Nick Fraser to Documentary Streaming Platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Erarta, Yuri Abramochkin, Salgado

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

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

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

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

Photo: Ludmila Nazaruk

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

M2M How to reach the Audience/ 4

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

M2M How Docs Reach the Audience/ 3

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

M2M How Docs Reach the Audience/ 2

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

M2M How Docs Reach the Audience/ 1

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

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

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

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

More reports from the conference will follow.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Message2Man Opens

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

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

Photo: Alexey Golubev.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /5

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

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



By Sune Jonsson (1978)


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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /4

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

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



By Sune Jonsson (1978)


One should disdain rules but must discuss principles.

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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

Nordisk Panorama Forum 2016/ 2

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nordisk Panorama Forum 2016/ 1

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /3

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

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


By Sune Jonsson (1978)


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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

DOK.Incubator 2016 Preview

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ivar Murd: Ash Mountains

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

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

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

It starts with an ultra fast montage of private photos that

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sune Jonsson: Nine reflections /2

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


By Sune Jonsson (1978)



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

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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics

How to Reach the Audience

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Docs – Flying Back in Time

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Sea Docs Riga/ 3

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Steve Hoover: Almost Holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA, 100 mins., 2015.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Sea Docs Riga/ 2

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Agnese Zeltina… thanks!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Sea Docs Riga

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

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

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

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

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

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

More reports will follow, until then check 

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mileva/Kazakova: The Beast is Still Alive!

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

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

But why not?

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

So, you can not be objective, you mean?

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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Astra Film Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mantas Kvedaravicius: Mariupolis

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

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

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

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Dalsgaard og Zytoon: The War Show 4/

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

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


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

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


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

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

DOKU.ARTS: Essaydox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Andreas Johnsen: Bugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sergey Kachkin: Perm-36. Reflexion

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

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

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

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

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Heart Of Sarajevo

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

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

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

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

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MakeDox Films and Talks Under a Fig Tree

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

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

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

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

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Baltic Sea Docs 20 Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DocAlliance Offers ”The Event” for Free

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

European Film Awards Documentary Shortlist

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

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

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

The whole list to be found on

And for the selection procedure:

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

A Healthy Rose to Dokufest

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

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

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

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Dokufest Prizren/ 8/ The Winners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the rest of the awards, please check

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren/7/ Johnson/ BDC Pitch/ Kiarostami

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren/ 6/ Starless Dreams

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

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

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

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


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren/ 5/ Lumbardhi

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

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

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

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

The city is proud of its yearly film cultural event!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren/ 4/ Homeland (Iraq Year Zero)

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

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

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

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Dokufest Prizren/ 3/ Il Solengo/ Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dokufest Prizren/ 2/ LoveTrue/ Weiner

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

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

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

And then American ”Weiner” by Josh Kriegmann and Elyse

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Dokufest Prizren/ 1

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

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

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

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

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

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Welcome to the 15th edition of DokuFest!

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

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

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

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

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

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Zhao Liang: Behemoth/ 2

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

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

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

And here is the link to Berg’s review:

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Siebert, Wagner & Abou Bakar Sibidé: Les Sauteurs

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Film History at Doclisboa

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

7000 Submissions to M2M

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Kirsten Johnson: Cameraperson/2

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

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

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

Memoir, yes, the film comes out as not only an offer to reflect on

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Laura Israel: Don’t blink – Robert Frank

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

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

See the trailer:

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

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


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

Read more and see program:


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

Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon: The War Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Documentary in Odessa

Written 27-07-2016 10:43:26 by Tue Steen Müller

… at the International Film Festival, in a city I dream to visit one day… was ”In California” by French Charles Redon, a film that was also screened at IDFA 2015. This is the description of the film taken from the IDFA website, quite fascinating synopsis:

”A tribute to a tormented love story by the young French filmmaker Charles Redon, who adores and constantly films his girlfriend, an ambitious professional ballerina named Mathilde Froustey. Mathilde eats, trains and sleeps while Redon acts as her assistant. He is fascinated by her physical form and her discipline until he finds out that she is abusing her body. This completely changes the way he sees her: in his eyes, she is transformed from an admirable dancer into a dance-obsessed person with no mercy for her own body. When she starts to avoid him and no longer wants to cooperate with the film, Redon becomes obsessed with the issue that has become a taboo subject in their relationship. Made up of private recordings, the film concentrates on the time surrounding the French couple’s move to San Francisco, where Mathilde is pursuing a career as prima ballerina. Redon uses many different camera techniques to document his life with Mathilde in diary style – from a spy cam to a camera mounted on a selfie stick and a drone. He also delivers poetic commentary with enchanting images of jellyfish, a heron and a crocodile.”

A special mention was given to ”My Friend Boris Nemtsov” by Zosya Rodkevich, the film that got the main award at the festival in Krakow earlier this summer.

The jury in Odessa consisted of three persons, who always do their best to keep alive the often used filmkommentaren-sentence ”East Beats West” – the most original and innovative documentaries come from the Eastern part of Europe..:

From left Gennady Koffmann, Marina Razbezhkina and Rada Sesic.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nordisk Panorama Competition Announced

Written 26-07-2016 17:58:11 by Tue Steen Müller

“Nordisk Panorama Film Festival takes place between 16-21 September in Malmö, Sweden. Out of 616 submitted titles, 50 films have now officially been selected to partake in this year’s Nordic championship in documentary and short film production – Nordisk Panorama Awards…”,

words from the start of the press release that came in today, I add this information on the documentary competition: “Jury: Grit Lemke, DOK Leipzig (Germany) Chris Hastings, World Channel (USA), Camilla Nielsson, Winner of Best Nordic Documentary Award 2015 (Denmark)…”, the latter standing behind one of the most important documentaries from the last years, “Democrats”.

Let me mention some of the titles from the category “Best Nordic Documentary” starting with a salute for the choice of the controversial Andrei Nekrasov film “The Magnitsky Act” that other festivals have rejected because of fear for being sued by the powerful main protagonist. Otherwise it is obvious that Swedish/Polish Jerzy Sladkowski is there with “Don Juan”, Sara Broos with “Reflections”, the Gertten brothers with “Becoming Zlatan”, Norwegian Aslaug Holm with “Brothers” and Nicole Horanyi with “Motley’s Law”. These are all films that we have given positive reviews on this site.

Soon we will bring a review of “Those Who Jump” by Estephan Wagner, Moritz Siebert & Abou Bakar Sidibé – a film that has an international life as has Andreas Johnsen with his “Bugs”…

Bon appetit!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sarajevo - Documentary Competition 2016/ 2

Written 23-07-2016 08:52:04 by Tue Steen Müller

As a follow-up to the presentation of the documentary competition in Sarajevo this year, I made a small email conversation with Rada Sesic, programmer of the documentary competition at the Sarajevo festival (August 12 – 20).

…This year many filmmakers have been brave enough to look critically into their own backyard and not point at the others. Several documentaries focus strongly on the relationship between national and personal memory of historic events. They recollect dramatic life moments either in first person or from a very intimate perspective of their main protagonists. Through talking about painful past events from a somewhat more removed position, many films underline the urgency to talk about the past.

… Unlike most documentaries that have previously been made in

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sarajevo - Documentary Competition 2016

Written 21-07-2016 18:14:26 by Tue Steen Müller

You could – if you have the time – travel from the Dokufest Prizren in Kosova to Sarajevo for the yearly festival that has the main focus on feature films but also includes films from the region. The festival runs from August 12-20, Dokufest ends on the 13th.

The intro text for the documentary section, however, is not very inviting: The programme consists of 21 films that examine issues as diverse as personal identity, national identity, emigration, social justice, family secrets, political mysteries, economical crises… Right, it gives you a smell of political correctness but if you looke at the titles your curiosity grows with world premieres of 3 Bosnian and 1 Slovenian and premieres with long awaited Bulgarian ”The Beast is Still Alive” by great Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova (known for their controversial success “Uncle Tony, Three Fools and the Secret Service”) and four more films that we have written about on filmkommentaren: Salome Jashi’s ”The Dazzling Light of Sunset” (photo) that demonstrates the huge talent of the Georgian director (”Bahkmaro”), Greek Apostolos Karakasis ”Next Stop Utopia”, Serbian Ognjen Glavonic ”Depth Two” and Klára Trecsényi’s ”Train to Adulthood”, all highly appreciated works.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Natalie Bookchin: Long Story Short

Written 20-07-2016 17:32:04 by Tue Steen Müller

I read about it in connection with Parisian Cinema du Réel 2016, where it received the main award – and now tireless fighter for artistic qualistic, DocAlliance, offers it for free until July 24, an offer you should not refuse. As I understand the press release from the vod streamer number one in Europe, Bookchin is a very well estimated, often it is called renowned video artist, who started this project in 2011. Here is the film description:

… In Long Story Short, over 100 people at homeless shelters, food banks, adult literacy programs, and job training centers in Los Angeles and the Bay Area in Northern California discuss their experiences of poverty – why they are poor, how it feels, and what they think should be done. Numerous interviews are stitched together to form a polyphonic account of poverty from the inside.

Long Story Short uses the tools and aesthetic forms of the sharing economy to amplify the voices of those most displaced and dispossessed by it. While individuals filmed in separate spaces appear in isolation, mirroring the isolating aspects of the media forms it appropriates, words flow across the screen like musical ensemble, a imaginary collective yet to materialize…

United Stetes,2016, 45 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Dokufest Prizren 2016: Music Documentaires

Written 18-07-2016 10:02:13 by Tue Steen Müller

… As each year passes, it gets a bit trickier to unearth moving image gems with music at the core of their stories. With many feature-length music documentaries becoming a bit stale and formulaic – more and more so every year – our music program tries to reveal a deeper layer of artist-made films, handcrafted, marvelously original glimpses into the less traveled territories of emotional vibration.

Consisting of half a dozen features and a 5-film shorts program, ranging in production year from 1930 up until the present day, each selection – fiction, nonfiction, somewhere in between – explores bespoke landscapes of monumental spaces, collective acts of recuperation through image and sound, and the ephemerality of hidden notes and tones that connote strong ties to things not quite earthbound. But they walk and talk and sing and dance among us just the same…

This fine introduction text is a quote from curator Pamela Cohn, who is in charge of the “Magical Substances: Music on Film” section at the upcoming Dokufest in Prizren (August 5-13). It consists of 6 features and 5 shorts, including two by legendary Les Blank (“A Poem is a Naked Person” (1974) and “Thailand Moments” (1967) AND the 1930 classic by Aleksander Dovzhenko “Earth” (Photo). Here is the catalogue text:

”Avant-garde ”Earth”, a recognized cinema masterpiece, was banned 9 days after release and glorified in Ukraine only after Dovzhenko’s death, bringing forth dozens of controversial interpretations. Full of lyrical pantheism and utopian exaltation, it demonstrated the ambiguity of Ukrainian geopolitical choice in the 1920s. The new soundtrack for Earth was created by Ukrainian ethno-chaos band DakhaBrakha, whose music shifts the emphasis from the film’s ideological connotations to universal ones.”

Below a link to where to get a copy of the film.

Ukraine, 1930, 83 mins.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jonas Mekas: I Had Nowhere to Go

Written 15-07-2016 12:23:44 by Tue Steen Müller

Wow, that sounds exciting, the diary of Jonas Mekas, ”I Had Nowhere to Go”, made into a film by filmmaker and video artist Douglas Gordon, the man who made the super-aesthetic film about Zinedine Zidane… The film has its premiere during the Locarno Film Festival, August 3-13. Here is two clips from the website of the festival:

”The Concorso Cineasti del presente will open with a film that is unique in its protagonists and for the concept that is the basis for the project. I Had Nowhere To Go by the filmmaker and video artist Douglas Gordon is based on Jonas Mekas's diary…

I Had Nowhere To Go is his story of exile; brought on by the horrors of the twentieth century, propelled by the need to create rather than destroy, to move on, to make sense... or not, where bewilderment is more honest. It's been over 70 years since Jonas Mekas left his village in Lithuania to escape Nazi persecution. He was 22 years old. Today he is one of the last surviving members of a displaced generation. He is also one of the greatest documenters of the human experience”.

The artistic director Carlo Chatrian of the Locarno Festival: Although I do not want to reveal any more about this extraordinary project, I can say that Douglas Gordon offers us a truly sensorial experience, which challenges the concept of seeing, and links the idea of the present with that of memory. Looking so much forward to meet this film somewhere some day.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren 2016

Written 14-07-2016 23:04:43 by Tue Steen Müller

For years we have been following the festival in Prizren Kosova long-distance. This year – the festival dates are August 5-13 – it will be different. I will be there. Nevertheless – apart from enjoying the atmosphere and the open air screenings and all the side events – it will be a challenge to put together a film programme as there is so much interesting to choose from.

I say so after studying the press release that came out today announcing ”full slate of films for its 15th. jubilee edition, running from August 5 – 13 in the city of Prizren, Kosovo. Culled from yet another year of record number of submissions, the festival will showcase a selection of 238 films from 57 countries across 6 competitive sections and more than a dozen specially curated programs…”

It is impossible to mention all the elements – check the website, link below – but it is indeed impressive what is on the menu with the mix of

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Claas Danielsen – New Job

Written 13-07-2016 10:38:39 by Tue Steen Müller

His name has been on since our site started as I have been covering the DokLeipzig festival, where Claas Danielsen was the festival director from 2004 till 2014. Before that I worked with him when Documentary Campus was Discovery Campus - well our friendship goes long back to the 1990’es, where Claas as filmmaker came to the Balticum Film & TV Festival on the island of Bornholm shortly after he had graduated from film school.

His love for documentaries is big and his talent for developing initiatives like the mentioned (as well as the Dok.Incubator) is obvious. Now he got an offer he could not refuse – to become the CEO (in German Geschäftsführer) of Mitteldeutschen Medienförderung MDM following in the footsteps of respected Manfred Schmidt, who set it all up in 1998. The MDM operates in Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt und Thüringen. Claas starts in his new job by December 1st.

The budget of MDM is (according to a FB post by DOK.Incubator)

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Robert Frank’s Don’t Blink In New York

Written 12-07-2016 18:43:30 by Tue Steen Müller

I got an email from Laura Israel this morning, the director of the film on Robert Frank, with whom she has working for years as an editor. “Getting the Word Out” she wrote and told that the film is running at the wonderful New York cinema Film Forum July 13-26 = from tomorrow. Later today the producer Melinda Shopsin posted a reference to an enthusiastic review of the film by Matthew Eng, It deserves a quote, see below and remember that we have several texts on Frank on this site. I also want to recommend the website of the film.

…Don’t Blink is the rare documentary — and Israel the rare documentarian-cum-cinematic curator — that understands that the best way to elicit both appreciation and understanding for an artist’s creations is to allow us to see these creations first-hand. And when the creations in-question are as electrifying and contextually-profuse as Frank’s, it’s especially hard to look away. His famously era-specific photography is so striking in the direct spontaneity of its gritty Americana, the scattered snippets of his films so arresting in their shaggy ecstasy, that as each of his works slips and seeps into one another, one can’t help but struggle to keep up…

Categories: Cinema, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Documentary Winners in Karlovy Vary

Written 11-07-2016 13:44:50 by Tue Steen Müller

I could not find the information on the website of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival – luckily Danish jury member Sigrid Dyekjær posted on FB the decisions made by her and colleagues Laurent Bécue-Renard and Hana  Kulhánková:

The Grand Prix for Best Documentary Film is given to LOVETRUE by Alma Har'el (photo). The jury motivation:

Often, filmmakers play the role of therapists for their characters. With great audacity and imagination Alma Har'el goes a step further in LoveTrue. Through intimacy and respect, the director is allowing her protagonists to elaborate and represent images of trauma from early in their lives. These psychodramas become parts of many layers in this innovative film, cinematographically pushing the boundaries of storytelling while addressing the inherent difficulties of the universal journey of love.

The catalogue description of the film goes like this: The highly anticipated sophomore effort from an Israeli director who has returned five years after her successful debut Bombay Beach, this time to uncover the essence of something as universal as the emotion of love. A documentary essay interweaving three true life stories and exposing naïve notions of the existence of “true” love that is free of pain. (USA, 82 mins., 2016)

The jury gave an honorary mention to “Ama-San” by Cládia Varejão, here is the catalogue description:

This lightly lyrical documentary takes us to a remote corner of Japan, where a community of traditional pearl hunters sets out to sea each day to dive down several metres below the surface in search of shellfish, octopuses, sea urchins and lobsters. If we adjust our breathing rhythm to the tranquil tempo of the passing scenes we will be rewarded with a fascinating world where, in equal measure, time-honoured rituals and companionable warmth introduce a sense of requisite harmony.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Miguel Llansó: CRUMBS

Written 11-07-2016 12:25:14 by Allan Berg Nielsen


I denne etiopiske sci-fi møder vi Candy, der træt af at samle krummerne fra den sammenbrudte civilisation, drømmer sit liv væk, mens han lever i evig frygt. Da fartøjet på himlen begynder at bevæge sig efter en række mærkelige hændelser, tvinges vores lillebitte helt ud på en surrealistisk, episk rejse, der fører ham gennem post-apokalyptiske, etiopiske landskaber, hvor han møder sig selv, sin frygt og hekse, Julemanden og andengenerations-nazister. Blot for at opdage, at det han længe har troet på, slet ikke er, som han forventede. (Africa Reframed, programtekst)

Etiopien 2015

Filmen vises på onsdag 13. juli 19:00 på udstillingen AFRICA REFRAMED i Øksnehallen, København.

AFRICA REFRAMED - Afrikansk samtidsfotografi i Øksnehallen, København 18. juni-2. august 2016. er inkluderet her)


Sci-fi from Ethiopia. Tired of picking up the crumbs of gone-by civilizations, Candy dreams his life away when not living in a state of perpetual fear. When the spaceship in the sky begins to turn on and after a series of freak incidents, our miniature-sized hero will be forced to embark on a surreal epic journey that will lead him through the post-apocalyptic Ethiopian landscape as he confronts himself, his fears and witches, Santa Claus and second generation Nazis: only to discover that what he had long believed is not what he expected. (Afrika Reframed programme)

Director: Miguel Llansó, Ethiopia 2015

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

Documentaries in Karlovy Vary

Written 07-07-2016 11:37:09 by Tue Steen Müller

Until saturday July 9th the festival in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic is on and the red-carpet mainly feature film festival has a fine eye for documentaries as well. As part of the schedule the Jihlava Festival (20th edition this year late October!) presents what they call ”docu talents” from Eastern Europe, and the 51st Karlovy Vary event has a competition for documentary films.

12 films are listed with a good variety of new and old talents… many of them directors known for works praised previously on this site. Like Polish Michal Marczak who presents his ”All These Sleepless Nights” with which, quote from the catalogue, the director ”reconfirms his reputation as a nonconformist who is ever veering from the parameters of the traditional documentary toward hybrid forms.” Like he did way back with ”At the Edge of Russia” that I met when I was working for the training programme Ex Oriente. Equally talented is Daniel Abma, whose ”Transit Havana” I saw a couple of months ago and characterised as ” a well told character driven, emotional and informational, visually excellent documentary”. Shot in Cuba, great characters and a slogan for Cuban politics, ”Homophobia no, socialismo si”.

A third younger director, Mohamed Siam from Egypt, has for years been working on – quote from the catalogue of the festival – ” a

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Alex Holmes: Stop at Nothing

Written 06-07-2016 18:01:16 by Tue Steen Müller

… the Lance Armstrong Story, to include the subtitle, was screened last night at the DR2 Dokumania, whose editors apparently do not hesitate to bring sport documentaries during events like Wimbledon (last week ”Serena” (Williams) was shown), and now, when the first stages of Tour de France are broadcast on tv screens all over, and is very popular in Denmark, a documentary about Lance Armstrong. One should think that there was enough sport on the channels, but here came another documentary on Lance Armstrong. I am sure many do remember the Alex Gibney documentary, where the director was finishing a portrait of the bicycle superman, when the news broke that he had been doped, confessed by himself in an Oprah show. In 2013. The director went back to Armstrong and made an interview with him that became the backbone of a film that shows a lot of material from the Tour with Armstrong in the winning role.

There is much less bicycling in this documentary that has its focus on the portrait of man - who happens to be an athlete – who is characterised by one of the many interviewed as a sociopath, who made his own myth, who bought victories, broke every decent rule of ”normal” friendship, shouted at one former team mate after the other, when they had suggested that he was doped, used his cancer illness in the foreground when going public… The film goes step by step into a case that we have heard about so many times, and is merciless in its portrait of the (lack of) human qualities of the Shakespearean Armstrong. No sympathy at all. I would not say that I had that for him in Gibney’s film that in a way makes him an archetype of a madman, who gets away with all king of lies without any scruples whatsoever.

As usual for the Dokumania series – stylistically a formatted, designed tv documentary.

For Danish readers – the film is available for a period on

Australia, 2014, 90 mins.


Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Andrei Nekrasov: The Magnitsky Act

Written 04-07-2016 12:11:44 by Tue Steen Müller

… 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.

Magnitsky, a young lawyer, was hired by American lawyer and investor, based in London, William Browder, who has been insisting, since then, on Magnitsky being tortured to death, and has made himself a human rights activist and a ”Public Enemy no. 1” of Putin’s Russia.

Browder went to the US Congress, had an Magnitsky Act passed and signed by President Obama, an act that made Russian officials involved in human rights conflicts banned to enter the US.

About the overall narrative of the film: Step by step, Nekrasov gets closer to people and documents around the case, an insight that makes him question, whether Magnitsky was actually beaten with death as the consequence or whether he died a natural death… and whether this whole story was set up by Browder to clean himself for being involved in the fraud.

I read about the film being taken off the program at the Norwegian Film Festival in Grimstad – the festival was threatened to be sued by Browder and his lawyers – and I read that it was not shown at a planned screening at the European Council because Browder presented papers stating that the film was full of wrong statements and conclusions – for the same reason broadcaster arte/ZDF has put the film on hold to investigate… The film, however, was screened on the initiative of the producer Piraya Films, in Oslo, in Washington at a closed session and at the Moscow International Film Festival some days ago. At the two latter mentioned events raising upheated debates.

A ”hot” film in other words. Thanks to brave Norwegian Torstein Grude from the production company Piraya in Stavanger Norway for letting me watch the film AS A FILM and not as a piece of investigative journalism even if it is also what it is…

So here comes an attempt to make a film review of a film that with its narrative structure includes several film styles, several angles.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Moscow Intl. Film Festival/ Doc Winners

Written 01-07-2016 14:01:30 by Tue Steen Müller

The Russian festival ended last night, I was not there in persona but if I had been you would have seen a happy man, who so many times have been at award ceremonies without having seen the winner(s). This time I had seen and written about the winners.

The jury decided to give the Best Documentary Award to “Mrs.B – A North Korean Woman”, directed by Jero Yun, a fascinating, unbelievable story shot over several years with a strong main character. What a life she has had, from North Korea to China to South Korea, involved in smuggling, being smuggled herself, accused of being a spy for North Korea when in the South…

And… take a look at the picture… I was not the only one, who loved “24 Snows” by Mikhail Barynin. It got the audience award that, according to my contact at the festival Georgy Molodtsov “is measured over all films in doc competition and free thought programs”. Well done as competitiors were Gianfranco Rosi, Wojciech Staron and Michael Moore!

Furthermore, Molodtsov tells me, that famous "Sonita" by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami received an award from the NETPAC jury (they were watching all Asian and Pacific Ocean films in all programs of the festival).

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mikhail Barynin: 24 Snows

Written 30-06-2016 08:40:28 by Tue Steen Müller

Take a look at the photo. If you are addicted to documentaries like me you think of Nanook, don’t you? If you have been around for decades like me, you might also think of Estonian master Mark Soosaar, who travelled to Siberia to make his masterpiece ”Father, Son and Holy Torum” about the Khantys and their shamanism. But the smiling man on the photo is a Yakut, from Yakutia, at the very far North West of the Russian Federation. The film is about him, his look at his own life, his look at life in general; he is a hard working man full of a generosity that makes room for a grounded sense of wisdom that he conveys to the audience in an extraordinarily beautiful documentary, that is one of the 8 works competing at the Moscow International Film Festival that runs this thursday included. I have seen only 3 of the 8 so far but this one must be one of the favourites for the best documentary award.

Sergey… I was not given a last name, but it does not matter because you want to be on first name with this man, who loves life – ”life here means work” as he says – and who is able to formulate his love to the horses, the reindeers, to his family, wife and 4 children, and express his concern about who will take over his nomadic kind of work, that he has been doing for 24 Snows – seasons! He follows the herds to where they go, he has, again as he says ”cabins to stay in all over”, we see that, well we see so much from this permafrost region Yakut, in winter and in summer. The camerawork is excellent and the director takes us out where he is alone with the animals and to the village, where the family lives and where he rarely is. And comes along when Sergey travels 700 kilometer with the frozen fish, he has caught with friends at the lake. Or stays discreetly in the background when he kills the horses, he has given names, talking to them with a whispering voice before death is a fact.

Many anthropological studies never get close to its characters. ”24 Snows” deals with the Yakut culture through a temperament, through the charisma of Sergey, who is a man full of a humour that contributes to make the film entertaining. There are joyful scenes with horse racing, there is Sergey with his smallest child, Sergey being an amateur when it comes to get milk out of the cow at home in the village. He is a storyteller – the film uses both voice off and direct sound - and he has himself had a camera in hand, as we are invited to see in stunning b/w footage where he is cleaning horses, who got lost in the wilderness and when found needed to have big ice pieces cut away.

 I am normally very much hesitant to music in documentaries but here it is composed/used perfectly to accompany the often mindblowing images.

Hail the horse people, Sergey says, and this is exactly what this rich film does. I don’t remember to have seen anything so engaging from the tundra since Mark Soosaar took his trips. Jean Rouch would have loved it!

Russia, 2016, 90 mins.

PS. I also have seen the French film ”Tomorrow” that is screened in Moscow. It is about our world in global danger – nature, food etc. – and what should be done about it. Filmmakers go out to find out… It must have been selected for the festival because of its subject and not for its film quality.



Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ryan White: Serena

Written 29-06-2016 10:45:32 by Tue Steen Müller

This film about tennis superstar Serena Williams is one more of the many current documentary portraits of celebrities in the entertainment business and political life. Contrary to the classics in this direct cinema tradition (“Primary” (JFK), “Lonely Boy” (Paul Anka), “Stravinsky”) you sense that you don’t get it all, that the huge amount of people around Serena have had an influence on what to be filmed and what not to be filmed… control of the public image in other words. A limitation of course...

… and yet you get close to a lovely and lively, funny and serious, emotional, extremely professional sportswoman, who is also into the fashion business and who loves her sister Venus, very often the one she has to play against in the big matches. She is much more interesting for a film than Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi.

The grand slam tournaments are the red thread in the film - the director has followed Serena over the season where she had the chance to win all four tournaments within the same year. She wins the three and fails on the last one, where she loses to a skinny Italian… This constitutes the dramatic highlight of the film, after she lost she does not want to talk to anyone, her French coach leaves his hotel room not knowing about his future, cut to Serena in her bed with her teddy bear, a little girl with some grown-up comments and a text saying that she then stayed away from tennis for a long time.

The annoying elements of a film that is well designed with music to tell us what to feel - yes it is mainstream in that aspect - come up when the director asks some of the people around Serena to talk about/characterise her, unnecessary as she herself has all the charisma needed, and comments brilliantly on the media interest on her curves and muscles...

Unnecessary except for the coach, the Frenchman who is a good accompanying character in and outside the picture, the latter when he comments on her performances: I love you and I trust you.

USA, 2016, 90 mins.


Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Two of the Competition Films at MIFF

Written 29-06-2016 08:20:15 by Tue Steen Müller

- i.e. Moscow International Film Festival, that has a competition section for documentaries with 8 films. I have had the pleasure to get access to some of them, here are some notes on the two I have watched so far, a disappointment and a pleasant surprise:

It is no secret for readers of this site that Czech Helena Trestikova is a director, we have followed and highlighted for years for her long term observational documentaries on people living on the edge of society - “René”, “Katka”, “Marcela”, “Private Universe” to mention those who have travelled successfully all around. It is therefore understandable that the Moscow festival has picked her new film, made together with Jakub Hejna, “Doomed Beauty”, which has the actress Lida Baarová as the portrayed character, whose life and relationship to nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels made her enemy of Czekoslovakia. Trestikova filmed her at the end of her life - the film is professionally made - fine archive of course but it is, sorry for this reaction, unbearable to watch the old woman crying all the time having problems with expressing herself. I can not help think that the footage should have stayed on the shelf.

The Korean film, however, “Mrs.B - A North Korean Woman”, shot over several years, brings a fascinating, unbelievable story to the screen about a woman, who is smuggled out of North Korea to China to be forced into marrying a Chinese farmer. She turns into being a smuggler and drug dealer herself, and has the intention to get her North Korean husband and her two sons out of the country to live with her in South Korea. She succeeds, but after being interrogated by the secret services from both Korea’s if I get it right, she is thought to be a spy. But basically she wants to return to China to her Chinese husband and his farmer family.

It is a difficult film that Jero Yun has made and you sense that it has not been possible to say and show everything. But it lives strongly in the scenes where you are at home(s) in China with the husband and his parents, and with the Korean family members the director has chosen to interview. They convey the confusing claustrophobic atmosphere that these poor people are in. But first of all it lives because of Mrs.B., who wants a decent life and puts a lot of energy into achieve that. And if you take all the politics connected to the three countries away, the film is maybe first of all a love story.

Categories: Cinema, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Youth in Randers 1978-1979 /2

Written 27-06-2016 12:46:42 by Tue Steen Müller

… seen by Finn Larsen and Lars Johansson, a photo exhibition at Øksnehallen in Copenhagen, running until August, curated by Finn Larsen and Hans Grundsø, with an exhibition newspaper catalogue of almost 100 pages that is in Danish AND English language and includes photos from the exhibition about how young people looked like, what they did in their free time, how they met the opposite sex, cigarettes, beer, mopeds - there is also a section on a rocker group - ordinary life interpreted in an extraordinary manner, a close-up of a generation in the sixth biggest city in Denmark some four hours away from the capital, where the exhibition now is to watch.

Yes, a classical documentary approach by two skilled photographers Lars Johansson and Finn Larsen, who later on have developed their own careers in film and literature and visual art - reminding us how important it is to have time to go deep and to catch the moment. Larsen, editor of the impressive newspaper catalogue, has been so generous to puiblish a great reflective article by Swedish legendary documentary photographer and filmmaker Sune Jonsson. Here is a quote:

“The reportage confrontation is a fragile method of documentary work. But even so unfavorable an assigment 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…”

A must-read article for documentarians as the exhibition is an inspiration. It is all about the Gaze as Albert Maysles would have put it.

Publisher of the newspaper catalogue: Finn Larsen 


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

P. Lozinski: You Have No Idea How Much I Love You

Written 25-06-2016 15:31:57 by Tue Steen Müller

A couple of weeks ago I wrote articles for the Krakow Festival newspaper. One of them had the headline “Lozinski” and was about father and son, Marcel and Pawel. I saw that there was a new film by Pawel in the program, I had not seen it when I wrote the enthusiastic words about the two - later I read that he received an award in the National Competition for “You Have No Idea How Much I Love You”, I have watched the film with the beautiful title, it is amazing, let me give you an idea why I love it:

Three faces, talking faces, faces that express emotions, faces to be read, nothing else but these faces in close ups, a mother and her daughter, and a psychotherapist, who is there to make the two reconcile after a long separation. For

75 minutes you are in that room of intimacy and suffering and pain, studying how the intelligent, sometimes tough sometimes soft, therapist makes the two open up for the traumas that come from their childhoods' lack of care and love. Look at the still photo of the daughter, she is full of defiance towards her mother, she gets aggressive and sad when she talks about the divorce of her mother and father, it is embarrassing for the two involved and for the viewer… but liberating when the therapist interrupts, very often by saying “could we use another word” or by interpreting one of the many sentences coming from daughter and/or mother.

As a viewer you know these stories, in a way it is very banal - a child feeling guilt because of the parents divorcing, just one of the themes coming up, the reason it is so good stems from the filmmaking, the three are so good, they are so well directed, the editing goes smooth from one to the other, you listen while you watch either the one talking or the one listening. Like he proved in “Chemo”, Pawel Lozinski has this unique skill of going to the core taking away all the unnecessary and bringing to us a cinematic conversation piece of universal reach. (Lozinski, Father and son)

Poland, 2016, 75 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Doc Alliance Selection 2016

Written 20-06-2016 22:43:42 by Tue Steen Müller

… sounds very formal, much better if you call it, like the organizers also do, “2016: Fresh Documentary Talents at the Upcoming Ninth Das Awards”, “Das” standing for "The Doc Aliance Selection Award”, that is to be distributed August 7 at the Locarno International Film Festival, the winner gets €5000. The selection process is very simple:

every festival that constitutes the Alliance selects a film and the focus is to “support new filmmakers and projects” as formulated by the projects manager Nina Numankadic, who also stresses that the selected 7 films will be screened at all 7 films. You can read about all the films on the website - link below - I just want to mention that DOK Leipzig has chosen “Train to Adulthood” as the film they want to promote, a good choice, Hungarian Klára Trencsényi is definitely a talent to follow. Last year’s winner was Iraqi Abbas Fahdel’s “Homeland” (Iraq Year Zero).

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ung i Randers/Youth in Randers 1978-1979

Written 20-06-2016 20:12:56 by Tue Steen Müller

Later this week I will visit an exhibition in Øksnehallen in Copenhagen. An exhibition that has been set up by the two photographers Finn Larsen and Lars Johansson, wholived and worked in Randers, the sixth biggest city in Denmark, around 60.000 inhabitants.

This is also the home of Allan Berg, co-editor of and at that time festival organizer and filmmaker in works with the two mentioned Larsen and Johansson.

Here is their introduction to the exhibition, that I will review in Danish and English:

Back in 1978-79 the background was years of museum work. Although we were young, we had worked in many different ways. New and old, local and foreign. Learned and thought. Photography became the tool and the form, more and more. The tradition of documentary. The working title was Among young people in Randers. First contact was Landstrygerne. A moped club that eventually became a motorcycle club. It was in color – slides, were what they were called. 8B from Tirsdalens school was let into the museum. It became It’s about us. They did most of it themselves. Areas of the city were searched, mostly in the evening. Black/white and flash. When the asphalt sways. The title came along the way. Films were important at the museum. We can do that too. Images of youth 16 mm color, shot with heavy equipment. The meeting lasted two years. There has not really been anything similar more made in Denmark before or since. Reunion. This is a re-exhibit. A glance at a time and at a Randers that was contemporary for young people not so long ago. When you had to make plans to meet, you went out into the hallway where the phone was, picked up the receiver and dialed a number that you had memorized or written down in a little book. Otherwise you went around the corner to the grill bar, where your friends hung out. Or you met in the evening at the club under the church or at school.

It was seen for a while.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus på SVT

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

It's not often you get the chance to salute a broadcaster for putting a focus on "stars" of the documentary history. Therefore a big hurra for Swedish public broadcaster SVT for programming 5 films of the American couple, direct cinema pioneers whose works “Don't Look Back”, “War Room”, “Unlocking the Cage”, “King of Pastry” and “StartUp.Com” are programmed - and many of us Danes can watch Swedish television.

Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cameraperson wins in Sheffield

Written 17-06-2016 07:55:43 by Tue Steen Müller

Sheffield Doc Fest is over with a huge Industry section and a festival, with former ITV person Claire Aguilar as responsible. Kirsten Johnson's personal "Cameraperson" got the first prize, here is a clip from Realscreen:

Ido Haar’s “Presenting Princess Shaw”, Kirsten Johnson’s “Cameraperson” and Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel’s “Seed: The Untold Story went home with top prizes from Sheffield Doc/Fest.

The six-day UK festival, which wraps today (June 15), handed out awards at a Tuesday evening (June 14) ceremony in Crucible Theatre, hosted by KG Tha Comedian.

Johnson’s "Cameraperson", which had its world premiere at Sundance in January, took home the Grand Jury Award, with a special mention going to Shimon Dotan’s "The Settlers".

"Cameraperson" finds the cinematographer turning the lens on herself and her work over the years for such directors as Laura Poitras and Michael Moore.

A jury statement read, “A film unlike any other, intuitively constructed to reflect ideas and choices and emotions, rather than a standard narrative thread, it invites the viewer to contemplate and feel these experiences along with her."

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Til lykke med fødselsdagen JØRGEN LETH

Written 14-06-2016 15:04:33 by Tue Steen Müller

... ønsker vi her fra Filmkommentaren. Vi gør det med et af vores yndlingsportrætter af dig, det er godt nok dit, fra  din blog, men vi tilegner os det lige, for det er et af de mest inspirerende, et af dem hvor du er på arbejde. Og så vil vi bare endnu engang henvise til det, vi gennem nogle år har skrevet om dig og dine film, mest om filmene i vores rå opsummering ”Jørgen Leth - Collected Texts on his Works”, som begynder med en lille kursiv …the Danish director, who has been an inspiration for generations of Danish filmmakers. With Lars von Trier as number one as readers will know from the film”The Five Obstructions” og så fortsætter med første post, som er et af mine mange dagbogsnotater på bloggen: “Mid wednes(day) off from Copenhagen with troubled SAS to Amsterdam to attend the 25th idfa (International Documentary Film Festival). On board is also Jørgen Leth on his way to idfa as several times before. This year to be in the main jury with (among others) Michael Glawogger, and to attend his own ”My Name is Jørgen Leth” exhibition that is part of the idfa ”Expanding Documentary” that opens at 7pm tomorrow November 15th at De Brakke Grond here in Amsterdam…” Læs eventuelt videre og så igen tillykke og hav en dejlig aften! Allan og Tue

Categories: Cinema, TV, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK, Poetics, Directors, Essays

Nenad Puhovski: Generation 68

Written 11-06-2016 06:52:00 by Tue Steen Müller

I have known Nenad Puhovski for almost 20 years. His contribution to the development of Croatian documentary is enormous as a teacher, producer, director and ZagrebDox festival initiator and director. He was on the board of EDN (European Documentary Network), when I was director the same place and I have had the pleasure of helping him as a juror at his festival, have made a retrospective the same place and pushed forward the industry part of the festival. So now you know the connection between film director and reviewer.

That he – who has (almost) the same age as me, who has semi-retired if that is an English word – also has had the energy to make this film about ”our” generation: Bravo! And as he wrote to me, when he sent the link for ”Generation 68”, the film is touring the ex-Yugoslav region to festivals and receives a lot of positive feedback. Of course, it is a documentation of high quality.

… as it is a well researched – as he presents it himself - ”homage to the generation with which the author share the idea of a revolution that will change the world…”. And a clever one in the way questions are raised concerning the magic year 1968; what was it, what happened, what is important today, is it at all important what the students at that time believed in, are there values that have survived – or, as it is being formulated, ”are we not just fighting for a better past”.

Nenad seeks answer through visiting a lot of friends, important personalities in the student movement; they remember, they give answers to his questions, archive material is being used, he went to Paris at that time, protested against the Vietnam war, as well as against the Soviet invasion of Czekoslovakia, there were summer camps with Marcuse present and so on so forth.

The danger with a method like this is of course that interview follows interview, that the film gets extremely wordy and Nenad does not avoid to put me as a viewer into being bored at many points because those being interviewed, who I don’t know in beforehand, are not all interesting to look at and to listen to. But they were part of it, so they have to be in, the argument seems to have been. Slobodan ”Bobo” Drakulic, sociologist, is one of the clear exceptions, I could have listened much more to him and his personal story, I sense that Nenad was close to him, when he goes to the place in Toronto, where he lived and makes him become alive in a beautiful archive sequence, where he takes off his glasses.

Yes, I would have loved more cinematic pearls like this, to have become more emotionally involved, to have more Nenad and less others being interviewed but I understand that this was not the intention, Nenad has wanted to do an homage to a generation that did something valuable that for most of the people in the film have had no impact at all. And for the children of Nenad, two grown-up women, the so-called values of 68, space to talk, tolerance etc. have not been practised by their father and mother in their upbringing. It’s a great scene, Nenad being spanked – with love and humour.

And yet, the Occupy Movement… the images of police knocking down demonstrators in streets all over, is it not the same revolutionary actions taking place as almost 50 years ago, the director asks, in a film that in between finds its tone of reflection, of melancholy… Back to Bobo who expresses his sadness to have seen the Eastern European countries get their freedom… to be able to work 16 hours a day to reach what...

Croatia, 2016, 86 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH


Written 10-06-2016 06:33:42 by Tue Steen Müller

We have on this site for years announced the free offers from ”your online documentary cinema”, DocAlliance, the best vod you can find in Europe with a focus on Central and Eastern European documentaries but not only, there is also Jørgen Leth and Nicolas Philibert and many, many others for those of us who want to follow trends in modern documentary.

But… why wait for the free offers when you can have a subscription for a ridiculous low price, read this from the last newsletter from DocAlliance:

“Did you know that our catalogue includes more than 1,400 films, 20 retrospectives of famous directors, and 10 masterclasses by the world’s most noted documentary filmmakers? Enjoy your online documentary cinema at any time. Get an unlimited monthly subscription for 3.99 Euro, or subscribe for only 35 Euro for the entire year!”

Photo: Miroslav Janek, many of his films are to be found on DocAlliance.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Why I Love Polish Documentaries

Written 09-06-2016 06:36:38 by Tue Steen Müller

It all started on the island of Bornholm. From 1990 and for ten years we Danes arranged a film festival on this wonderful place in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The name was Balticum Film & TV Festival and the films came from the countries around this Sea, including Poland. During a decade this post-USSR festival became a meeting place for creative documentarians to show films and discuss.

Here I saw ”Hear My Cry” (1991) and ”State of Weightlessness” (1994) by Maciej Drygas and ”89mm from Europe” (1993) ”Anything Can Happen” (1995) by Marcel Lozinski. Just to mention some of the Polish masterpieces which were screened at the old cinema in Gudhjem. It was also here I met the producer Wojtek Szczudlo from Kalejdoskop Film Studio, who became a dear friend, who later joined several workshops that I was in charge of. RIP, dear Wojtek.

After Bornholm I was for years part of the Ex Oriente workshop arranged by the IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) in Prague and met talents like Bartek Konopka and Piotr Rosolowski with their “Rabbit à la Berlin”, a fantastic work that their powerhouse of a producer Anna Wydra managed to bring for an Oscar nomination!

In 2005 I was in the jury of Krakow Film Festival. I was chairing the international jury: 3 out five awards was given to Polish filmmakers – Wojciech Staron’s “The Argentinian Lesson”, Pawel Kloc’s “Phnom Penh Lullaby” with a mention to “Doctors” by Tomasz Wolski.

Why are Polish documentaries so good? Could it be because Polish filmmakers always have an aesthetic choice before shooting starts. They think about form before content, they think about the style of storytelling that could fit this or that theme. They think in images that can carry emotion and information without words. Many directors have developed their film language in short films, like Piotr Stasik with his “7 x Moscow” (2005, 18 mins.), Thierry Paladino with “At the Datcha” (2006, 26mins.) and “Suburban Train” by Maciej Cuske (2005, 18 mins.). Not to forget short doc master Pawel Lozinski. There is a tradition for shorts in Poland contrary to where I come from. We used to have one…

I am sure that the existence of the Wajda School plays and has played an important role for the development of the Polish documentary. It is indeed impressive what has come out of this school that I have had the chance to visit a couple of times. What else to mention than ”Joanna” (2013) by Aneta Kopacz, beautiful as a film and as a hymn to Life and Love!

Three more female directors who has impressed me deeply: Wiktoria Szymanska whose ”The Man Who Made Angels Fly” (2013) with the puppeteer Michael Meschke is magic, Marta Prus meeting with her protagonist in ”Talk To Me” (2015) and Karolina Bielawska’s ”Call me Marianna” (PHOTO). For that no presentation needed, awarded all over the world, last ti me at DocsBarcelona the director got the New Talent Award.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH


Written 08-06-2016 10:18:50 by Tue Steen Müller

If any name is connected to Polish documentary this is the one: Lozinski. Marcel and Pawel. Father and son.

Let me start with the father, who is a bit older than me but we are from the same generation. We have met here, there and everywhere in the last decades, on Bornholm at the Balticum Film & TV Festival, at festivals, at the Wajda School. Our conversations have been in French, easier for him than for me.

When I was asked by the film magazine Sight & Sound to nominate ”My Greatest Docs Ever”, 10 titles should be there, ”Anything Can Happen” was an obvious choice. I wrote this short motivation:

““Anything Can Happen”… is a… playful and clever interpretation of what Life and Death, Joy and Sorrow is - the director's charming son runs around in a park, where he meets old people and asks them all kind of questions in the direct way that we grown-ups would never dare. The result is touching and great fun at the same time.”

The filmography of Marcel Lozinski is impressive, but let me stop at one that proves him a master in finding the adequate style for a difficult, this time personal subject.

I refer to ”Tonia and Her Children” (Vera and Marcel), that is all held in a very controlled style with close-ups of the three, with faces expressing emotions to what is being read and talked about. … a painful journey in memories for the two, who also have had a complicated relationship as grown-ups…

Pawel Lozinski, a master as well, I met him on Bornholm, where his “Birthday” (“Miejsce urodzenia”) (1992) deservedly took the first prize in that year’s competition. Many say that the film about the holocaust survivor Grynberg is quite as important as Lanzmann’s “Shoah”. I agree.

Pawel is extremely precise in his storytelling. His “Chemo” from 2009 is a unique example of how to deal with a sensitive theme with no sentimentality. Through close-up observations and dialogues between patients, and between patient and relatives, he conveys a beautiful hymn to life. Framed as Life as a Theatre with superb cinematography.

His filmography is impressive and also includes shorts like the lovely “Sisters”, which lasts 12 intense minutes with two, who love each other to the extent, that one of them thinks she is responsible for the other demanding her walking around in their courtyard. Hilarious!

A couple of years ago Pawel as producer suggested to his father Marcel that they should make a film together. Pawel wrote a fine synopsis, here is a small quote: “My father and I get into an old camper and head for Paris where, 23 years ago, he dispersed his mother’s ashes in the Luxembourg Garden. Our trip will take two weeks…”. They went on the trip, they came home and as you know, surprisingly, two films came out of it. Both ”Father and Son” films have been awarded, in Krakow with the Silver Horn in 2013. Great filmmakers, a privilege to know them and their works. (Tonia and her Children, review) (Marcel Lozinskis works, an introduction)

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Krakow FF: New York, New York

Written 07-06-2016 07:27:25 by Tue Steen Müller

Oh New York, this urban jungle full of tales and stories. Of people who long for a good life. Or just for a life. Rich and poor, all ages, all colours. All languages. Michael Glawogger (RIP) was there to make his masterpiece ”Megacities”. He allowed Timon Novotny to remake the film with his band, Sofasurfers. There are in these films unforgettable images from New York, filmed by the superb cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler. Unforgettable portraits of outsiders, who fight to survive. Danish director Jakob Thuesen made his best documentary ”Under New York” in the subway 20 years ago with homeless people. Stories which move you. Another Danish director Pernille Grønkjær, famous for her ”The Monastery” was there a few years ago to catch people with a ”Love Addiction”. And British Gary Tarn, who looked at the Big Apple with the eyes of a blinded man in almost psychedelic ”Black Sun”. And many, many others to remember in documentaries and in fiction… Martin Scorcese, just to mention the most prominent.

And now Piotr Stasik comes with his 71 minutes long 21 x New York, the opening film of the Krakow Film Festival. For me an international breakthrough for him with a feature documentary, that places him in the first division of European documentary directors.

I was sceptic, I had to admit. There are, as mentioned, loads of films on New York, this city that we urban cowboys love to go to – to feel the pulse of Life when it is high, to see, to go by underground, to look at people first of all. Yes, at ”all the lonely people where do they all belong” as the Four Fab sang. In New York you can find them, for sure.

What is it that makes Stasik’s film so attractive… Everything actually. It is a musical composition with a superb score, with use of music of very different nature, with a sound design that includes all that comes from the subway trains with an editing and a rythm, that is carried by the director’s fascination and ability to bring the film to a level of reflection on human existence. ”Time is Up”, one cries, Big Bang Two will arrive at a place on this earth of ours, where there is a constant longing for Love. In the film we meet characters, who have failed in creating relationships, who have dates, that work and do not work, who think they have found Love and then is was ”only” sex. With shots from inside the tube as the backbone of the way the film is built, but also with scenes that make you smile like the wonderful scene (he is wonderful) with the 13 year old boy in conversation with a grown-up man, who tells him that ”Men Follow the Penis”. A conversation on a bench in a park – a reference to Lozinski’s ”Anything Can Happen”? More subtle is the Japanese (or is he Chinese?) young man, who walk around and observe, with his thoughts on our existence as a voice-off. It is mesmerising!

Stasik, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Krakow Film Festival: Quality and Diversity

Written 06-06-2016 08:10:09 by Tue Steen Müller

The Krakow Film Festival is over for me. I have – with this one – delivered the agreed texts for the festival newspaper and I have watched the films in the Documentary Competition to give marks together with other critics. I have enjoyed the festival and yet… I was not there in persona! I had to stay home with my wife, who had a knee injury. We had both been looking forward to be in Krakow again after more than 10 years. A film festival is a place to celebrate Film, meet all the people involved, talk about films, have fun, I did not have that pleasure, alas. I was not for the masterclass of Marcel Lozinski, I did not take part in the 20 year celebration of Kieslowski, I did not meet brothers and sisters from Sweden, who make great documentaries for the moment. I would have loved to shake hands with and hug… No, I stop now!

But thanks to the professionalism and generosity of press spokeswoman Anna E. Dziedzic, with whom I have been in daily contact, and who have directed me to photos, texts, etc. on FB, Youtube, instagram and the website, I have felt the festival and am able to make this concluding text, a kind of conclusion, my impression of the competitive programme and the selection for that category, that included 19 films.

Like most documentary festivals it is obvious that the selection committee has been searching to cover themes of today: The war in Ukraine (“Alisa in Warland”, stupid title but fine film by a film student), “The Burden of Proof”, one more film about the big immigration issue in current Europe, “Employment Office”, I could repeat the sentence from before, unhappy people who are looking for a job and meet bureaucracy, “Life on the Border”, children in refugee camps depicting their situation in often very moving short clips, they are victims of ISIS, a film about Boris Nemtsov…

“I am looking forward to real life”, says the bearded, old man in the fine Canadian film “Manor” (PHOTO). “Here we don’t live, we just exist”, he says, as the psychiatric hospital, where he has stayed is closing down. I was very impressed by this well made, warm documentary as I was to see Wojciech Kasperski’s stunning “Icon” from a psychiatric hospital in Siberia. I remember his “Seeds” from 10 years ago, he is able to bring a philosophical element into his observation of human beings, who are outside our so-called normality.

The documentary competition programme is definitely characterized by seriousness. I could have wished for a bit more stylistical playfulness like there is in Piotr Stasik’s excellent New York film, in “Homo Sacer”, in the amazing Brazilian “Curumim” and in “The Nine” that has a social focus and a surprising way of telling a story about outsiders.

On the other hand, I don´t want to forget Swedish Sara Broos and her “Reflections” that is both very personal, joyful and painful at the same time, and on a constant search for a style, a way of telling a story, to make an aesthetic choice. Which are what so many Polish documentarians do and which is what a festival like the Krakow Film Festival wants us to appreciate. We do!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Krakow Film Festival Awards

Written 05-06-2016 19:24:37 by Tue Steen Müller

Last night the award ceremony was held at the 56th Krakow Film Festival. Projects in development, participating in the impressive Industry section, were honored and supported, and there were decisions made by juries in the many festival sections. I saw the films in the International Documentary Competition so I will limit myself to comment on that – a full list of prize winners can be found on the website of the festival.

The jury for the Documentary Competition chose to give the Golden Horn to the director of the best film, Zosya Rodkevich for the film “My Friend Boris Nemtsov”, a popular and – allow me to say that – political correct decision. The Silver Horn for best medium length went to Massimo Coppola for the charming “Romeo and Juliet” and the one for the best feature-length documentary film to Canadian Pier-Luc Latulippe and Martin Fournier for the film “Manor”. 

I was part of a 6 person critic’s panel that gave marks to the 19 films in this competition - published in the festival newspaper. I had “Manor” as one of the 4 I gave top points, whereas the two films that were number 1 and 2 on the critics list, both original and innovative in their cinematic language, Polish Piotr Stasik’s “21 x New York” and Brazilian “Curumim” by Marcos Prado were surprisingly not on the list of the jury. Stasik’s film with top points from all 6 critics! A great film, if he is disappointed, it is understandable.

The fourth one of my favourtites, Wojciech Kasperski’s “Icon” received the Fipresci prize, and was awarded as the best film in the National Polish Documentary Competition, plus it was recognized for its editing, for raising social awareness and for its cinematography.

The Award for the best cinematography funded by the HBO Polska went to Lithuanian Kristina Sereikaitė for the film “Dead Ears”, directed by Linas Mikuta.

And another partly Lithuanian film “I’m Not from Here” by Chilean Maite Alberti and Lithuanian Giedre Zickyte got the Prix EFA Krakow 2016 as best short film and qualifies therefore to the European Film Award.

One small consolation for the best film – according to me - Best producer in the National Polish Competition was Agnieszka Wasiak, Lava Film for her work on “21 x New York”.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona Awards and Numbers

Written 01-06-2016 20:55:47 by Tue Steen Müller

Apart from the already mentioned, see below, main award for Martin Solá’s “The Chechen Family”, the director Marcela Zamora received The Amnesty International Catalunya Award and the Jury’s Special Mention for her touching “The Room of Bones”. It is a film that has this story according to the site of the festival:

“A bold look at the social violence in El Salvador. The mothers who have lost their kids to youth gang wars look for their bodies in the Legal Medicine Institute, where corpses with no names or identifiable relatives pile up daily. During the last decade murdered people have amounted to tens of thousands. Forensic anthropologists in El Salvador face the titanic job of recovering human remains hidden in clandestine graves throughout the country. The majority are young, victims of various types of violence: attacks between youth gangs, people who vanish during their attempt to emigrate to the USA, and inside the deepest graves are victims of the bloody civil war which took place between 1980 and 1992.”

Photo: Marcela Zamora (left) with award and friend Maria Cille, one of many great DocsBarcelona staff members.

Also awarded, again one should say, was Polish Karolina Bielawska for her “Call me Marianna” in the New Talent Category

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona: Chechen Family

Written 30-05-2016 09:23:24 by Tue Steen Müller

On the last day of DocsBarcelona - in the afternoon - I attended the screening of ”Chechen Family” (”La Familia Chechena”) by Argentinian director Martin Solá, who brought to me not only a strong film but also the best Q&A discussion after the film, led by my colleague programmer Daniel Jariod, who provoked by me translated the words of the director into English – at a festival that still hesitates when it comes to use the English language at opening and closing ceremonies and at Question and Answer sessions.

Anyway, Solá told the audience how he worked with camera and sound to get into the sufist spiritual sessions, which are the core of this both beautiful and at the same time frightening tough interpretation of a phenomenon in an oppressing country. Solá sees the religion as a resistance to the official Chechnya that he visually catches in a long travelling scene from Grozny, the shining city or could one say the shined-up city. The film lives up to a sentence so often used on this site, a quote from Richard Leacock, it conveys ”the feeling of being there”.

No surprise that Solá got the first prize later that night at the closing ceremony of the festival. The English version of the jury motivation is not available yet – here comes the local:  

“una manera poètica de fer sentir l’interior d’una comunitat i de mostrar la identitat d’un poble en un context de violència històrica, a través d’un fort compromís amb la forma.”

and why not bring the English one used at the Visions du Réel in Nyon, where ”Chechen Family” won as well:

The Chechen Family is an intense, unique, uncompromising film. This award is for the radical cinematographic gesture of making a film with and not about a community: a trance-like movie that disrupts the conventional flux of time and that offers both an individual and collective, ethic and aesthetic experience.”

I will get back with a mention of the other awards. Photo: the team behind the film and the main character. Taken from FB page og Solá.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona Vermut & Shadow Girl

Written 29-05-2016 12:19:06 by Tue Steen Müller

Wonderful. The smell of books that meet you, when you enter the Altaïr Bookshop on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. You go downstairs to smell and have the best coffee in Barcelona together with film directors, whose films are in the programme of DocsBarcelona 2016. They are here for this noon intimate arrangement made by the charismatic owner of the place.

The filmmakers were Léa Rinaldi (”Esto es lo que hay” from Cuba), Marcela Zamora (”El cuarto de los huesos” from El Salvador), Pieter van Eecker (”Samuel in the Clouds” from Bolivia) and German Kral (”The Last Tango” from Argentina). I attended the introduction by the directors with clips from their films and enjoy to know that – apart from the tough documentary from El Salvador – they all have and have had theatrical release with quite a success. German Kral told me that 44.000 tickets had been sold in Germany for his film. Wow!

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

DocsBarcelona: When Directors Intervene

Written 28-05-2016 13:53:48 by Tue Steen Müller

Look at the photo. Gaudi. La Pedrera, built between 1906 and 1910, 92 Paseo de Gracia. A must-see for visitors to Barcelona. But also the yearly venue for master classes at DocsBarcelona like yesterday, where (from left to right with badge in hand) after the session Brian Hill (City of Dreams – a Musical), Sean McAllister (A Syrian Love Story), me as moderator, Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami (Sonita), with Greek director Apostolos Karakasis as participant, were talking about intervention in documentaries with their films as examples:

Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami changed the life of Sonita by helping her to make the music video that became a hit on the internet, went with her from Iran to Afghanistan to settle visa and passport so she could go to the US, where she is now. McAllister was arrested in Syria, his material was confiscated, the couple in the film, Amer and Raghda, had to flee the country for that reason, with their children as they were on the director’s tape. McAllister followed the couple when they ended up in exile in France and participated actively in the problems they had in their marriage. Brian Hill went to the Bombay school and made the kids and their teachers sing their social stories in the genre that he has created, the musical documentary.

From Gaudi’s architectural pearl after a good 90 minutes session to Aribau Club cinema where 120 people watched ”A Syrian Love Story” with a very, very pleasant surprise: Amer and Raghda, the son of Amer, and the 9 year old Bob, the child of Amer and Raghda came on stage to receive a more than a warm applause and to answer questions from the audience.

They will be there again tonight at the screening at Aribau Club 1 at 18.15.

Photo by Maria Cilleros

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona Films Meet Audience

Written 27-05-2016 12:41:17 by Tue Steen Müller

… and directors inform and answer questions after the screenings. The heart of a festival, is it not, when the filmmakers get the chance to have feedback from the viewers, who have enjoyed their work on a big screen, vice versa. The triangle: film, audience, filmmaker.

I attended three of these meetings yesterday. Louie Palu (and Devin Gallagher) showed and commented on his ”hell on earth” (my remark) documentary ”Kandahar Journals”, that have several layers: the diary reflections of the photographer Louie Palu, who has photographed and filmed everything himself, the information given about the geography of Kandahar, the almost unbearable photos and images of dead people, including the body parts of a suicide bomber… It stays in your mind this film as does the one by Friedrich Moser, ”A Good American”, that features the most sympathetic man you can think of, Bill Binney, and his lost fight with the NSA, that did not want to adapt his surveillance program that could have prevented the 9/11 to happen. Everything has a structure, says Binney, and the film has indeed one, a form has been chosen, one could almost say designed to convey this scandalous story. I had time to go to the Q&A of ”Daniel’s World” by Veronika Lišková, who gave the audience in a full cinema the background for her sensitive film about a paedophile, who has come out of the closet, so to say. The reaction from the Barcelona audience was very positive, a Brazilian filmmaker wanted to take the film to her country, that’s how a festival should work.

A couple of people I meet: Serge Tréfaut, Portuguese director, who just got an award in his home country for his ”Treblinka”, a hybrid film of great beauty, longing to see it on a big screen. And Arunas Matelis and his wife Alge, who were at the speed meetings with their ”Gladiators. A Different World”, a true international coproduction as it is about the bicycle riders of Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. With a Spanish coproducer, Matelis is now planning to get hold of the star Alberto Contador.

Today films and a masterclass with three truly international, award-winning directors: Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami (”Sonita”), Brian Hill (”City of Dreams”) and Sean McAllister (”A Syrian Love Story”). ”Intervention or Observation”, the catalogue outlines as the theme. The answer is already given, the three of them intervene, so that is what is to be discussed at La Pedrera today at 5.30pm. How, why, with which consequences? Please come to Gaudi’s beautiful place! And then films and more films, hopefully with as many spectators as yesterday.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona 2016 Started

Written 26-05-2016 10:58:42 by Tue Steen Müller

… with full house at the Aribau Multicines, the 1100 seats were occupied for the opening ceremony with a couple of rappers, opening speech by festival director Joan González and the screening of ”Sonita” (also a rapper) by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, the Iranian director, who was present and could enjoy the many minutes long applause that followed after the screening of the film. Yes, that was the right choice for opening the festival.

During today and tomorrow the industry section of DocsBarcelona takes place with so-called speed-meetings, where projects are presented. 40 projects have been selected to be pitched to around 30 financiers and distributors and sales agents.

This part of DocsBarcelona is taking place for the 19th time, but there was a prologue in 1996, in Granada arranged by EDN (European Documentary Network) and local producer, director, cultural event organiser José Sánchez-Montes. In his opening speech Joan González praised Sánchez-Montes, who has been invited to sit in the jury together with Anita Reher, who with this blogger worked for EDN at this pioneering times and were in Granada, where González pitched for the first time. Sorry for being a bit nostalgic…

Back to DocsBarcelona 2016. I had the privilege to moderate three RoughCut sessions with three female directors: Brazilian Isabella Lima with Mercedes, Italian Laura Cini with Punishment Island and ”Etre et Durer” by Italian Serena Mignani. They came with their material – around one hour for all three – and had creative response – also for one hour – from Joan Salvat Catalan tv, José Rodriguez from Tribeca Film Institute, Gitte Hansen from First Hand Films, local producer Bettina Walter and filmmakers Martin Solá and Daniel Jariod, the latter also one of the festival programmers.

The poster photo is taken from the film by Louie Palu ”Kandahar Journals” that is on the programme of today. As are – among several – ”Shadow Girl” by Maria Teresa Larrain, a world premiere, Veronika Liskova’s ”Daniel’s World” and ”City of Dreams” by Brian Hill. More reporting in the coming days.     

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jakob Brossmann: Lampedusa in Winter/ 2

Written 25-05-2016 17:13:31 by Tue Steen Müller

In June 2nd to 8th the Danish Cinematheque at the Film House in Copenhagen shows, as Documentary of the Month, “Lampedusa in Winter” by Jakob Brossmann, a film that has and will travel the world winning several awards. Below you will find a Danish language synopsis and a quote from the presentation by Magnificent7 festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic.

'Lampedusa in Winter' er et højaktuelt billede på flygtningesituationen, som den tager sig ud i udkants-Europa. Nærmere bestemt på den lille italienske middelhavsø Lampedusa. Øen ligger omtrent 200 km syd for Sicilien og 110 km nord for Tunesien, og dens beliggenhed gør den til et logisk knudepunkt for illegale flygtninge. ‘Lampedusa in Winter’ udgør et upartisk billede af den situation, der direkte eller indirekte påvirker hele Europa. Og filmen er samtidig en hjertelig påmindelse om, at der findes ildsjæle derude med overskud til at give lidt ekstra af sig selv. Lampedusas kvindelige borgmester er en af dem, og hun er både flygtningenes håb og klippe i den helt igennem usikre venteposition, de befinder sig i. Instruktør Jakob Brossmann perspektiverer situationen med middelhavsvinde og en opløftende menneskelig varme.

A fantastic documentary of a developed spirited Mediterranean story which involves us deeper as we watch – we fear, we are entertained, we get angry, we scold and shout, we suffer and finally, all together we discover that behind it all stands a cold and distant, untouchable figure of power!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnus og Fredrik Gertten: Den unge Zlatan /2

Written 24-05-2016 08:33:50 by Tue Steen Müller

Becoming Zlatan / Den unge Zlatan har sin danske biografpremiere i det beundringsværdige DOXBIO samarbejde onsdag den 1. juni 2016 i 50 biografer i hele landet. Se hvilke i et link nedenfor. Filmen havde festivalpremiere på IDFA i november sidste år og svensk biografpremiere i februar, og Tue Steen Müller har her på Filmkommentaren anmeldt filmen for nogen tid siden, men denne store danske premiere er god grund til at gentage den:

Traitor, I said a long time ago to Jesper Osmund, who has edited the film about Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the magnificent Swedish footballer, who ”killed” the Danish ambition to qualify for the European championship. A Dane to help the Swedish brothers from Malmö (!) make a film about the young Zlatan and his first years as a professional player, going from Malmö to Amsterdam to Turin, from Malmö FF to Ajax to Juventus! A good film, a very good film actually, and as you could read in a previous post from the other day, a film that is out now, where Zlatan still, at the age of 34, does magic on the pitch and hopefully will do the same for Sweden in France in June, when the European tournament starts.

For a football fanatic the film is gold. You see where he comes from, you have interviews with him, you get a sense of (with Ajax manager Leo Beenhakker’s words) his conflicted nature, you see him being aggressive and violent in matches, you see him score goals and get booed by the audience when he does not, it’s all so very well composed going back and forth in time, there is a kind of melancholic tone in the film that is also about a young player on the top, who is a very private person at the same time as he through growing up learns how to behave, or does he? His tribute to Malmö and the quarter Rosengården, by donating a football pitch, is there and beautiful indeed it is.

For me, I did not remember that, it was especially interesting to get the description of the rivalry between Egyptian player Mido and Zlatan when in Ajax legendary Ronald Koeman was the coach and suddenly had too many strikers. An anecdotal story about a pair of scissors flying from Mido’s hands through the air in the dressing close to hit Zlatan, who then was the only one who came forward to defend his rival in the media. It is fine to hear Koeman as it is fine to hear Capello, who was Zlatan’s coach when he came to Juventus, when Ajax became too small for this fantastic football player.   

Sweden/Holland, 2016, 85 mins. 


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

Gabe Polsky: Red Army

Written 22-05-2016 11:38:06 by Tue Steen Müller

Jeg ved meget lidt om ishockey, efter filmen om “Red Army” ved jeg meget mere. Det er de fremragende arkivoptagelser fra kampe i Sovjetunionen og i Canada, og ved diverse verdens- og olympiske mesterskaber, som fortæller denne fodboldgale blogger, at der kan spilles smukt og elegant på isen, som var det Barcelonas spillere, der kørte bolden/pucken rundt om og igennem modstandernes kæder.

Med Slava Fetisov som kaptajnen og dirigenten, som instruktør Polsky har interviewet – 5 timers material fik han optaget, var lovet 15 minutter af den karismatiske Fetisov, som svarer arrogant på mange af spørgsmålene, men blev grebet af at genopleve sin egen karriere, som starter i barndommen og går op til han bliver én af de fem på billedet, rejser til Amerika og spiller i den berømte NHL, på egne betingelser og ikke på de sovjettiske, som implicerede at stort tjente penge til en vis grad skulle sendes hjem af de militært ansatte hockeyspillere. Og så overraskes vi alligevel, for han blev ikke i vesten, Fetisov, for Polsky har klogeligt holdt den information tilbage, at Fetisov i dag, efter at have været sportsminister udvalgt af Putin i en periode, er businessman og politiker.

Der er mange fine øjeblikke i filmen, specielt i arkivmaterialet, men der er også mange kedelige informative interviews med eksperter. Det er meget bedre, når det er spillerne, som udtaler sig, og påstanden om at man lærer noget om livet i Sovjetunionen, som mange anmeldere fremhævede, da filmen havde dansk biografpremiere, holder ikke. Måske gør de generelt uoplyste amerikanere, men der var intet nyt for mig. Men man lærer noget om lejrlivet for professionelle sportsfolk, men er det ikke noget vi kender så godt i vesten? Og så til min sædvanlige kæphest: filmen er smurt ind i musik fra start til slut. Hvorfor?

Jo, filmen er amerikansk i sin opbygning – der er helte og skurke eller rettere én skurk, træneren Victor Tikhonov, hvis ansigt man genkender fra mange tv-visninger, en hård mand. Som én af spillerne har sagt: ”hvis man får brug for et nyt hjerte, så gå efter Tikhonovs, han har aldrig brugt det…”. Desværre for filmen ville han ikke interviewes.

USA, Russia, 2014, 84 mins.

Filmen vises tirsdag 24. maj kl. 20.45 på DR2 Dokumania og kan efterfølgende streames på i 7 dage. Dansk titel: Den røde ishockey-hær.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

Doker 2016 Program

Written 20-05-2016 16:29:09 by Tue Steen Müller

With the long name Moscow International Documentary Film Festival Doker has launched its second festival edition that runs until May 24. I am very amazed of what the young team behind the festival is doing full of enthusiasm and vision – see post below taken from the website’s ”about”. And go to the site and discover what is offered the audience this year: Feature Documentary competition, a Special Competition ”Let IT Dok” and one for short films. In the feature section you will find films from Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, China, Pakistan, Kenya, Iran – and Latvia and Finland with two fine films reviewed on beautiful and sweet ”Ruch and Norie” by Inara Kolmane and equally beautiful and thought provoking ”Leaving Africa” by Iris Härma.

I was in the jury last year together with Viktor Kossakovsky, I see that Doker this year has convinced master Pirjo Honkasalo to chair the jury.

Doker is a non-mainstream festival, you see that easily in the selection, new names, a cultural

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Doker 2016 Profile

Written 20-05-2016 16:24:46 by Tue Steen Müller

A thoughtful and clear text taken from the site of Doker:

Moscow International Documentary Film Festival DOKer has stemmed from the project of the same name which screens independent non-fiction. DOKer project is aimed at analyzing and screening in Russia various genres and forms of the world's documentaries as a separate line of cinema in all its esthetic and socio-cultural diversity.

The Festival focuses on independent documentary cinema that incorporates both poetic narrative and social blockbusters; footage and mockumentary; art-house and science-fiction; classic and experiment.

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Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Film Uni Babelsberg Konrad Wolf

Written 13-05-2016 08:50:58 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s nice to teach. I have done so for three days and have the final round today in green and rich Potsdam, at the impressive film school (now Universität) named after Konrad Wolf. Invited by Peter Badel for the second time to come and talk to his camera students, I arrived with a bag full of dvd’s and my MacBook with links to films and websites that the students should know about when they leave the protected area of a film school that has all the facilities one can dream of. Including a big cinema for the teacher to convey to the students my documentary passion and knowledge.

I have never made a film myself so my advantage is very simply that I have seen documentaries for (OMG) more than 40 years, that I have met so many great makers that I have stories to tell accompanying the clips and the words about the market, the pitching sessions, the many after-film school possibilities that are offered.

A must on occasions like this is a promotion for Ricky Leacock’s memoirs, the book that exists in a disc version with clips and full films available by a very gentle click on the title that the master is writing about. ”The Feeling of Being There” is the name of the book and is that not the feeling we viewers appreciate when watching a documentary. And the young students had never heard about the two Frank’s (see photos on top of the site): Herz Frank and Robert Frank (photo). I made a tribute to Polish Wojciech Staron yesterday, clips from ”Siberian Lesson”, ”Argentinian Lesson” and full film ”Brothers” – a cameraman who is also a director.

This morning Daniel Abma has generously agreed to visit to meet the students and talk about/show a new trailer of his ”Transit Havana”.

Vielen Dank Peter Badel, also for letting me have your bike to go to the school.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

6 Types of Documentaries

Written 12-05-2016 08:40:54 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s the never ending story – the discussions around the definition of what is a documentary and which words to use. We still go to literature to characterise, using phrases like ”a film poem”, ”an essay”, ”novelistic” etc. And we sometimes go back to Grierson and Flaherty to introduce the word ”creative” (treatment of actuality), which is what all pitching sessions are calling for: creative documentaries. Anyway, important or not, I met this text on FB yesterday and want to share it with you:

…What is a documentary? Webster’s dictionary defines documentary as “consisting of documents: written down.” After a better Google search, Wikipedia defines a documentary as “a nonfictional motion picture intended to document some aspects of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record.”

It also opens into the history of documentaries while referencing Bill Nichols classic text Introduction to Documentary, where he outlines the six modes (or “sub-genres” or “types”) of documentaries. While there’s a lot of variation within, these are the six main categories of the genre in which all documentary films can be cast…

Words written by Jourdan Aldredge, link below, with examples of trailers from the films within the mentioned categories.

Photo from the film that at the BFI poll to find the Greatest Documentaries of All Times was on the top: Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, 1929, Mihail Kaufmann fixing a camera to the train.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Andrés di Tella: 327 Cuadernos

Written 07-05-2016 13:02:51 by Tue Steen Müller

Cuadernos means Notebooks or Diaries if I get it right – written by Argentinian writer Ricardo Piglia. Regret to say that I had never heard about him before, even if his long bibliography includes works translated into English, French and German. I will search for books of him in these languages after having seen Andrés di Tella’s fascinating essayistic documentary on and with him. di Tella I know as a true auteur, that’s why I asked him a link to this film. Three years ago I praised his ”Hachazos” on this site.

How to describe the unique style of di Tella? What is it that attracts me so much and draws me totally into the film? The tone first of all, maybe, with its calmness that fits to Piglia (born 1941), his charisma, his voice when he reads from the diaries, but indeed also di Tella’s constant reflection on how to ”film” diaries and his gentle (yes, gentle and not

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Michael Madsen Posts/Blogindlæg

Written 06-05-2016 10:46:48 by Tue Steen Müller

There is still time to pick up on the free retrospective of Michael Madsen on DocAlliance, an event that made editor Allan Berg update our posts on the Danish director, quite many actually, from Celestial Night to The Visit, written by Allan Berg in Danish and Tue Steen Müller in English with citations in English from various festival catalogue texts.


Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Michael Madsen Retrospective For Free

Written 04-05-2016 09:04:37 by Tue Steen Müller

- with this headline on the DocAlliance website: Visual Philosophy of the Unknown. The (unsigned) article on the website is a very fine introduction to an original auteur, who with few films have reached international fame. Here is a full copy-paste:

From mediocrity to alien civilizations, from a theatre theme to 3D technology, from conceptual art to documentary film. Explore the unexpected and original ways of the art world of Danish director Michael Madsen, one of the leading filmmakers of the Nordic cinematic superpower. Watch the director’s film retrospective for free and do not miss your first encounter of the “third kind” via the Czech online premiere of the documentary sci-fi THE VISIT in the week from May 2 to 8!

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Daniel Abma: Transit Havana

Written 02-05-2016 13:51:12 by Tue Steen Müller

… that has the subtitle ”New Heroes of the Cuban Revolution” is a well told character driven, emotional and informational, visually excellent documentary from a country, where the president’s daughter Mariella Castro is ”heading a new state program for transgender care”. She is in the picture once in a while, with the two foreign doctors who perform genital surgery, 5 per year, and she is seen with the first one who had an operation, Juani, who is waiting for another one ”to give life to his pancho”, the name that is used for penis. Juani is one the three characters, Malu and Odette are the two others, they wait for the operation to make their wish come through: to become women!

It is ”No to Homophobia, Yes to Socialism” and the film invites you to have warm feelings for the three, at the same time as it does not hide the strong conservative reactions from the society and the families, who are not happy, to say the least. In Odette’s family religion plays an oppressing role.

In other words: the filmmakers show their fascination of the country and their love to the characters but they also have a point of view. They are not ”only” describing. Which can be exemplified with this sequence: Mariella Castro says that the country will develop socialism and ”never go back to capitalism”, she talks propaganda language, as the next images of the Cuban flag comments, to be followed by a street image that says ”poverty”, cut to a billboard with Fidel and ”Socialismo o Muerte”, cut to military people, cut to more slogans on walls. An elegant way of pointing on the situation of the country. As are slow motion sequences of people in the streets walking or standing on the boardwalk, many of them waiting for clients. You hear the director ask Malu, ”is this where you pick up work”, ”No she says, that can happen everywhere and with that money you will have meat on the table the next day”.

The best documentation of the social condition, however, comes with Juani, who lives with his brother, has his pension and earns a bit through extra work as does his brother, to be able to go to the grocer to buy the allowed rations of rice etc. Juani is also the one, who in a speech salutes Mariela Castro and her center for sex eduation and tolerance of LGBT – and the one who is looking for a girl friend, who can touch me here, he says and points at his heart. As I do now – this is a film with a warm heart.

The film will be shown in international competition at the upcoming Munich Doc Fest.

Holland, Germany, 2016, 82 mins.


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