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,
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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
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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
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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.
Written 29-10-2013 14:57:47 by Tue Steen Müller
In times where festivals for documentaries aim for bigger and bigger numbers of audiences, ranging from 50.000 to more than 200.000, it is refreshing to read that much smaller numbers can make the organisers happy like the ones who stood behind the pioneer work in Colombia. Read the press release filmkommentaren.dk received yesterday, and click below to read what we have written about the festival before:
“With over 16 years of experience, DocsBarcelona closed its first edition in Colombia, Docsbarcelona+Medellín, with absolute success. “The last applause” by German director German Kral was the cherry of a four-day festival that turned the city of Medellin into the centre of international documentary.
With a great response from the citizens of Medellín, (2.448 viewers attended the screenings with an average of 87 people per session) DocsBarcelona+Medellín points out to turn into a new meeting point for international documentary. DocsBarcelona + Medellín , which took place between the 15th and the 20th of October, presented 15 films, most of them screened previously at DocsBarcelona (Spain), morning screenings for teenagers, as well as a program of industry activities including a Development and Documentary Executive Production workshop, 3 master classes and 3 rough cut screenings. The event counted with the support and presence of 6 international guests.”
Written 28-10-2013 17:21:25 by Tue Steen Müller
Yesterday midday I mailed Joanna Solecka from Wajda Studio. I have known Joanna for some years and she was the one, who sent me the link to watch their 45 minutes long documentary ”Joanna”, a film about a mother who suffers from cancer. My starting point - to be a bit cynical: I have seen lots of films about a dying parent and their loved ones to be left behind. Nevertheless I don’t remember one with the same high quality. These were the words sent to Joanna about ”Joanna”:
I watched the film - if you can put it like that - with pleasure and emotionally touched, to say the least, well what else can I say but BEAUTIFUL. As a film and as a hymn to Life and Love, whatever might happen.
One day later, today, Joanna writes me that the film ” won the Silver Eye award at the 10th East Silver Market at Jihlava in the mid-length documentary category”. The jury motivation goes like this:
We decided to award the documentary, which opens the door to the private life of an engaging protagonist in the hardest time of her life. The director approaches her story with a high level of sensitivity and an elegant cinematic approach. We are entirely immersed in her life, through which the viewer experiences a transcendent lift from her story to the bigger values of life and our own personal lives.
One more quote, quite precise actually from the Wajda Studio itself:
Joanna’s hand lovingly strokes her son’s back. They are lying in the grass, listening to the meadow dwellers and the sounds of nature. Jaś says he has a “divine time” with his mom, and Joanna, too, loves to spend time with her boy. But this time is limited. Joanna says she is not afraid of dying, but of leaving behind her little family. Aneta Kopacz’s narrative is remarkably subtle, preserving the tender moments of the remaining days in expressive images.
Subtle, sensitive, tender, expressive, a marvellous music score, BEAUTIFUL.
The film will be shown in competition in DokLeipzig. An obvious candidate for one or more awards.
Written 28-10-2013 14:14:26 by Tue Steen Müller
Some call their films author driven, some call them auteurs, all agree they make creative documentaries, are artists in the field of filmmaking. They are very different, have their own style, some would call it a hand-writing, which is personal. They come from the East of Europe, the North of Europe and the South of Europe:
Helena Trestikova, Jon Bang Carlsen (photo) and Susana de Sousa Dias, whose portraits are now to be found on top of the front page of filmkommentaren. Here are some quotes from the many articles written about them on this site:
About Helena Trestikova at the Magnificent7 Festival 2013: ...a masterclass with a very well prepared presentation with 11 scenes from her films, through her work of long-time observation. She showed us clips from ”Marcela”, ”Katka” and ”René” (Best European Documentary in 2008) and talked about the ethical questions connected to being so close to her characters, helping them ”outside” the film as well, to get on the right track in their lives. Trestikova said that she did not really consider herself as a filmmaker, more as a chronicler, who has new films coming up this year and has plans to continue to film René and maybe also the family in ”Private Universe”. Deep respect for Trestikova for a constant non-tabloid humanistic focus on people outside the celebrity spotlight.
About Jon Bang Carlsen, who had a retrospective in Buchareat early 2013: With a reference to his films shot in Ireland, ”It’s Now or Never” and ”How to Invent Reality” the Romanian organizers presents Bang Carlsen as ”the inventor of Reality”. Here is a clip from the text: This year One World Romania organizes a retrospective dedicated to the Danish documentary filmmaker Jon Bang Carlsen... a legendary director who reinvented documentary film. In his work, Jon Bang Carlsen has always explored the land between fact and fiction. From 1977 onward, mise-en-scene with real characters plays a very important part in his productions, and this method is detailed in his meta-film, How to Invent Reality (1996). His documentaries are often visually and symbolically powerful staged portraits of marginal figures and milieus that involve compelling stories... His new film “Just the Right Amount of Violence” will be shown at DOKLeipzig and idfa 2013.
About ”48” by Susana de Sousa Dias: ... with a sense for image and sound, and the putting the two together. To convey with Still Life. Faces of a Dictatorship (2005) the traumatic past of Portugal under Salazar. The film is 77 mins. long without any narration, built on archive from the 48 years between 1926 and till 1974, when the carnation revolution happened. The archive includes news, war footage from the colonies, propaganda films and photos of political prisoners. The musical score for this film, by António de Sousa Dias, is exceptional, first you wonder why but then you see what it does to the images, making a reflective distance and opens for a new both intellectual and emotional interpretation…
Written 27-10-2013 07:04:43 by Mikkel Stolt
Paul Simon’s 1986 album, “Graceland”, is a pivotal album and more than anything it revealed to us western mono-culture consumers that South Africa is a rich source of rhythms, harmonies and just plain good grooves. Also, the album and the following tour gave musicians like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Joseph Shabalala, Ray Phiri and Baghiti Kumalo a chance to make the world listen to their (and Simon’s) music.
But since the record was made during the embargo of South Africa, ANC and Artists Against Apartheid were adversaries to Simon’s project - although both Simon and the involved black musicians insisted on the collaboration.
In 2011 Paul Simon returned to South Africa to meet the old gang and to do a 25th anniversary concert. This film, quite traditionally, consists of scenes from the rehearsals, archive footage of the old recordings and concerts, the harsh life under apartheid plus recent interviews with the main characters. Simon himself comes across both enthusiastic (albeit a bit old) and somewhat tired of the old controversy while the other musicians are just a treat to look at and listen to.
There is an important dialogue on a sofa between Simon and founder of AAA, Dali Tembo, where they discuss the political implications, and - in my mind a key scene - Simon also tells us about a meeting he had with ANC. Back then, ANC wanted the black musicians to not go on the tour, and Simon therefore asked the politicians: “Is this the government you will be? A government who wants to control artists?” Powerful stuff, to say the least.
But the film pays an equal attention to the music related topics. For instance, we hear about Simon’s problems with getting his words to fit when he returned to New York with the tapes. He had to re-listen and re-analyze the complex patterns of the instruments.
However, we as an audience aren’t allowed to really listen. Even though the film is packed with music, we mostly get to hear a few seconds before someone talks, and while it seems completely unnecessary to have people like Whoopi Goldberg and Paul McCartney in the film, others like Harry Belafonte and Philip Glass make more sense. It’s always tricky to fit music into a storyline, but apart from that the film is structured rather cleverly.
It is not cinematographically awe-inspiring but certainly inspiring in other ways; especially if you are just slightly interested in Paul Simon, music, culture, politics or… the world.
Joe Berlinger: Under African Skies, 2012. Watched at Cinemateket, Copenhagen.
Written 26-10-2013 20:18:20 by Tue Steen Müller
… and as usual there are many interesting side programmes like this one, text taken from the site of the festival, headline “Putting the Material At a Distance”:
Peter Voigt's films reveal his special relationship to image material: He has the ability to cinematically represent times of which no visual records exist. He often deliberately does not use historical images, as they are already stored in the collective memory. He puts 'material at a distance' and creates a wholly unique position apart from imitation and retelling.
Peter Voigt, born in 1933 in Dessau, became, in 1954, the youngest member of Bertolt Brecht's directorial team at the Berliner Ensemble. That experience shaped him and is reflected in later works such as Der Zögling or Episches Theater (1998), in which he thematically returns to Brecht. Voigt learned the cinematic craft as a director and writer of contemporary history in documentary film. He worked as an illustrator and director at the DEFA Studio for Animated Films and the DEFA Studio for Documentary Films, which distinguishes him as a crossover artist straddling the genres.
In an interview with producer Andreas Goldstein (Oktoberfilm/Berlin), Peter Voigt will present his work and his artistic method before the master class. In celebration of his 80th birthday, DOK Leipzig has dedicated an homage to the grand master.
To get the most out of the master class we recommend to go to the screening of Peter Voigt's films Episches Theater, Ich bin Ernst Busch and Kentauren on Friday 01 November at 11:00 in the Passage Kinos Wintergarten.
Please Note: The master class will be held in German WITHOUT translation. Accredited guests welcome!
Check out petervoigt.info for background information about the filmmaker's work and career!
Written 24-10-2013 16:56:33 by Tue Steen Müller
… say the DocAlliance people, who again are advertising their vod repertory, including several films that can be streamed for free. The reason for celebration NOW is of course that two of the festivals that are part of the Alliance start today (Jihlava and Lisbon), two other (Leipzig and Copenhagen) follow a bit later.
Go to the site below and see what is on the menu – Frederick Wiseman is not (yet) but his new film “At Berkeley” (photo) will be screened in Lisbon and Copenhagen. Here is the text from DocAlliance:
A month full of the best of contemporary documentary film is about to start! Four Doc Alliance partner festivals are inviting both local and international audiences to meet new talented directors, emerging producers and progressive distribution trends. DAFilms.com offers you the unique opportunity to watch selected festival films during special weekly events online for free. Are you going to one of the festivals only? Are you planning your film trip for the spring months? Watch DAFilms.com and enjoy the festival fall in the comfort of your home!
Written 22-10-2013 09:35:02 by Tue Steen Müller
I took this photo from the FB page of Jana Cisar, who was one of the tutors in Tbilisi at the DocStories Georgia workshop that ran parallel to the Cinedoc festival. Cisar has a premiere coming up of her film ”Böhmische Dörfer” at the Hofer Filmtage, that starts today. I have a dvd of the film and will watch and write about it asap. Link below.
The photo is taken from the Hotel Villa, where we were staying and represents very well the impression you get of the capital of Georgia, when you walk around and leave the noisy Rustaveli Avenue for backyards like this, lovely and charming to watch, probably difficult to live in, a lot of in-house discussions going on here and there, comments from the windows, Fellini and Iosseliani.
In FB language this is what I liked in Tbilisi: the food in general, the eggplant with nut cream, the katchapuri, the chinkali, the chacha (got home with two silver bottles and two gold) (thank you dear friends), the decadence, the cafés that are hidden from the streets, the hospitality, Pirosmani, the bookshops in the backyards, the fine weather in the beginning of the week, the organisation of the workshop by Nikos and the volunteers, the outdoor café at the Goethe Institute... and the dislikes: the constant overall smoking, the phone calling and text messaging and small talk in the cinemas, the child sitting on a cardboard begging on Rustaveli placed there by the mother, the disrespect of the car drivers for pedestrians, the sour red wine I got (my fault, could have researched better), the night flights out of the city, the information about the Russian provocation regarding the upcoming Olympics having a soldier hero from Ossetian war carry the torch, the young woman born in Abkhazia who with tears in her eyes told me her father was killed in the 1991- 93 war...
Yes, you are constantly reminded about the recent history and the hard conditions the Georgians live in – and how priviliged you are coming from a small country where a stupid debate the last week has gone around the scandalous overspending of a former prime minister, who went by first class flights all over the world as chair of an international organisation, luxurious hotels etc.etc. What a different life we live.
Written 20-10-2013 09:30:57 by Tue Steen Müller
The 1st International Documentary Festival in the Caucasus is going towards its end. Today the awarded films – and others – are being screened and last night the award ceremony took place in the Rustaveli Cineme. I was member of the jury of the International Competititon together with film critic and festival programmer Victoria Belopolskaya (Russia) and EDN director Paul Pauwels. The decisions of the international jury are to be found below.
Another jury consisting of Petr Kostorhyz (Czech Republic), Lela Ochiauri (Georgia) and Marina Drozdova (Russia) gave the main prize in the Focus Caucasus section to The English Teacher, directed by Nino Orjonikidze & Vano Arsenishvili (Georgia).
The catalogue description (taken from the website of the production company) of this fine film goes like this:
Young, adventurous “English teacher” is assigned to carry out a “linguistic revolution” in a remote Georgian village. Looking for new adventures, South African Bradley Nelson finds himself on the frontier of a big political change in the country. In order to get rid of the Soviet legacy and engage with the western world, the government initiates a project to “invade” Georgia with English speakers. Excited traveler is determined to contribute to a “radical change” in the small post-Soviet country. But when the first wave of excitement disappears, he is confronted with the gloomy reality. There are no signs of revolutionary changes, and in fact, no desire to change at all. Villagers are facing completely different set of challenges...
The Audience Award went to "Songs of Redemption" by Amanda Sans.
Written 20-10-2013 09:11:47 by Tue Steen Müller
The Main Award at the 1st Cinedoc Tbilisi festival went to Lina Luzyte for her ”Igrushki”. The motivation of the Jury of the International Competition
THE FIRST PRIZE IS AWARDED – BY A UNANIMOUS JURY DECISION – TO A DOCUMENTARY THAT IS SET IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE DEMOCRACY IS STILL A MUCH COVETED GOOD AND DAY BY DAY, PEOPLE STRUGGLE TO BUILD A DECENT LIVING.
THE FILM MAKER MANAGES TO CAPTURE THIS STRANGE ATMOSPHERE IN A DOCUMENTARY THAT SURPRISES BY ITS VERY ORIGINAL STYLE AND MANAGES TO GO DIRECTLY TO THE HEART OF THE VIEWER.
THE DOCUMENTARY IS SET IN A PLACE WHERE TIME SEEMS TO HAVE STOPPED AND CREATED AN OWN AND VERY SPECIAL UNIVERSE.
THE JURY APPRECIATED VERY MUCH THE EXTRAORDINARY CINEMATIC STYLE, THE AUTHOR’S EYE FOR DETAIL AND THE COMPELLING STORYTELLING THAT TURNS EVERY SEQUENCE INTO A STORY OF ITS OWN.
THE JURY ALSO APPRECIATED THE RESPECT – EVEN THE LOVE – WITH WHICH THE MAIN CHARACTERS ARE PRESENTED.
Written 20-10-2013 09:02:45 by Tue Steen Müller
The Special Jury Award at the 1st Cinedoc Tbilisi festival went to Pawel Kloc for his ”Phnom Penh Lullaby”. The motivation of the Jury of the International Competition:
THE SPECIAL JURY AWARD GOES TO A DOCUMENTARY THAT VERY MUCH SEDUCED THE JURY BY IT’S CINEMATIC QUALITIES AND ITS INTRIGUING PROTAGONIST.
BY USING POWERFUL IMAGES AND AN IMPRESSIVE AND WELL-BALANCED SOUNDTRACK THE FILM MAKER INTRODUCES US INTO A SOCIETY THAT IN REALITY LOOKS QUITE DIFFERENT FROM THE ONE TO BE FOUND IN THE GLOSSY IMAGES OF THE TRAVEL AGENCY BROCHURES.
EVERY SCENE OF THIS FILM IS OF A SELDOM SEEN INTIMACY, BRINGING THE VIEWER VERY CLOSE TO THE INTERNAL STRUGGLE OF A MAN TRYING TO BE GOOD IN A BAD WORLD.
IN ADDITION THE FILM MAKER MANAGES TO INTRODUCE A SECOND LAYER ON TOP OF THE PERSONAL STORY: THIS OF THE CONSTANT SCANDAL OF SEXUAL ABUSE OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN A SOCIETY THAT AT SOMETIMES SEEMS COMPLETELY LAWLESS.
Written 20-10-2013 08:51:15 by Tue Steen Müller
The Jury Mention at the 1st Cinedoc Tbilisi festival went to Julia Panasenko for her “Outro”. The motivation of the Jury of the International Competition:
A DOCUMENTARY THAT HITS THE VIEWER LIKE A ROCK: PUNK DOCUMENARY FILMMAKING! ONE OF THE JURY-MEMBERS CALLED IT.
WITHOUT MAKING ANY CONCESSIONS AND IN A VERY DIRECT STYLE, THE FILM THROWS THE VIEWER INTO THE LAST WEEKS OF THE LIFE OF THE CHARMING BUT ALSO TRAGIC MAIN CHARACTER.
AS AN AUDIENCE WE CAN ONLY BE GRATEFUL THAT THE YOUNG WOMAN WHO’S AT THE CORE OF THIS FILM ALLOWED THE FILMMAKER TO FOLLOW HER ON HER VOYAGE TO THE VERY END. THE RESULT IS A MOVING DOCUMENTARY THAT SHOULD MAKE ALL OF US THINK ABOUT THE WAY WE LIVE OUR LIVES.
Written 19-10-2013 17:02:56 by Tue Steen Müller
It was too much, something had to be done so I asked one of the staff members of Cinedoc here in Tbilisi to ask the audience to refrain from talking on their phone and send text messages during the screening. She did – saying that it disturbed the members of the jury...! Maybe not the rest of the audience...! My juror colleague Paul Pauwels and I were laughing our asses off.
Otherwise, it has been very stimulating to sit in very often full cinema halls at the very first edition of a festival that has been very well received by the audience. As in many other documentary festivals it looks like the audience has an average age around 25, indeed promising for the future of the event.
On top of that the festival must be praised for the initiative of showing films for a young audience followed by ” discussions after the screenings… moderated by children psychologists, teachers and young civil society activists.” Let me mention two neo-classic films from that section: “Please Vote for Me” (2007) (Photo) by Wiejun Chen and Claire Simon’s “Recreations” (1993).
Awards will be given tonight at The Rustaveli Cinema – in the category “Focus Caucasus”, in the International Competition, and there is an audience award. Will be back with that information tomorrow morning.
Written 17-10-2013 06:27:50 by Tue Steen Müller
Sitting in Tbilisi I see a press release from the Danish Cinematheque that hosts a ”Festival of Central and Eastern European Film” from October 24 till November 7. Among them the feature hit from Georgia, ”In Bloom”, but also several documentaries. Exciting selection.
Let me quote an interesting article by Ewa Mazierska attached to the press release:
”One problem which is not specific to Eastern Europe, but is felt there more strongly than in, let’s say, France or Denmark, is the dying out of the province. This problem has to do, paradoxically, with the fact that still a large chunk of the population of Eastern Europe lives in the province; this being a consequence of delayed modernisation of this part of Europe. During the communist times the authorities usually limited the number of people able to relocate to the large cities by the rule that one has to be ‘registered’ there in order to live and work there. Under democracy, however, when one can, at least in theory, live where one wants, many people choose to do so, leaving behind their families and thus communities depopulated, impoverished and unbalanced in terms of gender and age. This problem is tackled in numerous Eastern European films, although often indirectly, as exemplified by Matchmaking Mayor (2010) by Erika Hnikova, Igrushki (2012) by Lina Luzyté and Night Boats (2012) by Igor Mirkovic. By and large, in the bulk of the films by Eastern Europe directors their countries come across as places to escape from rather than to visit and enjoy. However, less often than in the past this idea is transmitted in films about sex trafficking, as if to suggest that girls from Eastern Europe have learnt from cinema not to naively follow men from the West promising them paradise on the other side of the border.”
”Igrushki” (photo) is in competition here at Cinedoc in Tbilisi.
Written 16-10-2013 06:41:39 by Tue Steen Müller
Voila, the 1st International Documentary Film Festival in the Caucasus started last night in the Rustaveli cinema in Tbilisi. Totally full was the cinema hall for the opening ceremony that included a promise from festival director Artchil Khetagouri, that a bigger hall will be available next year – and a good atmosphere filling the cinema for the opening film “Songs of Redemption” by Amanda Sans (who was present) & Miquel Galofre. The catalogue text goes like this: “Songs Of Redemption” is a Jamaican documentary that captures the story of redemption and rehabilitation of inmates of the General Penitentiary located in Kingston, Jamaica. It features riveting interviews and powerful reggae music created, performed, and produced in a unique partnership by inmates and wardens.
At the other end of the Rustaveli Boulevard a workshop goes on during daytime at the fine venue of the Goethe Institute. 10 Georgian documentary projects are being developed with the help from tutors like British Peter Symes, Latvian Uldis Cekulis, Serbian Goran Radovanovic, Belgian Paul Pauwels and Danish Tue Steen Müller, who are writing these lines. I was (also) asked to talk about the state of the art of documentaries and did so through the showing of newly digitized versions of Lithuanian classics like Robertas Verba’s 1969 short documentary about the 100 years old people, and Arunas Matelis 1990 “The Minutes Before the Flight of Icarus” – as well as clips from “Argentinian Lesson” by Wojciech Staron and “Father and Son” (both versions) by Pawel and Marcel Lozinski. Not to forget the fantastic opening of Timo Novotny’s “Life in Loops”, the remix of “Megacities” by Michael Glawogger.
Photo: Opening dinner for the workshoppers… We eat well in Tbilisi!
Written 15-10-2013 05:49:27 by Tue Steen Müller
Stasik is one of the most obvious talents in young Polish documentary. His “Last Day of Summer” is a masterpiece in cinematography and compressed storytelling. This new film from his hands, which was at the Krakow festival, and now has its international premiere at DOK Leipzig, is a beautiful variation of the theme “the master and his pupil”, in this case featuring the photographer Tadeusz Rolke, who travels Poland and its villages together with a 15 year old Michel, who wants to know the secrets of the profession. Out comes a charming film about “an old man and a boy”, a generation film full of fine observations. Yes, Michel Simon in the film of Claude Berri comes into mind, as does the class mate at the Wajda School, Thierry Paladino, who made “La Machina”, where a puppeteer travels with his pupil.
Let me give you some quote references to Tadeusz Rolke:
“You could call him the Polish Cartier-Bresson, an artist from the dying line of photographers without whom "we would be living in the eternal and perfect translucent present, like on TV". A man who photographed wartime Warsaw and lives today to share his knowledge… Known for his photographs of wartime Warsaw and inspired images of cultural life in postwar Poland and Germany, Tadeusz Rolke's photographic archive constitutes 60 years of Polish and European history. Rolke is considered one of Poland's most accomplished photographers. He photographed the silhouette of the Palace of Culture and Science rising over Warsaw's rubble, anti-communist rallies, the changes after 1989.
Written 15-10-2013 05:15:03 by Tue Steen Müller
”Cinema for me is a visual poem of time suspended”, says Tamara Stepanyan, according to the festival vod festivalscope. This sentence fits to characterise her fine personal film that takes its start at the grave of her (we learn) charismatic grandmother, Tamara, who was a person loved and respected by people around her – most of them do not live any longer, those who are still there talk with passion to Tamara about Tamara, and about their meetings on May 9, the liberation day of the WW2. It's all about time and remembering, some of the survivors remember clearly, one says about remembering that her imagination could have changed a lot of what really happened, one says that it is hard to bring back the good memories in an Armenia, that has completely changed, and not for the better, after Soviet times, and one has fallen into dementia.
Tamara Stepanyan films her characters with warmth, she asks her questions to the freedom fighters of 1945 with respect and out of curiosity, her film has a flow in storytelling and what is the strongest quality is her personal commentary that comes nicely and natural as a granddaughter, who loves her grandmother.
Armenia, Lebanon, Qatar, 2012, 77 mins.
Written 12-10-2013 12:26:49 by Tue Steen Müller
It’s one festival after the other publishing its programme. Lisbon, Leipzig, Amsterdam and today there is a programme party in Copenhagen for cph:dox...
Idfa programme yesterday, the biggest festival in audience numbers and considered to be the most important - this is where all documentary filmmakers wish to have their films shown, and where all professionals have to be for the industry activities, first of all the forum. If you are not there, colleagues might think that you have stopped making documentaries or your company has closed...
It is amazing and overwhelming – take a look at the second link below, 7 competition programmes and 15 (fifteen!) side programmes. Rithy Panh makes the Top Ten according to his personal choice, great films like ”Don’t Look Back” (Pennebaker), Joris Ivens ”A Tale of the Wind”, Pedro Costa’s ”In Vanda’s Room” and a pearl, forgotten by most people: ”Farrebique - the Four Seasons” from1946 by Georges Rouquier.
For historical interested there is this gift: “Next year is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. To mark this occasion, eight documentaries dealing with World War I will screen at the upcoming IDFA. These are films made between 1917 and 1928 and come from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK. The selection was made with researcher David Barnouw of the NIOD, media historian Bert Hogenkamp of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and silent film conservator at EYE Elif Rongen-Kaynakci. The films will be introduced by experts and after the screening, discussions will take place with the audience on the meaning of the films in a historical context.”
Competition for feature length documentaries, 15 films, let me mention 3 of them that I know about: “Life Almost Wonderful” by Bulgarian Svetoslav Draganov, “Return to Homs” by Talal Derki and “The Wild Years” by Ventura Durall (PHOTO).
Written 11-10-2013 14:15:01 by Tue Steen Müller
Big numbers in the press release of DOK Leipzig, sent out yesterday with an announcement of the so-called official programme. 56th edition, ” a total of 88 films from 34 countries will compete in the five competition categories. While there is a particularly strong presence of traditional film production countries like Poland, France, and Great Britain, the line-up also includes countries like Bolivia, Myanmar, Nepal, or Syria. 2,240 films from 114 countries were submitted, a total of well over 3,000 films were previewed.”
And it goes on with more facts in the press release, “overall, 346 films will be screened in the various sections and Special Programmes: 187 documentaries, 116 animations, and 43 Animadoc productions. 24 among the 109 films in the official documentary film programme of the 56th edition of DOK Leipzig will be world premieres, 24 international premieres, 7 European premieres and 47 German premieres. The large percentage of prestigious names and former award winners whose films enrich the programme is a particularly positive development.”
Prestigious names… yes, there is a good spread from a classical documentary approach from Volker Koepp, who brings a new title, “In Sarmatia”, to the two Russian documentarians Vitaly Mansky and Marina Razbezhkina and to Danish master Jon Bang Carlsen’s “Just the Right Amount of Violence”, a film that has not yet had its Danish cinema release, as usual with Carlsen on his way to find new ways of exploration and introspection. Bravo also for taking Robert Kirchhoff’s “Normalization” (PHOTO) to the competititon, whereas it is a surprise that “Hilton – Here for Life” by Finnish Virpi Suutari has been chosen.
In the Young Cinema Competititon it is great, for a former Zelig Film School teacher, to find the graduation film of Yuri Mazumdar, a beautiful work from India, “Kalyug”, as well as “The Last Black Sea Pirates” by Bulgarian Svetoslav Stoyanov and “Sickfuckpeople” by Juri Rechinsky.
For me DOK Leipzig is for social and political documentaries, with films from all over the world, with a strong thematic focus, maybe more for the brain than for the heart? I will go there for some days, with pleasure, to a festival that is always very well organised in cosy Leipzig.
Side programmes, of course, take a look at the website, there are focus on Brazil, retro of Peter Liechti and much more. Let the festival director have the last word: “Documentary film today displays an extraordinary wealth of themes and amazing stylistic devices,” says Claas Danielsen. “The genre has long since left its niche to win over a wide audience.” Right he is!
Written 10-10-2013 17:42:05 by Tue Steen Müller
The programme of the 11th edition of the DocLisboa, that starts October 24 and ends November 3, was made public yesterday. Again you just have to say Respect! For the quality of the selection and for side programmes like ”Research”, ”New Visions” (curated by charismatic critic Augusto M. Deabra) and first of all the section ”Moving Stills – Photography, Photographers and Documentary Films”.
Under that (the latter) caption you will find excellently composed 80-90 compilations of short and longer documentaries grouped as ”self-portraits” (Robert Frank, Man Ray...), ”family albums” (Ingmar Bergman), ”Questioning the Image” (Godard, Farocki...), ”Surviving Images” (Agnès Varda...) or ”The Point of View of the Photographer” (Johan van der Keuken’s ”To Sang Fotostudio”, photo).
The festival includes several competiton sections: feature duration (with Avi Mograbi’s ”Once I entered a Garden” and films by Wang Bing, Anand Patwardhan and many others I have never heard about), a Portuguese section, international and short film competitions and much much more.
With a big retrospective of films by French master Alain Cavalier – do you remember ”Thérèse”, his wonderful film from 1986?
Written 10-10-2013 17:02:00 by Tue Steen Müller
It is not only in Colombia – see below – that festival organisers play with the word closeness between docs and dogs, when a new fest is to be launched. Look at the logo for a festival that starts today (and runs for a week) in the capital of Bulgaria and introduces itself like this:
”SOFIA BITING DOCS presents a selection of high quality documentary films representing human rights topics, environmental problems, integration of diversity groups into the society and other controversial topics raising discussions and arguments.
The festival crew is planning to organize different accompanying events within its frames such as discussions, workshops and lectures, giving popularity of many interesting, but inconvenient issues.
The event is organized by Pozor Company with the support of One World Film Festival in Prague, Czech Centre - Sofia and Kino Iztok Foundation.”
Yes, documentaries are being used in a festival context to create debate about important issues. Among the films are Vitaly Manski Cuba-film ”Motherland or Death” and Lauren Greenfield's ”Queen of Versailles”... One World-films can also be humorous and some of them bite.
Written 06-10-2013 19:54:44 by Tue Steen Müller
… which (Medellin) is a city in Colombia that October 15-20 will have its first documentary festival, built on the DocsBarcelona model with film screenings and industry activities, all thought out by Joan Gonzalez from Parallel40 in the Catalan capital, the name of a person who has appeared again and again in filmkommentaren. He has put this new festival together together with his brilliant staff, including Angels Vilars who runs the Parallel40 office in Colombia.
I have tried to ask Gonzalez, a friend and colleague since the 1990’es, why a pipe-smoking dog is on the poster of the festival, no answer, but from a former pipe smoker, dog walker and docs addicted person… no objections.
On the programme of the festival (Spanish language films primarily) are “Pura Vida” by Pablo Iraburu, the strong film about Inaki, the mountain climber and the international solidarity that grew in order to try get him down from high up – and Chico Pereira’s warm “Pablo’s Winter” – and Fredrik Gertten’s documentary blockbuster “Big Boys Gone Bananas!”. Here is the text from the press release about the festival:
DocsBarcelona has gone a step further in its history: after a year’s work, we proudly inform you that at the end of October we will celebrate the first edition of DocsBarcelona+Medellín, the experience of the festival you already know, now in Colombia!
Stories from Zimbabwe, India, Chile, Spain, Colombia and Uruguay will turn Medellin during 6 days into the heart of documentary. The program will present 15 films out of a selection of documentaries mostly screened at DocsBarcelona in previous editions, all of them with a large international career. The documentary Serrat & Sabina: Two for the road (El símbolo y el cuate), directed by journalist and correspondent Francesc Relea about the acclaimed Spanish singer-songwriters Joaquín Sabina and Joan Manel Serrat, will open the festival, being the American premiere. The festival program will be completed with an agenda of industry activities such as master classes with guest directors, rou gh cut sessions with documentary professionals and an Executive Production Workshop-Seminar by Joan Gonzàlez, director of the production company Parallel40 and of DocsBarcelona and its edition in Medellin. DocsBarcelona+Medellin will take place at Parque Explora, at the Cultural Center of the Arts Faculty of the Antioquia University, at the Eafit University and in the Lido Theatre.
Written 05-10-2013 20:11:45 by Tue Steen Müller
The following text was sent to filmkommentaren.dk by the organisers of Doclisboa’13:
Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof is barred from leaving his country, he will not be able to attend Doclisboa’13. Mohammad Rasoulof has been invited to chair the Jury of the International Competition of the 11th Doclisboa – International Film Festival, in Portugal.
The Iranian director went back to Iran 10 days ago and had since his passport confiscated. The authorities refuse to let him leave the country and he is not authorised to travel until “new order”, or attend any festivals presenting his latest film ”Manuscripts don’t Burn”.
In these circumstances, Doclisboa organisation has decided to leave Mohammad Rasoulof’s place as President of the Jury empty, as an act of support and solidarity with the Iranian filmmaker.
Doclisboa finds it not acceptable that he is deprived to leave the country and will contribute in every possible way to make clear that Rasoulof is being held against his will and hindered to exercise his job as a director and filmmaker.
Additionally, Rasoulof was supposed to attend the German premiere of the film at Hamburg Film Festival on Tuesday evening, October 1st, and to accept a lifetime achievement award on October 8th at the Nuremburg International Human Rights Film Festival, in Germany.
The closing session of the 11th Doclisboa is going to show ”Manuscripts don’t Burn”, to be held on Saturday, November 2nd. The film tells the story of an Iranian author who manages to secretly write down his memoirs, related to his time in jail as a political prisoner...
Written 04-10-2013 14:37:11 by Tue Steen Müller
The 1st international documentary film festival in the Caucasus runs from 15-20 October. The organiser is the Noosfera Foundation supported by – among others – the Idfa Bertha Fund and Georgian National Film Center.
The festival has an International Competititon section as well as a Focus Caucasus, a Georgian Panorama and a CinéDoc Young.
For the International section 10 films have been picked. According to the organizers, they are ” artistic, inspiring, daring in form and storytelling”. I would add that the list of films (check the website) is wonderfully different from the usual documentary festival programmes, spreading from the original ”The Other Day” by Chilean Ignaciao Agüero to heartbreaking Russian ”Linar” by Nastia Tarasova and the impressive, by the bigger festivals, overseen no-Lukashenko-in-picture-documentary from Belarus, ”Igrushki” by Lina Luzyte from Lithuania. More known in the festival circuit are titles like Moroccan Karima Zoubir’s strong ”Camera Woman” and Polish Pawel Kloc’s masterpiece ”Pnomh Penh Lullaby”.
The Caucasus Focus offers 8 films including Georgian ”The English Teacher” by Nino Orjonikidze & Vano Arsenishvili, Armenian ”The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia” by Arman Yeritsyan & Inna Sahakyan, Russian ”Two sides of One Horse” by Tatyana Soboleva – to mention those I have seen or heard about in beforehand.
A workshop runs parallel to the festival, DocStories Georgia, a continuation of the initiative from 2012, DocStories BlackSea. 10 Georgian projects, represented by directors and producers, have been selected to meet and be tutored by experienced filmmakers and consultants like Peter Symes UK, Uldia Cekulis Latvia, Hans-Robert Eisenhauer Germany, Irena Taskovski UK, Isabel Arrate Holland, Goran Radovanovic Serbia, Paul Pauwels Belgium and the one who writes these lines – who with Pauwels and Victoria Belopolski Russia will form the jury of the festival.
Exciting initiative in beautiful Tbilisi, and those who have been there before know what I mean, when I don’t say Hurra but ChaCha!
Written 04-10-2013 10:53:03 by Tue Steen Müller
in the EU... I write ”dangerous” instead of ”stupid” and continue by saying ”here we go again” with the EU. One thing is that it has been decided to put the well established brand MEDIA into a new scheme under the nonsense name ”Creative Europe” (why change something (MEDIA) that is a huge success?), another thing is that the guidelines for documentaries are announced to be changed. For the worse and again totally away from understanding the reality of the creative documentary like it has happened before, when changes in the MEDIA programme was made. BUT, it has to be said, lobbying has previously been succesful, so action helps and is needed now!
A quote from the EDN website of this morning: During said meeting with representatives of the Media Unit and the EACEA agency with EDN Director Paul Pauwels, it has been confirmed that the following two elements are part of the proposed guidelines;
1) The maximum support for a documentary project applying for Single Project Development Support will from 2014 onward be a lump sum of €25.000 as opposed to the current level of minimum 10.000 € and maximum €60.000.
2) A project receiving Single Project Development Support cannot enter into principal shooting until one year after the funding application date.
Both suggestions for changes are of course not acceptable. On that background “EDN is encouraging all members and colleagues to make themselves heard about the expected developments within Creative Europe. Please do contact your national representative before October 11, 2013.” Which is the day where the national representatives meet.
Read more about it on the EDN website and talk to the national representative!
Written 03-10-2013 18:56:20 by Tue Steen Müller
The IDFA Academy which I can highly recommend - I attended as observer last year - has asked me to help find young talents, who could qualify for their 2013 training programme. Here is the text, I am sure that many of our readers qualify, take a look if it something for you. Deadline is October 10:
IDFAcademy 2013 will be held from November 21-24. The call for accreditation is now open. This year, IDFAcademy is open to emerging filmmakers and producers from countries of the EU, according to the list of countries by the MEDIA Programme. Participants apply with a film (completed after September 2012) that they want to distribute on the world stage, or a project that they would like to produce and/or finance internationally, and eventually distribute. This ensures that participants are constantly applying the general knowledge and advice to their own film or project during the four days. Filmmakers or producers with a film selected for the festival or Docs For Sale are especially encouraged to attend. This also applies to participants in the IDFA WorldView Summer School, IDFA-Mediafonds Workshop and Kids & Docs Workshop, or former participants with their result (film) selected for IDFA.
The accreditation entry form and guidelines for accreditation for IDFAcademy 2013 are available here. The cost of the 2013 IDFAcademy Pass is €200,- (excl. 6% VAT). IDFAcademy 2013 is open to a maximum of 80 participants. The deadline for application is October 10. The selection is made before the end of October. Profile of the Participants Documentary filmmakers and producers from Europe who have made a maximum of two documentaries, preferably between 20 and 90 minutes in length. These documentaries provide evidence of their talent. A course of study in film is a plus, but not a requirement. Up until now, the filmmakers have operated primarily on the national level, where their films have been financed and screened. They now wish to broaden their careers by operating internationally. A few of the participants have films that are screening at IDFA. For most of them, IDFA is the first major international documentary film festival that they have attended. We are proud to announce that the MEDIA Programme has decided to support the IDFAcademy activities during the festival in 2013.
Written 01-10-2013 11:09:12 by Tue Steen Müller
The Vilnius Documentary Film Festival ended Saturday night and the jury headed by Leonard Helmrich, whose films were shown in a retrospective series, gave out the awards in the Baltic documentary competition, this year with a very strong line-up of films.
Difficult to object to the main award going to Davis Simanis from Latvia for his ”Chronicles of the Last Temple” (photo), a superb interpretation of the new and much discussed National Library of Riga, a film that shows Simanis ability to capture the grandeur of a building and its details in a super aesthetic form.
And then some great news from the hosting country, Lithuania, that has decided the following, according to the internet magazine FilmNewEurope: “The minimalist Lithuanian documentary Conversations on Serious Topics directed by Giedre Beinoriute is the latest of the announced entries for the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film. The film, produced by Monoklis www.monoklis.lt and shot in a spare style with children speaking on subjects ranging from disability, the existence of God, violence, love, and work, is among a number of films from Central and Eastern Europe vying for an Oscar nomination.”
Written 30-09-2013 07:25:39 by Tue Steen Müller
But why don’t we know about it, one of the Russian directors said on the second and last day of the Conference in Hotel Vedensky in St. Petersburg, DoxPro, on financing of international creative documentaries. He referred to the ”Farewell Comrades”, a film series and an interactive website of high quality, developed and produced by German Gebrüder Beetz, and briefly presented by the company’s Tanja Schmoller. There is a link below for those who missed it. filmkommentaren did a presentation in January 2012, a quote: ”Well-done and well conveyed information, anecdotes and personal it is, sometimes fun, sometimes tough to hear and see.”
But Tanja Schmoller was at the conference to present one of the ”Cultural Files” by the company, ”The Wagner Files”, an exciting cross-media project promoted like this at the site of the company: ”“The Wagner Files” is an innovative and dynamic fusion of music documentary, fictional film and animated cartoon.” Equally dynamic and informative was the presentation by young Schmoller, who showed how to use the graphic novel app of the work on Wagner, and explained the financing structure of the project and how content/idea/creativity lies within the company, whereas the technical solutions are made outside. Schmoller inspired many of the conference participants, including Olga Kravets who with two colleagues are working on the webdocumentary, “Grozny.Nine Cities” that was met with both support and political remarks. They have applied to the idfa forum to get necessary funding, it would surprise me if their talented project do not get accepted.
The last day also brought a speech by Icelandic theatre person and art and environment politician Kolbrun Halldorsdottir, who talked enthusiastically about green documentaries and their potential to change – a couple of Russian conference participants stood up and advocated for their “green” festivals. Maria Fuglevaag Warsinska-Varsi, who lives in Norway, film director and former film consultant at the Norwegian Film Institute, took the floor to give a brief on the Norwegian support system as well as on the Sami film situation, where she now holds a position as mentor. Warsinska-Varsi gave a lot of advice to the Russian filmmakers present, as did veteran producer and MIFF (Moscow International Film Festival) documentary selector Grigory Libergal, who said that he had missed analysis and basic information on the Russian documentary, which consequently was what he came up with. There is a loong way to go, was the impression you got from Libergal’s speech that provoked a lot of discussion and optimism and will to change in the direction of collaboration and skills development of especially a young generation of producers, who speak English and wish to travel and take part in workshops in Western Europe.
Co-organiser of the conference, EDN (European Documentary Network), represented by Mikael Opstrup and Ove Rishøj Jensen (photo) welcomed Russian filmmakers to take part in seminars and workshops – there are many possibilities. Standing applause to the two organisers of the conference, Ludmila Nazaruk and Viktor Skubey, who will put everything online in due time for others to enjoy and learn from… and then off to see wonderful St. Petersburg, Hermitage, boat trip, Erarta Museum, Marynskii…
Written 27-09-2013 07:58:14 by Tue Steen Müller
First day of the Conference in Vedensky Hotel in St. Petersburg running parallel to the Message to Man festival. Theme of the meeting: Financing of International Creative Documentary Projects in the Northern Dimension Area: Cutting Edge and Trends.
The opening speech, he was given 15 minutes, he took 18, was delivered by legendary YLE commissioner Iikka Vehkalahti (photo), who came up with a sentence that was repeated several times during the day: I am now commissioning into the air, referring to the fact that many documentaries nowadays start their distribution life on the internet, eventually go to the cinema, get reviews, go to television, are made as transmedia projects...
... which was the theme of a very informative and enthusiastic speech by Swedish Annika Gustafson, who reminded the audience that interactivity is nothing new – Dickens wrote a chapter of the Pickwick Papers, let people read it, got feed back and went home to write the next chapter.
Equally informative, with a mention of four succesful crowdfunded documentary projects, was the presentation by veteran EDN staff member Ove Rishøj Jensen, who like his Swedish colleague , went back in history to point at Danish artist Asger Jorn, who in the 1930’es collected funding for a travel to Paris through the selling of works for a small prize.
Both Gustafson and Jensen came up with several links where information and inspiration can be found. AND, the organisers of the conference, Ludmila Nazaruk and Viktor Skubey, DoxPro, stated that all links and presentations will be put online after the end of the two days here in St. Petersburg. Keep an eye on this, dear readers.
Back to content. Jaak Kilmi from Estonia talked about his lost transmedia chances with films he had already done, example ”The Art of Selling”, his breakthrough film – transmedia expert Gustafson brainstormed on what he could have done... A very optimistic and energetic Sofia Gudkova talked about the Documentary Film Centre in Moscow, screenings, debates, international presentations, and Evgeny Grigoriev from the Documentary Guild, the new and young President of the filmmaker organisation, rolled out a whole list of upcoming activities that will help the filmmakers nationally and internationally. These were very promising speeches from the two young Russians, whereas Vera Obolonkina’s speech about the 24Dok was influenced by technical problems, when she was speaking online from Moscow. Gints Grube from Latvia and Rolandas Kvietkauskas from Lithuania informed about the ambition to make Latvian television more open for the independent sector of producers, respectively about the organisation of the new Lithuanian Film Centre and its – primarily – eduational activities to give a place for cross media productions.
Apart from the around 50 participants as audience in the Vedenmsky Hotel, another 40 people followed the conference online – and asked questions to the speakers – with some technical problems in the afternoon.
... and then many of us went to ”Idiot” Café...
Written 26-09-2013 06:41:15 by Tue Steen Müller
It took 90 minutes to fly from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg and another 90 minutes to reach the hotel from the airport. Moskva Prospekt is veery long but I had good company in Viktor Skubey, producer and together with Ludmila Nazaruk organiser of the DoxPro Conference in Hotel Vedensky, where these lines are written. The two of them showed me the new venue of the Message to Man festival, the Velican Centre, which is, as Skubey put it – a new building in old style. The Centre has three cinema halls and is situated in a park, where you also find a miniature exposition of the city with its landmarks like the Winter Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress, the Isaac Cathedral etc. At the side a sculpture of the (Italian) architects who built St. Petersburg.
Wednesday I held a class at the University. 200 film students were present. I wanted them to experience the state of the (documentary) art and showed a clip from Michael Glawogger’s ”Megacities” (photo), the sequence from New York called ”The Hustler”, followed by Timo Novotny’s New York remix in ”Life in Loops”. Both clips are word-filled so to make the students remember the importance of the image, next clip was from Wojtiech Staron’s ”Argentinian Lesson” where no words are said in the first 6 minutes but where images tell it all in terms of information and emotion of the boy.
Finally the first 10 minutes of ”Act of Killing”, director’s cut – (also) as a promotion for the film that runs in the competitive section of Message to Man. This morning the start of the Conference:
“The organiser is DoxPro, the International Program for Documentary Professionals based in St. Petersburg Russia. DoxPro works “to facilitate economic and cultural cooperation between Russian and European documentary professionals, to create a wholesome environment for development of documentary as a creative industry in Russia.”
Written 25-09-2013 07:36:52 by Tue Steen Müller
No surprise in Malmø where the The Best Nordic Documentary Award was given last night to ”The Act of Killing”. Here is the motivation of the jury (Christian Bonke (director), Cara Cusumano (Tribeca Film Festival), and Kate Townsend (BBC Storyville)):
The jury would like to thank Nordisk Panorama for inviting us to be part of your fantastic event this year, and to experience the quality and range of work on display from all the Nordic countries. The films consistently impressed us with their powerful messages and intimate access. At one moment we were transported by the bittersweet memories of a failed romance in Paris, and the next found ourselves surprised by the unexpected humor and vitality in a women's prison in Afghanistan. Also we met the young boys from warzones around the world trying to get a bit of shelter in our western welfare. Congratulations to all the filmmakers on these great works, and thank you for sharing with us.
For the 2013 Best Nordic Documentary Award, the jury has chosen to recognize a unique achievement in the landscape of non-fiction filmmaking, a crucial work which shines a light where there had been only darkness and deceit, at the same time as it forges a new path in documentary for future filmmakers to explore. For its groundbreaking approach to the documentary form, and its unflinching confrontation with atrocity, mendacity, and the human face of evil, the jury awards the 2013 prize to Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing.
Written 23-09-2013 22:29:23 by Tue Steen Müller
Voilà, there you are in Malmø so close to Copenhagen, the home city of your correspondent, who after a good half hour of train trip took the escalators up from the deep Triangle Station to be at a square named after the local director icon, wonderful Bo Widerberg. Respect, Malmø, for this tribute, we don’t honour our artists like that on the other side of Øresund!
5 minutes walk from the station and your are at the Scandic Hotel to get your accreditation for the Nordisk Panorama that celebrates its 24th edition, a festival that from this year on will be situated in Malmø. For a Copenhagener a good close-by solution but for the Finns and the Norwegians?
Anyway, up to the third floor of the glass house, to the market of the festival where I – representing filmkommentaren.dk – spent some hours to watch some of the films in the documentary competition. Did not have time for, would have loved to see more.
There are 15 films in the documentary competition, the most prestigious of the sections of the festival with an award of 11.000€ for the director of the chosen film... who will win? Main favourite must be ”The Act of Killing”, already awarded at many festivals around the globe and for sure a milestone in modern documentary. I sat down at the marketplace to watch if there could be anyone to compete with Oppenheimer’s film that has (many festivals have done the same) given the still photo of its opening surreallistic dancing scene to be the cover of the fine catalogue that the festival has published.
I did not see all the films but of those I did manage to watch, or had watched before the festival, I found that Finnish Virpi Suutari’s social ”Hilton-Here for Life!” had a lot of commitment but became a bit ”and then we have this
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Written 20-09-2013 11:51:24 by Tue Steen Müller
I asked film director Mikhail Zheleznikov to explain to me what lies behind the section In Silico at the festival, for which he works. He answered like this:
About In Silico. It's the newest competition at Message to Man, and it's going to be the third edition this year. It's a laboratory of new (and well-forgotten old, but in the new interpretation) ideas, in which the authors are not limited by anything except the maximum length of 15 minutes and the technical capabilities of traditional film or video projection.
In this contest we present some purely experimental works, as well as more or less narrative documentary, animation or fiction shorts, which were too "avant-garde" for a more conventional international competition.
Experimental short film competition In Silico works well in the context of the whole festival program, and draws the audience. Besides, it really expands our options - now we can show almost all the crazy shorts that we like and easily get away with it.
This blogger’s comment: Bravo!
Go to the website to check out the crazy films to be shown.
Photo from one of them, “Pillar Cloud” by Maya Geller, Germany, 2013, 6 mins.
Written 18-09-2013 17:08:07 by Tue Steen Müller
Scroll down some days of this blog and you will find a general presentation of the film programme at the festival in St. Petersburg that starts this coming Saturday. The festival has a fresh look, as you can see on their website, new festival centre and interesting events like this one:
“Animated films and dynamic video graffiti on the facades of buildings, light shows on the streets of the city, audiovisual presentations, and also a master class in video graffiti open to all-comers — from 21 to 27 September at the Message to Man Film Festival, Petersburgers can become the spectators and participants of an amazing creative improvisation from VjSuave, a pair of Latin American video artists. As is fitting for a public art performance, entrance to the VjSuave events will be free of charge…
Or this one: “On 21 September, the Velikan Film Centre will host the Russian premiere of a film made by homeless people. This is one of the special screenings in the programme of the Message to Man International Film Festival, organised in collaboration with Nochlezhka, a local organisation which helps the homeless. All proceeds from the sale of tickets will go towards helping the city's homeless survive the coming winter.
The residents of St. Petersburg will be the first Russian viewers to see this film. Special gratitude is due to the director of the film, Agnieszka Zwiefka, for granting the right to screen her film in St. Petersburg. The film Albert Cinema, (Poland, 2012) (PHOTO) is the story of three homeless Poles, shot by the men themselves. Leszek, Heniek and Walus, who have been living on the street for over 15 years, have problems with alcohol and criminal pasts. Now film has changed their lives forever, becoming a kind of therapy and a vital part of the process of escaping from homelessness.
Viewers can observe the protagonists and authors of the film as they make plans for their future lives and establish contacts with their families. However, the film's most powerful element remains the dialogues between the three men – joking, making fun of each other, quarrelling, but, above all, sharing among themselves their passion for film and discovering for themselves the magical power of art.
Written 16-09-2013 17:38:16 by Sevara Pan
A review by Sevara Pan: "There was a cartoon, when I was young called Jungle Book," recounts Wolf, one of the characters in the film Neurotypical. "Now, at the end, Mowgli goes off with the man, with the fire. And he leaves the jungle. And I remember watching it and crying my eyes out. […] 'No, don't leave,' I howled. 'Don't go with the men! Trust me, I know how horrible it is.' I had been abused and hurt so much by people trying to make me normal. […] Everybody else saw that as a good thing, I saw it as the saddest movie I had ever seen," divulges Wolf as we see an image of a four-year-old Violet crossing the wooden bridge.
Neurotypical is a first feature documentary by an aspiring American filmmaker Adam Larsen. In short, Neurotypical is about life from the perspective of the autistic people. The film forges three chapters, which symbolically represent an arch of a day. It sets out in the morning with an untarnished innocence of Violet, a young girl of four, who is starting off in life and is guided by her parents with every step she takes in her journey exploring the world with the diagnosis. "I think, she just wants to keep going, keep exploring forever," says Violet's father. "We can't figure it out, you know, we just can't […]. She is a mystery. That's like the whole point." Nicholas is another protagonist of the film. A fourteen-year-old teenager represents the afternoon. He has more freedom because he is not with his parents all the time. His parents help him overcome the roadblocks but mostly he is coming to terms with his identity on his own. He has social challenges and he has to navigate the world of friends and dating. And there is Paula, an adult, who is caring for others and who has truly embraced the diagnosis. She represents the evening. According to Larsen, besides the symbolic meaning, this deftly crafted structure of the film, also helped his editing process.
Through the eyes of a four-year-old Violet happily swinging in her backyard hammock, teenager Nicholas, and middle-aged wife and mother Paula, Neurotypical explores the
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Written 15-09-2013 14:31:00 by Tue Steen Müller
It is my impression that many readers of filmkommentaren.dk are filmmakers or – consultants or academics, who teach documentaries at various places. This is the reason why I with pleasure forward this text to you from John Burgan, who together with Heidi Gronauer stand behind an interesting symposium to take place in Cardiff April 9-11 2014:
Crowdsourcing, High Definition, YouTube: the universe has changed massively since the most recent GEECT (The Groupement Européen des Ecoles de Cinéma et de Télévision / European Grouping of Film and Television Schools (GEECT) is the association of CILECT's European members, and schools in Israel and Lebanon., ed.) conference on documentary back in 2000. Twitter, Facebook, smartphones: our students certainly inhabit a very different world to the one we grew up in. But at the end of the day, isnʼt it all still down to the two core elements that should be at the heart of every film school: storytelling and ideas?
The aim of this two and a half day symposium is to take a snapshot of the current state of documentary and documentary teaching.
The draft programme is still being finalised, but here are some highlights:
• Masterclass (for students) with high-profile documentary filmmaker
• State of the Doc Nation - current directions in doc teaching
• Brave New World: how do we teach interactive, web, mobile?
• Best Kept Secrets I: classic doc exercises – old ideas, new contexts
• Best Kept Secrets II: teaching new platforms – think audience
• Creating creative producers - how to bring crowdfunding,
crowdsourcing, collaborative distribution into the curriculum
• “Back to Basics” panel discussion - itʼs still about story & ideas
Bearing in mind the limited time available, we welcome additional proposals for the sessions above, particularly for the ever-popular “Best Kept Secrets”
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Written 14-09-2013 15:35:44 by Tue Steen Müller
15 documentaries, long ones, 3 from each country, selected by national committees... that’s the new scheme for the Nordisk Panorama that this year has found its home in Malmö, Sweden for its 24th edition, September 20-25. This democratic approach will of course raise discussion: Will this give the audience the (the caption of the festival’s website) ”best Nordic Shorts and Documentaries”?
Anyway, the same principle has been used to find the films for the short film competition and the New Nordic Voices and no protest from this blogger that you find ”The Act of Killing” (Oppenheimer), ”White Black Boy” (Camilla Magid), ”American Vagabond (Susanna Helke), ”Nowhere Home” (Margreth Olin), ”Belleville Baby” (Mia Engberg) and ”Palme” (photo) (Nycander and Lindström) on the list of films to be screened.
The so-called industry section is well composed with a Pitching Forum, masterclasses and seminars. Margreth Olin talks ethics, Fredrik Gertten (local Malmö hero) talks with American Joe Berlinger, there is a focus on transmedia, there is a video market – and there is Malmö that is a very pleasant city to visit.
Written 14-09-2013 15:08:38 by Tue Steen Müller
I was there last year, in Sibiu, where the Astra Film Festival this year can celebrate its 20th edition from October 14-20.
The international competitive section of 9 films includes ”Leviathan” by Castaing-Taylor and Paravel, Marc Schmidt’s ”Matthews Laws”, Philibert’s ”La Maison de la Radio” and Wang Bing’s ”Three Sisters”, whereas a Central & Eastern European competition have Nikolaus Geyrhalter on the list with ”Danube Hospital” as well as Lina Luzyte’s ”Igrushki” (photo), a film that festivals have paid far too little attention to.
If you want to become acquainted with new Romanian documentaries, Sibiu is the place to go – there is a competitive as well as a non-competitive section. A press release proudluy states: Astra Film Festival continues with the tradition from the past editions and brings to the forefront Romanian personalities captured in extraordinary stories, which are told in cinematographic language. The most awaited Romanian productions of the moment are screened in world premiere at the anniversary 20th edition of Astra Film Festival, one of the most important documentary film festivals in Europe, which, over the past two decades, has promoted Romanian non-fictional film in the international context.
The program of the Romanian films from the 2013 AFF selection introduces an exciting cinematographic 7 day time travel through the non-fictional Romania, with its unusual stories and peculiar characters, transposed on the large screen through observational or television documentaries, essays, docudrama or auteur films.
Written 14-09-2013 14:41:17 by Tue Steen Müller
I was there two years ago and was impressed of a good programme and had it not clashed with other obligations, I would have enjoyed to go to wonderful Vilnius for some days during the festival, that runs from September 19-29.
The core of the festival is still the competititon programme that consists of films from the Baltic countries. Among the four Estonian films you find Sulev Keedus strong ”The Russians on Crow Island”, in the Latvian section you find ”The Documentarian” by Ivars Zviedris and Inese Kjav, and the superb ”Chronicles of the Last Temple” by Davis Simanis. From the hosting country Lithuania – five films to be presented – two films stand out: Giedre Beinoriute’s ”Conversations on serious Topics” and ”Igruski” by Lina Luzyte.
All in all good films to be watched by a jury that includes Leonard Helmrich, the director who has given us the outstanding trilogy from Indonesia ”In the Eye of the Day” (2001), ”Shape of the Moon” (2004) and ”Position of the Stars” (2010) (photo), all films to be offered the festival audience. New York Times called him "master of impossible camera angles".
Classics from Lithuanian documentary history have been restored and are presented at the festival with names that have appeared frequently on this blog: Audrius Stonys and Arunas Matelis from the 90’es and Henrikas Sablevicius and Robert Verba from the 60/70’es.... and there is a Panorama of new documentaries in the rich programme.
Written 11-09-2013 15:13:32 by Tue Steen Müller
It is festival time – September, October and November – all over the world and it is a good time for the documentary genre. Gianfranco Rosi won the main award in Venice with his ”Sacro Gra” in competition with feature films, from a jury headed by Bernardo Bertolucci, who said he wanted to be surprised and found Rosi’s film to live up to that criteria with its poetry and characters... words to that effect.
In Saint-Petersburg there is also good chances for surprising experiences when you look into the big programme of Message to Man presented from September 21-28, alone in the competitive programme there is 103 films from 37 countries... should be noticed that the festival shows long and short documentaries, short fiction films, short animation films, experimental films - and have well edited special screenings and programmes.
Difficult to highlight titles from the many sections, but ”The Act of Killing” (director Joshua Oppenheimer’s cut) is there, Chilean ”The Last Station” by Cristian Soto and Catalina Vergara competes as does ”Matthews Laws” by Marc Schmidt and ”Cantos” by Charlie Petersmann.
An intelligent side programme called ”Close. Family Films” include Alan Berliner’s classic ”Nobody’s Business”, Pawel Lozinski’s ”Father and Son”, Polley’s ”Stories We Tell” and ”Svyato” by Victor Kossakovsky – among others.
Under another caption – less descriptive, entitled ”Gala Premieres” – you find titles like ”First Cousin Once Removed” (Alan Berliner), ”La Maison de le Radio” (Nicolas Philibert) (photo), ”My Afghanistan-Life in the Forbidden Zone” (Nagieb Khaja) and ”Life With Jester” (Helena Trestikova), not to forget ”L’Image Manquante” (Rithy Panh).
A feast it will be!
Written 11-09-2013 13:02:20 by Tue Steen Müller
Palestinian artist and documentary filmmaker Khaled Jarrar received the Jury Documentary Award at the Malmö Arab Film Festival that ended a couple of days ago.
More important, in terms of audience, is it maybe that the film has been chosen as ”documentary of the Month” of the unique distribution initiative in Catalunya, Chile and Colombia, organised by the Barcelona based company Parallel40, whose staff probably not will have time to read this as Catalans today, their National Day, are forming a human chain to mark the wish for a break with Spain to have their own independent state.
As is of course the constant message of Khaled Jarrar, a free Palestine, with his artistic work be it a film or art works or happenings.
Here is what I wrote here on filmkommentaren.dk in connection with the DocsBarcelona screening of the film in June:
”Palestinian Khaled Jarrar’s ”Infiltrators” – without the presence of the director here in Barcelona – a film that I have followed from the sidelines, in workshops in Greece and in Ramallah, I can only say that this film about apartheid in Israel again made me shake my head in anger and sorrow, this is the world of today, how can we allow that human beings are being treated like this having to climb a wall or going through a tunnel of dirt or caressing the hand of your mother through a hole in the so-called separation wall. It is a film which in content and intensity is painful to watch, simply!”
Written 09-09-2013 08:19:38 by Tue Steen Müller
The Baltic Sea Pitching Forum ended Sunday afternoon. On the second day the hall on the 11th floor of Hotel Albert in Riga was again full of filmmakers, observers and a panel of tv editors, fund people and sales agents/distributors.
After the session I met some Estonian film students, who had attended and enjoyed the two days. I asked them for their favourite projects and they mentioned two: ”Biblioteka” by Ana Tsimintia from Georgia and ”Five” (photo) by Italian director Maximilien de Joie, a project presented by Lithuanian producer Dagne Vildziunaite.
These youngsters represent a coming audience and I thought that Heino Deckert, veteran German producer and director, again had demonstrated a good nose for what might work internationally by showing interest to help precisely these two projects. Deckert had fine helping colleagues around the table, let me just mention some of them – Shanida Scotland from BBC’s Storyville, who always analysed in a precise and constructive way, Anaïs Clanet from Wide House in Paris and the French/Belgian sales agent and promoter Thierry Detaille, who both left with projects to help out, not to forget Russian Grigory Libergal, who, if anyone, knows the possibilities in the big neighbouring country.
Let me give you the description of the film project ”Five”:
“In the central avenue of Vilnius there is a palace, and behind the neo classical style facade, there used to be the Lithuanian KGB headquarters and it’s prison. Today, that building is the museum of LIthuanian Genocide Victims. Tourists from all over the world walk trough the entrance with a smile and curiosity, and leaves with shocked and stunned faces. Just like one of those tourists, an Italian filmmaker decided to make a documentary on this topic. After a tour in the basement of the museum, where the prison used to be, he decided to meet the people whose lives were bound by KGB during the last decade of Soviet Union. This film is a collage of five characters that were taking clashing positions, a collage of their reminiscenses and experiences. Its a provocative invitation to infiltrate theirs consciences and to perceive their attitute, an experience that can be inspiring with its positivity, but frightening by it’s own truth, that might be misbecoming for someone.”
Let me add what I always remember when passing the building, told to me by Lithuanian director Audrius Stonys: Next door to the prison building was/is a music conservatory, so when the prisoners were sitting in their cell, music came to their comfort.
Written 06-09-2013 19:47:00 by Tue Steen Müller
Training days for the pitching part of Baltic Sea Docs are over, Saturday and Sunday are the days for the projects to be presented at the Hotel Albert in Riga. And it is quite a range of projects that will be brought to the panelists, who are representatives from tv stations, sales agents and distributors, and film fund people. The hall on the 11th floor will be full, the curtains will be blocked for the view of the wonderful city of Riga, and the project holders, the directors and the producers, will have their magic 15 minutes for presentation and Q& A from the 15 man/woman panel.
It is same procedure as every year but with new people on both sides. There will be projects from Georgia, the three Baltic countries, Russia, Norway, Germany, Finland and Sweden. From the latter comes veteran Maj Wechselmann, a director with more than 60 films on her filmography, most of them dealing with political and social issues in the world we are living in, from a humanistic and often controversial point of view, this one however is a film that is closer to Wechselmann herself, entitled ”Mother” (photo), quite a story, already supported by Swedish Film Institute and Swedish Television (SVT). From the veteran to young Georgian Ana Tsimiatia, who presents a personally experienced documentary from a provinsial library in her country. The director is close to a rough cut with her film, and it looks more than promising.
As does local production company Mistrus’s big project to celebrate Riga next year when the capital of Latvia will be a European Cultural Capital – five renowned directors will make each their film in different areas of Riga: Ivars Seleckis, local documentary icon, German Raimer Komers, Sergey Lotzniza, Danish Jon Bang Carlsen, German Bettina Henkel, Estonian Jaak Kiilmi. Quite a strong team with Davis Simanis as the one responsible for binding the individual films together.
Yesterday I blogged about the Q&A with producer of ”The Act of Killing”, Signe Byrge – her comments to the film (50 mins.) can now be seen on
what a generosity from the side of the organisers.
Written 05-09-2013 07:23:21 by Tue Steen Müller
Full house for the opening film of 2013 Baltic Sea Docs, "The Act of Killing", director's (Joshua Oppenheimer) cut (editor Niels Pagh Andersen), 158 mins. The film was screened not only in Riga but also in three other Latvian cities/towns: Liepaja, Valmiera and Jekabpils, where the audience also had the chance to follow the 50 mins. long Q&A session with the Danish producer of the film, Signe Byrge Sørensen.
It was not the first time that I attended a session with the producer of this all-over-world-going film. And it was not the first time that I left the cinema full of admiration for the professional and personal way Signe Byrge addressed the audience giving it precise, inside and interesting background information on the making of a film that was 7 years on its way with her on board five years.
Signe Byrge is CEO and producer of the company Final Cut for Real, here is its profile taken from the website: Final Cut for Real is dedicated to high-end creative documentaries for the international market. Our policy is to be curious, daring and seek out directors with serious artistic ambitions. We do not from the outset set any limits on subjects or locations. We look for interesting stories, great characters and in-depth social analysis - and we also try to give the films a twist of humour.
Written 04-09-2013 16:54:03 by Tue Steen Müller
Sunshine. Wonderful view from the 11th floor of Riga’s Hotel Albert, named after a certain Einstein. ”If you don’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”, is one the sentences that are presented in the hotel that is over-decorated with phrases of Albert Einstein, this one being quite relevant for the 17th edition of the pitching of the Baltic Sea Forum, that is now called Baltic Sea Docs.
The workshop has started and the filmmakers who have come to Riga are being trained to do a good job with their film project during the weekend, where they are pitching to a panel of tv- , sales- and distribution-people.
It is the 8th time that the event takes place in the hotel Albert with the great view to the churches of the Latvian capital, and to the art nouveau architecture of Mikhail Eisenstein in Albert and Elizabet Streets in the city, where his son Sergei (photo) was born in 1898.
Tonight the opening screening of Baltic Sea Docs takes place at the K-Suns cinema. ”The Act of Killing” is the film that is waiting for its audience – the long (158 mins) version will be screened and producer Signe Byrge is present for the Q&A. Yes, it is all very professional here in Riga due to the staff of the National Film Centre.
Back to pitching training and Einstein: ”If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. Voilà!
Written 03-09-2013 16:39:44 by Tue Steen Müller
It’s September 26-27 that an important documentary conference takes place in St. Petersburg. And you can sign up NOW by clicking the link below. It is for free and you can take part in person or via the internet. If you decide to come to St. Petersburg and you need an invitation for your visa application, contact the organisers, use the same link. The organisers are two wonderful people, who fight to better the the documentary conditions in their country: Ludmila Nazaruk and Viktor Skubey, I have previously promoted the website Miradox, link below. And the website for the conference is brilliant, professional and inviting!
So here is their presentation: “The organiser is DoxPro, the International Program for Documentary Professionals based in St. Petersburg Russia. DoxPro works “to facilitate economic and cultural cooperation between Russian and European documentary professionals, to create a wholesome environment for development of documentary as a creative industry in Russia.”
This is a countdown clock to the start of the Conference, which will be held within the frameworks of The XXIII International Documentary, Short, and Animated Film Festival "Message to Man".
We have invited the most advanced experts from the Northern Dimension countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Russia. They will share with you their unique experience, ideas and information regarding the new reality of documentary industry in the Northern Dimension area, and the existing funding sources for creative documentary projects. (Some names: Iikka Vehkalahti Finland. Jaak Kilmi Estonia. Vera Obolonkina 24Doc Russia. Gints Grube Latvia. Evgeny Grigoryev Russian Doc Guild and Grigory Libergal Russia. Maria Fuglevaag Warsinska-Varsi Norway… and many others, ed. Mikael Opstrup EDN and your blogger will moderate the sessions, short presentations and (hopefully) lively debates.)
Transmedia: what is it, what is to be thought about from a documentary point of view? Crowdfunding: an overview of platforms, what to think about, positive and negative examples. Case studies of crossmedia and webdocumentary projects. New and alternative ways of documentary distribution. These and many other topics will be covered at the Conference.”
Photo from one of previous activities of DoxPro, a meeting between Russian and Finnish documentarians.
Written 30-08-2013 17:57:03 by Sevara Pan
Sevara Pan writes this in-depth review of a film, that has become a classic within the animation doc genre. For those who are interested there is at the end of the article a link to a review written on filmkommentaren from 2008.
"Whether an eternity or just a minute, there was Frenkel at the junction with bullets flying past him in every direction. Instead of crossing the juction, I saw him dancing, as if in a trance. He cursed the shooters. Like he wanted to stay there forever. As if he wanted to show off his waltz amid the gunfire, with the posters of Bashir above his head. And Bashir's followers preparing their big revenge just 200 yards away: the Sabra and Shatila massacre."
Terrifying yet strangely beautiful, the scene haunts you as you sink into the story. Waltz with Bashir, an animated documentary directed by an Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman and co-produced by ARTE France and ITVS International, is not what one would call a piece of investigative journalism on war. Rather a collage-memoir and an indelible snapshot of the 1982 Lebanese war, the film flaunts its astounding graphics and poetry of language, not bereft of depth of tropes and figures of rhetorics. Above all, the film is an odyssey of a man, ravenous for every crumb of his past. Narrative, abstraction, speed, movement, stillness, life, death – they are all there. And much like Folman, we find ourselves at the urge to explore and maybe to find some kind of peace at the heart of it.
The film opens with the scene of the running savage dogs. Disoriented, we are prompty brought back to the urban setting of a bar, where the director is conversing with his comrade, a man with whom he did military service. Over a drink, the man named Boaz shares his recurring dream about being chased by 26 savage dogs and explains how the dream relates to the Lebanese war. For the first time in 20 years, this conversation inexplicably triggers a flashback of the war in Folman, too – a dreamscape of his younger self and his fellow comrades, emerging from the sea and wading onto the beach of Beirut. Yet, his memory falls silent when faced aghast. From this point onwards, Folman becomes fixated on the idea of reconstructing his memory of that war. Somewhere between recollections of his comrades and psychoanalysis of his therapist, he attempts to fill in the holes of his sieved memory. As he meets people and hears stories, he is starting to remember. "But isn't that dangerous? he wonders. Maybe, I'll discover things I don't want to know about myself?"
Memory is fascinating. It is dynamic. It's alive. The film reworks the notion of memory and carries it through the narrative. "But how is it possible not to remember such dramatic events?" Folman catechizes. "We call them dissociative events," his psychotherapist explains. "It's when a person is
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Written 29-08-2013 16:17:07 by Tue Steen Müller
... is a high quality magazine on documentary and the name of a very strong strand on SVT (Swedish public television) that has published its autumn repertory, opening this week with ”Pussy Riots” by Mike Lerner. ”The Act of Killing” is there of course, ”Free the Mind” by Phie Ambo, ”I will be murdered” by Justin Webster and a film I would like to highlight, as does the commissioning editor for DOX, Axel Arnö, ”Little World” by Marcel Barrena. I ”met” this film two years ago at DocsBarcelona rough cut session and am very impressed by the work, which is Barrena’s debut documentary.
To those of us who can watch Swedish television, go for it on September 3. Here is a description:
Albert Casals is a young man who has been in a wheelchair since suffering leukemia at the tender age of five. But this hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his dream: to travel around the world. And to do it his way. Without money, without companions, without luggage... He sets off from home armed with nothing but his imagination and his courage.
Little World takes us along on his greatest challenge yet: to reach the exact opposite side of the planet. Is it possible to cross the earth in these conditions? Mixing home video techniques and traditional documentary methods, we will get to know this young man, his love story, his philosophy of life and his parents' approach to raising him. We will see how Albert and his girlfriend, Anna, go from Barcelona to a remote lighthouse in New Zealand… or how they fail in the attempt. The journey (and the film) can be considered sheer madness, an endearing romance or an epic adventure. Or perhaps a little of everything.
Written 29-08-2013 15:36:32 by Tue Steen Müller
New director of EDN (European Documentary Network) Paul Pauwels blogs to his members, and to those who want to/consider become a member of a very useful and unique organisation. As former privileged director of EDN, I warmly recommend you to join ”the family” and thus help the documentary community stand stronger. Anyway, start by reading how PP calls for action and salutes the filmmakers, ”you people”, here is a quote:
...to applaud the endurance and the stamina that is continuously demonstrated by the international documentary community. In spite of the obvious problems, you people never seem to give up. Financial sources are drying up? Let’s find new ones! The number of slots for creative documentary is going down? Let’s start putting pressure on the CEO’s of the broadcasters to make them understand that they cannot have this happen and let’s prove to them that independently produced programs do bring an added value! Politicians are claiming that culture is a thing that no longer should be supported? Let’s keep going after them until they understand the value of the cultural heritage that we as a sector preserve and enrich! What a fine example of courage and perseverance you’re setting there...
Written 25-08-2013 10:42:29 by Tue Steen Müller
Taken from the website of the festival:
Jury members were Joslyn Barnes, Writer and producer (USA), Jasmin Basic, Film historian and Curator (Switzerland), Vibeke Bryld, Director and Writer, editor of DOX Magazine (Denmark).
HEART OF SARAJEVO FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM: SICKFUCKPEOPLE. Director: Juri Rechinsky (Austria) Financial award, in the amount of 3,000 €, is provided by The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
SPECIAL JURY MENTION: YUGOSLAVIA, HOW IDEOLOGY MOVED OUR COLLECTIVE BODY/ JUGOSLAVIJA, KAKO JE IDEOLOGIJA POKRETALA NAŠE KOLEKTIVNO TELO. Director: Marta Popivoda (Serbia, France, Germany)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE FOR COMPETITION PROGRAMME DOCUMENTARY FILM: THE CLEANERS. Director: Konstantinos Georgousis (Greece) Financial Award, in the amount of 2,500 €, is provided by Al Jazeera Balkans.
HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: MARRIED TO THE SWISS FRANC. Director: Arsen Oremović (Croatia). Award for the best film of the Competition Programme - Documentary Film dealing with the subject of human rights. Award in the amount of 3,000 € is granted by The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
The main award winner, «Sickfuckpeople», is presented like this in the festival catalogue: A documentary triptych about a group of homeless kids, who have survived their drug-addicted childhood, grew up and started to live an adult life. It’s a story about a boy facing the surreal, degenerated society of his native village full of hate and sadistic anger while searching for his mother. It’s a story about a pregnant girl who wants to give birth to her child whose childhood will probably be even worse than hers. But her own sisters are forcing her to have an abortion.
I did not watch the film, my life companion did and found the film shocking and grinding in its content conveyed in a super-aesthetical style.
Written 24-08-2013 09:18:30 by Tue Steen Müller
French producer Estelle Robin-Yu talks well and long in an interview brought and made by EDN (European Documentary Network). She talks about her background, about why and how she has been involved in international co-productions, and about the new construction around her company Les Films du Balibari and Point du Jour.
Read the whole interview, here is a teaser where Robin-Yu talks about the new film of Wiktoria Szymanska ”The Man Who made Angels Fly”, that tells about puppet master Michael Meschke:
The reaction of audiences is quite amazing, as they recognise the extremely singular filmmaking of Wiktoria. They really feel they are privileged to have been given access to the world of the master, which is a disappearing one. Some people cry, most of them are deeply touched by the beauty of the film and the emotions it triggered in them. We still need to find ways to promote the film to a larger audience, through cinema screens, but also art galleries, museums, and other bias, as the audience can be vast for such a universal film, which talks about life and death, love, betrayal, all our deep and strong human emotions.
That is how a producer should talk, right?
Sales agent Cat&Docs, Catherine le Clef: http://126.96.36.199/~catndocs/dir2/index.php
Written 23-08-2013 10:46:15 by Tue Steen Müller
Here are the descriptions of the five films that took part in Rough Cut Boutique session in Sarajevo:
Baglar - Turkey, directors and producers Berke Bas, Melis Birder, Inhouse projects
An underdog basketball team from hard scrabble Diyarbakir in Southeastern Turkey goes beyond winning games in their mission to rise above prejudice, poverty and political turmoil created by the decades long conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish rebels who are fighting for local autonomy and cultural rights. Melis Bider and Berke Bas (both Media Studies graduates from the New School for Social Research, New York) are co-founders of Inhouse Projects production company and authors of a number of award-winning documentaries.
Roma Rally - Hungary/ Germany, director Gábor Hörcher, producers Marcell Iványi, Marieke Bittner, KraatsFilm/ Weydemann Bros.
Ricsi, 17 years old, from a rural family, is trying to fulfill his childhood dream by competing in the village rally with his only treasure: a rundown, makeshift BMW. While racing against the local competition, he is challenging his father for attention and respect and faces the consequences for his illegal activities. The film is centered around Ricsi’s dream which is constantly challenged by his – irrational – desires and his coming of age. Director Gábor Hörcher and co-producer Marieke Bittner met as participants of the Sarajevo Talent Campus in 2010. They decided to coproduce the film with KraatsFilm and Weydemann Bros. Together they won the Co-Production Prize by the Robert Bosch Stiftung in 2011.
In the Dark - Serbia, director Goran Stankovic, producer Snezana Penev, This & That Productions
In a small mining town in Southern Serbia, everything revolves around the local mine and everybody is in some way connected to it. The film’s narrative is centered around a traditional miners family, a father and son. Davor, a young miner, refuses to follow the family tradition and tries to find a way to leave his job and home town. Almost 20 years ago, Emir Kusturica made a
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Written 23-08-2013 01:51:19 by Tue Steen Müller
And here they are, the awards from the workshop for projects at a rough cut stage, text taken from the site of the festival:
Sarajevo Film Festival and Balkan Documentary Center proudly announce official awards for the 3rd edition of the Docu Rough Cut Boutique.
FIFDH Geneva award -f 2000 Euro
DOK. Inkubator award - participation at the second session of this new training initiative launched by International Documentary Film Festival DOK Leipzig
HBO Adria award - 2000 Euro
Work in Progress Digital Cube Award – in kind post production services 20000 euro
Written 20-08-2013 09:03:33 by Tue Steen Müller
Wonderful to bring good news to the table. In this case about a project that has been developed for some years – I have had the pleasure to meet it in a couple of times in workshops, first time at the Baltic Sea Forum in 2011, where I wrote the following: ”Georgian Alex Kvatashidze (who) showed amazing material shot by war reporters, and interviews with some of them reflecting the personal consequences of the profession.” Kvatashidze has formulated his log line like this: ”If you go to War, the War will come Home with you”
The good news is that the project has obtained considerable support at the Locarno festival. I quote from FilmNewEurope: ”Alexander Kvatashidze's Georgian/French/Estonian/Netherlands war documentary ”See you in Chechnya” (Lokokina Studio, Exitfilm, Estonia) has taken top honors in the Locarno IFF industry event Open Doors, winning its production award of 20,000 CHF (16,162 EUR). ”See you in Chechnya” also took the ARTE Open Doors prize of 6,000 EUR, while Georgia's Sleeping lessons by Rusudan Pirvelli won the 7,000 EUR CNC (Centre National du cinéma et de l’image animée) prize.”
Happy for the director and the project, and for the project being co-produced with experienced Estonian company Exit Film. So premiere will be..
Written 18-08-2013 10:23:24 by Sevara Pan
Sevara Pan writes this review: "I think, I should remove this cast and throw it away," utters Jafar Panahi. "Do you remember film Mirror? he continues. "Mirror was my second film. It was about a little girl Mina, whose mother hasn't shown up to pick her from school, she then tries to go home on her own. She tries to find the way. She gets on the bus and as the bus goes, she realizes that she is going the wrong direction. Eventually, the girl can't take it anymore. She takes out the cast and throws it away. She says that she wants to be herself. 'What you've done is a lie, wails Mina. 'I do know my way home. I don't understand what you want from me. I want to get off.' Right now, I am in a similar position as Mina," says the Iranian filmmaker. "Somehow I must remove my cast and throw it away." Grotesquely, it is Panahi, himself, who has to hide behind the curtains. Notwithstanding the shut-in, in 2011 Panahi circumvented the ban through a technicality. He would "tell" the film instead of "making" it. So he invited his friend, a documentarian Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, over to his apartment to record him reading aloud his unrealized screenplay. As if to gibe the absurdity of the governmenal restrictions, they titled the oeuvre This Is Not a Film. "Not a film" was not credited apropos. Panahi shared a vague "an effort by" credit with Mirahsamb; the remaining credits are redacting blanks to keep their fellow colleagues out of the harm's way, followed by an eminent statement "Dedicated to Iranian Filmmakers." Shot in 4 days for €3,200 on a digital camcorder and, partly, an iPhone, the film was
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Written 17-08-2013 22:55:53 by Tue Steen Müller
The easy solution for a blogger... to bring the brand new press release of a festival. On the other hand, this is an important festival and the attention it attracts from documentary film people around the world is significant and communicates the activitty of those, who have chosen to make documentary production their mission in life. It provides an inside look to a festival. Around 1750 documentaries to watch, bon appetit! Here it goes, the press release, in a slightly edited version:
Some 2,150 films from 110 countries have been submitted for this year’s 56th edition of the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film. “We are pleased that DOK Leipzig is continuing to attract films and filmmakers from around the world this year,” says festival director Claas Danielsen. “The scope and internationality of the entries show that documentary filmmakers are dealing with the pressing issues of the day. Their artistic representation needs a forum like DOK Leipzig, which offers the audience emotional access to the conflicts of our time and encourages the free formation of opinions.”
Approx. 1,750 documentaries, 330 animated films and 70 animated documentaries will be considered by the festival’s two selection committees in the coming weeks. Overall, the number of entries has declined considerably (previous year: 2,850), as the organizers have had to charge a modest submission fee for the first time. “We have no choice but to keep up with the
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Written 16-08-2013 11:54:58 by Tue Steen Müller
It has been shown in Rotterdam and is scheduled for the upcoming DokuFest in Kosovo, but that's all for European screenings so far. This is at least what the website of the film tells the reader...
But it will come, I am sure and agree with the critic below, A.O. Scott in New York Times, ”We’ll always have Nixon to kick around”. This time a film has been made from archive material, actually S-8 home movies shot by White House staff personalities Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin.
The film has aroused debate about the film, more precisely about the way it has been marketed by CNN, and Chapin writes the following: "While the film's expressed desire is to highlight the stories of the three Nixon staffers by use of our movies, the film, in my opinion, barely explores our years together, and doesn't even come close to portraying or presenting 'our' Nixon. It seems to me (of course I cannot speak for my deceased colleagues [Haldeman and Ehrlichman] and friends) that this film is more about using our personal videos as a cloaked angle for a particular --and predictable--pre-existing view of President Nixon."
The former White House Deputy Assistant to the President has written a review on the site of the Richard Nixon Foundation, see below. Caption ””Our Nixon” is Not My Nixon”. But there are many views on the film, here is a summarized one from the New York Times critic:
”Apart from some old news clips, most of the images come from Super-8 home movies shot, starting just after the 1968 election, by Dwight Chapin, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, loyal Nixon aides and eventual Watergate felons. Their amateur footage is accompanied by snippets of the now famous White House tapes and intercut with rueful post-prison interviews. The experience is a bit like a demo version of a greatest-hits album. Well-known episodes — the trip to China, the Pentagon Papers, Vietnam, the wedding of Nixon’s daughter Tricia, and of course the fallout from a certain third-rate Washington burglary — take on a strange new coloring, revealing a curiously touching human dimension.” (A.C. Scott)
Link to: blogs.ocweekly.com/
Written 15-08-2013 12:06:31 by Tue Steen Müller
Of course the new Al Jazeera America will first of all be a news channel, when it is launched by August 20, but according to realscreen the channel also wishes to have a strong documentary profile – documentaries (my interpretation) = journalism.
Or am I wrong, at least it is promising to see the film lover and connaisseur Cynthia Kane (photo), former ITVS, as part of the team of the documentary film unit, with former National Geographic Television exec. Kathy Davidov to lead it.
Apart from a lot of quotes with superlatives about Al Jazeera and its “groundbreaking” programmes, topics to be dealt with, are mentioned: immigration, education, poverty, healthcare and the justice system.
Written 14-08-2013 14:21:52 by Tue Steen Müller
It has for years been a good tradition that the Baltic Sea Pitching Forum runs a parallel film programme for the Riga citizens. You could call it a mini film festival and there is indeed high quality and in many cases filmmakers present to discuss with the audience.
The opening (september 4, goes on until the 8th) is 158 mins. of ”The Act of Killing” by Joshua Oppenheimer, who will be represented for the Q&A by the producer, Danish Signe Byrge Sørensen. I am curious to see if the Cinema K. Suns is big enough for what I will expect to be a huge audience!
Another international hit is ”Winter Go Away” about the political opposition in Russia made by film students from the studio of Marina Razbezhkina, and it is only fair and right that neighbouring Lithuania has two strong films in the programme: ”Father” by Marat Sargsyan and ”Conversations on Serious Topics” (photo) by Giedre Beinoriute. Both films come with international awards from European competition festivals.
The director of ”Conversations...” (Giedre B.) and the producer Jurga Gluskiniene will be there for Q&A, ”Father” will be covered by producer Dagne Vildziunaite.
Written 12-08-2013 11:25:02 by Tue Steen Müller
English title: Blows of the Axe, which refers to the 1950s practice by Argentine distributors of chopping up film prints to prevent people from stealing and illegally projecting them (according to an interview with di Tella in Idiom, google that, can’t make the link work).
Exciting film that Argentinian director di Tella has made about the avant garde film director Claudio Caldini, whose work he is bringing back from oblivion, reluctantly agreed upon by Caldini, a true filmmaker, you can see, categorized as an experimental filmmaker, always been a problematic term ”experimental”, why not talk about ”free film”, as Caldini worked without any money and says to his colleague di Tella (who is quite the opposite, an intellectual filmmaker) that the best film he has made, he made without thinking, just doing.
Di Tella lets the camera rest for long time on the face of Caldini, who since 2004 has lived in General Rodriquez, far West of Buenos Aires. Slowly he gets words out of the filmmaker, his story, mostly from when he left the Argentinian dictatorship to India, suffering there from hallucinations with hospitalisation, making films in between, on super-8, coming back moving from place to place in Argentina.
Caldini opens his boxes with films, di Tella makes him reconstruct how he made his film (look at the photo), they go to classes that Caldini holds in
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Written 09-08-2013 16:38:54 by Tue Steen Müller
OBS – In one week, August 15, the French-German cultural channel arte dedicates a whole day of programming to Greece! The thematic day on arte is initiated and organised by the Strasbourg based arte commissioning editor Madeleine Avramoussis with the Greek journalist Dimitra Kouzi as the presentator. In documentary circles Avramoussis needs no further introduction and I have personally enjoyed her competence and energy in numerous workshops, and not only in Greece. Dimitra Kouzi has been one of the strong fighters for the good, creative documentary in Greece, through CineDoc, an initiative to show foreign documentaries, through her (former, well there are many great Greek tv people who are former) position at the national television ERT, and through her blog, see link below.
17 documentaries and 2 features with 10 premieres will be broadcast, made (mostly) by local independent companies and directors, productions often supported through co-production deals between arte and ERT.
As presentator Dimitra Kouzi takes the viewer through the day. She will introduce films and subjects, like geography (the islands of course), like the ”Food for Love” made by renowned director Marianna Economou about Greek mothers, who send packages of good food to their grown-up children abroad. I have seen material from this film and if it keeps what is promised, it will be great fun to watch – as well as giving Greek family culture information.
There will be a programme on Alexandre the Great and a premiere of a film by another ”international” Greek documentarian Kimon Tsakiris, who has made a road movie from the Wild West of Greece to lead us into the current life of the Greek. Yiannis Boutaris (photo) is the main character of a long, very well made documentary by Dimitris Athiridis, who followed the controversial, former wine merchant and his candidature to become mayor of Thessaloniki. He succeeds.
Just to mention some of the films offered in this lovely initiative to put focus on a country that has been given a lot of attention in these years of crisis. Here the people, the culture and not the economy and the riots in the streets of Athens are on the agenda. Those films on the crisis, and on politics will hopefully find their tv slots on another occasion.
Madeleine Avramoussis wrote to me: I hope that this Theme day comes at the right time to show how important the coproductions are! Especially now, when the Greek government is shaping the future public channel.
Link to: dimitrakouzi.files.wordpress.com
Written 07-08-2013 10:34:47 by Tue Steen Müller
Yesterday at midnight the great Swedish cultural strand K-Special of SVT showed (third run) a French production from 2012 with Jonas Mekas, who declares that ”I’m not a filmmaker, I don’t really make films, I only keep filming, I am a filmer, not a filmmaker”.
To be in company with Mekas is always a pleasure. In this case he sits there with a beer in his hand, it’s from his native country Lithuania, talking to French art curator Jérôme Sans (who in 2000 made a book on/with Mekas, published by Steidl, title ”Just like a Shadow”).
Of course there is a lot of looking back in this film and talk about Andy (Warhol), Cassavetes (when Mekas came to New York he was a film critic), Robert Frank, Jacqueline (Kennedy) but the main concern/talk of Mekas in this film is the survival of the independent film and his ”baby”, the Anthology Film Archive. His film political achievement, transforming the building which is now the Archive from a prison. His making a collection that is second to none.
There are clips from his works, there is a mention of his escape from occupied Lithuania, but there is first of all this kind and generous old man, who says that only the very very personal films are universal. And blows the trumpet in between.
France, 2012, 52 mins.
Written 05-08-2013 15:04:24 by Tue Steen Müller
Yes, that film blew me away. Actually, it did already around one and a half year ago, when its producer (and camerawoman) Irina Shatalova contacted me asking for general advice on financing and distribution, giving me a pretty dark image of the situation for the creative documentary in Russia. She told me about the film that Nastia Tarasova and she was making about Linar, the wee Russian boy who had undergone a heart transplantation in Italy – after he for almost a year ”had been living with an enormous apparatus on wheels, that constantly piped his blood” (website of the fim). I saw a rough cut and now a couple of months ago Shatalova sent me the finished film.
Which is magnificent, so well made, daring to go the whole way of passion, bombarding the viewer's emotions while watching a Film that is constantly dramatic in tone, helped by a unique music composition made by Dimitry Selipanov. There are dream sequences, sometimes nightmarish, that you can attach to the situation for the boy, who has to suffer a lot to reach the goal: to get a new heart. But the scenes that for this viewer are most affective are those that catch the daily life for Linar, close to nurses and to ”uncles” = the Russian surgeons, who are with him in Italy. The filmmakers have succeeded in building up a fantastic image of (especially) the young Marcel Tagaev, who (photo) is the one who plays and eats with Linar, and communicates with the mother, who is back home in Russia with two other children. The lovely relationship between the two of them, and the warm but anxious facial expressions of ”uncle Marcel”, whose relationship to Linar is much more than one of patient/doctor, makes the film talk directly (sorry) to your heart! Not to talk about Grandpa Konstantin, the doctor, who comes to Italy after Marcel Tagaev – he picks up Linar from school and walks with him in the streets of Bergamo, where Linar learns to bike, and to count in Italian, which he does upon arrival in airport in Russia. Great scenes are there many of, and you can sense that the filmmakers have been close to Linar and his ”family”. Otherwise you could no achieve such an authenticity.
If any justice exists in the jungle of festivals, this film will have a long and important life all over the world. No surprise that the film got the audience award at a new festival in Omsk, Siberia. It is a film with a huge audience potential.
Russia, 82 mins, 2013.
Written 01-08-2013 22:37:45 by Tue Steen Müller
The festival in Kosovo (starts August 17) has announced its impressive programme. The artistic director Veton Nurkollari welcomes the audience in this way:
“We are thrilled to present an expanded slate of competitions at DokuFest this year, with films that paint a picture of contemporary world in such a brave, provocative and honest way. Films about bees, ships, the cat name Baby, Black Sea pirates, Balkan matchmakers, punk girls in balaclavas or mass exodus are only part of eclectic selection of films in competitions and we are looking forward to share these and other films with our audience in August”.
In the international competition for long docs (10 films) you will find films like “Elena” (Petra Costa, Brazil), “The Last Station” (Christian Soto & Catalina Vergara, Chile), “Stories We Tell” (Sarah Polley,Canada, the opening film, Photo), and the new film by Polish Bartek Konopka and Piotr Rosolowski “The Art of Disappearing”, whereas another Polish film “My House Without Me” (Magdalena Szymków) is to be found in the short doc section. There are also films under the caption “human rights”, including “Salma” (Kim Longinotto, UK), and a Balkan Docs Competition with “Dragan Wende” (Lena Müller and Dragan von Petrovic, Germany/Serbia), “One Step Ahead” (Dimitris Athiridis, Greece) and “The Last Black Sea Pirates” (Stoyanov, Bulgaria)… not to forget an hommage to Chris Marker and a retrospective of films by Jay Rosenblatt.
… and many other inviting sections and workshops.
Written 01-08-2013 11:48:29 by Tue Steen Müller
Have to confess that I have been using the term “hybrid”, whenever I have been talking about the new tendencies in the documentary genre. Without really being able to get closer to what it is, where it comes from, what ethical questions that are linked to it, the relationship between viewer and maker, the “self” in the film and so on so forth.
Therefore it is great that English filmmaker Luke Moody, who also works for Britdoc, has written an informative analysis of “hybrid tendencies in documentary film”. Moody takes us by the hand and gives us food for thought. He exemplifies – his starting point is “The Act of Killing” – and sets up some categories. His text and approach could be a very welcomed theme for a whole seminar on documentary filmmaking of today. We could easily skip a pitching session or two, not to forget one of the technically based transmedia gatherings.
Here are two small quotes from the long article by Moody, but please read it all (link below):
Recognition of new waves and emergent trends tend to overlook the specific ideas and patterns of filmmaking. The ‘hybrid documentary’ is not a subgenre, it is a mode of tactical filmmaking. To come to terms with these modus operandi, rather than looking upon them as a singular movement, there’s a need to trace each trajectory of complex, rich methodology…
How do we assess the ethical and aesthetic merits of a film that does not attempt to be more factual than fictional? On a spectrum of honesty-manipulation? Form-function? Responsible-irresponsible? How are the filmmakers assessing their own codes of operation? Paradoxically, the audience awareness of fact production and manipulation allows the filmmaker to negotiate a new level of trust through shared transparency: “This is how I shall produce the story, come with me on this journey.”…
The increase of audience trust permits a shift in ethical contracts between filmmaker and subject, a shared ground of risk and experiment…
Photo from Bombay Beach (Alma Har’el, 2011), one of the films mentioned.
Written 29-07-2013 20:41:28 by Tue Steen Müller
... to its loyal documentary lovers, hope there are many, who use this exceptional vod library that now has more than 800 titles, which can be overwhelming, where to start and where to end... which is the reason why ” our film selectors updated the Recommended section highlighting the best world documentaries by filmmakers such as Petr Kerekes, Zuzana Piussi, Nicolas Philibert, Agnes Varda, Bert Haanstra, Nikolaus Geyrhalter or Jorgen Leth.
In the newsletter from DocAlliance it is written that masterpieces from these directors and many others can be watched for free starting from today until August 4!
I tested it, clicked “recommended”, clicked “New Scenes from America” (photo) by Jørgen Leth, and there it was on my computer, so easy, such a fine initiative, modern documentary film history right there for you.
Written 29-07-2013 20:07:49 by Tue Steen Müller
Sometimes, and maybe it happens more often with Polish short documentaries than with films from other countries, you sit after a fine film experience and say to yourself, ahhh it could have been longer, which is maybe the best compliment you can give a film, as the common sentence after a film is the opposite: too long, I was bored!
With Magdalena Szymków’s story – taken from the precise description on the site of the English producer - about two women, one house, an intimate story about a Pole and a German placed by war on enemy sides and their parallel lives accidentally brought together – I would have loved to have more, maybe a bigger film could be developed from this extraordinarily important theme of post-war Europe. We knew about the move of the border of Poland due to cynical big power´s politics, but it is the first time I have seen such an intelligent treatment of the subject as this one seen through the eyes of old women, whose memories are both informative and emotional.
Back to Polish short documentaries – and many of them come from the Wajda School – that often have this wonderful precise language with few words and a great impact on the visual interpretation. It’s all there in this film that also plays with double exposure of archive material to give support to the film’s memory flow.
For subscribers of the DOX Magazine – the film came with Number 96 on a dvd that also included Marcel Lozinski’s “Tonia and Her Children”.
Poland, 2012, 28mins., Wajda School
Written 29-07-2013 19:07:54 by Tue Steen Müller
When I visited the Golden Apricot Festival in Yeravan a couple of weeks ago its was obvious that every second film project launched in the so-called industry section was meant to compete for the money that is reserved by many for 2015, 100 years after the Armenian Genocide, 1 to 1,5 million people are estimated to have been killed by order of the Ottoman government.
Armenians will do films, so will Turks, and Turks and Armenians together and all public broadcasters are expected to broadcast on the theme. Some maybe through thematic evenings? There will be a lot of journalism and debates about the official Turkish current denial to call what happened a genocide.
Well, there are other approaches and tv people could start by watching young Tülin Özdemir’s fine ”Beyond the Ararat”. It is a personal film, told by the director with a beautiful text and with her as the one who takes the spectator on a journey from her home in Brussels to Istanbul and from there to the Anatolia of her family – to end up in Yerevan, Armenia. Even if the film goes beyond the theme of the genocide, it has in its focus the young director’s painful search for identity, and wish to know more about what has apparently been a silenced taboo in her family.
On her way she meets women of same age as herself, she meets a grandmother in Anatolia who grieves her Osnan, and she listens to the words of the tragic legend about Tamara and Ali, who could not have each other due to their different origin, the Christian and the Muslim. It is a film that has its own sad tone and formidable images accompanied sometimes by quotes from Zabel Essayan’s ”Dans les ruines – le massacre d’Adana 1909”.
Belgium, 2013, 55 mins. Stenola Production, coprod. Associate Directors.
Written 25-07-2013 20:47:17 by Tue Steen Müller
Shown at Cinema du Réel in Paris this year, awarded at Chilean Fidocs festival, selected for Yamagata at the coming October, and strongly recommended by my former EDN colleague, now at the NY based Flaherty Seminar, Anita Reher, the expectations were high, when I got the chance to watch El Otro Dia (The Other Day). I was not disappointed. Ignacio Agüero is a true auteur, who with a safe hand takes you into his film, well literally into his house, where his fascination with objects are cinematically conveyed so their beauty stands out in a constant play with light and shadow. Pure nature morte motives. Memories are around him, the past is present, the focus is on a photo of his father and mother embracing each other in 1945. A brilliant personal speak includes again and again questions regarding the father, who died without experiencing the consequences of the Pinochet dictatorship. What would he have said if he had seen that his sailor mates in the marine joined forces with the dictator?
Agüero films from inside to outside insisting on sequences that follow a cat climbing the tree or a bird taking a bath – he interrupts the interior scenes with wordless archive scenes from the Arctic – and he lets himself be interrupted by people ringing the doorbell. He opens the door, films the person outside and says that he is making ”a film about people who knock on my door” with the continuation, ”may I come and film you at your place”. In a completely different conversation-based documentary language he then goes to the drug addict, to the beggar, to the cleaning lady, to the postman... – all of them live in other parts of Santiago in poorer conditions than those of the director, who carefully puts in their home addresses on the map in his house. He leaves the house to come back again for the next doorbell ringing. It's like being waken up by reality...
The film has many layers, it is rich, it is slow and goes for details, it has a sketchy form but is a totally controlled first person story that profits from Cinema's possibility to jump in time, to go from out to in, and from in to out, from one style to another without losing the spectator's interest and fascination.
Chile, 2 hours. 2 mins., 2013.
Written 24-07-2013 14:24:35 by Tue Steen Müller
Realscreen, the trade magazine on non-fiction programmes and documentaries, focused July 22nd, in its newsletter, on the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival, September 5-15) 2013 documentary highlights. With no confirmation from the festival itself, the new film by Errol Morris, ” The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld” is said to have its premiere at the prestige filled Canadian festival, 10 years after the director made his film on Robert McNamara, “The Fog of War”. For those who have forgotten: Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defence under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006.
Another big name American documentarian, Alex Gibney, will present an up-dated version of “Lance Armstrong: The Road Back”, with the words of realscreen, “the titular disgraced cyclist”, and the French veterans Claude Lanzmann and Marcel Ophüls are also “possibilities”, as it is put, at the festival with “The Last of the Unjust”, the 220 mins. long film featuring Benjamin Murmelstein, the last president of the Jewish Council in the Terezin ghetto – and Ophüls with his autobiographical “Ain’t Misbehavin (Un Voyageur).
Photo: Morris left, Rumsfeld right – from:
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