Laura Cini: Punishment Island

Written 26-04-2017 17:25:53 by Tue Steen Müller

Director Laura Cini was at DocsBarcelona 2016 at a rough cut screening in front of a selected panel with me as the moderator. She has now finished the film, sent it to me, asking my opinion as she experiences rejections from many festivals. What’s wrong, she asks? I answer ”well the competition to get into festivals is strong” and ”most festivals play safe and your film is not very ”sexy” subject-wise” in comparison with the many current social and political issues in the world right now. Even though you can see it is as a women’s story.

Nothing is wrong, I can tell the director after I have seen the final version of the one hour long documentary. My impression is the same as when it was selected for the Barcelona session: The director has made her aesthetic choice that brings a quiet, intimate tone and brilliant cinematography – she mixes fiction and documentary in a way that you don’t think about what is what. And content-wise the story about the unmarried pregnant women, who were taken to the island Akampene in South-Western Uganda to be forgotten and die by starvation in loneliness, is touching more than shocking due to the way the old women and (some) men tell what they remember or what they remember to have heard. Some were chosen by men without bribes and taken from the island, often to live as outcast. Wonderful expressive faces meet the camera, mixed with images from the lake and nature, where the island was and is no longer. My grandmother came back, a man tells, (grand)mother and daughter next to each other, a woman who does not remember her age, ”does it matter”, reverend Stephen introduces the story about Mauda, who was 4 days on the island, ”I was raped”, says she or another woman, again it does not matter as the film turn it all into a collective voice on pain and survival. Other stories came up when religion came, when the whites came, they are not in the film.

Some small dramatizations are made (unfortunately the words of the one impersonating the island that speaks to the audience are difficult to understand, please subtitle), a fine song is song, and a man is drawing scenes from the stories on Punishment Island.

Festival readers of this post, take a look.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jude Ratnam: Demons in Paradise

Written 24-04-2017 15:44:14 by Tue Steen Müller

There are a handful of documentaries  in ”La Sélection officielle 2017” at the 70th edition of the Cannes Festival, May 17-28. No surprise that films by Agnès Varda, Raymond Depardon, Claude Lanzmann and Eugene Jarecki are listed, and no surprise that world famous actress Vanessa Redgrave’s directorial debut ”Sea of Sorrow” has been taken.

But such a pleasant surprise that Jude Ratnam´s personal and highly cinematic film essay ”Demons in Paradise” stands next to Lanzmann and Redgrave in the section ”Séances Spéciales”. World premiere for the director’s first film. Here is the synopsis of the film:

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona 2017

Written 19-04-2017 15:47:41 by Tue Steen Müller

So there they are the films selected for the 20th edition of DocsBarcelona. Listed in alphabetical order or in sections or according to screening hours and venue, it starts May 18 and ends May 28, with an extension of some screening days compared to previous years. It started being an industry event, years ago the festival was added. I have been ”part of the furniture” from the very beginning, first working for the industry and now for the festival selection. It’s been pure pleasure and I am looking forward to a long stay in Barcelona in a professional and warm festival atmosphere.

At the launch of the festival today festival director Joan Gonzalez informed about the opening film, Clare Weiskopf’s ”Amazona” (PHOTO), a film that has already been at several festivals but now returns to Barcelona, where it was presented, when it was a project and where it took part in the rough cut session that DocsBarcelona organises every year.

I have had the privilige of following the film at editing stage, from time to time. I have been worried about the final result – those worries are gone, the final version is excellent. To quote the catalogue text: ”A fascinating journey between mother and daughter through the Colombian Amazon, filled with conversations that fire sparks and leave us facing a moral dilemma around freedom and responsibility.”

I will later return to the films being shown at the festival in Barcelona, a pretty big portion of them have been reviewed on this site – no need to hide that I have been part of the selection team. BUT let me mention the three sections.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Andrei Dascalescu: Planeta Petrila

Written 18-04-2017 16:31:22 by Tue Steen Müller

I had high expectations. I had seen and admired the director’s ”Constantin and Elena” from 2008. I had seen Andrei Dascalescu pitching the project at East Doc Platform in 2016, I wrote these words on this site: ”(Planeta Petrila was) presented with passion and humour, the director said it to be a rockn’roll film, about a mine to be closed and an artist fighting to keep the old buildings and make them into art. A Don Quijote, the director asks? The trailer was unconventional, hopefully the film will be the same…”

I am not disappointed. There is some rockn’roll atmosphere in the film, there is a Don Quijote, Ion Barbu, and yet he is very grounded in the reality that he lives in; he is a creative charismatic artist, who used to work in the mines of Petrila as topographer; he knows and expresses compassion for the history of the mines and for the few miners, who are there. The last ones before the mine activity stops.

Ion Barbu argues that the only solution for Petrila after losing the mining industry is culture

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Krakow Film Festival: Music without Borders

Written 17-04-2017 13:38:52 by Tue Steen Müller

A press release came in from one of the oldest documentary film festivals, in Krakow, that celebrates its 57th edition BUT with a young competition on music documentaries, the fifth edition of this novelty.

A quote of a quote: “As Anita Piotrowska, film critic and the co-creator of the programme of Krakow Film Festival points out, "music documentary film becomes more and more inclusive. Music always plays the main role here, but often it is additionally charged - it tends to be a political manifesto, an expression of rebellion against stereotypes, a new look at history or a sign of a complicated ethnic identity. It is increasingly difficult to find an "unadulterated" music documentary film. But this is which, in my opinion, proves its vitality and richness. And this is precisely this diversity - not only of the music itself, but of the contemporary ways of telling stories about it - that we tried to capture while selecting the competition titles."

Wise words and here you have the films selected:

"Chavela," dir. Catherine Gund, Daresha Kyi, USA, 90’

"Far Western," dir. James Payne, Japan, USA, 82’

"Red Gringo," dir. Miguel Angel Vidaurre, Chile, 69’

"Festival," dir. Tomasz Wolski, Anna Gawlita, Poland, 85’

"When God Sleeps," dir. Till Schauder, USA, Germany, 88’

"Sara Baras, All Her Voices," dir. Rafá Moles, Pepe Andreu, Spain, 91’

"Revolution of Sound. Tangerine Dream," dir. Margarete Kreuzer, Germany, 90’

"Born To Lose-a film about Lorenzo Woodrose," dir. Palle Demant, Denmark, 82’

"Soul Exodus," dir. Csaba Bereczki, Hungary, 92’

"The Wonderful Kingdom of Papa Alaev," dir. Tal Barda, Noam Pinchas, Israel, France, 74’

I have seen the latter, which is a family story full of music with the Papa (see the fantastic photo) of the Alaev family (who emigrated from Israel to Tajikistan in 1990s) as the main patriarchial character, who has to face, but does not want to, that children and grandchildren wish to take over, or at least have their independence as members of the family, and a religious community. And the orchestra! Sometimes hilarious, sometimes touching, always with great music! And very well told.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CAFx 2017 /Introduction

Written 16-04-2017 17:53:23 by Tue Steen Müller

This is a copy-paste of the press release from Copenhagen Architecture Festival, that is indeed very active when it comes to the inclusion of the film medium:

Denmark's largest architecture festival Copenhagen Architecture Festival opens its fourth edition Wednesday, April 26th with a wide program spread over three cities and with the opening film and world premiere of "BIG TIME" on Bjarke Ingels. 

More than 150 architectural events in Copenhagen, Aarhus and Aalborg. 40 film and 42 venues.

The festival takes place over 11 days. The more than 150 events provide a variety of approaches to architecture and through film screenings, exhibitions, lectures, debates, walks, concerts and conferences there are enough to choose from again this year - both for ’feinschmecker’ and the general public. Again this year you can meet experts from home and abroad who will contribute to the audience to get a glimpse of the world of architecture.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cinédoc-Tbilisi 2017

Written 14-04-2017 15:24:45 by Tue Steen Müller

With its fifth edition the organisers of this still very young Tbilisi Georgian festival, director Archil Khetagouri and coordinator Ileana Stanculescu, took the decision to move the event from October to May 11-16. Argumentation: Too much happens in October. And my additional argument: Weather must be better in May. I am happy to be able to check that out myself, as the two mentioned have invited me back to a city and a festival I like very much. Regarding the weather: Outdoor screenings are planned.

About the program – there is an international competition, a focus Caucasus, a CivilDOC section, including a pitching session for NGO’s matched with filmmakers, and a CinéDOC Young competition.

There are so many good film titles to be mentioned, let me drop

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKer 2017

Written 12-04-2017 13:28:59 by Tue Steen Müller

I was a jury member of the first DOKer festival in 2015 and am very happy to see that the filmmakers behind the event are able to continue their pioneer work of bringing films from around the world to the Russian audience. Let me quote the promotion text from their website that you should pay a visit:

”Do not miss Moscow International Documentary Film Festival DOKer. Spend 5 days in the atmosphere of the best creative documentary cinema from around the world! Watch, think, criticise, create!”.

The 3rd DOKer festival takes place May 18-23.

Take a look also at the illustration that says that the selection has a global perspective – and the world is not united. Anyway, here is the list of films for the main feature competition as well as the short film line-up. A third competition ”Let’s DOK it”is still to be announced.

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Ivars Tontegode: Knutifiction

Written 11-04-2017 14:25:59 by Tue Steen Müller

Luckily I live in a country where subtitling of films is the rule – no dubbing as in German or France, where as an example European cultural channel Arte is the big sinner in the language killing discipline. In Denmark we hear the language spoken in the original film and when we don’t understand that language, we get help from the subtitles.

BUT sometimes it is hard to watch and read, as it was for me with Latvian Ivars Tontegode’s impressive biographical documentary about and with writer, poet and translator Knuts Skujenieks, who talks almost through the whole film of 100 minutes at the same time as I had to follow the interesting visual bombardment from Tontegode. I am saying this upfront to admit that my viewing of this new Latvian work suffered from me having to read and watch at the same time. On a MacBook Pro computer.

It will be better when I get to watch the film on a big screen… nevertheless I don’t hesitate to state that I have seen a remarkable film about a remarkable man, whose story is the one about 7 years

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Shorena Tevzadze: Didube, The Last Stop

Written 10-04-2017 16:22:07 by Tue Steen Müller

I have met Shorena Tevzadze and producer Nikoloz Gogochuri several times at workshops in Georgia, where this fine film was developed. Their dedication to the theme and their love towards the characters of the film was always there; watching the final result I feel like saying hello to an old friend Niko, in his shop, with his partner, waiting for clients but no one comes to buy at the veterinarian pharmacy, only friends like the singer Nodar with his guitar, performing his ballads which serve as a commentary to the place and to the dreams of the two on having a garden in the countryside instead of where they are now at a bus station, where shops still exist; at a stop that used to be more important when the train had its last stop here, now it only stops for two minutes.

The filmmakers present the film like this: “A musical fairy tale about a noisy station, where Niko, a veterinarian man is trying to save his peaceful kingdom from its demise.”

But time stands still and Niko uses it to reflect on life and to write poems, one about one of the many floods in the country. He phones television (or radio?) but they don’t have a format for reading of poems.

Luckily a festival has a format for this simple unpretentious portrait of a place and a shop owner: Premiere at Visions du Réel, Nyon, at the Regard Neuf section, the festival takes place April 21 to 29.

Georgia/Switzerland, 2017, 64 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Pawel Lozinski: Being a Tutor

Written 07-04-2017 11:24:04 by Tue Steen Müller

The IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) has published a very informative, well made interview with Polish director Pawel Lozinski, who was at the EastDoc Platform in Prague, where he had a double role: to show his film ”You Don’t Know How Much I love You” and to be a tutor.

In the interview – made by Marta Obršálová – Lozinski goes in detail about his film in terms of the aesthetical and technical choices that he made; you should definitely read it, whereas I have chosen to pick a quote from the director on being a tutor. A very honest dilemma is described by the director as well as some advice that many tutors should follow…:

Speaking about students, how do you like to share your experience with others? How do you react when someone asks your advice?

Tutoring for Ex Oriente Film was sometimes difficult for me. I try to be a tutor but still being a film director at the same time. Obviously, if someone is showing me his materials I am automatically making my own film of it.  But I tried to stop myself - it is their film.  I try to follow their way of thinking the director´s or cameraman´s feeling. I ask them the questions: What do you want to say?  What you want to show? How do you intend to do it? What is the story going to be about? What is your message? Why are you showing it to me and then to the audience? I think the crucial thing in teaching is not giving an answer but just asking the questions and making students or directors think about the right answer from their side. I try to find different paths, ways of thinking for each project. Maybe you can change protagonists? What do you think about putting the camera on the other side? So this kind of talk, not giving a straight yes/no, good/bad answer, just discussing it. When I make my own films, I still need somebody to discuss them with - it could by my cameraman or editor or both. Because when you make a film, you are alone, facing a lot of questions with no answers and having to find the answers on your own. So you have to ask people what they think about it. That is why this kind of training is so important for filmmakers. - and go to articles.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Robert Kirchhoff: To Choose Your Genre

Written 07-04-2017 11:01:04 by Tue Steen Müller

This is a clip from an interview with Slovak Robert Kirchhoff, whose ”A Hole in the Head” was reviewed on this site:

Cineuropa: In your previous documentary, Normalization, you investigated a sensitive issue, and you are now pursuing another difficult theme, the Roma Holocaust, in A Hole in the Head. Why do you choose such difficult subjects? 
Robert Kirchhoff: Every subject that I have chosen to make a film about or to think about is an opportunity to approach that topic differently. It's a challenge. And this is the way I feel about it. Neither of those subjects came to me by chance; it was always some particular story that brought them to my attention. With Normalization, I attempted to shoot a genre film, an investigative crime film, but there is a difference between the two films. Normalization depends on facts, literally — you have to follow the continuity in terms of the story, the past and the present, and you are working with people you do not necessarily like. In the case of A Hole in the Head, I got to pick the characters myself and I came up with the form of the film. I was facing a dilemma in terms of genre between a classic historic documentary or a documentary essay; I picked the latter. I intentionally resisted pathos — that's why you can encounter humour in a film revolving around the Holocaust and the Roma genocide — and I resisted any kind of pathos that might have resulted from tying different meanings to a particular character. Those characters lived with their memories and the holes in their heads and I approached them not through the past but the present. That may be one of the reasons why I did not use any of the archive footage, period photos or illustrations. 

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics

Yaser Kassab: On the Edge of Life

Written 06-04-2017 15:13:31 by Tue Steen Müller

It feels unfinished, sketchy this personal film by Syrian Yaser Kassab. It is one long reflection and interpretation of, as the director has formulated it in the catalogue of Cinéma du Réel, “loss and grief”. Far from mainstream. In dark images, often metaphoric, from empty spaces, “detached from reality” as he says, with the fragments of skype conversations with his father, who does not want to leave the country, and at a later point states that we live “like bears in winter sleep”.

The synopsis: “Yaser and his partner Rima leave Syria to Lebanon, but after receiving the news that his younger brother passed away in Aleppo, they end up in a remote and an empty place in Turkey. In this place where the silence and the monotonous daily life being broken by the loud noise of the family calls whom still living in Aleppo. To spend a year and a half, which was almost like a slumber and a coma, waking up every day on the recurring nightmares echo.”

It is one of those rare films that does not move but places itself in a waiting mood full of sadness, memories and longing for a better life. A very much welcomed essayistic lyrical addition to the many war-filled documentaries from the country.

Got the Joris Ivens/ Cnap Award at Cinéma du Réel

Syria, 2017, 45 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Lviv Film Center

Written 04-04-2017 12:28:26 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s a handmade cinema, Roman Bondarchuk said, after our pleasant tour to Lviv Film Center, where we visited the rooftop sunday morning. Saturday night a party had been held and Mr. Mykhailo, responsible for the running of the place, was in the beginning not that keen to show us around. It’s a mess, he said. Never mind, we responded. So we were there and got the fine story about the place:

The cinema used to be called Condor and later Falcon, and was built in Soviet times by the factories around the area – for the workers to have a cultural meeting place. Today it is Lviv Film Center, an arthouse cinema with a hall on the ground floor, and a rooftop cinema. As you can see from the picture (taken by Dar’ya Averchenko) there is a small table for the projector, a screen, chairs of different quality. In summer time with summer weather there is often three screenings at night, a ticket costs 2€, reduction if you take all three. Beer is sold, bottles with vodka etc. can be brought to the place.

”Toni Erdmann” was to be played sunday in this handmade outdoor cinema that very often has full houses. Audience? Between 18 and 30 sympathetic Mr. Mykhailo said.

Photo: Ellen and me.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Pavel Kostomarov: Together

Written 04-04-2017 11:04:00 by Tue Steen Müller

Do you remember the film by Kostomarov called Together, Roman Bondarchuk asked me on the Virmanska Street, when we sunday were walking around in sunny Lviv in Western Ukraine. The couple in the film, Ludmila and Vladimir Loboda, were sitting outside the café. We joined them for a grappa and Turkish coffee and I was proud to tell them that I had written a review about the film, praising them and their Love Story – and their art. They told us that they were very happy with the film but since the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, they had no contact with Kostomarov – and Vladimir had no longer a gallery in Moscow selling his work. The film is excellent as you can read in this repeat of the review from 2009:

A house in the middle of nowhere. Or maybe a house in the centre of the universe. A couple lives there. They are artists, they do paintings and wooden sculptures. The sculptures have their own home in the house, a room for themselves where they stand in a circle, in harmony, in a room that is visited by the artists with lamps in their hands, pointing at them, making them come alive. It is a phantasy world with a couple – the man, who is talking in philosophical terms moving his arm around, a bit of a pretentious performance, but charming and with humour, if he is not throwing rude language at the woman, calling her dumb at one moment, and praising her as Mother Earth in the next. She looks strong, moves around as a powerful independent character, but she has her views on the relationship between man and woman: ”If she dominates it’s over”. Well, from the 48 minutes that I was invited to share with her and her husband, I did not get the impression of a suppressed woman.

And that is not at all what brilliant cameraman and director Kostomarov is after. He goes for beauty. The light playing in the face of the woman. Their hands cutting the sculpture figures. Their hugging and caressing, their letting the outside world be rude and cruel – they are murdering us, the man says peeping out of the window after a sequence with cranes and cars destroying something that we dont get to know what is. Not important, what is important is what we see inside, what Kostomarov (cameraman and co-director of ”Mother” and previously cameraman for Loznitsa) catches of Life and Love between two people who have been together for a lifetime. The name of the couple is Vladimir and Ludmila Loboda, and to summarize: This is such a wonderful intimate close-up of a Russian artist couple, an observation, yes, but what makes it extraordinary is the interpretative layer that the director adds, or should I say paints with his camera. There are superb sequences playing with light and shadow, where you see objects in the house or art pieces in compositions that stays in your mind. Taking the risk to have King Crimson music as an accompagnement!

Russia, 2009, 48 mins.


Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays Kiev 2017 Awards

Written 31-03-2017 09:35:21 by Tue Steen Müller

A press release came out last night: The 14th International documentary films about human rights festival has ended in Kyiv. The awards ceremony was held in the Cinema House. The closing ceremony began with a gesture of solidarity with Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, imprisoned in Russia.

Films were competing for prizes in categories: DOCU/LIFE, DOCU/RIGHT, DOCU/SHORT, DOCU/UKRAINE and for the special prize from Students’ Jury. The festivals’ Orzanizing Committee favorite is awarded with the Andriy Matrosov Award. The ceremony was followed by the Ukrainian premiere of “Liberation Day” by Ugis Olte and Morten Traavik.

The results of the final stages of three long-term workshops were announced during the closing ceremony – DocWorks: UA/UK, Warscape, and Youth about Ukraine. During the closing ceremony the results of WARSCAPE international competition were announced. The award of 5.000 USD was given to the “Double trap” (director Valeria Treshchova and producer Viktoria Gusenok). Also the international programm DocWorks: UA/UK announced the results. The winning project “UNDERWATER” (dir. Oksana Kazmina and producer Ljosha Chashchyn) received 3.000 GBP. "(N)OSTALGIA" (director Vicki Thornton Written and producer Marion Guthdirector) received a prize (50 000 hryvnia) for the best pitching from KWA SOUND PRODUCTION company.

Winners were also announced for Instagram competition #ECOOKO: show the country's environment. A prize from the WWF in Ukraine was given to Oleksandr Stepanenko. Prizes from the Green School educational project were received by: Oksana Vashchuk, Serhiy Handusenko, Oleg and Dariya Promahovy. Oleg and Dariya Promahovy received prizes from the Docudays UA team.

Docudays UA 2017 Winners:

DOCU/LIFE - Main Prize

All This Panic dir. Jenny Gage/ USA

Deliberate well thought through camerawork serves the subject matter and the desired atmosphere. Daring use of colors together with sensual use of depth of field made this film particularly efficient. The filmmakers are thinking outside of the box at the same time as the directorial approach creates unparalleled intimacy. It is transparent that creators are coming from contemporary art. The film unveils the secret life of teenage girls who usually go out of their way to keep their inner life closed to adults. It is the opinion of the jury that by giving these girls a voice the filmmakers are creating a bold platform for young women. Girls all over the world deserve to be heard - it is a crucial human rights issue that also resonates here in Ukraine.

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Categories: Cinema, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays: Children

Written 31-03-2017 08:55:39 by Tue Steen Müller

What kind of world do we leave for our children? A banal and pathetic question maybe. But it came to my mind this morning, when I attended the Warscape pitching in Kiev at the Docu/Pro section of Docudays. 6 projects from around 25 were selected – ”an international competition for documentary film projects about Ukraine or the Eurasia region, on the consequences of conflicts and other situations of violence inflicted upon civilians.”

In ”84” by cameraman Volodimir Yermakov, his first film as a director, to be 10-15 mins. long, children are playing in the city of Sloviansk, that was occupied by rebels for 84 days. The final scene of the lyrical clip presented by the director shows children ”playing funeral”. Heartbreaking, makes you think.

In the Georgian ”The Playground” by Ana Tsiminia and Esma Berikishvili children of Abkhazian refugees play among the ruins of a paper factory near the border between Georgia and Abkhazia chatting about where to go. Paris? The plays represent their social reality in what is going to be an observational documentary. Expectations are high after the director’s ”Biblioteka”.

The pitching this morning ended with the French/Ukrainian ”The New Life of Vitaly”, a film by director Vadim Moiseenko, produced by Marie Odile Gazin to be shot in small Krymske in the Luhansk region close to the frontline. Like small grown-ups the kids, with Vitaly as the main protagonist, talk about who is in war with whom, what foreign nationalities are there as soldiers, what the rebels took and destroyed, when they were there… They lost their childhood.

Photo: Ana Tsiminia and Esma Berikishvili preparing their pitch outside the venue of The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the sponsor of the workshop and the award for the best project.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays Kiev: Form Comes First

Written 28-03-2017 20:50:01 by Tue Steen Müller

… which is of course a simplification but I was thinking of it several times during the days here in Kiev, where the Docudays goes on, one of those many festivals, less known, compared to IDFA, CPH:DOX, DOKLeipzig and Hotdocs BUT with a high quality selection and, as far as I have been able to register attending a handful of screenings, full houses. With a professional relaxed atmosphere.

Form comes first has director and editor French/Czech Stan Neumann said at many tutoring sessions. The same goes for Viktor Kossakovsky who talks about making an aesthetic choice as the first thing to do before you start shooting.

But sometimes you find the form, the shape, the handwriting as you go along, as did Georgian Alexander Kvatashidze, when he

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CPH:DOX 2017 /Return of a President

Written 27-03-2017 13:05:35 by Sara Thelle


The Danish filmmaker Lotte Mik-Meyer has made a documentary about a very important and interesting subject and a region that certainly could need our attention. Return of a President is about the fight for democracy in Madagascar in the aftermath of the 2009 military coup and the influence interests of foreign powers have on the political situation of poor countries in a post-colonial context.

Mik-Meyer has gained access to the diplomatic negotiations surrounding the efforts of making possible the return of the ousted president Ravalomanana to Madagascar from his exile in South Africa, where he has been living since the coup d’état. Through her contact with the Danish advisor to the former president, Jens Thorsen, she has embedded the inner circle of the delegation, consisting of Thorsen, the South African media advisor Peter Mann and the Madagascan human rights lawyer Bakoly Rakotomalala, and has come close to the couple Marc and Lalao Ravalomanana during her five years of filming.

The negotiation process is full of obstacles. The young Andry Rajoelina, in power since the coup as the president of the High Transitional Authority of Madagascar, supported by the military and quite possibly French interests, is firmly opposing to Ravalomanana’s return. Ravalomanana is counting on help from the international community and in particular the intergovernmental organization SADC (the Southern African Development Community), but realizes that larger interests are pulling the strings in the diplomatic game. He finally returns to Madagascar in secret in 2014 and spends 6 months in prison.

Unfortunately Mik-Meyer’s focus is on the intimacy of her relationship to her characters, that is her method and it is, in my opinion, not to the film’s advantage. If, as a filmmaker, you choose to place yourself in your film, it has to be for a good reason, here it only distracts the story. We are getting surprisingly little out of the closeness, I still don’t feel that I got to know Ravalomanana more than superficially. I would have liked more substantial portrait of the man, his (ultra-liberal) political thoughts, more information about his presidency while he was in power (2002-2009). I get curious, what is the story of Jens Thorsen? How do you go from being the manager of the largest dairy company in Madagascar, part of the Ravalomananas’ business group TIKO, to become a political and diplomatic advisor? Who are the other people involved? I would have liked to hear more voices and have a broader view. Paradoxically, had Mik-Meyer kept more distance to her characters, she could have maybe made a more powerful film.

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Categories: Cinema, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Roman Bondarchuk: Dixie Land

Written 27-03-2017 12:21:13 by Tue Steen Müller

It was one of those lovely moments, where a huge audience had come to celebrate the premiere of a film, ”Dixie Land”, that was 7 years on its way – for many reasons, one of them being that the director Roman Bondarchuk and his script writer Darya Averchenko were busy with the making of and promotion of ”Ukrainian Sheriffs”.

The film about jazz music performed by kids in a band in Kherson Ukraine, led by their old teacher, who founded the band just after WW2, picking up homeless children to give them the chance to develop their skills, gave them a life, simply - is a warm, so well made - Bondarchuk has indeed a documentary-eye - interpretation of a happy childhood, where kids have a good time developing their creative skills. As it is written in the catalogue: We all live once in Dixie Land – the country where politics, money and death do not exist at all. But over time this country is disappearing… yes, we are in Ukraine of today.

Back to the fest of a premiere where the superstar of the film (see photo from the screen of the cinema) Polina was present and performed with three instruments, when the closing images of the film came up. It was marvellous and there were flowers and standing ovations to a film that is full of love. A human film that gave many of us tears in the eyes. Look at the photo… Polina is now 15 years old, study in Moscow, we had thanks to Ilona Bicevska, the producer of the film, the chance to meet her after the screening. And her parents… you learn so much by being here at Docudays in Kiev.

Latvia, Ukraine, Germany, 2016, 60 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays UA 2017 Has Started

Written 25-03-2017 23:38:49 by Tue Steen Müller

… and runs until March 31. I am happy to be here participating at the Docu/Pro, the industrial platform of a festival that celebrates its 14th edition this year. The platform includes talks from knowledgeable people like Brigid O’Shea from DOKLeipzig, Miriam Ryndová from IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) in Prague and Latvian producer Uldis Cekulis. My job is to coach filmmakers, who have been selected for Warscape, ”The international competition for documentary film projects about Ukraine or the Eurasia region, on the consequences of conflicts and other situations of violence inflicted upon civilians”…6 projects.

They will be pitching their projects on Thursday March 30 in a competitive session open to the public. The same goes for 5 projects in another competition, ”DokWorks”.

The screenings of the festival opened last night with the screening of ”The Yes Men are Revolting” by Laura Nix, an excellent start for

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CPH:DOX 2017 /Forum

Written 25-03-2017 11:49:55 by Tue Steen Müller

2 days of Forum at the CPH:DOX March 22-23. I was there to check out what is happening with the ”creative and visually strong film projects”, that the CPH:FORUM ”financing and co-production event” is set up to help. Are great documentary films that use the language of cinema coming up? Concluding impressions at the end of this text.

First the venue, the new ”palace” of CPH:DOX, Charlottenborg in central Copenhagen near the harbour area. An absolute improvement for the ambitious festival. Lively activities inside and outside in the courtyards. Open to the public were several activities – discussions on subjects of today’s world.

The Forum took place in the colourful (see photo) Social Cinema, a very good place, a bit too hot, some called it a sauna, but I sat well and heard and saw, what was going on up there on the stage, where Tribeca’s Ingrid Kopp and Sundance’s Tabitha Jackson were moderating. They did that well. Not an easy task as most of the pitchers and panelists talked too much and went over the 14 minutes dedicated to each project. 300 projects had been submitted, 30 were picked. With overlapping categories ”fictionnonfiction”, ”cinema”, ”f:act”, ”art”.

In its presentation of the Forum, CPH:DOX circles around big names, well-known auteurs, who unfortunately were not there in persona, but were presented by producers, who often had brought

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CPH:DOX 2017 /The Festival Winners

Written 24-03-2017 23:40:43 by Tue Steen Müller

…of the festivals many sections are – in an edited and shortened Danish version of the press release of the festival of tonight:

DOX:AWARD:’De sidste mænd i Aleppo’ (“Last Men in Aleppo”), instrueret af Feras Fayyad samt debuterende co-instruktør Steen Johannessen, som er et uforglemmeligt portræt af tre modvillige heltes arbejde med at redde Aleppos civile midt i krigszonens centrum – og årets åbningsfilm på CPH:DOX.

Juryen udtaler om vinderfilmen: “De sidste mænd i Aleppo’ er en film hvis ødelæggende, følelsesmæssige umiddelbarhed kaster os ind i en shakespearsk’ tragedie om en befolkningsgruppe, der kæmper for at bevare deres menneskelighed på trods af den ubarmhjertige realitet, de befinder sig i”. 

Special mentions til ’Gray House’ af Austin Lynch og Matthew Booth og ’The John Dalli Mystery’ af Jeppe Rønde. ’Gray House’ er et mørkt og

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CPH:DOX 2017 /Psychosis in Stockholm

Written 24-03-2017 23:15:23 by Tue Steen Müller

… was one of the around 30 projects pitched at the CPH:FORUM that took place wednesday and thursday this week. Director Danish/Swedish Maria Bäck, producer Anna-Maria Kantarius. Who did a strong presentation of a project that in CPH:DOX terminology is FICTIONnonFiction – hybrid is another word for a film like this, where the director will have to find creative solutions to build a narrative for the five days the director experienced alone as 14 years old in the Swedish capital after her mother was brought to hospital to be treated for her mental illness. The film to be – no objections - got the the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award of €15.000.

Maria Bäck graduated from the Danish Film School, documentary line in 2013.

Chapeau for a jury that chose to go for a talent and not one of the established directors, who pitched or whose projects were pitched by producers.

General comments on the Forum will follow.

Photo: Director Maria Bäck.

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Sergey Kachkin: Perm-36. Reflexion/ 2

Written 23-03-2017 22:32:22 by Tue Steen Müller

As the /2 says I have written about Kachkin’s film from Perm before – in August 2016 – where he told me that the film - the most obvious place to show it - was rejected by the local Flahertiana festival because it criticises the local Ministry of Culture in its talk about the prison camp, stalinism and Soviet times. What happened then with the film? Today I received an email from the Russian director, I quote from it, a report from an independent filmmaker, who travels to have his work shown:

Perm-36. Once we agreed that as soon as I have the screening outside of Russia I should let you know this and maybe you can make a post on your blog. So, it will be on March 24 at 12:00 in Tartu, Estonia. This is World Film Festival:

I write you know in a bus which brings me from Moscow to Tartu :)

On March 27 will be another screening in Saint Petersburg in one of the main cinema theatres of the North Cultural Capital as we call it. 

Actually, the film is very demanded in Russia but much less abroad... I've screened the title at many independent venues or cinemas... well, it's hard all the time to gather the audience but I've got much of help from some independent media, internet sites and radio stations... You can have a look the news here on the film's web page:

So, only in Moscow, I had eight screenings. Then there were in Yekaterinburg at Yeltsin Centre, in Perm three, then other places. Also, some screenings should be during the summer. Well, I'm satisfied in a way. But it takes me much to promote all the screenings and negotiating with media...

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CPH:DOX 2017 /On the Edge of Freedom

Written 21-03-2017 14:38:19 by Tue Steen Müller


I heard myself saying “don’t do it, stop” several times, alone in front of the screen, when the young Russians and Ukrainians were climbing unfinished buildings and cranes. To take photos of themselves. Or videos. Scary like hell. And I am after having seen the film not sure that I understand why they challenge themselves in that way. Says someone from another generation. Yes, I understand that this could be the way to money as they are selling tours – especially the Ukrainians who go underground to make “tours in the drainage system” – and document them, put them on the social media. Create an identity.

Let me educate you as I was from the texts in the beginning of the film: Roofing is the exploration of heights. Digging is the exploration of underground area. In Moscow Angela (the photo) goes up, in Kiev Vlad goes down. With friends around them. They are all very young and beautiful, and cool, they are looking for a way in their lives, which they stage. They pose like fashion models, at least Angela does, she gets ill, a blood cot in the arm, she takes care of her medicine and seems to have recovered towards the end of the film.

Vlad, the Ukrainian, experiences the Maidan revolt and makes a tour to Pripyat, to the Chernobyl Zone, he is well formulated and talks about the digging as “going from one reality to another”, seeing “an urban renaissance”.

This ignorant critic has seen an energetically made, professional, visually scary, fascinating close-up documentary about youngsters in Moscow and Kiev, who are playing with their lives or searching for a meaning, for freedom the title says… Well…

The film will be shown at CPH:DOX tonight March 21 22.30 at Empire, March 23 10.30 at Nordisk Film Palads and March 25 at 22.15, Empire Bio. Broadcast on DR3 March 27 at 20.30.

Denmark, 2017, 75 mins.


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CPH:DOX 2017 /Kirsten Johnson

Written 20-03-2017 22:22:56 by Tue Steen Müller

90 minutes with Kirsten Johnson thursday morning 23rd of March at Cinemateket, that’s a good time investment. I can guarantee that knowing Kirsten’s knowledge and commitment, and having attended her classes and Q&A sessions several times. Of course it is good if you have seen her film ”Cameraperson” – but if not there is a screening at 16.40 that same day at Grand Teatret with the director present.

”Cameraperson” was on my list of the best documentaries of 2016, here is some text from my review:

It is a film that deserves all the attention it can get. BECAUSE it puts the cinematographer and his/her work in focus through Kirsten Johnson, who says – a text in the beginning of the film – ”for the past 25 years I’ve worked as a documentary cinematographer. I originally shot the following footage for other films, but here I ask you to see it as my memoir. These are images that have marked me and leave me wondering still”.

Memoir, yes, the film comes out as not only an offer to reflect on ethical and aesthetical choices of a cameraperson, it is also an autobiographical essay, as – luckily - Johnson connects what she is doing behind the camera with her own private life as mother of twins with a mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and a father/grandfather playing with her Viva and Felix, the names of the twins. In other words private footage is included in a film that is very rich in its thematically structured narrative…

… and has the most wonderful scene towards the end of the film, where Kirsten Johnson goes back to the family in Bosnia that she had filmed before – to show them the footage that constitutes her pleasant memories from her first visit, where she was the cameraperson for a film on the war. A scene full of dignity from both sides.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX /To Stay Alive - A Method

Written 20-03-2017 16:44:40 by Mikkel Stolt


If you are a fan of either Michel Houellebecq or Iggy Pop or both: read no further and go and see this film immediately. For those of us who is something less than a dedicated fan (I’m more of a Tom Waits and Haruki Murakami kind of guy myself) there is, however, plenty of reasons to watch this “feelgood movie about suffering” as the front credits say.

I’m not going to tell you the narrative since there isn’t really any, except towards the ending: Iggy is coming to visit Houellebecq (who here is called Vincent) and after a truly spellbinding and kind of nuts dialogue scene, Vincent is showing Iggy Pop to his basement where he has built or created… something. It’s wonderfully staged, and just watching their faces, bodies and clothing are priceless. One look nerdier that the other, in their own way.

Beside the scene mentioned above, the film consists of Iggy Pop reading or reciting the words of Houellebecq in different settings and the crew’s visits to three somewhat unfortunate souls who all suffer or have suffered from different form of poor mental health. They also express themselves in poems (some recited by Iggy Pop) and other art forms but somehow the essayistic form of the film lacks the ability to really grab you in all the scenes. Maybe the staging gets too evident or too pointless with camera trackings and other visual means and maybe there just IS too much text after all.

However, the film grows on you after watching it, and you have never seen a film about creative force and mental illness just like this. And as “Vincent” says I my favourite scene: “Art shouldn’t be a movement”. Luckily, Iggy Pop - who you could argue was part of the punk music movement - agrees in the most self-ironic way. I want to watch that scene again…

Erik Lieshout a.o.: “To Stay Alive - A Method”, 2016. Seen at CPH:DOX. Filmkommentaren: 4/6 penheads 


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CPH:DOX 2017 /Where is Rocky II?

Written 19-03-2017 16:55:50 by Mikkel Stolt


Since he saw an old BBC documentary from 1980 about American pop artist Ed Ruscha, the director has seemingly had an obsession to find the topic of that doc; a piece of artificial rock that Ruscha planted in the Mojave Desert in California among other rocks. What became of it? Is it still there?

Bismuth hires a private detective to help find the rock, but soon we learn that he also hires a couple of scriptwriters. Bismuth was on the scriptwriting team on the unfathomable “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (dir. Michel Gondry”) and it is therefore no surprise that ”Where is Rocky 2” is composed in a puzzling way, combining with what looks like (staged) documentary scenes; scenes with the scriptwriters working, and scenes from the fiction film on which they are working.

I’m a sucker for meta-films and for films playing with the genres – thus giving us a chance to ponder which reality we prefer or can relate to and ultimately understand. Bismuth has called this film a piece of “fake fiction” which is a great term I intent to steal.

However, something goes awry during the last fifth or so of the film, at least for me. The essence of the story itself is something like: “Is a piece of art still art if nobody knows it’s there?” and the film’s problem is probably that the documentary-like scenes with the private detective (who plays himself) turns out to be the most engaging ones. The film that the scriptwriters are working on doesn’t add much but a flavor of trivial storytelling techniques, and it’s like the structure and the conundrums are both too obvious and too obscure. Towards the end, it seems just unnecessary and too apparent to reveal the film crew in a certain shot with the actors.

Still, until the last five or ten minutes I was rather amused and it is definitely worth a look – unless you hate this sort of thing. Then don’t look. It’s still a film of some significance even though YOU don’t watch it.

Pierre Bismuth: Where is Rocky II?, 2016. Seen at CPH:DOX. Filmkommentaren: 3/6 penheads. 


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CPH:DOX 2017 /The President from the North

Written 18-03-2017 12:23:11 by Tue Steen Müller


It’s a Dane writing this review. Important to say as the main character of this film, Ahmed Dualeh, is Danish, well he is born in Somalia but has been living in Denmark for 47 years – and he speaks the most perfect, classic Danish. An accent is there but the vocabulary is huge, which is heard, when he in first person tells the amazing story about his life in the country he loves and where he settled in 1967. He became a captain of ships at Maersk, he set up his own company and became a millionaire, he established a family… but he has his heart in Somalia, where he was born in poverty, adopted by an Italian family, and where he – voted by exile Somalis – became the president of Jubaland in 2012, the republic in the South of Somalia. As it turns out there are many other, who want that job, and also a position as prime minister is not reachable for the charismatic idealistic man, who wants to help his native country and dedicates a lot of time to go to political meetings and to meet people in the streets. Most of the time outside Jubaland, in Mogadishu or in neighbouring Kenya as Jubaland still is a dangerous place because of warlords.

The structure of the film goes from here to there, from Denmark to Somalia, from the family to politics. Very simple and efficient. His wife Zhara is worried about him – and their life together - as he is so much away from home. In a scene she is packing her suitcase, cut to him trying to catch her by phone, no success, cut to a daughter who tells him to stop all that travelling, cut to him and wife on what is said to be the last tour, where he is bringing computers and other technical equipment to a school in his native region in Somalia.

Apart from the drama, which is actually not described as a drama, of the couple who has been together for 45 years, the film lives through the way he – and she – is described. An almost constantly smiling, well formulated positive Danish Somali and his adventurous life with Zhara. You will be in a good mood watching this film, which of course also in a Denmark of today full of restrictions towards foreigners is a very timely documentary.

Denmark, 2017, 65 mins.

The film will be shown at CPH:DOX Sunday 19.3 at 21.30 Park Bio, Saturday 25.3 12.30 Empire Bio, Sunday 26.3 13.30 Nordisk Film Palads.    


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CPH:DOX 2017 /The Unforgiven

Written 18-03-2017 10:46:56 by Tue Steen Müller


1992. Celebici in Bosnia-Hercegovina. A prison camp for Serbs. Esad Landzo, 19 years old was a guard. He killed and tortured, he was one of the worst, say survivors who remember what ”Zenga”, his nickname, did to them and friends and relatives. In 1996 he was arrested and in 1998 sentenced to 15 years in prison at the Court in den Haag. He sat in a Finnish prison from 2003 till he was released in 2006. He now lives and is married in Finland.

Facts about a war criminal, who is the main protagonist of this important documentary that puts focus on the question whether you can forgive. Esad suffers after his release, ”my old demons come back, they don’t let me sleep”, ”I am a dead man walking”, ”I need my life back”. His life story is told, you meet his parents, there is archive material from the camp, showing strong emotional material of prisoners sitting in a squat position, waiting for the next atrocity to be committed. He visits a psychiatrist.

It all builds up to the confrontations. Esad writes to some of the former prisoners to ask if they will meet him. And the film takes its time to let us viewers meet them - before the confrontation - to hear, what they remember, and to see them get ready to meet Esad – at the camp. Several other people are built up as characters in the film. Accompanied by the man, who was a doctor at the camp, and who seems to be respected by the survivors, as well as by Esad, they come to meet Esad, who asks for forgiveness, ”I am not here to excuse”, ”I want to apologize”, he says to one after the other, a broken man talking to people, broken as well, they have scars on their souls – it is very tense, very sad to watch these authentic and actually mostly silent scenes that reminds you that the best documentaries do not give answers, they raise questions.

Lars Feldballe and his Finnish producer have worked on this film for years, with respect for the theme and the involved, they have avoided tabloid journalism to make a film that will have a long life ahead. Hopefully not only at festivals but also whereever post-war traumas are being dealt with. It deserves to be used like that.     

Finland/Denmark, 2017, 75 mins.

The film will be shown at CPH:DOX Monday 20.3 at 8pm Empire Bio, Wednesday 22.3 at 4.30pm Nordisk Film Palads, Saturday 25.3 Nordisk Film Palads. At the two first screenings there will be debates. More about who and what on


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CPH:DOX 2017 /The Trial

Written 17-03-2017 17:14:41 by Tue Steen Müller


… with the subtitle ”The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov”, a film that premiered at the Berlinale, now to be shown at CPH:DOX and at DocuDays in Kiev on the 25th of March with the director and guests present.

I mention the latter as Oleg Sentsov is Ukrainian and for those, who do not know the story, here is the laconic film description from the festival in Ukraine:

Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian filmmaker, Euromaidan activist and native of Crimea. After the Russian annexation of Crimea, he became an active opponent of the occupation. In May 2014 he was arrested by the Russian security

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CPH:DOX 2017 /Modern Times Review

Written 17-03-2017 08:08:40 by Tue Steen Müller

First day of the 2017 CPH:DOX. I went to the new festival centre, Charlottenborg, got my accreditation, ran into always energetic Frank Piasecki Poulsen, who ordered me to go up to see the impressive colourful so-called social cinema, where the morning had hosted a lot of young people discussing ”democracy”, meeting journalists and opinon-makers. Poulsen also told me to see his ”blue room”, where he resides with his ”Every Day” videos and a small kitchen, that is open – with Frank as cook – at 6pm every night… amazing! CPH:DOX is much more than a film festival-

I was happy to meet Norwegian Truls Lie, the man behind ”Modern Times Review” (MTR), the European Documentary Magazine, that

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Awards in Thessaloniki

Written 15-03-2017 13:35:30 by Tue Steen Müller

The 19th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival were giving out awards a couple of days ago. The Danish production ”Dream Empire” by David Borenstein got the main prize, the Golden Alexander, with a Special Jury Award for the amazing ”Machines” by Rahul Jain from India.

An Amnesty Award for the best film in the Human Rights section was given to Raoul Peck’s masterpiece ”I am not Your Negro”. And the award in the name of late documentary guru Peter Wintonick was given to Zaradasht Ahmed for his Iraq film ”Nowhere to Hide”.

As motivation for the award to ”Dream Empire”, quote from festival site, ”The president of the jury, Mr Paul Pauwels, said that “we were captivated by this documentary because the story develops in an imaginative way: from a simple situation to a compellingly insightful journey to the global dynamic of a world in progress – or maybe in crisis? We appreciated the humour, the powerful character and the aesthetic, which make the film a delight for spectators, but also make them more sensitive towards serious issues that concern us all”.

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CPH:DOX 2017 /Last Men in Aleppo

Written 14-03-2017 15:28:05 by Sara Thelle


The tone is set in the opening, this story is of a universal scope. It is a film about life in a world of death and violence, of humanity surviving endless destruction.

Last Men in Aleppo is an homage to the White Helmets (officially the Syria Civil Defence), the civilian volunteer rescue corps that works relentlessly to save the lives of civilians in rebel-held areas of Syria. Filmed over a year, from September 2015 to fall 2016 up until Aleppo fell back in to the hands of Bashar al Assad’s government forces, the film is collaboration between the Syrian director, Feras Fayyad, the Aleppo Media Center, an independent news agency and network of reporters in Aleppo, and the Danish co-director and editor Steen Johannessen together with Danish producer Søren Steen Jespersen (Larm Film). Last Men in Aleppo won this year’s Grand Jury Price for World Cinema Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.

We are introduced to the two main characters, Khaled and Mahmoud, one by one. Khaled, a former painter and decorator and one of the veterans of the White Helmets team, is a warm and playful man. But as the father of two young daughters, he is also haunted by the dilemmas of how to protect them best, should he have taken them to Turkey? is it still a possibility? Can he leave Aleppo, should he stay behind? Mahmoud, a student of philosophy before the revolution, is more quiet and thoughtful. His younger brother has also joined the White Helmets, they’ve lied to their parents, telling them that they are living safely in Turkey.

The days are spend heads leaned back, searching the sky for planes and helicopters bombing the city. As soon as the hit is located, get in to the car and drive straight to where the bomb has landed. Everyday life in Aleppo is barrel bombs, digging out dead babies from the rubble with their bare hands. A foot, a limb, who does it belong to? Body parts are carefully collected and handed over to relatives. And then, occasionally, the miracle: a child is found alive underneath the dusty fragments of what used to be his home.

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One World 2017 The Winners

Written 14-03-2017 14:15:09 by Tue Steen Müller

As usual the Prague-based festival delivers precise and informative press releases. Here is the one about the winners… The juries of the 19th annual One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival granted seven awards to films that were screened in Prague from 6 ­to 15 March.


The Best Film award went to Nowhere to Hide (PHOTO) by director Zaradasht Ahmed (Norway, Sweden | 2016 | 85 min.), in which a male nurse in Iraq films his daily life scarred by war. Later he must flee Islamic State and himself becomes the protagonist of the story. Motivation:

"Thanks to the courage of its protagonist and the

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East European Forum Prague

Written 12-03-2017 11:31:52 by Tue Steen Müller

Saturday morning I attended the pitching of 18 projects and an award ceremony, including 9 awards – they will be announced on the site and/or the Facebook page of the organizing IDF, Institute of Documentary Film. As usual with a fine atmosphere at the Komedie Theatre, unpretentious professionalism, all projects were presented without any discussion afterwards, that happened later that afternoon and this morning in round table discussions with the participation of broadcasters, sales agents, distributors, festival programmers, producers…

I watched and listened to the projects and established my own point system with 10 and 9 in the top. 6 out of 18 qualified:

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Joe Bini at East Doc Platform

Written 10-03-2017 15:36:12 by Tue Steen Müller

Of course it was a scoop for the organisers, IDF (Institute of Documentary Film), to have an editor capacity like American Joe Bini as a tutor and to have him deliver a masterclass like he did yesterday at the Cervantes Institute for a full house. It was obvious that we liked what we heard and saw from the editor, who has been working with Werner Herzog on 27 films.

Bini started his class reading from a paper what he thought of film or rather – liked that – cinema language, because of the reading difficult to convey to you, and after he told us how much he dislikes American documentaries for their journalistic language, he became lovely concrete in his story about how he has been working with Herzog.

He showed clips from ”Little Dieter Needs to Fly” (1997), ”Into the Abyss” (2011) and ”Grizzly Man” (2005) as well as the opening of the film he edited ”Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” (2008) by Marina Zenovich.

Herzog is an instinctual filmmaker, Bini said. He shoots so little footage, it’s insane how little; he decides in advance that this is gonna be in the film. Most of the films with him have been edited in 3 months. With ”Grizzly Man” I found out that this was to be a film about ”the relationship between this German guy and the American bear lover, Timothy”, who had a totally different understanding of nature.

The famous narration of Herzog… With ”Grizzly Man” we made it during the editing. Herzog wrote a text, I often corrected his English, he had a microphone, the recording was done and we put it in immediately.

How do you decide to take on a film? I watch material and if I see that you speak the language of cinema…

Photo: Bini and Herzog at a screening - years ago.

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Prague: Football and Czech Docs

Written 10-03-2017 13:35:02 by Tue Steen Müller

Elena Subira, colleague from DocsBarcelona, asked worried to my health after wednesday night’s football miracle, where Barcelona beat Paris 6-1 after having lost the first match 4-0. Heart attack…? No, but close to, amazing, 3 Barca goals in the dying minutes of a match that I watched in the good docu company of Mikael Opstrup, Iikka Vehkalahti and Peter Jäger. In a – yes! – English/Indian restaurant, lots of beer and a smell of curry. In the Stepanska street close to the Institute Cervantes, where the East Doc Platform takes place and to the Majestic Hotel, where we stay. Majestic was the football and majestic is the East Doc Platform.

And if all goes well some fine Czech documentaries are coming soon. To a festival or tv near you! Anna Kaslova from the IDF

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Glob & Albrechtsen: Venus

Written 07-03-2017 17:55:59 by Tue Steen Müller


My colleague at the DocsBarcelona festival, who is also a visual artist, Martina Rogers, 28 years old, has written this review of “Venus”:



I enjoyed Venus (great title by the way). I found it very true, the women who appear show honesty and not always, of course, security or self-confidence. Actually they show embarrassment sometimes too. It’s incredible how you get into their intimacy, it’s like you get little by little into their sexuality until they, at the very end, are naked. It’s beautiful. It is very natural and simple. I like the way it has been shot too.

I also think it is a necessary film, not just for women, but for anyone. Sexuality is a subjective and very particular way of living ourselves, of feeling ourselves and looking at ourselves. And sometimes you feel that “there is a correct way of being a woman”, that’s what the society tries to tell you and that generates fear to difference, many taboos… regarding to women sexuality for example, there is a strong dichotomy between whore and saint. This film helps breaking all that. Women, we are responsible for our sexuality, we know what we want, what we desire. No partner should be responsible of the other’s pleasure. But sometimes there is a lack of connection between us and our genitals. If you don’t name it, if you don’t put it on words, it doesn’t exist.

So, I liked the film because it talks about women sexuality, it’s true, and these women share their intimacy and made me think about mine. And I think it will be helpful for some other women, to look into their selves and into their sexuality.

The film will have its Danish premire at 50 Danish cinemas  tomorrow March 8.

Denmark, 2016, 80 mins.


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Lom & van Egeraat: Burma Storybook

Written 07-03-2017 10:52:56 by Tue Steen Müller

The first names of the filmmaking couple are Petr and Corinne.

Maung Aung Pwint is according to a text at the beginning of the film the ”most famous living dissident poet” in Burma/Myanmar. He was imprisoned several times for his poetry and activism, it is said, and he says to the film crew, ”let’s make a long poem together”.

And Petr Lom, director and cinematographer, does his best to live up to that challenge. He creates stunningly framed and composed images that do simply not ”illustrate” what films with or about literature often do. Klichés are avoided. Many images include the (English) texts of poems which are being read. These are Maung Aung Pwint’s poems or poems from younger poets and – if I got it right – other poets, who have been imprisoned because of their writing and activism. In many cases you simply see the poet reading the poem.

… a long poem together, yes an elephant with a man riding on top


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ZagrebDox Awards Jashi, Glavonic, Carlsen

Written 05-03-2017 11:16:56 by Tue Steen Müller

… and many others. But very happy to see that the juries in Zagreb agreed so much with in its praising of the films by Salomé Jashi, Ognjen Glavonic and Jon Bang Carlsen. If you click on ”The Dazzling Light of Sunset” or ”Depth Two” or Jon Bang Carlsen you will find our words on two great films and one great film director. Here come the motivations of the juries:

The Dazzling Light of Sunset  (by Salomé Jashi) (PHOTO) paints an atmospheric and subtly humorous image of daily life in a small town in Georgia. Local events – such as weddings, shows, election discussions, captured owls, church rituals – seem like a good topic for the local TV crew whose cover stories are also in the focus of this film. All this is accompanied by a visually subtle observational detachment which shows this whole mixture of outdated tradition and new customs in both an absurd and poetically gentle light, which makes this film an extremely valuable piece.

Depth Two (by Ognjen Glavonic)… The Big Stamp Award for Best

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IDF Presents East Doc Platform

Written 04-03-2017 14:20:35 by Tue Steen Müller

IDF stands for Institute of Documentary Film, is based in Prague with this slogan: We support the emerging stars from Central and Eastern Europe. Link below, but let me sum up what this impressive film institution is doing: training (Ex Oriente), market (East Silver), distribution (KineDok), promotion (Czech Docs), pitching (East European Forum), transmedia (Doc Tank), networking (Project Market) and East Doc Platform, an event that starts this coming monday March 6 and goes on until March 12.

I have a warm connection to IDF and the many people, who work and have been working there. I was part of the ExOriente workshop for many years – it gave me a chance to make my addiction to documentaries and documentarians in this part of the world even deeper than it already was from around 1990, where the Empire USSR fell as did the wall in Berlin, and I travelled in the Baltic countries first of all. I got acquainted with the work of filmmakers like Miroslav Janek, Helena Trestikova, Jan Gogola, Filip Remunda, Robert Kirchhoff and many others.

Marta Obršálová, new pr manager of IDF, asked me to write about

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CPH:DOX 2017 /The Festival

Written 01-03-2017 16:39:23 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s spring, 1st of March, from where I sit in Copenhagen it’s cloudy and windy but milder. I have the window open. It’s spring and the CPH:DOX festival announced its program at noon today. The festival has moved to March and the festival main venue has moved. CPH:DOX will have what they call a Festival Palace at the Charlottenborg on Kongens Nytorv next to the Royal Theatre (the classic, not the new at the harbour). Here will be cinemas, exhibitions, a five day conference, concerts and parties, café and restaurant and much much more. The headquarter in other words. In one of the central squares of Copenhagen.

The website is up and running, the programme newspaper can be downloaded, I guess there will be banners round the city if they are not there yet… and there will be screenings outside Copenhagen, more than 100 it is written in the press material.

More than 200 films with 75 world premieres.

Dates: March 16-26.

Ambition – to be ”more than a festival”, quote from the website’s ”About Us”:

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CPH:DOX 2017 /Films

Written 01-03-2017 16:32:35 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s very easy if you want to see what will be shown at the festival. Go to the website, link below, and you will see the many sections arranged by the programmers. The classical ones are there like Dox:Award, New:Vision Award, the F:Act Award, Nordic:Dox Award, a new section for upcoming talents called Next:Wave, docs for kids, docs about artists, docs on the actual populism, Danish docs, festival hits and so on so forth.

Let me pick some of the films that I have heard about in beforehand or that we at have already written about or reviewed. Or intend to…

The Danish ones in the main competition: The opening film ”Last Men in Aleppo” by Feras Fayyad, with Steen Johannessen as co-director, it won at the Sundance festival. We will review this strong film that not only brought tears to my eyes but also made me sad and angry about what happens and has happened in Syria. Talented Jeppe Rønde’s ”The John Dalli Mystery” starring the

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CPH:DOX 2017 /Industry

Written 01-03-2017 16:21:16 by Tue Steen Müller

”Industry”, that is what CPH:DOX, and all the other big festivals call – quoted from the site – ”the various activities offer professional development, networking, and business opportunities to filmmakers and industry professionals at all levels of experience”.

So when the audience happily goes to watch films, the producers and directors and people like me, who is curious to know what is happening at the market, or which themes the filmmakers pick or what the funders are looking for or what kind of training is offered… we miss some films but are spoilt in other ways. CPH:DOX 2017, indeed, has done a lot to give us choices and it has to be said that most of these professional activities take place during day time, where screenings of course fill the evenings.

CPH:Conference is a series of day-long thematic sessions that the festival has set up in collaboration with the training programme Discovery Campus with the support of the daily Danish newspaper Information. ”Science and Film”, ”Art, Technology & Change” and ”Serialized” are some of the points, the latter including a visit by the Oscar winner Ezra Edelmann to talk on his film on O.J.

The CPH:Forum is more than similar events at other big festivals focused on bringing in ”auteurs”, so you will find names like Hubert Sauper, Kirsten Johnson, Roberto Minervini, Sally Potter, Sophie Fiennes AND our local hero, amazing Jørgen Leth on the list of people to pitch. To whom? Quote from the site: ”This year we welcome, amongst many others, highly esteemed broadcasters such as ARTE, ZDF, NDR, BBC, DR, film funds from all over Europe, as well as Ford Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, Fondation Cartier, Tate Modern and Sundance Institute.”

And there is a CPH:Lab and a CPH: Academy for young filmmakers and their projects to be developed, and a market for people like me, who want to see films in the videotheque.

You name it - It’s all there!

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A Festival Was Born

Written 01-03-2017 12:50:43 by Tue Steen Müller

… with the Docs & Talks at Cinemateket in Copenhagen. Filmkommentaren has been happy to be a so-called media supporter of a festival with a different profile than the ones we usually know and write about: Films were shown and followed by hour-long thematic talks and discussions about terrorism, Denmark’s wars, international aid programs, migration and apologies for past sins with researchers from DIIS (Danish Institute for International Studies), filmmakers and even military personnel (!) as participants.

The DIIS and Cinemateket were organisers, Danish Film Institute supported, Sara Thelle and Mira Bach Hansen selected, promoted and hosted together with Rasmus Brendstrup from Cinemateket,

There was an average of 95 in the cinema for the 11 screenings, 1055 in total, impressive when you take into consideration that many of the screenings took place weekdays in the afternoon. “Je Suis le Peuple” by Anna Roussillon was one of the best films at the festival, 117 came to watch and listen to researcher Rasmus Boserup talk about Egypt. Therefore a still from that film.

Small is Beautiful, next year with eventual evening screenings… the numbers will double.

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Doc Festivals in March

Written 28-02-2017 15:27:59 by Tue Steen Müller

On the last day of the short February month, let’s take a look at the many festivals coming up in March. And let me apologise in advance for those I have forgotten to mention…

One has already started, the Croatian Zagrebdox, that goes on until April 3rd, set up years ago by producer and director Nenad Puhovski, who has a safe hand when it comes to selection. He simply picks what he thinks is the best and ends up with having praised works in his competitive programs like Piotr Stasik’s ”21 x New York” (photo), Kirsten Johnson’s ”Cameraperson”, Salome Jashi’s ”The Dazzling Light of Sunset”, Maite Alberdi’s ”The Grown-Ups” and Pawel Lozinski’s chamberplay ”You Have No Idea of How Much I love You”. All in International Competition, whereas the

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Sergey Loznitsa: Austerlitz/ 3

Written 24-02-2017 15:59:30 by Tue Steen Müller

Loznitsa was in Belgrade at the beginning of this month, did a masterclass – I was there to pick up some of his interesting bon mots on his way of making films – my text turned out to be – also - a kind of review of this great work:

He was adressing the audience in the Sava Center and said that this amount of people at one screening is the same as we have had in one month in theatres in Germany! Where the film was released mid December. The reviews have been great in Germany but it seems to be difficult to attract the audience for a film like ”Austerlitz” directed by Ukrainian Sergei Loznitsa. I can only say that the Belgrade audience deserves a big Bravo to come and appreciate a film like this that is challenging. Well I know that many found it long and boring, but also that many left the cinema having experienced a piece of cinematic art.

There was a full house for the Q&A in the VIP room afterwards for a one hour session, where the director explained how he came to have an interest in holocaust tourism and how he made it into a film. Equally interesting was a friday morning where he was with young and younger filmmakers for a couple of hours showing examples from previous films.

As one of the trio of selectors (Svetlana and Zoran Popovic being the other two) I have been happy to present ”Austerlitz” at the Magnificent7 festival. With me it is a film that almost works physically. Loznitsa´s construction of the sound score is a superb

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Sergey Loznitsa: Austerlitz/ 2

Written 24-02-2017 15:30:05 by Tue Steen Müller

This is a text written by festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic about Loznitsa’s film that was recently screened at the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade and will be shown at Cinemateket Sunday February 26:

Premiered at the Venice Film Festival, "AUSTERLITZ" is another distinct documentary made by Sergei Loznitsa, who is currently one of the most significant European authors. Made in the form of classical black-and-white film, without many words, without any comment or explanation, with distinctive style in which his previous documentaries were made, this film is a complex and surprising anthropological study of collective behavior and consciousness. With the precise distance, which he determines and then never passes, Loznitsa reveals a phenomenon that intrigues us and provokes, equally as much it confuses us. This is a film in which the author, with the means of exquisite photography, camera, editing and directing, creates an exciting essay filled with tension, which turns the viewer into the silent interested witness and questioning participant.

There are places in Europe that keep the painful memories of the past - factories where people were turned into ashes. These places are now memorial complexes open to visitors and receive thousands of tourists every year. The name of the film is taken from the novel of one of the most important contemporary writers from the end of XX and the beginning of the XXI century, W.G. Sebald, which is dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust.

Loznitsa wrote: "What am I doing here? What are all these people doing here, moving in groups from one object to another? The reason that brings thousands of people to spend their summer weekends in former concentration camps is one of the mysteries of these memorial complexes.” The film is an attempt to deliberate these mysteries.

Germany, 2016, 94 mins.

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Docs & Talks /10

Written 23-02-2017 19:59:05 by Tue Steen Müller


The Docs & Talks festival in Copenhagen screens this excellent film saturday night at 17.45, followed by a debate, at the Film House, Cinemateket. Two years ago I made this review of the film:

I have been there before. Danish director Janus Metz went to the Helmand Province in Afghanistan to make ”Armadillo” about ”our” soldiers on mission. After more than a decade in the country, the NATO troops have withdrawn leaving the job to fight the enemy, the Taliban, to ANA, the Afghan National Army.

The mood of the Afghan soldiers is quite different than the one of the Danish soldiers, who (until they end up in a real battle) saw the trip, one of them puts it like that, as like going to play a real football match after long training and preparation. Quite different, a true understatement, because what you get in the impressive film by Saeed Taji Farouky and Michael McEvoy, shot over a period of one year, is an insight to a situation that seems to be without any hope and perspective: an army with soldiers, who have no respect for the politicians or for what the NATO troops achieved, an atmosphere of depression, they have not been paid for months, they see the local population as stuck between taliban and the government’s army. No actual way out.

The filmmakers have wisely chosen to have a focus on two – the

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Simon Kilmurry on Documentaries

Written 18-02-2017 19:18:28 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s great to have people like Simon Kilmurry from the IDA to remind us of the importance of the documentary genre. He does so in a guest column entitled ”Why Documentaries matter more than Ever” in Hollywood Reporter, in an issue that came out a couple of days ago. Here are two quotes, and a link to the whole article:

… Documentary film is a form that allows us to walk in another’s shoes, to build a sense of shared humanity, that gives voice to the marginalized and the scorned, that strives to hold those in power to account. In these challenging times, when journalism is held in such contempt that Steve Bannon can freely tell the media to “keep its mouth shut,” it is all the more important to support the ever-risky endeavor that documentary filmmaking is becoming…

… If cinema is our most powerful art form, I would argue that documentary is both its beating heart and its conscience. It holds a mirror to our society and it holds our conscience to account. It is more important than ever that we come together to speak up for and support those filmmakers — here and around the world — who bring us these essential stories…

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Cosima Spender: Palio

Written 18-02-2017 10:33:26 by Allan Berg Nielsen

På tirsdag sender DR2 DOKUMANIA Spenders film fra 2015. har tidligere bragt en anmeldelse fra visningen på festivalen CPH:DOX i København af Sara Thelle og en præsentation af filmen fra festivalen Magnificent7 i Beograd af Sveana and Zoran Popovic. Så vi har været optaget af den film, og i anledning af Dokumanias visning tager vi dem frem igen og anbefaler filmen meget:

SARA THELLE (12-11-2015)

Don’t miss out on the last screening of Cosima Spender’s Palio at CPH:DOX on Sunday November 15th. It is a feast for the eyes!

Il Palio is the world’s oldest horserace. It takes place at the famous Piazza del Campo in the heart of Sienna twice a year opposing the 17 rivalling districts of Sienna. However, the race is only a small part of the game. Behind it lays months of negotiations, strategy, bribery and treachery and days of ceremonies, rituals and parades. It’s about power and money, a form of legalised corruption and a game whose complexity of open and hidden rules have been forged over centuries. Described as absurd and dysfunctional by locals who yet participate in it with passion.

Anglo-Italian director Spender (who grew up close to Siena) focuses on the perspective of the jockeys. Not bound to a certain district or horse, they are the front pieces in the game. They are the gladiators and the Piazza the Coliseum. As much as the horses are adored, the jockeys are viewed upon with mistrust. Seen as mercenaries, traitors or even prostitutes, the celebration of the winner is only temporarily, the looser risks to get beaten up. It’s brutal; the only race in the world where the horse can win without the rider.

Two rivals: the old master Gigi who is about to break the record of most won races and the upcoming young outsider Giovanni. Two schools of thought: “either you go for strategies… or you go for the good horse”. They race with their lives at stake, riding bareback in medieval costumes and sneakers! And you just hold your breath… The race only lasts for about 90 seconds, but it seems like forever.

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Docs & Talks

Written 15-02-2017 10:19:39 by Tue Steen Müller

Bravo! It’s quite a festival that the Danish Cinemateket and the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) presents next week in the Film House in Copenhagen. And yet it is not “only” a festival with high quality documentaries from all over, it is ALSO a so-called event, where screenings of the films are followed by Talks. Connected to international themes of today, inviting us viewers to go deeper via films and discussions than we are used to through the daily news. It is such a good title: Docs & Talks. Sara Thelle - who writes for filmkommentaren, is one of the organisers – sent us this English text:  

“What does the story of war look like when it is turned inside out in front of a therapist? Who are the Afghan soldiers battling the Taliban in the Helmand province after NATO and the Danish troops have left? Where do we draw the line between flight and human trafficking? Can international relief work make people poorer? And what is the role of cinema in war-torn Syria?

These are some of the questions posed, when the Danish Institute

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Magnificent7 2017 13th Edition

Written 09-02-2017 14:44:53 by Tue Steen Müller

The 13th and last post from the 13th edition of the Magnificent7 Festival in Belgrade. The photos shown are from the closing night, where ”In Loco Parentis” by Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane was shown to an audience of the size you can see from the photos. Before the screening the two directors behind the Irish film received an award from the local Bel Medic ”for creative emphasis of humanistic values”, a diploma accompanied by an envelope.

The photos… from the stage I asked the photographers to turn around and catch the most magnificent audience I know of, applauding the festival, the filmmakers, the staff of the Sava Center, the team behind the festival and the festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, who were on stage. Standing ovation from more than 2000 spectators, who came to watch – an estimate of the attendance during the whole week is that 7500-8000 went to watch the Magnificent7 program of 7 films. One film per day, Q&A’s for around 50 people in a packed vip room and the day after meeting of directors with around 25 young filmmakers in two hour sessions. This year the festival welcomed directors from 6 out of the 7 films: Sergei Loznitsa, Jérome le Maire, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Miroslav Janek, Audrius Stonys, Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane. Only Cosima Lange from the opening film ”Hello, I’m David” (Helfgott) could not come as she was not allowed to travel because of her pregnancy.

From an ”internal” perspective the hospitality was again second to none. Wonderful hotel, the Crowne Plaza, from where you can access the Sava Center cinema – and – as some Serbian filmmakers suggested as a logline for the festival guests: 7 films, 14 restaurants! With a reference to the fact that the festival team finds lunch and dinner restaurants for the 7 days.

Including me and my wife for the 13th time. HVALA! 

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Audrius Stonys Masterclass at M7

Written 08-02-2017 14:57:49 by Tue Steen Müller

”This is a sacred place, like a church and suddenly we hear this crazy sound. This man takes tourists to this place. He is the sign of civilisation. A sign of a new time. The reality is that these guys are coming. Something precious will disappear…”

Lithuanian Audrius Stonys is a mild man but when he talks about the end of his film his voice is full of sadness and anger. As we experienced at the masterclass with him at the VIP room at the Sava Centre. A class that turned out to be dealing with what it means to be filming at the heights of Tian Shan mountain on the border between Kazakhstan and China, where his ”Woman and the Glacier” is shot and to where his main character, Lithuanian glaciologist Ausra Revutaite, came 30 years ago.

He made four expeditions to the mountains. “It took two

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Ní Chianáin and Rane: In Loco Parentis

Written 07-02-2017 12:35:22 by Tue Steen Müller

"IN LOCO PARENTIS" is the first Irish documentary that premiered with great success in the main program of the world's largest documentary film festival in Amsterdam, after which it was selected for the main program of the Sundance Film Festival. Neasa Ní Chianáin is one of Ireland's most celebrated documentary filmmakers, and her previous documentaries have had considerable international success. David Rane is an experienced producer and director, who received one of the most important European awards, the BAFTA Award. This author and life couple has spent a full year in the school, preparing a project that took a lot of production and creative efforts to achieve its top quality.

This observational documentary follows a year in the lives of two inspiring teachers in the only elementary school with boarding facilities in Ireland. Headfort School, the school not much different in appearance from the legendary Hogwarts from Harry Potter, with its buildings from the XVIII century, with secret doors and magical forests, is the home of John and Amanda Leyden for 46 years and the background of their exceptional careers. For John, rock music is another subject to Math, English, Latin and religious education. He cherishes a special kind of youthful revolution by teaching responsibility and independence in equal respect, wrapped in heavy metal or pop, encouraging the children to play whatever they want in the school basement rock club. For Amanda, the key liaison with children is a book and she uses all ways to catch young minds. The children sit as transfixed when she leads them on magical journeys with fantastic heroes of different stories.

Besides directing, Neasa Ní Chianáin was an inspired and omnipresent cinematographer in this film, and David Rane had a difficult task to record sound discreetly following Neasa, besides his production work and directing. "We wanted to film a year in the life of the school, just to keep track and observe, no interviews, no divine voice that leads the audience... We knew that for us it means full immersion in order to gain access to the intimacy that we wanted to capture."

Ireland, Spain, 2016, 99 mins.

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Miroslav Janek Masterclass at M7

Written 07-02-2017 12:15:47 by Tue Steen Müller

No doubt, the biggest applause of the festival went for Miroslav Janek on the fifth day of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade. His film ”Normal Autistic Film”, made with a warm heart by the Czech veteran, cameraman and director, and for many years also editor, a job he now leaves to his wife Tonicka, demonstrates how strong relations he is able to build with children. Before with ”Unseen” (1996) and ”Kha-chee-pae” (2005) and now with this work on five clever and creative children with aspergers syndrom.

I believe that the biggest part of documentary filmmaking is NOT shooting, Janek said in the masterclass the day after the screening of the film. He referred to how he dealt with the kids. ”I went to visit them and maybe I shot one hour with them during a day. The rest

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Jérôme le Maire Masterclass at M7

Written 07-02-2017 10:51:59 by Tue Steen Müller

Documentary is the art of meetings. This was the starting point of Belgian Jérôme le Maire, when he talked to young and younger filmmakers at the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade. The title of the very well prepared class could also have been ”the story of my film”. It all started with a book about the phenomenon ”burned out”. le Maire met with the author and with a psychoanalyst and a psychologist – and started a research. I became friend with the author, Pascal Chabot, and he let me meet a girl who had had the experience, as well as a ”professor in burn-out”, to whom I showed my previous film, ”Tea or Electricity”. I explained that I wanted to make the film in direct cinema style. He liked the film and the idea.

The third meeting was with Esmeralda together with the psychoanalyst and the psychologist. She worked in a consulting company and sat in an open space office – I met people there but would it be interesting to film people in front of computers? No…

The breakthrough came, when the writer Pascal was invited to the hospital to talk to members of the staff. He was invited by Marie-Christine, who was to be the main character of ”Burning Out”. This

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Audrius Stonys: Woman and the Glacier

Written 06-02-2017 17:08:01 by Tue Steen Müller

The master of refined style, Audrius Stonys, decided to take us on an unusual pilgrimage to the inaccessible heights of Tian Shan mountain on the border between Kazakhstan and China. In the areas of this Mountain of Heaven, which looks like an unknown and inhospitable planet, he devotes all his attention and creativity to an amazing person who has spent thirty years observing and monitoring the state of the giant glacier, so important for the science, but also for the whole planet. Through an unusual intimate portrait of a mountain captive in constant motion, Audrius Stonys masterfully poetizes relations of the heroine and the environment, nature, sky, beings with whom she shares the loneliness, the rigors of the climate and the beauty that surrounds them.

To his story in present time, meticulously woven without words, Stonys adds another important layer, a layer of long time flows. This film plunges deep into time, and in the compounds of past and present builds a brand new, poetic and timeless relations. Audrius Stonys is one of the most important European authors because of this complex weave of time in his films and amazing ability to capture and express the feeling that through spaces, people, events and phenomena converge and break all previous deep and very distant reflections of time.

The author was drawn to the fact that the woman glaciologist is his compatriot: "It is very unusual for a woman from Lithuania to explore ice on the remote Tian Shan, at the end of the world, without any connection with the rest of the world. Scientist Aushra, living high in the mountains, in a wooden house near the huge glacier, did measurements for many years, every morning and evening, summer and winter, and sent them to the control center in Almaty. She gave her whole life observing glaciers in Kazakhstan."

Lithuania, Estonia, 2016, 56 mins.

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Miroslav Janek: Normal Autistic Film

Written 05-02-2017 12:30:49 by Tue Steen Müller

Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, festival directors of Magnificent7 in Belgrade, writes this presentation of Miroslav Janek's awarded film that will be shown at the Sava Center tonight:

This dynamic and playful documentary is the work of one of the most important European authors when it comes to children, especially children who don’t blend in and who are different from the majority. Miroslav Janek has gained worldwide fame for his collage films, made with a free camera, with a mixture of styles and with encouraging the participants to interactively influence the course, look and style of the film. The author discreetly and gradually involves every protagonist to think in front of the camera about the scene, the theme and the film that is being born, and from these instructions, ideas and riots creates stylistically different courses, precisely customized for every hero, it seems. The stories are about them, they are both their stories and Janek’s stories, and all together, with great editing intermingling, that becomes a disheveled explosive film which ranges from a whisper to a roar, from gentle intimate situations to noisy, rhythmic episodes and entertaining short films within the film.

Direct and sensitive, Luka has a distinct sense of humor; he loves films and writes scripts. Piano virtuoso Denis is capable of playing complex classical compositions; he is incredibly intelligent and well read. Majda loves to rap and she is not shy about it; her brave verses reveal her environment with disarming accuracy. Marjamka can tell long stories in English, and her tireless brother Ahmed is unusually friendly. Five exceptional children that society has permanently and not at all flattering termed as "autistic". With his unique vision the famous Czech documentarist challenges us to once and for all stop to look at autism as a medical diagnosis and to try to understand it as a fascinating way of thinking which is sometimes extremely difficult to decipher. For who is the one who determines what is normal - to live in a constant rush, ignoring the absurdity of modern life or sadly looking for order, peace and tranquility in the world?

Miroslav Janek is an author who emphasizes the importance of a long process in which his brilliant dialogue and interactive documentaries were created: "They got used to me and unconsciously they were offering to me a lot of interesting situations... I focused on the magic and on mysterious way the autistic persons are thinking."

Czech Republic, 2016, 90 minutes.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Obaidah Zytoon og Andreas Dalsgaard: The War Show

Written 05-02-2017 09:50:19 by Allan Berg Nielsen

This year’s Dragon Award, Göteborg Film Festival, for best documentary went to Obaidah Zytoon and Andreas Dalsgaard for The War Show. The prize is worth SEK 100,000 and is presented by the Swedish Union of Tenants (Hyresgästföreningen).

In The War Show the radio journalist Obaidah Zytoon personally and engagingly relates how the Arab Spring and the war in Syria have affected her and her friends.

The jury’s motivation: The award goes to a monumental and uncompromising film that combines extremely strong mate-rial with a unique and persistent voice of a generation. This overwhelming audiovisual experience holds us in a tight emotional grip as we live through the lives of an extraordinary woman and her friends, experience their lust for life, love and freedom, pitched against a devastating war. This film is a punch in the face to all of us. A reminder of our co-existence.

This year’s jury consisted of Iris Olsson, artistic director at DocPoint, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, director and Fredrik Egerstrand, director. (festival site) (review)

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Nikolaus Geyrhalter: Homo Sapiens

Written 04-02-2017 11:52:38 by Tue Steen Müller

"HOMO SAPIENS" is disturbing and fascinating fresco of the planet, an authentic futuristic vision of one of the great masters. Nikolaus Geyrhalter is one of the pioneers of modern documentary, who introduced documentaries into the sphere of post-apocalyptic visions with his early masterfully work "Pripyat", and created one of the most impressive views of the world as a whole in his richly developed film "Elsewhere". "HOMO SAPIENS" combines these essential topics and with the approach of a mature master introduces us to a purified essay of a superb style. Fully visual, without a word, with almost composed sound interventions, "HOMO SAPIENS" reveals on the big screen highly aestheticized scenes, which deeply engrave in the minds of viewers.

"HOMO SAPIENS" is a film about the fragility of human existence and the end of the industrial age, and about what it means to be a human being. What will be the traces of the species we call Homo sapiens, and to which we belong? Empty spaces, ruins, cities increasingly overgrown with vegetation, dilapidated asphalt: spaces that we currently inhabit, when people are not in them anymore. Now abandoned and in decay, gradually taken by nature, from which they were taken not long ago. "HOMO SAPIENS" is an ode to humanity seen through a possible scenario for the future.

About this great work Geyrhalter says: "This is not the first film in which I construct the narrative only through images. This is only the first in which there are no people. "HOMO SAPIENS" is perhaps the most photographic of all my films... For me it is a vision much closer to fiction."

Austria, 2016, 94 mins.

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Sergei Loznitsa at M7

Written 04-02-2017 11:32:13 by Tue Steen Müller

He was adressing the audience in the Sava Center and said that this amount of people at one screening is the same as we have had in one month in theatres in Germany! Where the film was released mid December. The reviews have been great in Germany but it seems to be difficult to attract the audience for a film like ”Austerlitz” directed by Ukrainian Sergei Loznitsa. I can only say that the Belgrade audience deserves a big Bravo to come and appreciate a film like this that is challenging. Well I know that many found it long and boring, but also that many left the cinema having experienced a piece of cinematic art.

There was a full house for the Q&A in the VIP room afterwards for a one hour session, where the director explained how he came to have an interest in holocaust tourism and how he made it into a film. Equally interesting was a friday morning where he was with young and younger filmmakers for a couple of hours showing examples from previous films.

As one of the trio of selectors (Svetlana and Zoran Popovic being the other two) I have been happy to present ”Austerlitz” at the Magnificent7 festival. With me it is a film that almost works physically. Loznitsa´s construction of the sound score is a superb

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Jérôme le Maire: Burning Out

Written 03-02-2017 16:29:48 by Tue Steen Müller

The film tonight at the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade deals with a topic that touches all of us, who one way or the other have tried to be exhausted to a degree that you can call it a ”burn-out” Svetlana and Zoran Popovic have written this text about the film, taken from the festival’s catalogue/website:

Great documentary undertaking! Jérôme le Maire is an author who enters with camera the places that are completely inaccessible and forbidden, and he records there the traditional battles, but also discovers for us completely modern, unexpected and astonishing ones. With discreet presence and careful observation the author develops a fascinating study of the contemporary world in which disappear havens for the weak and sick, in which disappear empathy, caring and the power of healing.

"BURNING OUT" is literally a drama of life and death. For two years, the Belgian director Jérôme le Maire followed the members of a surgical unit in one of the biggest hospitals in Paris. Constantly exposed to severe stress, with a lack of staff and with strict budget cuts, employees are fighting among themselves for resources, while the management imposes increasingly stringent criteria of efficiency and profitability. All over Europe ‘burnout’ has reached epidemic proportions among employees in the public and private sectors. Will we end up killing ourselves? Or will we be able to find meaning and joy in the work?

"Our modern world has turned the hospitals into health factories and patients into objects", testifies Jérôme le Maire. "Efficiency, productivity, performance – this has become a mantra for managers. We knew for decades what happens if we expose the animals to stress: they will eventually eat each other. But what happens when you expose people to great stress?"

Belgium, France, Switzerland, 2016, 85 minutes

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sergei Loznitsa: Austerlitz

Written 02-02-2017 09:33:18 by Tue Steen Müller

This is the text written by Svetlana and Zoran Popovic about Loznitsa’s film that will be screened at the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade tonight:

Premiered at the Venice Film Festival, "AUSTERLITZ" is another distinct documentary made by Sergei Loznitsa, who is currently one of the most significant European authors. Made in the form of classical black-and-white film, without many words, without any comment or explanation, with distinctive style in which his previous documentaries were made, this film is a complex and surprising anthropological study of collective behavior and consciousness. With the precise distance, which he determines and then never passes, Loznitsa reveals a phenomenon that intrigues us and provokes, equally as much it confuses us. This is a film in which the author, with the means of exquisite photography, camera, editing and directing, creates an exciting essay filled with tension, which turns the viewer into the silent interested witness and questioning participant.

There are places in Europe that keep the painful memories of the past - factories where people were turned into ashes. These places are now memorial complexes open to visitors and receive thousands of tourists every year. The name of the film is taken from the novel of one of the most important contemporary writers from the end of XX and the beginning of the XXI century, W.G. Sebald, which is dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust.

Loznitsa wrote: "What am I doing here? What are all these people doing here, moving in groups from one object to another? The reason that brings thousands of people to spend their summer weekends in former concentration camps is one of the mysteries of these memorial complexes.” The film is an attempt to deliberate these mysteries.

Germany, 2016, 94 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cosima Lange: ”Hello I am David”

Written 01-02-2017 12:01:09 by Tue Steen Müller

This is the website and catalogue text written by Magnificent7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic on the opening film of the 2017 festival:

The brilliant success of the film "Shine," winning an Oscar and masterfully acting performance of Geoffrey Rush, have brought the story of a remarkable life path of the pianist David Helfgott closer to the wide audience, and the real hero of the film has gained worldwide fame as a unique artistic personality.

"HELLO I AM DAVID!" is the first documentary about this extraordinary pianist, a child prodigy whose career seemed finished after the dramatic nervous breakdown. And then, through the healing power of music and a great love for his wife Gillian, David Helfgott has found a way to return to normal life and to the concert stage. This masterfully made film, with superb cinematography, sound and editing, assures us in the irresistibly infectious passion and impulsiveness of David Helfgott. As a pianist, he plays only what he feels, and as a person he speaks without reservation what he thinks and touches people in the literal sense of the word.

Purified and straightforward, both in scenes of playing and in situations where the character is manifested, courageous to let life and the hero to directly create the most exciting, most funny and most unexpected scenes - this touching, inspirational film gives us a penetrating insight into the personality and musical life of David Helfgott. Finally, "HELLO I AM DAVID!" is a film about love: love of life, love of music - and deeply pervasive love between two people who are equally enchanting as they are different.

Germany 2015, 90 minutes

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Belgrade City of Culture

Written 01-02-2017 11:37:32 by Tue Steen Müller

Last night full house at the Sava Centre. Valery Gergiev, the man at the top of the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Opera, and chief conductor in Munich, and previuosly at the London Symphony Orchestra, was there with his Mariinsky orchestra. I attended the concert after the break happy to enjoy Mahler’s 5th symphony – and I closed my eyes when it came to Part 3 and the music that Luchino Visconti used in his masterpiece ”Death in Venice” with Dirk Bogarde.

I missed the first part as I was taken to state television for an interview about the festival – 4 minutes at a quarter past midnight… well festival director Zoran Popovic said that this program is being watched by ”our” audience, with a laugh: People who read books and suffer from insomnia…

We have been in Belgrade since saturday and have been treated, as always, with warm hospitality, Nevena Djonlic being one of the key performers in that respect. I was with her for another television interview at the cable and internet station Kopernikus (Photo), we got more than 4 minutes, quite relaxed… Oh, they are flooded with tv stations in this city.

Monday night we were at the cinema Art Bioskop Kolarac, where Nevena is the programmer. That night the cinema was hosting what is called a Meta-festival with – as guest - 88 year old professor and filmmaker Vlada Petric, who for decades was at Harvard University, the one who founded the film archive of the famous university. We could not understand the seasoned man’s Serbian lecture but watched his elegant 10 mins. short ”Symphony of Hands” that includes close-ups of hands from paintings and photographs accompanied by Purcell and Charles Mingus, among others. He also showed a film essay with his reflections on the NATO bombing in 1999 based exclusively on television material. Hard to watch, reminded me of films by Cuban Santiago Alvarez or East German Heynowski and Scheumann. That kind of tough satirical/sarcastic style.  

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokumania Back on Danish Television

Written 31-01-2017 16:17:18 by Tue Steen Müller

A warm welcome back to the strand Dokumania on DR2 prime time every tuesday. We were a bit worried that it had disappeared after ”the mother” of it all, Mette Hoffmann, had left DR. It did not.

So here we go again with a strong start, the American doc hit ”The Wolfpack” that was on my Best of 2015 List and about which I wrote after DOKLeipzig 2015:

””The Wolfpack” is an amazing story about six brothers being raised in an apartment on Manhattan with their mother teaching them, and their father securing that they do not leave home, where they stay and as said in the catalogue ”liberate themselves through the power of cinema”: they watch and they make their own movies. Until one day, where one of them gets out…”.

The Danes can watch it February 7th.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

One World 2017: The Art of Collaboration

Written 30-01-2017 13:02:07 by Tue Steen Müller

Of course documentary festivals react to what happens in the world right now. The Prague-based human rights documentary film festival One World does, as says a press release that came in this morning. An edited version comes here:

Theresa May's announcement of a "hard Brexit", Trump's victory in the presidential election and the strengthening of the radical right, the reluctance of European countries to work together in dealing with migration. It seems as if our society is losing a much-needed ability to collaborate.

That's why the 19th One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival wants to remind us of the value of collaborative effort and sharing. At a time of populist rhetoric, negative discussions on social networks and a flood of "fake news", collaboration is a positive way to respond to a divided society facing a crisis of values.

"Collaboration is mainly communication and sharing," said Hana

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Awards at Sundance Festival 2017

Written 29-01-2017 10:15:20 by Tue Steen Müller


The Sundance festival handed out many awards yesterday at the closing ceremony. I picked out two from the World Cinema Documentary section. I have seen and praised one of them, the other I am looking forward to see.

First ”Machines” by Rahul Jain that was awarded for its cinematography by Rodrigo Trejo Vilanueva. In the review on this site, I wrote: … You go with the cameraperson, who goes with the workers, there is a constant movement and an eye for the detail and for faces and for giving information about what is being produced. Yes, here is one more film that gives us evidence that you can tell in images, if you know the possibilities of the cinematic language. I was thinking of late master Glawogger and his masterpieces ”Megacities” and ”Workingman’s Death”. This debut film (!) has the same visual qualities…

And the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in Documentary went to
“Last Men in Aleppo”, directed by Feras Fayyad and Steen Johannesen, produced by Danish company Larm Film in collaboration with AMC, Aleppo Media Center.

The film premiered at Sundance, hope to see it soon. The photo I took from the FB page of good friend Talal Terkl, whose ”Return to Homs” has been reviewed and written about again and again in this site. Talal writes to the happy photo;

Great decision from the Jury of world cinema documentary competition. Last Men in Aleppo wins the grand jury prize at Sundance film festival. So proud of you Firas Fayyad, Steen Johannessen, what a big film...

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Neil Young Picks his Favourites

Written 28-01-2017 21:06:32 by Tue Steen Müller

… at the Finnish DocPoint Festival and it is not that Neil Young but the film critic with the same name, whose competent reviews in Hollywood Reporter and Sight & Sound I have followed with pleasure after I met Young at a couple of American Documentary Film Festival editions in Palm Springs. Here is what I read tonight from the DocPoint in Helsinki:

The film critic Neil Young has picked his favourites from our Finnish Premieres programme series. The critic's choices are Purity and Danger (dir. Elina Talvensaari) (50 mins.) (PHOTO). Here is the DocPoint catalogue description:

Many people have an opinion about prostitution, even though few people have actual experience in the field or know anyone in the business. In Elina Talvensaaris documentary, Purity and Danger,

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Oscar Documentary Nominations

Written 27-01-2017 18:57:24 by Tue Steen Müller

The documentary short list of 15 became 5 – to compete for the feature documentary Oscars. How many have you seen? Many FB’s have posted that question during the last few days after the final nomination had been announced. All 5 is my answer, so here come my comments to the 2017 Oscar selection. Let me again add that these are films members of the Academy Award of Motion Pictures have chosen. I have no idea of how many have been involved in the decision process – and let me also add again that Oscar is American and has always been_ One out of 5 film is from outside USA.

That one is Gianfranco Rosi’s ”Fire at Sea”, which is a good film but not extraordinary compared to many other films on the refugee topic. ”13th” by Ava DuVernay, mentioned by many as an outsider who could win is content-wise a strong Netflix title that deals with racism in the US historically - and pc - telling its story in an editing that is done according to words (interview-based) and not to image. A tv program. Then there is much more film and cinematic feeling in Raoul Peck’s strong I am not Your Negro that I have reviewed on this site. The same goes for the film that everyone thinks will win, OJ: Made in America (photo) by Ezra Edelman, reviewed by Allan Berg, when it was broadcasted on Danish television. Finally ”Life. Animated” by Roger Rose Williams is a well crafted sweet and charming documentary that impresses you because of the main character, who is autistic but in many ways overcomes his handicap. A crowd-pleaser.

Missing a film? Indeed: Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson that was on the list of 15 but did not make it to the list of 5. Even if it is special compared to the topics in the films mentioned (racism, refugees, autism), there are so many human and ethical questions raised in her film about making films and deal with conflicts– in a way that should touch all of us because she talks with passion and compassion.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Vitaly Mansky Cinema Warrior

Written 27-01-2017 17:06:12 by Tue Steen Müller

The Trieste Film Festival that goes on until January 29th, and in its documentary section – and the industry part (pitching etc.) – had a special focus on the Baltic countries, with films by Audrius Stonys (Woman and the Glacier) and Ugis Olte and Morten Traavik (Liberation Day) among others… ALSO included a tribute to Vitaly Mansky with the screening of several of his films, including his personal work ”Rodnye” (Close Relations) that is an interesting film of a man – the director – who actually travels in Russia and Ukraine to find his roots and identity! (Photo, the director…)

Mansky was in Trieste for the retrospective tribute and to receive the festival’s

“The Cinema Warrior – Cultural Resistance Award”, which is “dedicated to the perseverance, sacrifice and madness of those ‘warriors’ who work- or rather ‘battle’ for cinema behind the scenes, this year (is awarded) to the Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky. Mansky’s, (whose) work has played a leading role in the Festival, which also paid homage to the filmmaker by taking a look back on his career. The accolade looks to recognise “not only the consistency in his uncompromising choice of creating cinema that always resists political pressure, but his commitment to supporting the documentary genre through his Artdocfest, a cultural project that, appearing first in Moscow, then in Riga and in other former Soviet Union cities, has always defended the idea of independent cinema, even that which is not officially sanctioned.”

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Hanka Kastelicová Honoured at FIPA

Written 27-01-2017 11:28:48 by Tue Steen Müller

She has been around, actually everywhere is my impression, at least in the Eastern European circles that I also visit to watch original, well told stories. Hanka Kastelicová, executive producer of documentaries at HBO Europe, has indeed done a lot of good for films from that region in the 5 years she has worked for HBO. I have met her as a panelist and as a tutor, in both capacities she has shown respect for the filmmakers as well commitment and energy to help good films to be made.

It is therefore very well deserved that FIPA (Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels) has honoured her by giving her the

”EuroFipa d’Honneur”

… that according to the FIPA website is given ”to an individual from the European audiovisual sphere, in recognition of the exemplarity of their work, artistic development or creative approach.”

Notice that FIPA talks about ”audiovisual programmes”, it is an event that has always had the focus on television, so as the French say ”chapeau” for this decision to give an award to a Film person!

A link below includes an interview with Kastelicová made by EDN.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Doc Festival Belgrade 2017

Written 26-01-2017 11:25:53 by Tue Steen Müller

The website of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade is up and running. The festival starts February 1st - I am happy to be part of the selection team with Svetlana and Zoran Popovic again, for the 13th time and you will have many reports from Belgrade in the coming two weeks. Here are some words that I wrote for the website/catalogue:

Welcome! Again – for the 13th time – I am looking forward to sit with the best audience in Europe in the huge hall of the Sava Center. A Cinema with a big screen and a good sound that give us spectators a unique Cinema experience.

Because this is what you, dear audience, expect from the Magnificent7 – excellent films, Cinema quality.

I am now using the term Cinema for the fourth time to remind you that documentary is Cinema. All right, let’s narrow it a bit: the films we show at Magnificent7 are documentary films that deserve to be shown on a big screen with the mentioned high quality image and great sound. Contrary to the many tv programs called documentaries, which are mostly based on putting together according to words.

Magnificent7 is the home for the documentary art form. Made by filmmakers who think in images and sound – and have something

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Release Oleg Sentsov

Written 21-01-2017 11:33:52 by Tue Steen Müller

… was the working title of the film project by Askold Kurov pitched on several occasions, and the words being expressed on several occasions at film festivals and elsewhere. The Ukrainian filmmaker and writer was arrested by the Russians in March 2014 in Crimea and sentenced to 20 years in jail on suspicion of “plotting terrorist acts”.

Askold Kurov has now finished his film about his friend. It will be shown at the Berlinale. The final title is “The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov”. The film is supported by these three countries: Estonia / Poland / Czech Republic.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona Reaches 100.000 Viewers

Written 19-01-2017 14:30:57 by Tue Steen Müller

… in 2016, a big step from the 78.204 in 2015, to be totally precise: 102.769. Joan Gonzàlez, the man on the top of what he calls ”the project” DocsBarcelona, is a proud man, when he gives me the numbers for the many activities that have one goal: to create and feed an audience with good films.

The Documentary of the Month, that includes 87 screening venues, had 47.776 viewers, the DocsBarcelona festivals in Barcelona, Medellin (Colombia) and Valparaiso (Chile) did 12.391, whereas online viewing via the platform FILMIN came to 33.618 and sales of DVD’s in many different places like FNAC and El Corte Inglés gave the number 8.894.

DocsBarcelona has been in existence for 20 years building up the mentioned elements to reach the audience (with the words of Gonzàlez) step by step to reach what is quite an achievement. If you want to know more, check out

Poster from the January Documentary of the Month, Kandahar Journals.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Uldis Brauns 1932-2017 /2

Written 18-01-2017 09:10:27 by Tue Steen Müller

The other Uldis – Cekulis – one of the producers of the film being made right now, ”Baltic New Wave”, wrote to me yesterday: Tomorrow we go with Kristine (Briede) to Saldus church, it is the biggest town on the way to Uldis (Brauns) home from Riga. There the funeral will take place. Ivars Seleckis and other old friends are coming too.

 But you should know this, since last Friday mid day, when Uldis passed away all trees in my country are like this (attached picture from our studio window 5 min ago). You remember, it’s like Uldis hair, it’s Uldis around us these days…

… and from me the second photo, taken by Uldis Cekulis as well, in the garden of Brauns, in September 2014, a hug and thank you.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Poetic Documentary

Written 17-01-2017 16:06:33 by Tue Steen Müller

I think we said ”poetic documentary” more than a hundred times in Aarhus during the weekend, where the mini-festival Baltic Frames took place. The theme for the festival chosen by the curators Signe Van Zundert and Niels Bjørn Wied, also included the word: Capturing the Poetic Everyday. But what is ”poetic”? I went to one of many online dictionaries, where ”Poetry” was defined like this: ”the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts”. If you take away the reference to literature, where most of the words come from when we talk about films… then maybe we get closer. But as one of the participants at the seminar sunday asked: Is a poetic documentary merely one that shows beautiful landscapes… No, was the answer from Audrius Stonys, who is – together with Kristine Briede – the director of the film under production, working title ”Baltic New Wave”, a poetic documentary, he said, can deal with any topic, it’s about the aesthetic choice and the personal angle. But, said I, if there is a poetic documentary, there must also be a prosaic documentary… Yes, said Stonys with a smile, Michael Moore does not make poetic documentaries!

Equally with a smile, Ukrainian director Roman Bondarchuk, who showed his ”Ukrainian Sheriffs” at the festival and a clip from his wonderful ”Dixie Land”, asked if Stonys found his films were ”poetic”. The answer came immediately, ”of course they are”. To go back to the definition above, ”the exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative and/or elevated thoughts”, is created through (also)

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Documentary of the Month: Weiner

Written 16-01-2017 17:00:44 by Tue Steen Müller

… at the Danish Cinemateket Copenhagen January 26 – February 1.

American ”Weiner” by Josh Kriegmann and ElyseSteinberg is a well made observational documentary about the rise and fall of Anthony Weiner, the congressman whose campaign to become mayor of New York the filmmakers follow. It is one of these full-access films you seldom see made today, where politicians are protected by campaign staff and spindoctors. But Weiner has invited them to get close to follow his dramatic fall from the top, when his ”sexting” addiction is revealed again and again. Jewish Weiner’s Arabic wife Huma (Abedin) is constantly in the picture, it is quite emotional to follow her reactions to the husband’s ”mistakes”. He is trying hard to have her stand beside him, she lives up to that, at the end she stays at home when he is going to vote. You see him transporting his son in a stroller to the voting place… ”a father and his son”, this is America as is the description of the media, who do not want to hear Weiner talk politics. They even try to set up a confrontation between him and one of the women, with whom he – according to her – had phone sex with, up to five times per day… Observational, yes, but Weiner is interviewed after the fall from the sky, and he is actually sympathetic to watch and listen to.

The link below puts a focus on what happened afterwards… Huma Abedin is separated from her husband, the woman who for years were – and still is as far as I know - a close advisor to the Clinton family and took part in the campaign for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and hit the headlines when her email account with mails to Hillary was opened… for me she is the interesting character in the film.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Uldis Brauns 1932-2017

Written 15-01-2017 10:05:29 by Tue Steen Müller

Sad news, Audrius Stonys said, when we met at the cinema Øst for Paradis in Aarhus, where the mini-festival Baltic Frames takes place: Uldis Brauns passed away, 84 years old. Brauns was with Herz Frank the leading man in what has been called the Riga Poetic School of Cinema. I asked Stonys how he would characterise Brauns – and Frank – he answered in a beautiful way: Frank was the brain, Brauns was the soul.

The Baltic Frames in Aarhus has the subtitle ”capturing the Poetic Everyday”, Stonys is par excellence the representative of the poetic cinema in the Baltic countries today and he will be directing the film – together with Kristine Briede – on ”The Baltic New Wave”, where Brauns will be a central director. The main producer of this upcoming film, to have its premiere in 2018, is Latvian Uldis Cekulis, who I again will thank a lot for taking me to meet Uldis Brauns in September 2014. This is what I wrote at that time:

… 90 minutes from Riga you turn down a dirt road and drive twenty minutes to reach a house standing alone (2,5 kilometer to nearest neighbour) in what you can only describe as a paradisiacal garden with tall trees, chickens and geese walking and running around, a greenhouse for tomatoes, rows of vegetables and a river down at the bottom of all the green. Silence! Not to forget an old chevrolet

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Roy Andersson

Written 13-01-2017 18:27:23 by Tue Steen Müller

We have to wait until 2019 but Roy Andersson is always worth waiting for. I was happy to read this today and hurry to do a copy-paste from the (free) newsletter of Nordisk Film & TV Fond:

(Roy) Andersson’s About Endlessless and three documentaries have received funding from Nordisk Film & TV Fond last December. About Endlessness produced by Pernilla Sandström (Roy Andersson Filmproduktion AB) was granted NOK 2.5 million. Like the horn of plenty of life itself, the film shows the preciousness and beauty of our existence, awakening in us the wish to maintain this eternal treasure and pass it on.

In Andersson’s typical and unique style, About Endlessless is a juxtaposition of tableaux capturing moments in life. The new element is the voice-over with a woman as main narrator. Among the characters featured are…Adolf Hitler (played by Magnus Wallgren), a marketing director (Kristina Ekmark), a woman who loves champagne (Lisa Blohm) and a priest (Martin Serner).

The SEK 40 million Swedish film is co-produced with 4 ½ (Norway), Essential Filmproduktion (Germany) and Société Parisienne de production (France) as well as SVT, ARTE, with support from Eurimages, the SFI, NFI, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen and Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. The Co-production Office handles world sales and TriArt domestic distribution.The film starts filming on February and delivery is set for 2019. 

Still from a previous Andersson film, “Du Levenda”.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

My Name is Popovic

Written 12-01-2017 21:05:28 by Tue Steen Müller

Yes, look at the lovely photo taken by Maja Medic yesterday in Belgrade at the award ceremony at Dvorona Kulturnog Centra, where the new award "Nebojša Popović" was given to SVETLANA and ZORAN POPOVIĆ for ”their devoted work on promoting and critically observing film and culture – for their dedication, pertinacity and uncompromisingness in all projects they have started and still are engaged in.”

Nebojša Popović, prominent and respected film critic and programmer, who died in 2015, has given name to the award.

Back to the photo and the name Popovic: Zoran and Svetlana Popovic in the foreground, daughter, son and wife of Nebojša in the background: Lara, Mihajlo and Vesna.

Love that picture and I warn you – you are going to read much more about and from Belgrade, where the 13th edition of the Magnificent7 festival will take off February 1st. Headed by Popovic.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocPoint Program Announced

Written 09-01-2017 12:29:36 by Tue Steen Müller

The documentary festival in Helsinki, DocPoint, that this year takes place January 23-29, has a reputation for high quality, a broad international overview of the best of the best – and of course this is where you can see new Finnish documentaries. They are usually good, because they have a documentary culture in that country = good support system including committed editors at television and experienced and talented filmmakers. And an interested audience.

The 2017 program is announced and let me from that do some title-dropping of films that we have written about enthusiastically on this site:

Piotr Stasik’s impressive dynamic essay from NY, ”21 x New York”, Kirsten Johnson’s personal reflection on her métier, ”Cameraperson”, Wojciech Kasperski’s beautifully humanistic ”Icon” from Russia, Rahul Jain’s visually stunning ”Machines” from India, Hungarian Klara Trencsenyi’s record on growing-up ”Train to Adulthood”, Audrius Stonys masterpiece ”Woman and The Glacier” (PHOTO) and Pawel Lozinski’s chamberplay ”You have No Idea How Much I Love You”.

”Meet the Master” who is this year Heddy Honigmann, no objection to that choice at all, and among the Finnish premieres Anu Kuivalainen’s ”Into the Forest I go” and ”Little Yellow Boots” by John Webster. ”Shoah” by Lanzmann, an homage to Kiarostami, Pirjo Honkasalo…

Yes, they love to present Films at DocPoint – and their website presentation is well made. It makes an old librarian happy to see an index of around 30 words that refer to ”style or subject”. Hopefully useful for the audience.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Michael Glawogger: Untitled

Written 07-01-2017 16:22:35 by Tue Steen Müller

Good news on a sad background – coming from the Berlinale. I am so much looking forward to see the film by Master Glawogger and Monika Willi – it will have its world premiere in Berlinale’s Panorama 2017:

“This film is intended to show an image of the world that can only be created when one does not pursue any subject, or make any value judgement or follow any objective. When one lets one’s self be carried along by nothing more than one’s own curiosity and intuition.”

Michael Glawogger passed away in 2014 during shooting for a movie. The editor Monika Willi has realised a fascinating film with material that was shot during a journey of four months and 19 days through the Balkan states, Italy, and Northwest and Western Africa – a journey undertaken in order to observe, to listen and to experience, with attentive eyes, bold and raw.

105 mins.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Films in Aarhus Denmark

Written 05-01-2017 11:57:09 by Tue Steen Müller

Below you find a post in Danish calling for people who are interested in Film, Baltikum, Ukraine, Post-Soviet History and current politics in the region – to come and watch films at the second edition of Baltic Frames mini-festival in Aarhus at the local art house cinema Øst for Paradis (in English East of Eden).

Here a brief orientation in English about this cultural event in the city of Aarhus which is one of the cultural cities of Europe 2017, the second largest in Denmark, lovely it is I can say, totally biased, as I was born there some time ago…

6 great films are to be shown: Ukrainian Sheriffs by Roman Bondarchuk and Dar´ya Averchenko (Bondarchuk will be there together with Latvian producer Uldis Cekulis), Audrius Stonys, Lithuanian master of poetic documentaries, will be there as well with his ”Gates of the Lamb” (PHOTO) and there will be two films by Latvian Viesturs Kairiss, who is also an opera director, internationally renowned. You sense that when you see his films where a superb visualisation is matched with music – titles ”Pelican in the Desert” and ”Chronicles of Melanie”, the latter a fiction film.

The Soviet past is the theme of When We Talk about KGB af Maximilien Dejoie og Virginija Vareikyte from Lithuania, and the past is also present in the fresh Fast Eddy's Old News by Marko Raat from Estonia.

So now you know, could be an inspiration to do the same elsewhere? The whole thing is set up by the Danish Cultural Institute in the Baltic countries supported by film institutions in the countries involved.

More on


Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Best Documentaries 2016/ Intro

Written 30-12-2016 16:06:25 by Tue Steen Müller

2016… should I choose 20 or 16 as the Best Documentaries I have seen this year. I took 16. They appear in a random order. I have not put them in order of 1, 2, 3 etc. with 1 being the best. Should I be asked if any of the films stand out: Yes, Abbas Fahdel’s extraordinary 5 hour long ”Homeland, Iraq Year Zero”. I was lucky to be a jury member at the Dokufest in Prizren, where the film was shown. It was my first visit to the festival in Kosovo that has found its own fine way of treating the audience with documentaries of artistic quality.

Other three of the films on the list I enjoyed at the well programmed DOK Leipzig: Sergei Loznitsa’s ”Austerlitz”, Vitaly Mansky’s ”Close Relations” and Miroslav Janek’s ”Normal Autistic Film”, which of course also reveal my love to documentaries from the Eastern part of Europe. 2016 brought a new film by Lithuanian master Audrius Stonys as well as the chamberplay by Pawel Lozinski ”You have no Idea How Much I Love You” that had its premiere at the festival in Krakow that also premiered talented Piotr Stasik’s NY film ”21 x New York”. I have high expectations to his next film(s) as I have to Georgian Salomé Jashi, whose beautiful ”The Dazzling Light of Sunset” is on the list as is Serbian Ognjen Glavonic with his ”Depth Two”.

But it is not all Eastern docs, there are three American films on the list: Laura Israel’s film on ”Robert Frank, Don’t Blink”, Kirsten Johnson’s ”Cameraperson” and Raoul Peck’s ”I am not Your Negro”. The two last ones are on the way to be Oscar nominated, I cross my fingers.

From IDFA, Amsterdam I picked ”Machines” by Indian Rahul Jain, ”Mogadishu Soldier” by Torstein Grude and Niels Pagh Andersen and ”Liberation Day” by Ugis Olte and Morten Traavik. And from DocsBarcelona Argentinian Martin Solá’s ”Chechen Family”.

16 films that will stay in my mind. And 16 films we have written about in reviews or note-wise on this site. 2016, a good year for artistic documentaries.

The photo is from Dokufest, Prizren, Lumbhardi Cinema.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Best Documentaries 2016

Written 30-12-2016 15:13:26 by Tue Steen Müller

Photo from Homeland, Iraq Year Zero by Abbas Fahnel

Rahul Jain: Machines

Raoul Peck: I Am Not Your Negro

Kirsten Johnson: Cameraperson

Ugis Olte & Morten Traavik: Liberation Day

Torstein Grude & Niels Pagh Andersen: Mogadishu Soldier

Audrius Stonys: The Woman and the Glacier

Sergei Loznitsa: Austerlitz

Miroslav Janek: Normal Autistic Film

Salomé Jashi: The Dazzling Light of Sunset

Ognjen Glavonic: Depth Two

Piotr Stasik: 21 x New York

Abbas Fahdel: Homeland, Iraq Year Zero

Laura Israel: Robert Frank – Don’t Blink

Martin Sola: Chechen Family

Pawel Lozinski: You Have No Idea How Much I Love You

Vitaly Mansky: Close Relations

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Award to Svetlana & Zoran Popovic

Written 27-12-2016 20:17:14 by Tue Steen Müller

So well deserved… I thought when it was announced yesterday that my dear Belgrade friends Svetlana and Zoran Popovic were to be recipients of an award, a new one set up in the memory of the critic Nebojša Popović, who died in 2015, a prominent film critic at RTS and a programmer at the Belgrade Cultural Center theatre. The motivation for the award to the couple, who has been running a film school, Kvadrat, since 1990 and the festival Magnificent7 since 2005, goes like this:

"The award "Nebojša Popović" goes to SVETLANA i ZORAN POPOVIĆ for their devoted work on promoting and critically observing film and culture – for their dedication, pertinacity and uncompromisingness in all projects they have started and still are engaged in.”

“The award is established by prominent Serbian institutions such as: Serbian Film Center, National TV Broadcasting Company, Yugoslav Film Archive, Authors Film Festival, Beldocs Film Festival and the members of Nebojša Popović family.  This is the first time that the award is given and the decision by the jury of three members is made unanimously. The award will be given on January 11th in the Theater "Belgrade Cultural Center" where Nebojša Popovič was the programmer. The task for the winners will be to make the selection for a one day film program at the Center.”

I could add lots of words to this, including the warm hospitality that I, my wife and the filmmakers, who have attended the festival for 12 years have been met with. See you in February for M7 number 13 – and thanks to Nevena Djonlic for helping with translation of texts. And if you want to see the two in a television clip go to 12.43 of

Photo: The couple on stage at Magnificent7 festival.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

How Docs Reach the Audience

Written 25-12-2016 12:46:16 by Tue Steen Müller

3 months after the St.Petersburg conference on ”How Docs Reach the Audience” 12 videos are now available online for everyone interested. With around 12 hours of interesting talks about Nordic and Russian experiences, when it comes to reach an audience…

The Russian Documentary Guild has published the whole conference on its site – in an English version and in a Russian, links below. It is very professionally made (excellent interpreters) and you can pick the interventions that appeal to you. The conference was supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers (Elena Khoroshkina) and produced by Viktor Skubey, president of the Guild and Anastasia Lobanova, both of them producers of documentary films. It was a pleasure to work with them. My job was to help put together the program and moderate with Cecilie Bolvinkel from European Documentary Network (EDN).

It’s all there – take a look at Danish Film Institute (DFI) representatives Liselotte Michelsen and Lisbeth Juhl Sibbesen fighting with the Russian technician to technically prepare the speech on the DFI streaming services, or see Cecilie Bolvinkel present the Moving Docs or hear Anton Mazurov, sales agent, speak about the Russian distribution of creative documentary… It’s all accompanied by clips or power points, it’s informative, inspiring and personal as was Swedish producer Stina Gardell’s talk (PHOTO) not to forget Russian Irina Shatalova from the Doker festival or Maja Lindquist on the Doc Lounge that she set up in Sweden or Diana Tabakov from legendary DocAlliance. Or Flahertiana festival’s Pavel Pechenkin, local cinema programmer Alexey Nedviga, 24 Docs broadcaster Alexey Laifurov and Maria Muskevich who for the Documentary Guild works to better the film club network situation.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH


Written 22-12-2016 16:32:01 by Tue Steen Müller

For one who daily watches moving images and is in the programming process for a festival – 90 documentaries in a month – it is pure pleasure to stop for a moment and look at photographs, be it the reportage genre or art photography. I did so December 10 at the new Whitney Museum in New York, a museum of American Art, and a museum with an excellent view from balconies on several floors.

I took a photo with my i-phone: A woman looks at a photo taken by Diane Arbus in 1963, title ”Teenage Couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C.”. In 1963 I was also a teenager, had the same haircut as the boy on the photo. He poses for the camera, whereas she seems not that happy to be photographed. How did that photo come about? Did Arbus just stop them on the street and asked for permission? Where were they going? For a drink around the corner? To visit family? A social photography, maybe, it does not communicate happiness, there is something of a Ken Loach film in that shot from N.Y. in 1963. Sadness?

All that I think now,11 days after the visit, knowing that the real reason for the snapshot was the woman, who is looking at the photo: Her interest, her curiosity in that photo, in Jørgen Leth language: Look at the woman. What is she looking at? What are her thoughts? Does she like the photo?

She is quite as important in my photo as the photo itself. The one and only!

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

No Nation Films

Written 21-12-2016 18:45:04 by Tue Steen Müller

A mail came in on the 14th of December from old friend Orwa Nyrabia, here is first a quote from the mail and then one more from an article written by Melanie Goodfellow for Screendaily, link below, read it all:

Nyrabia: A trademark conflict has emerged over Proaction Film’s name in Germany, our new home. We took this as an opportunity to revisit our stand, rethink what motivates us to make the challenging films we make and to consider how drastically we have changed as filmmakers over the years since we created Proaction Film in Syria, back in 2002. After some 15 years of independent and selective film productions, we are still charged by the anguish and the ambition of the uncompromising filmmakers with whom we

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jon Bang Carlsen, Pamela Cohn, Viesturs Kairišs…

Written 19-12-2016 23:43:26 by Tue Steen Müller

… and me are online thanks to our visit to the 2016 DocuDays UA in Kiev. The festival has recorded the lectures made and edited them into nice, informative videos where ”experience is shared”. There are clips in between the words. The festival calls the initiative DocuClass.

Latvian Kairišs speaks about ”the music as a returning to the great myth in documentary” with examples from his great works ”Romeo and Juliet” (2004) and ”Lohengrin from Varka Crew” (2009) – yes, Kairišs is also a recognised opera director. His speech in Kiev is not translated, would have been fine with English subtitles.

You don’t need that when always interesting critic and festival programmer, American Pamela Cohn talks about innovations in American documentary – the same goes for Danish Jon Bang Carlsen, who is introduced like this ”… the inventor and consistent adherent of radical ”staged documentary, Jon Bang Carlsen, will speak about his unique approach to seeking reality by actively creating it at the point where genres intersect. However paradoxical it may sound, the Danish director claims that for him, such an approach is the only way to get closer to reality”.

And if you want to know more about what led to a new generation’s breakthrough of Danish documentary with ”Family” (Phie Ambo and Sami Saif) and ”Monastery” (Pernille Rose Grønkjær), take a look at my 30 minutes in Kiev in March this year.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH


Written 18-12-2016 20:45:14 by Tue Steen Müller

… is the title of a contest initiated by the Docudays UA (Ukraine) festival together with International Committee of the Red Cross. Yulia Serdyukova, who is part of the selection committee of the hopefully many interesting projects coming in from emerging filmmakers around the world, has asked me to post the rules of the competition, which I do with pleasure, being a constant supporter of the festival, and also a member of the mentioned selection committee togther with Head of Communications in Ukraine at International Committee of the Red Cross Marie-Servane Desjonqueres. Here is the text about the contest, read it and discover how many countries are eligible:

The international competition for documentary film projects about Ukraine or the Eurasia region, on the consequences of conflicts and other situations of violence inflicted upon civilians.

The conflict in the East of Ukraine prompts us to think again about all the other armed conflicts or situations of violence that have been gripping the world, and in particular our continent.

More attention must be given to the struggle of those caught up in violence. The ICRC delegation in Ukraine and Docudays UA invite emerging documentary filmmakers from Eurasian countries* to

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Finn Larsen: The Dump

Written 17-12-2016 15:10:41 by Allan Berg Nielsen

The Dump – growing mountains of waste in Greenland, is part of the exhibition ”MANS LAND” 2012, Dunkers Kulturhus, Helsingborg, Galleri Pi, Copenhagen and museums in Greenland, now on Youtube: (The Dump, streaming, ENGLISH version) (The Dump, streaming, GRØNLANDSK version) (The Dump, streaming, DANSK version) (Om Finn Larsen fotografi og udstillinger)


There are 56,700 inhabitants in Greenland, in 18 cities and 50-60 settlements. There is practically no waste management. In the larger cities there are waste combustion systems, but they are undersized and malfunctioning.

Waste disposal management in Greenland is in worse state than it is in Denmark, even though Denmark is no role model. Numerous campaigns want to reduce Greenland to a victim of climate changes. But the majority of Greenlanders does not share this conviction.

The government of Greenland desires room for economic growth and as a result, they agitate the right to increase pollution. Oil drilling and extraction of gold and rare metals are under planning. The economic potential is immense. So are the possibilities of environmental disasters and the risk of expanding al-ready existing social gaps.

The problems Greenland is facing with waste disposal and societal dilemmas are the same, as those of other Nordic and European countries.The distinction is that the problems in Greenland are worse and more evident.

Greenland is no different from any other country. That’s the problem. (Finn Larsen, 2016)

Finn Larsen: The Dump, a journey from north to south of Greenland. Sweden, 2012 (web 2016) 26 min., YouTube.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web


Written 14-12-2016 16:55:08 by Tue Steen Müller

Syrian Guevara Namer, who I have known from the Damascus DOXBOX festival, and who now lives in Berlin, sent me a link and a text asking us to share, which we do through this. First the text, then the link to sign a petition:

Raise you voice to save the ones who are left inside Syria.
Aleppo has been subject to all kinds of violations of International Humanitarian laws for four months now, all the laws and norms aiming to protect civilians during armed conflict were massively violated by the Syrian government supported with it's allied Russian armed forces on Syrian soil along with Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese militias.
The city saw thousands of air‐raids, explosive barrels, mortars, cluster bombs, Clonic bombs bunker buster and bombs fueled with chlorine gas.
No hospitals, schools , nor civil society centers were spared from shelling.
Four months of total absence of public services or infrastructure, where civilians are trapped and the world is standing still with no trace of reaction.
During the last few hours, as the regime and its militias advanced towards the Eastern side of the city, news and reports about field executions, random killings of unarmed civilians and burning of their properties in groups massacres of those who are left in the city.
As per the civil society defense in Aleppo, no reports available regarding the number of victims since Monday, bodies are filling the streets and the shelling is still on.
For six years now we have been informing the world that we are being slaughtered with hundreds, nevertheless thousands of massacres against Syrian civilians, hundreds of petitions, statements and pleas to countries all over the world and to public opinion to stop the genocide and bring criminals to justice, but the way events are happening now, it can't be further uglier than the way it is today.
Now at these hours we put the world accountable for what is happening in Aleppo.
Away from feelings of anger and disappointment of Syrians, this level of violence will only contributes to growing extremism at an international level, it will shake the very base of societies core value of social justice.
Therefore The international community should announce clearly its commitment to supporting Syrians, to neutralize civilians away from armed conflict, and to bring to justice criminals of mass killing and extermination.
We as Syrian, European and international civil society activists we demand action from the International Community and the United Nations.
For them to stand with more than just words of condemnation, to save those who are left in Syria and lift the injustice towards innocent people.
Our position today is built on historical and human necessity and our duty forces us to raise loud voices of rejection to negative political discourse that we consider scandalous as it stands still and silently facing this amount of wasted precious innocent blood, today in the 21st century.
And we claim the following actions :
‐ Ceasing all military operations immediately.
‐ Holding Russia responsible for the result of failure in allowing civilians to leave Eastern Aleppo.
‐ Criminalizing the actions of the regime and militias in Syria classified around the world as terrorists such as Hezbollah and others.
The petition was initially launched on Avaaz website under the following link:


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Rahul Jain: Machines

Written 12-12-2016 22:01:35 by Tue Steen Müller

You are 12-13 minutes into the film before someone is saying something. Before that the camera operated by Mexican Rodrigo Trejo Villanueva takes you into a huge textiles factory in Gujarat, India to – with the words of Richard Leacock – give us viewers the feeling of being there. A more than succesful ambition; you go with the workers carrying bundles of cloth, putting them where they are to be before they go for drying and being colored; it is a long and complicated process and as the first worker talking says, ”sometimes you just need to push a button, sometimes you need strength and brain”. You go with the cameraperson, who goes with the workers, there is a constant movement and an eye for the detail and for faces and for giving information about what is being produced. Yes, here is one more film that gives us evidence that you can tell in images, if you know the possibilities of the cinematic language. I was thinking of late master Glawogger and his masterpieces ”Megacities” and ”Workingman’s Death”. This debut film (!) has the same visual qualities.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Raoul Peck: I Am Not Your Negro

Written 11-12-2016 02:36:26 by Tue Steen Müller

Lucky punch! We had lunch with producer and director of the Robert Frank film ”Don’t Blink”, Melinda Shopsin and Laura Israel, who recommended us to visit a new cinema in downtown New York, Metrograph, a very nice venue, European art house style with restaurant, small bookshop, a bar and NO commercials before the film – it reminded us of Danish Cinemateket with film historical retrospectives and a ”special preview arrangement” of the already several times awarded ”I Am Not Your Negro” by Raoul Peck, nominated for the IDA Awards and on the shortlist of 15 running for the Documentary Oscar.

Peck’s film is a masterpiece, simply. Well crafted, well told, coming from the genius idea to make James Baldwin’s unfinished book (30 pages) ”Remember This House” into a film based on Baldwin’s words from the book (read beautifully by actor Samuel L. Jackson) plus great archive material with Baldwin himself, who was an excellent speaker, with clips from feature films, reportage material and footage of today and references till today’s racism in USA, for that is what the film is about, and his unfinished book: the racial discrimination and the murder of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr – who lost their lives because they wanted to change the situation for the negros, as it is formulated by Baldwin with passion. You sit and watch events and people that you know about already and yet you are amazed by how much it still affects you, because the director puts the story so strongly together. There is and is not a chronology, the present is there, black people killed by white people in this century, black lives matter. This film helps as a film - far from the tv reportage - to put history in a perspective of today.

In an interview Raoul Peck says: “James Baldwin has clearly become intellectually and politically unsurpassable — in fact, a visionary”. “Ironically and tragically, he is becoming more so by the day. It is truly a pleasure to partner with such a great team to re-introduce James Baldwin to the American audience.”

Yes, the one who writes this, educated librarian, wants to check out James Baldwin again. And to watch this great film work again.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDA Winners

Written 11-12-2016 01:35:38 by Tue Steen Müller

It was ”O.J.: Made in America” by Ezra Edelmann that got the ”Best Feature Award” at the IDA (International Documentary Organization) ceremony in Los Angeles friday night. There was nothing for excellent films as ”Cameraperson” by Kirsten Johnson or ”I Am Not Your Negro” by Raoul Peck, a film I saw today at a new cinema in New York. Separate post on that film. Nothing for Gianfranco Rosi either for his ”Fire at Sea” but he could return to Europe to receive the EFA (European Film Award) to night in Wroclaw, Poland for best documentary.

The Netflix production from Syria ”The White Helmets” by Orlando Einsiedel won the ”Best Short Award” and we Danes should be proud that the ”Best Curated Series Award” went to Dokumania from public broadcaster DR2, a series that we have followed closely on this site – with Mette Hoffmann Meyer as the editor in charge. She has done a fine work bringing especially anglo-saxon documentaries to a Danish audience. One can only hope that Dokumania continues with high quality after Hoffmann Meyer has left DR.

For many other awards, including the one for Ally Derks for her pioneer work at IDFA, see

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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