Rembrandt, Ukrainians, Eisenstein, Goldin

Written 09-12-2016 15:09:53 by Tue Steen Müller

And what do they have in common? I will tell you in this small report from New York, where everyone talks about – well, you know who, we had to struggle to pass his blocked corner at his Tower on fifth Avenue, where media people and visitors were waiting to get a glimpse of the president-elect. OMG.

Earlier that day we had the pleasure to meet with Dar’ya Averchenko and Roman Bondarchuk, who came from Los Angeles, where they had been promoting their ”Ukrainian Sheriffs” for the Oscars, with several screenings and presentations also in New York – and now they are back in Kiev to take part in the preparations of the Docudays festival in March. I am looking forward to be there again and take part.

With Dar’ya and Roman we were talking about Odessa, a city that

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDA Awards to be Given Friday in LA

Written 08-12-2016 01:37:02 by Tue Steen Müller

IDA, The International Documentary Association, is awarding documentary filmmakers and films this coming friday at a ceremony in Los Angeles. It is now ”award season” as they say in the US film circles and the IDA event is one of those events that come before the Oscars and which is considered to say something about/predict, who will compete at the Academy Awards. IDA is an association that on its website  has this fine sentence: Documentary storytelling expands our understanding of shared human experience, fostering an informed, compassionate, and connected world.

For those who miss the DOX Magazine you should know that IDA publishes the Documentary Magazine – it’s all on the website, see below.

For readers of this site you should know that four of the nominated six films for the Best Feature Award have been reviewed or reported on: ”O.J.: Made in America” by Ezra Edelman, ”Cameraperson” (PHOTO) by Kirsten Johnson, ”Weiner” by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, and the only non-American film on the list, ”Fire at Sea” by Gianfranco Rosi. Johnson is also nominated in the short category for ”The Above” and for Best Editing (Nels Bangerter). Rosi is also on the list for ”Fire at Sea”.

There are many other awards – I have absolutely no objection to a Pioneer Award to Ally Derks, who steps down as director of IDFA after having started the whole thing more than twenty years ago, a festival that this year had 280.000 tickets sold or given out. And bravo to those administering the Pare Lorentz Award to give that to beautiful ”Starless Dreams” by Iranian Mehrdad Oskouei.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

A Visual Weekend in Philadelphia

Written 05-12-2016 20:10:43 by Tue Steen Müller


must include a visit to the extraordinary Barnes Foundation. We were there thanks to Philly citizens Anita Reher, ex-EDN and now running the Flaherty in New York, and Robert Goodman, photographer and film teacher. So first some words about the ”…mission of the Barnes Foundation, which dates back to its founding in 1922, is “the promotion of the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts…”. For the dramatic history of the foundation and its locations, its founder Dr. Barnes and his passion for collecting Renoir, Cezanne, Modigliani, Degas, Soutine, van Gogh and many many others, I will advice you to read the entry at wikipedia. The collection itself is amazing. A gem for art lovers.

The beautiful museum in the centre of Philly was opened a few years ago with rooms arranged and paintings hanging as they did in the old place, according to Barnes (who died in 1951) wishes and vision. So when you enter a room the walls are packed with lovely art, a visual bombardment that does not care about genres and –isms, but have the individual pieces speak to each other.

That’s the permanent exhibition but before looking on that, we went for ”Live and Life Will Give You Pictures: Masterworks of French Photography 1890-1950”. Thematically organised you were offered to watch lots of Cartier-Bresson, Brassaï (oh Paris…), André Kertész as well as Man Ray, who is born in Philadelphia.

The photo taken for this text reflects ”the decisive moment”, to quote Cartier-Bresson, where Robert Goodman, Anita Reher and Ellen Fonnesbech studied the exhibition of photographic masterworks.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Shadow Girl Wins 3 awards in Valparaiso

Written 01-12-2016 14:10:49 by Tue Steen Müller

And I got more news from Docsbarcelona Valparaiso – the beautiful film ”Shadow Girl” that premiered in Barcelona at the DocsBarcelona in May received three awards at the festival: The National Award, the Audience Award and the Interactive Award. The latter was given in connection with the Interactive workshop at the festival. Wow for a film that I wrote about in May:

… And then to the cinema to sit next to Maria Teresa Larrain in a cinema, where her ”Shadow Girl” had its second screening at the festival, where she pitched the film a couple of years ago. The film is strong and emotional in its description of how Maria Teresa grows blind, a film that is without sentimentality but full of reflections on what it means to become blind. She meets blind street vendors, she shows the film to them and it is said that the worst thing about getting blind is to lose your dignity. Maria Teresa does not, she is a role model of great courage in a film that has a clever personal text from her and a visual flow of colours. It must have a long festival life and come on broadcasters, this is also for you, or for us television viewers!...

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Syrian Love Story Wins in Valparaiso

Written 01-12-2016 01:11:08 by Tue Steen Müller

The entreprenant director of DocsBarcelona Joan Gonzalez is also director of DocsBarcelona Valparaiso in Chile, the first edition with a national and an international competition, training sessions – as he proudly texted me some days ago: In the city where Joris Ivens made his film essay ”a Valparaiso” in 1963, which is available for free on vimeo. Link below. Chris Marker wrote the script, Patricio Guzman was one of the cameramen.

The festival closed tonight and the winner was – again – Sean McAllister with his ”A Syrian Love Story”. Here is what I wrote way back reviewing the film: 

…there are few documentarians who like McAllister, goes from the journalistic point of view and the anynomous reportage, to be a true storyteller who captures your attention fully because of the closeness to the characters he can create, because he always involves himself - he is in this case an intruder into the lives and destinies of a refugee family that he met in 2009 and kept a close relation to until this year, 2015…

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

VOD for Arabic Creative Documentaries

Written 30-11-2016 21:50:14 by Tue Steen Müller

I had the pleasure to meet Palestinian Reem Bader at the Antalya Film Forum earlier this autumn. She told me about the vod platform she was involved in building up. It looks great. Let me quote from the site:

”Welcome to Minaa video on demand VOD, the first in the world to specialize in harboring, streaming and celebrating Arabic creative documentaries. Each month, you will be introduced to creative docs that are new to Minaa collection and invited to join interactive events with directors. As not to miss an event, we encourage you to join Minaa mailing list and its social media channels.

This fall, Minaa is happy to present it’s newest feature: Collections

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Flying Film Festival 2017

Written 30-11-2016 20:19:22 by Tue Steen Müller

No, we normally don’t promote festivals calling for films, but there are exceptions like this one. A festival in the air, with Francesca Scalisi and Mark Olexa as captains. These are the words from the cockpit, and a link to what I wrote about the edition 2015:

“Fasten your seatbelt. A new edition of the Flying Film Festival is about to take off! We will start accepting applications to participate in the highest altitude festival in the world from January 2017!!!”

Visit their FB page.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Diedie Weng: The Beekeeper and His Son

Written 28-11-2016 09:24:58 by Tue Steen Müller

China, the country of so many stories that we have not yet heard. Here is one. A beautiful one, premiered at the festival in Nyon, a multilayered work, as a good documentary should be, about countryside/city, generation conflicts in a family, man and animals, modern life and old age and so on so forth, I could go on and if it looks like a conceptual social documentary, it’s my fault in describing what is a well told family story with interesting characters, who are developed as the film develops. First of all the two mentioned in the title, the 71 old beekeeper, who struggles to make his profession survive, it’s not easy and to his big

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDFA: Kogusashvili/ Sarvestani/ Hendrikx

Written 27-11-2016 15:42:31 by Tue Steen Müller

Three more brief reviews of ”Gogita’s New Life” (Levan Koguashvili), ”Prison Sisters” (Nima Sarvestani) and ”Stranger in Paradise” (Guido Hendrikx). With some genre simplification: A docu-comedy, a journalistic/humanistic documentary and a hybrid documentary.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Lucija Stojevic: La Chana/ 2

Written 27-11-2016 14:04:15 by Tue Steen Müller

It must be wonderful to get an Audience Award, and especially at IDFA in Amsterdam, where the amount of people who watch your film is huge. Yhe 2016 Audience Award has been decided upon and it went to the film reviewed below on this site. Here is a copy paste of the text from IDFA:

The Audience Award has been handed out annually since IDFA's inception in 1988. The audience rates the films they have seen by means of a ballot with seven options, ranging from 'Hopeless' to 'Superb'. The award consists of a sculpture and a cash prize of €5,000.
The VPRO IDFA Audience Award 2016 has gone to La Chana by Lucija Stojevic, a blistering and intimate portrait of former flamenco dancer Antonia Santiago Amador. The star and director could not attend the final screening at IDFA, but sent a video message to accept the award.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Lucija Stojevic: La Chana

Written 26-11-2016 15:27:53 by Tue Steen Müller

Antonia Santiago Amador, known as La Chana, is the unique personality of the film with the same title. It is on the top of the top ten Audience favourites at the IDFA festival that runs until tomorrow sunday included. It is a warm portrait of an exceptional woman, a flamenco dancer, the best ever, many think and express in the film, that has lots of great archive material that proves, even for a layman, who loves the music and the dance, that she was a star. And still is: the film follows her preparation for a performance, with her dancing seated. She makes it and made me cry touched by her willpower and commitment, and ability to concentrate to show to herself and her many fans that even at an age around 70, she can move her feet.

In the film, that at the beginning is a bit messy in structure, because it becomes anecdotal and jumps to and from archive, where more calm in the storytelling would have helped, La Chana tells her story from childhood till now, through a marriage that was violent from the side of her husband, a situation that made her stop the career. But she comes back – as the film comes back in rythm and flow once all the information about the past is delivered, when the story takes place in present time, where she teaches youngsters, cooks with her daughter, lives a quiet life with her Felix and a dog or goes to the square (in Barcelona I guess) to enjoy with her gypsy friends. And prepares for the performance.

A joyful and entertaining and touching work to give the many films about the problems of the world a break.

Spain, Iceland, USA, 83 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDFA Nowhere to Hide/Still Tomorrow

Written 24-11-2016 14:22:07 by Tue Steen Müller

I have forgotten why IDFA has decided to announce winners on a wednesday for a festival that goes on until sunday included? But good for those of us, in Amsterdam or online from home, who are still trying to catch up with the many films in competition to get a picture of what the festival selectors found important – yes, yes, I know there are numerous important films outside competition, which could have been there as well but do not qualify for eligibility reasons, previously awarded elsewhere for instance. And it gives of course time to check whether the jury(ies) have made mistakes… Have to admit that I like that game knowing that is not always that easy to be a juror. The two awards in the full-length category went to (Best film) ”Nowhere to Hide” by Zaradasht Ahmed, and (Special Prize) ”Still Tomorrow” by Fan Jian.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDFA: Alberti, Ni Chianáin, Hristov

Written 23-11-2016 20:02:43 by Tue Steen Müller

Maite Alberdi, Chilean documentary director, who made the wonderful ”Tea Time” in 2014 and the equally wonderful ”I’m not from Here” this year together with Lithuanian Giedre Zickyte, a film that is nominated for the European Film Awards – has already now obtained for her new work ”The Grown-Ups”, sorry that is long, the IDFA Alliance Women Film Journalists’ EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Documentary. The jury’s motivation:

”Beautifully rendered and brilliantly edited, The Grown Ups is an

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ugis Olte & Morten Traavik: Liberation Day/ 2

Written 22-11-2016 19:40:55 by Tue Steen Müller

In the ”Guardian Film Today” that I subscribe to (it is for free and for everyone) there was tuesday 22nd of Nov. a review by Peter Bradshaw worth reading as most of his articles/reviews. Here is a text clip:

Most documentaries or studies of North Korea conclude that it is forever sealed in its own tyranny. For all the absurdity, for all the questionable semi-satire, Laibach actually made contact with North Korea and caused a crack in the wall. In its ridiculous way, Laibach’s 80s art-rocker doom version of The Sound of Music was a kind of peace process, and, like any peace process, it involved the fudging of principles. The “liberation” of the title might yet prove to be illusory for North Korea and Traavik’s wacky cultural diplomacy might lead nowhere. But it could prove to be more than a footnote.

Another fine push for the documentary to get around, read the whole review, link below:

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Tatyana Chistova: Convictions

Written 20-11-2016 11:02:16 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s absurd theatre! Well, I have tried it myself in 1967. To be called for military service in the Danish army. I chose the easy solution to take one (completely useless) year of service at the air force instead of the two year’s civil service it was back then, where you sent to the forest to sweep leaves up against the wind.

The young ones in this film had all applied for civil service because of their convictions. They had to appear (see the photo) in front of a committee to present their case, one could almost say pitch their point of view. As in pitching sessions the panelists sat with papers and only a few of them were to say something. The rest sat with stone faces that communicated that they did not like, what they saw and heard.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Grude and Andersen: Mogadishu Soldier

Written 18-11-2016 21:14:12 by Tue Steen Müller

I had to choose that still from the IDFA introduction to the film that I have just finished watching. It’s a girl in pain, a victim from the brutal civil war in Somalia, that – says the end credits – has caused the death of 500.000. So far. She gets up and leaves the scene with her mother. She survives. I was afraid she would not make it like many others in the film. I could also have chosen a still of one of the two anynomous cameramen from Burundi. Sometimes they are not named, on the mentioned film credits they are. If OK their names should come out. They deserve credits for what they have given us, an insight to one of the many wars that seldom reaches the front page. Maybe they will come to IDFA? But before I go on, let me give you the catalogue background description of this documentary that is in the IDFA competition and deserves an award that can bring it to be screened all over: 

Since 2006, the radical Islamists of Al-Shabaab have been fighting

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDFA: Lozinski, le Maire, Delane, Cordes

Written 18-11-2016 09:03:01 by Tue Steen Müller

They are quite different in themes and styles, the films that I am going to write about in this post. What they have in common is that the directors mentioned in the headline all have films shown at IDFA, Amsterdam – and that I have seen them, and like them, more or less, for various reasons.

Pawel Lozinski is an internationally known Polish director, whose film ”You Have No Idea How Much I Love You” (PHOTO) I reviewed in connection with its premiere at the Krakow Festival. With top marks, here is a quote: ”As a viewer you know these

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDFA November 16/27

Written 17-11-2016 12:15:31 by Tue Steen Müller

Yes, it started yesterday, the fabulous documentary event in Amsterdam and today it’s all over with screenings, masterclasses, the academy, some films are in competition, others are not, facebook is full of ”come and see my film”, there will be many full houses. And many who prepare their pitches for the Forum. With meetings and parties.

I am not there this year for family and friend reasons – birthdays – but I have seen some of the films already so comments will arrive on this site, don’t have time for longer reviews but I will pick some films via links and Docs for Sale. So check it out – there could be recommendations you want to follow.

For instance the world premiere tonight of Audrius Stonys' new film

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The DOX Comeback!

Written 16-11-2016 16:48:21 by Tue Steen Müller

It took some thinking before I came to this positive conclusion. In the 20th year of the existence of EDN (European Documentary Network) you will from now on be able to study one of the organization’s main contributions in the past two decades: The publishing of more than 100 issues of the DOX Magazine – contributions to the development of the documentary during these years. As an art form and part of the visual landscape in Europe and beyond. Thanks to Norwegian Truls Lie, former editor of DOX, who is launching his with the subtitle ”The European Documentary Magazine” – as was DOX called before it was stopped by the current management of EDN. With around 400 articles and reviews from DOX going back to the late 90’es as the fundament for new articles written by Truls and his staff. So far around 100. A Comeback for DOX.

This is what Truls did, quote from a mail he sent me: ”I am writing

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Stefano Lisci & Co: Bar Mario

Written 14-11-2016 19:26:53 by Tue Steen Müller

Take a look at the photo from last week in Bolzano. Marina in her Bar Mario advertising the premiere of the film Bar Mario at the Rome Independent Film Festival later this month. Congratulations! To Marina Fronza, her husband Roberto and her son Paolo – the three heroes of the film and to director Stefano Lisci, who got the idea to make a film about this very special place in the universe and made it with the help of other ex-Zelig students, first of all the brilliant cinematographer Beniamino Casagrande and Livia Romano, editors Maria Radicchi and Marco Vitale, sound engineer Ambrose Mbuya. And many others are thanked at the long credit list. Who also were contributors to the crowdfunding campaign that was set up to realise a film, that I had heard Stefano talk about again and again, when coffee was served by lovely Marina, who countless times has taken the mickey out of me. The music is made by Martino Pellegrini, who is not from Zelig – it’s in the great Fellini-film-music tradition.

For those who don’t know: The Bar Mario is next door to the Zelig

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Zelig – First Year

Written 13-11-2016 10:57:37 by Tue Steen Müller

There they were, 30 new faces at the Zelig film school, and I was to be the first teacher of their three year long education at the school for ”documentary, television and new media”. Thank you Emanuele Vernillo and Heidi Gronauer for your trust in me to give the students inspiration to watch films, read books and study painters and photographers, who know about composition and use of light and shadow.

I had four days to motivate the students and to make them talk. About themselves and about what they saw. It was forbidden to say ”I like” or ”I don’t like”. We were looking for descriptions, impressions, analysis. They did so very well.

”My” film menu included Robert Frank, Wojciech Staron, Sylvain Biegeleisen, Herz Frank, Jon Bang Carlsen, Jørgen Leth, Viktor Kossakovsky, Piotr Stasik, Michael Glawogger… and a bombardment of other names and titles they should study. Auteur documentaries – and the youngest student of them all, 19 years old, knew where that term comes from.

And a game at the end: form groups of three, you have two hours to find a topic, put the proposal down on paper and pitch it to your colleagues and me the next day. They did so and the teacher was impressed. Themes: dreams, a monument in Bolzano, a tour with the cable car up to Ober Bozen, rituals, public transport when the cable car is out for inspection, grafitti artists, Schüttelbrot, a toxic mushroom, a vegan chef. One team – the one with the monument – even managed to make a two minute teaser for the presentation. I ran into them in the evening and took the picture.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ukrainian Sheriffs in Copenhagen

Written 09-11-2016 12:35:42 by Tue Steen Müller

… as documentary of the month of the Danish Cinemateket, running for a week with the start of November 11. This wonderful, charming, funny and – it takes place in Ukraine – serious film won the IDFA Jury Special Prize last year and is now Ukraine’s contribution to the Oscar race. The filmmakers are on their way to Los Angeles to promote their work. The following is a copy-paste of a text I wrote a year ago:

I have had the pleasure to follow from the sideline how Ukrainian filmmakers and friends Dar'ya Averchenko (DA), Roman Bondarchuk (RB) together with Latvian producer and friend Uldis Cekulis have developed their “Ukrainian Sheriffs” that will have its premiere at IDFA on this coming Friday, competing in the main feature duration competition.

At DOK Leipzig 2015 I met them and their wonderful little girl Agata. And we had a conversation of one hour that is now in an edited version to read on the website of the film. Here is a tiny clip that also demonstrates that a romantic date can become much more in real life, a marriage and a film!

“RB: It was during one of our dates – Dasha and me - that we met each other. I took a car, we went for some driving around Kherson. There was a huge sign on the road like "Georgievska church, 19-th century, fortress, Cossacks graves" and we were interested to find them. They were touristic signs.

TSM: How many years ago?

DA: It was late 90'es.

RB: No! (Roma says) Really?

TSM: And you were not a couple at that time?

RB: No, it was just one of our first dates… and we turned to the road to nowhere, looking for all these attractions. We couldn't find anything, so we stopped on the road to ask the way. That's how we met a local man, a teacher of history.”

This teacher of history became the mayor of Stara Zburjivka and is one of three main characters of the film. Check the website and read the whole interview. And see the film!

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Leth Legacy at DOKLeipzig

Written 06-11-2016 19:45:36 by Tue Steen Müller

It was the idea of festival director Leena Pasanen: What about bringing together Danish filmmaking icon Jørgen Leth and his two filmmaking children Karoline Leth and Asger Leth? Such an obvious idea, why had noone done that before? Two generations, what have the children taken from their famous father? Let them sit on the stage together, each of them showing clips to have them discuss with or oppose each other. Pasanen, as moderator, was the one to set up the rules. Some had already been agreed upon: 3 clips per person, maximum 3 minutes. I think was the agreement.

First headline given by the moderator was ”method” and first clip

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOK Leipzig Winners 2016

Written 06-11-2016 09:11:15 by Tue Steen Müller

I liked the award ceremony of DOK Leipzig last night at the CinéStar 4. Instead of hiring some entertainer, or having two people talking to each other trying to be funny, the festival had a host, Jörg Taszmann, film journalist from Berlin, on stage who conducted the prizegiving in a very calm and professional way, speaking perfectly German and English and French. What I also appreciated was to have the juries on stage giving their motivation in English and German, often helped by the host. As before the best jury in terms of performance was the Youth Jury, who had made special prize to "their" winner, Polish "Communion".

A total of 21 prizes were awarded, including 7 Golden Doves and 2 Silver Doves. With 77,000 euros in prize money, DOK Leipzig is the best-endowed documentary film festival in Germany. The ceremony took a bit more than two hours with announcements, thank you speeches and for some of the films clips. Festival director Leena Pasanen was pleased about that reduction in time and can be happy with the many compliments she and programming director Grit Lemche got through the evening. Well deserved.

And the winner of the Golden Dove was – no surprise for me, see previous post – Sergey Loznitsa with his ”Austerlitz”. Danish documentary icon Jørgen Leth handed the award to Loznitsa with these words:

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Awards According to Filmkommentaren

Written 05-11-2016 17:16:27 by Tue Steen Müller

This is written four hours before the official award ceremony of the 59th (!) International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film, DOKLeipzig. I have no idea of what the jury for the international competition will choose as their favourite(s) – i.e. who will receive the prestigious Golden Dove that Wojciech Staron gor last year for his ”Brothers”.

But I have seen all twelve films in that competition category and will bring my impressions and favourites from a selection I have found a good mix of auteur and issue documentaries.

If I was to give an award for the film that made me think, made me irritated because of its constant insisting on the aesthetics – beautiful framing of black & white camera work, loong shots – and a superb sound score, that as the film passer before my eyes and ears became almost physical, the winner would be Sergey Loznitsa with his ”Austerlitz” (photo), that has me watch summer dressed tourists visit concentration camp turned into museums.

If I was to give an award for the film that made the biggest

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Mariam Chachia: Listen to the Silence

Written 04-11-2016 23:28:36 by Tue Steen Müller

Just left - with a smile on my face - the screening of the Georgian documentary in a full house cinema at DOKLeipzig. The film that is a debut for the director and takes part in the ”Next Masters Competition” is an impressive work by the director and her producer Nik Voigt. It has a wonderful 9 year old boy as the main character. He is deaf, lives in a public school with other deaf kids, that is his world, and this is where his parents come to see him for a very short time before they want to go home again.

Luka is his name and he is a wild boy, who fights with other boys and has big problems in sitting still. His luck is that he has a talent for dancing, that he likes that discipline, that the teacher likes him – at least for a period before Lukas gives up on that.

The director, we were told at the Q&A after the screening, stayed at the school for a year – it is a banality to say that time is crucial for an observational documentary like this, where you see the boy caught in many situations and where the film ”allows” itself to put it all into a chaptered fairy tale frame, because the tone of the film is warm and full of love towards the characters. The long shooting period has also given these documentary film magical moments that you can not foresee will come – and the chance for the film to establish a small love story, a b/w sequence where Luka is dreaming about the sweet girl that he has danced with. The sound work of the film is fascinating playing respectively with no sound and a lot of sound for us spectators to hear and sense the place.

Mariam Chachia and Nik Voigt expressed the hope that the film can be seen around Georgia to create awareness in the society about the conditions deaf kids grow up being hidden away… I met the two earlier this year in Riga where they pitched a new project from a hospital for patients with tuberculosis. I have no doubt after ”Listen to the Silence” that another fine film will appear from their hands.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

From Minsk to Vilnius With a Hero

Written 01-11-2016 10:16:26 by Tue Steen Müller

If you ever want to make another cold war movie, we got the location for you. And a protagonist, a hero from the real world. More authentic than Tom Hanks.

Yes, he IS a hero, Uldis Cekulis, the Latvian producer, whose newest production ”Liberation Day” will premiere in Amsterdam at the IDFA festival. As you can see from the photo the musical documentary with avantgarde group Laibach has a reference to North Korea. More about that film later, when we get closer to the premiere.

Back to Cekulis who was driving his car from Riga to Vilnius on the 27th of October, from Vilnius to Minsk on the 28th of October, from Minsk to Vilnius on the 29th of October and from Vilnius to Riga on the 30th of October. Apart from the last journey of 3-4 hours, I was sitting next to him, i.e. for approximately 14 hours. In between the driving Cekulis made an excellent case study in Minsk on ”Ukrainian Sheriffs” and gave advice to the young Belorussian filmmakers and students at the two day workshop.

The title of this post is ”from Minsk to Vilnius” = from outside the

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Northern Lights Documentary Hub Minsk

Written 01-11-2016 09:53:17 by Tue Steen Müller

Producer and festival director Volia Chajkouskaya launched a two-day documentary workshop in Minsk for young filmmakers and students at the Academy of Arts in the capital of Belarus. Arranged and funded by the Danish Cultural Institute based in Riga. The title of the event was ”how to become an internationally agile documentarian”, full house to watch and listen to director of the Danish Cultural Institute Simon Drewsen Holmberg, producer Uldis Cekulis and me. The two days (October 28-29) included on the first day a general talk by me and Holmberg about ”the good project” and ”the good pitch”, a detailed case study from Uldis Cekulis on the ”Ukrainian Sheriffs” by Roman Bondarchuk and Darya Averchenko, a film that Cekulis produced, awarded at the IDFA festival last year and now the Ukrainian nominee for the Oscars this year. Holmberg is (also) a specialist in legal matters related to co-production – he held a lecture on contracts and copyright, and who can be considered as ”authors”. (Photo).

On the second day 12 of the participants pitched projects including a teaser or a trailer. We tutors made comments on the way they

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jihlava IDFF Winners

Written 30-10-2016 10:29:24 by Tue Steen Müller

… were revealed yesterday and again Salomé Jashi from Georgia was praised for her ”The Dazzling Light of Sunset”, that got the award in the ”Between the Seas” section that covers ”countries and nations of Central and Eastern Europe”. She also got the prize for best debut (as a feature length director, Jashi has made several short films and the one hour ”Bahkmaro”).

Miroslav Janek’s new work was also awarded – as most of this great filmmaker’s works are, we like him a lot on filmkommentaren, look at the head photos of the site, he is the one in the middle. ”Normal Autistic Film” (photo) shared first prize in the Czech section with ”FC Roma” by Rozálie Kohoutová and Tomáš Bojar and the student jury also found Janek’s sensitive portrait of children with a handicap and fine creative skills.

Creative skills are what the Jihlava organisers, headed by Marek Hovorka, have demonstrated to have for 20 years. Also when it comes to building an interesting website, check it out:

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CinéDOC Tbilisi Winners

Written 30-10-2016 09:58:34 by Tue Steen Müller

Some days ago the award ceremony for the CinéDOC-Tbilisi took place. The young festival that by many, including me, is characterised as a ”warm festival”, with a high quality selection.

And no need to say that the winner in the international competition has high quality: ”Brothers” by Wojciech Staron, Polish master cinematographer and director. I do not keep track of the many Grand Prix this film has won, but I remember my happiness when it got first award at DOK Leipzig last year. And encouraging that the student jury also chose ”Brothers” (photo) as their favourite.

… and bravo that the audience brought ”Transit in Havana” by Daniel Abma to be winner of the maybe most important award you can get, that of the audience.

You can read about all the winners on the festival site below but I smile when mentioning that Armenian ”One, Two Three” by Arman Yeritsian, produced and promoted by Yulia Grigoryants got the first prize in the Caucasus section for their warm film about old people, who stay very much alive and kicking through dance and singing.

I met this film years ago when it had the working title "The Chosen Ones" and know how difficult is was to have not the usual 3 main characters but many more. Apparently they succeeded to find the rythm.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Antalya Film Forum 2016

Written 23-10-2016 12:53:12 by Tue Steen Müller

There you are in Antalya in Turkey at a cool design hotel, totally in white, mirrors all over, the weather is between 25 and 30 degrees, the hospitality is superb, it’s a royal treat and your job is to give a lecture and to be in a jury that has the job to give awards to two out of nine projects on the background of nine presentations at a documentary pitch competition.

Full house, I am in a jury with Italian producer Enrica Capra (”Thy Father’s Chair”) and Palestinian Reem Bader, who lives in Jordan and has just set up The Creative Documentary Platform for Arab documentaries. It’s an exciting project that i will write separately about later, link below.

The three of us sit on the first row watching the pitchers, who have 8 minutes for presentation followed by 5 minutes Q&A with the

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jihlava International Documentary FF 20 Years

Written 20-10-2016 14:37:57 by Tue Steen Müller

It starts the coming tuesday October 25 and runs until October 30, the documentary film festival in provincial Czech town Jihlava. I have been there many times, I have enjoyed it a lot, watching films and/or being part of the Ex Oriente workshop. I have been in the jury, I have been sleeping in a pension next to the zoo and the church with interesting wake-up sounds in the morning!

Monday this week I received the longest press release I can remember entering my mail-box. Presenting the selection of films, the variety of events connected to the festival, IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) activities, Ex Oriente, KineDok and East Silver market including the announcement of the competition for short, medium length and long documentaries with names of jury members. I am proud to be one of them, in the short category. You will hear more about that.

What can I do with such a long press text but tell you to go to the site of the festival and get information on what will happen – and that is a lot. Let me just again again promote two films that we have written about on – Miroslav Janek’s latest masterpiece ”Normal Autistic Film”, Salome Jashi’s ”The Dazzling Light of Sunset” and Robert Kirchhoff’s extraordinary ”A Hole in the Head” about which I wrote briefly in an email to the director, ”original in storytelling, emotional, a true Documentary.”  

The film, that was not taken by the Locarno festival and IDFA, will

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Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Pavel Medvedev: Joseph’s Land

Written 18-10-2016 18:25:06 by Tue Steen Müller

Let me start with a synopsis that precisely communicates the unpretentious tone of the film:

”This story could only take place in one city in Russia – St. Petersburg. Here communal poverty rubs shoulders with the palatial luxury of the former imperial capital. Only here could a special type of Soviet person be born. Only here could tremendous resources be spent on opening a museum just for one day – to honor a poet, a Nobel Prize laureate who was exiled from his motherland, in a story saturated with grotesquery and buffoonery. The spirit of the exiled poet, who was put on the pedestal of...”

I don’t know why the sentence stops precisely there, I could continue with ”world literature”, Joseph Brodsky, a unique poet and esayist, who was thrown out of his city Leningrad and country USSR.

To stay with the facts: Joseph Brodsky (born 1940) was put on trial

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amy Berg: Janis: Little Girl Blue

Written 17-10-2016 09:12:47 by Sara Thelle

...Just as with Scorsese’s Dylan portrait No Direction Home, Berg owes some of Janis’ finest moments to D. A. Pennebaker. Not only with the strong scenes from his legendary concert film Monterey Pop (1968, filmed by Pennebaker, Leacock and Maysles, probably the most musical trio in film history), the film that sparked off Joplin’s route to stardom... (Sara Thelle)

(Red.: NB Janis: Little Girl Blue bliver vist på DR2 DOKUMANIA i morgen tirsdag 18. oktober 20.45 og efterfølgende på DR TV. Her på FILMKOMMENTAREN har vi derfor taget Sara Thelles anmeldelse fra premieren på CPH:DOX sidste år frem på forsiden igen.)


by Sara Thelle

Nearly two hours in company of Janis Joplin, what’s not to like! I was so ready to just lean back and enjoy and I was… disappointed.

Whoa, slow down, hold your horses! I’m being bombarded with talking heads at a speed so I can’t follow. Too fast a pace when all I want to do is to take my time, hear the music, feel the music and the person I’m about to discover.

I’m disappointed because I’m sitting in the dark theatre all alert and ready to take in impressions, emotions, sound, images and Music and I’m not getting the cinematic experience I thought I would. And I’m annoyed because I think a big part of my disappointment is a question of the editing. I don’t mind a conventional portrait film, I don’t mind seeing a TV-documentary in a theatre, but I do mind the rushing.

All the information, all the anecdotes and the archive footage lose sense if I don’t get the time it takes to “meet” the performer and her music. If there is not a moment where I hear something I haven’t heard before, suddenly discover the lyrics of a well-known song or just get to linger on a live performance…

Having said that, award-winning American filmmaker Amy Berg (the Oscar-nominated Deliver Us from Evil, 2006, about child molestation within the Catholic Church) has made an impressively well-documented portrait of Janis Joplin. It has been a long-term project initiated by the Joplin estate who approached the director back in 2007 and behind the film lays a huge amount of work with archive research, funding and clearing rights.

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Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Andrej Nekrasov: The Magnitsky Act /2

Written 16-10-2016 12:35:03 by Tue Steen Müller

But slowly disappears the drama documentary and the film director Nekrasov becomes the investigative journalist, who goes from place to place, from Moscow to London to New York, searching for the truth, discovering that Magnitsky was called upon as a witness in the financial fraud case and not as someone accused, and that he never mentioned the name(s) of the policemen in the first official report...

Her er Tue Steen Müllers anmeldelse fra 4. juli 2016 af The Magnitsky Act endnu en gang, for filmen blev denne uge aktuel da tidsskriftet Ekko inviterede i biografen, i Empire i København i tirsdags: ”Mød Mads Brügger i samtale med Andrei Nekrasov om hans The Magnitsky Act. Dokumentaren stempler ’Putins fjende nr. 1’ som svindler.

Han er kendt som en af Putins skarpeste modstandere. Og historien om systemkritikeren Sergei Magnitsky, der blev tortureret til døde i fængslet, lå lige til højrebenet. Men da den russiske instruktør Andrei Nekrasov graver dybere i sagen, begynder historien langsomt at smuldre. Systemkritikeren blev ikke tortureret, og sagen handler ikke om russisk korruption, men om en amerikansk mangemillionær, William Browder, der angiveligt har berøvet Rusland for 230 millioner dollars og dækker sig bag ’kampen’ for menneskerettighederne i landet…” (Frida Marquard, Ekko, 5. oktober 2016)

Dorte Hygum Sørensen var til stede i Empire biografen i tirsdags og skrev i sin reportage til Politiken: ”… Nekrasovs film er så kontroversiel, at stort set ingen vil vise den. Visningen i Empire er en af de første i verden. Europaparlamentet har afvist at se den, den tyske tv-kanal Arte har aflyst at vise den, og Andrej Nekrasovs omdømme som troværdig, Putin-kritisk instruktør er p.t. i fare for fuldstændig at smuldre, efter at han i manges øjne med ’The Magnitsky Act’ forsvarer dele af det russiske system. Efter visningen interviewes Andrej Nekrasov foran publikum af dokumentarist og journalist Mads Brügger, der spørger, hvad der nu skal ske med den russiske instruktørs film. 'Det ved jeg ikke', lyder den korte version af et af Andrej Nekrasovs meget lange svar.

Andrej Nekrasov virker både oprigtigt lettet over muligheden for at vise sit værk for et publikum og også rystet over de mange negative reaktioner, filmen mødes med rundt omkring i verden. Tidligere har han lavet film om forgiftningen af Putin-kritikeren Aleksandr Litvinenko. Med ’The Magnitsky Act’ har han skabt en film, der forsvarer en konkret russisk politimand samt dele af russisk lovgivning og kritiserer en amerikaner, der er kendt for sit engagement i menneskerettigheder i Rusland. Det er så kontroversielt, at Nekrasov risikerer at miste alt, han har bygget op, siden han debuterede i slutningen af 80’erne. Efter liveinterviewet spørger jeg Mads Brügger, hvad han synes om Nekrasovs film: ’Jeg vil sige, at en mand med hans historik kunne ikke have lavet en mere modig film’.” (Dorte Hygum Sørensen, Politiken, 15. oktober 2016)



by Tue Steen Müller

The Magnitsky Act has the subtitle ”Behind the Scenes” and indeed this is what it does, or rather where he takes us, Andrei Nekrasov, known for his controversial film on the poisoning of Litvinenko, for his ”Russian Lessons” that deals with the Russian-Georgian war and for his tv series ”Farewell Comrades”. In other words Nekrasov is an experienced, professional director behind big international films. His new film digs into what actually happened to Sergey Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison in 2009, where he had been sitting for 380 days, arrested by the police after having reported a financial tax fraud of considerable size. To the authorities.

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Categories: Cinema, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mihajlo Jevtic: Four Passports

Written 14-10-2016 14:57:35 by Tue Steen Müller

For someone who for 15 years regularly have been visiting Belgrade, and who have been traveling Serbia South and North with local friends, it is upfront very interesting to see a film made by and about a man, film director Mihajlo Jevtic, who in first person and in a unpretentious, both humourous and sad, typically Serbian, I would say, of course a total simplification, tells the story of his young life in several countries as the title says, and yet at the same place, a place he is to leave to live in another country, where the working and thus material living conditions are better. I have met these considerations among younger Serbians again and again, so nothing new thematically for me.

So – contrary to the text of the serious and depressive synopsis on the website and on facebook, link below – I was happy to watch a film, on the background of the history of a country Yugoslavia that fell apart, full of warm feelings, a family film, whose members (love the father of the director) remember and reflect and get happy when grandchildren (from the side of the sister) arrive.

The film lives best, when father and son are together, playing with the camera, looking at s-8 material from their holidays in Rovinj, Croatia, a place the director Mihajlo goes back to – to bring back moving images to his family. In between the film brings some animation, which does not really bring extra value to a personal documentary that was nice and sweet to watch.

Serbia, Croatia, Germany, 2016, 83 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docs All Over – Is that Good?

Written 13-10-2016 12:59:12 by Tue Steen Müller

Are there too many documentary film festivals? NO – those who complain are professionals, who say they can not be in two places at the same time. Understandable argument if you want to attend all so-called industry events with pitching and development workshops, that run parallel to the screenings of films. On the other hand most broadcasters or sales companies include more than one person… AND the documentary film festivals are first of all there for the audience. For films to be screened to regular citizens, doc lovers, cinema goers. Right? AND there is an audience. In most of the below mentioned festivals that I have attended the halls are full – hmm, and the ones who come are mostly pretty much younger than me. Bravo, there is an interest for documentaries among the 20-35 years old.

But are there too many documentary film festivals at this time of the year? Do they cannibalise each other, when it comes to getting the films. In terms of

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /9

Written 13-10-2016 07:47:02 by Allan Berg Nielsen

“…A documentary work is not intended for the esthetic connoisseur or the preoccupied consumer, but rather for people in vital need of increasing their knowledge: of transforming communicated environments, epochs, nature scenes into personal experiential substance - something with which to enrich their own inner landscapes.”


By Sune Jonsson (1978)


Quantity should be a part of the documentary method, a part of the documentary language of form. The 1/125th is a fraction of the historic flow. A great many 1/125ths are needed merely to illuminate one isolated situation. In the 8 years during which the FSA documentation took place, ending in 1943, over 270,000 pictures were taken. Perhaps, all together, those pictures provided a overview of the extent of the disaster and could form a basis for the nation's self-scrutiny. August Sander privately collected his panorama of the Weimar Republic's physiognomies, roles, and uniforms in 20 bulging folders. The definitive publication of this collection in book form, Menschen ohne Maske (1971) is consequently characterized by an extraordinary abundance of pictures, which we perceive as concordant with the documentary conception.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

IDFA 2016 Program

Written 12-10-2016 10:21:34 by Tue Steen Müller

From IDFA Industry & Press on FB two days ago: ”The complete line-up for IDFA 2016 has been announced! The program contains 297 titles (from 3,495 submissions), of which 102 documentaries will have their world premieres during the festival… with the text addition that “full details on all films and programme information will be announced November 3””.

And then you click your way into “the full line-up” and are happy, when you see films and names that you know about, filmmakers who have worked for years to finish their documentary, like – I know it is an extreme case – Norwegian Torstein Grude’s “Mogadishu Soldier” (photo), that has been in the making for many years, 10 has been mentioned, now completed with the help of Danish editor Niels Pagh Andersen. It is in the main competition as is the masterpiece of Pawel Lozinski “You have No Idea How Much I Love You”, that I saw in connection with the Krakow festival.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOK Leipzig 2016 Program

Written 11-10-2016 11:47:53 by Tue Steen Müller

… was announced yesterday with an extensive press release for the 59th (!) edition of the documentary and animation film festival that runs October 31 till November 6. Let me, who will be there, as usual, for some days, enjoying the professionalism and hospitality of the festival, and the city of Leipzig, give you what the festival wants us press people to put a focus on, through a quote from the headlines:

“DOK Leipzig sets record for premieres. Official Selection 2016: Big names, promising talent, and a greater number of female directors. This year 100 films are celebrating their world and international premieres at DOK Leipzig. With 34 more than last year, the number has risen to set a new record. A total of 179 films and 6 interactive projects have made it into the Official Selection…”

OK, let’s take it step by step. “Big Names”, yes and at least two remarkable films that I have already seen: Mira Janek’s beautiful homage to creativity in

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /8

Written 11-10-2016 07:49:32 by Allan Berg Nielsen

… they had plenty of time - the ultimate documentary resource - they themselves became something of experts in geography and agriculture. They were also sensitive and capable of the profound empathy with the subject matter that transforms certain photographers into depictors of reality in a truly documentary sense. Knowledge also affords artistic freedom. Experienced and versed, the author can move within his subject matter. His depiction of reality then becomes "macro realistic" - that is, a concrete expression of an inner reality.


By Sune Jonsson (1978)


The reportage confrontation is a fragile method of documentary work. But even so unfavorable an assignment situation can be transformed: if the photographer is given sufficient time, if he is given time to gain a knowledge of the environment that will enable his pictures to function as documentary statements, if he has the personal qualifications to deepen his empathy, his social commitment, and his responsibility as a fellow human being. This obviously turned out to be the case with Gunnar Lundh and Sven Järlås. And young photographers like Yngve Baum and Jean Hermanson have also come far along the same road of personal deepening.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

Magnificent7 Doc Xtra

Written 10-10-2016 09:59:39 by Tue Steen Müller

I have to confess that I was a bit worried, when I saw that Belgrade friends Svetlana and Zoran Popovic and their team launched a documentary retrospective of films that we had selected and screened during the years of the festival – next year late January it is the 13th time that 7 European feature length documentaries will be shown at the Sava Centre in the Serbian capital. For these screenings there are normally between 1000 and 1500 spectators. Would new people come, would many come to see the films for the second time?  

No need to worry, not at all. I want to repeat that the audience for documentaries in Belgrade is loyal to the M7, as we call it. Some quotes from the Popovic couple:

“The audience was very nice for “Un Tango Más” (by German Kral, who was present), 700-800 people, plus the man from Argentinian Embassy and the Israeli ambassador (who wanted to enjoy Tango)! For "The Monastery" (by Pernille Rose Grønkjær) we had about 500-600 people, plus the chief of the

Danish diplomatic mission in Belgrade and an eminent professor of theology!”

These numbers are amazing for a retrospective… nevertheless the Popovic couple was not that happy with the attendance to Gianfranco Rosi's "Below Sea Level" – there was 300-400 people. “Mostly because the screening was from 5pm.”  My comment: Come on… that many people for a film that is not new. We could not get that in Copenhagen, I think!

For "Twilight of a Light" by Sylvain Biegeleisen there were  600-700 people: “When they sat, the light went up on the stage, where Sylvain sat with the guitar and Zoran was standing next to him. Sylvain started playing and singing, then a short announcement and another chanson de Jacques Brel. After the screening the audience was so overwhelmed with feelings that they stood and applaude very long to Sylvain who was in front of the stage.”

“Before the film of Michael Glawogger, “Whores’ Glory”, we screened the brilliant piece he made here during the festival workshop - where he recites two verses from Goethe's Faustus in German. "Nothing is inside, nothing is outside..." The audience for the homage to the deceased master was 500-600.

Very encouraging numbers for repeat screenings of great European documentaries!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Monika Pawluczuk: End of the World

Written 09-10-2016 12:46:21 by Tue Steen Müller

They keep on coming these strong philosophical cinematic essays from Poland. This time one from 2015 that I had not seen, a film that after touring at several American festivals with success has the chance to end up on the Oscar Nomination List for short documentaries. It deserves to be on that list!

On the photo you see one of the faces of the film. One of the faces that react to phone calls from men and women, who want to talk, who seek comfort and understanding of their problems, which normally simply come from loneliness. They call the gentle radio man Kuba. The other face is one of another young man, who takes calls from people in need of immediate medical help. He tries to find out what is wrong, gives advice to those calling on what to do until the ambulance arrives. It is sometimes a more than urgent situation or maybe it is already too late, and sometimes also he gets calls from lonely people. Help needed for the mind and the body.

It sounds very banal and it is on print, but interpreted into a film, within the frame that ”the end of the world” arrives very soon according to the Maya calendar, shot during night time, with dark images with the light coming from inside flats in appartment buildings, mixed in a brilliant montage with images taken from surveillance cameras, images of mostly empty streets, of ”lonely” cars or shot from the ambulance with the radio sound – yes, interpreted into a film that has a tone, and an atmosphere, it becomes an extraordinary documentary about the ordinary. A reflection on ”la condition humaine”.

It sounds very dark but there is also humour and light like when a woman wants to cancel the end of the world as she has experienced love – or the man who wants it to come, to have a new world arrive, where his dogs do not suffer from the noise of the world.

Poland, 2015, 38 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Lisbon Docs and Words from Paul Pauwels

Written 08-10-2016 22:16:23 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s number 17, the workshop and pitching session in Lisbon, the Lisbon Docs 2016, organised by EDN (European Documentary Network) and Apordoc. Running parallel to the DocLisboa festival. Happy to see that the event is still alive and kicking after all these years. Remember how producer Pedro Martins and directors like Sergio Trefaut and Catarina Mouráo and many more set up the Apordoc in 1998 to be an active documentary organisation that among others had the MEDIA Programme supported Lisbon Docs as one of the activities as well as Docs Kingdom. As the EDN representative at meetings in Bruxelles in those years with the MEDIA executives there was always scepticism raised if the Portuguese event was worth keeping (as one of four EDN activities in Southern Europe) – it was obviously, and EDN director Paul Pauwels (photo), in a interview with Cineuropa, explains clearly why and puts words on the profile of the workshop of 2016 (October 16-22):

”It is always important to continue to learn and adapt to new realities. We have realised that even the most experienced of professionals can still find new elements that don’t only help them to present their project in a better way, but also make them think more deeply about it. When you have a lot of experience, it is easy to get caught up in a kind of routine. That makes things tricky, because you might not be thinking enough about storytelling or the market. So we try to provide a service that not only gives documentary professionals tools to develop their stories in the best possible way, but also to think about what the decision makers need and are expecting… Today, the event is much more of a “meeting point”. I believe that the whole process has become much more personal and much more professional. That’s why I think people still make the effort to come to these events – to see what’s going on. And, in the case of Lisbon Docs, I think they also get a very good idea of what is happening in Europe – a Europe that we would like to see united, even though we know that isn’t happening!...”

Link below to more about Lisbon Docs and the whole interview with Pauwels. It is fine to see a list of tutors, who know what a creative documentary is – director Lithuanian Audrius Stonys, local Graca Castanheira (one of the pioneers 17 years ago), Spanish Marta Andreu, Edda Baumann-von Broen, all round doc expert Peter Jäger and producer Christian Popp, previously commissioner at arte.

… and projects, more than 20, happy to see that Lithuanian producer Dagne Vildziunaite is there, as well as Shorena Tevzadze from Georgia, local Jorge Pelicano (director) and Romanian Alex Brendea and Irina Malcea, to whose project ”Teacher” I have high expectations.

List of panelists, read

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Message2Man Winners

Written 07-10-2016 10:38:59 by Tue Steen Müller

The festival that ended last week has finally published the list of awards of the 26th Message to Man festival – in English, the Russian version was on the site right after the festival had ended.

Having delivered this a bit grumpy remark to a festival that otherwise is very professionally organised and is growing in audience - an estimate says that 25.000 tickets were sold and 20.000 attended the grand opening at the Palace Square – I can only greet the decisions taken by the international jury, for the main awards.

Which went to Serbian Ognjen Glavonic and his courageous ”Depth Two”. He got the ”Golden Centaur” and 3000$ for the best film of the festival - and to Iranian Mehrdad Oskouei for ”Starless Dreams”, 1000$, for the best full-length documentary, an observational documentary with a strong emotional impact – and to Lithuanian Giedre Zickyte and Chilean Maite Alberdi for ”I´m not from Here”, best short documentary, wonderful warm film that seems to take prizes everywhere…

There were many other awards given by the international jury… at the national competition, the main award was divided between ”My Friend Boris Nemtsov” by Zosia Radkevich and ”Fire” by Nadya Zakharova (30000 Rubles) and there were awards given in the experimental section In Silico as well as a Diploma for Vitaly Mansky for his ”Under the Sun” given by the Press jury AND another diploma from the Fipresci Jury (I thought that was also a press jury…). The young ones in the Student Jury found ”Mallory” by Helena Trestikova the best film and the grand old man of the festival, now the Honorary President, Mikhail Litviakov, awarded the film on Joseph Brodsky, ”Josefs Land”, by Pavel Medvedev. I have a link for that film and will review asap.

Read the whole list on

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Americans in Paris

Written 06-10-2016 12:32:04 by Tue Steen Müller

To be honest we lost our way at the big Cimetière Montparnasse. We had been talking about paying a visit to Sartre & Beauvoir or why not Gainsbourg, but suddenly my wife points and says, look, here is Joris Ivens. And many warm thoughts fill my head. His classic from Borinage (1936), his series from China that we bought for distribution at Statens Filmcentral (National Film Board of Denmark) and his last, the non-political film ”Une Histoire de vent” that I saw in Centre Pompidou with the presence of the director. I remember him sitting in his wheelchair with his beautiful white hair – as you see him in the film in the desert trying to tame the wind with his camera, as he hat put it. He lived from 1898 to 1989, google his filmography, an amazing oeuvre, a man of the world.

But this small personal report from a sunny Paris has its focus elsewhere. On the Americans in Paris. Not Gershwin or Minelli or Hemingway, not the burgers that are now available in almost every café but (first) on the Beat Generation and the exhibition about Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Ferlinghetti, Cassidy and so on at Centre Pompidou. We got there on the last day it was open and I had high expectations after all the clever observations our Danish Beat Generation expert par excellence Lars Movin had formulated. No disappointment – photographs, films, drawings, collages, paintings, politics, provocations, poetry, long interview with Ginsberg, who mentions Ezra Pound and Céline as inspirators among many others for the Generation, that I first learned about through Danish author and journalist Erik Thygesen, who back in the 60’es published translations of Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and others in the book ”San Francisco Renaissancen”. Have it at home. Must read Ginsberg’s ”Howl” again in Danish language…

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Salomé Jashi on Information and Form

Written 05-10-2016 22:28:18 by Tue Steen Müller

The fine website of IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) also – besides concrete info on workshops and festivals – includes small interviews. Today one is published with Salomé Jashi, whose “Bakhmaro” and “The Dazzling Light of Sunset” have been written about on filmkommentaren. Jashi is to give a masterclass at the festival in Jihlava and will be a tutor for the Ex Oriente workshop. Here is a quote dealing with one of the eternal questions for documentarians, read the rest via the link below. She says:

Some years ago, when I visited IDFA for the first time, I observed that most of the films had very strong stories and characters but artistically I found them weak. But these films conveyed information, rose awareness, made me think and worry. I was asking myself whether it made sense to focus on style and form in documentaries, in the way I did, when information was so much more important in the world. This question has two sides and it’s a decision we make as filmmakers– is the issue more important or is it the artistic and aesthetic way we deal with our surroundings and create content. Even though I struggle in coming up with the answer, in fact I am still for the latter.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /7

Written 05-10-2016 08:15:53 by Allan Berg Nielsen

… Knowledge also affords artistic freedom. Experienced and versed, the author can move within his subject matter. His depiction of reality then becomes "macro realistic" - that is, a concrete expression of an inner reality.


By Sune Jonsson (1978)


Ivar Lo-Johansson has asserted the authenticity of the self-experienced as a literary life-form and method. It is not enough for the author to have subjects: the subjects must also be part of his own self. Perhaps in this distinction we can also discern the essential difference between the author and the poet.

Knowledge also affords artistic freedom. Experienced and versed, the author can move within his subject matter. His depiction of reality then becomes "macro realistic" - that is, a concrete expression of an inner reality. The opposite method is observation from without - a "microrealism" without a deeper personal sounding board.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /6

Written 03-10-2016 07:57:04 by Allan Berg Nielsen

… The ideal situation, of course, is that in which the photographer is his own client. Then the assignment is a vital function of the photographer himself; then his depiction of reality will occur at that point where he himself stands as a human being.


By Sune Jonsson (1978)


The assignment situation, upon which the photographer's personal relationship to the subject matter is ultimately dependent, is a vital part of the documentary methodology. If it is alleged that knowledge and insight should be the bases of all depiction of reality, then the assignment situation must be crucial to the genuineness of the documentation. By the way in which the assignment situation is regarded, one can also tell what status – in artistic-professional terms - the client is prepared to accord the photographer.

The ideal situation, of course, is that in which the photographer is his own client. Then the assignment is a vital function of the photographer himself; then his depiction of reality will occur at that point where he himself stands as a human being. From every viewpoint, it must be an optimal advantage to be able to seek out the subject matter that is made up of one's own internal and external landscapes. Assignment and need for expression then become synonymous. The subject matter itself then becomes the client.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

Brian McGinn & Rod Blackhurst: Amanda Knox

Written 02-10-2016 10:37:44 by Tue Steen Müller

I refrain from a classic review of this shocking documentary that was launched yesterday on Netflix after having been premiered at the recent Toronto Film Festival. There has already been several praising texts in New York Times, Hollywood Reporter, Telegraph etc., and – in Danish – in the newspaper Politiken. If you want to read them go via the facebook page of Plus Pictures, the Danish production company of ”Amanda Knox”. The producer’s name is Mette Heide, who again has taken care of a big international documentary. With success. If you are one of those, who have never heard about this film before, scroll down and get the synopsis – and come back to…

… a fine interview (link below) with the two directors on the site of

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nick Fraser to Documentary Streaming Platform

Written 28-09-2016 20:24:36 by Tue Steen Müller

“How Docs Reach the Audience” was the headline of the conference I was involved in here in Saint Petersburg with presentations of several interesting streaming services for documentaries in the Nordic and Russian environment and with only one broadcaster involved, the 24DOC that also includes a vod offer to its viewers.

A clear statement of the fact that classical broadcasting is far from being the only way for documentaries to the audience.

And in comes today the news from realscreen (written by Kevin Ritchie) that legendary commissioning editor Nick Fraser from BBC’s Storyville leaves his job to “commission documentaries for subscription-based streaming service Yaddo, which he has co-founded with producer Lawrence Elman, who serves as CEO…”

“Yaddo is rolling out in Europe at the end of this month and will enter 160 territories, including the United States, in November.

It will initially be available in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Subscriptions cost US$4.99 per month or €3.99 per month…”

“Being involved in Yaddo is an exciting opportunity to be at the heart of the future of documentaries and how they are created,” says Fraser.

Read the whole article, link below, exciting news, indeed, Fraser can count on a subscriber in Denmark.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Erarta, Yuri Abramochkin, Salgado

Written 28-09-2016 09:18:50 by Tue Steen Müller

My introduction to Russian documentary and to wonderful Saint Petersburg is very much due to Viktor Skubey and Ludmila Nazaruk. The latter (and her artist husband Ilya) has taken me year after year to Erarta, museum for contemporary art, brilliant collection, excellent exhibitions, super well conveyed, English and Russian texts all over.

This time three exhibitions caught our eyes: 1) Belarussian contemporary artists, strong in expression, about freedom and its absence, personal styles, extraordinary and sometimes scary interpretations of our lives. 2) Salgado’s Genesis was there, had seen it before, this photographer is a genius in framing and in his pointing to us, that we should take care of our world. His pinguins, his tortoise, his portrait of a Nenet, unique! 3) And the Yuri Abramochkin, born 1936, press photographer with access to Kreml and surroundings, portraits of Gagarin, of the central committee members waiting for Brezhnev, all with hats, of Kruschev with the shadow of Brezhnev catching up on him. But also documentary photos of people, regular citizens of the USSR… and a text from him, in many ways a true, respectful documentarian, read this:

”Press photographers differ from those working in the field of experimental photography, applied photography etc. in that the former shoot real people, their life… They walk through their lives with a camera. My credo is to gaze into the environment, to look around instead of peeking (there is something tactless about it) and catch unique moments in life, you sometimes see things that would never devise or invent yourself”.

Photo: Ludmila Nazaruk

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

M2M How to reach the Audience/ 4

Written 27-09-2016 09:29:55 by Tue Steen Müller

And some words about the male interventions at the conference in Saint Petersburg on the second day, and some small conclusions or call it reflections.

Festival director (and film director and producer) Pavel Pechenkin from Flahertiana in Perm had just completed the 2016 edition of the old festival that carries the name of the man, who for many was the one who invented the name ”documentary” and who was also the one, who said that ”we have not achieved our goal before it is quite as easy to get access to a film as it is to a book”. Is that where we are today?

13000 visited the festival this year, Pechenkin said. His speech,

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

M2M How Docs Reach the Audience/ 3

Written 26-09-2016 20:38:15 by Tue Steen Müller

No discussion, the female presenters at the Saint Petersburg conference on how to reach an audience saturday/sunday September 24/25 were the best prepared, spoke good English, were used to communicate and had clear power point figures and texts, mixed with film clips. And kept the time so the polite moderators, Cecilie Bolvinkel and me, did not have to interrupt or make signs that ”time is up” as we tried, totally in vain, to do with a couple of male speakers…

Bolvinkel talked on the first day about the EDN project ”Moving Docs”, a pan-European documentary screening network that includes 9 partners. It was launched in 2015 and includes screenings and now also – text taken from the website of EDN, link below – ”… In addition to raising awareness for the ongoing refugee crisis through documentaries such as ”The Longest Run” (director Marianna Economou) and ”At Home in the World” (director Andreas Kofoed), the EDN-led Moving Docs programme recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the most helpless victims of today's crises: refugee children… Bravo, and bravo also for the openness that Bolvinkel showed towards the Russian in the audience – you (film clubs?, Documentary Guild?, Doker festival) can join if you want to show European films. Unfortunately it can not go the the other way, as Moving Docs is paid by the EU.

Over the bridge to Malmø from Copenhagen based EDN. Maja Lindquist took the floor as the first one sunday morning talking about ”The Doc Lounge Experience” with the subtitle ”how to attract new and young audiences to documentaries”. Lindquist who is also programmer for the Nordisk Panorama festival has built up the Doclounge, that (wow!) during the 10 years has had 100000 visitors, has lounges in 19 cities in the Nordic countries (why only two in Denmark!), where people come to hang out, have a drink, watch a documentary, discuss it, or have a music experience afterwards. It has to be ”cool and hip” as Lindquist put it. There are great plans to expand the events with live streaming of discussions. It’s great, simply and you should read more about it, link below. And why not include a lounge or two in Saint Petersburg, there can be no technical problems, or?

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

M2M How Docs Reach the Audience/ 2

Written 26-09-2016 09:07:38 by Tue Steen Müller

Maria Muskevich, director and producer, on her way to the Warsaw International Film Festival for the European premiere of the film ”Putin Forever” (director Kirill Nenashev) – the first lines of the film’s synopsis: … ” The day before Vladimir Putin’s presidential inauguration, on 6 May 2012, a protest march took place in Moscow's Bolotnaya Square opposite the Kremlin, demanding Putin's resignation and honest elections in Russia. This peaceful march was brutally dispersed by the police special forces…” – talked about the film club movement in Russia. 20-30 clubs are active, not a lot in a huge country like Russia but the clubs are to be seen as tools to combine an audience and the makers. Muskevich and the Documentary Guild are looking for ways to better and enlarge the network.

Which brings us to the fact that 250 documentaries are every year supported by the Russian Ministry of Culture but a very small percentage of these reaches an audience… Critic, sales agent, teacher (Antipode Sales & Distribution) Anton Mazurov was very hard in his evaluation of the situation for Russian documentaries. He talked about ”corruption, nepotism, ideological tumors” in the

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

M2M How Docs Reach the Audience/ 1

Written 25-09-2016 07:34:58 by Tue Steen Müller

Three Danes on stage. And a Russian technician, whose job it was, not always easy, during the whole first day of the conference, to have the computers connected to the system at Lendoc, where the conference ”How Docs Reach the Audience” with Nordic and Russian speakers takes place. While I am making the introduction to the conference, Liselotte Michelsen and Lisbeth Juhl Sibbesen from the Danish Film Institute (DFI) are getting ready to speak about the streamingsite(s) Filmcentralen that has subsites for both public viewing and one to be used in education. They did a great job inviting the audience to understand how the sites were built and they entertained with a wonderful short silent film, ”A Russian long distance swimmer in Copenhagen” in 1913. That film is one example from a fine collection that is available for everybody – and not only in Denmark. ”Denmark on Film” includes films from 1905-1965. Link below.

Another site is targeting elementary and high schools that can subscribe to get films into the class room, often with educational material available. There are 1600 films on this filmcentralen site and 614 on the site filmcentralen ”for alle” = ”for everybody”, where you can find films by documentary masters as Jørgen Leth and Jon Bang Carlsen. The latter site, the two speakers from DFI told, is right now threatened because of lack of financing. That is sad news after all these years with succesful negociations with the Danish producers to make the films reach the audience where they are, in their homes. And more so as the site is working and has an audience.

Cecilie Bolvinkel from EDN was the moderator of this first speech of the conference and had the boss of it all, St. Petersburg based producer and president of the Documentary Guild, Viktor Skubey, put questions about rights as did Mikhail Zheleznikov, programmer of the M2M festival’s In Silico section for experimental films. Misha was the one who answered my question if there was a streamingsite in Russia. There is, he said:

More reports from the conference will follow.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Message2Man Opens

Written 24-09-2016 06:39:02 by Tue Steen Müller

It was a grand opening last night of the 26th edition of the Message2Man festival in Saint Petersburg. It took place on the monumental Winter Palace Square, a historical place as it was shown through archive material from 1916, as you know the year before the Russian revolution. Surprisingly short speeches, a festive atmosphere, balloons reaching the sky, we were all equipped with rain coats and saw Werner Herzog go to the stage to receive the award for his life long contribution to cinema. He thanked and told the audience that his family is half Russian as he has been married to a Russian for 21 years. That created applause as did the rock band DTD that was very strong, they are from the city. And now today the festival takes off at the Velikan cinema complex with a huge program of short films, experimental works, animation and documentaries. And the conference between Nordic and Russian filmmakers, "How Docs Reach the Audience" at the Lendoc.

Photo: Alexey Golubev.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /5

Written 23-09-2016 14:19:30 by Allan Berg Nielsen

... The verbal accompaniment must create new relationships and angles of approach to the pictorial material (even laconic): … Småbrukaren och kyrkogårdsarbetaren Hjalmar Nyberg, Nyåker, gräver grav för avlidne banmästaren Henrik Carlsson (Sune Jonsson)



By Sune Jonsson (1978)


The consummate photo-documentation requires verbal accompaniment. This must have a clear documentary conception and ideally possess formal competence as well. There are, for example, plenty of photographs documenting log driving. The most meritorious is Stig T. Karlsson's 1957 depiction from The Little Lule River. Lacking, however,is documentary material that, from the standpoint of primary worker experience, verbalizes the content of log driving. For that reason, it is regrettable, when Stig T. Karlsson's pictures are published in book form, that documentary consistency is sacrificed, and instead, Stig Sjödin is asked to write an accompanying text that flaunts a poetic empathy with the work depicted, that is surely more literary hypothesis than adequate expression of the log driver's own experience of his toil.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /4

Written 22-09-2016 08:36:24 by Allan Berg Nielsen

… Their documentation is a distillate of reality itself. Their pictures are freed of all ephemeral, fashionable, and sentimental trappings. They nakedly describe universal situations that are allowed to speak right into the camera. (Sune Jonsson)



By Sune Jonsson (1978)


One should disdain rules but must discuss principles.

I remember the 50s, when Henri Cartier-Bresson’s books began to come out and started photographers dreaming of the pure photographic image, the prettily arranged and seized 1/125th that was sufficient unto itself. Hasse Enström, Managing Editor of Tidningen Vi, went against that tide at the time, doggedly challenging the theory and requiring text commentaries of photographers offering him picture essays for sale.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

Nordisk Panorama Forum 2016/ 2

Written 21-09-2016 12:52:17 by Tue Steen Müller

The second day of the Nordic documentary meeting had a lighter atmosphere at the table with decision makers from the region, the rest of Europe and North America. There was still the usual ”thank you for the pitch” remarks but there were more creative comments on the projects, which could be useful for those pitching and interesting for us in the audience. A better flow than at the first day one could say, very much due to the well prepared moderators Mikael Opstrup and Gitte Hansen.

As at the first day a guest project was invited to the table, this time from Estonia, represented by producer Kiur Aarma and Raimo

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nordisk Panorama Forum 2016/ 1

Written 20-09-2016 14:36:03 by Tue Steen Müller

The family has gathered again. The Nordic documentary community, whose members know each other so well, and who help each other. And who often do coproductions. The family had invited friends from other European broadcasting and sales companies, well some had even crossed the Atlantic Ocean to take part. Look at the photo, there are many around the table, and what you don’t see is the audience on all three sides listening to the pitching teams, applauding after the teaser is shown, after the end of the verbal pitch and after the Q&A. It’s quite Pavlovian. The set-up works, the technique works, there is just a little overtime from those pitching. It’s in the hands of experienced moderators, this year again the Danes Mikael Opstrup and Gitte Hansen, who lives and works in Zürich and told me that she now also has a Swiss citizenship.

Yes, that’s the way it is, you hug and kiss and catch up with good

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /3

Written 20-09-2016 09:16:00 by Allan Berg Nielsen

… One thereby denies that photographs can represent a pictorial manifestation of experiences and personal views, that photographs can be personal messages having aesthetic qualities of communication. (Sune Jonsson)


By Sune Jonsson (1978)


In the 40s and early 50s, when Walt Disney was at the peak of his documentary-film activity, he is said to have remarked that it was better to give training in cinematography to the scientists working in the subject areas of those documentaries than vice versa. He wanted thereby to emphasize how vital expertise is in all depictions of reality. Such an attitude implies, however, that the photographer is exclusively regarded as a triggerer of the camera shutter’s 1/125th, as no better than the lens’ own capability. One thereby denies that photographs can represent a pictorial manifestation of experiences and personal views, that photographs can be personal messages having esthetic qualities of communication.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

DOK.Incubator 2016 Preview

Written 19-09-2016 18:02:00 by Tue Steen Müller

It proved to be a lucky first round of cooperation between the Nordisk Panorama and DOK.Incubator, the rough cut workshop for documentaries. The Nordisk Panorama is a festival that through its industry activity, the Forum, was able to gather a big amount of broadcasters, sales agents and festival programmers for a sunday morning presentation of 8 films, which are on their way to be completed and/or do already have reached the point, where the picture is locked. It was full house in the cinema Panora here in Malmø yesterday and what the viewers experienced was Quality. It can be said as simple as that. DOK.Incubator is a workshop that goes for developing creative documentaries, in some cases I would say documentaries of fine artistic quality.

”Work Hard, Fly High!”, it was written on the poster on the

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Ivar Murd: Ash Mountains

Written 18-09-2016 18:54:47 by Tue Steen Müller

Yes, we have seen many documentaries from Eastern part of Europe and from Russia about industrial cities that were active, because there was work and now there is no longer work, the cities are dead and have no plan for the future. They can be pretty predictable, and you know it all after five minutes - if you don’t feel passion and originality in the way you are taken to and around.

Estonian director Ivar Mund’s first feature length, produced by Margus Õunapuu, has passion and originality, with a personal starting point, a very good commentary in first person, and some interesting characters. He is – so important for a first film – able to create atmosphere, the film has its own tone and it has several layers.

It starts with an ultra fast montage of private photos that

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /2

Written 17-09-2016 08:55:51 by Allan Berg Nielsen


By Sune Jonsson (1978)



An action, a façade, a room in someone’s home, a face – any of these is always a sum. This sum can be described, if one wishes, as heritage, environment, tradition, everything that with the consistency of natural law marks people and societies. If the camera’s 1/125th, with its particular slice of new describes that sum with knowledge and empathy, one can speak of genuine documentary photography, of personal and well informed messages that concern us because they broaden our horizon and enlarge our experience.

Lennart af Petersens is one of Sweden’s finest documentary photographers. When Kurt Bergengren describes his accomplishments, he expresses himself with characteristic pithiness, speaking of a Petersens’s “ability to photograph Stockholm from a distance of several centuries” or of documentary photography as being, I his case, an “exciting occupation for an educated man”.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics

How to Reach the Audience

Written 15-09-2016 12:48:02 by Tue Steen Müller

… is the title of a two-day documentary film conference that takes place September 24-25 in Saint Petersburg within the frames of the documentary festival Message2Man. It is a Nordic-Russian look at documentaries in cinemas, festivals, vod’s, self-distribution, screenings at cultural houses where filmmakers meet the audience. Nordic Council of Ministers is supporting the conference that is a classic: Interesting speeches followed by discussions moderated by me and Cecilie Bolvinkel from EDN (European Documentary Network).

The man behind the conference is the Russian producer Viktor Skubey, who is President of the Russian Guild of Documentary Film and TV and who stood behind the DoxPro program in Saint Petersburg together with Ludmila Nazaruk. The production of the conference is in the hands of experienced producer Anastasia Lobanova.

Let me mention some of the points of the conference. First the

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Docs – Flying Back in Time

Written 14-09-2016 15:12:35 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s 9.45am June 13th 1997. The location is the old Kino Gudhjem on Bornholm, the island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The first Baltic Sea Forum for Documentaries is to take off, there is a panel of commissioning editors waiting to listen to words from those pitching and to watch a trailer.

25 projects were lined-up, and a long day lay ahead of us. 15 minutes were given to each project according to the rules that had been set up years before at the Forum in Amsterdam. Those same rules that are still used at the many documentary fora all over the world.

The panel was strong. Makes me smile with nostalgia, when I think of experienced people like Björn Arvas from Swedish SVT, Flemming Grenz from Danish DR and Eila Werning from YLE in Finland. They have all, 20 editions later, retired now, but again and again this trio came back to support the filmmakers from the region. As did – in the first years of the Forum - Nick Fraser from BBC and Mette Hoffmann Meyer from TV2 Denmark. Not to forget Karolina Lidin from National Film Board of Denmark (Statens Filmcentral), who was already involved in the festival, that had been running on Bornholm since 1990, founded by TV2 Bornholm’s Bent Nørby Bonde, who then set up BMC, Baltic Media Centre.

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Sea Docs Riga/ 3

Written 12-09-2016 20:53:21 by Tue Steen Müller

I have mentioned so many times the old masters like Herz Frank, Ivars Seleckis, Mark Soosaar, Henrikas Sablevicius, Uldis Brauns and their younger students like Audrius Stonys, Arunas Matelis (who are no longer the young generation but masters who belong to the Baltic poetic tradition), but there are always directors, who sing with their own voice, in this case with many voices like Laila Pakalnina, who has made long and short documentaries, and feature films, conceptual and not conceptual, provoking in subject and style(s). Always surprising.

… and always a gift for a moderator at a pitching session, like me at the Baltic Sea Docs this year. I had no idea what Pakalnina wanted to say or how she wanted to present her project called ”Spoon”, and I was wonderfully amused as was the audience and the panel of decision makers, who were asked to get active. But first the catalogue text for the film:

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Steve Hoover: Almost Holy

Written 11-09-2016 07:30:12 by Tue Steen Müller

A week ago I was in Mariupol with Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, whose ”Mariupolis” made a big impression on me. And now I have returned to the city in Ukraine with American director Steve Hooper, who is here in Riga and with whom I have tutored filmmakers for the Baltic Sea Docs 2016. His film had an equally strong impact on me. And it has been a pleasure to meet the young director from Pittsburgh.

Full house in the K-Suns cinema in Riga, a long Q&A after the screening of a film, that has already had a long festival career and has been theatrically released in the USA and in the UK.

It’s an action film in the best American sense: Gennadiy Mokhnenko, a pastor in Ukraine who rehabilitates homeless children at his center, Pilgrim Republic, is a charismatic character, who is taking matters in his own hands. Who does what the authorities should do but do not do, or are not able to do because of lack of resources. He picks up kids in the streets, takes them to his place, works on getting them out of their drug addictions – or try to get them back to a normal life and/or reunited with their parents. If they are alive or if they are capable of being parents.

It is amazing how close Hoover and his crew have been able to come to the kids and youngsters. You see tragic fates, you follow some of them along the film, where Gennadiy is almost constantly in the picture. Yes, he is a hero, an amazing man, a documentary version of Bruce Willis, full of love for the victims of the social reality in this part of Ukraine that is close to the war, actually part of the war as the film demonstrates. There are touching scenes, there are scenes where you want to close your eyes, there are scenes where Gennadyi talks directly to the camera, there are images that you will not forget at the end of the film, where Gennadyi swims in the sea with the steel factory behind him, and on shore, as the director put it in the discussion after the film, makes ”a pillow” for himself in the sand.

Small objections from a critic who likes the film a lot – it is a bit too long, I felt some repetitions. It has - mostly in the beginning - a ”nervousness” in the editing and camerawork, which might have to do with the fact that Hoover jumps in time from beginning of 2000 forward and back again. Was that necessary? And the sound score, did it have to be so strong, could there have been more silent sequences? And yet, it is an action film…  

USA, 100 mins., 2015.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Sea Docs Riga/ 2

Written 10-09-2016 18:08:52 by Tue Steen Müller

The first day of pitching at the 20th edition of the Baltic Sea Forum ended with the presentation of the project ”Baltic New Wave”. The initiator and co-director of the film-to-be Kristine Briede was the presenter in front of four mature men, Arunas Matelis from Lithuania, Riho Västrik from Estonian, Uldis Cekulis from Latvia and Lithuanian co-director Audrius Stonys. The project had been developed for a long time, the financing is of course more depending on contribution from the three Baltic film institutions and the tv stations in the countries than on international financing… and yet as Sari Volanen from Finnish YLE said, it could be a theme evening with the film and some of the (short) films that will be cited from. To give you more information, here is the synopsis from the catalogue:

”A story about the Baltic School of Poetic Documentary and its creators – filmmakers who broke the propaganda documentary tradition in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. The story is told by two filmmakers – contemporary director Audrius Stonys (LT), and Herz Frank (LV / ISR), his late friend and mentor, who is guiding Audrius according to the Map of Ptolemy – a cinematographic code-book suggesting new discoveries both in poetic filmmaking and its meaning. Frank’s personal archives, uncovered by Audrius in Frank’s home in Israel, are a key to the timeless questions raised by every generation.”

The filmmakers presented in the film will be Andres Sööt and Mark Soosaar from Estonia, Henrikas Sablevicius and Robertas Verbas from Lithuania,  Ivars Seleckis, Aivars Freimanis and Uldis Brauns from Latvia… and maybe more of that generation.

Allow me to be emotional: The films of the mentioned masters as well the films of Stonys and Matelis were films I got to know on the island of Bornholm during the 1990’es. I am a true lover of the Baltic documentary tradition.

Photo: Agnese Zeltina… thanks!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Sea Docs Riga

Written 09-09-2016 18:01:15 by Tue Steen Müller

I had to have a photo of the grand old man in Latvian documentary Ivars Seleckis (born September 22 1934) and me just before the pitch rehearsal at the 20th edition of the Forum for documentaries being held in Riga these days. Seleckis will together with producer Antra Gaile close the pitching sessions on Sunday with the presentation of a project called ”To be Continued” that features 7 children, who are 7 years old and thus have just begun to go to school. It is the company Mistrus Media that produces this film that will picture Latvia of today thorugh the eyes of kids, who have grown up in a free Latvia.

Seleckis showed a beautiful trailer to his film that so far is supported by the National Film Centre of Latvia.

25 projects will be pitched tomorrow saturday and sunday to a panel of 17 so-called decision makers – distributors, sales agents, broadcasters.

Some name-dropping of well-known filmmakers who will pitch – Seleckis already mentioned, Victor Asliuk from Belarus, Audrius Stonys from Lithuania, Giedre Zickyte from that same country, Laila Pakalnina from Latvia, Arkko Okk from Estonia, Martichka Bozhilova from Bulgaria, Sami Paul-Anders Simma…

Parallel to the training of those who are to pitch, there are film screenings going on in the K-Suns cinema in Riga – and the cinema is full every night. Last night it was the masterly ”Don Juan” by Jerzy Sladkowski that was shown.

More reports will follow, until then check 

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mileva/Kazakova: The Beast is Still Alive!

Written 05-09-2016 18:06:43 by Tue Steen Müller

No, I can not make a real review of this film…

But why not?

I know the two makers too well, and the project. I have seen them pitching the film at several workshops. And I am just so happy for them that they have finished the work. A good film, an important film, a rich film. And taken for the Sarajevo festival recently.

So, you can not be objective, you mean?

There is no such thing as objectivity in reviewing films, and I normally can take the necessary distance, when I write about films made by people I know. But this time, no, precisely because of my admiration for Mina and Vesela, and their courage and their stubbornness to finish a project that will be well received outside

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Astra Film Festival

Written 04-09-2016 17:15:37 by Tue Steen Müller

… with the subtitle “Sibiu International Film Festival” has existed since 1993. This year it takes place October 17-23. The Romanian festival in Sibiu sent an email about the selection that has been done and the interesting thematic grouping of the films which have been done as well as the competitive sections listed with an award for “Outstandox”, “Romanian documentaries”, “Central and Eastern European documentaries” and “Student documentaries”. Here is the text:

“We have received over 1,200 submissions from all over the world, many of the documentaries dealing with extremely interesting subjects and using surprising approaches, making it difficult for the Selection Committee to pick the 100 films that make up this year's official programme and various sidebars.

The 23rd Astra Film Festival welcomes the audiences to an exciting documentary cinema week. A selection of the best new international, Eastern European, and Romanian documentaries dealing with some of the burning issues in contemporary reality, are grouped in the theme programmes Inside Radical IslamNo Place Like Dis-placeCitizens of the Online World. Strong authorial voices and outstanding skills are reflected in the films in the theme sections Self-Family-Society, Doc-vlog, Circumscribed SpacesStories from Urbania, and OutstanDox. Surprising stories and incredible characters emerge from the films in the theme sections Encounters, Refurbished Past, and Reality Under Cover.

This year, Astra Film pays tribute to the work of Fred Wiseman (photo), and invites you to meet a legend of documentary cinema.

A special programme features recent works of the great masters of documentary cinema Patricio Guzman, Gianfranco Rosi, Werner Herzog and Thom Andersen.

Last but not least, the new formats - VR, 360, webdoc, full dome -  are present in the New media - immersive documentary programme: The Future Is Now.”

Many of the films have been reviewed or noted on this site like “Depth Two”, “Don Juan”, “Train to Adulthood”, “The Dazzling Light of Sunset”, “The Dybbuk, A Tale of Wandering Souls”, “Among the Believers” and “Sonita”.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mantas Kvedaravicius: Mariupolis

Written 02-09-2016 16:28:27 by Tue Steen Müller

Let’s start with this information: Mariupolis is a city in Ukraine at the Azov Sea and with the river Kalmius. Half a million citizens. The war in Eastern Ukraine has reached Mariupolis. A quote from a Cineuropa interview with Mantas Kvedaravicius: ”… I came to Mariupol in March 2015 to see what was going on because it had become a front line, and the city was in an ambivalent situation: neither Ukrainian nor pro-Russian. Once I went there, it was obvious that the situation there – with a zoo and a theatre near to the front line – was unique, and something could be conveyed about the way space and politics interact with the human body…”

Kvedaravicius, whose last film (his first) ”Barzakh”, a masterpiece, took place in Chechnya, has again created a tense work of a beauty that lies in the aesthetic choices he has made with the camera, that he and two others have operated. You enjoy frame by frame, scene after scene, sequence after sequence the way he

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dalsgaard og Zytoon: The War Show 4/

Written 01-09-2016 16:39:14 by Allan Berg Nielsen

Så har The War Show haft premiere i Venezia. Jeg var der ikke og kan ikke skrive anmeldelse, men nu vi her på Filmkommentaren et par gange har skrevet om filmen i blinde, vil jeg da også lige citere de første anmeldelser. 


John Bleasdale, CINEVUE, skriver til sidst i sin anmeldelse: "... This is a war without bounds and the evidence of systemic war crime is increasingly obvious. Some of the footage is suitably difficult to watch but the unhelpful sticker of 'war porn' need not be applied here. Zytoon is a knowledgeable and sure guide through the stunning tragedy. She notes that one of the towns they visit, Zabadani, was the site of the first crime, when Cain slew Abel. She is also fully conscious of how the camera is not a hovering entity separate from the conflict, but is now part of the conflict, changing how people behave, how they fight and what they are prepared to do. One man fires at a helicopter, putting everyone in immediate danger, and one suspects he wouldn't have bothered if he didn't think he'd look like Rambo for the camera.

In other cases, a man strips off to display his wounds from torture, hoping for some affirmation, some proof of how he has been treated. As the war progressed, the friends themselves lose the faux immunity of observers and the tragedy is relentless. It's very difficult to appraise The War Show critically, the very existence of which is testament to the bravery of the directors and her collaborators. Suffice to say then that this is an urgent and necessary witness to the humanitarian tragedy of our times and which is all too often viewed only through the Eurocentric lens of the 'problem' of refugees." 


Jay Weissberg på VARIETY beskriver interessant filmens konstruktion: “… Zytoon, in voiceover throughout, introduces us to her friends, all enthusiastically embracing the revolution afoot. There’s besotted poet Hisham and his love, law student Lulu; rebel drummer Rabea; young activist Amal; dental student Argha; and Houssam, an architecture student whose beautifully infectious smile and gentle eyes will haunt the viewer for a long, long while. The two directors include just enough footage of these people to make them real, not just activists but friends. Even during the initial crackdowns by the regime they maintain their determination, with still a remnant of euphoria.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

DOKU.ARTS: Essaydox

Written 30-08-2016 16:10:41 by Tue Steen Müller

DOKU.ARTS is one of those festivals that is different because it puts a focus on the essay film and adds a very attractive symposium to its film program. The symposium takes place October 7, the festival runs in Berlin from the 6th until the 23rd of October with interesting films like the neo-classic ”Black Sun” (photo) by Gary Tarn, ”Exile” by master Rithy Panh, ”Notes on Blindness” by Peter Middleton and James Spinney, and Gilad Baram’s work on Josef Koudelka, ”Shooting Holy Land”, a great film on a great photographer.

On the site of the festival there is a fine intro to the essay genre, here is a quote:

”The tenth edition of the International Festival for Films on Art DOKU.ARTS opens with an essay film on blindness, ”Notes on Blindness”. Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (‘sunless’) ranks as one of the most influential essay films of all time. The theme of seeing and the inability to see, the introspective approach and a philosophy of the moving image provide engaging impulses for this year’s anniversary programme.

Essay films have evolved over the course of the 21st century into an independent art form. Moreover, for the last 15 years or so, they have been experiencing a boom in museums and galleries; deserving a larger audience via cinema and television, the art form has found its niche.

The history, evolution and tradition of essayistic cinema and television can be traced back to directors such as Esther Schub, Dziga Vertov, Hans Richter and Chris Marker. Major European documentarians like Agnès Varda, Hartmut Bitomsky, Alexander Sokurov, Alexander Kluge and Wim Wenders shaped the essayistic cinematic form in the 20th century.

With its ESSAYDOX programme, the tenth edition of DOKU.ARTS introduces this vibrant cinematic form through new films and presents its relevance, ingenuity, poetry and political relevance in the 21st century. Cinematic essays have always been of central importance in DOKU.ARTS festival history.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Andreas Johnsen: Bugs

Written 26-08-2016 13:10:48 by Tue Steen Müller

The new film by Andreas Johnsen is already touring internationally - Started at Tribeca and has recently been in Prizren, Kosovo and in Skopje, Macedonia. But a Danish premiere is coming now, read this taken from the website of the film, link below:

This September we will collaborate with DOXBIO in order to make BUGS widely available to the Danish people – in cinemas all over the country. Every year, distribution initiative DOXBIO showcases six documentary films in collaboration with a nationwide network of cinemas. It’s DOXBIO’s mission to bring documentaries to big screens all over the country – not just the big cities.

This means BUGS will be playing at more than 50 cinemas on 7 September. Some of them will continue screening the film for another two weeks. On the night of the launch, a selection of cinemas will be hosting Q&As and tastings of insect-based food and drink such as ant smoothies, insect popcorn, and chili mealworms.

So far we’ve had the pleasure of showing the film a couple of times in Denmark already, but only at special preview events. First at the political festival at Bornholm, known as Folkemødet, and then this last Friday we were lucky enough to show the film to an enthusiastic audience at Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival at their open air cinema.

This week, members of the press were invited to an intimate screening in the old Grand Teatret in the centre of Copenhagen, followed by a tasting hosted by Roberto Flore, who is both part of the film and the current Head of Culinary Research and Development at the Nordic Food Lab.

The tasting included cod skin seasoned with an interpretation of the Mexican Sal de Gusano (a salt made from worms), veal’s heart with anty gin, and a bee larva tacos.

I was there, it was nice, but first of all I watched the film and have written a review, see above, if you understand Danish otherwise check the amazing website created for the film:

Photo: Difficult shooting in Japan, one of the best scenes in the film...

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sergey Kachkin: Perm-36. Reflexion

Written 24-08-2016 12:06:37 by Tue Steen Müller

I am writing this text to support a filmmaker in trouble – Russian Sergey Kachkin, who, in these days, 25 years after the fall of USSR, experiences problems in getting his new film, that he has been working on for five years, screened in his own country. It has been rejected for political reasons, linked to Soviet times and Russia today. In an email to me, who has followed the film since it was pitched at the Baltic Sea Forum in 2011, Kachkin, who is born in Perm, where the film takes place, writes:

“In Perm, I was told that it can not be shown at the International Documentary Film Festival Flahertiana because the film criticises the local Ministry of Culture and because of this subject in general. It hasn't been selected for Message to Man Film Festival in Saint Petersburg either and I suspect because of the same reasons - criticism of Stalinism, Soviet times and mostly new reality which is directly connected with the past.”

About the content of the film for you to better understand, text taken from the website, link below:

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Heart Of Sarajevo

Written 21-08-2016 12:46:08 by Tue Steen Müller

… is the name of the awards given at the Sarajevo Film Festival, distributed last night in the beautiful city with Romanian Monica Lazurean Gorgan as the winner in the documentary category for her “A Mere Breath” (photo) (the heart was accompanied by 3000 €). The catalogue description goes like this:

“The film explores the profoundly contradictory nature of family love. Both a journey of initiation and a theological parable, the film follows seven years in the life of Sicrea family in Romania, capturing trials and tribulations of Dobrin who is waiting for a miracle that will help his youngest daughter get up from her wheelchair. As we watch his children grow up and become adults, we witness the deep impact of Dobrun's close connection to God on relationships between members of his family…” 7 years… again you can only say thank you to a filmmaker, who stays with her characters for so long time. I am looking fwd. to see that film.

My source for this information is Rada Sesic, great praise to her, who stands

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

MakeDox Films and Talks Under a Fig Tree

Written 21-08-2016 12:07:23 by Tue Steen Müller

Two hours drive from Prizren, is Skopje, capital of Macedonia. After Dokufest in Kosovo, Sarajevo in Bosnia, it is MakeDox that takes the documentary scene from last night and until friday 26th of August. It’s a festival that names itself a place for creative documentary film and - with some more words taken from the intro on the website: A young and rarely avant-garde festival celebrating the creative documentary film. One of the most powerful catapults for creating cinema audience in Macedonia. It overwhelms, they say, with its warmth and quality. The wonderful KurshumliAn vibrates with film stories, workshops and live performances, doc-talks under a magical fig tree and music under the night sky. Out in the open, every summer since 2010…

I have not yet been there but film people who have, love it. It’s a festival that in its 7 years of existence have used the Onion as a symbol, to signal that the multilayered and not the one-dimensional is the target, when film selection is done. There is a competition programme, a short film competition, a student film program, a section called ”Newcomers” and a presentation of new Russian documentaries.

The opening film from last night, ”My World is Upside Down” (photo) is directed by the key person behind the festival, Petra Seliskar, here first the

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Sea Docs 20 Years

Written 20-08-2016 16:17:04 by Tue Steen Müller

I warn you – you are going to hear quite a lot about Baltic Sea Docs in Riga. I will be there – have been “part of the furniture” since it started on the island of Bornholm – to tutor the pitching Forum participants, and to go and watch films. Dates 7-11. September. The film program is now announced, here are some words about it, first from the selectors from the National Film Centre in Riga:

“Our 20th anniversary's visual identity with tremendous storyteller Laurie Anderson and her terrier Lolabelle is here! This year's film programme will focus on phenomenons, persons and events that are beyond good and evil…”

And from me – Laurie Anderson’s “Heart of a Dog” is there, a film, that I have not seen yet even if it has been released theatrically in Copenhagen, as I have not seen Steve Hoover’s “Almost Holy” from Ukraine – Hoover will be tutoring the pitchers as well - the Dutch “Banana Pancakes and the Children of Sticky Rice” by Daan Veldhuizen shot in Laos, and Norwegian Paul Refsdal’s “Dugma: The Button”, that I missed at Dokufest in Kosovo.

But I can recommend Jerzy Sladkowski’s “Don Juan” and “Our Last Tango” by German Kral, both big hits at the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade, “Sonita” by Iranian Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami was the opening film at DocsBarcelona, where Erik Gandini’s “Swedish Theory of Love” was met by a huge audience. Danish journalistic documentary “Warrirors from the North” has also been screened at many festivals.

My guess is that the BSD screenings will be full as they have been before.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocAlliance Offers ”The Event” for Free

Written 19-08-2016 20:03:36 by Tue Steen Müller

For two more days you will be able to watch, for free, Sergei Loznitsa’s masterly done archive film ”The Event” through the DocAlliance, ”your online documentary cinema”, a fine editorial choice for us to remember what happened in those memorable August days 25 years ago in Soviet Union. Here is the text from the DocAlliance website:

The film takes the viewers to the centre of events of the August Coup which shook the streets of Moscow between August 19 and 21, 1991. It was launched by the conservative branch of the Communist Party which frowned upon Gorbachev’s attempts at transforming the USSR. His political and economic reforms, known as perestroika and glasnost, aimed to create a federation of independent republics with a common president and political vision, finally led to Gorbachev’s short removal from the presidential post. However, the group of politicians who called themselves “The State Committee on the State of Emergency” did not gain the support of armed forces while the citizens of Moscow significantly resisted their attempt. They took to the streets, forming mass gatherings requiring the dissolution of the USSR and the formation of democratic Russia. As proved by the later course of events, it was the August Coup that helped install Boris Yeltsin as the political leader of the country and led to the final dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

And here is a quote from what I wrote when I watched the film at DOKLeipzig:

… Loznitsa is not in Moscow in this film, he is in Leningrad and gives me exceptional material from what happened in the streets and the squares, that I love so much today, where people gathered to try to understand what is going on. +  he gives me the legendary mayor Sobchak and his impressive speeches, “the sea of faces” listening to him, the USSR flag being substituted by the Russian, the slogans used like “fascism will not prevail”, bring the “coup gang to justice” and the name of Yeltsin shouted again and again. Fascinating…

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

European Film Awards Documentary Shortlist

Written 18-08-2016 11:22:05 by Tue Steen Müller

You may discuss whether this is the right way to do it: to have 10 documentary film festivals recommend to the European Film Academy one film each to be nominated for the European Film Awards, followed by a decision taken by a small documentary committee. A look at the list reveals that the committee has done its best to get as many countries represented as possible, and yet there are no films from the Baltic countries, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia… why?

Anyway, I am not complaining when on the list of 15 I see Piotr Stasik’s impressive ”21 x New York City” (photo), Pietro Marcello’s hybrid ”Lost and Beautiful”, ”Mallory” by master Helena Trestikova and Loznitsa’s wonderful archive work ”The Event”. And makes me happy to see Marianna Economou being there with her refugee story ”The Longest Run”, and ”Becoming Zlatan” by Gertten brothers as well. Surprised to see Jon Bang Carlsen with ”Déjà Vu”, love that director and love that film, but was he not already listed last year? Gianfranco Rosi is there, of course, with ”Fire at Sea” – an obvious favourite for the award?

The whole list to be found on

And for the selection procedure:

EFA Members will now vote for five documentary nominations. Based on these nominations, the EFA Members will then elect the ‘European Documentary 2016’ which will be announced during the awards ceremony on 10 December in Wroclaw, European Capital of Culture 2016. 

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

A Healthy Rose to Dokufest

Written 14-08-2016 12:49:39 by Tue Steen Müller

It was visually crazy to be in calm Prizren for the Dokufest. Prizren that in its centre is full of cafés, where people drink tea and coffee, smoke cigarettes and eat cakes (they have sweet teeth in this area). They sit under covers that advertise for coca cola or for Tuborg or for beers like Peja. Like in so many cities in the South. However, there is a big difference here. Whereever you turn your head you see a poster with a rose, or a poster with roses set up in a way so you read CORRUPTION. It’s all over and create a small drama in the daily lives – you are surrounded by corruption is the message. And it IS all over, on my way to the airport as well. In many versions.

But that is not the only word that catches your eye.

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Dokufest Prizren/ 8/ The Winners

Written 14-08-2016 11:42:44 by Tue Steen Müller

Last night in Prizren the Dokufest award ceremony was held at the Lumbhardi cinema followed by one more tribute to late Kiarostami, the screening of his "Close Up". I take the liberty to mention the winners in the section, where I was part of the jury, the Human Rights Award that was given to "Homeland (Iraq year Zero)" by Abbas Fahdel with the following motivation:

"An uncompromising and monumental documentary that patiently reveals the daily routine of an Iraqi family circling on the edge of tragedy, Homeland personalizes the true cost of war through the filmmaker’s respectful gaze."

We also gave a “Special Mention” to "Starless Dreams" by Mehrdad Oskouei with this motivation:

"A documentary film of rare delicacy, Starless Dreams explores the interior world of young imprisoned women in Iran with an indelible emotional precision and sensitivity to its subject."

Among the many other awards I would like to mention that in the Balkan Documentary section, the main prize was given to "Depth Two" by Serbian Ognjen Glavonic with the motivation like this:

"For a film that we all found to be as cinematically accomplished as it is morally devastating, employing a language to fit its subject that combines audio witness with footage of tragically unpeopled landscapes, putting the viewer in a position of both historical reflection and present outrage, and providing a layered, emotional and intellectual engagement that we won’t soon forget..."

For the rest of the awards, please check

Photo: The photographer, our wonderful jury assistant Gabriela Gojani, James Longley, award winner Abbas Fahnel, Mustafa Kemel Yüksel and me after the screening of his masterpiece.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren/7/ Johnson/ BDC Pitch/ Kiarostami

Written 13-08-2016 10:07:24 by Tue Steen Müller

Of course it’s not only about film screenings here in Prizren. There are masterclasses, pitching, koncerts, photo exhibitions…

Kirsten Johnson arrived to have her ”Cameraperson” shown and to do a class that was led by Pamela Cohn, and expectedly turned out to be 90 minutes full of energy and encouragement towards the young filmmakers present. The ethical questions, the relationship between the one behind the camera and the one(s) being filmed, her work with a director, her work with an editor, with examples from her film. Inspiring to be with the tall, elegant New Yorker, who never hesitates to share her experience of more than 20 years with documentary filming… and longs to get back to her sweet twins Viva and Felix, who you see in the film.

Martichka Bozhilova, Bulgarian producer of a long list of award-winning documentaries, is also the woman behind the Balkan Documentary Centre and its workshop for producers and directors from the region. The second session including a pitch (photo) of seven projects were held yesterday with an hour delay as the electricity went off – and that was needed for the showing of trailers! ”Happens often in Prizren”, one of the local organizers said with a smile, ”it will come back”! And it did and a fine morning it became with a huge panel that during a magnificent lunch afterwards with a couple of raki’s, decided the Best Pitch project to be ”Teach” presented by Romanian director Alex Brendea and producer Irina Andreea Malcea. Oana Giurgiu, also Romanian, received an honorary mention for her historical film, ”Occasional Spies”. The representative of DOK Leipzig Brigid Oshea, with suggestions from the panel, picked two projects to be invited to the Industry Coproduction Meeting parallel to the festival: ”Birdless” by Serbian Dragan Gmizic and Biljana Tutorov, and ”Prisoners Without Prison” by Albanian Verjana Abazaj and Artan Malaj.

And finally a ”cadeau cinéphile” from artistic director of Dokufest, Veton Nurkollari, ”Taste of Cherry” by Kiarostami. Thank you!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren/ 6/ Starless Dreams

Written 12-08-2016 08:55:27 by Tue Steen Müller

… directed by Iranian Mehrdad Oskouei, 76 mins. long, is an interview based observational documentary about, no with young girls in a prison, it is also called a rehabilitation centre. They are there because of drugs, robberies, even murders, and they are talked to by the director, whose soft and mild voice communicates understanding and compassion. Towards Nobody as one calls herself, or 651, who took that name because it was that amount of weed she had in her pockets, when she was arrested. And towards the rest of these young girls, around twenty of them, who have committed crimes.

And there they are in a big dormitory close to each other, enjoying each other’s company. There is a lot of Life and Fun, but also Crying in the film. They comfort each other, they wait for the day to be released, but many are also fearing that day of release. They tell their stories to the director, terrifying to watch and listen to.

The director has an excellent eye for situations and he has set up an obligation for himself, he told the audience afterwards. He wants this film to change something for the better as did the two firs tones he did with boys in prisons. To the question whether the kids have seen the film, the answer was no, and that it will not be shown publicly in Iran. I can imagine that he has to find a balance, when he films, not to be forbidden or censored by the authorities. He seems to have found that with a film that of course also says that something is very much wrong outside the walls of the prison, where the filmmaker was with the girls.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren/ 5/ Lumbardhi

Written 11-08-2016 10:00:28 by Tue Steen Müller

The first days of the Dokufest here in Prizren were rainy, the nights were fresh, the sound outside my window of the Hotel Theranda was one of thunder, there was lightning and at 4.48 in the morning came and comes the call for prayer from one of the many mosques. Wednesday the sun came back to the lovely city on both sides of the river Lumbardhi with the many many people walking around with badges that tell you that they are part of the festival Dokufest. I have never seen so many volunteers at a festival.

Dokufest operates with outdoor screenings. Last night when walking to a restaurant with jury colleagues we passed Kino Në Lum, where the Norwegian ”Brothers” were screened, when going back from the dinner it was ”Presenting Princess Shaw” that filled the screen with good picture and hearable sound. On the terrasse of the Dokukino there is another outdoor screening cinema, that last night hosted ”Sonita”. The most impressive, however, see the photo, is the Kino Lumbhardi that the festival organisers, I was told, saved from being demolished with the area being turned into a shopping mall. Two strong films were shown there last night: ”Depth Two” and ”Cameraperson” by Kirsten Johnson, who will be giving a masterclass today.

The waiters in the restaurant of the hotel know why I am here. Do you like Prizren? Yes. Do you like the festival? Yes.

The city is proud of its yearly film cultural event!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren/ 4/ Homeland (Iraq Year Zero)

Written 11-08-2016 09:23:45 by Tue Steen Müller

I do not recall, when was the last time that I saw a 334 minutes long documentary in a cinema. Maybe a Fred Wiseman film many many years ago? Anyway, I am very greatful to the organizers of Dokufest in Prizren that they selected this film and made me sit in the jury that was to see a film that of course is a strong candidate to an award.

It is hard to be short about a long film like this, that falls in two parts, ”Before the Fall” and ”After the Battle”. Hard because the film, a ”Documentary Unplugged” (no music or visual tricks, no use of light or tripod, the director Abbas Fahdel has done the sound himself, well he has done everything himself) is so rich of scenes and situations that could be fine to mention. What he does is to generously and in a very fine ”natural way” invite the viewer to meet his family, his big family while they are waiting, they call it ”anticipating” the war to come, preparing for having no water, cooking to have food at hand, there are many mouths to feed. They take it cool, they have tried it before during the after the Gulf War. Apart from the ”waiting for the war to come” it is normal family

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Dokufest Prizren/ 3/ Il Solengo/ Afghanistan

Written 09-08-2016 10:33:40 by Tue Steen Müller

”In this seamless blend of fictional and documentary form, we experience a stunning cinematic journey into the beauty of war-tormented Afghanistan. Shot over seven years on evocative 16mm footage, first-time director Pieter-Jan De Pue paints a whimsical yet haunting look at the condition of Afghanistan left for the next generation. De Pue’s transportative and wonderfully crafted film confronts the visceral beauty and roughness of survival, serving as a testament to the spirited innovation of childhood and the extreme resilience of a people and country.”

This is the Dokufest catalogue text for the film ”The Land of the Enlightened” (photo) that I saw yesterday and I agree totally with the superlatives. It is a film that dares to use the cinematic language in all its facets. Readers of filmkommentaren will know that we have never doubted the quality that can be created through the mix of a classical documentary approach and fictional elements – or as Danish documentarian Jon Bang Carlsen has called it, staged documentary. And yet I have to confess that while watching this impressive Afghanistan film, I started to wonder which scenes were staged and which not, and if the first person voice-off of the boy, who will return to pick up the one and only girl and take her to the palace – if that worked well. But again, the end scene with the caravan of boys on horses riding into the ruin of a palace… Wow! A film that placed me in the state of creative confusion!

Earlier on that monday I had seen ”Il Solengo”, Italian film by Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis, a fantastic story featuring old men with wonderfully expressive faces, old men who most of the time talk to the camera about Mario, who is said to have lived in a cave his whole life. This collective of voices are trying to piece together the dramatic portrait of a man, who lived on his own, could be pretty aggressive, when he met other people, who were out to hunt boars. Has he existed, Mario, I started to wonder hearing the very different oral versions coming from the men. But it does not matter, this is storytelling at its best, skillfully visualised, this is a film with atmosphere and a rythm that fits the old men and their style of life. True pleasure.

I am not going to comment ”Hooligan Sparrow” by Nanfu Wang as it is in the Human Rights Competition, where I am part of the jury. That's for later.

Today I am to attend the screening of Iraqi ”Homeland” by Abbas Fahdel, 5 hours long. A film that I have been longing to watch. They treat us well here at

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren/ 2/ LoveTrue/ Weiner

Written 08-08-2016 10:02:10 by Tue Steen Müller

… and ”I Don’t Want to Sleep with You I Just Want to Make You Hard”, long title, short film, 29 minutes, Japanese, directed by Momoko Seto, French produced, a sweet visit to a Kyabakura, a hostess club, where men pay to come to drink, laugh and play innocent games with young beautiful women with a limit to how far the rendez-vous can go. No sex in other words. Entertaining.

That was the first film I saw yesterday in the DokuKino in Prizren at noon, at a well attended screening, where the second film of the show was one I expected a lot from, the documentary winner of the festival in Karlovy Vary, ”Lovetrue” by Alma Har’et, whose ”Bombay Beach” was impressive – I was not let down. ”Lovetrue” is an amazingly fascinating essay about love told through three very different stories that are woven together in a complicated structure, where you are constantly surprised by the visual phantasy to combine the protagonist’s past and present, as well as the interpretation of their dreams. It’s quite a bombardment, a film you want to see again. On the photo you see the young and old stripper, whose lives you get close to – to say the least.

And then American ”Weiner” by Josh Kriegmann and Elyse

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Dokufest Prizren/ 1

Written 07-08-2016 10:09:14 by Tue Steen Müller

Direct flight from Copenhagen, pretty much turbulence for my taste – don’t worry, it’s not dangerous, the SAS captain said – and arrival to Pristina, Kosova to be picked up and driven to Prizren. Three Danes, Andreas Johnsen, who is here to show his ”Bugs” and Rasmus Nielsen who has made 18 mins. long ”Kwassa Kwassa” together with Vietnamese Tuan Andrew Nguyen. And me to be in a Human Rights Jury with Turkish Mustafa Kerem Yüksel and American James Longley. Jury works starts today with ”Hissein Habré, a Chadian Tragedy” (photo) by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, who is from Chad. I have never heard about it before, here is the catalogue description:

”In 2013, former Chadian dictator Hissein Habré’s arrest in Senegal marked the end of a long combat for the survivors of his regime. Accompanied by the Chairman of the Association of the Victims of the Hissein Habré Regime, Mahamat Saleh Haroun goes to meet those who survived this tragedy and who still bear the scars of the horror in their flesh and in their souls. Through their courage and determination, the victims accomplish an unprecedented feat in the history of Africa: that of bringing a Head of State to trial.”

9 films to watch, have seen some of them before so I will have lots of chances to watch other of the 238 (!) films that are to be shown in the many cinemas that host the festival.

Back to yesterday – direct into a reception, hugging the festival directors, Veton Nurkollari and Eroll Bilibani as well as old friend Nenad Puhovski, whose ”Generation 68” was shown earlier that day, full house. Great hospitality, the moment you come there is a young law student, who says hello, ”I am your jury assistant”

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Welcome to the 15th edition of DokuFest!

Written 05-08-2016 16:51:30 by Tue Steen Müller

The time of year has come to bid you welcome to the fifteenth edition of the festival, to this jubilee edition that we so tirelessly and passionately worked on in order to bring you all a rich and varied program, details of which you’ll find in the pages that follow. Passion was what actually brought us from a small, three-day, one-venue event to this 10-day full-blown celebration of cinema and music, of arts and culture. All of this happens in a small corner of the world, in a country still shaken from its turbulent past, one continuing to struggle with endemic corruption that is threatening the very future of its citizens.

So no wonder Corruption is the main theme of the festival this year and will be highlighted in many different forms and across many festival sections: a specially curated film program entitled Power, Corruption and Lies; debates and panel discussions; children’s plays, and many other events will address this worldwide, cancer-like phenomenon. Once again our dear friend and Bafta-winning filmmaker Daniel Mulloy has created another striking visual campaign to match the theme of the festival.

As we were putting the finishing touches on our most ambitious program to date, news of yet another deadly shooting and terrorist attack is occupying our news feeds, making fear, seemingly, the only constant of this world. Therefore it is not surprising that several films from this year’s selection reflect upon this.

We’ll be showing films about mass shootings and the rapidly-

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Zhao Liang: Behemoth/ 2

Written 05-08-2016 16:42:44 by Tue Steen Müller

The opening film tonight at the Dokufest festival in Prizren, Kosova is a several times awarded Chinese film that colleague Allan Berg, in Danish, praised at its CPH:DOX screening last year in November. I will not be in Prizren before tomorrow night, wish everyone a fine opening ceremony. Here is the DOKUFEST description of the film:

“Hailed as simultaneously intoxicating and terrifying glimpse at the ravages wrought upon Inner Mongolia by its coal and iron industries and elegantly blurring lines between video art and documentary, Behemoth is a stunning look at contemporary China by one of its most acclaimed filmmaker Zhao Liang, who draws inspiration from Dante’s The Divine Comedy to bring the vision of a journey across Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven in startlingly modern way.”

And here is the link to Berg’s review:

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Siebert, Wagner & Abou Bakar Sibidé: Les Sauteurs

Written 04-08-2016 19:54:03 by Tue Steen Müller

I had been here on Mount Gurugu for fifteen months, when the two came and asked me if we could make a film, says the protagonist and filmmaker behind the camera, Abou from Mali, who like a thousand other Africans on this spot dream about coming to Europe. From where they are, in Morocco with a view from the mountain to Melilla, the Spanish city on the coast of North Africa.

But fences need to be crossed. They try and try and try again, some get over, others do not, some return to the camps on the mountain, a community that is organised, has its own rules, some return to their native country, and some die from injuries, when they get into fights with the police.

Abou is the one telling the story. His voice-off is full of reflection

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Film History at Doclisboa

Written 04-08-2016 13:48:29 by Tue Steen Müller

The Lisbon documentary festival that takes place October 20-30 announces two retrospectives of important film historical interest.

One is mentioned as a full retrospective of the works of Peter Watkins… ”Peter Watkins is the subject of a full retrospective. Active between 1950’s and 1990’s, Watkins won 1966 Academy Award for Documentary Feature with “The War Game”. Being one of the pioneers of docudrama and fake documentary, Watkins (photo) is a leading figure in political and resistance film. His work questions and criticises the media role in urgent issues such as nuclear warfare or the establishment, both by dissecting and re-enacting historical episodes in an openly revisionist approach. His criticism towards audiovisual media as an instrument of power is central to Watkins’s work. The retrospective is a partnership between Doclisboa and Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museu do Cinema.”

The other is a thematic retrospective set up by Michael Chanan with the title “For an Impossible Cinema: documentary and avant-garde in Cuba”. The press release presentation text goes like this:…” consisting of the Cuban documentary movement around the Revolution, an Avant-garde episode in Latin America usually ignored. With the radical change brought about by the triumph of the Revolution and as political and aesthetic opposition to Hollywood, a new cinema is born, in which documentary figured centrally. Together with the impulse to show a new reality and rethink the public function of the image, documentary in Cuba merges the factual record with the aesthetics of shock, producing a unique visual manifesto. Santiago Álvarez, founder of Cuban Film Institute “Latin American Newsreel”, is one of the leading figures. His “nervous montage” technique and his using “found materials” is considered a precursor to the modern video clip. Júlio Garcia Espinosa, who recently passed away, is another leading figure in Cuban film. Espinosa also wrote “For an Imperfect Cinema”, a reflection on revolutionary film. The retrospective is a collaboration with Reina Sofia Museum, from Madrid.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

7000 Submissions to M2M

Written 01-08-2016 21:07:06 by Tue Steen Müller

…meaning the St. Petersburg festival Message to Man that holds its 26th edition September 25 to October 10… The competition programmes were announced today, for long and short documentaries, for short animated and short fiction films, for experimental works for the national documentary competition. There is quite a lot to choose from, last year I went for the national competition, let’s see what will appeal to me this year, where I will attend for some days after a distribution conference for Nordic and Russian documentarians with the title ”How to Reach the Audience” taking place the 23rd and 24th of September. Responsible is producer Viktor Skubey.

Some words about the long documentaries, where I (among 10 films in competition) am happy to find Ognjen Glavonic’s Serbian ”Depth Two”, Helena Trestikova’s ”Mallory”, ”Manor” (photo) by Canadian Pier-Luc Latulippe and Martin Fournier – and surprising enough ”Under the Sun” by Vitaly Mansky, who I thought was a persona non grata in Russian festival circles!

Same positive surprise when I – in the national documentary competition – found ”My friend Boris Nemtsov” by Zosia Radkevich.

Again – 7000 submissions, it’s crazy, how do you cope with that as a festival? M2M has done it, selection is made, I can only talk from the long documentary part, which has high quality.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Kirsten Johnson: Cameraperson/2

Written 31-07-2016 20:20:02 by Tue Steen Müller

This is a film that had its premiere at the Sundance festival in January, was at numerous festivals in the USA, won first prize at the festival in Sheffield and has got fine reviews in newspapers and magazines. Here is one more enthusiastic review of a film by Kirsten Johnson with whom I have been tutoring in the Middle East, and whose generosity in sharing experience and inspiring people is both professional, humble and warm. As is her film that I am sure will get to a bigger non-Brexit European audience. 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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Laura Israel: Don’t blink – Robert Frank

Written 30-07-2016 15:22:39 by Allan Berg Nielsen

When Landskrona Foto Festival is held for the fourth year in a row on 19–28 August, we can not only present an unusually large number of interesting exhibitions of international and Swedish photographers but also the documentary film Don’t Blink – Robert Frank, a portrait of the world’s most influential living photographer today.

See the trailer:

Fotografen Finn Larsen som bor i Malmø har i dag sendt mig denne meddelelse, da han jo ved, at vi her på Filmkommentaren holder meget af Robert Frank og hans arbejde. Det er i god tid, men der er faktisk også så vidt det kan ses af materialet kun tale om én eneste visning af filmen: 20. august 18:15 i Teatersalonen, Landskrona Teater, så billetterne er ganske sikkert hurtigt væk.

Tue Steen Müller and Sara Thelle on Robert Frank and his works and on Laura Israel’s film:


Ten days of exhibitions, photo books, seminars, portfolio reviews, artist talks and more. Since the start four years ago Landskrona Foto Festival has established its position as an international meeting place for photographers and those with an interest in photography. Over 150 photographers are exhibiting in Landskrona 19-28 August.

Read more and see program:


Categories: Cinema, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon: The War Show

Written 29-07-2016 08:12:14 by Allan Berg Nielsen

Venice Days 2016 line-up: Opening the programme will be Denmark-Finland co-pro The War Show from co-directors Andreas Dalsgaard (Photo) and Obaidah Zytoon. A documentary road film chronicling the Syrian uprising and war, the film sees Zytoon sets off on a road trip around Syria, telling the Syrian story through a series of personal intimate stories. (

Og Fridthjof Film / Line Bilenberg meddeler glade: ”Dansk film udtaget til Venedig. The War Show instrueret af Andreas Dalsgaard og Obaidah Zytoon får verdenspremiere på filmfestivalen i Venedig i sektionen "Venice Days", hvor filmen både er i konkurrence samt udtaget som festivalens åbningsfilm.

10. august kan de stolte supplere med en meddelelse om at filmen også er udtaget til Toronto International Film Festival's TIFF Doc Programme.  

Dokumentarfilmen The War Show om krigen i Syrien instrueret af danske Andreas Dalsgaard og syriske Obaidah Zytoon er udtaget til "Venice Days" – og valgt som sektionens åbningsfilm. Venice Days, er Venedig Film Festivalens uafhængige sektion svarende til Cannes´prestige sektion Directors´Fortnight.

I 2011 bliver den syriske radio-dj Obaidah Zytoon og hendes venner revet med af opstanden imod regimet. De lever blandt kunstnere og aktivister og filmer deres liv, da de begynder at deltage i demonstrationerne mod præsident Assad. Men som opstanden udvikler sig til en blodig borgerkrig, bliver deres venskab testet af fængslinger, død og vold.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

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