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 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

Read more / Læs mere

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.

Read more / Læs mere

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.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Marta Prus: Talk to Me

Written 02-05-2016 13:33:57 by Tue Steen Müller

I have a weak spot for Polish documentaries and this fine film by young Marta Prus makes me – again – wonder why. Is it because the directors know how to create a tense atmosphere very much due to excellent, mostly close-up cinematography like here by Adam Suzin? Is it because they know how to give you a sense of klaustrophobia, to nail you to the screen, like here where most of the film is built around a young man in trouble, a young intelligent man, who is totally aware of his addiction problem and constantly talks about his wish to ”smoke up”? In the film Marta Prus succeeds in getting you into a closed ”room”, where the two main characters, the young man and the director, are. Or is my liking Polish documentaries linked to the fact that the directors very often refrain from pouring verbal information to the viewer? They trust the image – and let an eventual story come out in the narrative as this evolves.

Probably a mix of all… Anyway this film should be obligatory viewing at film schools because of its treatment of the relationship between the one who films and the one who is being filmed. An honest chamber play to say it briefly, about responsibility. Here follows a text from Polishdocs promotion of the film:

”Talk To Me is an intimate journal presenting several months of friendship between the director and 21-year-old Krzysztof, a resident of the Monar rehabilitation centre in Warsaw, who is addicted to marihuana. What happens when trust and sympathy of the protagonist towards the director turn into love? Can the director remain just an observer, without any responsibility, if she constantly accompanies him? Marta Prus becomes a close friend who tries to help Krzysztof.”

I met Marta Prus at the East European Forum in Prague, where she presented ”Over the Limit”, a drama about young Russian gymnasts who fight for qualification to the Olympic Games in Rio. Very promising project from an obvious talent. From Poland.

Poland, 2015, 43 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Christian Braad Thomsen: Fassbinder /2

Written 01-05-2016 11:33:01 by Sara Thelle

Danish documentary master Christian Braad Thomsen’s Fassbinder portrait opens in theatres in New York today. Richard Brody praises the film in a great article in The New Yorker (April 28 2016), in which he compares it with another portrait film about Hannah Arendt and thus describes the "differences between an artistic experience and a prefabricated time-stuffer" ! 

"Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands is the rarest of portrait-films: in addition to being a crucial addition to the critical and biographical record, it’s a cinematic experience in itself, a work of art that can stand on its own as a movie. If Fassbinder were no real person but a fictional character created by Thomsen, the film would endure as a deeply imagined, fierce, and graceful drama..."

Read the rest:

Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands (Denmark 2015) is being screened at The Metrograph in New York May 1-5:

Photograph courtesy Christian Braad Thomsen 

Categories: Cinema, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona 2016

Written 30-04-2016 18:18:08 by Tue Steen Müller

The program is announced for DocsBarcelona 2016, May 23 to May 29. I have below copy-pasted the press release that came out today. As one of the programmers for the festival part, I am looking forward to attend and participate in the triangled meetings between film, audience and filmmaker. Number 19 it is, but there was actually a prologue in Granada with the presence of DocsBarcelona’s Joan Gonzalez, who fell in love with pitching and convinced us at EDN to move it to Barcelona. It was the right solution:

Everything is ready for the nineteenth edition of DocsBarcelona. About to turn two decades of history, the festival will screen 46 films from 28 countries at the CCCB, and the Aribau Club, bringing together more than 500 professionals in its financial market, and to the activities for the industry.

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Zelig Documentary Film School 2016-2019

Written 29-04-2016 10:44:41 by Tue Steen Müller

My friends at the Bolzano based film school Zelig has asked me to tell our readers that the call for applications for the 2016-2019 training cycle is open. Normally we don’t do that kind of promotion on this site but when it comes to praise a school that develops talent in documentary filmmaking with a focus on the genre as an art form, it is with pleasure that I repeat what I have written on the Zelig website:

"The focus at ZeLIG is clear: You need to learn the craft to be able to develop your creativity. You need to learn team-work and to test yourself as a coming documentarian. The school is small with a big heart, a generous staff and committed teachers. The students watch loads of films and make several themselves before they enter the jungle. 3 years. A gift!"

And here is what the school it self states: ZeLIG provides professional training in documentary filmmaking. The program is aimed at preparing young people for careers in filmmaking and the audiovisual sector. Specific attention is focused on documentary cinema in all its forms. The school is located in Bolzano, Italy – a multilingual city, strategically located at the crossroads of Italian, Austrian and German cultures. This gives ZeLIG a distinctly international flavor. Our students and teachers come from around the world, united in their quest to explore, create and further their knowledge of documentary filmmaking. The program provides the basic skills required by the various professional roles in audiovisual production, along with the opportunity to major in one of three key specialized areas in documentary filmmaking:

  • Direction/Project Development
  • Photography/Lights
  • Editing/Post-Production

Applications for the 2016-2019 training cycle are open, deadline May 26.

Photo taken from the website of the school: teacher in cinematography Tarek Ben Abdallah in action with students around him.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CinéDOC Tbilisi – Good EUnews

Written 29-04-2016 10:12:02 by Tue Steen Müller

Georgia is (still) not a member of the European Union and yet there is a cultural link that works as in this case, I copy-paste a message from the festival FB page:

”We are very proud to announce that CinéDOC-Tbilisi is the first Georgian film festival to be funded by the Creative Europe Program of the European Union! We are honored to be funded in the same group with such great film festivals like Dok Leipzig, Sarajevo Film Festival, Oberhausen, La Rochelle, Doc Lisboa, Jihlava Documentary Film Festival and 23 other festivals selected out of 108 eligible applicants!

The selection letter made us extremely happy: "This is a very valuable festival led by a professional team. The event has a strong representation year round and outside its home city.[...] The festival is a very good example of decentralisation of European festival life, bringing European cultural works to new audiences."”

The festival takes place October 21-25.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona 2016 Poster

Written 27-04-2016 17:25:18 by Tue Steen Müller

By courtesy of Louie Palu, the main character of ”Kandahar Journals”, that he also directed together with Devin Gallagher, the upcoming DocsBarcelona festival, is using one of his photos to promote the festival. Stunning. Attractive. From the website of the film a citation from the synopsis of a film that comes to the Barcelona festival with a lot of awards:

… April 2006. Photojournalist Louie Palu, finds himself in the midst of body parts and the smell of burned flesh. On his first visit to Kandahar he is covering a suicide bombing. Arriving in the country as the wars violence spirals out of control, Louie is unaware that he will spend the next five years covering the conflict. He begins writing a series of journals reflecting on his personal experience and what the war looked like and felt to him. This film explores a photojournalist’s first hand account of his psychological state while covering a war. The film follows Louie’s journey covering the war in Kandahar from 2006 to 2010 and its aftermath…

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jonas Mekas See Everything Like for the First Time

Written 25-04-2016 11:45:06 by Tue Steen Müller

Renowned critic and writer Richard Brody has – in the New Yorker - written a long and extremely interesting article on – as he calls him – ”Jonas Mekas, Champion of the ”Poetic” Cinema”. This time the theme is not Mekas as a filmmaker and founder of organisations/assocations for the independent cinema, ”but the activity that’s suddenly in the forefront is his critical writing: his “Movie Journal: The Rise of a New American Cinema, 1959-1971” has just been reissued by Columbia University Press, and it’s a cause for celebration—and consideration. The original edition, from 1972, is long out of print. The book is a rich trove of cinematic wisdom, an artistic time capsule of New York at a moment of crucial energy, and a reflection of controversies and struggles regarding independent filmmaking that endure to this day…”.

The excellent introduction that Brody’s article gives to the book that I will order asap (as well as I will go buy Danish Lars Movin’s new book (in Danish) on American Avantgarde Cinema) mentions Mekas fascination about the French Wave, states that he has written the best ever about Welles ”The Trial”, and about Marlon Brando this ”(his) best work is “the bits in between the action. It’s there that every little word, every little motion, every silence suddenly becomes charged with expression.” And about Cassavetes of course but also Max Ophuls and Godard… READ THE ARTICLE, link below.

Mekas was (is in his 93rd year) a visionary, who predicted with his never sleeping enthusiasm that film with the technological development will be able to reach everyone. BUT as the true documentarian he is (written in 1966): … Let’s show everything, everything. We can do it today. . . . We have to see everything, to look at everything through our lenses, see everything like for the first time: From a man sleeping, from our own navels, to our more complex daily activities, tragedies, loves, and crimes. Somewhere, we have lost touch with our own reality and the camera eye will help us to make contact again.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Audrius Stonys: The Truth of Life…

Written 25-04-2016 10:41:09 by Tue Steen Müller

… this is just a natural thing in documentary filmmaking, the moment you think you know everything and it only remains to capture your “discoveries”, the truth of life takes over and turns against you. So, I let my visions be transformed. The essence lies in the quest. Subsequently, the films will live the lives of their own….

Says Audrius Stonys in an interview on cineuropa, very well made by Aukse Kancereviciute. I recommend you to read it all, here is a taster:  

The film Ūkų ūkai emerged from a desire to expose the beauty industry, but in the course of shooting your attitude changed radically. Does it often happen that life adjusts preconceived visions?

Perhaps not a single one of my films was unaffected by this. The idea changes, because reality turns it upside down and destroys it. At first I was very frightened; it seemed to me that was it – that was the end. I had an idea and everything took another turn. Then I understood that this was supposed to be so. None of my films are as I originally conceived them. In Ūkų ūkai both the theme and the characterchanged. Instead of a strong, healthy, young man who goes swimming every day irrespective of whether it rains or snows, we have a tiny old woman tip-toeing across her room. Alone (Viena) was supposed to be about a girl who is going to visit her mother, who is in prison, and talking what she sees and feels, but instead I made a completely silent film. New Martyrology (Tas, kurio nėra) was supposed to show a man who died unbeknownst to anybody, but instead the Lithuanian film director Augustinas Baltrušaitis, whom fate and circumstances tossed into complete oblivion, became the protagonist of the film. When shooting Cenotaph it seemed that the film was about the meaning of reburial, but it turned out to be about meaninglessness. The initial concept is therefore diametrically opposite…

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sara Broos: Homeland

Written 24-04-2016 15:23:41 by Tue Steen Müller

14 minutes was all needed to make this gem of a film. It reminds me, who watches loads of feature duration documentaries, how strong a short film can be when you have a wonderful person in front of the camera and one behind the camera, who knows how to bring the best out of her = Raghad Kanawati, refugee from Damascus Syria, now living in Värmland Sweden, who tells Sara Broos, the director of the film, what music means to her. ”Every song has its memory”, she says, while she listens to hymns to Allah, who now – she says – is her ”homeland”, the only one she has. Broos asks her which song has meant most for her, she answers ”Hunting High and Low” by Norwegian pop band A-ha, a super-hit from the 80’es – and the film changes completely mood with Raghad remembering her childhood with that song, and with Morten Harket, lead singer of the band arriving in Värmland to meet his fan. It sounds banal, it IS banal, wonderfully banal because of Raghad Kanawati and her beautiful expressive face and presence in the moment.

This film must have a huge audience potential, not only at festivals for documentaries and short films but also on television… if there are time slots for 14 minutes?

Sweden, 2015, 14 minutes


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Alberti & Zickyte: I’m Not From Here

Written 23-04-2016 15:48:37 by Tue Steen Müller

From the production side it is interesting. The film is commissioned by Danish festival CPH:DOX under its program CPH:LAB, where filmmakers from different countries meet to work together. 10 intensive workshop days, original ideas to develop, one year to make the film. I have no idea about the budget but see that there is Chilean as well as Lithuanian funding for this film that is made by Maite Alberti and Giedre Zickyte. A quote from the CPH:LAB page (link below): ”CPH:LAB encourages creative risk-taking, celebrates raw talent, facilitates collaboration across borders andbusiness sectors and supports frontrunners within the film industry to push the existing boundaries of filmmaking as we know it.”

Yes, Chilean Albert and Lithuanian Zickyte have taken the creative risk to make a film that with its minimalistic film language conveys perfectly the situation for the 88 old Basque born Mrs.Josepe, who lives in an old people’s home in Chile, and has done that for almost a year but thinks it is for days and that she can soon return to Renteria, her Basque town near Saint Sebastian. She has to educate some of the other residents about the Basque country, she turns to Basque language on occasions of arguments against the Spanish speaking, she is a proud woman, who also rejects to hold the hand of a 90 year old flirter – and tells a woman next to her in the couch to take care not to fall when she gets up, after which she herself gets up and falls…

Small situations, touching observations like in Alberti’s award-winning “Tea Time”, humour is there, reminds me of Jon Bang Carlsen’s “Before The Guests Arrive” and Eva Stefani’s “In the Box”. Back to the CPH-LAB word “Risk”… well, on the other side you could say that Alberti already showed her skills with the old lady drinking tea, and Giedre Zickyte had her international breakthrough with the film on legendary photographer Luckus in “Master and Tatyana”. On the other side this succesful collaboration would never have happened without the initiative of CPH:DOX.

Best short film at Visions du Réel 2016, the film will have a long festival life, and TV stations, wake up, this is a film with a universal them and a duration that will fit your 26 minutes slots.

Chile, Lithuania, Denmark, 26 mins., 2016


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOK Leipzig 2016: Disobedience

Written 22-04-2016 20:52:42 by Tue Steen Müller

“This year’s edition of DOK Leipzig, which runs from 31 October to 6 November, stands under the motto “Disobedience”, in German “Ungehorsam”. The term acts as an integral aspect throughout the Special Programmes. For instance, the Retrospective explores the styleshaping and courageous Polish documentary, which has ensured heated discussion at DOK Leipzig time and again due to its proximity to feature films. In addition, Special Programmes involving works from countries such as Poland, Russia or Turkey cast light on the kinds of artistic strategies filmmakers develop in a restrictive environment.”

A citation of the first paragraph of a press release from (see post on Krakow FF below) another of the old, renowned documentary and animation film festival, from where I have sent reports in the previous years. I salute that the festival comes out that early with information on what kind of program they intend to build, and I salute that the orientation to the East is kept, at least, as mentioned, with Poland and Russia – and with the EUropean constant discussion on the relationship to Turkey. I am looking forward to seeing the selection from there.

Most welcomed reading, however, is the Hommage to Marina Razbezhkina, director and founder of the School of Documentary Film and Documentary Theatre in Moscow, the very welcomed alternative to the state film school VGIK. Her constant protest, disobedience, against censorship in Russia and her effort to support young talents, will be honoured in Leipzig, so very well deserved. The press release says: ” Her artistically creative oeuvre is distinguished by direct and politically bold works in which fictional and non-fictional film are closely interlinked. Razbezhkina will also be appraising the winning film in the Next Masters Competition in her own capacity as “Master”.”

Once again a total of around 350 films from all over the world are going to be screened in the Official Selection and Special Programmes during the festival.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Krakow FF Announces Intl. Competition

Written 22-04-2016 20:15:16 by Tue Steen Müller

The festival, that runs May 29 till June 5, has previously announced the selection of Polish documentaries and short films and animated films for competitive sections, as well as a special focus on Sweden this year. And not to forget a tribute to master Marcel Lozinski, whose ”Anything Can Happen” recently was honoured as The Best Polish Documentary Ever – today arrived a fine press release on the 19 titles invited to compete for the Golden Horn in the international section.

Talented Piotr Stasik opens the festival and the competition with a film from New York, ”21 x New York”, ” an extraordinary story about loneliness which accompanies the contemporary inhabitant of a great metropolis, shown from the point of view of twenty one people, met in the New York City subway…” Stasik has previously been praised on this site for his “The Last Summer” and “A Diary of a Journey”.

The press release: “Every year, the competition is characterised by extraordinary diversity of stories, portrayed protagonists or phenomena. However, very often the dominating motifs of the films mirror the current reality or social problems around the world…” in other words the festival selection mirrors the world we live in so you will find films about refugees, on “how we perceive “the others” today, on the armed conflict in Ukraine, but also films on “family bonds”, “interpersonal relationships, intricate and multi-faceted…”. Among them is Swedish Sara Broos “Reflections”, reviewed on this site.

Let me finish by giving you a full paragraph from the press release: The competition section does not lack cinematic portraits, either. Among them, there is the film "My Friend Boris Nemtsov" (dir. Zosya Rodkevich), depicting the last period in the life of the eponymous protagonist, the leader of the opposition in Russia, shot dead last year. The camera accompanies him during his pre-election journeys and also in less formal moments, but it also allows to notice the close bond which the director managed to create with her protagonist. "All You Need Is Me" (photo) (dir. Wim van der Aarn) is a story about young Dutch painter, his work and life, made on the basis of abundant archival materials and conversations with the protagonists, creating a colourful and at the same time tragic portrait of a contemporary artist.”

All titles and a mention of all sections, go to the website of the rich festival:

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Olexa & Scalisi: Half Life in Fukushima

Written 21-04-2016 12:37:30 by Tue Steen Müller

It makes me glad, when it goes well for former students from the Bolzano based Zelig Documentary School, where I was a teacher for many years. Therefore my curiosity made me ask Mark Olexa and Francesca Scalisi for a vimeo link, when I read that the film was selected for Visions du Réel, where it had two screenings followed by cinema screenings in their country Swizerland with upcoming 3 shows at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto. With Olexa and Scalisi as directors and Jakob Stark as cameraman a fine film has been made from a no-go zone in Fukushima, five years after the catastrophe, and 30 years after Chernobyl. The film is shot on super 16mm (!) by Stark, who is (sorry!) a very Strong and talented cameraman as he, also a graduate from Zelig, demonstrated with ”Guanape Sur” by János Richter and ”Dal Profondo” by Valentina Pedicini.

I write this as an excuse. I can see the quality of the images but of course the experience will be quite different, when I will have the chance to watch it on a big screen, and not on my MacBook.

Anyway, the film bears evidence of a clear personal aesthetic choice. Long and quiet sequences take us to an insight visit to the empty streets of the radiated zone with Naoto, who lives there with his father. He is the one the camera follows around to his cows and horses, to the packed contaminated garbage, to an ostrich who is happy to see him (!), to an absurd situation where he stops his car at a traffic crossroad waiting for the red light to become green (!) with noone else present, to another absurd situation where he plays golf in this middle of nowhere (!), to him being in brief conversation at home with his father. Otherwise the information and the emotion is primarily given through a voice-off of Naoto. It’s a pretty silent visualization of a post-catastrophical landscape and the filmmakers deserve a praise for bringing in the absurdity and humour – we have seen enough images from the nuclear disaster, we have them in our heads, when Naoto shows around to the consequences. A couple of times we hear desperate people’s sound bites (from 2011) following Naoto, I could have done without them, much more productive are the loudspeaker messages about how deal with the garbage and other safety messages (!). A no-message film, no archive, no disturbing music to make us ”feel”, with a fine editing rythm (Zelig teacher Marzia Mete has taken part in that process) that suites the superb images that keep a respectful distance to Naoto, whose point of view the film conveys.

Switzerland, France, 2016, 61 mins.     


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Salomé Jashi: The Dazzling Light of Sunset

Written 17-04-2016 13:13:44 by Tue Steen Müller

A magic sense of piousness is what Georgian Salomé Jashi creates at the beginning in her new documentary film, that has its world premiere at the Visions du Réel in Nyon this coming Wednesday April 20. A traveling shot from above in a run-down theatre building is accompanied by the performance of a passionate melancholic love song. The sequence ends with the four singers on a stage followed by the title of the film; voilà, the journey into the small society of the Tsalerijikha region of Georgia can start with the local tv journalist, anchor- and camerawoman Dariko Beria as the character, who is present at the events which are filmed by her – and by Salomé Jashi.

From the small tv studio with the wallpaper photo of trees and sea, paradise on the wall in a working place that otherwise communicates no luxury, to youngsters preparing catwalk for a fashion show or is it a beauty contest, villagers performing on stage, as the politicians do at the meetings before the local elections in the town hall or when they are on television interviewed by Dariko Beria, the name of the journalist, who is full of life and finds the right mood, when she is to read obituaries and chose music that fits. She hurries out when a giant owl has been found, to film and interview, and she is present, when the importance of going to church is discussed, and at the ceremony in the church building.

Tradition meets modern life in this film with many layers, old and

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Peter Greenaway: A Medium for Visual Intelligence

Written 15-04-2016 12:36:42 by Tue Steen Müller

Always provoking, always exaggerating as part of the provocation, and yet there is always some truth in what he says – Peter Greenaway, this time as part of his getting a BAFTA recognition for his work at an event in London. I take a couple of citations from the article in Guardian of today:

… “I always think, and this is probably a very unpopular thing to say, that all film writers should be shot. We do not need a text-based cinema … we need an image-based cinema…”

Greenaway said text has so many opportunities. “For 8,000 years we’ve had lyric poetry, for 400 years we’ve had the novel, theatre hands its meaning down in text. Let’s find a medium whosetotal, sole responsibility is the world as seen as a form of visual intelligence. Surely, surely, surely the cinema should be that phenomenon…”

… “I believe that cinema died on the 31 September 1983 when the zapper or the remote control was introduced into the living rooms of the world. “Bang! Cinema ceases to be passive and becomesactive, you the audience are now in some senses in charge of the filmmaking process. You have all got mobile phones, you have all got cam recorders, and you’ve all got laptops, so you’re all filmmakers…”

Read the whole article on The Guardian: link

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Directors

Don Edkins – EDN Interview

Written 13-04-2016 20:22:02 by Tue Steen Müller

We have had several posts including Don Edkins, described in one of them as ”…a true gentleman in the world documentary community, and a man who in his work in a true Griersonian way seeks to combine the documentary art form, campaign and information…”

Edkins is member of the month of EDN, that presents a fine informative interview with him. Here is a taster (on his background) and a link to where you can find the whole talk:

I became interested in photography during my high school years and used it to document whatever situation I was facing in my life. Having to leave South Africa because of refusing to fight in the Angolan war in 1975, I ended up photographing life in Guatemala during the military dictatorship, an LSD conference in Santa Cruz, California, the effect migrant labour had on families in Lesotho, and refugees from the Rwandan genocide. I was a member of Afrapix, a collective of South African photographers documenting life under apartheid, and then moved to Germany in 1988 where I joined a media collective, the Medienwerkstatt Freiburg. That is where I started working in documentary film, and the first two films I made – Goldwidows and The Colour of Gold – were about migrant labour in South Africa and Lesotho. Affordable video projectors became available in the early ‘90s, and so we took these films to show in rural communities in Lesotho: the experience of the incredible discussions that took place after the screenings has influenced much of my work since then. The mobile cinema we started in Lesotho has now been runningcontinuously for more than twenty years.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Visions du Réel - Barisone, Stonys, Greenaway

Written 13-04-2016 01:40:08 by Tue Steen Müller

… takes place in Nyon Switzerland from April 14 to 23 and presents as usual – under the direction of Luciano Barisone – a strong program with the emphasis on the artistic documentary.. Barisone was interviewed by cineuropa (by Muriel Del Don) and here is a citation of what he said:

“The idea of the act of resistance is part of human nature, with which it develops. We resist, physically and spiritually, trying to maintain internal continuity. For me, the mission of art is to throw up questions, to make human beings constantly call things into question. Film exists as testimony to the resistance of human beings, to draw it out of them. It’s not a question of ideology, it’s a question of fighting for humanity. When we put the programme for the Festival together, we choose films based on their aesthetic value. Every year we try to bring together two types of audiences and viewers: a wider audience interested in the narrative, and another, more intellectual audience, that’s drawn in by what we could call the “movement of thought”. Visions du Réel always tries to create a line of contact, of communication and a strong link between the films, the filmmakers and the viewers… We tend to associate the term ‘resistance’ with armed struggle (which is one manifestation), but resistance is an internal movement of the spirit, the conscience…”

And some take-outs from the program that is divided into several

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Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

50 Documentaries You Need to See…

Written 12-04-2016 01:53:15 by Tue Steen Müller

… according to Joshua Oppenheimer, Lucy Walker, Alex Gibney, James Marsh, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Franny Armstrong, Khalo Matabane, Molly Dineen, Angus Macqueen and Kim Longinotto, is a good read from The Guardian end of March. I have taken three statements from three of the mentioned directors, but click the link and check more:

Molly Dineen: I saw this when I was on a jury at a documentary festival in Nyon, and it was really unexpected. It’s about Finland burying its nuclear waste in a deep, deep cavern, with two diggers silently burrowing into the bedrock. That’s intercut with interviews with scientists talking about how you can leave a signal for future civilisations not to go into this burial chamber. This stuff is so toxic for 100,000 years, so we’re not talking about any sort of signposting we will understand; there may be whole different ways of communication. There was something really affecting about that. And the interviews are fabulous, because they’re very unpromising – just straight-on head-and-shoulders shots of scientists – but they’re humorous and warm and compassionate. (Into Eternity, Michael Madsen, 2010)

Lucy Walker: I’m fascinated by longitudinal film-making and this series, which has followed the lives of 14 British children since 1964, when they were seven years old, showed me what the medium was capable of. This series is head and shoulders above any other attempt to record dramatically a whole human life. And because it’s a whole group of people, you learn not just about the individual but also about the system in which they’re living. I can’t think of any other artefact in our culture that can tell us so much about Britain in our lifetime and how society is evolving as this body of work. It’s illuminating and fascinating and it’s one of the things that inspired me to do my work… (SevenUp, Michael Apted, 1964)

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami: Sonita

Written 10-04-2016 23:17:38 by Tue Steen Müller

It comes with Audience Awards at the Sundance Festival, at IDFA and at the One World 2016. It is going to be the opening film at the DocsBarcelona end of May and will be included in the Documentary of the Month distribution of the Barcelona festival - and it will be shown at the Danish Cinematheque from the 14th of April as – again – ”the Documentary of the Month”.

No need for a real review here, this is a film for the big audience, full of emotions and information about what it takes to break out of strong cultural and societal traditions. Here is the description of the film taken from the site of the distributor:  

Sonita is an 18-year-old female, an undocumented Afghan illegal immigrant living in the poor suburbs of Tehran. She is a feisty, spirited, young woman who fights to live the way she wants, as an artist, singer, and musician in spite of all her obstacles she confronts in Iran and her conservative patriarchal family. In harsh contrast to her goal is the plan of her family – strongly advanced by her mother – to make her a bride and sell her to a new family. The price right now is about US$ 9.000.

What’s more, women aren’t allowed to sing in Iran. How can Sonita still succeed in making her dreams come true? Director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami ends up personally involved in answering that question, reigniting the discussion as to how documentary makers should relate to their subjects. This is just one of the many unexpected twists in an exciting journey replete with the setbacks and successes of a young women looking for her own path. The film’s core consists of Sonita artistically arguing against the disastrous forced marriage practices that obstruct her freedom in an impressive, dramatic rap video.

Germany, Switzerland, Iran, 2015, 91 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDA – Magazine & Essential Doc Reads

Written 09-04-2016 06:40:40 by Tue Steen Müller

After the death of the DOX magazine there is a lack of longer and deeper articles about the documentary genre as an art form – where to find reflections on aesthetics and ethics, historical articles, interviews with important directors and cameramen etc.?

OK, you can find a lot of valuable material in festival catalogues and sites, and we try at filmkommentaren to direct you to that through links. But it is here and there and everywhere…

BUT there is some help to be found through the sister organisation of the EDN (European Documentary Network), the Los Angeles based IDA (International Documentary Association), that publishes the quarterly Documentary Magazine that has its main focus on American documentaries and documentarians and has a fine weekly service, read this:

Essential Doc Reads is a weekly feature in which the IDA staff

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Full Frame Doc Fest

Written 07-04-2016 20:34:10 by Tue Steen Müller

One festival after the other, and it’s fine that festivals like Amdoc in Palm Springs that I have been reporting from and now also the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (that I will just drop this about) introduce non-American films to the American audience.

The festival in Durham, that starts today and runs for four days, shows fine European documentaries like the Danish ”At Home in the World” (photo) by Andreas Koefoed, Polish ”Call me Marianna” by Karolina Bielawska, Israeli ”Mr. Gaga” by Tomer Heymann, Nicole N. Horanyi’s Danish ”Motley’s Law”, the Iranian world success ”Sonita” by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami and another Polish, ”All these Sleepless Nights” by Michal Marczak.

… and there is a world premiere of ”Dixie Land” by Ukrainian Roman Bondarchuk, whose ”Ukrainian Sheriffs” is already touring several festivals as well. The charming ”Dixie Land” with a lovely old teacher and band leader and equally lovely band members, who grow up to find a place in life, will be presented in Durham by the producer, Latvian Ilona Bicevsks.

From the Amdoc program I recognise ”God Knows Where I Am” by Todd and Jedd Wider as well as Joe Berlinger’s ”Tony Robbins: I am not Your Guru” – and happy I am to see that Laura Israel’s ”Don’t Blink-Robert Frank” is offered.

Most happy, however, I am to see that the festival honours ”Cameraperson” (the title of her new film) Kirsten Johnson with a selected handful of her works as a cinematographer, including ”The Oath” (Laura Poitras) and the portrait of ”Derrida” (Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering). Johnson will do a masterclass under the title ”To See and be Seen”.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amdoc 2016: Winners of Film Fund Competition

Written 06-04-2016 02:00:17 by Tue Steen Müller

Festival director Teddy Groyua wanted suspense, when he was to announce the winners of the Film Fund Pitch Competition. He showed three trailers, the finalists, he said, and said afterwards ”you want to know who are the winners… they are all winners!”

”United Skates” pitched by Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler will received 9000$, ”The Penny Black” by William J. Saunders will receive 7000$ and ”Becoming April March” by Craig Jackson 5000$.

Brief descriptions from the catalogue:

”Becoming April March” - A former showgirl wants to go back to the glory years of her youth. Will she be able to in spite of age and a not so enthusiastic husband?

”The Penny Black” - Someone left some very expensive items behind for safe keeping. What will the friend do if the guy never comes back?

”United Skates” - A culture exists that most of white America has no inkling about, and yet it is rooted in their own history.

Photo taken by John Osborne, one of the members of the jury, I was there as well – five voting members.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amdoc 2016: Pannone, Zuluhoops & Longinotto

Written 05-04-2016 19:12:39 by Tue Steen Müller

The last day of the American Documentary Film Festival 2016 was a good day. That started quietly for me with a film on the Swiss Guard of the Vatican, ”Escerito: The World’s Smallest Army” (86 mins.) by Italian veteran director Gianfranco Pannone, a very well made informative documentary that lets its audience inside the walls of the Vatican together with some Swiss born young men, who serve there in their colourful costumes. The film, a commissioned work by the Vatican, is beautifully shot by Tarek Ben Abdallah, who knows and demonstrates that images can tell stories. Good to be reminded about that after having seen several American documentaries that are edited through words with no real attention to the visual side.

”Zuluhoops” (56 mins.), a world premiere, later that day was a warm-hearted documentary by Kristin Pichaske featuring a young sympathetic teacher Ken Mukai and his effort to teach zulu kids in a rural outpost in South Africa. Language is a problem – ”after 3 weeks I discovered that they did not understand anything of what I was saying” – and the motivation was not there until the teacher had a basketball pitch set up and started teaching them how to play, took some of them to watch a tournament and made them create a team to compete. Teambuilding. The camera catches fine moments between the teacher and the charming kids, it is a film that deserves to go to European festivals as well.

As the closing night film, festival director Teddy Grouya had made an excellent choice, Moby Longinotto’s ”The Joneses” (photo) (80 mins.), a so-called ”Sneek Peak” with this catalogue text: ” FJheri Jones, a 74 years old transgender divorcee, and her family live in Bible Belt Mississippi. Reconciled after years of estrangement and now living with two of her four sons in her trailer park home, Jheri embarks on a new path to reveal her true self to her grandchildren while her son Trevor begins a surprising journey of his own…”

The English director told the audience afterwards that he had visited the family around 100 days, had got very close to them – you can see that in a film, that is full of respect and compassion. Official premiere at the San Francisco festival May 1st.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amdoc 2016: Thank You for Your Service

Written 04-04-2016 18:18:51 by Tue Steen Müller

After a fine sunday 6 hour excursion that included the town of Coacherella, that hosts a music festival every year but on this sunday mostly looked like the most deserted place on earth, with some great murals like the one that illustrates this post (made by Mac in 2014), it was back to American reality with the film ”Thank You for Your Service” by Tom Donahue, 88 minutes.

”The US military faces a mental health crisis of historic proportions”, says the first sentence of the catalogue text and indeed the film is a documentation of the fact that there are 22 suicides committed by war veterans – per day. 150.000 veterans took their lives after the Vietnam war. This film deals with the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, where 2.7 million served.

The film bombards you with information. Interview follow interview, psychiatrists, retired military generals and secretaries of

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Categories: TV, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amdoc 2016: Brother’s Keeper

Written 03-04-2016 17:13:00 by Tue Steen Müller

There is indeed a diversity in the programming of American Documentary Film Festival 2016, the fifth edition held here in Palm Springs. Reportage, documentary films of artistic quality and also a chance to dig into film history, this time Joe Berlinger’s ”Brother’s Keeper” that he made with Bruce Sinofsky and which came out in 1992 as something new in vérité style. Berlinger (Sinofsky passed away last year) was on stage to tell about the film in an interesting session, where he remembered how it was to shoot on 16mm at a time where (in the 1980’es), as he said ”documentaries were drying out”. ”Go out and tell a human story, you don’t know what is going to happen”, was the starting point for the two directors of a film that is a classic in film history, fresh and touching to watch in 2016 as well.

”It launched our career”, Berlinger said, ”the film got the Sundance Audience Award, we set up our own company and did self-distribution for theatres, and we made a profit”.

”We spent three weeks with the brothers before we started shooting, we wanted to create a rapport with the brothers”.

For newcomers in the documentary history, here is the description of the film taken from the catalogue of Amdoc. And the film is easy to find on Amazon:

Delbert, Bill, Lyman, and Roscoe Ward are illiterate bachelor brothers who never ventured beyond their 99 acre dairy farm in central New York State. Known by their neighbors as “The Ward Boys”, they’ve shared a two-room shack with no running water or indoor toilet for as long as anyone could remember. Their quiet life was shattered June 6, 1990, when Bill was found dead in the bed he shared with Delbert. By day’s end, Delbert had confessed to suffocating the ailing Bill as an act of mercy, but the local community believed Delbert was being framed. Delbert’s subsequent retraction, the village’s fervent belief in his innocence, and the national media attention visited upon a sleepy rural community make Brother’s Keeper a real-life murder mystery that examines larger social issues such as euthanasia, the plight of the aging, rural poverty and the fairness of the American justice system.

The film provides a fascinating portrait of The Ward Brothers’ eccentric and time-warped existence as it clashes with the modern criminal justice system -- from pre-trial courtroom drama to lively village fundraisers; from the initial media feeding frenzy to the explosive trial itself.

Photo: Palm Springs, Little Tuscany. Two nights ago.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amdoc 2016: The Silences, Abdul & Hamza, Robin Wil

Written 03-04-2016 16:29:22 by Tue Steen Müller

Margot Nash, experienced Australian filmmaker, whom I had never heard about, gave me the best documentary of friday in Palm Springs, ”Silences” (73 mins.) and demonstrated how beautifully English can be spoken with a text of high literary quality. Her family story about mental illnesses from generation to generation, about a sister who died as 12 year old after having been institutionalised away from the parents home, she was never talked about, a mother with no ability to express feelings, a father who travelled, was never at home and suffered from depression… was extremely well built on photos, letters, diaries, conversations between the director and her sister. A very private film that talked to me, who is from the same generation and have my own family stories. The film has been in cinemas in New Zealand and Australia, bravo that Amdoc brought it, and come on European festivals! The photo shows the three sisters, the director to the left.

”Be Robin the Movie” refers to late comedian Robin Williams, who also suffered from depression and therefore – the film says -  was a man, who could understand homeless people, many of whom also suffer from depression. The main character of this reportage-like film by Kurt Weitzmann (41 minutes) is Margaret Cho, a charismatic energetic young woman, who performs with musicians and comedians in the streets of San Francisco to collect food, clothes and money for the homeless.

Would be difficult to call that a film, whereas Marko Grba Singh from Serbia with his ”Abdul & Hamza” (49 minutes) shows great visual talent with many no-purpose, sometimes symbolic and surprising sequences. And silence. Two Somalian refugees at the Serbian/Romanian border in a film that is different from all the films we see about the biggest issue in Europe right now. The film was brought by the Kosovo documentary festival DokuFest as part of the NSDN (North South Documentary Network), initiated by Amdoc director Teddy Grouya.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amdoc 2016: Pitch Competition, Berlinger & Robbins

Written 01-04-2016 17:31:57 by Tue Steen Müller

Same procedure as last year – the festival kicked off thursday morning with a film fund pitch competition led by its festival director Teddy Grouya. A dozen of projects were presented in a more than two hour long session, free and and open to the public. As one of the jurors for the competition – ”up to $50.000 in awards ia available” – I can not highlight which projects that I will support, when we have our decision meeting. The results will be announced at the end of the festival. What I can express is my appreciation of the competition itself that gives young American independent filmmakers the chance to put forward their works, most of them ”in progress”, many at the point of final editing, and several giving the comment that they have self-financed the production and need help to get a strong editor on board to complete the film. The pitch structure is very simple – 3 minutes of trailer/teaser, the filmmaker(s) on stage, some few questions/comments from the jurors, the session moderated in a relaxed manner by Teddy Grouya. As put last year, we Europeans should learn from this pitch format.

The opening night at the Camelot theatre brought a full hall to celebrate Joe Berlinger, who received the annual ”Seeing the Bigger Picture Award”, which has been previously been given to Oliver Stone, Harvey Weinstein and Peter Bogdanovich. Berlinger was there and a retrospective of his work will be shown at the festival, including works like ”Brother’s Keeper” (1992), ”Under African Skies” (Paul Simon in South Africa 25 years after ”Graceland” was released) and ”Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger” (2014).

Last night he showed his latest work ”Tony Robbins. I am not your Guru”, an almost 2 hour long - as the Americans say – vérité documentary about the life coach and best selling author, who was there to meet the audience, that was thrilled by the charismatic man, a true performer, who was filmed by Berlinger in a six day seminar with 2500 people attending. As put by the director, this film is for him a ”feel good” film, whereas his works always have been with a sceptical documentary eye, ”feel bad” films he jokingly said. It is a fascinating, well made documentary with a sympathetic main character, who – the film demonstrates – gives hope to people to overcome traumas and live a better life full of Love. ”I am addicted to help”, said Robbins, who was welcomed to the festival as a rock star in a film that shows a sooo American phenomenon, that I can only agree with a French director, who characterised the film as being – as well – an anthropological study of an American way of dealing with how to find yourself and overcome crisis and traumas. Made with respect and appreciation of Robbins, who is an overwhelmingly convincing character.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays UA: The Winners

Written 01-04-2016 01:38:15 by Tue Steen Müller

13th International documentary films about human rights festival has ended in Kyiv. The awards ceremony was held on March 31th in Cinema House. Hosts of the ceremony: festival moderators Marina Stepanska and Oleksandr Vynogradov.

Films were competing for prizes in categories: DOCU/LIFE, DOCU/RIGHT, DOCU/SHORT, DOCU/UKRAINE and for theSpecial Prize from Students’ Jury. The festivals’ Orzanizing Committee favorite is awarded with the Andriy Matrosov Award. After the ceremony was the Ukrainian premiere of the documentary film Mariupolis the Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius.

During the closing ceremony the results of "The Guardian Goes

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

American Documentary Film Festival 2016

Written 31-03-2016 15:03:47 by Tue Steen Müller

Palm Springs, March 31, the official opening of the Amdocs takes place tonight after a morning pitch session and a film programme that runs during the whole day. Actually the festival screenings already started yesterday as one day has been added by Teddy Grouya, the founder and director of American Documentary Film Festival and Film Fund, also called Amdocs as mentioned: 150 films, 81 premieres, 35 countries

I am here for the third time and will keep you posted on films and discussions and atmosphere at this ”unique and special Desert, this mecca for the sun, fun, arts and culture…” as Teddy Grouya formulates it. Here is a slightly shortened version of his introduction from the catalogue:  

Much like a filmmaker working to make the best film possible under difficult circum- stances, AmDocs constantly pushes the boundaries of how a film festival is defined. Through our year-round activities, we continue to expand our education outreach throughout the community as well as increase our presence on the international stage with expanded programming opportunities.

With the ever changing landscape on this planet it becomes more

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays UA: A Unique Festival

Written 29-03-2016 10:01:23 by Tue Steen Müller

Early monday morning. We arrive to the modern airport of Kiev, Borispil, to go back to Copenhagen after far too short a stay but with intense days at the Docudays UA festival. A familiar face meets us at the check in, Nadia Savchenko, the Ukrainian helicopter pilot, who was recently sentenced to more than 20 years of prison and who has been hungerstriking in the Russian prison, where she is.

The political reality is strongly present at the festival that goes on until April 1st. In the programme newspaper one headline introduces a new section in the festival, Ukrainian documentaries, as ”Docu in Warland”, and in the same newspaper you can find several daily discussions, conferences and masterclasses that raises political and human right issues.

The festival is a voice for a free and democratic Ukraine at a time of war. And documentaries play a role.

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays UA: The Nordic Contribution

Written 27-03-2016 09:42:38 by Tue Steen Müller

I want to say Bravo Sweden. Our neighbouring country has for years been the main sponsor of the Docudays UA Human Rights Festival here in Kiev. From the state organisation SIDA, channelled through the Swedish embassy 4 mio. SEK (426.184 €) has been given to the festival and its travelling distribution scheme. That is indeed something to be noticed.

The Danish embassy gives nothing but we are here thanks to generosity of the organisers of the festival. Yesterday I did a Docu/Class of two hours  about the Danish documentary culture (distribution and production) and support system supplemented by clips from Ulla Boje Rasmussen’s ”1700 Metres from the Future”, Jørgen Leth’s ”Life in Denmark”, ”Traveller’s Tale” by Lars Johansson, ”Into Eternity” by Michael Madsen and Janus Metz ”Armadillo”.

In the evening the first part of a Danish mini-series that we have called ”High Five” was shown in the Blue Hall of the Cinema House – that was totally full, around 200 viewers. The films shown were ”Motion Picture” and ”66 Scenes from America” by Jørgen Leth and Ole John. Tonight it is another master of Danish documentary, Jon Bang Carlsen, who shows and discusses ”It’s Now or Never” followed by a class, where he will invite the audience to understand his way of making documentaries. Later at the festival two more neo-classics will be shown, ”Family” (Sami Saif and Phie Ambo) and ”The Monastery” (Pernille Grønkjær).

Photo from the festival opening: Three Danes in Kiev: My wife Ellen Fonnesbech-Sandberg, me and Jon Bang Carlsen.

See our collected posts on Jon Bang Carlsen:  

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays UA 2016 Opening!

Written 26-03-2016 09:30:22 by Tue Steen Müller

To say that the opening of the 13th edition of Docudays UA here in Kiev last night was joyous is an understatement. If there was any award for the visually best, most intelligent and funny opening ceremony of a documentary festival the first prize would go to the organizers of this festival.

A CCCP hypnotist emerged on the film screen and on a television set to put us the audience under the influence – with the famous bears popping up once in a while. Cameras were catching the (humorous) effect it had on faces in the audience. And there were streams and dots of light in the totally full hall of the Cinema House. As colleague and jury member Pamela Cohn writes on her FB page: ”… most psychedelic opening ceremony goes to Docudays UA”.

The festival programme was introduced, section by section with fine edited teasers for each one of them.

The opening film was Vitaly Manski’s ”Under the Sun”.

Docudays UA has started with bravour!  

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays UA 13th Edition

Written 25-03-2016 09:27:03 by Tue Steen Müller

The festival poster is to be seen around Kiev – the bears are there and not only ”inside us”, read elsewhere what the creative organizers want to communicate with that.

A much more direct communication is to be found in the catalogue that was given to me yesterday in the busy headquarter of the Cinema House, that hosts the opening ceremony tonight followed by Vitaly Manski’s film ”Under the Sun” from North Korea. The festival runs until 1st of April.

Here are a couple of (edited) citations from the catalogue:

Alla Tyutyunnyk, member of the Organizing Committee – ”Beyond Illusion is the topic… We selected it because, after the Maidan, the feeling that humanity is currently struggling through illusions towards some new civilizational order is getting ever stronger. The illusion of the stability in a world order that was agreed upon by strong democratic countries is collapsing. The world’s illusion of Ukraine’s weakness and inability of Ukrainians to self-organize has been dispelled. The illusions about relying on the international institutions in the UN-system, created to secure the world order without war and aggression and to protect human rights, have been dispelled…”

Carl Gershman, president of the National Endownmen for Democracy – ”I applaud the way Docudays UA has defined the basic issue confronting Ukraine as the need to move beyond false hopes and to base its future strategy on a hard-headed assessment of real threats, challenges, and opportunities…Yes, it is an illusion that Russia under Putin will ever accept a democratic and independent Ukraine. But if Ukraine can prevail against Russian aggression, it will be the end of Putin and his delusional ideas of Russian chauvinism and revanchism…”

Inna Pidluska, International Renaissance Foundation – ”For 13 years Docudays UA has been telling the stories of people, who challenged the unjust system… documentaries have given courage and the will to fight for freedom and resist evil. This is the generation of a new Ukraine that we seek… Docudays UA is a source of inspiration…”

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Chantal Akerman: News from Home

Written 24-03-2016 10:28:53 by Sara Thelle

Chantal Akerman’s film News from Home (1977) is a collection of beautifully shot tableaux of New York (the work of the US-based French cinematographer Babette Mangolte). Because of the length of the scenes, the film has an odd photographic sense to it, capturing life in the city as it walks in and out of the camera’s steady framings, panoramas and travellings. This is a New York that no longer exists, a dirty brown worn down place, where Akerman lived for a few years in the early 1970’s.

The field of tension and the heart of the film lie in the interaction and juxtaposition of the visuals and the soundtrack. In a voice-over, Akerman reads aloud the letters she received from her mother when she lived there. She is reading the letters with probably the same enthusiasm as she received them; they are read aloud in a quick monotone diction (which does actually make it difficult to catch all the words since, in the English version, the letters are read translated into English and Akerman’s accent is quite present). The mother’s reproaching words are regularly drowned by the sound of New York: the sound of what we see, cars and subways going by, takes over almost like waves. This is why the film should be shown without subtitles, this displacement and movement of when and what we can’t, or barely can, hear is important.

The letters are filled with pain, illness, worries, anxiety, boredom, exhaustion, gossip, hypochondria, love, and occasionally, dollar bills. “Anyway, I’m not complaining” the constantly complaining mother writes, continuously demanding news from the daughter: more letters more often! The family, the binding “your mother who loves you” as the mother signs every letter, is heavy, a burden, and yet something you can’t or won’t get away from or leave completely.

Read more / Læs mere


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Miroshnichenko and Chajkouskaya: Debut

Written 24-03-2016 09:56:23 by Tue Steen Müller

… and full names: director Anastasiya Miroshnichenko and producer Volia Chajkouskaya. I met Volia C. in Minsk in connection with the Listapad festival, where she gave me a link to their previous film, “Crossroads”, reviewed on this site. About their new project, there is only to say, very talented and well presented, so wonderful news also for me that the project was awarded in Thessaloniki. Here is an edited version of a text from the EDN website:

… On the occasion of the 18th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival — Images of the 21st Century, the ERT S.A. – EDN DOC ON AIR Award was presented to the project Debut directed by Anastasiya Miroshnichenko and produced by Volia Chajkouskaya, the Belarusian documentary project pitched at the annual EDN pitching forum Docs in Thessaloniki. The award is sponsored by Greek public broadcaster ERT and honours the ambitious sociopolitical documentary with a cash prize and a broadcast on public television in Greece, when the film is finished.

Debut tells the story of Belarusian women serving their sentence in a soviet-like prison among 1500 other first time offenders. Some were pushed to crime by unbearable circumstances or momentary weakness, while others became victims of corrupt courts or miscarriages of justice. Circumstances are harsh in this strict environment but for some women, the so-called Culture Club offers a chance to escape the agony. Several times a week, a group of women prepares for their theatrical debut in the club. Under the guidance of a professional director, the inmates perform theatrical works which allows them to express themselves and experience something that could be described as therapy through art. Yet, these women are mostly concerned about how their life will be once they end their term. How will they cope with their tainted past when returning to the outside world?...

The Debut trailer is available here.

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Vincent Boujon: Alive!

Written 22-03-2016 15:11:12 by Tue Steen Müller

In the series ”Documentary of the Month” the Danish Cinemateket shows the French ”Alive!”, a warm light-hearted film about five HIV positive men, who meet to train for a skydiving experience. They talk about being gay, about their first sexual experience (and the worst!), about the reactions from the world around them when they are declared and declares themselves as seropositive, and how it is to take pills in public and to be in love. The film succeeds to get close to all of them (even if my wife who watched it with me wanted more about their background, she has a point), whereas what first of all attracted me were the moments, when they got off the ground, up in the air, pale just before the jump out into being alone somewhere between earth and sky. The camera is with them, it is for someone suffering sometimes from vertigo, quite scary, you suffer with them, but you have luckily a good time with them, when they are back on ground.

I could have lived with less technical instructions, but some of them characterise the five, with the oldest Pascal as a man, who stands out with his charisma and his story about lost love and loneliness. He and Matteo, the youngest, are not flying alone, they need to hang on to an instructor – Matteo: I am afraid I will fall in love with him!

There is a lot of humour in this feel-good, informative documentary about friendship and about how it has been to be gay and be diagnosed with HIV. Lovely film.

In Cinemateket Copenhagen from March 24 to March 30.

France, 2014, 80 mins.


Categories: Cinema, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocuDays Kiev: Docu/Class

Written 21-03-2016 22:11:47 by Tue Steen Müller

”The School of Disillusionment”… is the subtitle of this year’s Docu/Class in Kiev at the festival that starts in four days and runs until April 1st. Look at the creative logo for this part of the event, (how do you interpret that?) and read this inviting introduction quote from the internet:

”The real learning - the one that never ends - is a process of constant disillusionment. Or, in other words, of going through the illusions. It is only on the ruines of someone else’s ideals and desires that you painfully sloughed off like an old skin, the most valuable knowledge about your true self arises. This year’s documentary master class program DOCU/CLASS offers series of lectures that can potentially lead you through the disillusionment circle - from the sobering to new, more mature inspiration - believes Julia Serdyukova, DOCU/CLASS and photo exhibition coordinator.

We expect a lecture by Danish film director Jon Bang Carlsen “Reality Is a Question of Faith” to be the most explosive one. Do

Read more / Læs mere

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Kirsten Johnson: Cameraperson

Written 19-03-2016 17:04:57 by Tue Steen Müller

I have not seen the film yet, but I will, with high expectations because I have heard about it for several years from the maker and have had the privilege to tutor with Kirsten Johnson a couple of times, in Beirut and Jeddah, enjoying her enthusiasm and commitment; she is one who gives to younger colleagues, and now she brings young and old her film about being a travelling documentary cameraperson.

In the realscreen newsletter I received yesterday, Kevin Ritchie has made an interview with Kirsten Johnson, to be strongly recommended, ethical questions are seldom raised, and this is not only for camerapersons. Here is a quote:

… we used to be able to control where the image went and we can’t do it any more. That has different implications to the people we film and even to us as filmmakers. It sent me back into thinking about other situations in which there have been questions around permission and complicity, or where time has changed the meaning of things, so it started bringing up memories of things I had filmed, where we had question marks about choices we’d made. That’s when I reached out to different directors and asked to look at footage to see how far was the space between what I remembered and what was actually in the footage…

Read more:

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Greek Tribute to Mark Cousins

Written 18-03-2016 20:40:56 by Tue Steen Müller

Along with Jon Bang Carlsen the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival pays a tribute to Mark Cousins, also an original filmmaker, loved by this site, a man who knows his film history (buy the 930 minutes long dvd compilation he made with wonderful clips commented by Cousins! He is by the way now making one on documentaries, 3 hours it should be), he is/has been an excellent film critic AND is a film director – in Thessaloniki ”A Story of Children and Film”, ”Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise”, ”I am Belfast” and ”The First Movie”.

Today a press conference was held with Cousins, here is a quote, bur read it all, clever words from the scotsman born in Belfast:

Asked by the audience about his relationship with children, the director referred to his childhood, noting that he grew up with his twin brother in Belfast, in a loving Protestant family. Although he did not want to have children, he finds something charming about them. “When children want something, they usually want it right now. Even in places where the reality is tragic, children recover almost in no time. While growing up, I saw people in their 20s getting dressed in suits, becoming dull, hiding their desires and feelings. In English we say that we don’t stop playing because we grow up, but we grow up because we stop playing. I wanted to hold on to this playful spirit. This feeling of magic is easy to lose and when you start facing life scared and wary, you lose a lot out of it”, Mark Cousins stressed. And to prove his words, he put on a gorilla suit glove, which he always keeps with him, as he said, as his nephew encouraged him to put it on as a game each time he presents his film A Story of Children and Film. 

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Greek Tribute to Jon Bang Carlsen

Written 17-03-2016 15:19:39 by Tue Steen Müller

The 18th edition of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival includes a retrospective of films by Danish director Jon Bang Carlsen, indeed not the first time this director has been, much deserved, presented as one of the most interesting documentary directors of our time. A man who went “hybrid” long before this word came into the documentary vocabulary, read what he said at a masterclass in Thessaloniki:

"I have a special approach towards documentaries. I don’t exactly know what a documentary is. When I graduated from Film School – it might as well be… a hundred years ago – I wanted to look into the harmony offered by life in the countryside and so I started doing research on this story I had chosen. When I attempted to put together the shreds of the reality that I was trying to depict, I did so using free associations, but when we started shooting I got the feeling that I had destroyed the beauty of my character’s life. I came to realize that the only way to depict this story would involve a reconstruction of reality. What prevailed was the need to approach my heroine’s reality in the most honest way and as accurately as possible. From the start, I was taught by my teachers that documentaries are related to the truth, that you have to follow life through the camera and show the truth. This was not directly related to what I sought to do. Also, because I also make fiction films, I don’t see such a big difference when I make documentaries. I believe that my documentaries are similar to the way someone paints a landscape. I don’t want to shoot inside a studio, but to look outside for shreds of reality and use them to narrate the story".

The films shown from the huge filmography of Jon Bang Carlsen was “Addicted to Solitude”, “Cats in Riga”, “Déjà Vu”, “Hotel of the Stars”, “Phoenix Bird” and “Portrait of God”.

At the upcoming DocuDays festival in Kiev, Ukraine, Jon Bang Carlsen will be present to present “It’s Now or Never”.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

East Doc Platform 2016

Written 14-03-2016 17:40:27 by Tue Steen Müller

I left Prague yesterday after 7 fine days with the East Doc Platform and its professional and personal touch. I was happy that my hand luggage was not being weighed at the airport, my IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) catalogue (close to 200 pages with postcard-like colour photos of projects) would have been sent to check-in of luggage. I wanted it for the cabin. The heaviness has given me a small pain in the shoulder! – but you have to suffer for the art…

And chapeau for the art of organising a huge event like this with so many elements. I was not part of it all but I have heard no objections from any visitors to the hospitality and already mentioned professionalism.

Below I will post comments on projects which were part of the East European Forum. 21 were pitched, I can not get the whole way around and my categorisation is of course a simplification. I will also mention the film projects, which were awarded and those awarded at the One World Festival, the parallel event. Have to mention as well that the event included meetings for projects for individual meetings (the so-called ”Project Market”) and a presentation of new Czech Docs. For the latter master Miroslav Janek presented clips from his upcoming ”Normal Autistic Film” saying that it will hopefully show ”the Beauty of Mental Diversity” – for me the clip already pointed in that direction. Robert Kirchhoff, another name that advocates quality, is working to finish his ”Through the Forest”, which could end up being the film on the Roma Holocaust. The material shown was promising.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

East Doc Platform Award Winners 2016

Written 14-03-2016 17:33:36 by Tue Steen Müller

East Doc Platform Development Award:


(dir. Jan Gebert, prod. R. Síbrt, V. Hozzová; Czech Republic)

Photo Viktoriá Hozzová receiving the award from Luke Moody, Britdoc.

Czech TV Postproduction Award:


(dir. Alexander Abarutov, prod. O. Mille; France)

HBO Europe Co-Production Award:


(dir. Verjana Abazaj, prod. Artan Malaj; Albania)

The Golden Funnel Award:


(dir. Nikola Ilić, C. Schwingruber Ilić; prod. F. Sonder; Switzerland)

IDFA Forum Award:


(dir. Andrei Dăscălescu, prod. A. Antoci; Romania)

DocsBarcelona Award:


(dir. Senka Domanovic, prod. Snezana Penev; Serbia, Croatia)

DOK Leipzig Co-Production Market+ DOK Preview Awards:


(dir. Petr Horký, prod. Martin Jůza; Czech Rep.)



(dir. Marta Prus, prod. Maciej Kubicki; Poland, Germany)

id w | interactive documentary workshop Award:


(dir. Ana Brzezinska, prod. Lukasz Borzecki, Poland)

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

One World Festival Awards 2016

Written 14-03-2016 17:27:36 by Tue Steen Müller

The One World festival in Prague, number 18, will have its award ceremony on Wednesday; the winners, however, have already been announced. I mention, via the press release of today, the winners of the main competition, for the whole list, please go to the website:

The Grand Jury conferred awards for Best Film and Best Director, selecting from among 12 documentaries in the Main Competition category.

The award for Best Film went to “A Syrian Love Story” by British director Sean McAllister (UK / 2015 / 75 min.), who attended One World together with Raghda Hassan, a protagonist in the film. Three years ago the festival presented McAllister's documentary The Reluctant Revolutionary.

" The jury was impressed by the radical approach the director has chosen in the storytelling and by the braveness of the protagonists who allow the audience to experience an intimate story bringing out the human factor and an honest picture of a family in crisis amidst the political larger one," the jury said in a statement.

The award for Best Director went to Zhao Liang, the Chinese director of “Behemoth” (France, China / 2015 / 90 min.), which is one of the most visually interesting films in this year's festival.

"Liang Zhao is able to creatively craft a complex beautiful yet devastating image, mirroring the dialectic of the concrete to the basic values where he advocates for the fragile human and environmental state of our world. A director who manages with artistic precession and outstanding imagery to paint a loud and clear statement against violations caused by greed and illusions," the jury said in its decision.

The Grand Jury consisted of: Polish documentary filmmaker Hanna Polak, Swiss director Eric Bergkraut, Syrian independent documentary filmmaker and co-founder of the Berlin-based non-profit association DOX BOX Diana El Jeiroudi, director of the ZeLIG School for Documentary, Television and New Media in Bolzano Heidi Gronauer, and Czech documentary filmmaker Bohdan Bláhovec.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

East European Forum – Cinema

Written 14-03-2016 17:18:31 by Tue Steen Müller

”It is too artistic for our audience”… he said so, Erkko Lyttinen from YLE, the Finnish broadcaster that has always defended the artistic documentaries… has the last bastion fallen? I had heard that remark before, but from less important broadcasters in the documentary world. The project that was referred to was ”Aleph” by Iva Radivojevic, Croatian director living in New York, at the pitch accompanied by a Canadian and Croatian producer. Yes, it is cinema, inspired by a short story of Borges, ”a cinematic experience that contemplates the question of what we center our lives around”… a travelogue with a title that refers to Jewish mysticism. A hybrid, very inviting, to be finished in 2018. Another film in the auteur tradition is ”D is for Division” by Latvian Davis Simanis, to be produced by Guntis Trekteris, a personal essay by the biggest talent in Latvian cinema, but what does that matter if almost noone around the table knows him… Simanis and Trekteris had problems in conveying what they want with this film about inner borders with photographs as the starting point. No surprise that tutor, Czech/French director Stan Neumann, was a good sparring partner, Neumann being a master in the essayistic genre.

It is a silent film, the Bosnian director Marko Sipka said about ”The Land”, that reminded me a lot of the Baltic documentary tradition: old woman in the countryside living alone in a remote mountain village, ”a meditative visual contemplation about loneliness and an old-fashioned life style that is about to disappear”. I talked about it with Danish director Jens Loftager and we both remembered names like Sergey Dvortsevoy and Swedish Nina Hedenius, who made a film, where there was almost no dialogue. It became a hit on television. Those days are probably over, this film will be for festivals and it will be strong I would think judging from the charismatic director’s presentation.

The same goes for the Romanian director Andrei Dascalescu, who charmed us with ”Constantin and Elena” in 2008 and who is now back with ”Planeta Petrila” (Photo: producer Anamaria Antoci with director), presented with passion and humour, the director said it to be a rockn’roll film, about a mine to be closed and an artist fighting to keep the old buildings and make them into art. A Don Quijote, the director asks? The trailer was unconventional, hopefully the film will be the same. HBO Europe supports – as they do with many films, among the present commissioning editors – she calls herself executive producer – Hanka Kastelicová was the absolute star, and so much welcomed as the public broadcasters in general fail to support the creative documentary.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

East European Forum – Television

Written 14-03-2016 17:11:51 by Tue Steen Müller

… having said so, I hurry to say that the films that I mention in this post are also creative, but they have in their presentation thought of television as the channel to an audience, at the same time as many presented their projects  to be made in two versions, one for cinema and festivals and one for television.

Let me begin with a story that includes retro dancing in Moscow, a warm film in a cold city, with old women who go to dance, who want to live even if the conditions age-wise and socially are difficult. Director is Tatyana Soboleva (photo from the pitch together with her French producer), I have had the pleasure to know her and her films for some years, is the right one to do this film called ”Open Air”, she has an eye and a heart for people, 52 mins. long it will be. Equally ”For Mother’s Sake” by Serbian Nikola Ilic will be an audience hit judged from the trailer. Three generations: the director, his mother and his grandmother. HE is married to a Swiss woman, they live in Switzerland and what to do, when grandmother dies and there is noone to take care of the mother, who had a stroke when a child? She dies and the son must take care of her but how - when he lives in another country but comes from a country with a strong family feeling, where you don't send mothers to homes? I put this in the television category even if tv people in the round table session hesitated! Come on, this is universal.

More obvious chances for these two: ”Avtovaz” with Czech journalist Petr Horky, who went to Russian Togliatti, that used to be a super Soviet city with a famous car factory that produced Lada but now suffers from the crisis. A Swedish manager was called in to modernise, he sacked thousands of people, wanted to change the working culture – and was himself sacked some days ago. A fascinating trailer with Bo Andersson, as his name is, was shown plus some other material with workers and sacked workers, but how do the filmmakers cope with the new situation? And – we stay in Russia – ”Over the Limit” by Polish Marta Prus, who in terms of quality of cinematography came up with the best trailer and a story that must be something for television: the competition of three Russian gymnasts to go to the Olympics in Rio this summer. They are friends but only two will be picked, who? They are beautiful and innocent these girls, whereas the coach, a woman with a hat, seems to be a good bitchy character.

Let me finish with the award winning ”When the War Comes” (again supported by HBO Europe) directed by Jan Gebert, the most actual film in its description of nationalism and refugees in Europe today, read this short text: Hundreds of teenagers join the paramilitary grup in Slovakia to get ready for the final clash of civilizations and to fight whoever intrudes their country… It will go to festivals and television in long and short versions.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Fredrik & Magnus Gertten: Becoming Zlatan

Written 11-03-2016 12:40:12 by Tue Steen Müller

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: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Sheriffs, Nadia Savchenko & Zlatan

Written 10-03-2016 16:40:04 by Tue Steen Müller

I know that the headline is mixing harsh reality and entertainment but this is actually how it is to be at EDP, East Doc Platform, here in Prague. During the days I have been giving feedback on documentary projects that deal with global problems or stories from family life, personal stories and stories of a more investigative nature. And during the evening relaxing, last night with football on television.

And I have met the “Ukrainian Sheriffs” and their mayor, who were invited by the Ukrainian filmmakers Darya Averchenko and Roman Bondarchuk and their powerhouse of a producer, Uldis Cekulis from Latvia – to attend two screenings with full houses and to give the audience answers to their questions. But they had also time to go to a demonstration in Prague! At the photo they carry signs saying “Free Nadia” with reference to the Russian Imprisonment of Ukrainian helicopter pilot Nadia Savchenko, who is now on her 45th day of hungerstrike and according to Radio Free Europe considered seriously ill. Savchenko is in jail because of Russian suspicion of her being involved in the killing of two Russian soldiers.

Photo from left sound engineer and co-editor of the film Borys Peter, senior sheriff Viktor Kryvoborodko, junior sheriff Volodymyr Rudkovsky, mayor Viktor Marunyak and director of the film Roman Bondarchuk. The sheriffs and their mayor went back to Stara Zburjivka this morning. Photo Darya Averchenko.

And a few words about last evening that was spent in a sportspub watching Paris Saint Germain beat Chelsea and qualify for the next round of the European Championship. English newspaper Guardian calls him “a superhero”, and indeed he was yesterday, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 34 years old, the leader of the Paris team, in total control of his players and with one assist and one scored goal, the one who defined the result of the match. Amazing he is, as you can see in the film by the Brothers Gertten from Malmö, where Zlatan was born. I will review that film tomorrow. One of the brothers, Magnus, saw the film and smiled, this can only increase the sales of the film and the cinema attendance in Sweden where 55.000 have seen it so far.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Copenhagen Architecture Festival CAFx 2016

Written 09-03-2016 14:50:20 by Sara Thelle

The Copenhagen Architecture Festival opens this Wednesday March 9th for the third time. The festival has grown rapidly and is now the biggest festival of its kind (I guess we like it big here in Copenhagen), focusing on architecture and film: 150 events, 90 films and 35 venues in Copenhagen, Aarhus and Aalborg.

Themes this year span from gentrification, sound and space, the life and poetics of the architect, past and future urban planning, to co-creation, Chinese megacities and transformations of Copenhagen. There will by lectures, talks, radio cinema and podcasts created for specific walks, lots of possibilities to discover unknown spots around the city and a fine program for children as well.

I won’t miss out on the screening of Chantal Akerman’s News from Home (1977), her New York tableaux accompanied by her reading letters from her mother - Cinemateket will also be showing her last film No Home Movie (2015) in March, so that’s two Akerman films in a month. I look forward to the program curated and introduced by Danish sound engineer Peter Albrechtsen, in particular Blade Runner, the 2007 final director’s cut with an optimised soundtrack. Then there is old punk portrayer Julien Temple’s collage London, The Modern Babylon (2012) and a Danish premiere of Mark Cousins’ I am Belfast (2015). Documentary directors Kaspar Astrup Schröder and Michael Madsen give us a chance to follow their current projects: Astrup Schröder by showing a work-in-progress version of Big Time, his portrait of Danish superstar architect Bjarke Ingels, and Madsen will do a talk about his next film/philosophical experiment Odyssey that involves spaceships and the future of humankind. Oh and then I have to see L’Inhumaine, Marcel L’Herbier’s 1924 French avant-garde science fiction, a silent movie masterpiece with a set design by Robert Mallet-Stevens and Fernand Léger, screened with a new electronic live soundtrack on Sunday March 20.

The opening film is the award-winning Concrete Love: The Böhm Family (2014) by Maurizius Staerkle Drux, a portrait of Germany’s most prominent architect Gottfried Böhm and his family (PHOTO). Love, art and architecture! Take a look at the trailer:

CAFx March 10-20 in Copenhagen, Aarhus and Aalborg.

Check out the program:

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Mole, The Mayor and the Sheriffs

Written 09-03-2016 10:27:52 by Tue Steen Müller

I am at EDP – East Doc(umentary) Platform – in Prague, that provides ”training and networking for projects, workshops, promotion, financing and awards”. It takes place at the Cervantes Institute and runs parallel to and in collaboration with the One World Festival. Lots of people are here, those with projects and those, like me, to give feedback on the projects. A fine chance to have a week in Prague and to meet friends, those who built all this, like Miriam Ryndová, Veronika Liskova, Ivana Pauerová Milosevicova, Masa Markovic, Filip Remunda and Andrea Prenghyova, the latter now responsible for the DokInkubator program.

Like on many occasions with people from Czech Republic, those of us who have children to take care of, quickly get to talk about the Krtek (the mole) series of animation films for children. What is your favourite, the film consultant from Denmark asked. ”The Mole and the Eagle”, Ivana said, we join her in that, but it could also be ”The Mole and the Rocket” as said Myriam, or ”The Mole and the City”, mentioned by Veronika, ”but it is very sad”, right she is, Zdenek Miler, the master behind these films, was a true ecologist before that word was invented.

Yesterday was the big day for the team behind the film ”Ukranian Sheriffs”, Roman Bondarchuk, Darya Averchenko and Uldis Cekulis. They had organised that the sheriffs and the mayor came to Prague to watch, for the first time, the film where they are the protagonists. It became a memorable evening with a full house in the cinema of Institut Francais, flowers to the Ukrainians on the stage, questions to them about how it was to be filmed, whether they thought that what they saw was giving a credible picture of their lives, the situation now in Ukraine, where the war of course also affects the life in the village. Reinhart Lohmann from ZDF Arte, one of the financiers, was there, and there was Czech beer and becherovka after the screening. ”Yes, this is how it is”, said one of the sheriffs, ”there is no acting in that film”.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Avi Mograbi-Collected Posts on his Works

Written 07-03-2016 07:53:20 by Tue Steen Müller

”… Mograbi is exactly as his films are: tense, sometimes comic, but always dealing with the embarrassing reality of the country he lives in. A frustrated artist, as he says himself, who wants to move something, raise a debate in Israel, but does not succeed, he is met with total silence, no reactions, whereas he now is an estimated artist in Western Europe!”



By Tue Steen Müller


Z32 (2008)

DocLisboa Diary: … Well, I saw two films yesterday... the heartbreaking observational Kim Longinotto doc ”Hold me Tight, Let me go”, what a brilliant filmmaker and fine person she is, and Avi Mograbi´s ”Z32”, a mise-en-scène film that once again shows how clever this controversial filmmaker is, in finding new ways of dealing with strong themes of the world. This time in a Brechtian musical form. (Blogppost 17-10-2008)

DocLisboa Diary: … I went directly to the videothèque to watch films from the international competition programme to prepare my article for the DOX magazine. It was a long journey through the misery of this world filmed and conveyed by committed and sometimes narratively involved directors and cameramen and –women. Made by English (”All White in Barking” by Marc Isaacs), French-Iranian (”The Faces on the Wall” by Bijan Anquetil and Paul Costes), Chinese (”The Red Race” by Chao Gan) and Israeli (”Six Floors to Hell” by Jonathan Ben Efrat). To mention the four films that impressed me mostly. Themes: xenophobia and loss of identity, the forgotten martyrs, children paced to served the state and inhumanity in the state of Israel.

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Directors

Amy Berg: Sektlederen og de 90 koner

Written 06-03-2016 16:02:16 by Tue Steen Müller

Original title: Prophets Prey. Danish DR Dokumania shows Amy Berg’s film on tuesday March 8 at 20.45, music composed cy Nick Cave. In the following Danish text there is a presentation and a short review of the film.

Første afsnit af pressemeddelelsen om filmen: ”Som i enhver saftig religiøs fortælling kan historien om profeten, Warren Jeffs, koges ned til et spørgsmål om sex, grådighed og jagten på rigdom. Da hans far døde i 2002 overtog Jeffs profettitlen i den Fundamentalistiske Sidste Dages Hellige Kirke, ikke at forveksle med mormonernes kirke, Jesu Kristi Kirke af Sidste Dages Hellige. Sekten var allerede på det tidspunkt kendt for polygami og børneægteskaber, men Warren Jeffs formåede at udvide denne praksis på hidtil usete og sadistiske måder, som ophævede grænsen mellem søstre og hustruer og legaliserede religiøst begrundede voldtægter…”

Sådan! Hvis det giver dig lyst til at se filmen så lad være at læse det næste:

Ja, det må være det saftige tema, som har fået redaktionen til at købe denne film… for det kan ikke være filmens kvalitet! Den er traditionelt lavet med speak og sødladen musik (Nick Cave dog!) “all over the place”, refererende intetsigende interviews, hele tiden konkluderende at ham Jeff var/er et svin, og det er sikkert rigtigt, men intet om hvorfor alle disse kvinder dog fandt sig i det, stort set ingen karismatiske vidner, kunne man dog ikke have fået mere ud af hovedpersonen, det er bare amerikansk tabloid-dokumentar af værste skuffe. Jeg så den til ende, det behøver I ikke, I behøver slet ikke se den, læs en god bog istedet eller Knausgårds lange artikel I dagens Politiken om hjernekirurgen Henry Marsh på arbejde I Albanien. Se, det er dokumentarisme!


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

DocuDays UA: The Bears Inside Us

Written 04-03-2016 17:31:09 by Tue Steen Müller

This is the statement of the festival in Kiev (25.3-1.4) linked to the logo chosen:

“The Olympic Mishka” (Olympic bear) is the mascot of 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, one of the happiest episodes in life of the Soviet Union. You can still see those “mishkas” all over Ukraine - on the driveway to Kyiv, in parks and on the streets.

These smiling bears are stuck in our heads as a coded illusion of welfare based on double standards.

These bears in everyone of us can easily do everything we’re trying to fight: they bribe, “sort things out” and praise the soviet regime that seems to have had stability and security in future.

These bears represent Ukrainian voters, soft and fluffy, who vote for their future and sell their votes on the way with guilty smiles. Or honestly vote for those who already fooled them many times.

We have chosen the “The Olympic Mishkas” as a Docudays UA 2016 symbol to help us get over the political hypnosis and illusions, over the belief that someone is going to solve our problems for us.

Our bears are empty inside; they should finally mean that we’re saying goodbye to the past that this agonising neighbour empire is trying to drag us into. We’re saying goodbye for the new responsibilities to come, new important work to fill our lives: creating our own symbols and codes, based on our values.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ognjen Glavonić: Depth Two

Written 03-03-2016 16:39:40 by Tue Steen Müller

The theme: The Suva Reka massacre during the Kosovo war. 1999. When Nato was bombing Yugoslavia. Kosovo Albanians were killed by Serbian police-officers. Batajnica, at the banks of the Danube, upstream Belgrade Zemun, became the hiding place where the corpses from this mass murder and from other killings, in all secrecy, were transported in refrigeration trucks. It is a well documented historical event, investigated in the courts in den Hague and Belgrade. Many involved in the atrocities have been convicted, many have been acquitted because of lack of evidence! According to one of the voices in the film, many more should be taken to court.

Voices… Serbian Ognjen Glavonić has made this impressive documentary (entitled “Depth Two”, the name given to the mission (they called it “Operation Dubina Dva”) by the Serbian leaders at that time)… through words from the trials in den Hague and from a man, who drove the corpses from Kosovo to Batajnica. Words that tell the story of how the transports took place and from a Suva Reka survivor who details, how her (Berisha) family was shot at close range, including her children. How they were taken into their own pizzeria, where bombs were thrown in. How she survived by playing dead! Words from victims, from perpetrators, from those who did the terrible transportation work.

It is a terrifying story. You are chained to the screen because the director has chosen NOT to show any corpses, NOT to have any interviews or commentary – but to let the viewer watch nature, deserted fields, villages where the sun goes down, all images of today, empty houses, comfortless, trees without leaves as accompaniment to the words. This is where it happened, you think, there was Life here, you make your own horrible visualization from the words and the often very beautiful images. It touches you, also because the rhythm and tone of the film leave space for reflection. It is done in a very decent and respectful way, at the same time as you get the documentation of what actually happened. Slow camera movements brilliantly conveys the non-sensational approach of the director, who ends his film with personal remains of the victims and documents like one signed by the President, "Operation Depth Two" with the addition: "no body, no crime"!

The film was premiered at the Berlinale in the Forum section. The synopsis attached in the catalogue and elsewhere talks about “an experimental thriller”, which is a very very wrong marketing of a film, that combines information with a high artistic competence, from a director who made the right aesthetic choice to tell an untellable story from our time.

Look at the photo of a tree without leaves but with sprouts. Life continues, when will we ever learn…

2016, Serbia, France, 80 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cinéma du Réel 2016

Written 02-03-2016 11:33:51 by Tue Steen Müller

A classic among the many documentary festivals – and in Paris. The selection for this year’s edition, taking place March 18-27, primarily at the Centre Pompidou, has been made: there is an international competition, a French, one for First film and one for short films.

Happy to see that the international competition includes films from India, Vietnam, Chile, Syria and Mexico – and that the festival is loyal (as the filmmakers are who submit their films to this festival) to directors like Austrian Ruth Beckermann, Éric Pauwels from Belgium, Vietnamese Trin T. Ming-ha, and to – outside competition – Sergei Loznitsa (”The Event”), ”In Jackson Height” by Frederick Wiseman and ”Between Fences” by Avi Mograbi that will be the opening film.

And as a tribute to Haskell Wexler, ”Rebel Citizen” made by friend and long time collaborator Pamela Yates, whose words I quote (from the website of the festival):

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Support Georgian Documentary Filmmakers

Written 01-03-2016 23:51:47 by Tue Steen Müller

From Georgian producer, filmmaker, photographer, workshop organizer and promoter of documentaries Anna Dziapshipa I received a “please sign this petition” request, I did so via – the issue was a protest against a radical date change of submitting projects to the Georgian National Film Centre, that could mean “that production in 2016 for many documentary films might fail”, as it is written in the clear text below from the Georgian filmmakers. Read it and sign in solidarity with colleagues from a country that in recent years in numerous films have demonstrated their talent for making creative documentaries that can travel all over.  

Due to the fact that the Georgian National Film Center postponed the competition for the production of documentary films from spring to September 2016, Georgian filmmakers face problems of financing their documentary projects. Moving the documentary film production competition from spring to autumn means that production in 2016 for many documentary films might fail. The projects that were developed earlier in 2015 and were financed by the film center will not find any source of funding for their production this year.

Each moment is very precious for documentary filmmakers. We deal

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Avi Mograbi: Between Fences

Written 01-03-2016 13:21:00 by Tue Steen Müller

There is a lot of good mood in this new film by Avi Mograbi – as there always is in films by this great Israeli filmmaker, who in his films for decades has raised a critical voice to the way politics and human rights are dealt with in his country. They have a good time being together, the asylum- seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, who with theatre director Chen Alon, cameraman Philippe Bellaiche and Mograbi himself - doing the sound, moving around with a boomstick – perform scenes from their own lives, from where they come from and from the absurd situation they are in now. Playing the scenes, thus staging their own lives, could make them politically active as well as have them express their own frustrations and traumas. That is the philosophy.

They are near Holot, a detention centre in Israel close to the Egyptian border, they can not be sent back to their home countries, where they would be persecuted – and they can not go to Tel Aviv because the Israelis don’t want them and consider them to be ”dangerous infiltrators”, as it is stated in the synopsis of the film.

The theatre scenes in good mood, but with no optimism, are in

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

ZagrebDox Winners 2016

Written 29-02-2016 10:21:41 by Tue Steen Müller

ZagrebDox ended sunday and awards were given. I mention some of them with ”smartlinks” for you to see what we have written about them on this site. But go to the festival website to get the whole picture.

Festival director Nenad Puhovski has set up ”his own award” called ”My Generation”, I like that – also ”my” generation – and I like the choice he made, ”Don Juan” by Jerzy Sladkowski, here is the motivation:

”My Generation Award goes to the film Don Juan by Jerzy Sladkowski, for its skill to identify and document an everyday story about a person whom we are quick to judge for his lack of social skills in communication with so-called regular people, and for it turning an archetypal story of a narrow-minded system of fixed habits and mutual expectations. First of all, because of the humanity and open approach he uses force us to take a look inside, whether we take the side of the autistic young man, or of those who wish to cure him, we sincerely wish Oleg to win his own way. That is why Jerzy Sladkowski is a great master of (documentary) cinema.”

And I have a lot of respect for the ZagrebDox audience that picked

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Catherine Bernstein: T4 – Un médecin sous le nazis

Written 28-02-2016 16:08:32 by Tue Steen Müller

I know the French director Catherine Bernstein from the Paris-based European training programme Archidoc and from several of her awarded documentaries. She is a master in dealing with archive material, which is so brilliantly demonstrated in this film that will be broadcast in France (FR3) tomorrow monday February 29.

I received a vimeo link fra Catherine Bernstein, watched the film and wrote some notes to her: ”Dear Catherine. I saw the film. It is based on an impressive research, it tells a terrible story that I had never heard before, it raises the eternal question about “guilt” (“did you examine your conscious”, you ask the doctor), yes, you tell it addressing the scientist who “knew nothing”, I was “hooked” from the start - and it is a scoop to have childrenreading/translating the texts and figures. Bravo - and hope you get a good audience Monday!

I have copy-pasted the promotion texts of the film, an English and a French version – they are different:

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Joshua Oppenheimer’s works

Written 28-02-2016 12:32:36 by Allan Berg Nielsen

Som alle andre har vi her på Filmkommentaren meget længe været optaget af Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence og den tidligere The Act of Killing. Jeg har samlet det meste af det vi skrevet om de to film her:

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK, Directors

Sara Broos: Reflections

Written 25-02-2016 15:42:21 by Tue Steen Müller

You have to catch the attention of the audience right from the beginning. The opening of a film is so important. Here you have to  make an invitation to the viewer, give some basic information that indicates, what he/she can expect but first of all demonstrate that you are a filmmaker, who can create an atmosphere, a tone that makes you curious, that surprises you, that gives you something special, that in this case convinces you that this is personal and not private.

Swedish Sara Broos does so with the first four minutes of her ”Reflections” (”Speglingar” in Swedish). You get a close-up of a young beautiful face in profile and thereafter of an older beautiful face in profile. A fine voice (how attractive the Swedish language is spoken like this) tells us what this is about – mother and daughter together, filmed in Latvia in a house and on a beach. The daughter, Sara, the filmmaker, invited mother Karin, painter, on a trip as a present when she became 60. Sara wanted to ask questions – a classic: I want to know more about you, mother, there is so much I don’t know.

The combination of the text of Sara, the super-stylized arranged images that makes me think of surrealist art, the music, makes you totally drawn into the story. You even get an explanation to the aesthetic chosen; Karin takes photos of Sara and her two sisters as sketches for her paintings.

4 minutes, then on the screen ”Reflections – a film by Sara Broos” and then quite a cut to mother Karin and father Marc in their cosy

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Tibaldi & Lora: Thy Father’s Chair

Written 22-02-2016 13:16:59 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s a very fine film, I placed it on the 2015 Talent List and am pleased to see that the Copenhagen audience will get the chance to enjoy it. Cinemateket has chosen Antonio Tibaldi and Alex Lora´s ”Thy Father’s Chair” as the Documentary of the Month = five screenings starting from 25th of February.

Here is a precise synopsis in English, I will write the review in Danish: Abraham and Shraga are two Orthodox aging twins, who live a secluded existence in their inherited Brooklyn home. Since the death of their parents, they have stopped throwing away anything, hosting stray cats and accumulating all sorts of stuff. Now, their upstairs tenant threatens to stop paying them rent unless they proceed to a radical cleaning. Abraham and Shraga have no choice but to open their doors to a professional company. A traumatic invasion of privacy ensues, forcing them to confront their memories in order to try to find a new beginning…

Og ind i en smal gyde kører en bil med logoet HCH (Home Clean Home) på siden. Ud træder rengøringskorpset, som skal rydde op i det ustyrlige svineri, gøre rent og få gjort has på væggelus, kakerlakker og andre smådyr, som har hygget sig blandt madrester, i madrasser, i gulvtæpperne. Overalt. Fy for pokker!

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Asma Bseiso: Aisha

Written 21-02-2016 14:07:16 by Tue Steen Müller

Thank you for letting me be in the company of Aisha for 70 minutes. You invited me to get to learn a young girl and woman full of Life living in a country I know very little about, Jordan. And yet, could it not have been everywhere that an abandoned child, who has spent 18 years of her young life in orphanages and foster homes, have to fight to find herself, love and a place to be in society?

It starts with a conversation between Aisha and Asma, the one behind the camera, the director. In a desert, at a place where there is nothing to disturb, where Aisha has the time to reflect on her life and on how she changes personality according to situations and people, she meets. And where she out of own experience claims that few people are able to ”think outside the box”. That is what she says and says in English language. This location for intimate conversation comes back later in the film and closes an amazing and fascinating story about Aisha, filmed over many years. (The still photo is taken there). It is very impressive how the film goes to the level where the social problems – harsh – stay in the background to let the personal stand out and become universal.

It is sometimes a bit confusing that Asma Bseiso cuts from one year to the next and back again, but getting used to this ”rule of the

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

ZagrebDox 2016 Starts Tomorrow

Written 20-02-2016 21:03:01 by Tue Steen Müller

… and runs until February 28. Here is a brief introduction text from the site of the festival: "A documentary about an ordinary family with extraordinary secrets, directed by Karen Guthrie, on Sunday, 21 February, opens the 12th edition of ZagrebDox, this year again featuring many burning and timeless issues in more than 160 films – from famous titles to numerous world premieres."

Festival director is Nenad Puhovski, film director, producer and professor – and every year the editor-in-chief of a festival that in many ways lives up to a classical public service model that we see less and less of in television and in the printed press. There are sections in the programme that deal with the refugee crisis and with ”extremisms, especially those motivated by religion: anti-Semitism and Orthodox faith in Russia, as well as Islamism in the West.” And there is ”The Russians Are Coming to 12th ZagrebDox”, a section for biographies, music, one which is called ”state of affairs”, one ”controversial dox” – very inviting and clear communication to the audience, I guess, whereas festival travellers/documentary connaisseurs will appreciate retrospectives of directors like Erik Gandini and Nino Kirtadze. In other words, the festival is edited, in a very competent manner.

Of course there is also two competition programmes, an international and a regional. And for me, who was part of the beginning of the industry event, a ZagrebDoxPro: what a big pleasure to see how this event has developed to not only being a training and pitching session but also have masterclasses and a fine amount of television people and distributors present. I understand that this is because of the support from Creative Europe MEDIA, a good investment indeed from the EU.

To give you an idea of films to be shown, let me mention five films that have been written about on this site: ”Don Juan” by Jerzy Sladkowski”, ”My Love, Don’t Cross that River” by Mo-young Jin, ”Twilight of a Life” by Sylvain Biegeleisen, ”Train to Adulthood” by Klara Trencsenyi and ”Ukrainian Sheriffs” by Roman Bondarchuk.

Photo: Marlon Brando and Nenad Puhovski.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Alexander Gutman 1945 – 2016

Written 19-02-2016 10:27:23 by Tue Steen Müller

A fine filmmaker and a good friend has passed away. Suddenly, two days ago. I got the message from Ludmila Nazaruk from St. Petersburg, the hometown of Sasha. I saw him last time at the ”Message to Man” festival in late September, where he was proud that one of his students had won an award, ”The Conversation” by Anastasia Novikova.

Personally I knew Sasha from Balticum Film & TV Festival on Bornholm in the 1990’es, later we met many times around at festivals and in 2011 we were in jury together at the Moscow International Film Festival together with Michael Apted. Always full of energy, always trying to find funding for his artistic work, difficult for one with high ambitions = long shooting period, long editing period, good crews etc. He got to some films good help from Finland.

His film ”!7. August” stays in my mind, here is a clip from the review on this site:

”This fine Russian director has, apart from the masterpiece ”Frescoes” from Georgia, made a couple of very strong documentaries shot in prisons, ”Three Days and Never Again” and ”Blatnoi Mir” (directed by Finnish Jouni Hiltunen, Gutman was production manager), and here comes another that I do not hesitate to call masterly done as well…”

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

02-16-2016 Vilnius The President and Us

Written 18-02-2016 17:37:02 by Tue Steen Müller

So this is the official photo from the award ceremony. The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite is in the middle with (from left to right) Alge and Arunas Matelis, my wife Ellen and me, the President, Audrius and Aida Stonys, Giedre Beinoriute and Mindaugas Survila, who were all so kind to be there for the ceremony on the Day of Independence of Lithuania, 02-16-2016. I like the way the President supports me with her right hand!

Anyway, there are so many other Lithuanian film people I would love to thank, around the whole process first of all Liana Ruokyte-Jonsson from the Lithuanian Film Centre, who together with my wife did all the paper work necessary.

And looking back - the icon of Lithuanian documentary Henrikas Sablevicius, teacher and inspirator for the film people on the photo, a charismatic and lovely warm man, who came to the Balticum Film & TV Festival through its 10 years of existence. This festival on Bornholm - from 1990 - directed my professional life towards the East of Europe thanks to people like Sablevicius. Yes, as good friend Uldis Cekulis from Latvia, said, "it all started on Bornholm", which makes me express many thanks to those who started the festival, Bent Nørby Bonde and Sonja Vesterholt, and to Simon Drewsen Holmberg, who was there with the Baltic Media Centre and made the Forum for Financing come to Riga, from where he now as director of the Danish Cultural Institute initiated a (so far) small Baltic Film Festival in Aarhus Denmark.

My colleague on Allan Berg has done the whole Baltic journey as well - from Bornholm till now where he has made a collected post on this site with the texts I have written on Lithuanian documentaries since August 2007. Some newer texts are still to be placed. Thank you Allan.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

02-16-2016 Vilnius Lithuania

Written 18-02-2016 10:51:11 by Tue Steen Müller

Look at the photo, taken by Giedre Beinoriute just after the award ceremony. It is the Independence Day of Lithuania and the ceremony is about to start. On the red carpet former President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus welcomes Vytautas Landsbergis and his wife. If anyone Landsbergis symbolises the independence of Lithuania. He was the one, who as Head of the Seimas, the Lithuanian Parliament, on March 11 1990 declared Lithuania independent of the Soviet Union, the first Soviet republic to do so. The Soviet reaction to this is well known, economic blockade and later on attacks on the tv tower – 14 Lithuanians were killed on the night of January 13th… In February 1991 Iceland became the first country to recognise the independence of Lithuania.

Back to the photo taken two days ago. We managed to join the crowd on the square and to feel the solemn atmosphere when the National Hymn of Lithuania was song. One hour earlier, as her introduction to the award ceremony, the President Dalia Grybauskaite said that she would not make a speech but stressed the importance of protecting the country and its values in times ”where we are threatened”. The reference to Russia was obvious. Grybauskaite is known for being direct and outspoken like some days before in Munich, where she commented on the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

There were flags all over in the streets of Vilnius on this Day of

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Georg Zeller: A Second Birthday

Written 13-02-2016 19:20:40 by Tue Steen Müller

I am biased. I have known about this film to be done for years. I was a teacher at the Zelig film school in Bolzano, when Georg worked there, he showed me material that was very interesting, and I met his boy, the protagonist of the film. Now Georg sent me a vimeo link, he wants my opinion and advice on festivals. I decided, that I would only write a review if I really liked this short film on Misha, with his father behind the camera, edited by Marzia Mete, who has helped what could have ended as a private film to be a personal and universal situational documentary of great sensitivity. First about content, Georg has made a fine film synopsis so let him explain with own words:

”Misha is nine years old when the cirrhosis of his liver and his strong malnutrition make a transplant become the only option. The boy has already come face to face with death several times during his young life. He is used to his family’s constant enormous worries, to the long sojourns at hospitals throughout Europe and to a strongly limited life. But his approach to the big questions of life and death, his self–acquired belief in God and his candid and life-affirming interest to the world, broadly contradict the image of a suffering kid and unveil a conscious and experienced soul in the young body. Misha’s father follows him and his family during the months before and after the threatening but life-saving surgical intervention from immediate proximity creating a poetic and optimistic manifesto for organ donation”.

The last words might make you to think that it is a campaign film, it

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Swedish Documentaries in Krakow

Written 11-02-2016 22:42:17 by Tue Steen Müller

And the festival in Krakow has decided to put focus on Sweden at the upcoming festival. Here is a clip from the press release of today, with a photo of Polish-Swedish Jerzy Sladkowski taken last week, when he presented his “Don Juan” at Magnificent7 in Belgrade. Next to him master of cinematography of “Don Juan”, Wojciech Staron, and festival director Zoran Popovic:

This year's special guest at the 56th Krakow Film Festival will be the cinematography of Sweden. Within the frames of the section, the latest documentary and short films will be shown, as well as the programme for children and teenagers, and a selection of student films. The representatives of film industry from Sweden and Poland will meet at a joint conference.

“This is one of the most energetic cinemas in Europe, achieving many international successes, open to co-production, offering diverse and rich cinema," says Barbara Orlicz-Szczypuła, the director of the programme office.  "We found it out ourselves in the last five years, when three times the Swedish films won the most important awards in Krakow: in 2013 Tora Mårtens was given the Golden Horn for the film "Colombianos," in 2012, the same award went to Peter Gerdehag for his film "Women with Cows," and in 2011, the Silver Horn was given to Marcus Lindeen for the film "Regretters." Besides, we have close contacts with filmmakers who are connected to Sweden in their creative work, such as the eminent documentary filmmaker Jerzy Śladkowski, who repeatedly presented his films at our festival, and Magnus von Horn, awarded in Krakow for his short films, whose feature-film début "The Here After" now wins the most important trophies both in Poland and in Sweden."

56th Krakow Film Festival is held from May 29 to June 5, 2016.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dragon of Dragons to Marcel Łoziński

Written 11-02-2016 15:52:38 by Tue Steen Müller

My first reaction to the press release sent out by the Krakow Film Festival was… why not before? But I will not use it against the fine people of a festival that I have always loved a lot and intends to visit again this year – it takes place 29.5 till 5.6. Łoziński is mentioned and reviewed numerous times on this site, write his name in “search” and you will see. Personally I have had the pleasure to meet Marcel Łoziński way back on Bornholm at the Baltic Sea Film & TV Festival. His "Anything Can Happen" is on my list of Best Documentaries ever. Here is a quote from the text of the festival:

Marcel Łoziński, one of the most renowned Polish filmmakers, frequently awarded at international festivals, winner of countless film festivals and many prestigious awards, will be honoured by Krakow Film Festival with the title "Dragon of Dragons" for lifetime achievement.

"Programme Council decided to award this year's Dragon of Dragons to Marcel Łoziński for his absolute fidelity to documentary film, and, within the frames of this fidelity - for widening its means of expression. Firstly, for many years, this widening applied to examining, by the means of documentary cinema, the state of consciousness in a society undergoing political oppression. Later, starting from 1990s, - asking by the documentary filmmaker the ultimate questions, about fear, passing of time, about relationships with the loved ones and at the same time, about the right to ask these questions," this is how the nomination is explained by Professor Tadeusz Lubelski, an eminent film critic and film theoretician.

The Dragon of Dragons award, given for the 19th time this year, is the highest distinction granted by Krakow Film Foundation Programme Council, the organiser of Krakow Film Festival, in recognition for contribution to the development of international cinema in documentary and animated film genre.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

AmDocs Honours Joe Berlinger and Creates NSDN

Written 11-02-2016 15:16:13 by Tue Steen Müller

… which stands for North South Doc Network, more about that below. The festival that runs from April 30-March 4 opens with the premiere of director Joe Berlinger’s latest film ”Tony Robbins: I am not Your Guru” and includes three of the director’s previous works: ”Brother’s Keeper”, ”Under African Skies” and ”Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger”. Berlinger will receive the “Seeing the Bigger Picture” at this year’s edition of the Palm Springs-based American Documentary Film Festival.

And here follows the press release of the festival explaining the brilliant initiative behind the new festival alliance. Yes, festival should collaborate, not compete as it so often happens:

In a move that is sure to create new opportunities for documentary filmmakers all over the world, the American Documentary Film Festival (AmDocs) has forged an alliance with three other International Documentary Film Festivals, designed to allow each of them to share content.

“From the very beginning, one of our primary goals for AmDocs was to provide independent documentary filmmakers with greater access to worldwide audiences,” says Ted Grouya (photo), Founder and Festival Director for the American Documentary Film Festival (AmDocs).

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Tue Steen Müller: Lithuanian Docs

Written 11-02-2016 14:22:19 by Allan Berg Nielsen


- collected posts by Tue Steen Müller on Lithuanian documentaries, directors, photographers and producers


Lituania is a Baltic country, the most southern, and the most exciting when it comes to documentaries.

They are mostly short and based on images - the Lithuanian documentarians compose the image and treat the spectator as an intelligent person. The information needed to understand a story or a problem or a complex thematic issue is conveyed by the combination of image and sound and montage. In other words, they make FILMS and are still relatively "innocent" when it comes to adapt to television standards.

"They" are directors like Audrius Stonys and Arunas Matelis and Oksana B. and Rimantas Gruodis. I have just been in Vilnius to watch new films to be recommended to Leipzig Film Festival to which I offer scouting services. If any reader of this would like to have contact with the Lithuanian filmmakers, you can google Stonys and Matelis, who both have their own websites and will direct you to where to get hold of dvd's. (Blogpost 12-08-2007)

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Poetics, Essays

IDA: Getting Real

Written 09-02-2016 19:28:18 by Tue Steen Müller

Simon Kilmurry – previously at the POV, now in his new position as executive director of the IDA (International Documentary Association) – asked me to write about the upcoming conference of the association, ”Getting Real”, that has the headline ”Art. Diversity. Sustainability”. If you click on the link below you get more information and are asked to fill in a survey with important questions concerning the documentary genre – I did so, interesting questions, do the same.

Also, you can from the website link to a weekly ”Essential Doc Reads”, text clips on the art of documentary and to ”Documentary Magazine”, that also comes in print. Much to profit from if you make documentaries or are following it as er do on this site.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Belgrade/Final Report

Written 07-02-2016 11:46:21 by Tue Steen Müller

I am back in Copenhagen after another unforgettable version of the Magnificent7 Festival, number 12 it was and of course there is reason for the organizers to be proud of what they have achieved with a festival of 7 films, one film per night, non-competitive, focus on the makers of the films, excellent picture and sound, Q&A sessions with the makers of around 1 hour, a workshop every day lasting 2 hours for young filmmakers - and for us invited guests a hospitality that is second to none.

Statistics: 6200 sold tickets, 2500 free tickets - for seven screenings - all together 8700. A record in the history of the festival.

The production team of the festival to be honoured, filmmakers themselves all of them: Jelena Stankovic, Sonja Dekic, Mila Turejlic, Andrijana Stojkovic, Iva Plemic Divjak. Press was done by Milica Novkovic. Nevena Djonlic was the programme coordinator, Svetlana and Zoran Popovic festival directors and selectors together with me (Serbian spelling) Tue Stin Mileric. Many more helped, check the website.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Staron's on Brothers

Written 04-02-2016 16:48:57 by Tue Steen Müller

Wojciech and Malgorzata Staron were in the vip room yesterday after the screening of their masterpiece ”Brothers” that was shown in the big hall of the Sava Center in Belgrade at the Magnificent7 festival. Almost 1000 viewers attended and I can not recall such a almost sacred silence of total attention in many of the sequences. To mention one: the older brother is putting on a sock with the help of pliers. The focus is on the foot and the action, the director/cameraman dares to let the camera watch – not a sound is heard in the cinema hall. Noone is checking emails, noone is chatting with the neighbour, it’s magic, because the film is magic! Because every image is composed beauty.

We were all the time during he years trying to find a balance, not to give a lot of information, we were searching for a language. We wanted to make a film in the present, not about the past.

Especially the older brother, the one who had done filming himself, was interested in our filming, also because we used several different digital cameras during the years we were filming.

The problem was that many times they were more interested in talking to us than to each other, when we came. So we were waiting for situations to come up.

Alfons, the painter, thought that the film would be about him as an artist!

One is an Artist of Life, he worked as a cartographer, the other is a dreamer. We met them in 1994, we were 20, they were 70, we became friends and kind of part of their family in Poland. They had to re-learn Polish, when they came home – and Russian when they wanted to speak about something that we should not hear!

A love story, one in the audience asked the couple. Yes, I was searching for the love between them, Wojciech Staron said. I think I found it… Oh, yes, you did indeed!

Photo: the Staron’s behind the brothers.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jerzy Sladkowski on his film Don Juan

Written 04-02-2016 16:11:02 by Tue Steen Müller

Jerzy Sladkowski’s ”Don Juan” was shown here in Belgrade the other night and his Q&A meeting with the audience in the vip room of the Sava Center lasted for more an hour in a packed room, where many were sitting or lying on the floor.

Sladkowski talked so well about the film, assisted by his cameraman Wojciech Staron, that I decided to quote him (almost) word by word, of course in an edited version.

JS: Earlier it was called Gorki, now it is Nizhny Novgorod and I wanted to make a ”feeling good/ feeling better” film on how therapists in a clinic there were healing people with traumas. Through humour. It’s Russia and Chekhov, and I wanted to work in the field between humour and sadness. We went there for research but there was no humour. We woke up in deep shit, so to say. But then Wojciech (Staron) came. To observe. He moved the camera around and said that it always stopped at this boy, Oleg. It would not have been my first choice. But then I heard him

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cosima Spender: Palio

Written 04-02-2016 15:07:43 by Tue Steen Müller

Taken from the site of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade ( this text is written by festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic about the film to be shown tonight at the Sava Center in Belgrade:

For centuries, one of the most beautiful old city-republics in Italy, Siena, two times a year becomes divided with conflicts, when all residents, from the youngest to the elderly live for Palio - one of the oldest horse races in the world. It is a specific time machine that magically revives Renaissance costumes, flags, coats of arms and trumpets, ceases everything with its primordial force and completely enchants both observers and participants. This is a real battle for prestige turned into a symbolic competition of horses and riders held in a surprising place - in the very center of Siena, on the largest city square. Old ritual lives its intense life even today with never reduced passions without scruples - turbulent Mediterranean mentality and dark tradition of political intrigues of the past times haunt freely, like a ghost, all the citizens, and no one is spared, not even the players or horses.

The director of the film, Cosima Spender, who grew up in Siena, develops this visually attractive, lavish spectacle, showing us Palio from the perspective of four generations of the best, most important race winners; from those who made the most brilliant recent history to the newest and youngest one who is preparing for a relentless battle to realize his biggest dream. The author of "Palio" conceived and developed a real exciting, cinematic film, with extraordinary photography, carefully interwoven dramaturgical flows, which achieves its dramatic climax in the events that really take your breath away! Exceptionally credited with the most attractive moments in the film, especially during the racing scenes, is the brilliant editor Valerio Bonelli, awarded for his superb work at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

"Palio" is a great and memorable cinematic feast!

Director’s Word: I grew up with the Palio so I was uniquely placed to gain the trust of everyone involved in the film and our narrator character was able to open doors which are normally closed to outsiders. Yet as a foreigner (I work out of London and my parentage is Anglo-American), I shared the jockeys' ambiguous relationship with Siena, and that is what I wanted to capture in this film. 

Review on Filmkommentaren by Sara Thelle: link

Great Britain, 2015, 92 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Wojciech Staroń: Brothers

Written 03-02-2016 08:56:17 by Tue Steen Müller

Taken from the site of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade ( this text is written by festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic about the film to be shown tonight at the Sava Center in Belgrade:

From the very first moment of the film, from the first wonderful scene, an unusual and poetic story unfolds in front of us, a story about two brothers and their still unsettled life history that surrounds them. This documentary takes you on the small country roads lined with meadows, in beautiful, blossoming fields, in the dark forests where two old charismatic men are walking through - a painter, constantly in search of what excites his creative spirit, and the other one, who looks like his reflection in the mirror, and who managed, like in fairy tales, to get rid of the physical connection with the character and to become its opposite - a silent, reliable companion and protector. And whatever happens, from wandering through the landscapes full of colors and impressions, riding with no apparent purpose and reason, to everyday situations

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sylvain Biegeleisen

Written 03-02-2016 08:41:30 by Tue Steen Müller

I just said goodbye to him, the director of ”Twilight of a Life”, who has played an important role in this 12th edition of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade. He came with his film about which I wrote – before the premiere in Nyon – ”…emotional it is, long time ago that I have watched a film with a smile on my face the whole way through and a tear in my eyes…”.

I had the same reaction, when I watched it here in Belgrade with the more than added value to experience the charismatic director as one who wants to follow his film, whereever he can, doing (as he did here) a masterclass, a Q&A session and a workshop.

A few words about the workshop: Sylvain Biegeleisen was together with a small group of young people from morning till afternoon. He told them that he was there to realise his ”One Day One Film” with the theme ”Memories”, with the participants being invited to bring a photo or an object to talk about what that means for them. ”My part was to be their humble servant”, Biegeleisen said, when he

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jerzy Śladkowski: Don Juan

Written 02-02-2016 09:44:46 by Tue Steen Müller

Taken from the site of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade ( this text is written by festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic about the film to be shown tonight at the Sava Center in Belgrade:

This year's winner of Europe's largest documentary film festival in Amsterdam, IDFA, without a doubt is one of the best documentaries produced in recent years. The initial idea of the author was to make a film about psychiatric institutions and patients in Russia, and even during the first researches suddenly appeared Oleg, a young man trapped by autism, and his mother convinced that her son can and should do more to improve his life. Especially when it comes to women. And Oleg begins long battles to learn how to become Don Juan, to pierce even a little the armor that safely shields him from the world and girls. The camera begins to follow his therapies that slowly multiply and start turning into an interesting odyssey - from conventional conversation, to shocking, grotesque procedures, and finally to making the theater.

Following his hero, Jerzy Slatkovski with his team, in which an

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Belgrade/ Report 3

Written 01-02-2016 19:13:46 by Tue Steen Müller

They got up from their chairs but did not leave right away, they stayed to honour the filmmaker, whose ”Mallory” had just ended. Helena Třeštíková received standing ovations for her film at the screening at the Sava Center, where it was number 3 of the 7 films selected for the Magnificent7 festival.

… and maybe also for her work in total – her unique method of long term observational documentary filmmaking that she talked so well about this morning at the masterclass for young filmmakers. Třeštíková brought clips from her films – to mention some: ”René”, ”Katka”, ”Marcela” – and raised the questions of ethical nature and basically how she establishes a contact/ an agreement with her protagonists. I have seen all three previous films mentioned before but the clips made me want to come back to them – they are all available on DocAlliance, link below, price for a film 2€!

Especially ”René”, about this intelligent young man, who goes in and out of prison, robs the home of the director at one point, tells her that in the beginning of their filming relationship (that has lasted 20 years!), he was a bit in love with her, that he has seen her more during the years than he has seen his mother… He is now out of prison, lives with a dancer and her child, a film star after he has been on television several times. (Czech television broadcasts her works in primetime).

Třeštíková is now working on 15 projects! Wow, what a filmmaker!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jakob Brossman: Lampedusa in Winter

Written 01-02-2016 12:57:34 by Tue Steen Müller

Taken from the site of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade ( this text is written by festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic about the film to be shown tonight at the Sava Center in Belgrade:

Is there anything emptier than idyllic summer resorts in the wintertime? Jakob Brossman arrives with his crew, at such a moment of calm and low tide, when all small local problems become big events, and their main protagonists begin to resemble characters of Fellini films. On Lampedusa this is all tinged by the big, unwanted looming shadow, the drama and present of the People from the Boats, rescued in dramatic operations from storms and high seas, sometimes successfully, often not, but always at great risk. And to top it all off – discussions recalling the spirited traditions of the debate forums of the ancient world – can the fisherman survive, will Lampedusa get a ferry, what are the Africans doing in front of the church? With humor and conviviality of the Mediterranean spirit, with a lot of sound and fury, but with empathy and true understanding for the human condition. A story told in rich layers, of the clash of worlds – of Africa v. Europe, the island v. the mainland, provincial outposts v. the center, and inescapably poor v. rich.

It is certain that suffering and victims often cloud our view of the

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Belgrade/ Report 2

Written 31-01-2016 16:26:10 by Tue Steen Müller

Last night. Look at the photo – Sylvain Biegeleisen, director of ”Twilight of a Life”, is on stage with festival director Zoran Popovic in Belgrade before the screening of his film at the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade. Biegeleisen is about to sing a Jacques Brel chanson to put the more than 1500 Belgraders present in the mood to be in the company with himself and first of all his mother for 71 minutes. He sings for her in the film that was received with applause for minutes. The well placed comment from my Serbian filmmaking friend next to me was like this, ”we are all crying”, right she was, from watching a woman at the end of her life full of wisdom and humour! There were noone rushing out of the cinema.

Biegeleisen had afterwards a packed Q&A session in the vip room of the Sava Center and this afternoon, in one hour, he will hold a masterclass for young and older filmmakers at the same place. I will report tomorrow about the many interesting comments that the director has conveyed and will come up with concerning his making of this wonderful work.

PS. A Sunday in Belgrade is not ”only” films… I started this morning being greeted by a young hotel receptionist, who said she had seen me several times on Serbien television. Proud I was, ”was it ok what I said”… until the answer came ”I don’t know, I watch tv without sound having music in my ears…”

PPS. And a tradition has grown: We go to the home of festival team colleague Nevena Donlic, an expert of tennis and admirer of – I am that as well now – Novak Djokovic, who played the Australian Open final against Scottish Murray, who as last year was beaten pretty easily by the Serbian phenomenon. Serbian brunch and television hospitality at its best, thanks.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Helena Třeštíková: Mallory

Written 31-01-2016 08:49:15 by Tue Steen Müller

Colleague Allan Berg wrote a review of "Mallory" when it was shown at CPH:DOX, here is how festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic introduces the film that will be shown at Magnificent7 tonight, taken from

The most recent documentary of one of the most important European authors of documentary film, awarded Grand Prix for Best Documentary at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, made in the unique style of her most famous works, born over years of work. This time Helena Trestikova spent 13 years following and recording everything important happening to Mallory, a young, initially problematic girl, who goes on to become a mother before the camera, and struggles in clumsy and unusual ways to find her place under the sun. Despite temptations and weaknesses, she matures, stumbles and falls, but always finds the strength to pick herself back up again. Precisely in these moments of refusal to submit to despair, unusual twists occur, leading this film, one of a series of the best-known films of Helena Trestikova concerning young people left to fend for themselves on the streets, to gradually become a fascinating contemporary fairy tale told in the bitter tones of precisely documented reality.

Masterfully directed, analytical and empathic to its core “Mallory” reaches the pinnacles of verité documentary films. The film was shot by a total of six different cameraman, an unavoidable consequence of the vicissitudes of such a project, but it is astounding how the photography and camera retain their style, and the frames always appear though-out and precise, full of an authentic atmosphere of the filmed space and the lighting dispositions. The excellent editing of Jakub Hejna, a long-time collaborator of Trestikova, lends the films an extraordinary dynamism, while events and years fly before our eyes building a flawless dramatic composition of the film.

“Mallory” is a powerful testament of the wonders hidden in seemingly simple images of reality, which obtain their full meaning thanks to a unique insight, one capable of encompassing long periods in the life of the main character.

Director’s Word: We hope that our film can inspire the audience, who feel that they’re not doing well in their life. (And that can happen to almost everyone.) The message of the film is simple: change is possible and hope always exists.

Czech Republic, 2015, 97 minutes

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Belgrade/ Report 1

Written 30-01-2016 11:57:15 by Tue Steen Müller

12. Festival Evropskog Dugometraznog Dokumentarnog Filma… the Serbian language version for 12th European Feature Documentary Film Festival that started last night with the screening of German Kral’s ”Our Last Tango” – click on and watch the photo to see how many found their way to the Sava Center. It was record breaking, more than 2000, the first time that the balcony was opened – for the screening of a documentary. I do not recall if I have ever seen so many people gathered for a documentary screening. And judging from the applause that followed the screening the audience appreciated the choice of the lovely, spectacular, elegantly edited story about the fantastic tango dancers Maria Nieves and Juan Carlos Copes. Cinema!

And a love story difficult to make, German Kral told us at the Q&A session after the screening. Maria and Juan Carlos did at one moment not want to take part, then they changed their minds, then he found out that she had more pages in the script than him, and then she got angry watching the final film because a scene she loved was not there… it ended well, the film is there, the two masters are treated with respect and tango is being danced. Playful and joyful.

Yes, Belgrade is a city of art, a city of culture. In between tv interviews together with Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, I had time to celebrate Saint Sava’s Day, an exceptional exhibition of Russian avantgarde art, a tango concert with local Aleksandar Nikolic on bandoneon accompanied by a string orchestra – and of course visits to both classical and modern restaurants downtown and along the river.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sylvain Biegeleisen: Twilight of a Life

Written 30-01-2016 11:16:16 by Tue Steen Müller

Taken from the site of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade ( this text is written by festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic about the film to be shown tonight at the Sava Center in Belgrade:

A refined documentary pearl, woven out of the finest strands that connect our inner worlds with the hidden, deepest worlds of others. A testament to a warm and fascinating communication with another being, within whom, thanks to the skill of the poet, we see a small but vigorous luminosity shining in all its power inside the body weaker than the frailest of birds. The mother of Silvain Biegeleisen, suddenly loses all physical strength at the age of 94, and he decides to spend with her and film her final days. And then a miracle happens, despite all prognosis – life refuses to bow to knowledge and begins to sing with a thin, but unstoppable voice. And an elegy, condemned to dark and narrow space suddenly, almost from the first, blossoms into a hymn to the fullness of life, the power of touch and pure emotion, an ode to joy and play, lengthening the days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years.

Minimalist in its approach, made in black-and-white touched with

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

German Kral: Our Last Tango

Written 29-01-2016 09:51:44 by Tue Steen Müller

Taken from the site of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade ( this text is written by festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic about the opening film, Friday January 29:

Buenos Aires nights echo with the sounds of the bandoneon, with stories of love, and with the unique and unmatchable beauty of tango. During such nights one of the greatest dancers in the history of tango, Maria Nieves, and her legendary partner, Juan Carlos Copes, share their memories with a group of young dancers and choreographers, who in turn convert their stories into breath-taking choreographies. These are stunning in their execution, not only supremely sophisticated and masterful, but also powerful in the emotions they embody with their movements. Before our eyes the dances transform into stories of love and passion, of tenderness and pain, of vulnerability and strength imbued by harmony

Masterful photography and camerawork, echoing unforgettable cinema cast a permanent spell with the scenes and images unfolding on the screen. Equally so, the close-ups of the two charismatic dancers, whose faces still radiate the fullness of emotion and dignity. Also extraordinary are the reconstructions of the milongas of Buenos Aires, those seminal events and places where energies crossed to create tango, where dancers’ steps wrote out its living history, whose essence the participants and authors of the film aim to reach. There is no doubt that German Kral is the ideal author of this documentary – Argentinian by birth, a European filmmaker by education and experience, and long-time collaborator of Wim Wenders, his professor at the Munich film school, whose influence extends beyond the role of executive producer on this film.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DAFilms Portal Celebrates 10 Years

Written 26-01-2016 20:26:35 by Tue Steen Müller

… and you will, as one of the presents from this excellent ”online documentary cinema” vod, be able to watch 5 films for free, three of them by directors Peter Liechti, Viktor Kossakovsky and Sergei Loznitsa… until January 31. More generous offers like this will follow, it is announced on the site.

Also it is interesting to read a short interview with the manager of the vod, Nina Numankadić, here is a quote:

“Today, online distribution is a common thing, but in the beginnings, we were trying to set the rules and see how festival echoes would work, for instance. We were wondering whether presenting films online could endanger the festival or not, whether festival visitors would come anyway or stay athome with their computers, or how the viewers would react if the film was released online before it was released in regular theatrical distribution. However, in the course of time, even those filmmakers who first refused to put their films online, such as Russian director Victor Kossakovsky and Czech director Jana Ševčíková, dispelled their fears and their films are available on our portal today. What was important for us from the very beginning was the quality of the selected films; we were never after quantity…”

Clever words – and test it yourself, browse the list of directors whose works are available: Peter Kerekes, Helena Trestikova, Miroslav Janek… to mention some of the Central European auteurs, but also Kossakovsky, Jørgen Leth, Loznitsa…



Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Mark Cousins: Dear John (Grierson)

Written 25-01-2016 16:55:09 by Tue Steen Müller

 I love Mark Cousins, his passion for film and his constant pointing at the fact that film history is so much more than American and French and British. That goes for documentary as well. Read this text of his and see his rough cut sketch of a train trip to great films – together with John Grierson…, click below. If you click on the names, you will be taken to info about:

Sight & Sound asked me to make a short film about the wrongs of the documentary canon – which, as I argue in the September 2014 issue, has been essentially Atlanticist for generations now, lacking the bridge-builders between East and West who helped stretch the fiction film canon from the 1950s onwards. When we began cutting the movie, I realised we were going to need a bigger boat, so I am now hoping to turn it into a perhaps three-hour postscript to my 15-hour The Story of Film: An Odyssey.

This postscript will not be a straight history of documentary film, taking us through the Atlantic canon. I love those films, but have decided to leap-frog that canon to get to the rarer treasures. In order to show that my film isn’t a history of documentary, I’m calling it Dear John Grierson, and am imagining that I’m travelling the world on a train with Grierson, one of the founding fathers of the idea of documentary, to see the great films that we don’t, and should, know.

The result, I hope, will be a micro-budget Snowpiercer, in which, as we look out the window, we see masterpieces by people with names like Peleshian, Honkasalo, Tsuchimoto, Kaul, Kötting, Leduc, Perlov, Łoziński… Names that are not household, but perhaps could be, if we loved movies more.

Photo of the cover of the BFI issue with the documentary canon that Cousins thinks is too narrow. Right he is!

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

ARTE Europe – a New Initiative

Written 24-01-2016 23:23:20 by Tue Steen Müller

… that you can only welcome because it brings – for free – some arte programmes, including documentaries, to you with English subtitles (or Spanish), not to all regions but to many. Not bad at all even if you have to live with the fact that many of the programmes are subtitled but also synchronized in German or French. If you want to avoid that irritation, find some documentaries which by origin are German and French so you get the original with the English subtitles – or Spanish. Here is a description of ARTE Europe from the site of ARTE:

“ARTE Europe is a project that ARTE is running with financial support from the European Union. It involves broadcasting a selection of ARTE programmes, with English and Spanish subtitles – as well as the channel’s legacy languages (French and German) – on the Internet.This selection will be available free of charge throughout Europe and, whenever possible, the world. It will comprise 600 hours of programmes in total, which will gradually become available from November 2015 to November 2016. ARTE in English and ARTE en español feature the channel’s flagship magazine shows, including ARTE Reportage and Tracks, with new shows going online each week. Documentaries, reports, and live recordings of performances also enhance the online offering. These different programmes showcase ARTE’s cultural and European identity, and the quality of its content. As linguistic diversity is part of Europe’s cultural richness, this ARTE Europe initiative is aimed at bringing Europe’s citizens a larger choice of high-quality TV programmes. ARTE Europe is an experiment in international broadcasting that bringscontent packed with cultural value to the continent.

ARTE is rebroadcast beyond France and Germany on many satellite and cable networks in Europe and worldwide. In total, over 165 million households can watch ARTE in Europe.

A large portion (56%) of the channel’s programmes is also available in Europe and around the world (depending on distribution rights) on the ARTE+7 catch-up platform.

ARTE programmes with English and Spanish subtitles are also available on a number of other media, inter alia including the ARTE application for connected television sets.”

Photo from available “Killing Time” that won award at Cinema du Réel in 2015, according to Hollywood Reporter “an observant and formally arresting non-fiction feature from Belgian director Lydie Wisshaupt-Claudel.


Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Iikka Vehkalahti: A Good Documentary is

Written 23-01-2016 13:25:44 by Tue Steen Müller

Thanks to our own archive at I am able to bring forward clever words from Iikka Vehkalahti, who – it has been announced – is to receive an award at the upcoming Hot Docs Festival in Toronto. Here they are, first time published by the IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) in 2008:

...something which on one level is very private to the individual. Something that touches my life, but which also has something very universal - universal. A great film is when the private goes through the heavy block of politics/ economics/ media and reaches the universal, is in dialogue with it. Every action a person takes reflects his/her values. There are things which are common to all of us in the world: basic values (like justice), basic emotions (like fear and joy) and experiences (like pain or falling in love) and a good documentary has this universal nature that makes it so dear to so many. Don’t try to make international films. Make films which are more near to you. The most local films are sometimes the most international, because they are universal.

In a good documentary the director and his camera see things, go deeper than just showing things or events in front of the camera. For several reasons I have really started to miss camerawork where the camera really sees. An example: very often now a director makes a documentary following the story of the protagonist in such a way, that the narrative story (will he survive the sickness? will he divorce? etc…) means that it is not so important how the whole film has been shot at all.
A good documentary needs a story, but the story can be something more than just a flat “story”, it can be associative, emotional, fact-based, philosophical. Life is richer than Hollywood describes.

And finally a good documentary will live in time: it has a timeless character. A good documentary is something that you will look at after 10 years and after 50 years its value is still higher.
The film goes deeper and deeper. There must be a moral and philosophical element too.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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