Sergey Loznitsa: Austerlitz/ 3

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

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

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

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

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

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sergey Loznitsa: Austerlitz/ 2

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

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

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

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

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

Germany, 2016, 94 mins.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docs & Talks /10

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


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

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Simon Kilmurry on Documentaries

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cosima Spender: Palio

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

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

SARA THELLE (12-11-2015)

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

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

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

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

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Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docs & Talks

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

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

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

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

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Magnificent7 2017 13th Edition

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Audrius Stonys Masterclass at M7

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

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

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

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

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Ní Chianáin and Rane: In Loco Parentis

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

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

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

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

Ireland, Spain, 2016, 99 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Miroslav Janek Masterclass at M7

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

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

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

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Jérôme le Maire Masterclass at M7

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

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

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

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

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Audrius Stonys: Woman and the Glacier

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

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

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

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

Lithuania, Estonia, 2016, 56 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Miroslav Janek: Normal Autistic Film

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

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

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

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

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

Czech Republic, 2016, 90 minutes.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Obaidah Zytoon og Andreas Dalsgaard: The War Show

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nikolaus Geyrhalter: Homo Sapiens

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

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

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

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

Austria, 2016, 94 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sergei Loznitsa at M7

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

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

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

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

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jérôme le Maire: Burning Out

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

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

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

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

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

Belgium, France, Switzerland, 2016, 85 minutes

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sergei Loznitsa: Austerlitz

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

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

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

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

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

Germany, 2016, 94 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cosima Lange: ”Hello I am David”

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

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

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

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

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

Germany 2015, 90 minutes

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Belgrade City of Culture

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokumania Back on Danish Television

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

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

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

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

The Danes can watch it February 7th.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

One World 2017: The Art of Collaboration

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

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

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

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

"Collaboration is mainly communication and sharing," said Hana

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Awards at Sundance Festival 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Neil Young Picks his Favourites

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

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

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

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

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Oscar Documentary Nominations

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Vitaly Mansky Cinema Warrior

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Hanka Kastelicová Honoured at FIPA

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

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

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

”EuroFipa d’Honneur”

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Doc Festival Belgrade 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Release Oleg Sentsov

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona Reaches 100.000 Viewers

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Uldis Brauns 1932-2017 /2

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Poetic Documentary

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

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

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

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Documentary of the Month: Weiner

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Uldis Brauns 1932-2017

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

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

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

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

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Roy Andersson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

My Name is Popovic

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocPoint Program Announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Michael Glawogger: Untitled

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

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

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

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

105 mins.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Films in Aarhus Denmark

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on


Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Best Documentaries 2016/ Intro

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

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

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

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

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

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

The photo is from Dokufest, Prizren, Lumbhardi Cinema.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Best Documentaries 2016

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

Photo from Homeland, Iraq Year Zero by Abbas Fahnel

Rahul Jain: Machines

Raoul Peck: I Am Not Your Negro

Kirsten Johnson: Cameraperson

Ugis Olte & Morten Traavik: Liberation Day

Torstein Grude & Niels Pagh Andersen: Mogadishu Soldier

Audrius Stonys: The Woman and the Glacier

Sergei Loznitsa: Austerlitz

Miroslav Janek: Normal Autistic Film

Salomé Jashi: The Dazzling Light of Sunset

Ognjen Glavonic: Depth Two

Piotr Stasik: 21 x New York

Abbas Fahdel: Homeland, Iraq Year Zero

Laura Israel: Robert Frank – Don’t Blink

Martin Sola: Chechen Family

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

Vitaly Mansky: Close Relations

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Award to Svetlana & Zoran Popovic

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: The couple on stage at Magnificent7 festival.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

How Docs Reach the Audience

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH


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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

No Nation Films

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

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

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

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jon Bang Carlsen, Pamela Cohn, Viesturs Kairišs…

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH


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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Finn Larsen: The Dump

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web


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

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

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


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Rahul Jain: Machines

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

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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Raoul Peck: I Am Not Your Negro

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

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

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

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

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


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDA Winners

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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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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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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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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

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