora kalder Mugabe, stiller træskoene.

Som de bedste observerende dokumentarister har Nielsson og Ipsen fanget detaljerne, de små dramaer med og omkring de to forhandlere, de har læst ansigternes udtryk, fanget hviskende samtaler – ind imellem tager man sig selv i at overvære en komedie samtidig med at man kniber en tåre, da de to når til vejs ende og står med den trykte forfatning, som skal til afstemning hos befolkningen. Konklusion: denne film er simpelthen en bedrift og den vil få et langt international liv.  

Danmark og mange andre lande, 2014, 109 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

East Doc Platform

Written 11-11-2014 19:56:26 by Tue Steen Müller

East Beats West... that is what I have often written on and this year in Jihlava I again saw fine Eastern European works and attended workshops with Wojciech Staron and Peter Kerekes, and had meetings with talented people from the Ex Oriente training scheme that I used to work for. So, breaking the rule is easy for me when Mása Markovic from IDF (Institute for Documentary Film) asked me to advertise the upcoming East Doc Platform. This is her text:

If you have a project in development/production/postproduction and want to pitch it, find a co-producer or a commissioning editor, NOW is the time to apply for EAST DOC PLATFORM! It gives you a chance to present your project to more than 350 professionals. One of the projects in development will receive 7500 EUR.

For application forms and details, see our website:

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014 /Wenders & Salgado

Written 11-11-2014 09:34:06 by Mikkel Stolt

Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado:


Arrogant as I am, films about still photography (or paintings) are not something I usually pay much attention to. The relationship between the timeless photography and the time-dependent moving image is something film directors only rarely find a way to transmit in a truly satisfying manner.

Ever so more, there’s reason to be satisfied with this portrait of photographer Sebastião Salgado. The film’s sense of time and space turns out to be the perfect conveyor of Salgado’s pictures and words. The horror and the beauty in the protagonist’s work are presented to us in a way that reveals how great interpreters of reality both the still photographer and the directors are.

And horror there is: killings in Rwanda, burning oil fields in Kuwait, countless refugees and victims. It’s too appalling, too much – in the end also for Salgado himself - and you want something pretty and uplifting. And, thank god, you get that too. The pictures of the horrific are also too beautiful to some but that dilemma is part of taking the decision of snapping pictures of real horror to begin with. It’s not fiction, mind you, and you don’t need to make things up to show what the hell man is doing to himself and others and the world.

Nor does Wenders and his co-director (Salgado’s son) make stuff up. They lend their ears and their time to the protagonist and they arrange the material and write a voice-over that weaves their film and Salgado’s life together. Because they all want us to see – really see – the world and what’s in it.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014 /Michel Gondry

Written 10-11-2014 10:53:03 by Mikkel Stolt


Wow, the theatre is almost packed. Average age is around or even under 30 and several hipster beards are in sight. I suspect these are fans of either Gondry or Noam Chomsky or both… or linguistic students at least. This film is namely basically a dialogue between the two – filmed over three visits, it seems – but you only see Chomsky (or Gondry) in little vignettes or inserts in the almost entirely animated pictures.

Certainly Gondry is a fan of Chomsky and he sets out to make a film about some of his theories and thoughts. He wants to make an entertaining film on epistemology and philosophy which is a highly appreciative idea, but I’m not quite sure he succeeds completely.

Let me see if I can explain why to myself. Can I see if I can explain why to myself?

The title refers to a linguistic puzzle which apparently shows that even a child can change the sentenceo “The man who is tall is happy” into a question by picking the right “is” (the second, not the first) and put it in the beginning of the sentence. This is actually very interesting but like most of the theories and ideas that are covered, the amount of words and animations are so overwhelming that we hardly get a chance to think for ourselves. It becomes almost like a lecture, which I am pretty sure was not Gondry’s idea.

Read more / Læs mere


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CPH:DOX 2014 på DR2

Written 10-11-2014 10:47:07 by Tue Steen Müller

For those who can watch Danish television – DR2 viser i morgen ”1989” i det sædvanlige tirsdag-slot ”Dokumania” og i de kommende to uger en række af de film, som vises på festivalen cph:dox. Da cph står for Copenhagen = København, som ikke er hele Danmark (!), er det et initiativ, der kun kan betragtes som et naturligt og rigtigt valg. Her er titlerne og så kan I kan læse om dem på festivalens hjemmeside. Det starter i aften, klokken 23:

Mandag: Våbensmuglingen

Tirsdag: We are Journalists

Onsdag: Mig og min far - hvem fanden gider klappe

Torsdag: Palestine Marathon

og i næste uge

Bronx Obama

Tirsdag: Hornsleth – på dybt vand

Onsdag: Et civiliseret land

Torsdag: Drone

Categories: TV, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014 /Davis Simanis

Written 10-11-2014 10:21:16 by Tue Steen Müller

ESCAPING RIGA by Davis Simanis

One of those screenings where everything worked out as it should. Young Latvian director Davis Simanis (looking at you from above on this page) travels to Copenhagen, where he has never been before. He walks from the hotel through the city together with the one, who has posted this text, they have a glass of wine in one of the autumn dressed squares in the centre of the city. The director – and I – are a bit worried that there will be nobody at the screening of ”Escaping Riga”, a film in b/w, shot on super 8, about two local heroes, who both left the Latvian capital: the passionate and wild artist Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein and Isaiah Berlin, philosopher, historian and essayist. Not an obvious attraction for a festival audience, one should think…

But we were wrong. More than 100 were in the cinema to a screening that was introduced by Karsten Fledelius, Danish university professor, a man who seems to know all about the Balkan countries, who is a tour guide to Turkey and other countries, and who in an elegant way gave the audience basic knowledge about the two in the film. After that a fine projection quality, good reactions from the audience and a warm welcome to Davis Simanis at the Q&A that he managed so well with a competent festival moderator next to him.

At the end Fledelius asked a question to Simanis – you have a personal intro in the film, having worked on the film for such a long time, who are you closest to? Simanis answered that he had always aimed to be like Eisenstein, involved and controversial, but “I always end up as Berlin”, the reflecting observer. Bravo, thank you cph:dox for bringing the film, that has one more screening at the festival, see link below.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Middle Eastern Film Days in Aarhus

Written 09-11-2014 12:11:39 by Tue Steen Müller

Cph:dox fills our columns these days – reviews, reports etc. BUT the second largest city in Denmark, Aarhus, has its own festival, Aarhus Filmfestival that includes shorts and docs, the latter with themes like ”fights”, ”life”, ”female”, ”ex-Soviet” and titles like ”The Look of Silence”, ”Once I Dreamt of Life”, ”Happiness” and ”Maidan”.

Of special interest is a programme section of Middle Eastern films with directors and producers visiting. It is curated by H.C. Korsholm Nielsen, former director of The Danish Institute in Damascus, at that time a strong supporter of the Syrian documentary makers – and from January 1st 2015 director of ”Dansk-Egyptiske Dialog Institut i Cairo (DEDI)”.

The days include the visit of Mohamad Malas with the film “Ladder to Damascus” (photo), Amir Ramses with “Jews of Egypt”, the producers and festival directors of DoxBox Diana el Jeiroudi and Orwa Nyrabia – and their productions “Return to Homs” and “Silvered Water” Wiam Simav Bedirxan and Ossama Mohammed. The latter will attend the screening.

Sara Thelle, scroll down, reviewed ”Silvered Water” today. A must-see film!

Visit also the FB page ”Middle Eastern Film Days”.

Aathus Film Festival runs from November 11-16.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Documentaries Nominated for European Film Awards

Written 06-11-2014 21:51:36 by Tue Steen Müller

A copy-paste from the fine Cineuropa of today:

Just the Right Amount of Violence
 (photo) Denmark Written and directed by Jon Bang CarlsenProduced by Helle Ulsten and Jon Bang Carlsen 

Master of the Universe [+]
 Germany/AustriaDirected by Marc Bauder Produced by Marc Bauder and Markus Glaser

Of Men and War [+]
 France/SwitzerlandWritten, directed and produced by Laurent Bécue-Renard

Sacro GRA [+]
Italy/FranceDirected by Gianfranco RosiWritten by Nicolo Bassetti Produced by Marco Visalberghi and Carole Solive 

Waiting for August
 BelgiumWritten and directed by Teodora Ana MihaiProduced by Hanne Phlypo and Antoine Vermeesch 

We Come as FriendsAustriaWritten, directed and produced by Hubert Sauper  

The nominated films will now be submitted to the more than 3,000 EFA members to elect the winner. The European Documentary 2014 will then be presented at the 27th European Film Awards Ceremony in Riga on Saturday 13 December – it will be streamed live on

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Eastern Europe in the Centre of Documentary Events

Written 06-11-2014 21:32:10 by Tue Steen Müller

Is the headline of the generous invitation made by unique vod DocAlliance, that until November 9 (you better hurry up!) offers excellent documentaries, all nominated for the Silver Eye Award, read more about it on the site that you have to go to in order to have access to five films, for free.

The films are Bahkmaro by Georgian Salome Jashi (her portrait is on the head of, in the middle), Father and Son by Polish Pawel Lozinski, A Diary of a Journey by Polish Piotr Stasik, Linar (photo) by Russian Nastia Tarasova, I don’t Love You by Pavel Kostomarov and Alexander Rastorguev and Homo Ciris by Slovak Jana Mináriková.

Yes, East Beats West! This selection proves it convincingly!

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

CPH:DOX /Joshua Oppenheimer

Written 05-11-2014 11:24:30 by Tue Steen Müller

THE LOOK OF SILENCE by Joshua Oppenheimer




It's horrifying, it hurts to watch the scenes that shows these brutal perpetrators re-enact their killings committed around 1965 in Indonesia, where the slaughtering of communists were performed by a military regime and its gangs that had come into power. One million were killed. The Americans (and the rest of the world?, at least we did not hear about it, or did we?) made no objections as an American NBC news clip shows in this second Descent to Hell, Indonesia 1965 and today, the first being ”The Act of Killing”. This time seen from the point of view of an opthalmologist, Adi, a man in his forties with wife and two children, a mother and a father – and a brother, Ramli, who was killed back then.

The overall theme of the film is the same, yet ”The Look of Silence” is completely different from ”The Act of Killing”, that framed the story of the perpetrators horror by having them make their film about the act of killing. Surrealistic scenes came out of that, to say the least. Whereas ”The Look of Silence” brings Adi to the centre to make him meet old men in the neighbourhood, men who took part in the atrocities. He comes to check their sight and starts to ask about the past. He gets to know more and more and ends up discovering the involvement of his own family – an uncle was a guard in the prison that Ramli was taken to before he was – that is the word

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 11/ Scenes

Written 03-11-2014 10:45:47 by Tue Steen Müller

Scenes to remember… one of the many good things about being at a festival is the conversations you have with colleagues in the breaks. Conversations that very often bring up scenes that have impressed you, scenes that will stay in your mind.

Example: You might not remember the title of the film but you will remember the scene with the man at Maidan Kiev, who silently puts his body over the broken statue of Lenin, protecting the head of the father of the 1917 revolution and what he stood for in Soviet times. He does not want to move or be moved. The youngsters around him either shout invective words to him, ”go home, your time is over”, trying violently to get him away, while others express ”leave him alone”. The scene is from the Ukrainian ”All Things Ablaze”, a shocking documentary descent to Hell, alarming to watch. ”Let me have a piece of Lenin”, many scream with a hammer in hand, they are photographed next to the Head or with one leg on the same statue Head – the old man is brutally taken away by hooligans, he no longer has his hat, we see him on the ground, one shouts ”help him he got a heart attack”, the music is dramatizing, it’s very strong and all sympathy lies with the man, who is being humiliated.

That was one way of looking at Maidan, Sergei Loznitsa had quiet a different one with his ”Maidan”. He is distantly observing and not involved (not meaning that he does not have a point of view, indeed he has), he makes the viewer observe and have the eyes go around his images that are like paintings, as the jury stated in their motivation for giving an honorary award to the film. Several long shots included the singing of the Ukrainian anthem, where you let your eyes wander within the frame, as was it a work by Brueghel! Unique moments they are.

Or the start of Ulrich Seidl’s ”Im Keller” (”In the Basement”) where a snake slooowly moves towards the mouse for attack, you know what is to happen, and yet you are jumping in your seat when it happens, as you are shaking your head when the nice Austrian Bürger enters his basement rooms full of Hitler and Nazi trophies. Not to forget the chained naked man, who licks the toilet clean on demand from ”die Herrerin”. One scene after each other, tableau-like, a pity they do not become a whole.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 10/ Jury Motivations

Written 02-11-2014 08:59:18 by Tue Steen Müller

Here follows the jury motivations for the main competition winners and for the German competition winner, Domino Effect, a film that has been reviewed on

Golden Dove: Claudine Bories und Patrice Chagnard (Frankreich) for the film Les règles du jeu (Rules of the Game) Jury Statement: Adapting to society and the strange demands of the marketplace is the theme of this subtle, poetic documentary comedy about a group of young Frenchmen, who cannot hide their contempt for THE RULES OF THE GAME.

Honorary Mention: Alexander Nanau (Romania) for the film Toto şi surorile lui (Toto and His Sisters) Jury Statement: In spite of the total deroute of their impoverished, drug ridden family Toto and a sister fight to create a decent future for themselves. A straight forward, non-sentimental story about having to leave your family to survive.

Honorary Mention: Sergei Loznitsa (Netherlands, Ukraine) for the film Maidan (PHOTO) Jury Statement: An iconographic piece of filmmaking about a society in despair framed and timed masterly. A cinematic depiction of a troubled moment in history that reads like a grand painting.

German Competition Winner: Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski (Germany, Poland) for the film Domino Effekt (Domino Effect Jury Statement:The East European Riviera at the Black Sea, a former war area, wistfulness and decay. The filmmakers get to know an Abkhazian-Russian pair who fiercely argues about their love. Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski tell the story of this absolutely impossible love with great warmth and a visual feeling for tragicomical, surreal scenes. And, at the same time, about the absurdity of an absolutely impossible society on the edge of Europe.

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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 9/ Winners

Written 01-11-2014 22:29:40 by Tue Steen Müller

The winners have been found. And apart from "my" main prize the juries agreed with me, awarding "Les Regles du Jeu" and "Toto and his Sisters". Here is the press release and notice that you can find the motivations on the site of the festival:

DOK Leipzig awarded the prestigious Golden Doves on Saturday night. 17 prizes worth a total of 66,500 Euros were presented at the 57th edition of the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Films. This makes DOK Leipzig the most highly endowed documentary film festival in Germany. The biggest German documentary film festival has been screening 368 films during the festival week which ends tomorrow.

The Golden Dove in the International Competition Documentary Film was awarded to "Les règles du jeu" ("Rules of the Game") by French directors Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard. The Prize is endowed with 10,000 Euros, donated by the MITTELDEUTSCHER RUNDFUNK, and was presented by the MDR’s artistic director, Prof. Dr. Karola Wille.

The Golden Dove for the best Animated Film, endowed with 5,000 Euros, was awarded to the Swedish entry "Still Born" by Åsa Sandzén. The Silver Dove in the International Competition Animated Film, endowed with 2,000 Euros, went to Daisy Jacobs from the United Kingdom for her film "The Bigger Picture".

The Golden Dove in the German Competition Documentary Film, endowed with 10,000 Euros, was awarded to "Domino Effect" by two Polish directors living in Germany, Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski.

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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 8/ Alina Rudnitskaya

Written 01-11-2014 12:45:45 by Tue Steen Müller

The title refers to the 9th of May, where Russians celebrate the end of the WW2, the nazi capitulation, a day that is not celebrated by the gay and lesbian couples in the new film of Rudnitskaya. Maybe that angle is a bit subtle, anyway it is a well constructed film where the couples tell their private stories: where and how they met, how long they have been together, and they express their reactions to the law banning ”propaganda” for homosexuality. Their fear – what if something something happens to you, they say to each other – is mixed with television clips bringing outrageous opinions from politicians, hateful homophobia in its most ugly form.

It’s not a film that has the same high artistic quality as the director’s many previous works, but it is a precise statement, has a rythm and brings articulate people to our eyes and ears.

Watched at DOKLeipzig 2014.

Russia, 2013, 29 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 7/ Polina Kelm: Positive

Written 01-11-2014 12:42:38 by Tue Steen Müller

Allow me to be nostalgic – this film brings me back to my days at Statens Filmcentral (National Film Board of Denmark), where brave women were sitting in a row, repairing the 16mm copies that had been returned from screenings. Very often with scratches or torn apart with the need to be spliced. Wearing white gloves they did, what the Ukrainian ladies do in this sweet homage to Film and to those behind the scene. Who are in this documentary the protagonists in front of the camera – in their cosy working place next to piles of film cans, with a cat running around, with a window view to the world outside, they eat next to the editing table and they are a bit shy but of course they love for once to be in front of the camera. There are some fine montaged music-born sequences (mostly from Ukrainian chronicles) in the film, whereas I am not sure it was the right decision to bring them to watch a 3D film.

Watched at DOKLeipzig 2014.

Ukraine, 2014, 29 mins.


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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 6/ My Winners

Written 31-10-2014 16:53:09 by Tue Steen Müller

Your correspondent has seen the 12 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.

Best film

”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.

Honorary Mention

”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.

Honorary Mention

”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.

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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 5/ Jon Bang Carlsen

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).

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 4/ Dok.Incubator

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.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 3/ Citizenfour Awarded

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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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 2/ Claas Danielsen

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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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 1/ Edward Snowden

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

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Jihlava 2014 /Winners

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

Special Mention: 20 Centavos (20 Cents), dir. Tiag Tambelli and Persiguiendo al Dragón (Chasing after the Wind), dir. Juan Camilo Olmos Ferise

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

Read more / Læs mere

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Silver Eye Winners Announced in Jihlava

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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Jihlava 2014 /Wojciech Staron

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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Jihlava 2014 /Kerekes and Janek

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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Anders Østergaard & Erzsébet Rácz: 1989/2

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.

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Jihlava 2014 /Kerekes, Mansky, Nellis

Written 24-10-2014 09:19:36 by Tue Steen Müller


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.

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CPH:DOX 2014 /Østergaard & Rácz

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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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Maloof and Siskel: Finding Vivian Maier

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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Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cinedoc-Tbilisi Second Edition /2

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.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Riga – and Gustavs Klucis

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 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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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Riga - and Herz Frank

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"!

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

EDN Interview with Claas Danielsen

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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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Flaherty and Sergey Loznitsa

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. 

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Idfa and cph:dox 2014

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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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Tiha K. Gudac: Naked Island

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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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Svetlana Strelnikova: Cardiopolitika

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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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Anna Yanovskaya: Ten Centimeters of Life

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


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jihlava Festival Announces its Programme

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.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig Programme Announced

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. 

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Olga Lvoff: When People Die They Sing Songs

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


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Loparev & Kurov: Children 404

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.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Askold Kurov: Leninland

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.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Does a Festival Critique Exist?

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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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Essays

Questions to Festival Programmers

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.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Polemics

Arthur Sukiasyan: Our Atlantis

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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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jon Bang Carlsen Retrospective in Leipzig

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 – 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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Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Kurt Jacobsen & Warren Leming: American Road

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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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cinedoc-Tbilisi Second Edition

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:

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nordisk Panorama 25!

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.


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” (”Færø”).

1700 Metres from the Future

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Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Essays

Nick Read: The Condemned

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


Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Message2Man St. Petersburg/ 4

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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Message2Man St. Petersburg/ 3

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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Laura Poitras Opens DOKLeipzig

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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Helena Trestikova Free Online Retrospective

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 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 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.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Russian Censorship Debate

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…

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Future of DOX Magazine?

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 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.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Message2Man St. Petersburg /2

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, 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.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

2nd Edition of AegeanDocs /2

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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Message2Man St. Petersburg /1

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.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nordisk Panorama 25 Year

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.


Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Documentary Talents

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, 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, 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.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

EDN Terminates DOX/ 3

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!!

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

EDN Terminates DOX/ 2

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 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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Michael Moore:Filmmakers not Documentarians

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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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

EDN Terminates DOX Magazine

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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Scorcese on his new Book Film

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.

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New Danish Documentaries to Message to Man

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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Uldis Brauns photo by Uldis Cekulis

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.







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Uldis Brauns

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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Baltic Sea Docs 2014/ 3

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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Baltic Sea Forum 2014/ 2

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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Across the Roads, Across the River – 7 on Riga

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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"The Flaherty Presents”

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.

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Leena Pasanen New DOKLeipzig Festival Director

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.

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Baltic Sea Docs 2014/ 1

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.

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Khaled Jarrar: Infiltrators

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.

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Mark Soosaar

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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DOKLeipzig 2014 Statistics

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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Festival Director Dancing in the Rain

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.

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Mikkel Stolt: The annual “Danish Doc Get-together”

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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Ashraf Mashharawi and Ken Loach in Sarajevo

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."

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New York Film Festival

Written 21-08-2014 09:29:21 by Tue Steen Müller

The photo refers to the film ”Red Army” by Gabe Polsky that at (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… “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.”


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Message to Man 2014

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.

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The Power of Silence - Docs in Riga

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.

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