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
Written 22-02-2014 14:45:35 by Tue Steen Müller
... arranged by EDN (European Documentary Network) in Copenhagen, read more from the website:
”Marathon Dok is a looooong day full of funny, fascinating and fantastic documentaries. This one-day screening program brings new international high quality documentaries to the big screen in the beautiful cinema of the Danish Film School. The screenings start at 14:00 and end at 22:00...”
The programme is chaptered with fours blocks and EDN deserves much applause for showing short documentaries that we (at least I) tend to skip when setting up our festival schedule, and with television, forget it, very few channels show short films.
Anyway, there are two films of high quality that you get the chance to watch if you are Copenhagen or – Malmö-based: the masterly done, shocking ”Return to Homs” (photo) by Talal Derki and Thomas Balmès ”Happiness”.
March 1, 2014. From 14:00 to 22:00. Theodor Christensens Plads 1, Filmskolen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Written 21-02-2014 15:54:56 by Tue Steen Müller
Always dedicated Hanka Kastelicová, executive producer of documentaries at HBO Europe, handed me the dvd of the director Kowalski, who with his first documentary work has made one of those many Polish documentaries that shine of professionalism in camerawork, editing and use of music. This time also of the director’s ability to get close to his two main characters, Pawel and Bartek (photo), to convey their friendship and hope for the future in a social and mentally devastated environment in a district of Warsaw.
In cold bluish exterior colours the film paints the picture of the area in which the two move around. Pawel, who is a bit older than Bartek, trying to help the latter to achieve what he did not manage to do in his young life. Bartek enters a school for stunt men, the film follows his development and his many physical efforts to become good in that, helped by Pawel in rooms in ruined houses where they can train. Pawel, married, outlines what is important for him and many others in similar social situations: family and Legia (football club in Warsaw). He seems like he wants to have a father role towards Bartek, who grew up in an orphanage and not with his alchoholic parents. Bartek is the one who tells the story in this very tense and talented HBO production (yes, you sense the channel's wish to have an action-led narrative) about a world (Bartek’s words) that is a ”fucking shitty mess”.
It seems hopeless, but the director lets Bartek turn to the audience in the closing sequence with a smile that communicates that he will make it!
Poland, HBO, 50 mins.
Written 20-02-2014 09:45:24 by Tue Steen Müller
Sunday 23rd of February ZagrebDox International Documentary Festival takes off for the 10th time in the Croatian capital – in the Cineplexx, Centar Kapitol cinemas. I have been to the festival several times, from the first edition as a juror, later on as programmer of a Baltic doc retrospective and several times as part of the team of ZagrebDox Pro, the training and pitching event, where new projects are presented. Nenad Puhovski, the founder of it all, film producer/director/professor, asked me for this 10th edition to put together a programme of films that were pitched at the ”Pro”, I did so with pleasure having the chance to remember titles like ”Cinema Komunisto” (Mila Turajlic), ”Caviar Connection” (Dragan Nikolic), ”Cash and Marry” (Atanas Georgiev), ”Bird’s Way (Klara Trencsényi) and “Sevdah” (Marina Andrée Skop). Not to forget “The Cycles” (Vladimir Gojun) and “Orchestra” (Pjer Zalica). I have to say that with these films, that all have a strong creative strength, and with all the other films that I have seen during the years in Zagreb, I have learnt a lot about the region, its current status and Yugoslavia.
Nenad Puhovski, same age as me, all right to be precise, he is 2 years younger, has made a programme that will not only appeal to our generation. I am sure there will full houses for a lot of the almost 150 films to be screened. I have seen many of them but going through the titles I marked 23 that I want to see when down there – I know from experience that this will not happen but as many as possible! One of them is “Twenty Feet from Stardom” (Morgan Neville), Oscar nominated, and the one of the five I had not seen before. The festival offers its audience to watch this one and two more (“Cutie and the Boxer”, “Dirty Wars”), “The Act of Killing” was at the festival last year. Only one missing is “The Square”.
A bit more title-dropping: In the international competition you will find the Lozinski films, “Father and Son” (by the son Pawel) and “Father and Son on a Journey” (by the father Marcel), Giedre Beinoriute’s “Conversations on Serious Topics”, “Return to Homs” by Talal Derki, the amazing short by Swedish Ida Lindgren “Rings of Life”, “Stories We Tell” by Sarah Polley and “The Last Station” by Cristian Soto and Catalina Vergara. And in the regional competition go and watch “Life is almost Wonderful” by Svetoslav Draganov, the original “Velvet terrorists” by Peter Kerekes, Pavel Pekarcik and Ivan Ostrochovsky, “The Last Black Sea Pirates” by Svetoslav Stoyanov, all good films that I have seen already, whereas I am really looking forward to watch Damir Cucic “Mitch – Diary of a Schizophrenic” (photo), produced by Sinisa Juricic. I have high expectations.
Have to stop here, take a look at the website, it is going to be a fest!
Links to (some of) the films mentioned:
Cinema Komunisto: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/1346/
Caviar Connection: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/718/
Cash and Marry: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/703/
Cutie and the Boxer: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2606/
Father and son: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/1536/
Conversations on Serious Topics: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2337/
Return to Homs: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2615/
Stories We Tell: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2341/
Velvet Terrorists: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2418/
The Last Black Sea Pirates: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2432/
Written 17-02-2014 10:56:33 by Tue Steen Müller
Before Scottish/Yemenite Sara Ishaq directed the personal, wonderful “The Mulberry House”, she made this 26 mins. long documentary that is nominated for an Oscar in the Documentary Short Subject category. It is extremely tough and shocking to watch because the director, in this her first documentary, brings reportage footage shot by courageous cameramen Nasr Al-Namir and Khaled Rajeh in the streets of San’a in Yemen, and in the hospitals where dead and dying victims are brought in, into a context, where the two cameramen are interviewed looking back on what happened, as well as the fathers to a dead young man and a boy who got blinded by the bullets from the regime’s soldiers. Here is the synopsis of the film from the website of the film, link below:
Through the lenses of two cameramen and the accounts of two fathers, Karama Has No Walls encapsulates the tragic events of a day that changed the course of Yemen's 2011 revolution (Friday of Karama [Dignity], March 18th 2011). The film retells the story of the tragic events of the day as they unfolded, from a peaceful prayer gathering to a barrage of bullets.
By changing the reportage material into a creative documentary with a human perspective, including people who were there filming or who came there to find out whether their loved one was one of the victims… you are watching a film, an interpretation of what happened on the square Karma, that means dignity! It’s as simple as that but it takes a clever filmmaker to get there. Read what she has written on the website of the film:
“The strongest motive that led to the making of "Karama has no walls" movie was meeting young Saleem Al-Harazi, during Yemen’s 2011 revolution, who
Read more / Læs mere
Written 14-02-2014 11:05:52 by Tue Steen Müller
Remember the days where content of conferences ended up in big reports that ended up on shelves to be very seldom looked into after the event? I would argue that it is much more attractive to look at a video from a conference, as the DoxPro people Ludmila Nazaruk and Viktor Skubey has published together with the Russian Documentary Guild’s Georgy Molodtsov. The conference, covered on this site (links below), took place late September in St. Petersburg and is now available on video in an English and Russian version. Take a look, find the subject you are interested in, it is divided into chapters, very user-friendly.
Finnish Iikka Vehkalahti opened the conference, there were talks about transmedia, crowdfunding, about the Russian Documentary Film Centre and the Russian Documentary Guild, there were insights to Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Icelandic and Norwegian documentary issues, crossmedia, webdocumentarires, debates... producer and curator of Moscow International Film Festival Grigory Libergal closed the two days.
English version: http://rgdoc.ru/en/promo/2013/doxpro/video.php
Written 12-02-2014 16:16:07 by Tue Steen Müller
”A World not Ours” was in Belgrade for the Magnificent7 festival – and was met with enthusiasm. The director told us that a follow-up short film had been selected for the Berlinale short film competition. The first public screening takes place today in Berlin, I got a dvd to watch here in Copenhagen. For those of you who are in Berlin, go and watch the film, there are still screenings scheduled. You will discover a harsh cinematic interpretation of what it means to be a refugee in today’s Europe.
The main character of ”A World not Ours”, the charismatic Abu Eyad, fled his Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon to end up in the streets of Athens, where drug addicts lie on the pavements and where he sleeps in a cellar room together with other refugees. To say the least, they hate to be in Athens, they take drugs to survive depression, and Abu Eyad earns money through sex with men and ”grannies” as he calls them.
The film is based on rough material from the streets and the cellar, including photos, with the sound of a phone conversation between the director and his pal Abu Eyad. It works perfect.
There is no smile on your face having watched this short documentary from... yes from Hell.
Xenos means "stranger", "enemy", "alien".
13 mins., 2014, United Kingdom, Denmark
Written 12-02-2014 09:30:00 by Tue Steen Müller
The vod that calls itself “your online documentary cinema”, and very right so, always high quality has this time chosen to present 11 films by a real auteur, Peter Liechti, for free until February16. The text that introduces the director follows below and on the site you will also find the interview that Sevara Pan has made with Liechti for the spring2014 issue that just came out. Pan made earlier a review on filmkommentaren of Liechti’s “Father’s Garden – the Love of my Parents”, which is not part of the retrospective. If you have time for only one film, choose “Sound of Insects”.
DocAlliance: What forms can documentary film take? Really extraordinary ones, as far as films by internationally renowned Swiss director Peter Liechti are concerned. To Liechti, the film medium is an open field entered by other art elements such as music and literary text. Under his directing guidance, plastic documentary images emerge, dominated by a common trait; that of a stream of imagination. Learn more about the power of Liechti’s visual language in a unique online retrospective from February 10 to 16 at DAFilms.com for free!
The online selection of Liechti’s works represents a summary of his films made in more than 20 years. During this time, Peter Liechti, who had originally studied visual arts, has created a specific film language with an emphasis on the powerful combination of long takes, macroscopic details and literary means of expression. In case of Liechti’s films, the label “documentary essay“ is more than fitting. The unique compilation, with its accord of narrative and visually powerful images, is perhaps best represented by the highly suggestive documentary The Sound of Insects: Report of a Mummy, which has received the Prix Arte of the European Film Academy in 2009. The voluntary death of the protagonist, accompanied by a philosophical reflection on the birth and death of life, is captured by means of the miniature movement of individual natural elements.
However, the rest of Liechti’s works deserve attention as well. A specific combination of electronic music and film characterizes Liechti’s debut Kick That Habit. Music has also been the main theme of the appreciated film Namibia Crossings capturing an ethnically diverse group of musicians on tour in the South African state. Whereas music is a strong linking element between the individual protagonists, their cultural differences and bias lead to many a misunderstanding. The director’s personal testimony about the search for his own roots, integrated in the story of his attempt to get rid of his nicotine addiction, is given during the contemplative journey to the director’s native city in Lucky Jack.
Written 07-02-2014 14:16:06 by Tue Steen Müller
Shit happens... Det var min hensigt at anmelde, og anmelde positivt om denne fine film, produceret af Hollands fremragende dokumentarproducent Pieter van Huystee. Jeg så den i Amsterdam, hvor den var nomineret til den store pris, men ikke vandt, men det kunne den sådan set godt have gjort for sin indlevende og kærlige beskrivelse af to herlige alkoholiske, lommefilosoferende skæbner, der ligeså godt kunne være bænket i Ørstedsparken om sommeren. Vejrbidte mænd med flaskerne indenfor rækkevidde.
Jeg nåede ikke at skrive før afrejsen til Beograd, så nu nøjes jeg med at gøre opmærksom på filmen, som to dage efter sin premiere via DoxBio stadig er til at se i 10 biografer landet over, se link nedenfor. OG for dem, der som mig oprindeligt troede, at Jacques Brel’s sang er med i filmen – nej, det er den ikke, men derfor kan I godt nynne den efter filmen, som fra starten kalder på melankolien. Her er en beskrivelse fra idfa festivalen:
The Flemish Bob and the Walloon Marcel have come together in the lonely woods and empty fields of Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. At first everything is bleak, bare and gray, just like the two men feel inside. Both have seen their lives slip through their fingers, and they have come together to share sorrow and drink-sodden nights. Bob, who looks like a weather-beaten explorer, hardly ever sees his grown-up children. He has lost his girlfriend and drinks rum like water. Marcel is a broken man caught up in divorce proceedings who drowns his sorrows in liters of beer, but at least they have one another. Together they visit the dentist, celebrate carnival in the village pub and go to Marcel’s intake at a rehab clinic. But usually they meet at one of their kitchen tables, where drink and conversation flow freely. Although the pair is able to bring a sense of humor to bear on their gloomy lives, they always end up discussing a suicide pact. The camera follows this couple thrown together by fate over several seasons in Direct Cinema style. This exceptional, character-driven story delivers heartwarming and sad, hilarious and very painful moments in provincial Belgium, which, like the two main characters, also seems to be in decay.
Holland/Belgien, 2013, 107 mins.
Written 06-02-2014 08:45:58 by Tue Steen Müller
Take a look at the photo. It is taken at the oldest Belgrade kafana that has the name ? It is situated next to Saboma Church (The Cathedral) where the four of us always go. From left Zoran Popovic, then Tue Steen Müller and Svetlana Popovic, camera held by Ellen Fonnesbech-Sandberg. Wednesday morning there was time for a classical small tour that we have done during many years of Magnificent7: cakes at Hotel Moscow, candles at the church and this year also a small rakija kruska (pear brandy) at ?
Later that day we had lunch at the residence of the Finnish ambassador, who had invited due to the presence of the Finnish director Petri Luukkainen and his cameraman Jesse Jokinen, who back at headquarter, the Sava Center, gave a fine masterclass on their film. Luukkainen talked about the filming and the editing (they had 200 hours!) for this (the director’s word) self-reflecting film, where Luukkainen more and more felt that his presence was a kind of performative play.
EDN (European Documentary Network) director Paul Pauwels gave a motivating speech to the 30 young filmmakers present on this last day of the workshop: the media situation is changing, we need to share to survive, to make a good documentary you need a sustainable compay behind... PP responded to brief pitches give by a handful of the participants, and then we were all off to the closing ceremony in the big hall of Sava Center where the loyal audience knew how to praise Zoran and Svetlana Popovic and their team. The closing film ”Faith Connection” is magnificent – a fantastic documentation of Kumbh Mela, ”a fresco” as the Popovic’s write below, and a film where you fall in love with the kids that the director Pan Nalin so cleverly portrays – the small Babu, touching to follow the love he gets from his Baba, the Yogi who gets stoned several times per day. Not to forget Kishan Tiwari, the runaway kid who wants to be a sadhu.
Magnificent7 2014 is over. Time to go back to Copenhagen later today.
Written 05-02-2014 09:51:30 by Tue Steen Müller
Director and main character Petri Luukkainen accompanied by cinematographer Jesse Jokinen came to the stage after the screening of their film ”My Stuff” to receive a diploma and 1000€ from local BelMedic Clinic as a recognition of a ”healthy” film, healthy for your soul, an experiment into seeing what we really need.
The discussion in the VIP room, again full house as there was a full house in the big hall in the Sava Centre – it’s been like that all six first nights – took off in a very good atmosphere with two very nicely dressed Finnish filmmakers, who took us with charm with stories from the shooting over a year. Petri said that he was sick in the beginning of the film, minus 30 degrees it was in Finland at that time where he lies on the floor in an empty flat using his overcoat as duvet! And he had a crisis in the middle of the shooting and ”thanks God that I met Maia”, who comes in as a character and is there after the 365 days, when the storage room is opened.
To be the director and the main character... he felt a bit skizofrenic sometimes... but the one and only lovely grandmother was on many occasions the one to visit and get advice from. She stands out with her mildness and wisdom and it was easy to film the scenes with her, Jesse Jokinen added.
Conclusions? What did you get out of it? Were questions asked to Petri Luukkainen. I learned that ”All you Need is Love”, he said and added that without grandmother and Maia, it would have been a real boring movie. It is not, its is sweet and charming.
The film has had a fine run in cinemas in Finland and theatrical releases are planned in the UK, Germany, Sweden and Japan!
The last film of the 2014 Magnificent7 festival runs tonight, ”Faith Connections” by French/Indian director Pan Nalin, see below.
Written 05-02-2014 09:48:05 by Tue Steen Müller
The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film: A grand cinematic spectacle! A documentary that takes us into the world of religious cults of India – the place where the rivers Ganges and Yamuna join with the invisible river Saraswati. Here every twelve years the world’s largest faith gathering – Kumbh Mela, takes place.
Tens of millions of people from all part of India come together over fifty-five days to bathe in the holy river and wash off their sins, thus ending the karmic wheel of reincarnation. Director Pan Nalin captures this massive human anthill in fascinating scenes conveying the eruption of colors and events, representing the vast space and the heaving human mass. Building on the frenetic activity, the filmmaker’s precise direction delineates the various groups of different sects, and among them the Sadhu – holy men. In contrast to their deep inner peace are the swarming thousands of ordinary people, confused and anxious, whom the power of faith has brought to this place where the earthly and heavenly meet.
During Kumbh Mela several thousand people get lost, and the filmmaker chooses to frame the film around lost children, three boys thrown into the crowd of people and abandoned to the twists of fate. Led by the notion that “faith is not faith until it is all that you have left to hold on to” Pan Nalin develops a majestic composition in search for the deep and powerful connections being woven around the boys and all they come in contact with.
“Faith Connections” are another triumph of the heights of documentary cinema. Pan Nalin, an international star of the cinematic skies, both in fiction and documentary, chooses one of the most important of subjects in India – man facing destiny, and gives it a European documentary treatment, to create an exciting, lavish fresco pulsing with frenetic inner rhythms.
France/India, 2013, 115 mins.
Written 04-02-2014 09:47:59 by Tue Steen Müller
The Riahi Brothers had visited the festival before. Arash presented his ”Exile Family Movie” in 2007 in which his younger brother Arman is an important character as the film (the title says it all) deals with a family that meets in Saudi Arabia after 20 years of separation and without the possibility to get to the Iran most of the family left. Now the two works out of Vienna, Austria.
The inspiration to ”Everyday Rebellion”, that was last night’s screening in Belgrade at the Magnificent7 festival, came naturally from the Iranian Green Movement in 2009 that demonstrated against Ahmadinejad. The actions of the movement, as Arash said it, was violently cracked down but the brothers saw other movements coming up that had no leaders, were non-violent – they saw a pattern and decided to make a film. ”We wanted to make our contribution” and ”help the movements spread through a film that will go in cinemas, on dvd’s, with a website (link below) and an upcoming mobile application”. They saw several movements being connected, when they started filming the Occupy movement in the US, they met with Srdja Popovic, who was part of the Otpor that went against Milosevic, and who is a central character in the film describing the tactics of non-violent movements all over the world.
In the Q&A that I report from in this report - full house, around 70 of the almost 2000 spectators took part – Popovic formulated that ”those movements are the only way to change the world... it’s not facebook. It’s step-by-step actions with a will to change”, he said, and complimented the Riahi Brothers for ”a beautiful and inspirational film”.
Who are financing these actions, was the question that came up in the VIP room of the Sava Centre. And why is this not in the film? ”Our film is about the tactics, we did not look for answers”, and added his frustration that there are always someone that looks for ”the ones behind”.
... and then it became all Serbian in the room with no discussion about the film itself and pretty difficult for me to follow as the moderator Zoran Popovic stopped moderating to have looong interventions related to the subject of the film...as I see it missing the point that this is an informative film with a message and deep respect for young people all over world, who take action in different ways that are outlined in the film...well you can’t have it all.
The film of tonight is ”My Stuff” by Petri Luukkainen. See below.
Written 04-02-2014 09:35:49 by Tue Steen Müller
The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film:
What do we really need in life?
How much do the things we are surrounded by fulfill us, and how much do they enslave us?
In a moment of emotional crisis, a young Finn decides to draw on the wisdom of philosophers of antiquity, making a radical move in his life. Discarding everything around and even on him, in a brave and uncompromising step he put himself in an entirely new existential situation, one that sets him at a considerable, and sobering, distance from the modern world.
Petri Luukkainen signs and stars in this daring and unusual manifesto. Following a set of simple and strict rules the filmmaker documents his own experiment, examining modern culture and the perpetual dynamic of need-creation in a world swamped with consumerism. Are we still capable of understanding ourselves and recognising the true needs of our own beings, emotions and thoughts? This is a provocative adventure of the soul and body from the moment of stripping down to one’s freedom, in a metaphoric re-birth, to a world shaped and transformed by our own actions.
In equal measure intelligent, entertaining and moving, this film is a surprising study of universal and immutable values. Virtuoso photography, a masterfully playful and dynamic montage, and a strikingly effective narration rank “My Stuff” at the very top of contemporary documentary cinema.
Finland, 2013, 80 minutes.
Written 03-02-2014 00:23:55 by Tue Steen Müller
Last night was the screening of Nicolas Philibert’s ”La Maison de la Radio”. The director went on stage with festival director Zoran Popovic, for the second time in the history of the 10 year old festival. In 2011 he presented ”Nénette”, the orangutang, who, by the way, Philibert told us at a lunch, is still alive, gets up in the morning when the zoo opens and goes to bed when the zoo closes. A real performer!
We had expected that a film about a radio station would not attract the young part of the audience, we were wrong, the hall was full, as was the vip room afterwards, where the q&a sessions take place, around 30 people were there to listen and ask questions. Philibert talks so good about his view on documentaries and about his method, that you just sit down and write down some of the sentences from him:
”What I like about radio is the absence of images”. My challenge was ”how to make a film about radio without shattering the mystery”. ”I love their (the workers) continuous demanding – their trying to do their best”. He has a very positive approach to radio. ”Here you find authors and philosophers, who never appear on television.”
Philibert filmed in Radio France for ten weeks spread over 6 months. The station has 5000 people employed and 70 studios. It is a public service institution, and is thus, for the director, a small mirror of the society. He did not want to make a film that was ”trop daté” and refrained to give the Arab Spring and Fukushima too much space even if those were the hot issues during his time of filming.
About documentaries in general, Philibert pointed at the danger for normalization of the genre, ”it has to constantly renew form and shape”, he said in a visual clip, made when he was in Belgrade with ”Nénette”. A clip that answers the question ”what is a documentary for you”, put to all directors who in the ten years have visited the Magnificent7 Festival.
Tonight follows ”Everyday Rebellion” by Austrian Riahi Brothers.
Written 03-02-2014 00:16:25 by Tue Steen Müller
The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film:
The world is in a state of rebeliion against political regimes, against as yet unbridled madness, against itself! In this contemporary, all-encompassing and ever-present ”Everyday Rebellion”, the rebels have uncovered new weapons that make them more active, more efficient, and more – entertaining! From subversive illegal cultural actions in Iran to silent demonstrations in Egypt, through bare-breasted provocations by activists in the Ukraine to the Occupy movement in the US, this film follows pioneers of new forms of protests, from the stages of preparation to their dramatic public staging.
The Riahi brothers manage to skillfully and thoughtfully encompass the entire world in a single gaze and single breath. In a series of dynamic episodes framed by a pointed and witty commentry, this lavish study of a planetary phenomenon pulses in a rhythmic succession of drama, carneval and floating conflicts. This is a story of the power of ideas and the spirit, of a modern-day David who unfailingly takes aim at an unfathomably giant Goliath, hitting his mark with a stone no larger than a grain of wisdom. And here is another reason for us to be particularly interested in seeing this film – one of the protagonists is a Belgrade activist who speaks to events that took place here, setting a precedent for events shaking up the world today.
This film is a festival favorite around the world, particularly of audiences that see in it a magic mirror in which everyone’s face and position is reflected with clarity. One of the largest productions in recent years, a film of undisputable aesthetic value, “Everyday Rebeliion” transcends it’s cinematic form, having become an active internet platform in which all anonymous and “little” people are invited to join in.
Austria, Switzerland, 2013, 110 mins.
Written 02-02-2014 10:07:01 by Tue Steen Müller
The workshop connected to the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade attracts more participants than ever. 70 young film students and first time filmmakers have registered to hear about the documentary filmmaking in the presence of the filmmakers, whose work have been shown the night before.
Saturday morning Mahdi Fleifel was the one. His film ”A World not Ours” had been overwhelmingly well received in the cinema and the director, with his own words, ”gave his cv” to the workshop participants. ”A World not Ours” is the first professional work of the director, who right now lives in a suitcase, travelling to festivals with his film – next venue is the Berlinale, where he will present a sequel to ”A World not Ours”. For the Dane, who writes these lines, it was great to hear about Fleifel’s fascination of the documentaries of Jon Bang Carlsen – ”Hotel of the Stars” and the two Irish works ”It’s Now or Never” and ”How to invent Reality”, commissioned by me when I was film consultant at the National Film Board of Denmark (Statens Filmcentral).
Woody Allen is a source of inspiration for the director, who at his office in London has a banner saying ”what would Stanley do” referring to Stanley Kubrick. Fleifel went to NFTS, the National film school in England, and what really pushed him to make the film from the refugee camp was watching Ross McElwee’s ”Shermans March”.
He talked about the technical side of the making of the film, where Danish filmmaker and cameraman Jesper Jargil had given him the necessary advice on what camera to buy for the job.
Sunday night’s film is ”La Maison de la Radio" by French Nicolas Philibert.
Written 02-02-2014 09:32:18 by Tue Steen Müller
The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film: The great French documentary master Nicolas Philibert takes us into the mysterious world behind the voices and music coming to us through the subtle sphere of sound waves. This is a journey into the heart of the most famous French radio house to discover the secret of a media whose essence is invisible. In the vein of some of his greatest works, this film has a simple narrative frame – this is a saga about a day in the life of radio. A day constructed as an exciting mosaic of scenes from studios, editors’ offices, technical checks, recording sessions, dynamic and passionate speeches, discussions, singing and performance, laughter. Philibert’s assured camera becomes a careful and patient observer documenting the world of radio secrets in mesmerising frames colored by beauty, warmth and an ever-present curiousity.
The titular “La Maison de la radio” is the name by which the French refer to the rotund building in Paris housing the national radio station – Radio France. With the skill of a great filmmaker, Philibert leads us into one of the powerful media fortresses of present-day Europe to reveal to us the ideas, skills, talents, beauty, humor and irony hidden in the labyrinth of hallways, studios and offices.
An extraordinary achievement of contemporary documentary about a medium pushed aside in today’s inflation of images and the visual, but which is staging a comeback everywhere. Like a water-lilly, blossoming under the magic touch of Philibert, the ever-present yet invisible sphere reveals to us it’s face in a spell-binding and unforgettable moment, captivating the viewer.
France, Japan, 2012, 103 mins.
Written 01-02-2014 11:24:11 by Tue Steen Müller
The organisers estimated that 1500 attended the screening of Mahdi Fleifel’s ”A World not Ours” in the big hall of the Sava Centre. The director entered the stage with festival director Zoran Popovic and took a photo that he wants to send to his mother in Denmark, the country in the cold North that his family moved to after leaving the refugee camp Ain el-Helweh in the south of Lebanon. The camp that is the location of his film where he goes back on holidays to meet friends and the part of the family that has remained there, first of all his charismatic 80 year old grandfather. The main character of the film is Abu Eyad, a friend of the director, whose doubt about the way Palestinian politics is being performed becomes the red thread of the warm and humorous story as it unfolds with shootings of today and archive material shot first of all by the father of the director.
The audience included a big group of ambassadors and diplomats from the Arabic countries, headed by the Palestinian Ambassador Mr Mohammed K. M. Nabhan, whose first reaction to the film was ”this is my story”. On the photo that I took on behalf of Mahdi Fleifel the ambassador is the third from the right, Fleifel second from left.
At the dinner I sat next to the brother of the Ambassador, who expressed the wish that the film could be shown in Ramallah as Palestinians living there actually know very little about the many refugee camps. He and his brother, who lives in Sweden for 25 years, told me that they are 7 brothers and 2 sisters, spread all over the world, speaking, if you add it up, 11 languages!
Mahdi Fleifel and his team has started an Academy Award Campaign: Please help us qualify our critically acclaimed documentary for Oscars 2015 consideration. Here is the link to know more:
Tonight the film at the Magnificent7 festival is ”My Fathers, My Mother and Me” – German title ”Meine Keine Familie”, read below.
Written 01-02-2014 10:47:16 by Tue Steen Müller
German title: Meine Keine Familie.
The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film: Deep inside this film lies hidden a drama which slowly and imperceptibly unfolds enveloping the actors of this family and non-family story. The filmmaker Paul-Julien Robert launches a personal investigation into the identity of his father, but also into his own childhood. A childhood that is far from ordinary – for he was born and raised in a commune, which from the beginning of the 1970s to the late 80s came to be the largest free commune in Europe. It was created by the legendary avantgarde Austrian artist Otto Mühl, and at it’s height it was inhabited with more than 600 people from all over Europe. All of them were drawn there by the ideals of absolute freedom, to live a life based on the principles of “self-expression, communal property, free sexuality, joint labour, collective upbringing of children and direct democracy.”
Within this utopia, among large groups of carefree and joyful children we discover Paul-Julien Robert, thanks to archival footage for which he obtained exclusive permission to show publicly for the first time. This enables him to face a part of his forgotten and repressed childbood memories. The basis of the film is a pain-staking questioning of memory, an analysis of archival images and a dramatic confrontation of the filmmaker first with his own mother, and then a succession of ‘fathers’ and playmates from one of the ‘freest’ kindergardens in Europe.
This film represents an exclusive, shocking and disturbing creation of two dedicated masters of the cinematic art: Paul-Julien Robert, an engaged, courageous, analytical and emotional author and his editor Oliver Neumann, who builds the dramaturgy of this investigation constructing it into a tense drama of extraordinary gradation and rhythm. The two come together to create a film of superior achievement, which, last year in London, won them one of the most prestigous awards in the world of documentary cinema, one that carries the name of the legendary John Grierson.
Austria, 2012, 93 mins.
Written 31-01-2014 10:45:50 by Tue Steen Müller
The morning after the opening of the 10th edition of Magnificent 7 Festival in Belgrade. The sky is clear but the wind outside is close to become a hurricane. A constant sound of wind enters the hotel room and is mixed in my head with the sound of ”Leviathan”, the first film of the 2014 selection, a film that brought an almost physical experience to many of us, who felt like ”being there” (as Richard Leacock always said was his ambition with his films) in this case on board a boat where fish of all kind end their lives, a drama it is, conveyed in a visual language that sometimes takes your mind away from the boat into surrealistic paintings and back again with a sound track that sits in you the whole way through this interpretation of Death. OMG, to be working there... we see the brave men once in a while but otherwise – with the words of Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw: … we can see what the humans see – and get the freaky, hallucinatory sense that we are also seeing what the fish see, what the gulls see, even what the ship sees…
We had dinner at the legendary Madera Restoran where Orson Welles, Hitchcock and De Niro have been eating, talking about the film and preparing for tonight, where “A World not Ours” by Mahdi Fleifel is to be shown. Fleifel grew up in Denmark, went to film school in the UK and has had a well deserved success with this film, that will be seen by a lot of Belgrade Palestinians, who have obtained tickets for the screening.
The 10th edition – let me show a picture from the first edition’s first film in the festival in 2005, Thomas Riedelsheimer’s “Touch The Sound”.
Written 31-01-2014 10:10:41 by Tue Steen Müller
The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film: From the moment of it’s appearance, this film and it’s young author received great accolades: a world premiere at the Berlinale, top prizes at leading cinema festivals including Edinburgh, Yamagata and New York and two awards for the leading young talent at Copenhagen Docs and the Nordisk Panorama within the section of “New Nordic Voices”.
Mahdi Fleifel brilliantly interweaves archival images with subjectively filmed material, creating a unique chronicle that manages to highlight the warmth of it’s main protagonists and the liveliness of daily events. Diverse video recordings of events, small and big, over a period of over 20 years are basis for a complexly composed film. This chronicle is an exlusive entry into a space which foreigners are strictly barred from, and so represents a valuable window into previously unseen life inside of one of the largest Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
Enchantingly humorous, full of life and indeliblly captured moments, this documentary carries a unique atmosphere and a delicate narrative line, revealing in a surprising light the space and people whose life is stamped with collective tragedy and trauma. In the collision of entertaining and melancholy, the surreal and the absurd, “A World Not Ours” is a testimony to a forgotten dark corner of the world, but also a vindication of life and joy.
A documentary of masterful narration, deeply honest, marked by the personal engagement of it’s maker and a rare artistic achievement – the breaking down of a wall of prejudice and ideologically colored stories about the fate of a people.
UK, Denmark, Lebanon, 2012, 93 mins.
Written 30-01-2014 09:29:07 by Tue Steen Müller
The festival in Belgrade opens tonight. I dare write that the hall will look very much like the photo that accompanies this text: hundreds, maybe a thousand spectators, for the opening film ”Leviathan” that the festival directors write about below, a text taken from the website of Magnificent7.
After one year of closing for renewal, we guests stay at Crowne Plaza (former Hotel Intercontinental), which has a direct access to the Sava Centre, where all screenings take place. One film per day is scheduled.
Belgrade weather is nice, cold yes, but with some sunshine this morning and a pretty view to the city covered with snow. A so-called survival kit (oranges, water, snacks, chocolate) stands in front of me at the hotel room. One of the many unique personal elements of a festival that treats its guests as kings and queens.
The coming 7 days will include a small report on filmkommentaren plus the text of the festival directors about the day’s film.
Written 30-01-2014 09:09:39 by Tue Steen Müller
Directors of Maginificent 7, Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, write about the film that opens the festival tonight:
The first great cinematic hit of a new visual era which is taking over the world. Something you have not seen before! A visual treatment that fully meets the great expectations of a cinematic vision born in the 20th century – a camera freed from the dictates of narration, a new all-seeing eye capable of creating a whole new world from the fragments of the old! “Leviathan” is the film which harkens the new possibilities of the visual in cinema.
The film takes us to the coast of New Bradford in North America, the former world capital of whaling, which served as the inspiration for Melville’s legendary novel “Moby Dick”. Today it remains one of the largest fishing harbours, from which over 500 ships sail each month. Filmmakers Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor follow one of these fishing vessels, sailing out into the murky, black waters on a trawling expedition.
And so begins a “gothic horror documentary! A world we have never seen before! “The most spectacular film of the year!” Such praise is heaped on by film critics fascinated by the artistic achievement of two noted visual artists.
Without a single spoken world, the film creates a Biblical sea beast, the Leviathan, embodied in a gigantic metal monster that thunders by, devouring fish while beseiged by flocks of seagulls. Time and space become foreign to us. An awesome and frightening document of a parallel dark side and at the same time an inner image of our world that is devouring both itself and the planet.
France, UK, USA, 2012, 87 mins.
Written 29-01-2014 11:16:55 by Tue Steen Müller
On 27th January 2014 it was 70 years ago that the catastrophic and tragic siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) was lifted. I wanted to watch again the much acclaimed ”Blockade” by Sergei Loznitsa. Deckert Distribution was so kind to send me a dvd + a copy of ”900 Days” by Dutch Jessica Gorter. Two fine works that goes perfectly together. I have written about both films below.
But first some words about me and St. Petersburg, a city that I adore and have been so lucky to visit many times. First times in the beginning of the 90’es where I was part of a selection team for the Balticum Film & TV Festival on Bornholm (1990-2000). Head of the team was Russian born Sonja Vesterholt, the best guide to the city you can dream of. (On the 27th Sonja wrote the following on Facebook: ”I dag er der 70 år siden Leningrads 900-dages lange belejring blev ophævet.. 1 500 500 mennesker døde af sult. Min mor overlevede...” = Today, 70 years ago the 900 days long siege of Leningrad was lifted. 1.500.500 died of starvation. My mother survived...).
Later on I visited the city as consultant for the Baltic Media Centre together with Latvian colleagues Lelda Ozola and Ilze Gailite Holmberga. On one of these trips I met Ludmila Nazaruk, who stands behind the great website miradox.ru and together with Viktor Skubey have organised several meetings in the name of DoxPro in order to better the conditions for documentarians in Russia. The last effort of the two was the conference ”Financing of International Creative Documentary Projects in the Northern Dimension Area: Cutting Edge and Trends.” Russian speaking can follow (via miradox.ru) what was said at the Conference, where Mikael Opstrup from EDN and I were invited to be moderators. Link below. On top of that I have for two years been consulting the ”Message to Man” festival thanks to filmmaker Mikhail Zheleznikov and the new President Alexey Uchitel, who took part in the first edition of the festival on Bornholm. So all goes together in this nostalgic tour over two decades... It’s all about friendships, isn’t it?
Back to history and to the two films I saw. Sergei Loznitsa's ”Blockade” is 100% based on archive material, b/w, 52 mins, no words, no explanation, ”this is how cameramen filmed the siege”, he seems to say in this unique work, that shocks you and from a filmic point of view impresses you with its precise interpretation of sound: footsteps, small not hearable conversations, a sled being taken through icy snow carrying a corpse... He presents the
Read more / Læs mere
Written 26-01-2014 18:50:38 by Tue Steen Müller
… while diplomats and politicians talk about Syria these days in Geneva, mentioning Homs in every sentence, news came today about the excellent film “Return to Homs”: It was Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the prestigious Sundance Festival. Bravo! That must increase the distribution of the film worldwide. Deserves to be seen all over.
The award was received by producer Orwa Nyrabia, who said:
“It was a very long journey until we were here,” he says. “This really gives us hope, us and everyone under siege in Homs and other places. It gives us hope that some day the siege will end. That some president can be ousted. And some other president in another place can do something finally."
On YouTube you can see Orwa Nyrabia and director Talal Derki’s thank you talks.
Here I repeat the review of the film, which was on the list of “Best of 2013”:
I met Talal Derki at a workshop in Athens a couple of years ago. He showed me some footage with Basset, the young revolutionary leader – and talented football goalkeeper – from Homs, fighting Bashar and his gang. What I saw was impressive and strong. I told him to make the film quickly: It is important to see what happens. NOW. He did not follow my advice. He did right. Instead of a report
Read more / Læs mere
Written 26-01-2014 11:57:02 by Tue Steen Müller
The Magnificent7 festival starts thursday the 30th of January in Belgrade. Opening film is "Leviathan" (photo). From thursday and the following seven days a report will be posted from the festival as well as a presentation review by festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic. For the website (link below) I wrote the following text:
Ten Years Older... Well, I am told that the festival celebrates its 10th edition! Really? Is it true? I feel the festival more to be Ten Minutes Older, to bring in the title of the legendary short documentary by Herz Frank.
For me it is just a moment ago that we (festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, the whole festival team including me) waited down at the stage in the Sava Centre in 2005. Anxiously to see an audience enter the hall to watch ”Touch the Sound” by Thomas Riedelsheimer. The opening film of this European Feature Documentary Festival. People came, in huge numbers, and it has been like that since then. The Belgrade audience has been more than loyal to Magnificent7, simply the best that this travelling documentary observer knows. Thank you! Veliko, neizmerno hvala!
Herz Frank again: "In front of me on my work table is the central fragment from Raphael's fresco "The School of Athens". Plato and Aristotle discuss the philosophical meaning of life. Plato is pointing upwards - the essence is the Idea! Aristotle, on the other hand, has his palm pointing down to the ground - the basis is the material! Even earlier in the Old Testament (Genesis) both views are united. In the first book of Moses the first lines states: In the beginning God created heaven and earth. Read - the spiritual and the material.”
Read more / Læs mere
Written 23-01-2014 11:25:13 by Tue Steen Müller
The Danish Film Institute publishes regularly – in English – its magazine Film. A printed issue is always available in connection with the big festivals in Berlin, Cannes and Amsterdam (idfa), and on top of that you can find digital issues, the last one being the Fall 2013 issue that covers films in connection with other festivals like Toronto as well as articles on coproductions with Danish companies.
This blog post, however, deals with a very generous offer, in a special digital issue on ”10 Years with New Danish Screen”. For those who don’t know what that is: ” Established in 2003, New Danish Screen is a talent development subsidy scheme providing support for fiction and documentary films.
Through this support scheme new generations of filmmakers are given the opportunity to push their limits and create new experiences for cinema and television audiences. New Danish Screen aims at making use of the energies and skills of talented creators, rather than guiding them in well-defined directions.
New Danish Screen is aimed at new talents working on the professional level as well as less experienced filmmakers. What counts is enabling manifested talents to develop, test out new ideas or change course since their past productions.
New Danish Screen (NDS) is founded on a partnership between the Danish Broadcasting Corporation DR, TV 2 and the Danish Film Institute."
And now about the celebration gift that also reaches out to a foreign audience (English subtitles): Choose between 53 films, supported by the NDS, and watch them online. Here are some titles to be recommended: "My Avatar and Me" by Bente Milton and Mikkel Stolt (photo), "My Father from Haifa" by Omar Shargawi, "The Invention of Dr. Nakamats" by Kaspar Astrup Schröder, Mira Jargil's new "Dreaming of a family", "White Black Boy" by Camilla Magid (this one with a small fee, otherwise the mentioned are for free). Those mentioned are all documentaries that I have seen, there are several fiction films, more experimental works and NDS deserves (also) much credit for bringing back the short film to a Danish, and now also an international audience. So - read all about it, NDS, and have fun with some films!
Written 21-01-2014 10:59:28 by Tue Steen Müller
Guldbaggen (The Golden Beetle), the yearly Swedish cinema award ceremony, took place yesterday and again documentaries played an important role – as last year where two films stood out: Palme by Kristina Lindström and Maud Nycander and Searching for Sugarman by Malik Bendjelloul.
Awarded as the best film this year was ¨The Reunion” (Återträffen) by Anna Odell, a hybrid film to use a modern terminology, or a docufiction, that Mikkel Stolt reviewed for filmkommentaren.dk
Danish director Per Fly got the beetle as best director for ”Monica Z” about legendary singer Monica Zetterlund.
Best documentary went to Mia Engberg for her ”Belleville Baby”, a very fine choice. I saw it in connection with the Nordisk Panorama festival in Malmø and wrote:
...it has a feeling, an atmosphere, a personal tone (the director’s own voice and her text is excellent) and a well told story from the past, where the director fell in love in Paris, lived with him for some time, experienced him becoming a criminal, because of his immigrant background, an honest film that also includes reflections on the fimmaker wanting to convey the good story, whatever the subject of the story thinks... it is so well made with a mix af material – super 8 blurred images, photos, newsreels and tv-reports from riots in France, home video from the director with her small son, all framed by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydike. An essay film on remembering, and remembering different moments and events, maybe they never took place. Impressive work...
Written 20-01-2014 11:42:33 by Tue Steen Müller
The nominations have been done. At least three of the films deal with current political conflicts (these ones):
“The Act of Killing”, Cutie and the Boxer, The Square, Dirty Wars and 20 Feet from Stardom compete for the Best Documentary Feature prize at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2…”
I have seen them all (see below) except for “20 Feet from Stardom” (Photo). “The film has this synopsis description on the Oscar site (link below): Background singers heard on many of the 20th century's greatest songs have made a crucial contribution to the world of pop music while remaining unknown to listeners. The singers take center stage for an in-depth look at their role as supporting figures in the complex process involved in creating the finished recordings.” From watching Youtube clips and the trailer it is obvious that this is a film with wonderful music and women, based on interviews with them and people like Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Betty Midler. A classic tv language film.
So… who are my favourites having seen all five, one in excerpts? “The Act of Killing” and “The Square” stand out. No doubt about that. In film language, actuality and storytelling. Important films they are. If it comes to approach to theme, innovation and originality “The Act of Killing” is unique. It would get my vote if I was a member of the Academy. I am not.
If you want to read more about what is considered to be the two favourites, not only by me, go to the websites of the films, links below. Or get hold of the magazine DOX 100, where Joshua Oppenheimer and Werner Herzog talk “The Act of Killing” and Jehane Noujaim is interviewed by BBC-editor Nick Fraser about “The Square”. Fraser, who has called “The Act of Killing” “porn for liberals” thinks that “The Square” is “the best film I have seen this year”.
Written 20-01-2014 10:50:15 by Tue Steen Müller
I watched this film online (on the fine festivalscope, link below, subscription-based) after it had been announced as one of the five nominees for the Oscar award in the feature documentary category.
The film has this synopsis description on the Oscar site (link below): “The events that have shaken Egypt since 2011 have taken the country from a revolution aimed at ending political oppression to the overthrow of the new president, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. At the center of the story is Cairo's Tahrir Square, the gathering place for protesters and the site of many of the period’s most dramatic moments.”
… and drama there is, indeed, in this film that stays close to young revolutionaries for more than 2 years, catching the atmosphere of optimism after the fall of Mubarak, slogans, speeches in Tahrir Square, concerts, something’s gonna change - to the disillusion when the army has taken over and attacks the protesters, to more disillusion, when the Muslim Brotherhood negociates with the army, wins the election and appoints Morsi, who from the eyes of the young revolutionaries turns out to be worse than Mubarak. It’s observational reportage style footage that is the fundament of the film: People gathering. People in their tents. People being beaten up. People killed in the demonstrations, the mourning of their relatives, it’s terrible to follow. Some optimism returns to the face of Ahmed, when Morsi is taken away from power and the military is back. Yes, Ahmed (photo) is the character cleverly chosen by the director to bring in the emotional part – the young revolutionary, who is at the square discussing with people, who comments on what happens and how it influences him as time and events pass by. He is filmed in the streets, or through interviews. We read his face. The first, the direct works best, the latter feels a bit too staged. A scoop for the film, however, is that another central character is Magdy, who in an interview with the director is described as “a foot soldier” for the Muslim Brotherhood. His discussions with Ahmed, their friendship, stress that the director – although she follows the revolutionaries, who have also provided her with footage – does not want to condemn the Brotherhood as terrorists (as the military government does right now). Discussions like that as well as the actor Khalid’s skype conversations with his exiled wise father take the film take a step away from the constant bombardment of reportage material, whereas short interviews with military people made me confused – they can’t be as stupid as these ones all of them!
USA, 2013, 1 hour 44 mins.
Written 18-01-2014 19:48:44 by Tue Steen Müller
I watched this film online (on the excellent idfa "docs for sale") today after it had been announced as one of the nominees for the Oscar award in the feature documentary category.
The film has this synopsis description on the Oscar site (link below): “One of the least-known components in the war on terror, the Joint Special Operations Command conducts its work in secret and seemingly without limitations. With no existing record of their actions or personnel, the JSOC carries out strikes against those deemed a threat to U.S. security while remaining entirely outside the scope of public knowledge.”
… which is actually not really how the film appears. Its is much more a film that has taken all its storytelling tools from fiction, a thriller, a detective story with journalist Jeremy Scahill in the leading role as himself, the reporter who with his notebook never gives up in his year-long search to reveal American war crimes in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia with some looking back at Iraq. He finds out the existence of the JSOC before it goes public, having success in finding and killing Osama bin Laden. It is a well-made film and no doubt that Scahill is a good journalist, but also a writing journalist, a man who works with words and has published praised books on his journeys into the secret world of the US fight against terrorism, a fight that with JSOC, as the film shows, has cost many lives of civilians. It is a formatted film with the journalist always at work, always on a case, seriously interviewing Afghans (the Gardez case where innocent, pregnant women were killed) and Yemenits about what really happened, when their dear ones were killed by the counterterrorist JSOC, accompanied by strong images of corpses, and clips from American television shows where his investigations were made into stupid entertainment. Scahill is serious but also a man, who constantly talks in first person (I decided to go but could not etc.) and only at the end when he meets the father of Anwar al-Awlaki, American citizen, who was killed because of his role in al-Qaeda, with the consequent killing of his 16 year old son, what did he do other than being the son of… you sense that the journalist – portrayed as a hero – has some feelings for what he is doing.
USA, 2012, 87 mins.
Written 17-01-2014 18:14:35 by Tue Steen Müller
I watched this film online (on the excellent idfa "docs for sale") today after it had been announced as one of the nominees for the Oscar award in the feature documentary category.
The film that runs theatrically in the US now, has this description on the Oscar site (link below): ”The 40-year marriage of painter Ushio Shinohara, known for his boxing paintings, and his wife, Noriko, who gave up her own career as an artist to focus on her husband, has become the subject of a series of comic strips drawn by Noriko. As the 80-year-old Ushio finds his own artistic reputation fading, Noriko's fame continues to grow.”
... and it is a very good film, a charming and touching visit to the home and studios of the two, Ushio who is 80 years old and Noriko, who is around 20 years younger, and who is the one who has been suffering from her husband’s heavy alchoholism, documented through strongly archive material and excellently through the mentioned comic strips. The narration leads up to an exhibition, where she gets her own space and decorates the walls with the story about Cutie = herself (photo). The location is New York, there is a lot of presence in the film with the now (for several years says Noriko) sober Ushio, who thinks high of himself and ”need” Noriko, who says sweetly that ”Cutie love Bullie” so much.
On the Dogwoof site, where you can also buy the film, the director writes brilliantly about the background of the film. (Link below).
US, 2013, 78 mins.
Written 16-01-2014 15:34:33 by Tue Steen Müller
Yes, it does, ”goes political”, it is to be said after the nomination has been done. At least three of the films deal with current political conflicts (these ones). My source - Realscreen news, this came into my mail box a while ago:
“The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, The Square (photo), Dirty Wars and 20 Feet from Stardom will battle it out for the Best Documentary Feature prize at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2…
In addition, Rithy Panh’s Cambodian documentary “The Missing Picture” is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, alongside four narrative dramas…”
I had wished for three great films I had seen: “My hope is that three films will make it to the nomination for their originality in storytelling and unique interpretation of human existence: “First Cousin Once Removed,” by Alan Berliner, “The Act of Killing,” by Joshua Oppenheimer and “Stories We Tell,” by Sarah Polley. They have all more than a current political or mainstream family focus. They are extra-ordinary.”
The ”political” made it, the two others, both touching on the family and both with an original storytelling, did not make it.
Bravo for the nomination of Rithy Panh’s masterpiece!
Written 14-01-2014 10:49:27 by Tue Steen Müller
Liv Ullmann is a true film star and one of those, who can catch your attention, when she performs ”outside” the films in interviews. Her autobiographical book ”Changing” (1977) is highly praised among others by legendary American critic Roger Ebert (link below). In that she writes about her life and work with Ingmar Bergman, with whom she made a dozen films.
Indian director Dheeraj Akolkar has made a film, produced in Norway, about the two, told by Liv Ullmann and based on ”Changing”, love letters from Ingmar to Liv and (a bit) on his ”Laterna Magica”. Ullmann sits in and outside the house on Fårö, the island where Bergman and she lived together for five years and where several of his films are shot. Chaptered with words like Love, Loneliness, Rage, Longing, Friendship the film tells about ”the painful connection” between Liv & Ingmar, words expressed by the latter.
Unfortunately the director has decided to combine/connect her narration to clips from films like ”Persona”, ”Scenes from a Marriage”, ”Skammen” (Shame), ”Saraband” etc. So when she talks about their many tough confrontations, you see Erland Josephson and Ullmann in a scene, or Max von Sydow and Ullmann or... it makes it all sooo banal and tabloid, sentimentalising and reducing an extraordinary director’s extraordinary work with extraordinary actors to something one-dimensional. On top of that music is poured on the images like sugar on a cake, and love letters from Ingmar to Liv are read (by Samuel Fröler) in a tone that is unbearable.
Is it a puristic Nordic comment to a film that obviously is made for an American market? Maybe, luckily there are for other purists several great films about Bergman and his actors and actresses, including wonderful Liv Ullmann, about whom Bergman said, ”you are my Stradivarius”.
Norway, 2012, 85 mins.
Written 13-01-2014 17:43:40 by Tue Steen Müller
Jennifer Merin, American film journalist and critic, has again and again written against “The Act of Killing”, some days ago when it was awarded 2 big prizes at the Cinema Eye Honors. Merin is not the only one, BBC Storyville editor Nick Fraser agrees (with different arguments) with her opposition. The link below will take you to both Merin’s review and to Fraser’s opinions. A quote from Merin’s blog:
“The below published article is a preview of a longer piece that will appear in the next edition of Film Quarterly. In it, noted BBC Commissioning Editor and documentary film authority Nick Fraser comments on The Act of Killing, a film that has attracted supporters, garnered awards and been named to the 2014 Oscars shortlist…
… Fraser's opinions are eloquently phrased in this preview, which he so graciously sent to me with his consent that I publish it exclusively at Documentaries.About.com.”
Written 12-01-2014 12:46:25 by Tue Steen Müller
They are bent, they have crooked legs, they live in the Pindos mountains up NorthWest in Greece, far away from everything. Most of these old people have passed their lives here for decades.
And for decades Nikos Anastasiou, his wife Sophia and (for some of the time) their sons Kostas and Thimios have packed their van once per week in Trikala city to bring vegetables to the inhabitants of these mostly abandoned villages. Winter, spring, summer, autumn they come putting on classical Greek folk music on the loudspeakers so the customers have time to reach the road and get their goods. And have a conversation, an argument with others, a laugh or a short dance to the music from the van. 75 km.
Dimitris Koutsiabasakos followed the van through all seasons. With stops at places where they always stop meeting the characters. He catches the situations by fine observation, he sometimes follows the old women (indirectly the film confirms that women live longer than men, the old women are
In absolute majority) to their houses. Once it is sweet Fotoula together with one of the Anastasiou sons, who transport the Kosan gas and installs it in her small kitchen. Winter is hard, there is high snow, many have gone to the cities, few stay, like the man Aristides, with 20 cats, or the man who always talks about the weather: I am a shepherd but also a weatherman, he declares. And a woman who talks about sex all the time. Another woman who has her blood pressure measured by Sophia. The grocer family members put a little extra in the bag and always care about health and children and grandchildren. The surrounding world is only vaguely indicated – a dam project that will threaten the mountain culture, the crisis that means that the retired inhabitants do not get their pension...
It is a film full of life, with some beautiful arranged posing to the camera, a sense of details and camera angles. They are true heroes, they are close to people says a priest, and you can only agree. As most people will agree that this is a very good film.
Greece, 2013, 81 mins.
Written 10-01-2014 16:42:33 by Tue Steen Müller
Loyal readers will know that football is of great interest to one of the editors of this filmkommentaren.dk – the one to the left on the photo together with another enthusiast, Zoran Popovic from Belgrade, who with his wife Svetlana are directors of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade, that celebrates its 10th edition at the end of this month. Mr. Popovic points at the screen where we watch one of the legendary Messi's many brilliant matches...
… as I did the other day, where the Argentinian star returned to Camp Nou after 59 days of injury absence. He was on the pitch the last 30 minutes of a Copa del Rey match against Getafe and made 2 goals! Messi is back, as is Barcelona FC, Barca, I think, contrary to the many, who again and again have declared their tiki-taki football style as dead and do not think that the team will achieve any success this year. Well, Barca is in the lead in the national league, they are still in Copa del Rey, they are in Champions League (even if the next opponent, Manchester City, is playing fantastic soccer right now). So, what's the problem?
I am writing this the day before Barca plays Atletico Madrid, a top match where Barca has not only Messi but also Fabregas, Alexis, Pedro, Alba, Iniesta, Neymar in great shape. And with some adjustments the tiki-taki style will still be the most joyful to watch. Barca has for sure problems in the defense but as long as the team makes more goals than the opponent... As one of the founders of this way of playing football, Johan Cruyff, has said: Remember that the ball never gets tired, in other words, first time passes, always move around, make yourself playable, change tempo when needed. It's an art form, Barca performs, sometimes with great beauty.
Photo taken by Svetlana Popovic at Hotel Prezident, Sremski Karlovci in Serbia.
Written 10-01-2014 15:24:25 by Tue Steen Müller
No objections at all to the fact that the most important Cinema Eye Awards 2014 went to "The Act of Killing” by Joshua Oppenheimer and “Stories We Tell “ by Sarah Polley. The latter for “Outstanding Achievement in Direction”, “The Act of Killing” for “Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking” and “Outstanding Achievement in Production” given to Danish producer Signe Byrge Sørensen. So well deserved!
All awards are listed in the report from Hollywood Reporter, link below. I would like to highlight the “Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography” that of course went to “Leviathan” by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel and the so-called Spotlight Award for Chilean “The Last Station” (photo) by Cristian Soto and Catalina Vergara.
The Oscar nomination – the 5 titles for the grande finale – will be announced next week and Hollywood Reporter makes the following interesting reflection:
“The results (of the Cinema Eye awards) do not necessarily reflect the same tastes as the documentary branch of the Academy that determines the best documentary feature Oscar nominees -- the Cinema Eye Honors' nominees are determined by journalists and film festival organizers, not filmmakers, but the winners are chosen by several hundred filmmakers, amongst whom are many members of the Academy's doc branch. In any case, the outcome of the Cinema Eye Honors will not sway the doc branch's selection of nominees, since Oscar nomination voting ended on Wednesday night at 5 p.m. PST. But if these same films can make it past the announcement of the Oscar nominees on Jan. 16 -- over other top contenders such as Jehane Noujaim's The Square, Gabriela Cowperthwaite's Blackfish, Morgan Neville's 20 Feet From Stardom and Teller's Tim's Vermeer -- then a raised profile certainly won't hurt them in the final round of Oscar voting.”
Written 07-01-2014 12:28:37 by Tue Steen Müller
Here is one more proof that old people (like children) are good for documentaries. This is what I experienced watching this sympathetic, informative documentary that plays with the expression ”böhmische dörfer” – English title is ”Bohemian is all Greek to me”, for our Danish readers is would something like ”en by i Rusland” meaning that this is past and present history that we do not know about or do not understand.
The film makes the story of Sudetenland, its dramatic stories, victims of war and change of borders much clearer, and the old people adds an emotional element that I would have loved to have much more of. Jana Cisar – who is also the producer of the film – takes us to her grandmother, who was born in Thein (now Tynec) and like 3 million other Germans, who lived in Czechoslovakia before WW2, had to leave her hometown. She now lives in Mariánské Lázně, beautiful Marienbad and has never been back to the place where she was born and raised. The grandchild – Jana Cisar – makes her go back to
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Written 06-01-2014 20:48:53 by Tue Steen Müller
Co-editor of filmkommentaren.dk Allan Berg did not like the still picture that I had picked for the article on the Oscar race for documentaries. I am sure it is because he has not seen this amazingly strong hybrid documentary that competes in the foreign-language feature film catagory. A first person film, and now I quote from Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, a reviewer I always respect:
... ”a sombre, stylised memoir of the director's childhood when his country had been taken over by the Khmer Rouge… Panh tells his story through a mixture of Khmer Rouge propaganda newsreels and little clay figurines (photo). It was perhaps the only way of managing the devastating memories. Rather as infant victims of abuse will sometimes be asked by social workers to tell their story through soft toys, Panh tells part of his own history through these figurines. As well as this stratum of tragedy and pain, The Missing Picture has an element of Godardian reflection: the "missing picture" is the definitive image of truth for which he is searching…”
Yes, Godard is here, there and everywhere… and Panh’s film has the most touching and eloquent personal commentary I have heard for a long time.
Written 06-01-2014 14:11:17 by Tue Steen Müller
Louisiana, the Museum of Modern Art, a wonderful place at the Øresund, the strait between the Northern part of Zealand and Southern Sweden, one hour by train from Copenhagen, there are always interesting exhibitions, it is a place for relaxing and reflecting – has established a collaboration with the cph:dox festival. For four weeks (19 films, spread out on 11 days) screenings take place on some weekdays and in the weekends with free entrance if you have bought a ticket for the Museum, that right now – among others – have an exhibition of Asger Jorn and Jackson-Pollock. To be precise, I continue in Danish by quoting from the site of the museum – what a great initiative this collaboration is, I just want to add:
Louisiana: DOX (er et) intenst dokumentar-filmprogram i museets koncertsal i 11 dage mellem 7. – 26. Januar.
Store filmoplevelser venter, når Louisiana i januar viser nogle af de bedste og mest nyskabende dokumentar-film fra CPH:DOX-festivalen, som fandt sted i København i november 2013. I samarbejde med CPH:DOX har Louisiana udvalgt 19 dokumentarfilm, som museet viser 11 dage i januar, både hverdage og weekends.
LOUISIANA:DOX starter tirsdag den 7. januar med visningen af to dokumentarfilm, der begge har fokus på den kinesiske kunstner Ai Weiwei og hans situation. Den ene er Andreas Johnsens meget roste film Ai Weiwei – The Fake Case, den anden er filmen Stay Home! – en ny stærkt systemkritisk dokumentarfilm instrueret af Ai Weiwei selv.
Blandt de mange andre prisvindende dokumentarfilm, som vises i forbindelse med LOUISIANA:DOX, kan nævnes den enestående Manakamana, som er filmet i en svævebane i Nepal, Bloody Beans, en vild film om Algiers historiske kamp for uafhængighed, Michael H: Profession Director (PHOTO), et portræt af den østrigske filminstruktør Michael Haneke, samt Everyday Rebellion, som vandt Publikumsprisen.
Link to LOUISIANA+DOX
Written 05-01-2014 13:48:01 by Tue Steen Müller
15 films have been shortlisted for the feature length documentary Academy Award. 5 of them will be nominated for the final round by January 16th. In other words – in a couple of weeks it will be decided which 5 films will compete at the Oscar ceremony the 2nd of March to be chosen as the best long documentary. Normally with the Oscars I shake my head and say ”who cares”, but contrary to this previous indifference felt about the documentary Oscar as being an internal American affair, it is this year more interesting because there actually are award-worthy films. Even if, I hurry to state, most of the 15 films listed are American. There are no East European films, no Asian, no African etc. So if this is absolutely not the world championship of documentary films, the list is interesting because it also confirms that documentaries deal with the health situation of the patient. There is a strong a focus on contemporary conflicts. And some of the films have a high artistic value.
Important newspapers like Guardian/The Observer and New York Times write long articles these days about the political documentaries on the short list with 15 titles. The recent interest is evoked by the fact that a screening in Moscow of ”Pussy Riot. A Punk Prayer” has been cancelled, that ”The Square” (= Tahrir) by Jehane Noujaim has not got its official permission to be screened theatrically in Egypt, and that the Indonesian people have difficulties to get to watch “The Act of Killing”. On the list is also “God Loves Uganda” about the rise of homophobia in the African country, very much “helped” by the work of American missionaries.
It is good that the documentary genre is boosted like this, and it is good that the alteration in the voting system will make more than special committees watch and judge the documentaries. Michael Moore, one of the people behind the new system: "It's clear to me, and lot of people in the academy, that going to a full democracy system where everyone votes has been the key to the vast improvements, we've seen," Moore said recently.
The newspapers mentioned above circles around “The Square”, “The Act of
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Written 04-01-2014 13:13:51 by Tue Steen Müller
There is a good climate for documentaries in Israel. Broadcasters invest more in the genre than you experience in Western Europe, there is public funding and private funds, there are film schools, the festival DocAviv and the unique CoPro, headed by Orna Yarmut, a marketing tool for Israeli documentaries abroad. I was for years involved in the selection of projects to the yearly CoPro pitching forum in Tel Aviv, where films on the development stage are presented to potential buyers from television stations and funds from all over the world.
Several film projects that took part in CoPro sessions are now finished films and can be watched at the Jewish Film Festival in Copenhagen at the Cinemateket January 9-12. Feature films and documentaries are presented with an absolute majority of the latter. Let me recommend some of them:
”Life in Stills” by Tamar Tal is a wonderful, very funny and warm film with a 96 year old grandmother and her grandson, who keeps a photo shop alive in Tel Aviv (closed now, I am afraid). The scoop photos are from the declaration of independence of the state of Israel but the film is first and foremost about the relationship between the two.
”One Day in Peace” by Erez and Mira Laufer, a film that has been touring festivals all over the world, and been subject to endless important discussions. Here is the text about the film taken from its official website: Can the means used to resolve the conflict in South Africa be applied to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? As someone who experienced both conflicts firsthand, Robi Damelin wonders about this. Born in South Africa during the apartheid era, she later lost her son, who was serving with the Israeli Army reserve in the Occupied Territories. At first she attempted to initiate a dialogue with the Palestinian who killed her child. When her overtures were rejected, she embarked on a journey back to South Africa to learn more about the
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Written 31-12-2013 14:34:12 by Tue Steen Müller
All right, here it comes, on the last day of 2013, from filmkommentaren's travelling observer of the documentary worldwide. The film lists below are based on screenings at festivals, in cinemas or online via vod's, or via dvd's. These are films that one way or the other made an impression on me, either to be placed in the “Best of” or in the Talent category. If you are a reader of the many hitlists coming up right now, you might wonder why “Act of Killing” and “Stories We Tell” are not there – they were on the 2012 list. Except for one film from 2011, “Hachazos”, that I saw a couple of years after it was made and could not resist, the films are from 2012 and 2013 – and there are even a couple which have just started or are about to start their tour around the world. There is no priority in the lists that I have made.
Criteria? Not really, except for Quality but if you look for some kind of directions, let me say that I agree very much with Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) who says:
“Films that only have content have already been done,”... “All disciplines need innovation, and innovation comes more readily through form than through substance.”
Hope you have enjoyed filmkommentaren.dk in 2013 – the photo is from a garden in Copenhagen, the tree was given to Tue Steen Müller, as a gift from wonderful women of the Prague-based IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) a handful of years ago. The name of the tree is "the documentary tree", colourful, shining, energetic...
Happy New Year!
Written 31-12-2013 14:28:04 by Tue Steen Müller
Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verana Paravel: Leviathan. USA, 2012, 87 mins.
Claude Lanzmann: The Last of the Unjust. France, 2013, 220 mins. (photo)
Talal Derki: Return to Homs. Syria, Germany, 2013, 87 mins.
Rithy Panh: The Missing Picture. France, 2013, 85 mins.
Ignacio Aguëro: The Other Day. Chile, 2013, 122 mins.
Marina Razbezhkina: Optical Axis. Russia, 2013, 90 mins.
Wiktoria Szymanska: The Man who Made Angels Fly. France, UK, Poland, 2013, 61 mins.
Khalo Matabene: A letter to Mandela. 2013. South Africa, Germany, 85 mins.
Avi Mograbi: Once I entered a Garden. 2013. France, Israel, Switzerland, 97 mins.
Andres di Tella: Hachazos. Argentina, 2011, 83 mins.
Written 31-12-2013 14:25:14 by Tue Steen Müller
Youlian Tabakov: Tzvetanka. Bulgaria/Sweden, 2012, 66 mins.
Aneta Kopacz: Joanna. Poland, 2013, 45 mins.
Andreas Johnsen: Ai Wei Wei – The Fake Case. Denmark, 2013, 79 mins.
Juan Alvarez Neme: Avant. Uruguay, 2014, around 75 mins.
Daria Khlestkina: The Last Limousine. Russia, 2013, 75 mins.
Paul-Julien Robert: Meine keine Familie. Austria, 2013, 100 mins.
Madhi Fleifel: A World not Ours. UK/Lebanon/Denmark/United Arab Emirates, 2012, 93 mins.
Sara Ishaq: The Mulberry House. Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Scotland, UAE, 64 mins. (photo)
Maria Clara Escobar: The Days with Him. Brazil, 2013, 107 mins.
Anonymous (Production: Gogol's Wives): Pussy versus Putin. Russia, 2013, 60 mins.
Written 20-12-2013 09:32:09 by Tue Steen Müller
… for the first time. This is how the vod DocAlliance presents its christmas present to us viewers. It is quite a generous offer that comes up in collaboration with the Slovak Film Institute that celebrates its 50th anniversary. If you only have time for one film, you should watch Dusan Hanak’s classic masterpiece “Pictures from the Old World” (photo). Here is the introduction from the site of DocAlliance:
Wild Slovak nature, the harsh life in deserted mountains, the beauty of almost forgotten folk traditions and powerful existential themes resound in the films by four Slovak documentary filmmakers Dušan Hanák, Martin Slivka, Dežo Ursiny and Martin Šulík. Thanks to the Slovak Film Institute, the works by the four leading figures of Slovak cinema are now available to international audiences. In the week from December 16 to 29, DAFilms.com presents a selection of over 20 short as well as feature-length films by unique filmmakers of the Central European region for free.
Founded in 1963, the Slovak Film Institute represents both the oldest and a single local professional film institution to take care of Slovak cinema in a complex way. This cultural institution manages archive collections preserving both early and contemporary Slovak film works. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the Slovak Film Institute presents; in collaboration with DAFilms.com, Filmtopia distribution company and with the support of the Slovak Audiovisual Fund; a special selection of 26 films covering primarily the second half of the 20th century and representing four remarkable filmmakers of four generations.
The works by versatile artist Dušan Hanák, who is also renowned on the cultural scene as a screenwriter and photographer, are represented by the highly prized film Pictures of the Old World ranking among the most significant documentaries of Slovak film tradition. Through the film camera, Hanák faces the questions of human existence in its rawest and purest form; manifested in the
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Written 19-12-2013 11:35:31 by Tue Steen Müller
“It has a story, a point of view, a humanistic approach and a director, who is also the cameraman and who has the skills to catch magical moments as they happen in life. A decade ago the director made ”Siberian Lesson” and now he goes to Argentina with (his family) the same teacher and her two kids...”
A text quote from the review I made in May 2011 about ”The Argentinian Lesson”, one of the most beautiful documentaries from the last years.
Now the two films (from Siberia and Argentina) have been released as one entitled ”Two Lessons”, in New York in the cinema founded by Albert Maysles. This deserves a big BRAVO and links to reviews from the US, including one very well written from New York Times. The question that comes to my mind is simple – why don’t we/you do the same in other cities and festivals?
The credit list of ”Two Lessons”:
Directed by Wojciech Staron; director of photography, Mr. Staron; edited by Zbigniew Osinski; produced by Malgorzata (Malgosia) Staron; released by Non-Fiction Cinema Releasing. At the Maysles Cinema, 343 Malcolm X Boulevard, between 127th and 128th Streets, Harlem. In Polish and Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 54 minutes.
Written 13-12-2013 12:09:09 by Tue Steen Müller
“There is a choice”, was the slogan expressed in connection with the DocuDays UA festival in Kiev in March 2013. I was there as member of the jury and enjoyed a very professional and committed reception from the filmmakers behind the festival. A FB post led me to the website of the festival. Here is a text that shows the active inclusion of the festival in the protests in Kiev:
“The series of the International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival Docudays UA screening events on Euromaidan (Independence Square) in Kyiv begins at December 13, 7 pm, Labour Union House. Entrance is free!
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!
We invite you to the screening of Open Access documentary almanac (dir. Volodymyr Tykhy, Dmytro Konovalov, Serhiy Andrushko, Zhanna Dovhych, Dmytro Tiazhlov, Ukraine, 2013, 98’). The screening will be followed by the discussion with the almanac creators. Moderator: Maksym Butkevych, a journalist and human rights activist.
Open Access chronicles the establishment of civil society and the personal stories of leading characters. They live in different regions of Ukraine, their values and beliefs are dissimilar, they do not know each other. The only thing that unites them is their proactive stand on civil rights issues.
The world premiere of the almanac took place at Docudays UA in Kyiv, March 2013.”
Written 10-12-2013 14:26:28 by Tue Steen Müller
It is such a good beginning of the film. A family gathered around food, eating, discussing, among other matters the usual one, you think, about man/woman, boy/girl in a society with pretty conservative traditions, seen from our part of the world. They have fun, laugh, close-up on faces, children, youngsters, father, grandfather. They are all in a big house with a garden to which the daughter Sara has come back after having grown up in Scotland with her mother. She has a camera in hand.
Atmosphere... crucial, but always so difficult to establish in a film, here it is done beautifully to place you in the present-day-reality. Actually you, with this opening, tend to think that you are about to watch a Yemenite version of a Marcel Pagnol film.
But you are not. You are told that a family member is in prison for treason, and you are slowly, parallel to the development and characterisation of the main characters, aware that something is going to happen outside the house in the streets of Saan’a, where demonstrations against the dictatorship take place, it is maybe a revolution, for sure it is events that will influence the harmony of the family.
Father and grandfather. Sara behind the camera reminds her father that he, when she was 15, had planned to get her married to ”an old man”. He denies, but you see in his eyes that he remembers. He is a strong character with an open face, always readable, in the film, he is – like all of them when they watch the news in front of the camera – totally against the present regime, he brings food to the demonstrators, goes with others to give blood to the injured in the riots, he seems to be a lovely father to the kids in the house (never found out how many children he has!) and he ends up saying – to her - how proud he is of his daughter Sara for her documenting the ongoing revolution. Even if he during one of the demonstrations expresses doubt upon her ability to operate the camera!
My favourite, however, is the grandfather, a man full of dignity who goes around in the house and in the garden, he favours so much. He reads the quran, watches the television, dresses up when he goes shopping, gives advice, expresses opinions and calls Sara ”my sweetheart”. In a fine scene he asks her to leave the camera to help him with a plant in the garden, a flower will follow to be named Sara.
A family film? Yes. Private? No. Personal? Yes, as it is a film about a daughter, who returns to her roots... oops, now the words start to be klichés. Roots, yes but conveyed in a way so we non-yemenites easily can identify with the family, the three generations and its situation, in a film that captures the warmth and passes it on to us in a light tone that is broken when reality knocks on the door.
And there is such a lovely ending of the film... will not reveal it other than say that it of course takes place in the garden, thus the title of the film.
A fine facebook page exists on the film.
2013, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Scotland, UAE, 64 mins.
Written 10-12-2013 14:17:10 by Tue Steen Müller
Dubai International Film Festival is running right now. It has several documentary sections in its extensive programme even if it indeed is red-carpet festival for feature films with hommage(s) to stars of the cinema world, this year Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now).
I found - to be screened - Mark Cousins with his wonderful ”A Story of Children and Film”, one from his impressive series about cinema, the fine ”The Shebabs of Yarmook” by Axel Salvatori-Linz, Errol Morris ”The Unknown Known” (!), ”The Square” by Jehane Noujaim, and Sara Ishaq with her ”The Mulberry House”, reviewed above.
The festival (10th edition) runs until December 14.
Photo from Ken Loach: Kes, included in the film by Mark Cousins.
Written 07-12-2013 14:01:39 by Tue Steen Müller
If you want to know who I really am, go to facebook... was the comment from one of the participating filmmakers at the workshop for Saudi filmmakers in Jeddah. It was on the second and last day we spent together at the Athr Art Gallery, placed in a business centre – it is quite an inviting place for interesting contemporary art. The filmmakers had been asked to make a maximum-one-minute presentation of ”Who am I” and a colleague of the young man, who shocked this 60+ reporter from the event, also with his google glasses (if you don't know what that is, google it) had chosen to include clicks from his FB page to answer the question about identity in his clip.
This specific session, with a handful of clips, were set up and moderated by Jad Abi Khalil from Docmed in Lebanon - demonstrated clearly that there is visual talent to build on, when it comes to develop filmmaking in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), a country where there are no cinemas but quite a hectic activity on YouTube (see post below and to know more, click also on the link to the Reuter article on the Saudi YouTube adventure).
The workshop was arranged by AFAC (The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture) and was meant to be one of a series that will continue next year in Jeddah and Riyadh. Led brilliantly by the Fund’s director Oussaama Rifahi (who also solved technical questions and took the photos that I use for these two posts) and the responsible for the film programs Rima Mismar, the workshoppers got a general introduction to what documentaries are today through clips and words from the one, who writes these lines, a class on production and presentation by Kuwaiti producer Talal Al Muhanna and a meeting with American director and cameraperson Kirsten Johnson, who always communicates in a warm and personal way and therefore activates the audience to get into her world – on this occasion – of camerawork and ethics.
My knowledge of Saudi documentary makers? Dania and Danya, wonderful colorful women with the surnames Nassief and Alhamrani, who have been performing on the international documentary scene and who ”own and manage the first production company in KSA run by women”. The company name is Eggdancer Productions, it makes a lot of corporate videos and shows for television and of course documentaries dealing with women’s issues. At the workshop the company presented an interactive project, based on research on abuse of women. The director Dalyah Bakheet explained how the film side will include animation, that the interviews made with women will come out anonymous, spoken by actors. ”We want to create awareness”, said the director, ”in a country where 1 out of 6 women have been abused or raped”.
Written 07-12-2013 13:56:13 by Tue Steen Müller
Yes, ”we were blown away” as Kirsten Johnson, American filmmaker and tutor at the workshop, said on the second day, where several of the young visual reporters and artists, who took part in the workshop, presented their projects of online content in an energetic manner, full of joy and excitement and proudness over what they have achieved. ”We are a voice now”, they said, and the numbers of visitors to their YouTube accounts speak for themselves. ”No Woman, No Drive” has been watched by close to 11 million people, and many other shows and short music based videos of satirical character also reach big numbers. A side story according to the producers: What is interesting about the extraordinary visual comment on women with no right to drive is that many orthodox people actually think that the video advocates for/documents that women should not drive! What to draw from that - we should remember that films and videos can be interpreted in many ways. Satire does not go well with everyone.
The young visual artists (all male!) represented two content producers, Uturn and Telfaz11. Names Eyad Maghazil and Husam H. Al-Sayed (PHOTO, left to right). They explained how they get the programmes made. Or should one call them shows or videos or films? Doesn't matter. The themes come from the ones involved and from the YouTube viewers who are asked to contact them if they find some interesting stories that must be told. Television for these 25-30 old visual artists is not the way. YouTube is. If you go to the links below, you will get an idea of what is being done. A lot is made from a humorous angle, and if it has the same artistic quality as ”No Woman, No Drive”... Bravo. I asked them if they consider themselves as an alternative, commercial tv channel, the answer was Yes. The programmes are made from advertisement income, and there is a paid staff. A longer article about the YouTube online programmation by the two providers and others is to be found through the link below.
Second question: Is there a chance to include what we call ”creative documentaries”, a niche genre in a YouTube context? The answer was yes, we have and will make documentaries of artistic nature, as well as more experimental stuff. We will just make them and post them, said Husam H. Al-Sayed, who works with Telfaz11 and C3 Creative Cultural Catalyst, showed me several short documentaries that he had done. If you click the Telfaz site and go to ”watch” and ”filmmakers” you could see ”In The Eye of the Beholder”, 10 minutes, shot in Kuala Lumpur, definitely a sketch for a bigger observational documentary. And just one example by one of the creative young people, I met in Jeddah.
The title of the workshop was ”Creative Documentary Workshop”, it went far beyond that in terms of genres. Hybrid... indeed, how foolish we are when we always to want to categorize...
And a small observation piece: Wednesday night at a classical Saudi restaurant in Jeddah. Good food once again, women with no mandil (scarf), women with niqab which sometimes is changed so you see the face, and sometimes (that’s what I felt a couple of times) made back to niqab if you look in their direction, women with colorful scarf and abaya (the dress) (producer Danya Alhamrani takes the price!)... and women and men together smoking the sisha water pipe. All at midnight, good atmosphere, still heavy traffic, you don’t walk in Jeddah except for promenades on the corniche. Back to luxury hotel, perfumed air, air condition fight, windows not to be opened, super service...which can't be said about what I experienced in the airport of Jeddah, 2 ½ hours of waiting to have your passport controlled, arrogant treatment of Pakistanis waiting in my line, suitcase arriving 24 hours later, taxi driver young student with no identity card even if he was born in the country but father of Yemenite origin... Lots to be done, many stories to be told, the people to do it are there, no doubt about that.
Written 03-12-2013 22:10:51 by Tue Steen Müller
So now the list is down to 15 films that compete for the nomination of the Oscar. Several online sources have published it, the guessing about the winner has started. The 3 films Filmkommentaren has reviewed, we have put first in the list:
“First Cousin Once Removed,” Experiments in Time, Light & Motion
“The Act of Killing,” Final Cut for Real
“Stories We Tell,” National Film Board of Canada
All three films were on the Best of 2012 Filmkommentaren List.
“The Armstrong Lie,” The Kennedy/Marshall Company
“Blackfish,” Our Turn Productions
“The Crash Reel,” KP Rides Again
“Cutie and the Boxer,” Ex Lion Tamer and Cine Mosaic
“Dirty Wars,” Civic Bakery
“God Loves Uganda,” Full Credit Productions
“Life According to Sam,” Fine Films
“Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer,” Roast Beef Productions
“The Square,” Noujaim Films and Maktube Productions
“Tim’s Vermeer,” High Delft Pictures
“20 Feet from Stardom,” Gil Friesen Productions and Tremolo Productions
“Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington,” Tripoli Street
We have copy-pasted from the list made by the Academy... no director names mentioned... The Academy will now bring the 15 down to five Oscar nominees, which will be named on January 16. The winning doc will be announced at the 2014 Academy Awards, which take place on March 2 in Los Angeles.
Written 30-11-2013 12:42:16 by Tue Steen Müller
So, see below, the juries have made their choices at the idfa 2013 edition. In most of the sections nominations had been made in beforehand with 3 films competing. It is a good rule as it means something for a film to have ”nominated for... at idfa 2013” on its track record. I profited from the privileged access I have to Docs for Sale at idfa, when the nominations had been announced and watched the three films in the feature-length competition: ”Ai Weiwei The Fake Case” (Photo) by Andreas Johnsen, ”Ne me Quitte Pas” by Niels van Koevorden and Sabine Lubbe Bakker, and the winner (see below the full list of winners) ”Song from the Forest” by Michael Obert. In beforehand I had seen Svetoslav Draganov's ”Life Almost Wonderful”, the warm and moving film about three brothers with a hard background but with a strong appetite for life, ”The Wild Years” by Catalan Ventura Durall, an equally touching interpretation of the tough lives of street children in Ethiopia – and finally the masterpiece ”Return to Homs” by Syrian Talal Derki, reviewed on this site. 6 films out of 16, of course not enough for me to constitute a one-man jury, but enough to put down some impressions on the three nominated films.
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.
”Ne Me Quitte Pas”, on the contrary, never leaves the main road in its following Bob and Marcel, both strong alcoholics, left by family for the same reason I guess, but they have each other's drinking company and conversations, which often are about committing suicide. Marcel decides to go for rehabilitation, we follow that, Bob comes to visit, as do Marcel's children at his home, quite touching scenes, the two of them are nice people to get to learn, both, as said precisely in the catalogue, have seen their lives slip through their fingers. The film has a rhythm. Sad and warm at the same time.
”Ai WeiWei The Fake Case” is the best film about the Chinese controversial world artist that I have seen. It is quite a scoop that the young director has been let into the house/studio and appartment of the artist at a period, where he was on bail after three months in jail and where he was forbidden to give interviews. Sequence by sequence you are invited to experience the world of the artist, he is with his family (sweet scenes with him and his little boy), he talks with his staff, he takes constantly photos with his cell phone, he has a beautiful conversation with his old mother, who tells him that all what he does, he does because he has got it from her and his father (who was also unpopular with the regime), and that she thinks he is using too harsh words against about China. You see a calm person but the director/cameraman succeeds to get that close to him that you sense a pain that can easily explode – and it does in a scene where Ai WeiWei sees how one of his employed has been beaten by the police outside his house. He rushes to the policemen and attacks them.
I have seen films from the other categories, I will return to them, as well as to the film by Khalo Matabane, ”A letter to Nelson Mandela”.
Written 30-11-2013 10:52:57 by Tue Steen Müller
The English version of the idfa press release arrived this morning: Michael Obert won the VPRO IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary (€ 12,500) for Song from the Forest. The film focuses on American Louis Sarno, who has lived for 25 years with a tribe of Pygmies in the jungle of Central Africa and decides to take his son to America for the first time.
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Written 28-11-2013 21:14:55 by Tue Steen Müller
I heard about it when at the idfa festival from Dox Box Guevara Namer, herself an excellent photographer, and now I read about it and want to share it with you:
Lebanese The Daily Star brings an important article under the headline “Exiled festival reaches out to Syria’s young photographers”. Here is the story summary, and below a link to the whole article:
… Diya Homsi is one of three young photographers chosen as the first to be featured on "From Inside: A Diary of Syria," a new blog launched Thursday as part of a collaboration between the organizers of DOX BOX, Syria's documentary film festival, and the Prince Claus Fund.
The idea grew from the changing role of the DOX BOX festival in response to the conflict in Syria, explains the festival's co-founder Orwa Nyrabia.
By March 2012, a festival event was no longer possible, so instead of bringing the world to Syria, the organizers decided to bring Syria to the world, screening Syrian films in 38 countries…
Diya Homsi, a founder of the immensely popular Lens Young Homsi page, has participated in the Takween program, unlike Abd Doumany and Bassem Al Hakeem, the other two photographers selected to launch the website.
Photo: Abd Doumany, Cradle of Revolution, near Damascus, 22 May 2013 (Images courtesy of the Prince Claus Fund)
To view “From Inside: A Diary of Syria,” visit
More about the Takween programme, text taken from the website of the Prince Claus Fund:
... In 2012, DOX BOX Int’l Documentary Film Festival and the Prince Claus
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Written 26-11-2013 11:02:32 by Tue Steen Müller
... the headline could also have been ”3 Days at idfa”, with the subtitle ”personal small talk”, so now you are warned about this piece, written at Schiphol airport waiting for the SAS 548 to take me home to Copenhagen.
Sooo, a small flashback: you arrive to idfa, you go to get your kilos of catalogues, brochures, find your hotel, three days have been reserved to you by the organisers, who have asked you to be a consultant at the idfa-academy. You go there, The Compagnie Theatre at one of the canals is the location, a perfect place for a meeting as it has been for years for the Forum, and is at the moment where this is being written and filmmakers from all over the world launch their stories in the big hall of the theatre or in one of the smaller rooms.
The academy is for ”emerging filmmakers”, who are invited to four days of lectures, debates and so-called one-to-one meetings. Also they are there to learn and to get feedback on their projects. Most of them have trailers/teasers to show, most of these are not yet good enough and do often not really correspond to the project idea. You have talks and try to get into the project, to understand, and by asking questions hopefully also give food for thought to the filmmaker. It’s a great initiative by idfa and the participants I asked were extremely happy to be there. It's all about inspiration and encouragement.
One film screening on the first evening, ”Return to Homs”, reviewed below,
Read more / Læs mere
Written 23-11-2013 13:36:47 by Tue Steen Müller
I met Talal Derki at a workshop in Athens a couple of years ago. He showed me some footage with Basset, the young revolutionary leader – and talented football goalkeeper – from Homs, fighting Bashar and his gang. What I saw was impressive and strong. I told him to make the film quickly: It is important to see what happens. NOW. He did not follow my advice. He did right. Instead of a report we now have a Film, a big emotional drama, a great documentary, that I saw yesterday in a crowded Tuschinski Theatre at idfa in Amsterdam.
It feels so banal to state that the film is shocking, that it makes me shake several times, when you are taken so close to watching dead people and people dying, that you want to close your eyes but do not. You sigh and move in your chair. But you watch because you are drawn into a story that you can not leave. About something that happens not very far from where I/we live.
A 9 year old boy lies dead on a floor. Blood is around him. His father cries. I am thinking – take it away from my eyes, but the filmmaker does not, the viewer is invited to stay for more moments with the dead boy and his father, who places himself up against the wall in his deep grief. He prays and mourns. Next to him a cameraman who cries as well. Was it the right decision to show this scene in this way? I think so – paradoxically for me, it is a sign of respect not to cut in a tv reportage style, at the same time as the film
Read more / Læs mere
Written 21-11-2013 18:13:01 by Sevara Pan
Dismounted and suspended, the dusk recklessly creeped in, enveloping the theatre, it played out a little, easing out the way just before plunging into the rawness of the reality of those who call streets home.
Agonizing and discomforting, Sickfuckpeople is a triptych portrayal of life of a group of improverished, drug-addicted homeless children living amid the filthiness of the Ukrainian basement. Directed by Jury Rechinsky and shot over several years, the film follows the Odessa street kids as they grow up and face their adult lives. Abiding to the clear three-part-structure, the film does not hold up suspense, giving away the most disturbing scene of the film within the first few minutes. Crimson rivers filling up the drained syringes, then passed around from one to another, they let the souls once pure sail in the highest spheres of delirium. The red balloon is carelessly dangling from the ceiling as only relic of the lost childhood.
Aghast and unnerved by the unraveled scene, I found myself wended into the second part of the film which follows Yegor on his journey to find his mother, who had abandoned him years ago. Yet, his endeavor deems to fail. Yegor is neither welcomed in the village, nor he receives the help he seeks. Forlorn in the bygone days, disillusioned once again, he takes the train … back to nowhere. As the story unfolds, you inadvertently arrive to third part of the film that depicts the petrifying life of a young girl who, notwithstanding the harsh reality of the streets, is happy because she is loved and is expecting a baby. But is there room for love or hope once outcast from home, family, and society at large? Is there a choice when there is a chance of your child facing the same if not worse, abominable and truly inhumane conditions?
Sickfuckpeople does not shy away from exposing the reality of the ones ruthlessly wretched by life. Much like life sometimes, the film is an entangled mosaic of undercut patches, bereft glances and bleak sighs, broken smiles and frail beauty. I left the theatre in dismay. Out in the daylight I was welcomed by an ever dulcet melody jolting from the tips of the fingers of the accordinist, playing nonchalantly as if nothing happened, prompting to remember the tragedy of life, which somehow gave that harrowing pain in my chest.
Austria/Ukraine, 2013, 75 min.
Written 19-11-2013 17:45:26 by Tue Steen Müller
The news about the death of Peter Wintonick (see below) (photo) made me sit down with DOX 100 that was in the mailbox the day before. The issue is built up as conversation pieces between documentarians who talk professional matters from a wide variety of angles, a clever choice by new editor Vibeke Bryld.
”Dox in Dialogue” is the title on the front page and one of the couples, who talk to each other, is ”Wintonick and Nyrabia”. Peter and Orwa. Read a quote from what Peter is answering to the question by Orwa, ”Who are we, dear Peter?”:
”I really see that we all possess, along with many other professions, a kind of big, dominant gene; the altruism gene. We are artists, we give our work to share and not to exploit. Educators, activists, engaged media people, scientists, environmentalists, doc people, and care givers are all givers. We believe in the gift economy rather than in the greed economy. We believe, like my heroes Gandhi and Mandela, we can live the change we believe in...”
That and many other precise and lovely words from Wintonick you can find in the DOX Magazine, the conversation with Orwa Nyrabia being one of the best to follow.
I have not read all yet but to be recommended as well is the fresh dialogue between Danish Phie Ambo and Austrian Michael Glawogger, the fine more deep ”cinéphile” conversation between festival director Luciano Barisone and Nicolas Philibert, the ”Act of Killing” talk or actually it is more Werner Herzog interviewing director Joshua Oppenheimer... whereas Ally Derks and Debra Zimmermann performs a more humorous and light dialogue, Rada Sesic and Martichka Bozhilova are informing and promoting the Balkan documentary scene, and I would have loved to have more words from Emma Davie (”I am Breathing”), who modestly puts herself in the role of asking editor Niels Pagh Andersen to talk about his work with Pirjo Honkasalo and with ”The Act of Killing”.
The new DOX issue, number 100 (!), is out, I see no reason for not buying it!
Written 19-11-2013 15:25:12 by Tue Steen Müller
Peter Wintonick has died. FB pages, newspapers and websites are full of warm words and sadness from the documentary community. My former colleagues at EDN wrote these fine words:
It is with great sorrow that we, at EDN, have received the information that Peter Wintonick passed away yesterday, November 18, 2013.
Peter Wintonick has for over three decades been a leading figure in the international documentary sector. Peter was active as director, producer, festival programmer, curator, mentor and international documentary ambassador. But for many he was first and foremost an inspiring colleague and a great human being.
At EDN we have had the pleasure of working with Peter on many occasions. During the many sessions he produced for IDFA, the articles he has written for DOX and at the many occasions he was a valued tutor at EDN workshops. As late as in March, he was among the tutors at Docs in Thessaloniki.
EDN's latest contact with Peter was through our newly released DOX 100, where he has a dialogue with Orwa Nyrabia. Unfortunately this will for many people be the last public meeting with Peter and his reflections on the documentary sector.
Peter’s career includes involvement in over 100 films and transmedia projects, and he has been recognised far beyond our documentary industry. Among other prestigious awards, he was in 2005 presented with Laureate of the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, which is Canada’s highest such honour.
Peter became only 60-years old. Yesterday he died due to cholangiocarcinoma, a rare form of liver cancer. We have lost a dear colleague and a great friend. But even though Peter has passed away, his great spirit for documentary, his optimistic life approach and his warm personlity will stay in our hearts.
From EDN we send the warmest condolences to Peter’s closest family and friends.
Written 16-11-2013 10:16:54 by Tue Steen Müller
The film of Lanzmann is extraordinary in all aspects:
The story about how the film was made and why it did not come out before now has been dealt with in numerous interviews with the author, journalist and film director – you should read them as well as his praised ”The Patagonian Hare”, his written memoirs, from where this statement comes: “Even if I lived a hundred lives, I still wouldn’t be exhausted.” Indeed, this film is a strong evidence of the energy and power of a man, who was born in 1925.
The main character is extraordinary: Benjamin Murmelstein, Jewish Elder in Theresienstadt, interviewed by Lanzmann in Rome in 1975, a controversial person, strongly accused for his collaboration with the Nazis. ”The last of the unjust”, as he called himself, is rehabilitated by Lanzmann, and others, for his saving of 120.000 Jews from Vienna before the war (a number mentioned by Lanzmann in an interview in le monde 13/11/13) as well as his keeping Theresienstadt running as the working place it was supposed to be, planned by Eichmann as the ”model camp”, a gift to der Führer. As you see in the propaganda film, that Lanzmann shows clips from, the only archive from the camp, otherwise he uses drawings made by survivors.
Murmelstein is fascinating to watch and listen to in the interview, that Lanzmann did not manage to include in ”Shoah”, that came out 10 years later. But now it is there and stands on its own as a unique film contribution to an eventual rewriting of history. It calls back and questions the view upon Eichmann put forward by Hannah Arendt, who followed the process against him in Jerusalem, and characterised Eichmann as a man who worked according to what a system asked him to do. In the film, however, Eichmann, by Murmelstein, is characterised as ”a demon”, who was very much involved in the ”Crystal
Read more / Læs mere
Written 16-11-2013 07:00:41 by Tue Steen Müller
We got this press release from Copenhagen. CPH:DOX is still running today and tomorrow, and due to a huge audience interest, the festival adds a couple of days of screenings. But awards have been distributed:
On Friday, November 15th, CPH:DOX celebratet this year's winners at the Award Gala at Copenhagen theatre Stærekassen. CPH:DOX awarded the six strongest documentary films of the year from the six festival programme categories: DOX:AWARD, F:ACT AWARD, NEW:VISION, NORDIC:DOX, Politiken's Audience Award and Reel Talent Award:
DOX:AWARD "Bloody Beans" Directed by Narimane Mari, Algeria / France. (PHOTO).
Special mention: "Stop the Pounding Heart" Directed by Roberto Minervini, USA / Italy / Belgium
F:ACT AWARD "Dirty Wars" Directed by Richard Rowley, USA
Special mention: "No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka" Directed by Callum Macrae, UK
NEW:VISION AWARD "A Spell To Ward Off the Darkness" Directed by Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, France/Estonia
Special Mention: "Aleksander" Directed by Wilhelm and Anka Sasnal, Poland.
NORDIC:DOX "After You" Directed by Marius Dybwad-Brandrud, Sweden
Politiken Audience Award: "Everyday Rebellion" Directed by Arman and Arash Riahi, Austria / Switzerland
Reel Talent Award: "A World Not Ours" Directed by Madhi Fleifel, UK/Lebanon/Denmark/United Arab Emirates
Written 12-11-2013 16:13:04 by Mikkel Stolt
Last night I suddenly remembered that during an animated dinner at a seminar at The European Film College, my business partner accidentally poked the eye of director John Akomfrah while stating a point in some mindless discussion. John had earlier that day shown his film “Riot” (1999), which had a raw energy that I liked, and being one of the founders of Black Audio Film Collective he was a welcome guest at the seminar. That night everybody had a lot of wine, we had a lot of fun and John was just a genuinely nice guy. The eye-poking didn’t change that and you could overhear this dialogue again and again at our table:
For all these reasons I was looking forward to Akomfrah’s film with and about Stuart Hall; a Jamaican born, English cultural theorist and sociologist. I didn’t know much about Hall beforehand but I certainly do now, which I guess is the best I can say. The film consists of his participations in a number of TV-programs, a more recent voice-over by Hall himself and lots and lots of archive footage from news reels and the like. It’s arranged chronologically and Halls ideas and comments on popular culture, current affairs, racism and neo-liberalism are almost shoveled down our throats, and you really have to prick up your ears.
It’s too much and in the attempt to avoid a complete wall-to-wall carpet of Hall’s voice, we are invited to listen to different tracks with Miles Davis (of whom Hall is supposedly a fan). Being somewhat of a jazz buff myself, I was looking forward to this bit, but not only is there a lot of other, original music; the way we are bombarded with Davis made me realize that I deep down really don’t like most of his music. It’s often pointless, annoying or self-absorbed – at least in this film where the collaboration with the images never seem to find a naturally felt or organic feeling.
Don’t get me wrong, Stuart Hall IS really a brilliant man, and you will benefit from this film if you want to know more about him. But the film feels more like an insisting tap on your forehead than a single - and ultimately enlightening - poke in the eye.
UK, 2013, 78 mins.
Seen at CPH:DOX in the program series “Auteurs”, November 2013.
Written 12-11-2013 15:53:50 by Tue Steen Müller
... English title: Two Raging Grannies. It’s easy for this reviewer to identify with Shirley (born 1923) and Hinda (1929) in their search for an answer to why we always must believe in economic growth as the answer to the world wide crisis, and here specifically the crisis that their city Seattle undergoes. They don’t understand it, I don’t understand it and whenever experts talk economy on television I am lost, as they probably are. A scene like that is not in the film, but there are several other similar situations set up, where the two lovely ladies ask a teacher, a researcher and a professor for the answer. The film is built around their being in Seattle, their travelling to visit experts, and finally their both funny and touching tour to New York, where they go to a Wall Street Dinner and Shirley enters the stage to ask about the need for the constant growth. She is taken away by strong male hands, insulted from the stage by the arrogant speaker (”that was my mother, she is always like that”), afterwards in the hall she is even more attacked through vulgar language, but she has made her point – and the film is about old grannies, who are energetic activists and don’t hesitate to express their opinions.
But what makes the film nice to watch is its warm and gentle description of Old Age as it comes out from their close friendship, their helping each other, their worry for the knee operation that Hinda finally decides to have done (I survived she says on the phone afterwards), their disagreements about strategy for the activism to be performed… It’s all very well presented by the director, he is making us laugh with them when they go around on their mobility scooters trying to make the world a better place – for the generations to come.
The film has its World Premiere November 13 in 44 Danish cinemas (!) through the DoxBio initiative, whereafter it goes into a regular theatrical release format.
Norway, 2013, 78 mins.
Written 11-11-2013 11:44:23 by Tue Steen Müller
Richard Misek’s film ”Rohmer in Paris” will be screened at CPH:DOX November 14th and 16th.
At a certain point while watching this film I considered to call it ”Murder on Rohmer”... as the director has no reference to what was the true quality of the director’s oeuvre: “Classic and romantic, wise and iconoclastic, light and serious, sentimental and moralistic, he created the ‘Rohmer’ style, which will outlive him.” (Beautiful words expressed, but surely not written by Sarkozy when the director passed away). Anyway, the light poetry, the sensuality, the dialogues of Rohmer, as are in ”Ma Nuit Chez Maude” or ”Le Genou de Claire”, just to mention two of his masterpieces, are no way conveyed in the film clips from Misek, who has chosen a focus on the films of Rohmer, which are shot in Paris, therefore not the two mentioned.
On the contrary, Misek puts himself in the foreground, shifting from being schoolmaster, who tells the audience about ”la nouvelle vague”, Cahiers du Cinema, goes with some Rohmer characters in the streets of Paris, in the different districts, continuing to bring in a pretty prosaic commentary about himself, who happened to be in a Rohmer film. From film historian, to topograph, to ”I love you, Rohmer”, ”you are now in my film”... it’s banal and pretentious, close to a murder!
England, 2013, 72 min.
Written 11-11-2013 10:58:12 by Tue Steen Müller
Karen Stokkendal Poulsen’s film The Agreement will be shown at CPH:DOX on the 11th, the 13th and the 17th of November.
EU chief negotiator Robert Cooper (photo) is the main character of a film that follows the negociations between Kosovo, delegation led by Edita Tahiri, and Serbia, delegation led by Borislav (Borko) Stefanovic. It all takes place in offices in Brussels, there is a long corridor with doors behind which the delegations operate, when they are not called to the table of Cooper. The negociations are performed in a good atmosphere with smaller verbal aggressions but rather friendly, when you consider the hate and violence that exist at the border of the two countries.
And that is my main concern about this film that seems to be more interested in characterising Cooper as a slightly excentric man, who goes to work on bike and dressed like a professional cyclist, reads W.H. Auden, has a huge library at his home, loads of ties in the closet to choose from when he changes for diplomatic clothes. For Tahiri we get to know about her American university background, and Stefanovic was playing guitar in a band during the Milosevic era. Interesting? Not really, more filling-up a narrative as there is not a lot of interesting drama at negociations like these. For the same the filmmakers have chosen to randomly squeeze in archive material from the NATO bombings, burning cars, conflicts and demonstrations. To give the viewer an impression of the realities down there or what? It does not work with that kind of tv-editing, it stays on the surface and is not deep enough to describe a serious conflict in today’s Europe. What it is? A film about some paperwork with symphatetic characters.
Denmark, 2013, 58 mins.
Written 09-11-2013 16:09:06 by Mikkel Stolt
Anna Odell: ¨The Reunion (Återträffen), seen at CPH:DOX, november 2013.
- Yes, hello. Is this Anna Odell speaking?
- Hi, you don’t know me but I have just seen your film…
- Okay - [awkward pause] - did you like it?
- Yeah, that’s the thing and the reason why I called you. I loved it, I am jealous and I want to work with you!
- Erhm, thank you… and who are you again?
- Never mind that now, but I think you are a fucking superstar and this film is just great. The first 40 minutes is a brilliantly crafted fiction film about your 20 anniversary school reunion. You remember the times at school somewhat differently than the rest of the party which you reveal in a little speech about you being bullied. Then things kind of evolve from there, and it’s just heartbreaking and superbly done. The film now undergoes a metamorphosis and while the camera is tracking down the empty halls of what could be any Scandinavian school, we hear you having telephone conversations with your real classmates (at least I suppose they are real conversations) where you tell them that you’ve made this film about your reunion and you would like to talk to them and show them the film. From then on, the film is about your efforts to confront these classmates for real.
- Well, it’s not all real, you know…
- No, it’s obvious that the “real” classmates in the second half of the film also is staged somehow, but what is more important is that you through your way of constructing the film gets us all to wonder about behavior among kids and grown-ups, about victimization and most certainly also about revenge and the nature of rehabilitation. Your way of using fiction and reality with twists and turns is so clever that I just sat back in awe – especially because you managed to make is so heartfelt at the same time.
- Okay, listen, I appreciate your opinion, but I have a meeting…
- And the self-portrait of the artist and the self-involvement is just what gives the whole film such a fantastic aura of … erhm… how films and documentaries should be.
- Again, thank you… by the way, how did you get my number?
- The thing is… as a filmmaker, I feel intimidated by your work… my ideas seem so lame in comparison… I don’t know, it kind of makes me love you and hate you at the same time… …
- So, can I call you again sometime?
Written 08-11-2013 18:19:47 by Tue Steen Müller
The festival in Copenhagen has started. For Copenhageners it started a long time ago with prologue events, the programme newspaper in cafés, banners and posters in the streets... the organisers are masters of marketing... but now the festival programme runs with an opening last night and an overwhelming offer to the audience – today, as an example, you would have to choose between 45 films/events (the latter = a concert or a debate or a prize ceremony).
Yes, how to choose – the staff has suggested some films to be picked, so-called ambassadors, well known Danes, make their recommendations, or you sit down, go through the website (that is brilliantly layout’ed) or download the 338 pages of the catalogue, all in English.
Sections are many. The Dox:Award is the main one, the New:Vision and the Nordic:Dox have been there before, whereas the F:Act Award is new. This is what is written about it:
“This year CPH:DOX is launching a new award dedicated to films in the field between documentary filmmaking and investigative journalism. Films that not only document the world, but actively takes part in it. With the new F:act Award we wish to honor and acknowledge the often time consuming work in a genre, which is at the same time threatened by short deadlines and in creative growth. 12 films are nominated for the F:act Award, which is kindly sponsored by the Danish Union of Journalists.”
The film by Callum Macrae, “No Fire Zone”, reviewed by Allan Berg, see below, is one of the contenders as are Alex Gibney’s “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” and Errol Morris Rumsfeld-film “The Unknown Known” (photo).
And Ai Weiwei and The Yes Men have curated each their section, there is music films, new Danish docs, new Chinese, Claude Lanzmann... I could go on, and many other industry related activities. Difficult to be negative if you are a documentary lover.
Written 08-11-2013 17:11:05 by Tue Steen Müller
The nomination games continue as the year gets closer to its end. American POV is the next (after Cinema Eye, see below) and this is how they introduce their list of Best 10:
“From Sundance to the Oscars — and every festival, critics list and industry awards show we can find in between — we’re continually updating our list of lists of the “best” documentaries.
November 6, 2013: The Act of Killing has taken an early lead. Below is our first Top 10, which gives the most weight to what we know already, including film festival winners from Sundance, Hot Docs and Sheffield, nominees for awards such as the IDA Awards and Cinema Eye Honors (announced moment ago…), a handful of critics’ “best so far” lists and some box-office numbers. We’re waiting on a few more lists to come in before we update this post and publish the “The big chart,” and we’ll explain the ranking methodology in a future post. Do you think The Act of Killing will be able to keep the top spot?”
To that question there can only be one answer: Yes it will… On the list is also Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell” and (great to see) “The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear” by Georgian Tinatin Gurchiani.
POV stands for Documentaries with a Point of View. Check the impressive list of films, 2013 POV Season, where you find titles like “5 Broken Cameras”, “56 Up”, “Special Flight”, not to forget “Last Train Home”. Respect!
Written 07-11-2013 18:28:00 by Tue Steen Müller
It's a rather complicated nomination system that the Cinema Eye works with, but the people involved (taken from the website that explains all in details, link below) are all names that guarantee for quality. But what is Cinema Eye:
"The Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking were founded in late 2007 to recognize and honor exemplary craft and innovation in nonfiction film. Cinema Eye’s mission is to advocate for, recognize and promote the highest commitment to rigor and artistry in the nonfiction field."
There are nominations in a wide range of categories, from Best Film, of course, to Graphic Design to Original Score – and there are awards to be given (this all happen in January) to Production and Editing and Cinematography.
So, which films are nominated… well “The Act of Killing” is nominated in 5 categories, including Best film and Direction. In both cases it has strong competition from (other) masterpieces like “Stories We Tell” and “Leviathan”. In the direction category (but not in Best Film, why not?) you also find “First Cousin Once Removed”, which is also up for, and must be the favourite of that category, Best Editing.
5 films in each category, and there are several that I have not seen, and there are several that could have been there but did not live up to the regulations. So the following personal choices are with all kind of reservations, Best Film "Stories We Tell" or "The Act of Killing", Best Direction "First Cousin Once Removed", Best Production "The Act of Killing", Best Cinematography "Leviathan", Best Ediitng "First Cousin Once Removed" (photo)...
Anyway, this is a good initiative that celebrates the documentary genre.
Written 06-11-2013 17:20:01 by Tue Steen Müller
Well, it did get no awards at the DOK Leipzig. The jury chose the docudrama/neo-realistic/hybrid ”Stop the Pounding Heart”, another art house film from the US. Beautifully made, but not very original as is this work of Razbezhkina, known for her own work and for her film and theatre school, that stood behind the fine ”Winter, Go Away”. Where her students dealt with opposition politics in Russia, Razbezhkina went to Nizhniy Novgorod (according to wikepedia the fourth biggest city in Russia, 400 km East of Moscow) to make a film with ordinary people, who look at themselves and their life and working conditions facing life-sized photos of those, who were at the same place with the same work (or no work) 100 years ago. This trick from the side of the director gives the film a light tone at the same time as you get to meet charismatic characters with their own look at the world.
Take for instance the old man who for the film and his younger student simply makes a wooden spoon. The camera stays with him during the whole production, we see the many instruments he uses to cut and carve, and hear his comments to the process and to the wonderful photo of a group of people performing the craft a hundred years ago. It's marvellous as is the long sequence where you see the homeless and poor get out of their beds at their communal residence to get ready to be transported to the place where their equals stood when photographed. They communicate with the photo, find ”themselves”, their alter ego's, and reflect on their hard lives and how they ended up without their own home. And so on so forth, nurses and doctors, visitors and priests at the local church (PHOTO) and at the end a small visit to the bank, where a different class present itself.
It's people, faces, it's made with warmth and intelligence, no finger-pointing, no easy anti-Putin declaration, but a clear, original starting point with a consequent tribute to the photographer, who took all these great photos, Maxim Dmitriev, who – says a text at the end of the film - ”was in love with reality”. As is Marina Razbezhkina.
Russia, 2013, 90 mins.
Written 05-11-2013 18:46:40 by Tue Steen Müller
We have previously written about the documentary of Ken Loach and its impressive distribution in the UK, as well as the film’s excellent website that is a fine example of how you can interact with your audience and learn about politics in a country that stood together during the war and took initiatives to stand together also in times of peace. Through a labour party with a socialist policy, led by Attlee and with Bevan as the man who introduced the NHS, the National Health Service.
Loach has chosen to tell his story in a traditional way – interviews with those who remember the social conditions that were awful in the 30’es and the enthusiasm after the war, and the energy that exploded to build another just country with a decent health system, a good housing policy, secure working conditions, a society of welfare and equality.
Black & white archive material accompany the stories remembered by miners, nurses, politicians, mothers and children, also brought to the screen in black & white – and the music that comes as sweet memories also for one born just after the war: Kiss me Once, Kiss me twice, Kiss me once again...
Loach conveys the history brilliantly, whereas the link to the present is short and bitter: Margaret Thatcher of course who put the capitalism and the individualism in focus and reflections on today, the Occupy movement in photos, the bank people behind their glass temples...
You can only have respect for the master Loach for creating a debate with this film, even if the story is not much more than a warm hymn of solidarity to what some people did once and not so much more – and I have to confess that I looked at the watch a couple of times towards the end.
UK, 2013, 98 mins.
Written 05-11-2013 10:44:28 by Tue Steen Müller
Four new Lithuanian documentaries will be screened at the Scanorama Festival that runs from November 7 till 24 in the cities Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda and Siaiulia. As the name of the festival indicates it has its roots in the North with references to Bergman and von Trier – as is mentioned on the site of the festival – but now it claims to cover the whole of Europe.
Filmneweurope.com – that has a good eye for documentaries – writes this today:
Four Lithuanian documentaries, including one Lithuanian/German coproduction, will have their premieres during the Scanorama film festival, which takes place 7- 24 November 2013 in four cities across Lithuania.
The films include the long-awaited film from Audrius Stonys, Cenotaph (Studio Uljana Kim) (photo), the story of a grave holding three unknown soldiers – two Russians and a German – and the present-day quest to explore it.
J. Jackie Baier will return to Scanorama two years after the festival screened her documentary film House of Shame with Julia, a film about a transsexual runaway Lithuanian girl who ends up in Germany working as a prostitute before returning to her home town years later. The Lithuanian-German film was screened at Venice.
Ričardas Marcinkus will introduce the documentary film Final Destination, selected for a program at Amsterdam Documentary Film festival (IDFA) about 55 year old man released from prison with nowhere to go and caught up in drugs.
The latest film by a poet, singer and theatre and cinema director Vytautas V. Landsbergis is Tricolour (A. Propos Studija), a portrait of the freedom fighters, twelve former partisans and postal workers, and their journey from home to battle to post-war life….
Written 02-11-2013 21:59:55 by Tue Steen Müller
This is the press release from the festival:
The 56th International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film, DOK Leipzig, culminated on Saturday night with a festive closing ceremony. Seventeen prizes totalling €69,500 were presented at the awards ceremony in the Schauspiel Leipzig. It was already apparent on the penultimate day of the festival that with 1,705 accreditations and huge crowds in the cinemas, DOK Leipzig was set to reach new records for the number of industry guests and visitors.
The winners: “Stop the Pounding Heart” (photo) (USA, Belgium, Italy) by Roberto Minervini was honoured with the prestigious Golden Dove in the International Competition Documentary Film. The award comes with €10,000 and is sponsored by MITTELDEUTSCHER RUNDFUNK. The top prize was presented by MDR Director Karola Wille for the first time.
The Golden Dove for Best Animated Film, which comes with a cash prize of €5,000, was given to the Slovenian entry “Boles” by Špela Čadež. The Silver Dove in the Animated Film category, which comes with a €2,000 cash award, went to Academy Award-winner Chris Landreth from Canada for his film “Subconscious Password”.
The €10,000 Golden Dove in the German Competition Documentary Film went to Carlo Zoratti for his film “The Special Need”.
The Talent Dove of the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig, the top prize in the Young Cinema Competition, went to Kaveh Bakhtiari for the Swiss-French production “L’Escale” (“Stop-Over”). The prize money of €10,000 is intended to serve as seed funding for the Iranian-born director’s next documentary project.
In the International Short Documentary Competition, the Indian entry “Distance” was honoured with a Golden Dove. Ekta Mittal and Yashaswini Raghunandan will receive a cash prize of €3,000 from TELEPOOL GmbH.
The first-ever Golden Dove for Best Animated Documentary went to Daniela De Felice for the French production “Casa”. The first-of-its-kind award for the animation-documentary hybrid form comes with €3,000.
The €8,000 Healthy Workplaces Film Award from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) was awarded to the Brazilian filmmaker Aly Muritiba for his film “A gente” (“C(us)todians”). The MDR Film Prize for an outstanding East European documentary film, with a cash award of €3,000, went to “Die Trasse” (“Pipeline”) by the Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky. The DEFA Sponsorship Award for an outstanding German documentary, which comes with a stipend of €4,000, was received by Yael Reuveny (Germany, Israel) for her film “Schnee von gestern” (“Farewell, Herr Schwarz”).
The Documentary Film Prize of the Goethe Institute, with a cash award of €2,000, went to Judith Keil and Antje Kruska for their film “Land in Sicht” (“Land in Sight”). The Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, which comes with a €2,000 cash award and is given by the VCH-Hotels Germany GmbH – a part of the Association of Christian Hoteliers – including the Michaelis Hotel in Leipzig, was given to Robert Kirchhoff (Slovakia) for “Kauza Cervanová” (“Normalization”).
The FIPRESCI Jury awarded its prize to Gang Zhao (China) for “A Folk Troupe”. For “Hilton! – Täällä ollaan elämä” (“Hilton! – Here For Life”), Virpi Suutari was honoured with the Prize of the Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft ver.di, which comes with €2,500 in award money. The Prize of the Youth Jury of the Leipzig Film School was presented to Aneta Kopacz for her film “Joanna”. The mephisto 97.6 Audience Award was determined by public vote. It went to Robert Löbel for his animated film “Wind”.
The “Leipziger Ring” film award from the Stiftung Friedliche Revolution, with a cash prize of €5,000, was awarded on Friday in Leipzig’s St. Nicholas Church, which in autumn 1989 was the starting point for the large Monday Demonstrations. The award went to the iranian documentary filmmaker Nahid Persson Sarvestani, who lives in Norway, for her film “Min stulna revolution” (“My Stolen Revolution”). One of the protagonists of the film, Monireh Baradaran, accepted the award at the ceremony on behalf of the director.
It was already apparent on the penultimate day of the festival that the number of visitors last year (37,600) was easily surpassed and could reach the 40,000 mark. The number of accredited industry guests also reached an all-time high of 1,705 (1,526 last year).
Written 02-11-2013 21:12:32 by Tue Steen Müller
Well, I have to confess that I was not at the cinema this year at DOK Leipzig! Shame on you, many will think and right they are. There is nothing but sitting in a big cinema with big screen with a big audience sharing an experience. But I have for three days from 9am in the morning seen a lot of films at the DOK Markt scouting for other festivals, to get updated on what goes on and to forward my impressions through this website.
The DOK Markt is wonderfully organised. You go there, you have made your reservation in beforehand, 415 films from 71 countries are available, digitalised, so you give your benutzername and password number, find your title, click, and there you have the film on a fine screen with good quality in a hall where the temperature makes you stay fresh – the air condition in the Museum für Bildende Kunst, where the video library is placed, is pretty effective! After you have screened the film, you can send an email to the contact person of the film if you wish to have the film for your tv station or festival or greet the maker with nice words.
No objections in other words, the same goes for the meeting place downstairs in the lobby of the museum: accreditation and information desk, a café, meeting area in corners, easy to find people and to be found. Relaxed. And close to everything in cosy Leipzig.
And the place to have a quick talk with an old friend Claas Danielsen, who is festival director in his 10th year, announcing that 2014 will be his last one. Danielsen has done a great work to make DOK Leipzig what it is today, a meeting place with strong competitive programmes, a strong many faceted industry programme without forgetting film history and masterclasses with important directors and a look at other continents and countries like India, Brazil, Chile...
One of the best films I saw, maybe the best was Russian "Optical Axis" by Marina Razbezhkina, (photo).
Written 02-11-2013 20:59:38 by Tue Steen Müller
It is a tradition, and a good tradition: The Polish delegation invites for a dinner that includes an aperitif of clips from the films that take part in the DOK Leipzig (this year 12 docs and animation films) and a lot of films to come. Two of the films, ”A Diary of a Journey” and ”Joanna” have already been reviewed and highly appreciated on this site and I have seen two more of the twelve: ”Deep Love” by Jan P. Matuszynski and ”Father and Son” by Pawel Lozinski.
”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.
The film of Pawel Lozinski is wonderful. It has this unique idea of the two of them going together on a tour to Paris to talk about and to each other, carrying along the conflicts they have had and the problems they never really got close to. There is love between them but also a hesitation to get to the core of it all, that goes back to the time when Marcel, the father, divorced Pawel’s mother and according to Pawel did not care about him any longer. And to the fact that they are both filmmakers, Marcel the Polish documentarian, and Pawel (my comment) quite on his level in many films, but does he sense that himself? The film has tenderness and anger and funny situations as well as scenes where Marcel does not want to continue the talk. They polish their glasses from Warsaw to Paris but if it makes them see clearer into the past and the present... the aftermath to the production of the film says no and has to be mentioned: It was from the beginning meant to be a film ”by Pawel and Marcel Lonzinski” but when it was finished, father Marcel decided to make his own version (could be seen in the Dok Leipzig Markt) which at some points is different from the one signed by Pawel, but apart from film freak analysts I wonder who can really see the reason for having two films. The conclusion is that the conflict between the two continues as when before the film idea came up. Father and son do not shake hands when they win prizes. As in Krakow this year.
Anyway, long live the Polish documentary, with its strong characters and creative directors it is definitely and artistically among the best in Europe! And thanks for a nice dinner to the organisers:
Written 02-11-2013 20:49:57 by Tue Steen Müller
You meet colleagues in Leipzig. Of course, a banality. But when do you meet a man with the first name Teddy from California, who starts to speak good Danish to you… We had been in contact before and he had sent some phrases in my language, well anyone can do so with a bit of using the google translate. But the reason for his Danish is that Teddy Grouya decades ago was a student in Denmark. He is now a filmmaker and programmer of the American Documentary Film Festival, whose site I took this text from: In addition to the annual Film Festival (last year, ed.), which featured more than 100 documentary features, shorts and animated films on four screens in both Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage in 2013, 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 projects currently in progress.
The festival takes place in Palm Springs California March 27-31 next year, and this is what Teddy Grouya asked me to post, which I do with pleasure:
We are getting down to crunch time, and our 2014 Festival is rapidly approaching! Our Call for Entries continues, but the regular submission deadline for filmmakers is December 5th. Full details are available on our web site at
Written 02-11-2013 20:44:21 by Tue Steen Müller
I was lucky to meet Greek Dimitra Kouzi again at DOK Leipzig. She is a journalist, former ERT, now in various jobs where her skills can be used, and they are many. Her love for documentaries is evident and if you go to her blog, link below, you will find, as an example, a very useful coverage of a session on festivals made here in Leipzig as part of the industry section. ”Are you looking for a festival” is the headline of one of her postings – there is a need for information - countless are the questions that I have had during these Leipzig days from young filmmakers, who stand with their dvd in hand and have no clue to which festivals they should send it.
Back to Dimitra Kouzi, who was the presentator at the succesful Greek Day on arte on August 15 this year, where several strong documentaries were shown, and back in Athens, if she is not doing work in Germany, she is one of the three, who stand behind the impressive Cinedoc documentary festival, the other two are producer Rea Apostolides and director Avra Georgiu.
In her blog Kouzi introduces the 2013-14 season like this: This year, the CineDoc documentary festival opens with the award-winning documentary The Cleaners (photo) by Konstantinos Georgoussis. In June 2012, the far-right Greek political party Golden Dawn came from nowhere to win seven percent of the parliamentary vote. Without commentary, the film follows a number of party members during primary elections in central Athens. In disturbing and overtly radical terms, the men air their grievances about the scapegoat for all ills: the growing number of immigrants. In cafés and squares, they enter into discussion with supporters and opponents, keeping a sharp eye on migrant passersby. Konstantinos Georgoussis, a graduate of the National Film and Television School of the UK, has directed and produced the film in a unique way...
As for the festival programme, please check the site below.
Written 31-10-2013 18:01:20 by Tue Steen Müller
DOKLeipzig director for 10 years Claas Danielsen made, as he always does, a welcome speech that went far beyond the usual thanks to sponsors and audience and guests. I have taken a couple of sequences from his German language speech:
Eine der wichtigsten Eigenschaften guter Dokumentarfilme ist, dass sie uns Angst nehmen. Sie helfen uns, das Schreckliche in der Welt anzuerkennen und es an uns heranzulassen – manchmal ubrigens auch das unfassbar Schöne, das wir genauso wegschieben, wenn wir fürchten, es zu verlieren.
Denn die Dokumentaristen widmen sich oft dem Schicksal einzelner Menschen – aufrichtig, wahrhaftig und mit Geduld. Mit diesen Protagonisten können wir uns als Zuschauer verbinden. Wer die syrische Familie in Reem Karsslis Film begleitet hat, für den haben die unter dem Bürgerkrieg leidenden Menschen ein Gesicht bekommen.
Und wer die iranischen Jugendlichen in Kaveh Bakhtiaris Film „Stop-Over“ dabei beobachtet, wie sie verzweifelt und oft unter Todesgefahr versuchen, in den Westen Europas zu gelangen, wird bei den Bildern von Migranten an den hochgesicherten Außengrenzen Europas nicht mehr gleichgültig wegschauen können.
Gute Dokumentarfilme informieren nicht, sie verändern uns. Dokumentarfilme machen das Verdrängte empfindbar. Aus der abstrakten Bedrohung und undefinierbaren Angst wird ein konkretes Schicksal und damit ein Gefühl, das uns nicht mehr überfordert. Das Verdrängte wird „verständlich“, also für unseren Verstand greifbar. Dadurch öffnet sich eine Tür, ein neuer Weg wird sichtbar, heraus aus der Lähmung, hinein in das aktive Handeln. Auch auf
Read more / Læs mere
Written 31-10-2013 08:10:40 by Sevara Pan
Sevara Pan is in Leipzig for the festival and writes with enthusiasm about one of the so-called industry activities: Spanned over 3 days, Leipzig Networking Days celebrated its finale on the warm Sunday afternoon of October 27th. Initiated by Documentary Campus, Leipzig Networking Days is an annual pitching and networking event that hosts over 200 industry professionals from around the world. This year, the event commenced with the opening keynote, given by Jens Schmelzle, the founder of Simpleshow, a global leading company that helps simplify internal and external communication. "Keep it simple" was the key of his message – the conspicuous precept we are all aware of, yet hardly few of us apply in practice. This advertising principle, Schmelzle reckoned, could be well employed in filmmaking or storytelling in general. Starting off with the essential core, he presumed, gives an opportunity to lay a foundation to build up the narrative, ornament it with nuances, and parlay with luscious minutiaes.
The next two days of the event were dedicated to pitching of 16 documentary projects developed within the Masterschool 2013, 2 guest projects from the MENA programme (the Middle East and North Africa programme: http://www.documentary-campus.com/v2/page/contact/), and 3 guest projects by Documentary Campus Member Companies. The pitches were then followed-up by a number of panel discussions as well as scheduled one-to-one meetings with 30 commissioning editors from promiment broadcasting companies – ZDF/ARTE, MDR, ITVS, LIC China, and Channel 4 – to name a few.
From the lost generation of the bleak Russian garbage dump "svalka," to the frenetic journey of the LGBT countercultural movement Queercore with its roots in punk, to the backchannel of the Austrian Chancellor Kreisky and PLO-fighter Sartawi, and onto the veil behind the theft of the Chagossian nation – the unbridled diversity of projects was captivating. While some touched and inspired, others intrigued and left wondering. There was room for every shade of emotion, taking turns in the laboratory of mind with the sweeping gait of the 8-minute pitch. But was there "room for a man?" At the brink of solemnity of the event, there was also a leeway for humor and wit. In the company of a 25-year old Lebanese Anthony on his odyssey to seek out an answer to the existential question of manhood, suddenly we found ourselves within a 4m² space, hedged in by Anthony's outspoken mother Nicole, perplexing older sister Romy, frisky doberman Velvet, and a "handy and virile" construction worker that embodies "the essence of masculinity."
Leipzig Networking Days culminated with the award for the best pitch, handed out by Chris Black, the marketplace manager of Sheffield Doc/Fest, one of the Documentary Campus long-term partners. The pitch award was genially granted to the polish filmmaker Hanna Polak (project Yula's Dream) for her 13-year-old commitment to the story, chronicling an extraordinary journey of 11-year-old Yula growing up in the black hole of the metropolis, at the outskirts of the Moscow garbage dump, and her ultimate breaking out to a better life at the age of 25.
To put it in a few words. Leipzig Networking Days was a success. Bright smiles, enthusiasm about the new and the upcoming, but most importantly, a genuine love for documentary films were pivotal for the event to run par excellence.
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