Written 22-07-2014 07:26:41 by Tue Steen Müller
For those of you who want to know more about Caucasian documentaries, go to the website below, the one of Caucadoc, where you can find around 40 films described with all necessary information and trailers to watch.
People from Russia and from former Soviet republics do often use the word “hero”, when they describe characters in their films and film projects. I tend to correct them to say characters or protagonists, whereas the word hero should be used when it is appropiate. For me Anna Dziapshipa is a hero or maybe better a star, not only because she has invited me to Georgia several times... but because she has been the organising force behind workshops, training programmes, the above mentioned online catalogue of Caucasian documentaries and close colleague of Salomé Jashi on “Bakhmaro”.
Now she is preparing her first film as a director. The working title is “Stories from the Family Albums” and here is the description of the film that she sent to me:
“Several months ago my friend showed me footage from his family archive. We were watching the material and he was telling me his childhood story. Gradually, I had a feeling his story became mine; it felt like collective Déjà vu. At some point, I realised we share the same past living in Soviet state that suddenly collapsed and growing up in an Independent country which had several wars in last 20 years. Actually it was a visual of last Generation born in USSR. I was watching his family archive chronologically and vividly felt influences, but could not understand did country history influenced family lives or was it vice versa? For the first time I was thinking of a family as a microcosm of the country and home video as a most powerful memory engine. Unlike official archive family camera chooses details with unconditional love and attention, during a demonstration it depicted a child with a flag – son of cameraman and his wife, she seems nervous, very close shot - her eyes, you know exactly which year is that, what she expects, what is the future. We all know, we share the same feelings and memories while watching others.”
Anna Dziapshipa is a brilliant photographer as those who are FB friend with her have evidenced and if you want more, go to her website, link below.
Written 21-07-2014 14:11:41 by Tue Steen Müller
Morning atmosphere. Sitting on the balcony outside the restaurant room of Hotel Pirosmani (for those who don’t recognise the name of the painter, link below), fresh air, 8am. It’s already hot so a bottle of mineral water is within reach. The square outside is like a stage that will slowly be occupied by the inhabitants of this small town in Eastern Georgia, Sighnaghi, which has been an object for modernization towards attracting tourism. And tourists come during the day.
Old people are the first to enter the stage walking with a stick and/or placing themselves on a chair in the shade chatting and waving good morning to newcomers. Stray dogs find a place outside the sun as well, taking some steps once in a while. A green old car comes to the hotel with bread from the baker, a woman carries newspapers and magazines to be sold at the other corner of the square. I ask one of the filmmakers, who are up for breakfast if the cigarette shop is open. No, he laughs, you are in Georgia, that is too early. A nanny strolls with a baby trolley, local buses come with people who go to work in the buildings around the square, including the monster of a new building for the municipality. It’s all calm and nice.
We enter the conference room and Salomé Jashi introduces the ”I am a character” exercise. 40 minutes are given to the filmmakers to write their speech which is delivered in a plenary session. It works quite well, you see who can ”talk visually” and who can interpret how they see one of their characters. It’s fun and the young filmmakers are trained in standing in front of their colleagues, which is not that easy for several of them.
Nino Orjonikidze and I take over to present what to put in a project one-pager – the next exercise for the participants, who have some hours to bring down their many pages to one. The one-pager of ”Bakhmaro” is shown as a good example, as well as the one of ”The English Teacher”. From there to watching the trailer of ”Bakhmaro” (photo) and ”The English Teacher”, both of them from my point of view very professional and inviting. Finally director Shorena Tevzadze and producer Nikoloz Gogochuri generously show their trailers (one of them more a research scene) to discuss with the colleagues what works and how to proceed.
The rooms are full of working people and very often, you hear ”Pirosmani is Online” = the internet connection of the hotel that falls out, and comes back again.
Written 20-07-2014 16:54:42 by Tue Steen Müller
Below there is a post explaining what is Caucadoc. And here are some words about the workshop which is at its second day out of four. On the photo you can see that the atmosphere has the playfulness that is required when you talk with filmmakers about their work. 9 projects have been selected to take part – 3 Armenian, 4 from Azerbjadan and 2 from Georgia – and the tutors are
Armenian Vardan Hovhannisyan, a well known character in the international documentary environment, where he as director had his breakthrough with ”A Story of People in War and Peace” referring to the Nagorno-Karabagh war. He is the founder of Bars Media, set up in 1993.
And Marina Razbezhkina, director and founder of the School of Documentary Film and Documentary Theatre, the very welcomed alternative to the state film school VGIK. Razbezhkina’s ”Optical Axis” was nominated as one of the 10 best films in 2013 by filmkommentaren.
And Gideon Koppel, whose masterpiece ” Sleep Furiously” (nominated as one of the best films in 2009 by filmkommentaren) was shown last night, followed by a masterclass session this morning.
And Nino Orjonikidze whose ”The English Teacher”, directed together with Vano Arsenishvili, won the ”Focus on Caucasus” award at the Cinedoc Tbilisi in 2013. And Salomé Jashi with the unique ”Bakhmaro”. And me.
Photo: Yes, there are many ”selfie” documentaries made these years, Marina Razbezhkina and I agreed upon and took a photo, an action documented by Vardan Hovhannisyan and by Nikoloz Gogochuri, producer of one the talented projects at the workshop.
Written 20-07-2014 16:06:03 by Tue Steen Müller
It is the fourth time that I am in Georgia and I love it. This time I am not in the capital Tbilisi but in Sighnaghi in the Kakheti region in Eastern Georgia. A four day Project Development Course is taking place in the Pirosmani Hotel, I am one of the tutors invited by Anna Dziapshipa and Salomé Jashi, producer and director of the wonderful documentary “Bakhmaro”, and the organizers on behalf of Caucadoc and their company Sakdoc.
Caucadoc is a very active initiative as you can read from the following quote from its website:
CAUCADOC is a project run by Czech NGO People in Need (PIN) and partner organizations from the South Caucasus: Sakdoc Film and Media Initiatives Center (former Internews Media Support NGO). CAUCADOC supports documentary filmmaking in the South Caucasus, making use of PIN´s experience organizing the world´s largest human rights documentary film festival One World.
CAUCADOC includes residential workshops dedicated to the development of creative documentary films from the South Caucasus, a series of master classes and lectures at partnering festivals Golden Apricot IFF, Batumi Art House FF and Tbilisi IFF, and a series of debates focusing on key issues related to audiovisual industry in the region. CAUCADOC also supports local initiatives in organizing screenings and follow up debates throughout the region, as well as the use of documentary films at schools.
CAUCADOC is funded by the European Union through the Eastern Partnership Culture Programme, and by Czech Development Agency. CAUCADOC runs in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia
Written 17-07-2014 18:57:08 by Tue Steen Müller
... of the Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival, running now and until July 27, initiated and run by film director, visual artist, politician and showman, Mark Soosaar, whose mark is still very strong on a festival with a huge number of films, competitions, out-of-competition screenings, from all over the world.
... including, I have mentioned this before as an example for other festivals to follow, ”a competition on air of Estonian Television... based on nation-wide televoting of the TV-audience”. There are five titles in this category and there are nominations (awards to be decided by the international jury) for three films ”for the important social message and the best artistic achievement” being Alina Rudnitskay’s ”Blood”, Niewiera and Rosolowski’s ”Domino Effect” and ”Ramin” by Audrius Stonys.
In another category, called ”Portraits of Neigbours” you find Ivars Zviedris and Inese Klava’s ”Documentarian”, in ”Survival of Indigenous Peoples” ”Abu Haraz” by Polish Maciej Drygas, and in ”Docs for kids” there are fine works like ”Joanna” by Aneta Kopacz, ”The Wild Years” by Ventura Durall and ”Happiness” by Thomas Balmés.
Take a look at the website, impressive it is with its list of films. There is a true international perspective.
I was in Pärnu twice for the festival and I can assure you that the atmosphere, the discussions and the hospitality is different from the main stream documentary festivals I know.
Written 15-07-2014 15:39:11 by Tue Steen Müller
From tomorrow and until end of September the New Museum in New York will have ”a major exhibition of contemporary art from and about the Arab world, entitled ”Here and Elsewhere”.
Palestinian multi-artist Khaled Jarrar based in Ramallah – we have written about his excellent documentary ”Infiltrators” on this site several times – was supposed to go but was denied to travel. This is a quote from +972 (link below to whole article):
“Khaled Jarrar… was supposed to be in New York by now… but Israel isn’t letting him go. Jarrar arrived at the Allenby border crossing at 3:00 p.m. yesterday. Rather than cross into Jordan, as he has done many times over the last few years, he was told he could not exit due to “an intelligence order.” After 10 hours spent waiting, he returned home at around 1 a.m. today…”
And quotes from Khaled Jarrar himself: “After a very long wait and without understanding what was happening, I was informed that there are “security reasons” that will prevent me from traveling until the 1st of August. For now, that means that I missed my morning flight from Amman to New York, that I will miss the opening of the show at the New Museum, and that I will miss my ‘artist talk’ with Lamia Joreige and Charif Kiwan, with Natalie Bell, that was supposed to happen on the 16th of July. Yesterday was the longest day of my life and a day of humiliation. I felt real racism on the part of the security at Allenby Bridge. When this one soldier was talking to his superior officer, I understood he called me “zevel” ["garbage," in Hebrew -NY]. I shouted at him that I was no “zevel” and he was impolite to call me that. No one listened to me, like I did not even exist.”
To call it a humiliation is a total understatement!
Written 10-07-2014 14:39:37 by Tue Steen Müller
Not a lot of energy, so It’s copy-paste time right now here in Copenhagen’s tropical heat... and it is easy when good news arrive online like the one about the upcoming ”remarkable creative documentary projects from Central and Eastern Europe”, which were presented in Karlovy Vary two days ago. Organized by the festival and the super-active Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival (to take place October 23-28).
The film projects presented by the makers are all to premiere this year or in 2015 and I happen to have met several of them on other occasions, and yes they are remarkable.
Like ”Anthill” from Estonia by Vladimir Loginov and Elina Litvinova, ” a portrait of a giant garage complex located in the largest housing estate in Tallinn. 700 garage box owners form an extraordinary men’s club, and vary from those who use the garages to maintain their cars and those who adapt their boxes for living. The complex is even more unique owing to the existence of private saunas, a restaurant, an animal clinic and other artefacts of life stuck in time 20 years ago.” It has some wonderful scenes, great characters, humour and a poetic camera style.
I also have great expectations to Magdalena Szymkow and her “found-footage portrait of a writer and reporter” = Polish master Ryszard Kapuściński. Szymkow, who made the fine film “My House Without Me”, was a collaborator of the journalist/essayist and a co-author and translator of his books.
One more, but read about all of them, link below, I met in Jerevan last summer: “Our Atlantis” by Georgian Arthur Sukiasyan. From the synopsis: “a documentary about an Armenian camp in Istanbul (Turkey), which was built by orphans in 1960s and later on taken away by Turkish authorities. This is a journey between the past and present of the camp showing how 30 years later children of this camp try not to lose their camp memories. And through this reconstruction, Our Atlantis tells the dramatic story of Karo and Flor who were together in this camp, not knowing that they were siblings, which they discovered by chance only 15 years later.” I saw astonishing footage one year ago.
Written 09-07-2014 13:41:44 by Tue Steen Müller
Another press release from idfa (see below) refers to the now finished Summer School, where projects at different levels are being tutored. Some are still on paper, some are bringing rough cuts to experienced editors. One of them was ”Ollie Huddleston, editor for such documentary luminaries as Kim Longinotto and Sean McAllister, tutoring two of the editing projects, starting out with a rough cut and refining things along the six-day workshop.
"Maybe it's comparable to what a grandfather feels", he laughs. "Rather than getting my hands dirty and raising the child, I can give it back to them and say: 'Fix it!' It's a kind of balancing act: you give them some ideas and then they run with it. Sometimes they've already spent two or three years working on the film, so I can't just jump in with hobnail boots and say: 'Do this, do that'. I say what I think, but of course it's up to them, it's their film.”, and he adds “If you think too much about what other people think, you can get really lost”.
Wise words and I have no problems in identifying with the grandfather comparison and the privilege it is to be invited to look at rough cuts. Sometimes you are able to help, sometimes the chemistry between you and the filmmaker is not good enough or you don’t speak the same language, communication is not easy.
Photo: Group photo of IDFA Summer School 2014 participants.
Written 09-07-2014 13:19:38 by Tue Steen Müller
Copy-Paste quotes of a press release of today from idfa and its IDFA Bertha Fund, whose action one can only applaud:
The IDFA Bertha Fund has concluded the May selection round of 2014. Nineteen documentary projects from countries like Nicaragua, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and South-Sudan will be supported by the fund.
The selection includes stories from unseen parts of the world, such as Dust (photo), which visually foregrounds the dust created by mining equipment exploiting the once-verdant grasslands of Inner Mongolia, and The Boxing Women of Kivu, a profound portrait of a female police officer in the DRC giving self defense lessons to rape victims…
Read more on:
Written 08-07-2014 11:04:26 by Tue Steen Müller
So many documentary films have been shot in Africa, but very few have been seen by African audiences. This heralds a new era of distribution for the continent… words by Don Edkins, who is the Executive producer of AfriDocs and the man behind Steps for the Future, Why Democracy, Why Poverty, and now also AfriDocs, helped as before by Finnish Iikka Vehkalahti from YLE.
AfriDocs is the name of a broadcast initiative that has a focus on “The best documentaries made in Africa and the first documentary strand across Sub-Saharan Africa... real stories weekly. Primetime.” Through the channels DStv ED (channel190) and GOtv (channel 65). In this way AfriDocs covers 49 African countries by satellite and 100 cities terrestrially across 8 countries across Africa.
This month includes a full week of African documentary films to be broadcast across Sub-Sahara to coincide with the Durban International Film Festival, the largest film festival in South Africa that takes place from July 17th – 27th.
There will be documentary films from thirteen countries in Africa – D.R.C., Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia. Films by African filmmakers Idrissa Guiro, Sani Elhadj, Licinio Azevedo, Rehad Desai, Judy Kibinge, Andrey Samoute Diarra, Osvalde Lewat, together with filmmakers Mika Karismäki, Thierry Michel, Roger Ross Williams, Abby Ginsberg and Göran Olsson amongst others, will be seen for the first time by a wide audience through this collaboration…
AfriDocs is an initiative of the multi-awarded South African documentary production and distribution company, Steps, in partnership with the Bertha Foundation. Impressive it is!
Written 07-07-2014 22:56:05 by Tue Steen Müller
In the post about the Moving Docs project that will take off next year, supported by Creative Europe, I wrote “”Brave New Culture” from Cyprus is also on board. Regret to say that I have never heard about it before...”
Rea Apostolides, who is the person behind ”Moving Docs”, wrote to me today to help me out of my ignorance:
“Brave New Culture is the company run by Yiangos Hadjiyiannis,who is the director of the http://www.filmfestival.com.cy/ lemessos international Documentary Festival. He is really lovely and his festival is fabulous (and takes place by the sea)”
Aha, I thought, the festival in Cyprus that I have heard so much good about both in terms of selection and atmosphere and quality. Last year it had producer Signe Byrge talk about “The Act of Killing”, Ove Rishøj from EDN had a focus on opening sequences and Tinatin Gurchiani talked about succesful Georgian documentary “The Machine Which makes Everything Disappear”. More about the festival from the website:
The ‘Lemesos International Documentary Film Festival’ is organized every August by the non-profit organization Brave New Culture & the Cyprus Bradcasting Corporation and it is a festival dedicated in presenting contemporary creative documentaries in Cyprus. In addition, through the organization of workshops and lectures, it offers the possibility to local professional directors and producers to get acquainted with the latest trends and tendencies in the documentary genre and to get informed about the prospects of fund raising and promoting their own projects in the broader European spectrum. Our intention is to search and invite films that are interesting in cinematographic terms but are also innovative and eye-opening in their sociopolitical approach. The main objective of our organization is to establish “Lemesos International Documentary Festival’ as a quality documentary festival which encourages the public to experience during eight summer nights a creative, timely and rich experience, full of stories and images characteristic of our times and which derive from our surrounding civilizations and cultures.
This year the festival runs from August 1-8.
Written 07-07-2014 09:56:43 by Tue Steen Müller
... is the name of a new support scheme from EU’s Creative Europe – Media Programme. Its task is
”To stimulate interest in, and improve access to European audio-visual works, in particular through promotion, events, film literacy and festivals.
Film literacy projects: to provide mechanisms for better cooperation between film literacy initiatives in Europe to improve the efficiency and European dimension of these initiatives.
Audience development projects: events focusing on the programming of important and successful non-national European films on various distribution platforms and promotional activities building on the marketing on promotion results of important festivals and awards.”
The first results – money-wise a bit more than 6 mio. € - of a call that was announced at the end of March – have been published and great to see a wide spread of countries being succesful with their applications, and not a centralising tendency one could fear after the launch of Creative Europe. OK, France and UK are there as benificiaries but Germany not, Italy is there, Romania, Estonia and Czech Republic as well, the latter with support to Doc Alliance Academy and to Institute of Documentary Film with a programme called KineDok.
I am – at the moment - not able to go closer to all 16 to see how many are documentary projects, but I have been given access to EDN’s ”Moving Docs”, see below post.
Photo of a film mentioned in the ”Moving Docs” application, see below: ”Velvet Terrorists”.
Written 07-07-2014 09:45:56 by Tue Steen Müller
With EDN (European Documentary Network) as the natural umbrella organisation for a project concepted and developed by Rea Apostolides, strong and visionary Greek producer and member of EDN’s Executive Committee, the ”Moving Docs” project was, by Creative Europe, granted 150.000€, 81% of the budget applied for - for a true international initiative with a vision to reach an audience outside the traditional festival circles, if I get it right.
I have been granted access to look a bit more into the application that was succesful.
What was impressive from a first glance is the group of players in ”Moving Docs”, they are called partner organisations: Planeta in Spain, that stands behind the unique ”Documentary of the Month”, Apordoc in Portugal, Doc/IT from Italy, SDI (Scottish Documentary Institute), Against Gravity Warsaw Poland, Doc Lounge Sweden, all known as strong and experienced promoters of European documentary life, whereas Rea Apostolides as manager of the project contributes with her company Anemon as does EDN headed by Paul Pauwels. ”Brave New Culture” from Cyprus is also on board. Regret to say thatI have never heard about it before.
The action starts February 2015, runs the rest of the year and includes cinema screenings, community screenings, festival screenings, vod screenings and educational activities.... you name it, they got it!
Creative Europe asks in the application for titles of films and a long list of potential highlights is mentioned. Among them ”Master of the Universe” (photo).
Some quotes from the 72 page big application: The objective of Moving Docs is to engage urban and rural audiences across Europe through regular and simultaneous screenings of the best European and international documentary films...structured around ”European Screening Days”, five unique media moments that connect European audiences... target groups are 20-40 years... (focus on) issue-based films... the action will use different strategies to target four different audience catagories: rural, urban, frequent and first-time doc viewers...
Much more will come about ”Moving Docs” from the organisers – here is only to be said: Well done, good luck - filmkommentaren.dk will follow your work.
Written 30-06-2014 13:15:35 by Tue Steen Müller
I like this tradition so much – the plaques that are put on the walls of the houses, where great artists have been living and working. To honour them and remember. They do so a lot in the Baltic countries and it is only just that a plaque of Herz Frank was unveiled some days ago in Riga at Lacplesa Street 29. In the presence of his two daughters and friends.
Guntis Trekteris, who produced ”Flashback” and is now finishing ”Edge of Fear” together with Frank’s co-director, sent me the photo. If you can not read the text, which is in Latvian and English, it goes like this:
”Prominent Latvian documentary film maker HERZ FRANK 1926-2013 lived and worked here from 1960 to 1993”.
Written 29-06-2014 15:41:29 by Tue Steen Müller
A triumph for the young Polish director Jan Matuszynski in Moscow yesterday where the Best Documentary Award was announced, given to him for his ”Deep Love”. I have seen this film twice before, read what I wrote from the American Documentary Film festival:
”I was asked to introduce the Polish film ”Deep Love” by young Jan Matuszynski, who was present and received quite an applause for his cinematically brilliant interpretation of the love relationship between Janusz, who got paralyzed when diving and Joanna, his girl friend, who worries as he insists to continue diving and break the record by going down to 100 meters, even if his medical status, as the doctors tell him, does not allow him to do so.
This is what I wrote back in November when I saw the film at DOKLeipzig: ”Deep Love” is a multi-layered story. It is about a man, whose life first of all consists of a passion for diving, a passion that had severe consequences for him when his head hit a rock, making him a handicapped man, who understands what the people near him says to him but can not talk himself and has a paralysed arm and leg. Nevertheless, he wants to get into the sea again and go deeper, encouraged by his close friend and co-diver, yet discouraged by his girl friend, who is afraid of what could happen to him if he realises his wish to go 100 meter down. Here lies the core of the film, the relationship between them, the love story with her in the centre, with her constant care and anxiety. A very strong story but for my taste a bit too dramatic and disturbingly set up with music and sound... on the big screen in Palm Springs, my objections were no longer there, I have to say. Reminding me of how important the watching situation is for your evaluation of a film.”
Written 28-06-2014 12:36:36 by Tue Steen Müller
Short enough for an overview - detailed enough for your co-production strategy… this is the one-liner from EDN about the new baby of the organisation: A Co-Production Guide which is available online for the members of an “… organisation for professionals working with documentary film and television… with about 1000 members from more than 60 countries…” I am sure that this excellent help for documentarians, who work internationally, will give EDN even more members.
As a member, I have checked the information given from several countries and it looks perfect even if everyone knows that “perfect” does not exist, when you are dealing with such a huge collection of facts to be conveyed. I notice that there has been two readers/collectors from every country, good idea, as it is to have the possibility for readers/users to come up with their co-production experiences online. Interactivity, as it should be with a member’s organisazation like EDN. In other words, here is a tool you can’t afford to miss. Become a member of EDN … I stop my promotion, short quote from the press release sent out in connection with the Sunny Side of the Doc:
“EDN is launching The EDN Co-Production Guide, a new tool for international financing of documentaries. The online guide provides details on coproduction opportunities across Europe. All information is edited by EDN, provided by established producers and based on concrete co-production experiences. EDN has commissioned experienced producers in 30 European countries to provide information about the co-production possibilities in their country. The information is now brought together in an easy-to-use format making it possible to use the information in the everyday reality of a production company.
The guide includes:
• Profiles of co-production funds in 30 countries
• Guidelines for funding of co-productions in each country
• Titles of co-produced projects and production companies
• Contact info, relevant links and organizations
• A forum for EDN members to share co-production experiences
Written 24-06-2014 21:10:14 by Tue Steen Müller
This is a sentence I have used again and again when talking to film students, who are still in their film school protected environment… and then suddenly they have finished their studies, want to work, want to learn more, want to be part of a network… It’s not easy and where do you get help in the search for information?
At the – let’s take the whole name – HFF Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen Konrad Wolf Postdam Babelsberg – I met briefly student Annegret Sachse, we got FB friends and I joined the Projector group on FB and found out how valuable it is, organised and run by Annegret.
“I started it almost 3 years ago, when I was searching for workshops and finding all this information. and I got tired of sending the links out in seperate messages to all my filmmaker friends :))”, she wrote to me, when I asked her ok to promote Projector on filmkommentaren.
“Sure you may write about it if you like. I kept it a "secret group" from the beginning, it means it works only by invite, members invite people who they think should be in it, and I basically invite every filmmaker I become friends with on fb. Somehow this kept it pretty free of spam, and it seems fb doesn't even give me the option anymore to open it, it says "Group privacy can only be adjusted to a more restrictive setting for large groups".
I'm happy to add anybody who wants to join, but if I am not friends with them on fb I can only send them an invite via their email address. Either they send me a fb message with their email, or a mail to my email (email@example.com).
Complicated. But possible.”
A young colleague sharing generously what she finds of workshops, schools, courses, grants – and that is a lot and far beyond the limited circle of Creative Europe and MEDIA.
Written 23-06-2014 12:37:18 by Tue Steen Müller
The Austrian Film Museum (celebration of its 50th year) has a present to all who are interested in film history and Dziga Vertov and history of course, read here, click and watch, it is so well presented:
The Kinonedelja (Kino-Week) newsreels represent Dziga Vertov's first contribution to cinema. A total of 43 issues, each containing an average of 5 to 7 different items, were produced between May 1918 and June 1919. Vertov joined the newsreel’s ranks as a secretary initially but by the fall of 1918 had taken on full responsibility for the series. The Austrian Film Museum holds prints of 14 clearly identifiable issues of the Kinonedelja series. The films provide an invaluable record of life in the young Soviet Russia, then in the throes of civil war. Within the framework of the EFG1914 project, and continuing its recent tradition of publishing important works by Dziga Vertov in digital form, the Film Museum has made its complete Kinonedelja holdings freely available online. The publication of the Kinonedelja - Online Edition marks the first presentation of moving images on the Film Museum’s website. For the online presentation, the Viennese collection is complemented by additional digitized Kinonedelja issues and fragments held by the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen and the Swedish Film Institute in Stockholm.
Read more about the Kinonedelja series: filmmuseum.at
Written 21-06-2014 20:46:30 by Tue Steen Müller
I am sure that many readers of this review do not really know anything about Abkhazia... I was in the same situation until I came to Georgia, saw terrible archive images from the war in 1992-93, where Abkhazia broke away from Georgia, declared its independence and was only recognized by Russia and a couple of South American states.
Co-director Rosolowski is also the cameraman, who brilliantly has captured the devastated Abkhazian capital Sukhumi, the empty houses, the ruins, it looks hopeless – and it is on this background that Rafael Ampar, minister of sports, a proud patriotic man, tries to build his life with Natasha, Russian opera singer and mother of a child, who comes to visit. She has – to say the least – huge problems to adapt to a culture and the Abkhazian language, she does not understand, she argues with Rafael, wants to leave, there is no job for her, whereas her daughter seems to have good time with Rafael.
The scenes between the two, their feelings for each other and their endless discussions are conveyed with great authenticity, and a lot of humour, the dialogues seem natural and un-directed, he is the cool chain-smoking reflecting man - “Abkhazia is my homeland” - she is the Russian drama queen with constant ups and downs in expressions.
She leaves and comes back... Happy ending? Well, she arrives to the station with the baby, he has carefully prepared her return, but will it work? Will Love survive for victims of history and geography?
The title refers to the fact that Rafael stands behind the organization of the world championship in domino plays in Sukhumi (!) but it has of course also a broader meaning... USSR fell, Georgia got its independence and turned to the West, Abkhazia broke away (is that the right way to put it?) and is embraced (but not very much helped it seems) by Russia. The domino effect? Anyway, a very well made, a lovely film, that achieved three awards at the recent Krakow Film festival. Well deserved!
Poland, 76 mins.
Written 20-06-2014 16:48:36 by Tue Steen Müller
Many years ago, at my time in EDN, I asked Hans Robert Eisenhauer to come to Italian Bardonecchia to the yearly Documentary in Europe session as a keynote speaker on the theme ”public service television”. I had known him from many years and admired him for being one of few commissioning editors, who actually edited a programme strand according to the very obvious point of view: this theme we have to offer to our audience. He worked for ZDF/arte’s theme evening and had a big influence on the documentary policy of arte. And he saw clearly that the reportage was not enough to cover a theme, there had to be a documentary interpretation, a personal touch, in other words a creative documentary as we call it today. The talk in Bardonecchia was brilliant including a criticism of the development among many broadcasters to go mainstream = tabloid in the stupid fight for higher ratings.
Eisenhauer is now retired from arte to be a very active producer, who helped producer Orwa Nyrabia and director Talal Derki realise ”Return to Homs”. About this and his time at arte, EDN brings a long interview, also accesible for non-member, link below.
Here is a quote: The public service TV landscape has changed profoundly between the time of my start at ARTE and until today. There is much more competition even between public broadcasters.
We as documentary producers and filmmakers, but also the broadcasters are confronted with two tendencies, which are challenging our professional life. On one hand we see a more and more globalized “market” of documentaries, of ideas, of communication. Thousands of new projects are flooding the documentary landscape every year. On the other hand we are observing, that the broadcasters are constantly cutting budgets, reducing slots and are asking more and more for national or even regional content. This is a real challenge for all of us, but not only for the filmmakers and producers, but also for our TV-colleagues. It is also a huge cultural and an economic/financial problem too. The funding became more and more difficult within the last decade. The support of regional, national and local film- financing funds cannot compensate for the loss. But the most important loss is the fact that innumerable interesting and promising projects will never appear on the small and the big screens…
Written 20-06-2014 15:43:06 by Tue Steen Müller
Below, Yves Jeanneau, CEO of the Sunny Side of the Doc welcomes the delegates to the 25th edition of an event this blogger has visited numerous times, when it was in Marseilles. Now the location is in la Rochelle and still going strong is the Sunny Side of the Doc. Dates June 23-26. Congratulations!:
In a few days, most of you will be in La Rochelle for the 25th Sunny Side of the Doc. Since 1989 the event has grown a lot – thanks to your creativity and your ideas over those years. I wanted to let you know the thinking that lies behind our events and which goes into all the work that the team does for you.
The different Sunny Side events in Europe, Asia and Latin America have been for the past 25 years a way of looking forwards and outwards. Our way is not to be defeatist, inward looking or nationalist.
Documentary is all about bringing something back of the outside world to the audience, making it richer along the way by giving it a voice. This mutual respect between the maker and the subject needs to continue (if that’s not being too idealistic). But for films like docs, which are made neither for art galleries nor supermarkets, I think that’s possible. Docs are for people who are curious, interested in the world, who like to share experiences and be surprised – avoiding the predictable at all costs.
Tom Perlmutter, who’s been at the heart of the Canadian documentary industry for so long, once wrote that documentary was like the canary in the mine warning about gas leaks – either it survived, or it didn’t and sent out a warning…
For me documentary is like a wind propelling us towards new places. Or a starry sky which illuminates while asking plenty of questions. In times of darkness, it can be like a beacon, and put its public and private usefulness on show. It investigates and has a point of view, both of which give it a voice and something to communicate.
Reality can be stubborn, complex and perplexing. Quite a hard thing to sell to the public, and yet we’re part of it, this reality which can raise our spirits and our concerns, our hopes and dreams…
Written 16-06-2014 08:42:50 by Tue Steen Müller
15 films from 12 countries, 15 world and international premieres... that is what the FID (Festival International de Cinema) in Marseilles presents in the international competition programme, when it takes off July 1 and runs until July 7. The festival also has a section for French films and one for First Films as well as a FidLab - ” FIDlab offers a meeting place for discussing film projects selected from all over the world, in order to offer film-makers an opportunity to make useful contacts and network with producers, distributors, international sales agents, sponsors, and broadcasters. ”
And films by Marguerite Duras will be screened – it’s all very well put together as the website link proves.
Back to the international competition – what a joy to see that Croatian “Mitch – the Diary of the Schizophrenic Patient” has been chosen. This is the beginning of my review of the film:
… It is rough. It is provoking. It is touching, poetic and shocking because you experience the difficulties of a man’s aim to come to terms with himself and life as it goes on in his head and around him in the psychiatric hospital, where he is, has been for 12 years and where he in a film, he is making himself, expresses his despair. Outstanding it is, nothing less!...
Written 15-06-2014 12:33:48 by Tue Steen Müller
Big words from the two curators of the documentary programme at MIFF, Moscow International Film Festival, whose 26th edition includes a competition of 8 films and a panorama of 15 films under the label ”Free Thought”. Sergey Miroshnichenko and Grigory Libergal writes:
“Our competition brings together strong and prominent directors like Alex Gibney with “The Armstrong’s Lie”, Jean-Stéphane Bron with “The Blocher’s Experience”, Thomas Balmès, with “Happiness” and other famed directors whose films are be shown out-of-competition - Errol Morris, Michael Glawogger, Godfrey Reggio. All of them are analyzing lies, the shaky swamp of falsehood. And we believe that after seeing this program our audience will think again about what kind of society we should build together on this planet. It is important to defend truth and freedom and truth and to fight lies and the lack of freedom”.
The other films in competition are Lebanese Zeina Daccache’s “Sheherazade’s Diary”, “Deep Love” by Polish Jan P. Matuszynski, “Web Junkie” by Israeli Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia, “The Green Prince” by Nadav Schirman and “Cardiopolitika” by Svetlana Streinikova.
The “Free Thought” out-of-competition programme “includes winners of the most prominent film festivals and contests, as well as the box-office leaders” – “Joanna” (PHOTO) by Aneta Kopacz is there, “Cathedrals of Culture” directed by – among others – late Michael Glawogger, whose “Workingman’s Death” will also be screened as will Michael Obert’s “Songs from the Forest” and Errol Morris “The Unknown Known” about Donald Rumsfeld.
The festival runs from June 19 until June 28.
Written 14-06-2014 16:54:59 by Tue Steen Müller
It starts today, the yearly Flaherty seminar at Colgate University, Hamilton, New York and runs until June 20. Programmers are Gabriela Monroy & Caspar Stracke – you can read more about them on the website of Flaherty, link below. Here is the interesting introduction to the seminar:
”The Flaherty’s 60th Anniversary Seminar probes the essence and frontiers of the form that inspired its beginnings: the documentary. Turning the Inside Out examines the state of documentary as it travels between the art gallery, the cinema, and the interactive screen. In an era of colliding genres and mediums, what holds documentary together from the inside out? What can a radical, Godardian, focus on the form of documentary reveal about the politics, poetics, and ethics of making media today?
To answer these questions, we turn to a unique group of documentary artists—some of whom produce new aesthetic idioms for documentary beyond the black box, and others who move seamlessly between media without changing their vocabulary. Together they ask: which genre (essay film, autobiography, docufiction) and exhibition form (gallery installation, web-based platform) best supports the expression of an idea? That is, how can form optimize documentary’s potential to connect us to unfamiliar places, objects, or situations? In confronting the effectiveness of form, these works amplify new and unexpected tensions: between the need to participate and the desire to withdraw, between aesthetic expression and direct action, between staying inside or going out...”
Also The Flaherty announces a celebration programme organised together with Moma to take place end of June. The opening screening includes two films by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, ”Daybreak Express” (1953) and ”Town Bloody Hall” (1971).
What an active organisation. Congratulations!
Written 11-06-2014 14:04:14 by Tue Steen Müller
”You’re nobody till somebody loves you” is the well known song that, among others, accompanies the visit to one of Japan’s 37.000 love hotels, the one in Osaka, Angelo Hotel. This song underlines the tone of a film that works with many characters, chosen from a representative point of view. There is the couple, Mr. And Mrs. Sakamoto, who – in their 40’es - come to give their sex life a revival. There is the pensioner couple, who come to dance in one of the many play rooms offered by the hotel. The single young woman who meets the married man for his secret affair. The gay couple. The old man who does not have sex any longer but comes to have a calm moment, some pornography and to write a letter to his smiling neighbour. And the fashion designer to be, who brings her suitcase for the s & m sessions she performs...
It’s all very respectfully conveyed, no tabloid, it is nice to look at, it’s a light film that has been given a dreamerish touch in colours and editing, in and out of the corridors to the rooms. Of course you go to the bed of some of the customers but you never feel like a naughty peeper. The casted characters are natural in front of the
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Written 11-06-2014 10:35:26 by Tue Steen Müller
… is the title of a film made by Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova. It was on its way for several years and is now out and has raised strong controversy in the country of origin, Bulgaria. But I have seen nobody write about the film! I saw a rough close to final cut last year and wrote to Mina and Vesela, whom I have known for many years:
“Thanks for inviting me to watch. And, ahhh, got tears in my eyes, when I saw your text - that Uncle Toni died this year. What a wonderful man and fine artist, you have made him to be in a film that is very creative, I liked it a lot.
The scene where he is drawing on the blackboard and making movements manipulated in pace by you, the clips from his films of course, you and him when he is taking down the boxes, (some of) the conversations with colleagues, your dispute with the school principal is hilarious, and veeery good that you kept the two children for the ending and make them perform in each their way…”
Back to the trouble, this is a quote from Film New Europe yesterday:
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Written 09-06-2014 10:13:32 by Tue Steen Müller
For the seventh time the Documentarist festival is running in Istanbul – until June 12 – under the leadership of, among others, director Emel Çelebi. There is a Turkish Panorama, a focus on Syria, a tribute to Johan van der Keuken, an international Panorama, a section called Memoriam, where Alain Resnais classic ”Nuit et Brouillard”, Malik Bendjelloul’s “Searching for Sugar Man”, Peter Liechti’s “The Sound of Insects” and Michael Glawogger’s “Working Man’s Death” will be on screen.
Tomorrow, if you happen to be in Istanbul, Pawel Lozinski will be visiting the festival to show and discuss the idea behind “Father and Son”. The festival presents the case study like this:
The documentary filmmakers Marcel and Pawel Lozinski are father and son. They went on a trip together in order to make a film and they ended up making two differently edited documentaries of the same journey. What has happened on roads and in the editing room? Why have they decided to make their own versions but not one common film? In the ‘case study’ about this unique experience, we’ll hear the son’s side of the story.
Written 07-06-2014 16:21:09 by Tue Steen Müller
I have posted several texts on Ukraine and the brave filmmakers there. Here is one more after contact with Dar’ya Averchenko and Roman Bondarchuk. The two of them have taken part in the admirable work “Euromaidan. Rough Cut”, which is a final film and NOT a rough cut.
This is what Roman Bondarchuk wrote to me: The name of the project is Euromaidan. Rough Cut. But actually it is not a rough cut but a completed project. In this case 'rough cut' is a concept, a metaphor. At the moment the Maidan and all movements it has launched still are not over and you can say the whole country is on the stage of rough cut now…
A clever thought and a clever film, that has the presence and the passion of the moment. Ready to be shown at festivals all over…
However, renowned Sergei Loznitsa premiered his “Maidan” in Cannes, 134 minutes, great reviews in Variety and Hollywood Reporter, and that will unfortunately influence the distribution of the omnibus film made by the young Ukranian filmmakers, who lived at Euromaidan. Festivals tend to go for names, don't they?
Or will you? Why not both films, dear festival programmers. I have not seen Loznitsa’s
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Written 04-06-2014 11:46:55 by Tue Steen Müller
It was quite moving to be an observer outside the Aribau Club on the closing night of the DocsBarcelona festival. Syrian refugees lined up to hug the director Talal Derki, who got the main award for his ”Return to Homs”. Many of them were from Homs, you could see their emotions and gratitude towards the director, who had documented and interpreted. They wanted to have photos taken together with him holding the sculpture of the DocsBarcelona winner. A souvenir, a memory coming from the heart.
The night before in a restaurant after the screening of ”Return to Homs” this photo was taken. Talal Derki to the left, your reporter to the right and in the middle Adam, son of Talal, 18 months, away from home as his father and mother, impossible to really understand what it means to be an exiled filmmaker.
Written 02-06-2014 09:18:37 by Tue Steen Müller
Festive closure of DocsBarcelona 2014. The film ”Five Days to Dance” by Rafa Molés and Pepe Andreu were shown to a full house. The film that was pitched at the festival 2013 describes how two dancers are able to get a group of teenagers to the stage to dance. Emotional work with a happy ending.
After the screening the awards were handed out. From the website of the festival:
DocsBarcelona Award - Best Film TV3 Award - RETURN TO HOMS (photo) , by Talal Derki
Special Jury Award for Best Film JOANNA by Aneta Kopacz
New Vision - Best Film Award BELLEVILLE BABY by Mia Engberg
Audience Award for best film of the Official Selection and New Vision - LA MUERTE DE JAIME ROLDÓS, by Lisandra I. Rivera, Manolo Sarmiento
Docs & Teens Award - ENTRE EL CEL I LA TERRA , by Tono Folguera , David Fernandez de Castro , Román Parrado
DOC -U Award - HUELLAS DE AUSENCIA , by Ana Monrás ( ESCAC, (University) )
PRO -DOCS Award for Best Catalan Television Documentary 2013 - DEMÀ MORIRÉ, by Justin Webster
Best InterDocsBarcelona Popathon Prototype , consisting of an annual Klynt Pro License for each member of the winning team. Sponsored by Klynt " StereotypeCelona " by Juan Lesta , Laia Ros, Maria Llobet and Hermes Carter
Written 01-06-2014 11:00:53 by Tue Steen Müller
Sunday morning in Barcelona, last day of the festival, awards to be given tonight. Walked home to hotel from the Aribau Club Cinema around 1am after quite a long festival evening. Accompanied by Irina Shatilova, whose film ”Linar” had been shown, as were ”Return to Homs” and ”Everyday Rebellion”.
We talked about the ”Femen” activists, who appear in ”Everyday Rebellion”, about Ukraine and Russia, and about Pussy Riots. As a true documentarian Irina Shatilova had been into the streets of Barcelona during the evening filming the demonstrations going on... while films on demonstrations were shown in the cinema halls! Leaving the cinema you could see black police cars lined up in the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes plus a couple of ambulances. The sound of police sirenes was loud as was the noise from above, the ever circling surveillance helicopters.
A quote from Guardian Thursday: Thirty people have been arrested after a third night of rioting in the Sants district of Barcelona. The trouble started on Monday when police forcibly evicted people from Can Vies, a building that has served as an unofficial civic centre for 17 years. After Wednesday night's arrests more protests have been called for, with further violence expected…
Inside Aribau Club Cinema one of the Riahi brothers behind “Everyday Rebellion”, Arman, answered questions from the audience and invited it to go to the website of the popular film that deals with non-violence activism. We were afraid that it would be too late for a Question and Answer session after midnight, we were wrong, at least one hundred people stayed to take part.
Written 31-05-2014 13:13:32 by Tue Steen Müller
Looong, well deserved applause to Talal Derki last night when ”Return to Homs” was shown at CCCB. The director, who is now living in Turkey and Berlin – all his family is out of Syria – talked with the audience on this occasion as he did earlier the same evening at la Pedrera, where a masterclass was held entitled ”Documentaries – a Tool for Change?” including Andreas Johnsen (Ai WeiWei – The Fake Case), Arman Riahi (Everyday Rebellion) and Xavier Artigas, Xapo Ortega (Ciutat Morta = Dead City).
I have to say that the latter has changed my view on Barcelona as this nice and friendly city full of beauty and football... The film is a shocking cinematic documentation on police brutality and corruption, young people being tortured and put in jail for no reason – and a moving interpretation of the tragedy of a young poet. Here is the synopsis from the catalogue:
June 2013, 800 people illegally occupy an old movie theater in Barcelona in order to screen a documentary. They rename the old building after a girl who committed suicide in 2011: Cinema Patricia Heras. Who was that girl? Why did she kill herself and what does the city have to do with it? That's exactly what the squatting action is about: letting everyone know the truth about one of the worse corruption cases in Barcelona, the dead city.
Written 30-05-2014 12:32:34 by Tue Steen Müller
Wednesday night, full house in the Aribau Club cinema, where Israeli Shirly Berkovitz (photo) showed her amazing ”The Good Son” and told the audience how the film took off: A young man contacts her with some video tapes that he had made, kind of video diaries, very personal, telling her what he intends to do to realise his dream. Catalogue text: What goes through the mind of a young man who decides to fulfill his dream whatever the cost may be? Where lies the border between self-fulfillment and staying loyal to your family?
In respect for those who have not seen the film, no more words about the journey the two take together in a film that touches on ethical questions, on the relationship between filmmaker and character to be filmed, on dramaturgy – it’s all there and the film received strong applause at the opening of the seventh edition of DocsBarcelona.
The morning after the pitching forum of DocsBarcelona came up. I attended half of presentations and noticed that Greek Marco Gastine as producer and Apostolos Karakasis are working on a fine project called “Next Stop: Utopia” about a group of workers who take over their factory – logline: When a Greek factory goes bankrupt, the workers occupy it and attempt to run it on their own. Self-management proves no easy task; soon they discover that they first need to change themselves…
Karakasis made in 2009 “National Garden” that by filmkommentaren was nominated as one of the ten best films of that year. A quote from the review of a film from the garden in Athens: …a mosaic structure as a warm hug to people, to us all, with our joys and worries, dreams and sorrows…fine seasonal observations from the garden, a mini-society, a mirror of what is outside. Karakasis has done all himself, directing, camera and editing. It is an impressive and very mature work that will travel the world and stay as an important film for Greece of today…
Written 27-05-2014 20:34:12 by Tue Steen Müller
Colombian director Juan Pablo Rios was the first of three filmmakers coming for the rough cut sessions of DocsBarcelona 2014. The concept of the sessions is very simple: the filmmaker turns up with his work at a rough cut stage, a lot is still to be done but the rough cut stage allows him/her to receive comments and constructive criticism from a small, hand-picked panel of people, who are used to watch rough cut and give competent feedback.
The title of the director’s rough cut was ”The Return”, 90 minutes long, pitched at DocsBarcelona 2013, where I wrote the following words:
”Colombian Juan Pablo Rios showed his cinematic talent with a teaser that accompanied his ambition to tell a story called ”The Return” about a family of 9 sisters, their suffering and need to leave the town, they lived in, when the father took his own life. 45 years have passed, they return...”
So, one year later, and after several cuts, Rios confirmed fully his talent with material that can turn into a great film, feature length, beautifully shot with wonderful characters, the sisters, including his mother, one of several charismatic characters, who – a quote from the film – ”are united in sadness”. Yes, there is a lot of pain in this film that takes us to a small community where a suicide had severe consequences for a family’s life. But there is also a beautiful warm solidarity between the sisters, and anecdotes and life situations to be identified with.
A couple of more months editing work and a fine Colombian film will travel the world.
Written 27-05-2014 10:48:40 by Tue Steen Müller
I am in Barcelona. The DocsBarcelona festival and its associated activities for professionals start today. I am in the Pulitzer Hotel next to Plaza de Catalunya, nice room with a look to a street wall covered by a photo of Andrés Iniesta. Yes, the midfielder of FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team, a great player but, alas, also one from a team that did not win anything this year.
Talking about photos the symbolic logo of the 2014 festival – take a look at it – has provoked many and many different interpretations. Last night in the hotel restaurant two waitresses came up with two reactions that are pretty much linked. What comes into your mind when you look at this cover of the catalogue, I asked them.
Freedom, one said, slavery the other said, survival a third one at the table added.
Well, true it is that several of the films in the festival deal with the problems of the world today and the search for freedom: ”Return to Homs” by Talal Derki, ”Everyday Rebellion” by the Iranian/Austrian brothers Riahi, “Ai WeiWei – the Fake Case” by Andreas Johnsen and “Ciutat Morta” by Xavier Artigas, Xapo Ortega. I mention these four films which in very different ways deal with resistance against suppression from people in power and totalitarian authorities. The directors behind the four films will take part in a masterclass this coming Friday at the famous Gaudi building La Pedrera, 6pm, free entrance, entitled: “Documentary, a tool to change the world?”.
I am responsible for three rough cut sessions – as written on the website: Three documentaries will be presented privately to a selection of producers, directors, consultants, sales agents and distributors. The goal is to generate creative and constructive discussions that will favour the projects' entry into the international market.
First one will be presented today: “Return” by Colombian director Juan Pablo Rios.
Written 22-05-2014 11:35:25 by Tue Steen Müller
The Czech production company Film&Sociology was so kind to send me a vimeo link so I could watch Janek’s film on Olga Havlova, which I had read about passionately because of ”Citizen Havel”, where she is very much present with her husband Vaclav, a film shot by Pavel Koutecky and put together by Miroslav Janek. 160.000 saw the film in Czech cinemas.
The film about Olga lives totally up to what I had expected. It is lively, entertaining, has wonderful archive material (Olga died in 1996) and gives the atmosphere of a period, where she like her husband, who was in prison several times, was under constant surveillance by the secret police. And later on was ”equipped” with bodyguards to accompany her as ”the first Lady” of the country. The bodyguards talk in the film as do several members of the group of dissidents – about the jolly underground meetings and parties they had, often initiated by Olga, who is praised – just one out of many words and sentences - for her subtle humour. And about Charter 77, the samizdat activity, the Movement for Civic Freedom. The way the surveillance reports are conveyed gives the film this typical absurdity you often find in Czech cinema
It’s history and it’s a film about a woman with an extraordinary charisma. She did not like (her husband says so) the pomposity of being ”the first lady”, she loved the theatre, she was an usher, she was Havel’s first dramaturg and the one, who often had to ”bring him down to earth”.
Many words are taken from her memoirs and Janek found a woman, who knew Olga, and had the kind of voice she had to read pages about her upbringing in communist Czechoslovakia. Editor Tonicka Jankova and director Miroslav Janek have done a great work to make this archive film fresh to watch. The montage is brilliant. Janek has said that he – in ”Citizen Havel” – could feel ”her persona”. Director and editor has succeeded to offer the audience the same. You never get really close to Olga, she wanted to keep her integrity and dignity, the filmmakers respect that dignity, her unsentimentality and humour – it is a film full of admiration for the protagonist, playful, informative, what more could you ask for?
Czech Republic, 2014, 87 mins.
Written 20-05-2014 13:09:33 by Tue Steen Müller
The website synopsis is precise so I quote that: “Every day in Finland alone, two people commit suicide. Thousands of people are affected by suicide yearly. Once I Dreamt of Life is a feature length documentary film about suicide — subject that people rarely want to talk about. It’s an account about one’s personal relation to suicide, but also studies suicide as social phenomena: What are the motives, warning signs and consequences?
The film follows the journey of a young man, an animated character based on a real person, on his path towards suicide. The journey is described by people who’ve had encounters with suicide – parents who lost their child, young adults who considered or even tried committing suicide.
When linked together, these experiences offer a collage of our perception of suicide. They are full of pain, sorrow, and guilt, but they also tell about how people cope with the past and find a reason to go on with their lives. The intention is not to romanticize suicide or judge. It encourages people to talk about painful and difficult experiences and reminds us how important it is to be heard.”
Jukka Kärkkäinen and his cameraman J P Passi are again together in this film as they were with the two significant films The Living Room of a Nation and The Punk Syndrome. Kärkkäinen has this time co-directed a new film with Sini Liimatainen, which raises the fundamental dilemma: How do you visualise/how do you make a film about suicide? The choice has been to focus on a precisely arranged framing – as in The Living Room… - with the mentioned beautiful b/w animated sequences in between the monologues of the characters, who have stories to tell. The sequences are meant to provide space for a pause from the many words, time for reflection, time to digest the
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Written 19-05-2014 14:38:45 by Mikkel Stolt
The press kit for this film makes a point out of that this is no conventional sports documentary. It is true that the actual boxing scenes are quite limited and maybe the film makers find this fact as radical as its protagonist, but it is after all a quite conventional documentary consisting of archive material and recent interviews. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t interesting (frankly, I’ve always found boxing a bit too destructive to be really beautiful, but maybe that’s just me), and the film’s biggest credo is to give us a new insight towards the life and times of the man who was baptized Cassius Clay and renamed Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam. I don’t recall having seen much of the archive material or any of the interviewees in another film before, and the structural editing brings it neatly and chronologically together without any need for a narrator.
The main focus of the film is to shine a light on the clash between a very segregated society and a talented, Afro-American boxer with an extreme self-confidence. At first, we are presented with a young, black fighter, belittled by a bunch of unpleasant middle-aged “personalities” on TV and from then on, the film is steering us towards thinking that Ali is just that: a victim that stood up against a racist society. It may very well be part of the truth of Ali’s life and even though we do get a few sound bites with black Americans opposing Ali’s statements about the white man being the devil, the dialectics of the film are somewhat limited.
It raises questions: Why Ali turned to Nations of Islam and their leader Elijah Muhammad rather than the civil rights movements and Martin Luther King? And what did the differences between Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam consist of? And did the Supreme Court have a point by questioning Ali’s conscientious objection to go to Vietnam as a drafted soldier? But those are not questions I long for to remain (at least in part) unanswered and I’d rather have the film forcing me to rethink my own prejudice against the US in the 1960’es and 70’es or to make parallels to society of today or to the clash between different religious and/or ideological ideas. Let me be fair: it does that too, for instance by reminding us that Louisville Sponsoring Group, a group of white capitalists, backed Clay up in the first years - supposedly to his satisfaction – and by quoting him of the now rather obsolete statement that Nation of Islam didn’t kill Malcolm X, because “muslims wouldn’t kill anybody nor carry a weapon” (ca. 1967).
All in all, it’s a somewhat conservative film about a radical protagonist but well worth your while if you are interested in modern American history… and in this neck of the woods (planet Earth) you kind of have to.
USA, 2013, 92 mins.
Written 15-05-2014 08:32:24 by Tue Steen Müller
At DocsBarcelona 2013 Michael Glawogger asked me if I could write a piece on ”Megacities” and the remix of it done by Timo Novotny, ”Life in Loops”. Compare the two, he said, and he gave me the dvd's of the films, that I knew very well and admired. I sent the article to Michael, he thanked me, wanted to use it in a book on ”Megacities”. I did not hear from him and now it's too late to ask him what happened with the book project... Therefore, as a tribute to a great filmmaker's work and generosity towards a young colleague, here is the article:
It was at the Ex Oriente workshop in 2004/05 that I met Timo Novotny and ”Life in Loops”. He presented this original idea to dive into the film ”Megacities” by Michael Glawogger, tear it to pieces to make his version of a work, that already at that time was considered to be a neo-classic in modern documentary.
He talked for hours about how and why. And to all of us, whose first question was ”do you have the permission”, he stressed, that Glawogger had given him access to use the 40 hours of material that he had shot in Bombay, Mexico City, Moscow and New York. And that Glawogger had no intention to interfer in the remix, the word Timo used, of the material. It was the first time I had heard about such a generous attitude from a director with an international reputation.
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Written 14-05-2014 10:06:41 by Tue Steen Müller
Have to confess that I did not know about the online documentary film magazine DOK Revue. Now I do, and it is no surprise that this fine initiative comes out of the Czech Republic, this time from the Jihlava International Documentary Film festival, whose energetic director Marek Hovorka together with Petr Kubica has made an interview with Miroslav Janek (photo) on the occasion of the release of his film “Olga”. I take a couple of quotes from the interview, link below to he magazine and the whole text:
Was the latest film Olga meant to be an amendment to Citizen Havel? To what extent were you affected by the work on Citizen Havel?
Apart from the fact that Olga Havlová was Václav Havel’s wife, those two films have nothing in common. They are formally completely different. Citizen Havel was made by Pavel Koutecký, the material had been ready and I was only an editor who had to work with what was available, although Tonička was my co-editor, too (Janková, editor’s note). Whereas in the case of Olga, I started from the scratch. It is also composed of archival materials, but they come from all sorts of sources. And yet, thanks to Citizen Havel I got to know Olga a bit better. I could feel her persona and found out what impression she makes on the screen.
The film is, to a large extent, concerned with the period of Czech history which you did not personally experience. (Janek was out of the country 1979-1996, ed.). Is this fact one of the reasons why you find this period so attractive?
I did not experience the period of dissent, and perhaps I like to experience it through my films. In the case of Olga, I knew that this period was of utmost interest to me, but not because of dissent. I was interested in the spirit of this movement, their world, their humour. It provided a sort of a counterbalance to the surrounding idiocy, the stupidity of the police. And this may be why so much space in the film is dedicated to this issue, although some might find it inappropriate.
Written 13-05-2014 11:00:38 by Tue Steen Müller
... will be shown on Danish Dokumania (DR2) tonight. It was written about on filmkommentaren last August with a quote from NY Times critic A.C. Scott:
”Apart from some old news clips, most of the images come from Super-8 home movies shot, starting just after the 1968 election, by Dwight Chapin, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, loyal Nixon aides and eventual Watergate felons. Their amateur footage is accompanied by snippets of the now famous White House tapes and intercut with rueful post-prison interviews. The experience is a bit like a demo version of a greatest-hits album. Well-known episodes — the trip to China, the Pentagon Papers, Vietnam, the wedding of Nixon’s daughter Tricia, and of course the fallout from a certain third-rate Washington burglary — take on a strange new coloring, revealing a curiously touching human dimension.” (A.C. Scott)
Written 11-05-2014 10:28:32 by Tue Steen Müller
This is a film, that I can't wait to see. The main character is Olga Havlová, the director is Miroslav Janek. It guarantees the quality. Janek made “Citizen Havel” into an unforgettable film, when he took over the material that Pavel Koutecky had filmed during more than a decade. In the film you see Olga next to Havel, what a charisma, what a personality full of dignity, I thought. And now there is a film on its way with her as the main focus. Here is what I have taken from the IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) website:
May 15, 2014 is the date of the distributional premiere of Olga - the newest documentary by the renowned director Miroslav Janek. Olga is a portrait of the late Czech president Václav Havel's wife, assembled in an interesting way. It enables the audience to look into the previously unpublished archives and shows primarily the civil side of the main character.
Olga Havlová is remembered by her friends as the closest partner of Václav Havel, as a friend who never spoils a good laugh, a generous host, passionate player and nature lover. In their eyes, she was s a brusque commentator, a brave and dilligent dissident, and a wise and practical woman. Those who never met her in person remember her as a respectable first lady and the founder of the very first charitable organization in our country. On July 11th, 2013 Olga would have lived to celebrate her 80th birthday. This film is not to be made to celebrate the anniversary, but to reflect upon the way we remember her.
The police couldn't break her, the Castle didn't change her: The remarkable story of Václav Havel's reluctant first lady. Olga Havlová was the closest and most trustworthy companion of Václav Havel, a friend who was never a spoilsport - on the contrary, she initiated the fun herself - a generous host, passionate games-player and mushroom-gatherer, a nature-lover, sharp commentator, courageous and diligent dissident; a wise and practical woman, always with her feet on the ground and true to herself. In 1990 she founded the Výbor dobré vůle (Committee of Good Will), still doing its good work today.
Written 09-05-2014 11:28:49 by Tue Steen Müller
It’s on the political agenda in most countries, it is being discussed in the EU – undeclared work – and of course it is also the case in Turkey. When it comes to the profession of domestic workers, which does not count for anything, the situation is even worse.
Some brave women do something to change the working conditions for this profession in Turkey. They are launching a campaign demanding human working conditions for domestic workers. The whole process, the solidarity between the women in action, and what comes out of it, has been followed closely by Emel Celebi, an engaged female director, who also stands behind the documentary festival Documentarist.
She is with them in their homes, in one case also at the home of one of the customers, when they talk about compensation for injuries that come from the work, when they set up the ”Broom Academy” to educate colleagues and when they go to lobby the politicians or when they are in the streets to recruit members (photo) and get people to sign petitions for a better, safe and decently paid work. One of the strongest moments, however, is when one of them reads the note from the client of what is expected of her job on that specific day – there is enough for a whole week, as a colleague states.
Strong women characters in a well-made film that you can only give your full sympathy.
The film had its premiere at Istanbul Film Festival. For festival people who are a member of the festival scope, the film is available on this vod. It deserves to travel.
Turkey, 2014, 55 mins.
Written 08-05-2014 13:37:12 by Tue Steen Müller
with the subtitle ”The Sumo Wrestler’s Son” – is a fine documentary for children. The production company Final Cut for Real estimates the primary target audience to be between 6 and 12, but it is also one of those films that easily can be watched by the whole family or in a school class with a follow-up talk on many issues.
Actually is places itself very well in the Danish tradition for making quality Films for children avoiding a heavy, well-meaning educational aim. Which does not exclude that you, from a well-made and well-told film, can have good conversations about competition, about sport, about training hard to be better, about the relationship between father and son, where the father – that’s what the son thinks – pushes him to be like himself, but where the ending of the film, where Chikara manages to get into the Top 16, but had hoped for more, shows the father and mother happy with his performance.
The building of the film is simple – Chikara trains for the big competition, he meets obstacles, he says at a point that he likes to watch sumo but not to perform, but he does so for the sake of the father in a competitive environment that you on the other hand don’t feel as cruel as you have seen in other films from Japan, where this sport for BIG kids and adults is BIG.
The effort to make documentaries for children is commendable and I was happy to learn from the producer Monica Hellström that this film is part of a series of 6 films, produced by Nordic companies. The Norwegians have asked Viktor Kossakovsky to take part. Danish Simon Lereng Wilmont is making a film about a Danish boy, who practises the fencing sport. More documentaries for kids? Yes, Please!
Denmark, 2013, 32 mins.
Written 07-05-2014 11:09:24 by Tue Steen Müller
The timing is fine, it's a warm-up for the World Cup in Brazil. 4 days of football films in wonderful Grand Teatret in Copenhagen after an American concept, if I get it right – over there they call it soccer. The programme (June 1 -4 ) is not yet finished, the poster is as you can see, but ”Les Rebelles do Foot” is advertised, French documentary, presented by Eric Cantona, including stars like Drogba, Socrates and Caszely.
Check the facebook side of Grand Teatret and you will be updated on the films to be screened.
Written 06-05-2014 21:22:27 by Tue Steen Müller
Again a generous offer from DocAlliance, concerning Gianfranco Rosi, Italian documentarian, who won the Golden Lion in Venice last year with Bernardo Bertolucci as chair of the jury. This is the text from the vod and view the three great works from the director, for free until May 11:
Untraditional protagonists, perhaps eccentrics, yet always with a clear world view. Such are the people depicted in the documentaries by Gianfranco Rosi. The director uses the camera rather as a microscope, observing the events around him with endless patience and care. In his eyes, seemingly simple and banal stories become urgent and complex accounts of the state of contemporary society. It is the very combination of inner determination and meditative observation, with which Rosi has filmed the everyday lives of Romans living in the vicinity of the major traffic artery Grande Raccordo Anulare for two years, that has charmed the Venice jury.
The surprising and very first documentary winner of Venice is available to viewers from the Czech Republic and Slovakia in an online premiere on Monday, May 5 at DAFilms.cz. For the first time in the portal’s history, the viewers have a unique chance to decide whether and how much they want to pay for the premiere viewing of SACRO GRA. Will they appreciate the Golden Lion by a full fee, a symbolic support or will they use the opportunity of watching the winning film for free? Let’s wait and see!
All the other viewers from across the globe can watch the director’s previous films in a unique online retrospective in the week from May 5 to 11 at DAFilms.com completely for free! Meet a Mexican mass murderer in EL SICARIO, ROOM 164 (2010) while safely seated in your couch at home. Pop out to the North American desert where a group of social outcasts lives in self-imposed solitude in BELOW SEA LEVEL (2008). Last but not least, do not forget to sail the Ganges River with an untraditional guide. BOATMAN (1993) is waiting for you!
Written 05-05-2014 22:30:34 by Tue Steen Müller
DocsBarcelona includes for the second time webdocs and interactive productions in its programme. This is how it was announced in a press release of today:
Find out about the latest developments in research and production of webdocs. Do not miss the opportunity to listen to
Mandy Rose from i-docs, DCRC – University of the West of England
Mike Robbins from Helios Design Labs
Mads Damsbo from Makropol
Alvaro Liuzzi from Universidad Nacional de La Plata
Simon Duflo from Honkytyonk Films
Ricardo Villa from Lab RTVE
Elisabet Pons from MediaPro exhibitons
Maria Ripoli from Cromosoma 5
Coordinator: Arnau Gifreu - Open Documentary Lab (MIT) / i-Docs
WHERE: CCCB - Theater (Montalegre, 5)
WHEN: Friday 30th of May 9:00 am to 5:30 pm
Conference in English with simultaneous translation into Spanish
OBS. For the festival programme you can from today find short texts on films from the Officlal Section and the section called New Vision on the FB page of the festival:
The first one being the masterpiece ”Return to Homs” by Talal Derki.
Written 05-05-2014 19:00:03 by Tue Steen Müller
National Film Board of Canada/Office National du film du Canada is the oldest national film institution in the world, as far as I know. It started in 1939, and is being celebrated in and outside its own country because of its 75 years. For someone like me who worked for 20 years in the sister organisation National Film Board of Denmark (Statens Filmcentral) (that also started in 1939 with its activities now integrated in the Danish Film Institute) the NFB was a magnet of interest with its integration of production, promotion and distribution. The catalogue we built up included dozens of films from the NFB, many of them being animation films. Yes, this is where the genius Norman McLaren (PHOTO) made his films.
In world documentary history there are strong names placed from Canada, let me just mention Pierre Perrault, Colin Low, Roman Kroitor, Wolf Koenig and Peter Wintonick, who with NFB made “Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment” (1999), for me definitely the introduction to that lovely documentary sub-genre.
From the press release from NFB, sent out some days ago: Starting May 2, the NFB's online Screening Room, NFB.ca, will feature a web page dedicated
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Written 02-05-2014 13:15:09 by Tue Steen Müller
Young directors, fresh views and interpretations of the world today, resistance movements, new ways of storytelling – it is a golden age of the documentary and that is strongly reflected in the programme that the DocsBarcelona festival has just published!
I write this totally biased as I have had the privilege to be one of the programmers for the upcoming festival that takes off May 26 and runs until June 1. Let me give you words about some of the more than 40 films that will be on the screen.
The festival opens with a film that is unique in many ways: ”The Good Son” by Shirly Berkovitz. I met Shirly in Israel a couple of years ago and she told me that at a meeting for documentary people, a young man turned up to ask if anyone wanted to make a film about him, who deeply wanted to become a she. The young director Shirly went on the journey with him, an intensely painful journey through falsifications and lies towards the family, the director became a friend and ”partner in crime”, they took off to Thailand for the operations, and more I will not reveal here except for my joy that a warm and sensational film made without any tabloid touch opens the festival.
Another highlight is Talal Derki’s “Return to Homs” from Syria. I have previously written this about a film that I consider to be among the most important that has come out the last couple of years: … this is a personal drama experienced by Basset and Ossama, commented and equally experienced by Talal, conveyed in panoramic scenes that look like Berlin
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Written 29-04-2014 12:37:34 by Tue Steen Müller
Citat fra pressematerialet: Essensen i Bayaka kultur er deres ældgamle polyfoniske sang. Louis Sarno har gennem sine indspilninger af Bayaka folkets musik sikret en af verdens vigtige kulturarve; i 2003 fik Bayaka folkets musik UNESCO World Heritage Status. Louis Sarno har indspillet over 1000 timer af Bayaka folkets sang og musik. Bayaka folket kæmper i dag for deres overlevelse, da træfældere og guldspekulanter indtager deres leveareal. Over de sidste to årtier er 75 procent af Congo Basin regnskoven blevet ryddet...
Dette er baggrunden for Michael Oberts film, der fra i morgen, via Doxbio, har premiere I mere end 40 danske biografer. Den fortjener et stort publikum for sin smukke skildring af en mand, der I 25 år har levet I regnskoven hos Bayka-folket, hvor han har optaget deres enestående musik. Louis Sarno hviler I sig selv, når han sidder I sin lille hytte og udtrykker sin kærlighed til det samfund, som har taget ham til sig. Han har lovet sin søn, som han har med en Bayaka kvinde, Gomá, at vise ham hvor han selv er født og vokset op og turen til New York udgør anden halvdel af historien, hvor drengen Samedi oplever en helt anden verden, som selvfølgelig synes at fascinere ham.
This is what I wrote after the idfa festival, where the film got the main prize: The winner, ”Song from the Forest”, has an absolutely wonderful main character Louis Sarno, charismatic, sympathetic and his contribution to the collect of music from the pygmies is admirable and extraordinary. To see and listen to him is great, and there is a lot to get from his travel with the son, whereas it irritates when the filmmaker in the beginning of the story, as a kind of selling tool, brings in Jim Jarmusch to tell us how magnificent Louis and how apartheid is still to be found everywhere, there are other show-stoppers like that along the way...
I saw the film again this morning and focused on what I liked (still having problems with the editing structure of a film): Cinematographer Siri Klug) has amazingly beautiful images from the forest, this is where the film (accompanied by Bayaka music and renaissance music by William Byrd) lives aesthetically, whereas it falls a bit down when we go to the US with the interviews and family situations – maybe it was the intention to have it more prosaic to stay in harmony with what Sarno feels like when he is back to New York: I'm not a real person in this place. The story with him and the son is nice, father and son but not much more than that. In the forest he talks about the ”spiritual serenity” that he experiences, he talks in such a mild and calm and clever way when he sits in his humble house, but he (in the US part) is also more than concerned about the future of the Bayaka culture, and is he seriously ill, you think when you see him in New York?
Germany, 2013, 96 mins.
Written 27-04-2014 09:49:20 by Tue Steen Müller
This new film by Latvian film and opera director Kairiss will have its international premiere tomorrow at Visions du Réel in Nyon. Here is an article I wrote for the promotion of the film:
The first film work I met from the hands of Viesturs Kairiss was ”Romeo and Juliet” (2004). A wonderful original short documentary, or as it has been named ”a documentary musical”, where two deaf youngsters perform the staging of Bernstein’s ”West Side Story”. It has since then been one of my first choices, when I have had the privilege to make retrospectives of Baltic documentary cinema for international festivals.
I learned that Kairiss already from the late 1990’es worked as a theatre and opera director and in that field now has developed into an often used director internationally with a special fame for his Wagner opera settings. His way of working in opera was interpreted freely and with a lot of inspiration by his colleague Davis Simanis, a soul brother in Latvian documentary. The film was ”Valkyrie Limited” (2009), a masterpiece overseen by international festivals. Simanis has worked with Kairiss as editor in several of his films, including the features.
Kariss is an opera director who also makes films, and tries to
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Written 26-04-2014 14:09:03 by Tue Steen Müller
The EDN website is a rich source of general information for documentarians around the world. Available, even if you are not a member – which you definitely should be to get all the service provided by the organisation.
For instance the newly published call for projects to be pitched online, this time projects ”From the Opposition”, deadline for submission May 2nd, check the website, from where this (edited) text is taken:
EDN Online Pitching is a pitching format based on an online video conference, where a limited number of documentary projects are pitched. For this pitching session EDN is calling for documentary projects from the opposition. The submission deadline is May 2, 2014 at noon.
EDN Online Pitching is an initiative where four documentary projects are pitched to a group of leading international financiers and decision makers... each session lasts one hour. This session, which will focus on documentary projects on 'the opposition', will take place on May 23, 2014 at 14:00-15:00 (Central European Time).
With projects from the opposition, we mean documentary projects done by or portraying people, groups or movements forming a social or political opposition. This can for instance be:
- Political oppositions fighting for democratic rights
- Armed groups battling suppressing political leaderships
- Social movements trying to change current dominant structures.
For this session we plan to have the presence of 4 - 6 financiers and experts with a special interest and experience in human rights, political and current affairs documentaries. So far the following have confirmed their participation:
Iikka Vehkalahti, YLE, Finland
Ryan Harrington, Tribeca Film Institute, USA
This is EDN of today, if you want to hear a bit from the past, EDN has published an interview with its Member of the Month, Tue Steen Müller, who remembers the days of the fax machine in the office in the mid 1990'es.
Written 25-04-2014 09:27:37 by Tue Steen Müller
”A World of Troubled Beauty…”
NY Times brought the most precise headline to an article about the films of Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger’s impressive work: A World of Troubled Beauty – referring to his trilogy ”Megacities”, ”Workingman’s Death” and ”Whore’s Glory”. (Post 08-08-2012)
AN ART OF CROSSING BOUNDARIES
The IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) website informs that the first retrospective of the Austrian documentarian is taking place in New York at the Museum of Moving Images until April 29. The website of the Museum includes interesting text excerpts from a soon to be published book on Glawogger. Here comes the series intro by the museum:
”One of the most versatile and original talents in contemporary world cinema, the Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger has made an art of crossing boundaries, both geographic and formal. He spans diverse, far-flung locations within a single film, often dealing with ambiguous notions of home and foreignness, and moves back and forth between fiction and documentary, sometimes combining and subverting both modes. Glawogger’s career resists classification at every turn, but whether set on the margins of the developing world or in precincts of privilege, his surprising, beautifully photographed films are testaments to his own boundless curiosity and to the endless complexity of the human condition. This retrospective, his first in the United States, includes his widely acclaimed and much debated documentary trilogy on harsh working environments, as well as a selection of fiction features and experimental short films.” (Post 22-04-2012)
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Written 23-04-2014 18:01:01 by Tue Steen Müller
Shocking news – Michael Glawogger has died from malaria during the shooting of a film in Africa. So young! My deepest condolences to family and the many, who were close to him.
In June last year I had the privilege to moderate a masterclass with Michael Glawogger (photo). It happened in Barcelona at DocsBarcelona, where his ”Whores Glory” was shown. I had recommended the masterclass to happen after meeting the director at the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade 2011, where he stayed the whole week of the festival, took everyone by heart with his warm generosity and ability to inspire, sharing his experience as a filmmaker, who never compromised and gave us, as he expressed it himself, a description of ”la condition humaine”.
In connection with a retrospective in New York, NY Times characterised his impressive work as ”A World of Troubled Beauty” – referring to his trilogy ”Megacities”, ”Workingman’s Death” and ”Whore’s Glory”. Films that will stay in film history.
A couple of quotes from his hand, taken from the many texts about Glawogger: ”I start filming when I sense that nothing is exotic any longer. But common. Not before.”“For me documentary filmmaking is a very special kind of life and I come to see places in a way that I could not see by just travelling, and I would also feel lost travelling without the purpose of watching things in order to work with them, since that makes sense to me. If I weren't a filmmaker, I wouldn't take that time for travelling and watching, so that makes me very happy. The people I meet for these films, that make them very happy...”
Take a look at the photo, see his smile, see his calm and open invitation to ask whatever question relevant to the art of filmmaking that he mastered so wonderfully – most recent with the film from the National Library in St.Petersburg.
Written 22-04-2014 23:23:23 by Tue Steen Müller
Is this a wise decision, I wondered, when i read a text on "Film New Europe" a couple of weeks ago:
Governmental bodies in both Latvia and Lithuania have banned broadcasts of Russian state TV channels. A three month ban began on 8 April 2014. Lithuania first issued a three month ban of the Russian channel NTV Mir two weeks earlier over broadcast of the documentary The Convicted. It later suspended broadcasts of RTR-Planeta (Russia) also for a period of three months. Latvia issued a three-month suspension of rebroadcasts of the channel Rossiya RTR over reports of biased coverage reflecting military propaganda. One-third of Latvia’s population is native Russian-speaking, and 8 percent of Lithuania’s population is comprised of native Russian language speakers...
I decided to ask three very good friends to give me their reactions, Latvian Lelda Ozola who works as Media Desk at the National Film centre, film directors Giedre Beinoriūtė and Audrius Stonys from Lithuania. The answers, the strongest one first, were:
STONYS: Let me answer you what I think about the banning of Russian TV channels in few questions. Would it be possible that ‘Der Stűrmer’ or ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ would be published and distributed in London in
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Written 21-04-2014 17:39:37 by Tue Steen Müller
Danish DR/Dokumania shows tomorrow the American tv (NBC) documentary “Erasing Hate”. I got a link to watch it for a review, I could go through the first third of the film then the link went on strike. So no points are being given but impressions from what I saw and clips found on the internet:
The story is simple: Bryon Widner used to be “ready to kill for the white race.” For 15 years he was a skinhead, he was a neo-nazi. One of the worst, an expert in the field says. Bryon, that is what he says, “became a role model for many”. But he changed his mind when he found Julie, who was also part of the movement, they got a baby and decided to leave their violent past behind. BUT Bryon was tattooed all over, he wanted to get rid of the “signification of a killer”. So, that’s the story… people from an organisation that investigates the far right movements in the US meet with Bryon and Julie, wants to help and an anonymous donor pays for the plastic surgery that is extremely painful.
It is indeed an American documentary: Narration, interviews where you hear the interviewer, close-up of the tattoos, music from “wall to wall”, reenactments, sweet sequences from the family life etc. No surprises, but pretty hard to watch the plastic surgery going on! A quote from the doctor: Your heart has changed, now we need to change the surface…
(This article give the whole story in details).
To be shown on DR, Dokumania Tuesday April 22
USA, 91 mins., 2011
Written 19-04-2014 13:43:05 by Tue Steen Müller
Louis Andriessen, charismatic Dutch composer, and Mariss Jansons, charismatic Latvian chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. The two characters in the fascinating observational documentary drama, which is very well told, interesting and entertaining.
The drama evolves as the days pass. Andriessen has composed music for the 125 year's anniversary of the Concertgebouw, and enters the building to follow the rehearsals during the last five days before the performance. The camera stays very much on the face of the composer, who appears a bit nervous and confused in the beginning. His relationship to the musicians is warm and generous, while the relationship to the conductor is on the contrary a bit complicated. At some moments, to say the least... ”school teacher”, says Andriessen having discussed details with Jansons, ”he is a pain in the...”. Some of the musicians seem to agree with Jansons and his need for pedantry – it is clear that he in his questions to the composer that this is not the kind of music he favours – others like the more open attitude to interpretation that Andriessen stands for.
It is a very generous film. You get very close to the artistic creation of a fine piece of music, you get a fine impression of how two characters of different temperament get closer to each other, two old proud professionals who have to meet each other, whether they like it ot not. You see how an orchestra works preparing down to the smallest details, asking questions to the composer. Andriessen has very interesting comments to his work, to music and to from where his inspiration comes... Happy Ending, Andriessen walks out of the building, out into windy Amsterdam mission completed.
The film is shown in Tuschinski, Amsterdam May 6 in the context of the 75 birthday of the composer. It deserves an international life.
The Netherlands, 2014, 75 mins.
Written 18-04-2014 14:35:01 by Tue Steen Müller
It is rough. It is provoking. It is touching, poetic and shocking because you experience the difficulties of a man’s aim to come to terms with himself and life as it goes on in his head and around him in the psychiatric hospital, where he is, has been for 12 years and where he in a film, he is making himself, expresses his despair. Outstanding it is, nothing less!
He does not understand, why he is put up here, ”I am a bohemian, I write poems and songs, I take photographs, why am I here with retarded people”. And Mitch makes this film, together with Damir Cucic, filming himself and patients behind the bars, he is an intelligent well-formulated man, who talks about himself and asks questions in different languages to other patients. They sing songs, they rap and perform. Or sit on a bench, have given up, have been here for 22 years. These patients are not visually recognisable, they have been given silhouettes to cover their identity.
Mitch is a man who has been using many drugs, and you understand quickly that he is locked in because he has committed crimes. He turns the camera (a cellphone?) towards himself, he is filming himself at night time as well, and the director of the film, Damir Cucic, interprets his situation in these and many other
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Written 17-04-2014 22:26:09 by Tue Steen Müller
A mail came in today with the headline: Good News in Bad Times! It came from Orwa Nyrabia from Syrian Proaction Film, together with French Films d’Ici the producer of ”Silvered Water. Syria, An Auto-Portrait”.
Orwa Nyrabia: It is with much pleasure that we share with you, wonderful friends and partners, the news we received while Homs is under merciless shelling. Our new release is premiering in May, and taking the story another step further...
The film in question has been selected for the Festival de Cannes, Official Selection, Special Screenings.
Directed by Ossama Mohammed (photo) and Wiam Berdirxan, the description of the film goes like this, according to the mail received:
“In Syria, everyday, YouTubers film then die; others kill then film. In Paris, driven by my inexhaustible love for Syria, I find that I can only film the sky and edit the footage posted on YouTube. From within the tension between my estrangement in France and the revolution, an encounter happened. A young Kurdish woman from Homs began to chat with me, asking: ‘If your camera were here, in Homs, what would you be filming?”. Silvered Water is the story of that encounter.”
Indeed a Special Screening at the upcoming Cannes Festival!
Music by Noma Omran
Editing by Maisoun Asaad
In association with Arte France - La Lucarne
With the Support of CNC, AFAC and Sundance Documentary Fund, Procirep.
Written 12-04-2014 16:59:54 by Tue Steen Müller
... with the subtitle ”Caught in Between”. ”An Animated Documentary” it is said in the press material, and indeed it is, including all kind of animation techniques that I don’t have knowledge enough to characterise correctly. But what I can say is that I don’t remember to be so wonderfully surprised as I did with this film by a director, who does not hesitate to use the film language in all its beautiful range of possibilities within the animadoc genre: archive material, photos, interviews, ”normal” documentary footage in ”normal” speed and in fast motion, a personal commentary...
”A director’s quote from the press material: …the film was inspired by my family history. I was intrigued to hear a casual comment which my grandmother made one day: My great-grandmother - her mother - never got used to living in Slovakia. When I learnt that my grandmother’s family only moved to Slovakia after they had left Hungary – their homeland – I was stunned. My grandmother was only four years old and, naturally, she doesn’t recall much about the events of those days. Yet she remembers that the turbulent times after World War II dramatically affected the lives of numerous Slovaks and Hungarians. Today Felvidek is a Slovak territory largely populated by ethnic Hungarians. But back in the 1940s, thousands of people were forced to leave their homes and resettle. I never knew that! The postwar resettlement was never mentioned at school… Hungarians had to relocate from Slovakia to Hungary. 89 660 Hungarians left their homes in Slovakia at that time and 71 787 Slovaks from Hungary returned to Slovakia. My film has an ambition to show how postwar events affected the fates of people in both counties.”
It is a complicated story that the director wants to tell and sometimes along the watching of the film I found the explanatory text too dominating but that is a detail compared to the many superb poetic sequences, where images tell
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Written 10-04-2014 20:33:44 by Tue Steen Müller
It’s gonna be a bit personal/sentimental as I worked with Danish short films and documentaries for 20 years. At the Danish Statens Filmcentral, where the distribution on 16mm was huge to the whole non-theatrical sector – schools, community groups and assocaitions, high schools, universities and for children of course the kindergartens, but also art and culture houses, and libraries... Of course many of the films were shown on television, but – even if we around 1990 had 300.000 screenings organised at these places, the question was always from the individual viewer: Yes, but where can we see these fantastic documentaries that you talk about? We don't have a 16mm projector at home...!
As of today, after we went from 16mm prints to VHS to dvd to internet streaming, the answer is easier, go to your computer – it is organised, NOW, by The Danish Film Institute, through (yes, they use the name of the film institution that existed from 1939 to the mid 1990’es where it was merged with The Danish Film Institute) Filmcentralen, that offers Danes to go online and find films they want to watch for free, or film links where they have to pay a bit on other platforms. On top of that the viewer gets information about the film and its director. The photo to the text is from the poster of the masterpiece by one of ”our” masters, Jon Bang Carlsen, ”Hotel of the Stars” from 1981, available for free, as are 12 of the films by this director, for three others from his hand there is a link to other streaming possibilities. That's a treat!
300 films are available for free, links to many others, through this Filmcentralen, sorry it is not for non-Danish but why not pick up this idea? It’s cultural policy at its best!
There are of course many films that are not there yet, but it is an excellent start. Bravo!
Written 07-04-2014 21:00:20 by Tue Steen Müller
Today I got this emotional FB message from Sevara Pan, who has written many reviews for filmkommentaren, including one on “In My Father’s Garden”, an absolute highlight in modern documentary: Dearest Tue, I hope my email finds you well. I just wanted to let you know that today I've read the Swiss/Austrian news about Peter Liechti. I couldn't find any news in English about what happened. But maybe you can google translate this article. I couldn't believe it to be honest. I had an interview with him for DOX back in October. What a loss. It seems like his last film "Father's Garden" was his final to find peace before he passed away…
No google translation but an obituary from Swiss Films in English:
The Swiss director, author and cinematographer Peter Liechti died on Friday, 4 April 2014 in Zurich at the age of 63 after suffering from a serious illness. With Peter Liechti, Swiss cinema loses one of its most exceptional filmmakers with a remarkable international career.
With his documentaries and essays, Peter Liechti leaves behind a comprehensive and independent-minded opus, which has been shown at renowned film festivals worldwide and honoured with numerous retrospectives in New York, Rotterdam, Buenos Aires, Vienna, Leipzig and Berlin. He won the European Film Award in 2009 for “The Sound Of Insects – Record Of A Mummy”. In Switzerland, Peter Liechti won the Zurich Art Award and the Grand St. Gallen Cultural Award in 2010. His last film, “Father's Garden – The Love Of My Parents” was shown in the Forum competition section at the Berlin Film Festival in 2013 and was honoured with the Swiss Film Awards for Best Documentary Film and Best Editing in March 2014.
Peter Liechti was born in 1951 in St. Gallen and initially studied painting and worked as an arts teacher, before turning to filmmaking. His interest in music and writing have always influenced and enriched his approach to cinema. His aphorisms appeared in “Lauftext – ab 1985” and in “Klartext” he published the conversations and thoughts that motivated his film “Father’s Garden: The Love of My Parents” (Vexer Verlag). As script consultant and producer he was committed to younger generations. Numerous filmmakers found their own cinematic voice thanks to his sharp mind and critique. As a cinematographer, he left visual marks in the works of other filmmakers.
Zurich, april 7, 2014
Written 05-04-2014 21:47:50 by Tue Steen Müller
A bit late, but you should know… taken from the website of the festival: 11th International documentary films about human rights festival has ended in Kyiv. The awards ceremony was held On March 27 in Cinema House in Kyiv. Hosts of the ceremony: popular journalists Nataliya Gumenyuk and Andriy Saychuk.
Films were competing for prizes in three categories: DOCU/LIFE, DOCU/RIGHT, DOCU/SHORT, and for the special prize from Students’ Jury. The festivals’ Orzanizing Committee favorite is awarded with the Andriy Matrosov Award.
Docudays UA 2014 Winners:
Main prize: The Last Limousine (director Daria Khlestkina, Russia, 2014) (PHOTO: director and the jury, Mitic, Macdonald and Baumann). For a dignified, compassionate portrayal of state-factory workers lost in transition, but not in humanity. Perfectly casted, well crafted, and touching in its social, economic, and political absurdity.
Special mention: Crepuscule (director Valentyn Vasyanovych, Ukraine, 2014) For a visually and emotionally superior depiction of human resilience, sensibility, and interdependence.
Special mention: Night Labor (directors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, USA, Canada, 2013) For a provocative, atypical, allegorical description of industrial work and personal freedom.
Jury members: Boris Mitić, a Serbian documentary filmmaker, journalist; Chris McDonald, president of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival; Simone Baumann, a German producer, head of the documentary department of Saxonia Entertainment GmbH
Main prize: Mother’s Dream (director Valerie Gudenus, Switzerland, 2013) For a highly sensitive, empathic, and artistic presentation of a controversial and socially resonant human rights problem, affecting the fates of women and children globally.
Special mention: No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka (director Callum Macrae, UK, 2013) For the powerful use of video advocacy in global awareness-raising and opinion-shaping regarding the mass murders of civilians belonging to a Tamil minority in Sri Lanka.
Special mention: Captain and His Pirate (director Andy Wolff, Belgium, Germany, 2012) For exceptional courage of the film crew and an outstanding presentation of international piracy phenomenon as presented by a victim and his prison guard.
Jury members: Andrzej Poczobut, a Belarussian journalist; Natalka Zubar, a Ukrainian human rights activist, journalist, screenwriter, director; Oksana Sarkisova, a Program Director at the Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival (Hungary).
Main prize: Liza, Go Home! (director Oksana Buraja, Lithuania, Estonia, 2012) For filmmaker's poetic sensibility and respect for other humans’ secrets.
Special mention: Joanna (director Aneta Kopacz, Poland, 2013) For filmmaker's ability to be both intimate and discreet.
Special mention: Mom (director Lidia Sheinina, Russia, 2013) For ability of the filmmaker to find in the closed world of one apartment "things that quicken the heart".
Jury members: Andrei Zagdansky, a Ukrainian-American director and producer; Victoria Belopolskaya, film critic, а programming director of ArtDocFest, the most influential Russian festival for creative documentaries; Stéphanie Lamorré, a French documentary filmmaker, international independent writer, producer and director
STUDENTS’ JURY AWARD
Tucker and the Fox (director Arash Lahooti, Iran, 2013) For an optimistic story about a life-long passion.
Jury Members: Viktor Kylymar, Oleksandr Shkrabak, Halia Vasylenko, Petro Vyalkov, Tetyana Chesalova.
Joanna (director Aneta Kopacz, Poland, 2013)
ANDRIY MATROSOV AWARD FROM THE DOCUDAYS UA ORGANIZING COMMITTEE
A Diary Journey (director Piotr Stasik, Poland, 2013)
Written 02-04-2014 20:10:32 by Tue Steen Müller
At the end of the film photos of old Chinese ladies come up on the screen. They have had the same experience in their lives: They were captured by the Japanese during the war and kept as prisoners in a camp to be abused by the soldiers. They were placed in a so-called ”Comfort Station”.
92 year old Wei Shaolan is one of them and she tells her own story that could quite as well have been one of the others. A clever decision of the filmmakers to concentrate on one – in this case a unique – storyteller. She lives with her son, the consequence of one of numerous rapes, ”a Japanese”, as he has been called many times, 68 years old he is and it seems that he does communicate with his mother. SHE is fabulous. Shocking to listen to her story about the suffering during the time as a prisoner, as well as her hard time back home with the husband, who did not recognise the son of a Japanese soldier. What a life and what a will she has had to survive, and how beautiful a cinematography. That makes her beautiful and where you really are invited to read her old face. Which is like a landscape. Lived Life and a film that is an important historical document that is very well made and respectful towards the woman and all the others, who experienced the horror.
China/ Hong Kong, 2013, 43 mins.
Written 02-04-2014 19:54:31 by Tue Steen Müller
Amdocs distributed several awards on the final evening of the festival. I was involved in the pitch competition and a juror for the Best American Feature Documentary. For that reason they come first on the list with some comments from my side. I did not watch the other winners.
The American Documentary Film Fund, part of the festival gave support to three film projects in different stages. 7 projects were pitched, 3 of them got $5000 as a grant, they all had an international perspective:
The Surrounding Game by Will Lockart, Cole D. Pruitt and Richard Miron... is a film about the Chinese fascinating play Go, its origin and some of its players.
The Most Fearless by Heather Kessinger... is a film about a Bangladesh girl, who wants to surf and thus break rules of a society that does not easily give space for women.
Encounter by Bruce Donnelly and Fermin Rojas... is a film about an upcoming (the first) gay men's chorus in Cuba. It is in an early stage but the two showed an impressive documentary about artists in Cuba, “Alumbrones”, at the festival.
Best American Feature Documentary ($500 each)
Queens & Cowboys by Matt Livadary, a warm, touching, well constructed, character driven documentary about members of the Gay Rodeo Association, shot over a year. 92 mins. Website link below. (PHOTO).
A Man Called God by Christopher and Kristoff St. John, a sensational film told by the son Kristoff about himself, his father and step-mother going to India in 1980 to make a film about Sai Baba, the spiritual leader, who seduced thousands of people - and sexually abused children, Kristoff being one of them, now as a grown-up telling the story. The film is to be released in the US, the Sai Baba organisation is expected to what it can to prevent it. 107 mins.
Best Foreign Feature Documentary ($500 each)
Edison Cajas: The Waltz (Chile)
Hugo Latulippe: Alphee of the Stars (Canada)
Best Foreign Short Documentary ($1000)
Sami Ajrami: On The Spot (Hungary)
Best Animated Short ($1000)
Rambaum/Scharbatke: Olgastrasse 18 (Germany)
Best American Short Documentary ($1000)
Lukas Dong: Smoked Salmon (USA/Sweden)
Filmmaker Who Makes a Difference Award: Harvey Weinstein
Rozene Supple Humanitarian Award: Cleve Jones
Written 02-04-2014 19:47:21 by Tue Steen Müller
As some other documentary festivals, DOKLeipzig is an example, Amdocs screens animation films. A good choice I thought after having attended a programme of 8 short ones from Germany, mostly from the film school in Baden-Württemberg. Puppet animation with beautiful handmade characters, dramatic stories, stop motion, ”normal” animation (this is not my genre as you could guess), several of them having this playfulness and wish to try something new and original that you often miss in documentary filmmaking. (Photo from the animation winner, ”Olgastrasse 18”, photo Jörg Rambaum)
Many things have impressed me during this my first time in Palm Springs. One of them is the interest of the filmmakers to attend the screenings. Festival director Teddy Grouya has managed to get many premieres to his festival, whether it is a US or North American or Californian or Palm Springs premiere. That adds to the good atmosphere in the cinema and gives some interesting Q&A’s that in most cases are more content-orientated than dealing with film language.
Palm Springs is indeed also a place for cultural events. Before the documentary festival there was a Jewish Film Festival and the International Palm Springs (feature) film festival and up comes also a short film festival. The citizens are used to go out, we were told by asking several of the volunteers. ”We eat out around 3 times per week”, several said, ”it’s nice and not very expensive”. Must be the reason for all those restaurants you see when being driven around. We tried a couple of them. No complaints on food or films.
Written 01-04-2014 18:25:22 by Tue Steen Müller
Press release from IDFA, know several of the projects and people, great choices: For the February selection round of 2014, the IDFA Bertha Fund (previously Jan Vrijman Fund) considered around 300 projects from more than 65 different countries. In total, an amount of € 132,000 was granted to 10 projects. The committee selected three projects for script and project development and seven projects for production and post-production.
The selection committee for this round consisted of Ally Derks (Director of IDFA and IBF), Adriek van Nieuwenhuijzen (Head of Industry IDFA), Denis Vaslin (producer at Volya Films), Steven Markovitz (producer at Big World Cinema) and Elizabeth Wood (Director of DocHouse).
▪ Two Schools Under the Same Roof by Srdjan Sarenac, Bosnia-Herzegovina
▪ Dream in their Eyes by Siddharth Sinha, India
▪ Thank you, Doctor! by Adilet Karzhoev, Kyrgyzstan
Production and Postproduction
▪ Ukrainian Sheriffs by Roman Bondarchuk & Dar’ya Averchenko, Ukraine (photo)
▪ The Guitar School by Miriam Menacherry & Maheen Zia, India/Pakistan
▪ In Praise of Nothing by Boris Mitic, Serbia
▪ Growing up in Oil by Anabel Cristina Rodriguez, Venezuela
▪ Kula: A Memory in Three Acts by Inadelso Cossa, Mozambique
▪ Two Anonymous projects from the Middle East
See more at:
Written 30-03-2014 00:07:22 by Tue Steen Müller
Festivals would not be able to function without volunteers. People who help without being paid. The American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs is no exception. In its third edition the help you get from local people who support the festival is second to none. They drive you, show you around, welcome you in the theatre, ”how are you today” – but contrary to most festivals, where youngsters sign up, here they are retired people, who give a hand... or host a reception or a dinner. It is quite remarkable and extremely nice. We are in Palm Springs that many people have chosen to live in in their so-called third age, enjoying the good weather – I am wearing shorts here, they say we are entering spring from winter!
I was asked to introduce the Polish film ”Deep Love” by young Jan Matuszynski, who was present and received quite an applause for his cinematically brilliant interpretation of the love relationship between Janusz, who got paralyzed when diving and Joanna, his girl friend, who worries as he insists to continue diving and break the record by going down to 100 meters, even if his medical status, as the doctors tell him, does not allow him to do so.
This is what I wrote back in November when I saw the film at DOKLeipzig: ”Deep Love” is a multi-layered story. It is about a man, whose life first of all consists of a passion for diving, a passion that had severe consequences for him when his head hit a rock, making him a handicapped man, who understands what the people near him says to him but can not talk himself and has a paralysed arm and leg. Nevertheless, he wants to get into the sea again and go deeper, encouraged by his close friend and co-diver, yet discouraged by his girl friend, who is afraid of what could happen to him if he realises his wish to go 100 meter down. Here lies the core of the film, the relationship between them, the love story with her in the centre, with her constant care and anxiety. A very strong story but for my taste a bit too dramatic and disturbingly set up with music and sound... on the big screen in Palm Springs, my objections were no longer there, I have to say. Reminding me of how important the watching situation is for your evaluation of a film.
Festival director Teddy Grouya, who is constantly moving from venue to venue, energetic and welcoming filmmakers and audience, has also arranged panel meetings in the morning. The first morning I attended a pitch competition as one of four judges, 7 projects were presented, we will announce the winner later. Yesterday morning I was local journalist Bruse Fessier (us two on the photo) talking to filmmakers about how to draw attention to their works – the one hour session turned into an interaction where some of the filmmakers pitched their projects and got reactions from the two of us. My humble contribution from a European point of view was that you start your marketing the moment where you go public with your project, applying for funding, taking part in a pitch etc. In the US, as we saw in the morning pitch, most projects have reached (almost) the rough cut stage before they are asking for funding.
Written 28-03-2014 18:08:48 by Tue Steen Müller
Opening night in Palm Springs: Julie Cohen’s ”I Live to Sing”, or in xhosa language: Ndiphilela Ukucula. A warm film with three black, young upcoming opera stars from South Africa, who tell their stories, which are sad and uplifting at the same time. They came out of the poverty of the townships, their parents experienced the apartheid regime, they got into the Cape Town University opera section, were taught by Kamal Khan, a charismatic and dedicated teacher for them and they have now started what seem to become very succesful careers for all three of them. The film director deserves much credit for having found a tone in the film, where you laugh and enjoy the three wonderful main characters and their background. And see them develop their skills and personalities. Hilarious are the scenes with the bass baryton Thesele and his parents, who the filmmakers take to watch him and the others perform in Tales of Hoffmann – and to the first flight tour ever for them. Linda, the soprano, who do not have her parents any longer – you see her train with Khan in extraordinary, touching scenes, and you see and hear the tenor Makudupanyane, a charming boy, who will make it as a singer and maybe also as a composer.
At least that was what he told us in the audience after the screening, where the three of them with Khan came to the stage for a Q&A after each of them had performed for a full hall in Camelot Theatres. The audience, we, enjoyed this grand night full of applause from start till end. A feel-good film in the best sense of the word, well put into a historical frame: Robben Island, Mandela, Verwoerd (OMG, what a quote from this man!), and the three of them actually not interested in politics. From the stage, with a smile. Thesele said that having seen the film again, he realised that he has to follow his father’s political engagement…
I am here as a guest to take part in the festival as a juror and panelist in an atmosphere of superb hospitality in the desert where Palm Springs is situated and where the sun seems to shine all the time!
Written 26-03-2014 17:30:14 by Tue Steen Müller
The Danish Cinemateket celebrates the founder of Danish documentary Theodor Christensen from May 1st with an exhibition and a retrospective. In Danish:
Ja, ham ville jeg gerne have mødt og røget en cigar med... Men han døde allerede i 1967, hvor min dokumentariske interesse ikke rigtigt havde taget fat. Men jeg har set hans film, læst hans inspirerende artikler og hørt om ham fra Jørgen og Ole Roos og mange andre danske instruktører. For ikke at tale om østtyske og cubanske filmfolk, som har nikket anerkendende og sagt ”Christensen was an inspiring authority” med henvisning til hans virke i Cuba i 1960’erne.
Theodor ville have fyldt 100 den 6. April. Cinemateket inviterer til film og indledning... ”filmforsker Lars-Martin Sørensen introducerer sammen med kunstner og sociolog Søren Kai Christensen – Theodor Christensens søn og der vises 2 film: ”C – et Hjørne af Sjælland” af Theodor Christensen og Karl Roos og ”De 100 dage” af Theodor Christensen.
Written 25-03-2014 22:03:52 by Tue Steen Müller
A short trip to Thessaloniki it was, but I managed to attend a Docs in Progress session at the Olympion Cinema as well as the first 7-8 projects which were pitched at the Docs in Thessaloniki Forum, arranged by the festival and EDN (European Documentary Network).
In both cases the filmmakers made a short introduction and showed material. For the Docs in Progress the time slot for visuals was 10 minutes, at the pitching session the classical 7 minute concept was practised, including the verbal and the visual pitch. At both arrangements the filmmakers were to have individual meetings with broadcasters, distributors and sales agents.
I was impressed (and charmed) by one of the clips presented by director and producer Marco Gastine, who through his Minimal Films a couple of years ago made a series of films for the Greek Public Television (formerly ERT) on life in Greece. He is now in the process of finishing a new series, also called Docville, 13 episodes of 45 minutes, described by him as ”a cinéma-vérité documentary series” on Greece in times of crisis. I am looking forward to see ”Nikos and Miltos” by Katerina Patroni being completed – about twins who live at home with their mother, who takes care of her unemployed sons, who perform with a lot of humour and do express that the mother must take care of them in these moments of crisis! It seems she does not have a choice. The
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Written 22-03-2014 23:34:53 by Tue Steen Müller
I have just returned from Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival after a (far too) quick visit for the following reason - thank you so much! - this is the press release of the festival:
The European Documentary Network (EDN) award, which is given to individuals and organizations from Europe that have made a great contribution to the field of documentary, went this year to Tue Steen Mϋller, a prominent figure in the documentary world with a great body of work to his credit. The awards ceremony was held on Friday, March 21st at the Electra Palace hotel, as part of the 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, in the presence of TDF Director, Dimitri Eipides.
The award was presented on behalf of the European Documentary Network by Ove Rishøj Jensen, Web Editor and Film Consultant of the EDN, who addressed the audience and Mr. Eipides by noting: "It is a pleasure to work and jointly host the Docs in Thessaloniki Pitching Forum 2014 for the 16th year in Thessaloniki, as part of the Documentary Festival. It is also a great pleasure to be here and to work with you, Dimitri. "Before awarding the EDN prize to Tue Steen Mϋller, Mr. Jensen noted: "It has become a tradition at this festival to honor with our award any person or organization that has made an excellent contribution to the documentary genre. This year we grant this award for the tenth year and I felt that it should be something more special. In the past, for the most part we have honored people, groups or organizations for a specific initiative or event. This year we would like to honor a man who works beyond particular initiatives, organizations and events. We give the EDN award to this man for his great devotion to documentaries. We grant him this prize simply because he is who he is. Looking at previous years’ winners,
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Written 22-03-2014 13:48:54 by Tue Steen Müller
Dimitri Eipides, founder and director of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, had made the obvious choice to present two tributes at the festival, one for the late Peter Wintonick, who came to the festival so many times to pass his wisdom and inspiration, and a retrospective with Nicolas Philibert, with whom there was an interesting press conference, here is the intro, if you click “press conference” below you get it all:
“I apologize for not speaking Greek. My father, however, did study ancient Greek and this always impressed me about him,” Nicolas Philibert, the French director said in the opening remarks of his press conference that took place in the context of the 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which is paying tribute to his work. Talking about the elements that link his documentaries, he said: “The first one is that I always try to “infiltrate” a group of people. My films are about working people, but I believe that at a deeper level they revolve around language, speech, voice. I am interested in sound, in noise, in language; these are the things that all my films have in common. There is also an underlying political theme in all my work, a moral theme if you will, which could be epitomized by the question: “What on earth am I doing here?”
The festival ends tomorrow, March 23rd.
Written 21-03-2014 07:48:03 by Tue Steen Müller
The organisers of the festival in Kiev has this text on their website:
11th Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival opens on March 21 at 7 p.m. with Euromaidan chronicles:
Three months of revolution. From indignant protest to national unity. From pots on their heads to batons and body armor. From the euphoria of victory to the mourning of the fallen Heavenly Hundred. Revolution as an explosion of revived dignity, as the euphoria of freedom, as the pain of awareness at the cost, as the birth of the modern history of Ukraine.
This year we have decided not to have an opening film, because all our attention is focused on the changes taking place in our country today. We have asked the directors, who filmed the Ukrainian protests to share their best shots with us. The episodes of these upcoming films about the Euromaidan were formed in a kaleidoscope of revolution, which needs no comment. We offer you a chronicle of the Ukrainian protest. Experience the three months of fighting with us, feel and see the revolution through our eyes.
Written 20-03-2014 12:51:42 by Tue Steen Müller
In Copenhagen, starting March 27, running until March 30, the first of its kind, an ambitious set-up with discussion, tours around Copenhagen, and films, more than 80, new and old from all over the world.
It is indeed an impressive programme that the organisers put forward. ”Cathedrals of Culture” is reviewed below, it’s new, but there is also Antonioni’s ”Red Desert”, Leth’s ”66 Scenes from America”, the finnish ”Steam of Life” (photo) by Berghåll and Hotakainen, films about and with Eames and Oscar Niemeyer, Pernille Grønkjær’s masterpiece ”The Monastery”, Peter Greenaway’s ”Belly of an Architect” and Jytte Rex fine film on Henning Larsen.
Just to mention some of the titles and to give you an idea of the wide repertory of the festival.
Written 20-03-2014 10:44:03 by Tue Steen Müller
6 3D documentaries by Wim Wenders, Michael Glawogger, Michael Madsen, Robert Redford, Margreth Olin and Karim Ainouz. Executive producer: Wim Wenders. Each film is 26 mins. long.
Subtitle: ”If Buildings Could Talk” and this is where the overall problem lies if the idea is that they have to be watched as one film with six locations... I saw it like that at the press screening tuesday and this is how the 6 are to be screened at the Copenhagen Architecture Festival x Film, with one small break.
So for you festival people out there or television buyers – show them one by one, or maybe in pairs, there is a couple of excellent works to be enjoyed. If you – literally – sit and watch buildings talk in first person to you (”I am a building”) film after film, you get exhausted, even more, simply fed up by a constructed verbal concept that almost makes you want to shout ”shut up”, let me watch!
Having said so, of course you can not put all under one roof, the films are different in quality as I will try to phrase in the following mini-reviews that follow the viewing order of my screening:
Wim Wenders: The Berlin Philharmonic
... is so wonderful to watch, and listen to, and the fatigue around the ”I am a building” first person is not there, yet – maybe that’s why Wenders as ex. producer put himself first!? Anyway, you get a beautiful tour in the concert hall, you get information about how the building was constructed, you get the historical background, there is a fine use of archive material, there is a sense
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Written 19-03-2014 09:47:10 by Tue Steen Müller
... is a yearly seminar day dedicated to the documentary film, open for participation by Danish filmmakers, producers, film school students, television people with a relationship to the genre, consultants etc. from the Danish Film Institute (DFI), that is the organiser and programmer of the event that takes place in the Film House in the middle of Copenhagen.
I have participated several times and also this year it was well organised with informative and inspiring sessions... and you get to meet old friends and have a chat.
Claus Ladegaard, head of production at DFI, opened the day’s programme with a short speech that outlined the situation for the Danish documentary seen from the DFI point of view. Three points are essential for us, he said: Quality, Diversity and Volumen. He found it difficult to be worried about the Quality of Danish documentaries that travel the world and are screened on television nationally and abroad. Nevertheless, he quoted editor Niels Pagh who at a previous seminar had asked his colleagues: ”are we tooo good in storytelling...” pointing to the fact that many Danish documentaries have adopted the classical Hollywood dramaturgy and make smooth, predictable films accordingly. In the upcoming political agreement for the next 4 years, said Ladegaard, the DFI is thus calling for more experimentation, hybrid forms, interactive documentaries etc. And for financing models that do not necessarily include television. DFI is soon
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Written 16-03-2014 21:33:29 by Tue Steen Müller
Yes, it does, wish you all the best, you are so brave and clever and thoughtful as this text documents, taken from the website of the festival:
Three times I started writing an address on behalf of the Docudays UA team, and three times I postponed it: the situation in this country has been changing practically every minute, and we didn’t know what the end of that day or that night might look like. Repeatedly the team discussed the possibility of postponing or even cancelling it this year, but still the warm support of our friends and colleagues from all over the world has assured us that this year the festival is needed more than ever.
We need it as a weapon in the information war, which we are still losing to Putin; we ourselves need it as a consolation in hard work over these tragic four months. Because now we should get people involved, tell them about the invincible power of human dignity, share experiences with them, and inspire them to develop new ideas and projects for building our own new Ukraine...
We prepared Docudays UA this year in exceptionally difficult conditions. Our festival office was just a couple of steps from the Maidan. It became a shelter, a warming place, a night lodging for journalists and documentarians from various countries who had come to us because they wanted to sort out what had and was happening in Ukraine. Due to their heroic efforts with global media, the ideas of Maidan started to emerge unbiased, the protesters in the eyes of the media became ‘citizens’ and ‘protestors’, rather than ‘mutineers’ or ‘fascists’. The members of our team did everything, from documentary screenings on the Maidan stage in Kyiv and other cities, and handing out tea on the square, to providing first aid, patrolling streets with the Automaidan, and shooting the most striking footage. We ourselves became familiar with the batons of the Berkut, tear gas, and rubber bullet wounds. We endured, and we won’t forget those who were less lucky.
This revolution stripped us naked and made us better. There’s a wise Chinese saying, “the worse, the better.” After everything we’ve lived through, we now truly understand what the Chinese mean by this.
I am grateful to all our guests who weren’t afraid of coming to Ukraine. But I am most grateful to the team of Docudays UA, and I’d like to express my admiration to those dear to me who didn’t give up and fought despite everything so that this year’s festival could happen. Glory to Ukraine! Blessed be the heroes!
Dar’ya Averchenko, PR-Director and member of Selection Committee at Docudays UA
Written 15-03-2014 11:56:34 by Tue Steen Müller
What a wonderful surprise, and well deserved it is, that the Russian documentary Linar opened the festival in Thessaloniki Greece. Here is the text from the newsletter of the festival that always has a highly professional communication activity.
A deeply touching human story, starring a young real life hero, will kickstart the 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival on Friday, March 14, at the Olympion theater. Nastia Tarasova’s documentary Linar follows the odyssey of Linar, a Russian boy who travels to Italy to receive a heart transplant. Tarasova narrates with sensitivity Linar’s adventure and the relationships he forms with the people who take care of him, highlighting his inspirational courage and will. The film will have its European premiere in Thessaloniki.
The 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival will take place from March 14 to March 23. Screenings will be held in the following Festival theaters: Olympion, Pavlos Zannas, John Cassavetes, Stavros Tornes, Frida Liappa and Tonia Marketaki. Through its diverse film lineup, which includes documentaries from around the world as well as a parallel programme consisting of discussions, masterclasses and an exhibition, the Festival aspires to raise awareness on crucial contemporary issues.
Written 13-03-2014 06:34:17 by Mikkel Stolt
What a treat I got last Friday during the music film festival in Copenhagen: To be able to watch this old Tom Waits-film on the big screen again. It’s from a time in his career when he had almost redefined himself as an artist (with invaluable help from his wife Kathleen Brennan on the three albums “Swordfishtrombones”, “Rain Dogs” and “Frank’s Wild Years”), and the film consists of concert performances loosely glued together with fictionalized intermezzos with some off-beat Waits-personas.
He has always been inspired by American musical culture (blues, Tin Pan Alley-songwriting, jazz’n’poetry of the Beat-generation to name a few) and in this period he throws in a lot of other good stuff too (different European music styles for example). He manages to take it all in, give it a twist and a growl and then you have that unmistakable musician he had become at that time. His musicians matches him perfectly (including the innovative guitarist Marc Ribot), and my biggest objection to the film is that it offers them too little screen time.
But the film also documents that Waits is just one hell of a performer. Not a good actor in films, no - never thought so - but having seen him live on three occasions I can vouch for the impression that this film brings: he is a quite unique composer, lyricist, storyteller, comedian AND entertainer.
Though it may not be the best introduction to his music for Waits-novices (it IS a rather wild ride); as a concert or music film it is just right and despite being from around the time of the early days of MTV it actually feels rather timeless. It is both a document of a certain time in an artist’s career and a semi-avant-garde experience in its own right.
The film has never been released on dvd and the “literature” is a bit vague on the reasons. It can, however, be found on the internet, but you didn’t hear it from me since I’m pretty sure that neither the director nor the Waits-couple has agreed to it.
USA, 1988, 87 mins
Written 12-03-2014 16:08:54 by Tue Steen Müller
I just discovered that it is 20 years ago that I met Alexandru Solomon in Bucharest. My wife worked at DR (Danish Public Broadcaster) and I was at the National Film Board of Denmark. We bought two of his visual experiments/short films for broadcast and non-theatrical distribution. Titles: ”Shriek into the Ear-Drum” (1993) and ”2 x 5” (1993), pretty wild stuff... would never pass through today’s overall filmic normalization, well maybe at art museums and galleries.
Times have changed, Solomon is now an internationally renowned and committed documentarian, who has made several films on politics in his country. His films are made through hifilm, the company of his wife Ada, who produces award-winning fiction films on an international level.
Back to why I am writing this: Kino Kombat is online and for free until March 16, 5 films are available from the current programme of the 7th edition of One World Romania International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival.
You can read more about the films on DocAlliance website, see below, where there also is an interview with Alexandru Solomon, who is the director of the festival. He gives the following answer to ”Why Kino Kombat?”:
“Each year we express the focus of the festival’s current edition through a slogan. In Romania, in the past year we have seen a fresh civic commitment expressing itself in the streets, through protests and gatherings, but also through the arts. We are premiering two Romanian films that portray these demonstrations and we are exhibiting the drawings of Dan Perjovschi, one of the most important artists of our time, who reflected and nourished these protests. “Kino Kombat” stands as recognition of our double pledge – to human rights and to documentary cinema, as one of the best tools to promote human rights in a creative way. The Romanian version of this slogan is “Cine-luptă”, meaning cine(matic)-fight, and our central picture for the 7th edition is the camera-weapon. A weapon that is honest, intelligent and non-violent. The documentaries we select and promote are usually committed to a certain cause but they are not politically correct, they are provocative and have multiple layers, because they are also cinematic.” BRAVO!
Written 12-03-2014 16:00:15 by Tue Steen Müller
The Brazilian documentarian, who died tragically on the 2nd of February, 80 years old, is the obvious subject for an homage at the upcoming Cinéma du Réel in Paris (March 20-30), where ”Cabra Marcado Para Morrer” (119 mins.), said to be one of his most important works, will be shown. The film that won the Grand Prix at the festival in 1985 is described like this in a newsletter from the festival:
« Au Brésil, le tournage d’un film sur l’assassinat d’un leader paysan est interrompu par le coup d’Etat de 1964. Vingt ans après, le réalisateur retrouve Elisabeth Testera, la femme de ce leader, et ses enfants. Il tente de l’aider a réassumer son passé […]. Au moment où le Brésil change, ce film nous fait mieux comprendre une certaine réalité du pays pendant ces vingt dernières années. » (Cinéma du réel, 1985). The short film “Sobreviventes de Galileia” (2013, 27 mins.) is also shown on this occasion - and on March 13 in the Cinema La Clef “Edificio Master” (2002, 110 mins.) will be on the screen:
“Ce film suit, au quotidien, les habitants de l'immeuble « Edificio Master » à Copacabana , Rio de Janeiro. 12 étages de 23 appartements chacun. En tout, 276 logements où vivent près de 500 personnes dans la décadence, l'espoir et la solitude. Prostituées, trafiquants, domestiques, retraités, tous racontent leur histoire simplement et dignement.”
I have – without success – tried to find a thorough English language article on the work of Coutinho. However, below a link to a young filmmaker’s appreciation of the director, plus (in Portuguese) statements from Brazilian film people in connection with his death.
Written 11-03-2014 11:01:03 by Tue Steen Müller
"Mette's Voice" is reviewed below by Allan Berg, who praises the film. The film is available in an English subtitled version and could definitely be interesting for festival selectors. Here is the synopsis: Denmark is supposed to be a country of happy people. It is also ranking no. 2 in the world as consumer of psychopharmaca, and one out of ten Danes takes Prozac on a regular basis.
Mette is 43 years and a trained nurse. She has been a psychiatric patient for the past 15 years. She has been hearing voices since she was 8.Diagnosis: Paranoid Schizophrenia. Treatment: Vast amounts of medicine, 150 electro-shock treatments and disablility living allowance.
To psychiatrists, Mette represents one of the most complex patient groups. She is stigmatized and surrounded by prejudice. This film tracks Mette’s life and her ups and downs during four years. She is finally getting along and achieves some of her greatest goals.
A warm and thought provoking film about mastering your own life. About growing yourself and encountering life’s trauma – despite diagnoses. About never bereaving other people of their hopes.
The film takes Mette’s perspective. It has become a strong manifest in very
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Written 09-03-2014 17:46:56 by Tue Steen Müller
For me the best English language newspaper critiques and general film coverage is to be found in The Guardian and New York Times. It was therefore with great pleasure that The Guardian, in their first Film Awards, placed The Act of Killing on the top as best film:
”The Act of Killing has taken the top prize at the inaugural Guardian Film Awards. Joshua Oppenheimer's surreal study of the Indonesian death squads of the 1960s was nominated in three fields – best director, biggest game-changer and best film. It triumphed in best film over the Oscar winners 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, as well as two other foreign language films, The Great Beauty and Blue is the Warmest Colour.” In other words not in a documentary category. You can read more about the award and the voting clicking on link below.
From the NY Times – you need a subscription – I receive every friday a list of all new theatrical releases, including news and features. Melena Ryzik, who predicted that ”Twenty Feet from Stardom” would win the Oscar as the best feature documentary, had this week a fine article titled ”When the Battle Is Over, What remains Is... Art”. She writes after having reported on the Oscars for five years: ... (I’ve learnt) about moviemaking, about celebrity and mostly about how to keep artistic faith in balance with professional cynicism. It’s true: The Oscars are a popularity contest, with prizes conferred for a career narrative as often as for an individual performance, and undoubtedly there are politics at play. Otherwise, the campaigns would be dull, and the consultants wouldn’t be paid all that money…
At the end of her article she puts the spotlight on Sara Ishaq’s “Karama has No Walls” (photo). She had talked to the 1ad Abdurahman Hussain, who said that at first, they wanted to make a YouTube video, but then they realized it was a bigger story. Their 30-minute short, “Karama Has No Walls” — “karama” is Arabic for dignity — uses footage shot guerrilla-style by those in the middle of the action. The director, Sara Ishaq, a Scottish-Yemeni woman, submitted it to film festivals, which led to its Oscar nomination. The Oscars are not well known, culturally, in Yemen, Mr. Hussain said. Still, after the nomination, the filmmakers met with the Yemeni prime minister, and there have been government-sponsored screenings.
Written 09-03-2014 11:23:00 by Tue Steen Müller
Normally we don't advertise training programmes but as we know that this one is NOT limited to EUrope and we have many talented documentary filmmakers as readers...
"The IDFAcademy Summer School is open to:
Written 06-03-2014 12:53:44 by Tue Steen Müller
It was one of these pleasant surprises. Last summer I got a FB message from a Teddy Grouya, who invited me to come to his festival in California. The surprise was double as he wrote to me in Danish (well not perfect but totally understandable). We met in Leipzig, where the kind and committed man told me more about his festival and revealed that he had been in Denmark in his youth as a student. And there we are – I will be in Palm Springs March 27-31, where the festival runs its third edition. In the following I have taken quotes from the website of the festival that shows documentaries, short and long, and animation films from the US and the rest of the world.
“This year, the American Documentary Film Festival and Film Fund will screen over 100 films over its five day run at three Coachella Valley venues. “We’re utilizing six screens this year,” said Festival Director and Founder, Ted Grouya. “It will be our largest festival ever.””
My visit to AmDocs include three elements. I am going to be a juror for 10 American feauture docs, I am to be on a panel with critics and film writers and I am invited to observe the Film Fund Pitch Competition.
Some words about the latter first: “In addition to our annual 5-day film festival, we are proud to share the American Documentary Film Fund with independent American filmmakers who will participate and compete for financing for new projects as well as works in progress. An amount up to $50,000 may be awarded or distributed in any given year. A panel of film industry professionals will review a select group of documentary filmmaker projects for funding consideration. Filmmakers will provide detailed story outlines and budgets for their works in progress or new projects. Filmmakers will screen a five (5) minute preview of their film projects before the industry panel and take part in a 10 minute Q&A.” It sounds like the way we do it in Europe, but is there an American touch?
And words about the films at the festival that The MovieMaker Magazine nominated the festival as ”one of the world’s coolest documentary film
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Written 05-03-2014 15:06:04 by Tue Steen Müller
Danish veteran documentarians Katia Forbert Petersen and Annette Mari Olsen premiered yesterday their new documentary, that has the English title ”Mission Rape – A Tool of War”, a film that will travel not only to the foreign broadcasters involved but also to festivals. The premiere yesterday in a Copenhagen cinema was folllowed by a debate about the theme, described here at the site of The Danish Film Institute:” "Mission Rape" is a creative documentary film which takes a closer look at a dilemma in international law - how the healing-process is affected when rapists are not prosecuted and convicted for the crimes they have committed. Instead the rapists have been punished for Crime against Humanity or other serious war crimes. In the aftermath of any war in which rape has been systemically used as a weapon, it is crucial to the healing process that war criminals are convicted for all war crimes, including sexual violence.” Change to Danish language:
Det var et flot arrangement, som fandt sted i Grand Teatret i går aftes: Indledning ved DR’s Mette Hoffmann-Meyer, som hyldede de to instruktørers engagement og professionalisme, som hun havde nydt godt af i mange år. Fulgt af en indledning af de to instruktører – Katia Forbert fortalte, at hun første gang havde hørt bosniske kvinder fortælle om grusomme voldtægter for 22 år siden på flygtningeskibet Flotel Europa. Siden da havde de to mange gange taget tilløb til at lave en film om emnet.
Nu er den der så, filmen, en stærk dokumentation i en blanding af samtaler med ofre, arkivmateriale fra krigen på Balkan og fra Krigstribunalet i den Haag, oprettet i 1993, ansigter fyldt med smerte, den store bestræbelse for at blive anerkendt som krigsoffer – og ikke mindst dette, citeret fra Det Danske Filminstituts faktablad om filmen:
Hver dag mødes en gruppe kvinder i en forening beliggende i forstad til Sarajevo. Alle har de en fælles historie. Foreningen er filmens
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Written 03-03-2014 11:49:27 by Tue Steen Müller
... and the winner is ”Twenty Feet from Stardom” by Morgan Neville, in the category Feature Length Documentary.
”So Hollywood is Still Hollywood”, wrote Niels Pagh Andersen on FB. The editor of ”The Act of Killing” expressed indirectly what many had expected, including the NYTimes Melena Ryzik in her prediction, that the feel-good documentary from American showbusiness ”Twenty Feet from Stardom” would take the Oscar. Her argument: (it is) a crowd-pleaser that also happens to be a well-told tale about a subject close to many performers’ hearts — the careers of backup singers, a.k.a. the talented lot who don’t often get the recognition they deserve...
It was the decision of the Academy members, a disappointment for the many, including me, who had hoped for ”The Act of Killing” after the many awards to an innovative, controversial film with big impact.
The winner does not even approximately reach that standard. Anyway ”Hollywood is Hollywood” and personally the Oscar has not really had my interest before these last two years after the change of the rules to get there. So what is to be saluted is that quality films like ”Five Broken Cameras”, ”Sugarman”, ”The Gatekeepers” last year and ”The Act of Killing”, ”The Square”, ”Cutie and the Boxer” this year, get all the well deserved publicity through being nominated.
One last thing: Some have called the Oscar the world championship for documentaries... forget about that, there are many masterly films worldwide that have no chances to get to the Oscar.
Written 02-03-2014 10:30:40 by Tue Steen Müller
I have copy pasted the list of winners from the website of the festival, that cleverly brings forward the jury motivations as well. The following films have been written about/reviewed on filmkommentaren: The Last Station, Return to Homs, Ne Me Quitte Pas, Stories We Tell.
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Written 01-03-2014 10:34:18 by Tue Steen Müller
Tomorrow night is Oscar night. On filmkommentaren.dk all five contenders in the feature length catagory have been reviewed, the latest watched in Zagreb the other day: ”Twenty Feet from Stardom”, an entertaining film, about which I wrote ”but the film is not so well put together, it feels a bit messy in structure, and too long, maybe because, with all respect, the women are not all sooo interesting, but they get equal film time...”
Nevertheless it is this film that NYTimes Melena Ryzik thinks will get the Oscar. This is her interesting argumentation: If only documentarians and select members who saw the nominated films in theaters voted on this prize, as was the case until last year, “The Act of Killing,” a chilling and inventive look at death squads in Indonesia, would walk off with the top prize. But now Academy members are sent DVDs and invited to vote for documentaries. That means “20 Feet From Stardom” should pick up the statuette: It’s a crowd-pleaser that also happens to be a well-told tale about a subject close to many performers’ hearts — the careers of backup singers, a.k.a. the talented lot who don’t often get the recognition they deserve. It doesn’t hurt that the film’s campaign was handled by the Weinstein Company, for which no opening or musical event was too small to trot out its very willing stars…
Interesting, let’s see if she is right. For me, who fall into the category of “documentarians”, there is no doubt that the film to have the Documentary Oscar is “The Act of Killing”. The company behind the film is described in the DFI (Danish Film Institute) website, read the whole article, here is a quote:
It seems fitting that the Copenhagen production company Final Cut for Real is located on Forbindelsesvej – literally, "Connection Street." Talking with company co-founder Signe Byrge Sørensen, who produced Joshua Oppenheimer's Oscar-nominated "The Act of Killing", makes it clear that Final Cut for Real was put in this world to make connections – between people, filmmakers, cultures and world events….
Written 28-02-2014 17:51:34 by Tue Steen Müller
Of course there had to be a meeting in Zagreb about the EU supported programme ”Creative Europe”, that runs from 2014 till 2020 and has two sub-programmes: MEDIA and Culture. The MEDIA Desk Croatia, Martina Petrovic, hosted the meeting in a building in the street next to the Kaptol Center, the location of the five cinemas, where the ZagrebDox films are screened. The building needs restoration but that is expensive so for the moment the authorities have invited the Croatian Audiovisual Center, ZagrebDox/Factum (the company of Nenad Puhovski, director of the festival), HulaHop (company of Dana Budisavljevic) and other companies and festivals to have their address there. This forms a kind of Film House.
Paul Pauwels (PP), director of EDN, that now has an office in Copenhagen and in Brussels, was well prepared in his excellent presentation of the new Creative Europe, having read the 380 (!) pages of a programme, which – said PP – will make it more difficult for “all of us”. There are many changes made from the previous MEDIA Programme. For instance, said PP, the applicants for development support will now be able to get a lumb sum of 25.000€ if you can raise the other 25.000€, which can no longer include any in-kind contribution. The latter is a radical change.
In Eastern European countries that will be pretty difficult, said Hrvoje Hribar, Head of the Croatian Audiovisual Center, who told the participants that an Eastern European Alliance has been set up to discuss Creative Europe and to come up with suggestions for amendments. PP stressed several times that the people from Creative Europe to him, when he has met them in Brussels, have stated that they consider 2014 as a test year and that he had found a
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Written 28-02-2014 06:15:43 by Tue Steen Müller
Does she wants too much, Tatjana Bozic? From Life and from the Film, she has made and in which she is the main character? A film about a woman looking back at her love life to find out what went wrong in previous relationships – and about what she can take from that in terms of understanding herself. And get on with her life as a mother.
You can't get it all, her friends say, when she, in the present layer of the film, is complaining that her marriage with Dutch Rogier, with whom she has her child, does not work perfectly. You want everybody to love you, that's the problem, her father says to her. Mother died, what would she have adviced me, she asks her father, should I leave the marriage? Your mother would have said Yes, the father replies.
She is a handful, Tatjana, and she does not hide that in the film about herself. On the contrary, you get very close to her, you see her suffer, you see and hear her being unbearably pathetic but also cheerful and direct. In between you reflect on whether you watch a private or a personal film.
She wants the film to be funny. And it is, especially when she is visiting her ex-boyfriends. Pawel, Russian Pawel, is the one who analyses, if you can use that word, her best. They were together for four years, before he chose to live with another Tatjana. The visiting of the past is a great idea for the film, the ex-lovers are from different cultures and that makes the film lighter. The mother of the Englishman did not like Tatjana! The Russians drink too much! Klichés but still, Balkan mentality, British stiff upperlip and Russian melancholy do not fit together.
Unfortunately the director also wants to send a message. In several wordless sequences you see faces of women... close-ups, they look at you, apparently to kind of ask us about/feel ashamed of the condition of women today. I don't think it suits a story which has already mant facets and is so rich anyway and it does not generalise, on the contrary it has a focus on one individual and her effort to find out about herself searching for Love. That is more than enough, there is no need to include the whole world. She wants too much, Tatjana Bozic.
Holland, Croatia, 2013, 83 mins.
Written 27-02-2014 12:52:53 by Tue Steen Müller
OK, this film represents everything that I dislike about a certain kind of documentaries: It is – to quote the description in the site of the festival here in Zagreb – ”eye-popping”, ”stunning” and I could add sentimental over-the-limit of decency and what is worst: hypocritical.
The film shows how a young really good snow boarder, Kevin Pearce, crashes dramatically (you are invited ”to enjoy” the accident again and again), recovers his brain injury, wants to get back to the sport, mum and dad and brothers (one of them with down’s syndrom) don’t like the idea, the doctors warn him as his brain is not as it was, and at the end he gives up and starts a fund/social movement it is called called ”Love your Brain”. Halleluja!
The hyprocrisy comes in through the storytelling that the director has chosen. She paints a super glamorous picture of the sport and its young fit practitioners. Fantastic images of their acrobatic jumps and movements in the air, all wrapped in music from wall to wall, and of course a hurrah for an artificial world that is full of money and commercials. She points at the competitive point between Kevin and Shaun White, another snow boarder, it’s all very good and healthy. Accompanied by visits to the house of the understanding family Pearce, who sits down at the dinner table and talks about Kevin and what he wants with his sport and life – brother David with the down’s syndrom is the one who says that he suffers from Kevin’s playing with life and death. And mother crying again and again as she goes around with her son to doctors and psychiatrists... It’s just too much...
And then at the end of the film, after another injury where a young female snow boarder dies (of course we see the deadly crash), the film tries to raise just a bit of discussion about the sport... and we hear a panel of the young colleagues of Kevin express that they have also broken this and that in their bodies many times but... why bother, is the impression of the message you get after having been through the visual hymn to a sport that is dangerous but produces superb and entertaining and sensational images!
USA, 2013, 109 mins.
Written 27-02-2014 11:54:18 by Tue Steen Müller
We have very often been informed about the terrible conditions for the inmates in Russian prisons. The released Pussy Riot members were the last ones to point out that something needs to be changed... to use an understatement.
This film, produced by the film school VGIK, adds excellently to the information that we have, not by showing but by having an ex-inmate tell her story from a point of view that (literally) is placed just opposite the prison building that is surrounded by barbed wire. Sometimes there is no water available. Sometimes the light is kept on during nights to prevent the inmates to fall asleep. The inmates (it is a prison for women) are not allowed to communicate from one cell to the other. If that happens, sounds of sirens are put on so nothing can be heard. And so on so forth, a flow of examples of physical and mental torture.
The film crew is inside the prison as well. They have filmed rehearsals and performances of songs and sketches, melancholic Russian love songs conveyed from a stage. But they have also caught faces and situations of tenderness between the women inside. Love grows between the women, not allowed of course, but families are created in the prison, as says the chain-smoking woman who is our storyteller, and who also painfully tells us her own story of relationship(s) that broke. 76 out ot 100 go back to prison – no freedom outside, better suffer inside... You could argue that the camerawork could be better but (also) in this case the content is so strong that it takes you by the heart. Good choice by ZagrebDox!
Russia, 2012, 43 mins.
Written 27-02-2014 11:18:33 by Tue Steen Müller
This Oscar-nominated documentary is very entertaining because of its interesting characters, who are full of life and memories about their lives as back-up singers – and about their attempt to get to the foreground as lead singers. People like Sting and Bruce Springfield talk well and supporting about the unique voices they have used to help them perform, there are great archive with the two and the singers and with Ray Charles, as well as interviews with Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger, fine anecdotes, yes for sure an entertaining film, which is also about the tough commercial music industry fighting each other, and about the roots in the gospel music.
And then – surprise, surprise - comes the critic’s BUT the film is not so well put together, it feels a bit messy in structure, and too long, maybe because, with all respect, the women are not all sooo interesting, but they get equal film time. Here they are: Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Táta Vega, the Waters. The photo shows three more: Jo Lawry, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer. Especially the latter shows her extraordinary talent in the film. She came to the forefront, got awards, released record(s) but did not make it further.
And we would have loved more music, would we not... here enters the question of rights and money to buy clips.
Anyway, I was humming on my way back to the hotel after the late night screening at ZagrebDox, cinema 5, full house.
USA, 2013, 90 mins.
Written 27-02-2014 11:12:06 by Tue Steen Müller
ZagrebDox places the film in the ”Happy Dox” category. Here is some background on theme and on story from the idfa catalogue synopsis 2013: Bhutan is one of the least developed countries in the world. There is barely any industry, and electricity was not commonplace until very recently. This meant that people led their lives without TV, let alone Internet. But both arrived at last in 1999, following an official announcement by King Jigme Singye Wangchuk. The advent of electricity was revolutionary for the tiny mountainside villages in this Himalayan kingdom. Peyangki is a dreamy and solitary eight-year-old monk who lives in the last village to get hooked up. In anticipation of this big event, Peyangki’s uncle decides to buy a TV set, which will take a three-day journey to Bhutan's capital of Thimpu. Peyangki will go along on the trip, his first foray into the big city. “Do you expect TV to make you happy?” asks the lama of the last five monks at Peyangki's monestery. The answer is a resounding “Yes.”…
“Happiness” is beautifully shot, the boy is brilliant and convincing as is his mother, with whom he has many wonderful scenes, it is here that the film lives, whereas the story about the tv, that breaks so the uncle has to go to the city to buy a new one, feels fake and too arranged, and does thus not really work in this scripted documentary, that makes you smile, think of Sergey Dvortsevoy without Balmés having his rough poetic touch, it is much more smooth in style, and the ending of the film with a sequence of faces looking at us viewers/Westeners is far too much in its “moralistic” message: What are we doing to the people, who had a natural and harmonious life far away from “our” world. This is how I read it. What a pity for a film that could live without such finger-pointing… respect the audience, please.
France/Finland, 2013, 80 mins.
Written 26-02-2014 10:23:56 by Tue Steen Müller
Croatian director (b.1972) Damir Cucic “opened” my 2014 ZagrebDox screening schedule, and thanks for that. The festival had very rightly arranged a small retrospective of the work of a director, who deserves much more international attention that he gets at the moment, for his original approach and personal documentary film language. Let me highlight two of the films in the four-titled programme: “La Strada” (2004) (photo) and “The Forgotten” (2002).
Vodnjan is the location of the 29 mins. long observation of people and life in a town close to the sea and Italy. The film is episodic, it conveys the impressions of its director in a beautiful rythmic way. You are taken to a Southern European mood, where children are playing in the looong street (“La Strada”), men are hanging out with a beer in hand, old people sit in their plastic chairs looking at the young women passing by, it is all very summerly and inviting, many languages, old couples discussing what was good in the past and today, faces, small situations – great great camerawork, unconventional editing.
“The Forgotten” (35 mins.) takes you to the countryside, to a village, Zumberak, which is at the border of Croatia and Slovenia. Again the cameraman Boris Poljak and the composer Goran Strbac (as in “La Strada”) together with the director/editor Cucic break the rules of dramaturgy, taking the viewer away from the main circling structure around people and the environment, stopping at other moments, where snow is melting into drops of water from the trees, a small symphony one could say, a film “within” the film,
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Written 25-02-2014 17:37:16 by Tue Steen Müller
ZagrebDox 2014 is running. I have watched several films, reviews and reports will follow. Here are some memories which are published in the catalogue of the festival. A look back to the first edition of ZagrebDox Pro:
In 2005 ZagrebDox started. And today it is a very well established and functioning documentary event, respected among professionals all over Europe and (most important) with quite a strong audience attendance. It has a regional Competition, an international competition, side programmes, retrospectives, debates, you name it...
The man in the middle, the founder of it all, Nenad Puhovski, asked me for advice and help, when he started the festival. He wanted to establish a pitching forum like the ones we had been organising for almost a decade at the EDN (European Documentary Network), where I was the director and Nenad member of the Executive Committee. The first year, 2005, it was more a kind of workshop, where 14 projects were brought for development discussions with knowledgeable people like Sabine Bubeck from ZDF/arte, the distributor and producer Heino Deckert, Rada Sesic from the idfa Jan Vrijman Fund – and Nenad, Cecilia Lidin, my colleague from EDN and me.Among the 14 filmmakers were names like Macedonian Atanas Georgiev, Sinisa Juricic from Croatia, the Serbians Zeljko Mirkovic and Boris Mitic, Assen Vladimirov from Bulgaria. All of them now well known names internationally, who have pitched their way to co-productions and/or support from broadcasters and funds.
The 2005 opening of the festival was great for me, not only because of the workshop but also because Nenad had asked me to a member of the jury – that has to watch all international AND regional films. I was with idfa’s Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen and local master Krsto Papić. We did not have time to watch all the films in the theatre, so Adriek and I were running down the corridor of our hotel to exchange vhs tapes of the films. Pioneer times!
Pitching... I asked Nenad to refresh my memory for this introduction...
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Written 24-02-2014 16:51:49 by Tue Steen Müller
For new readers: “The Flaherty is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the proposition that independent media can illuminate the human spirit. Its mission is to foster exploration, dialogue, and introspection about the art and craft of all forms of the moving image. It was established to present the annual Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, named after the maker of such seminal documentaries as Nanook of the North, Man of Aran, and Louisiana Story. The Seminar remains the central and defining activity of The Flaherty…”
But there are many other events going on around the year. I have to confess that my knowledge of The Flaherty was pretty limited until former colleague from EDN, Anita Reher, crossed the Atlantic and took over as Executive Director - and got me on the list for receiving the informative newsletter of the organisation.
Yes, 60 years, and the Ex. Director has asked for memories. In the February newsletter Dorothy O. Olson , who programmed the second seminar together with the widow of Robert, Frances, looks back. She remembers three films, that she writes passionately about: Satyajit Ray’s Pater Panchali, (photo) shown in 1961 in Puerto Rico on 35mm:
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Written 23-02-2014 18:54:11 by Tue Steen Müller
There you sit in your comfortable armchair. You watch, you listen, you read about Ukraine, feeling shocked and hopeless... December seems far away, at that time I posted a text about the Docudays festival people taking active part in the events on Maidan in Kiev (photo). This is what they wrote before a screening took place in the square:
”Docudays UA is an apolitical festival. But it is about human rights and the choice each one of us always has: to accept the dictatorship regime or to fight for the victory of democracy. The future of Ukraine depends on the choice each one of us has to make. That is why Docudays UA is with Maidan!”.
To say the least the events in Maidan have taken quite a different direction. More than 80 protesters have been killed. Nervously about the DocuDays people, I wrote and got an email answer from one of the dear friends from the festival yesterday: ”It's tragic time here: we can't believe how many beautiful people died for new country. And it's happy time here: we feel, that now we are absolutely new nation: strong and brave…”
The festival people have their office close to Maidan. It serves as a shelter for friends, foreign journalists, film-makers, activists – and for preparing the upcoming DocuDays March 21-28. What an energy and dedication! Respect and hugs, wishing them all the best!
To read about the latest developments, the DocuDays people recommend
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