Ai Weiwei: On The Table

Written 26-01-2015 11:45:13 by Tue Steen Müller

If you happen to be in Barcelona this week, it is a must to visit the exhibition at La Virreina Image Centre, La Rambla 99. It is the last week of an exhibition that I was lucky to see in connection with a meeting on the upcoming DocsBarcelona, whose Elena Subira took me to be a perfect guide. Moreover Llucià Homs, the man behind it all and the one who met Ai Weiwei several times in Beijing explained me the exciting background to how the exhibition was put together:

Ai Weiwei asked in beforehand to get precise drawings of the rooms in the fine, old Palau (Palace). From those he arranged it all. There was no discussion where and how the photos from his New York time, from Beijing etc. should be placed on the walls, he decided, he designed the glass showcases where he put the famous vase with coca cola painted on it or other Marcel Duchamp-inspired readymades. His extraordinary fight for the victims of the earthquake in Sichuan 2008, the official letters to the families of the children are placed on the walls in a separate room, his own constant clashes with the authorities, his arrests, are documented on video screens – and you find his sun flower seeds and the marble flowers on the floor…

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Scorsese & Tedeschi: The 50 Year Argument

Written 25-01-2015 16:47:44 by Tue Steen Müller

”Cinematekets egne premiere-dokumentarer – håndplukkede historier fra virkeligheden”, sådan præsenteres et fint initiativ, som også kaldes ”månedens dokumentar”, som vises i Filmhuset ved 6 forevisninger, således også januar måneds bemærkelsesværdige ”The 50 Year Argument”, der vises i sin originalversion og uden danske undertekster. Premiere den 29. Januar. En filmisk hyldest til legendariske New York Review of Books i anledning af bladets 50 års jubillæum. Martin Scorsese og David Tedeschi har løst opgaven (bestilt af bladet) med humor og respekt for det skrevne ord, men også med sans for det historiske og tematiske, med tankevækkende og undertiden gribende nedslag i tekster og personer, som vil blive stående i litteraturen og journalistikken. Man får lyst til straks at få fat i bladet og dets artikler skrevet af en række fremragende forfattere, filosoffer, videnskabsfolk og journalister.

The main character is the fine gentleman Robert Silvers, 84 years old, one of the founders, who (together with Barbara Epstein (died in 2006)) ”has guided the Review since its launch”, quote from HBO press material. He is working from morning till night seven days a week and he is the one behind the 50 year celebration event that has been filmed with several contributors reading texts from the essays, they have delivered. Boring with people reading from a speakers podium? Not at all, the texts are put in excerpts on the screen, often accompanied with archive footage and photos of the contributors, beautiful b/w works, and for instance archive footage with James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, Noman Mailer, Gore

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Bories and Chagnard: Rules of the Game

Written 24-01-2015 13:16:42 by Tue Steen Müller

Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, directors of the Magnificent7 Festival in Belgrade present ”Rules of the Game” that will be screened February 5th as the closing film of the festival. The text also includes words from the director:

There’s a rumour that the employment market is looking for bold individualists. Within limits, of course. The reality is: if it doesn’t fit, it’s made to fit – or rejected.

The unique pains of finding a job are almost universally relatable. In order to succeed, you must present a certain marketable version of yourself, place yourself in unnatural situations and, above all, play by the rules. It’s even harder when you have neither experience nor qualifications to your name. Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard’s observational documentary takes on this very subject, focusing on a small group of disenfranchised young adults as they attend an employment consultancy firm in northern France. Through a series of vignettes we are effectively positioned to empathise with their frustrations, failures and successes over a number of months as they are coached through various stages of the employment process. Through their apprenticeship, the film reveals the absurdity of these new rules of the game.

This exquisite film done by true masters had a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and won one the most prestigious documentary prices in Europe – The Golden Dove at DOK Leipzig. The critic of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “Bories and Chagnard have produced a piece that is urgent in its mission, nonjudgmental in its depiction of its subjects and entirely theatrical in its mise-en-scene and dialogue - a remarkable feat.”

Director's Word:
Claudine Bories: One could say that “Rules of the Game” represent a follow-up to “The Arrivals”. The principle is the same: to film closely, with no preconceptions, what happens to people who are confronted on daily basis with major social issues of general concern. Chapter one: asylum seekers. Chapter two: jobseekers.

Patrice Chagnard: Our wish is to tackle realities everybody talks about, everybody believes they are familiar with, while hands-on, concrete approaches are rarely offered. “How does it feel to live through this?” That’s the question we ask ourselves, whether our film is about welcoming immigrants or about coaching unemployed youth. Major social issues are always a minefield littered with stereotypes and partisan rhetoric. The job of cinema is to demine the field by showing things as they are.

France, 2014, 106 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Virpi Suutari: Garden Lovers

Written 23-01-2015 15:41:00 by Tue Steen Müller

Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, directors of the Magnificent7 Festival in Belgrade present ”Garden Lovers” that will be screened February 4th at the festival. The text also includes words from the director:

One of the most important Finnish and European documentary authors, Virpi Suutari, is passionate about two things – documentaries and gardens. In this film she leads us into the beautiful and funny world “North of Eden”.

This is a documentary love story about couples who take care of their gardens together. The film looks behind the middle-class facades with a comic twist and listens to the couples’ stories about the conflicts and joys of long relationships. The setting is their own garden, a hobby that in many cases has gotten out of hand years ago. The film’s angle on the toiling and the passionate gardening is kind and humoristic: fellow human beings build and defend their territories, but also enjoy beauty in the paradise they have built for themselves and their spouses.

In the visually handsome film an invisible bond develops between the key couples. With their own stories they listen, comment and comfort each other – while also providing viewers with a chance to engage. The garden represents a door to the everyday struggles of human life, with joy, without moralizing and underlining. The film’s gardening stories celebrate fertility, play – and love.

This is a comic documentary about the necessity of gardening.

Director's Word: The process of making “Garden Lovers” was open, cheerful and liberated – a midsummer night’s play in a sense. As a director, I was happier than ever when making this film. At the same time I was bidding farewell to my father, who taught me everything about gardening. Thus, the film also became a personal journey toward accepting the idea of letting go and meeting death. With “Garden Lovers” I want to celebrate things that are temporary but necessary to the meaning of human existence. The main characters work like crazy – as I do – for their imaginary paradises, although the fruits of their labor may vanish in a moment. We cannot cheat death, but as long as our hands are buried in soil, we at least feel alive.

Finland, 2014, 73 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Viktor Kossakovsky Online Retrospective

Written 22-01-2015 14:24:27 by Tue Steen Müller

Yes, of course it is the unique Doc Alliance that brings to us – FOR FREE – seven of Kossakovsky’s film online – UNTIL FEBRUARY 1ST. It is “the first time that they enter the virtual online world and thus also your computer screens”.

It is indeed fantastic, thanks for that. Some of us will have the pleasure to revisit his work, others will have the chance to follow a great director’s development from “Losev” (1989) to “Vivan las Antipodas” (2011), passing by wonderful “Belovs” (1992), the conceptual “Wednesday” (1997), the declaration of love with “Pavel and Lalya” (1998), “Tishe!” (2002), a from-the-window-look from his appartment in St.Petersburg and “Svyato” (2005), the director’s two year old son discovering himself in the mirror. On top of that the film by Carlos Klein, “Where the Condors Fly” (2012), follows Kossakovsky during the shooting of “Vivan las Antipodas”. The latter it has to be said is available for viewing in” the following countries: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Portugal, Great Britain, Greece, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Botswana and all Latin American countries.”

More roses to Doc Alliance – if you enter the website you will also be given competent information about each of the films. My advice for the Kossakovsky (smiling to you from a photo taken at the premiere of Vivav… in Venice) film festival you can make for yourself is to go chronologically.


Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Jorge Pelicano: Suddenly My Thoughts Halt

Written 22-01-2015 13:20:19 by Tue Steen Müller

Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, directors of the Magnificent7 Festival in Belgrade present ”Suddenly My Thoughts Halt” that will be screened February 3rd at the festival. The text also includes words from the director:

Outstanding photography takes us into the space of masked passion and suffering in which we soon discover provocative framework of the cult film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest”, while the director delicately developes enchanting atmosphere that evokes famous Mann’s novel “The Magic Mountain”.

The documentary is about a facility for mentally ill in Lisbon. The viewer accompanies the patients in their daily lives and in their preparations for a play. The director of the play lives for this purpose for some time with the patients to build up trust and to simply understand them better. But the core of the film is the people. Pelicano creates with its sensitive camera the necessary space in front of the camera so that the characters unfold naturally. The patients themselves prove that they are amazingly aware about their own situation and not desperate. Instead, they use the opportunity to speak in detail about their crazy truths. These intimate confessions are what fascinates and allows the audience to identify with the events. This is the special power of the film, that the mentally ill are not perceived as a threat but as people who can enrich us and make us laugh even about ourselves.

Guided by magnificent poetry of Ângelo de Lima this film is also a precious insight into the space where lucidity and madness live together.

Director's Word: Here I return to my desire to film the unknown and try to demystify some myths. As a child I often heard “be good or you go to the Hospital for crazy.” The truth is that no one really knows what one will find inside. And I wanted to demystify some things, to update what is madness. We went there with some fears because, for me, it was all fog. I did not know what was inside that hospital. As time passed the fog disappeared and there were hard things, stronger, that could be represented by a storm. So there is a lot of rain during the film. But there are also moments of sun shining. As we advanced in our work, we gained the trust of our characters and the characters were gaining our trust to the extent that we became close and ended up being friends. This gained confidence was extremely important because that's what allowed us to look a little bit more into the mind of those people.

Portugal, 2014, 98 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Camilla Nielsson: Democrats

Written 21-01-2015 00:20:15 by Tue Steen Müller

Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, directors of the Magnificent7 Festival in Belgrade present ”Democrats” that will be screened February 2nd at the festival. The text also includes words from the director:

One of the best Danish documentaries in past several years inspired by some legendary documentary masters like Richard Leacock, who started new era in documentary filmmaking entering with his camera in strictly closed official spaces. And Camilla Nielsson does the same, but in a foreign country, without the knowledge of the native language and under the constant threat of possible violence.

Over the course of more than three years director Camilla Nielsson has been up close in the inner circles of politics in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. With the process of creating Zimbabwe's new constitution as the film's narrative backbone, “Democrats” tells the story of a political elite fighting a battle over the founding principles defining the country's possible future. Two political opponents are appointed to write the new constitution, and Camilla Nielsson has gained unique access to the thrilling political game being played between the two parties.

The film unfolds in ways that neither the director nor her main subjects could have foreseen. From unbelievably close range Camilla Nielsson develops her discrete and precise observing, transforming the political story into exciting and emotional anthropological study of main characters. Surprisingly she was immediately becoming invisible part of all events and cautiously revealing hidden conflicts that merge into thrilling drama, but finally into a fantastic film twist with catharsis. A brilliant example of how documentary can make complex processes comprehensible in a way that a thousand expert’s reports can not.

Director's Word: The biggest challenge in making this film was filming a politically sensitive story in a country with a long history of both censorship and banning of foreign media. Also, being a country with no tradition for observational documentary filmmaking, roaming around in Zimbabwe as a white documentary-film crew, we caused quiet a circus at times, and our safety was often at risk. I think in my own case it has often been an advantage to be a woman, especially in some of the difficult places I have made my films. I think a male director would have had much more resistance in terms of access.

Denmark, 2014, 109 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Álex de la Iglesia: Messi

Written 20-01-2015 00:29:15 by Tue Steen Müller

Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, directors of the Magnificent7 Festival in Belgrade present ”Messi” that will be screened February 1st at the festival. The text also includes words from the director:

When one of the most important Spanish directors, Alex de la Iglesia was asked to make a documentary about world famous footballer Lionel Messi, he decided not to make the film about the sport but to look for the mistery behind it, for what he calls the “rosebud” moment. De la Iglesia was fascinated by the way that Messi polarises opinion in spite of his astonishing ability. “Half of the world loves Messi. The other half hates Messi. There is not something in the middle.” If he searched hard enough, De la Iglesia was certain, he could discover just why Messi had pushed himself to become one of the greatest footballers of his age. When he was making the film De la Iglesia was thinking all the time about the legendary Orson Welles' “Citizen Kane”, about the boy with the sledge who grows up to become the all-powerful media magnate.

Thus he created extremely dynamic and fascinating docufiction puzzle consisting of the dinner scene with some of the iconic football figures and Messi’s closest friends and people from his youth and childhood, archive materials and specially directed fiction scenes based on true events. The idea of the dinner came to him from Woody Allen's film “Broadway Danny Rose” in which a group of old-time comedians reminisce about a person called Danny Rose – and he comes alive in their anecdotes.

The film was premiered at the Venice Festival as one of the best made documentaries in the past year – charismatic participants, excellent directing, camera and sound. Masterly edited!

Director's Word: What I've done is made a film that shows a story, but I also wanted to make a film that explains why Messi is the way he is. Why is he so shy? So reserved? What happened to him in childhood to make him that way? He is one of the most celebrated people in world, along with Cristiano Ronaldo, with some of the greatest opportunities to open himself up to the world. And yet he shuts himself off in his town with his family. This is a film in which we wanted to mark the life and biography of a personality. It's made for people to enjoy, along with Messi, and for people who care about him as a personality.

Spain, 2014, 97 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Orlando von Einsiedel: Virunga

Written 19-01-2015 09:53:16 by Tue Steen Müller

Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, directors of the Magnificent7 Festival in Belgrade presents the Oscar-nominated ”Virunga” that will be screened January 31 at the festival. The text also includes words from the director:

Depicting the best and the worst in human nature, Orlando von Einsiedel’s devastating documentary “Virunga” wrenches a startlingly lucid narrative from a sickening web of bribery, corruption and violence.

The setting is the magnificent — and protected — Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to many of the world’s last mountain gorillas and the region’s best hope for economic stability. In a country already weakened by a tumultuously bloody history, that hope became even more fragile with the 2010 discovery of oil beneath Lake Edward and the arrival of a British petroleum company, SOCO International. As multiple forces collided for control of the park — including a powerful rebel group seeking a percentage of oil profits — Orlando von Einsiedel and his crew members found themselves caught in a literal war between conservation and exploitation.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Controversial Catalan Documentary Raises Debate

Written 18-01-2015 18:01:21 by Tue Steen Müller

This morning Joan Gonzalez, director of DocsBarcelona, sent me this message from his iPhone conveying hope for what documentaries can do in Catalonia:

“Last 24 hours has been very explosive in doc terms. Yesterday the documentary “Ciutat Morta” (corruption, police, Barcelona) (shown at DocsBarcelona 2014) was at the center of debate in the networks. Yesterday it was broadcast on channel 33 (the second channel of TV3, Catalan public television). Today the network is full of comments after a result in audience of 19% = 569.000 viewers to become program number1 in all channels in Catalonia. Very, very historical if you remember that Channel 33 has an average of 4% of audience.”

Here is what I wrote in May 2014: “Ciutat Morta” by Xavier Artigas and Xapo Ortega has changed my view on Barcelona as this nice and friendly city full of beauty and football... The film is a shocking cinematic documentation on police brutality and corruption, young people being tortured and put in jail for no reason – and a moving interpretation of the tragedy of a young poet. Here is the synopsis from the catalogue:

”June 2013, 800 people illegally occupy an old movie theater in Barcelona in order to screen a documentary. They rename the old building after a girl who committed suicide in 2011: Cinema Patricia Heras. Who was that girl? Why did she kill herself and what does the city have to do with it? That's exactly what the squatting action is about: letting everyone know the truth about one of the worse corruption cases in Barcelona, the dead city.”

Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Oeke Hoogendijk: The New Rijksmuseum – The Film

Written 18-01-2015 12:20:54 by Tue Steen Müller

Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, directors of the Magnificent7 Festival in Belgrade presents ”The New Rijksmuseum” that will be screened January 30 as the opening film of the festival. The text also includes words from the director:

In 2003, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the most important museum in all of the Netherlands, closed for a major renovation. The plan was to reopen in 2008, but what was to take five years took 10, with a budget that just kept on growing. Filmmaker Oeke Hoogendijk was able to follow this exciting, difficult and sometimes painfully funny process with the camera from behind closed museum doors. In beautiful images supported by powerful music, she captured the building as it was stripped to a bleak carcass, and as it gradually retrieved the old grandeur of yesteryear.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Werner Herzog: Dicta

Written 18-01-2015 10:12:57 by Allan Berg Nielsen

Mens jeg fortumlet tænker videre over alt det, som skete i mig ved at lytte til de to dages samtale mellem Joshua Oppenheimer og Werner Herzog på Den danske Filmskole for en uge siden, hjælper kollega Tue Steen Müller mig ved at hitte dette blogindlæg fra frem. Det kan for mig lige nu fungere som en slags huskeliste (for Herzog vendte ofte tilbage til et eller andet dictum, som han kalder disse sætninger) og dermed mulighed for videre overvejelse for en vigtig del af Herzogs bidrag disse dage. Resten står så tilbage som opgave. Og dertil kommer selvfølgelig især at få orden i tankerne om det, Joshua Oppenheimer sagde. Men altså indtil videre denne blogpost af Jason Kottke (14.januar 2015):

”Paul Cronin's book of conversations with filmmaker Werner Herzog called ”Werner Herzog - A Guide for the Perplexed”(2014). On the back cover of the book, Herzog offers a list of advice for filmmakers that doubles as general purpose life advice.

1. Always take the initiative.

2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.

3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.

4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.

5. Learn to live with your mistakes.

6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.

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

Magnificent7 Festival Belgrade 2015

Written 17-01-2015 16:29:04 by Tue Steen Müller

The 11th edition of the Magnificent7 Festival for European feature length documentaries takes off January 30 and continues until February 5. As in previous years filmkommentaren publishes the introduction to the 7 films written by Svetlana and Zoran Popovic. That will start tomorrow. Here follows my introduction to the programme – as member of the selection group together with the Popovic couple:

Can we live without art? Of course not, we do hope that Magnificent7 2015 proves the value of watching film art that gives us something to think about, experiences, joy, maybe sorrow or anger, maybe make us act for change, feel love... the same as wanted Rembrandt and Vermeer and Hals in their time. The three and all the other great artists have for more than a decade been waiting to get a new home as we can see in “The New Rijksmuseum” by Oeke Hoogendijk, a brilliant interpretation of the meeting between art professionals and citizens of Amsterdam, including politicians.

“Messi”... is it good, can we get it? A film about the Argentinian, whose artistic football performances the world has enjoyed. The answer to both questions were affirmative and after a check of an eventual audience interest, the film by Álex de la Iglesia was included in the programme. We hope to see parents take their teenage kids to see their idol on the big screen. A new festival audience!

Another innovation in this year programme is “Virunga” by English Orlando von Einsiedel (executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio!), an activist film that in a powerful language and with brave people on screen makes the appeal to protect the Congolese Virunga National Park.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Oscar Nominations for Documentaries

Written 15-01-2015 17:56:33 by Tue Steen Müller

... and for the rest of course, but  let’s focus on the nominees in the documentary feauture, the first mentioned is/are directors, the names that follow are producers: The favourite unique document ”Citizen Four” (photo) (Laura Poitras (dir.), Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky), the nice and charming ”Finding Vivian Maier” (John Maloof and Charlie Siskel), the beautiful cinematic ”The Salt of the Earth” (Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier), the powerful activist ”Virunga” (Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara) and one I have not seen, ”Last Days in Vietnam” (Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester). The audience in Belgrade will have the chance to watch ”Virunga” during the Magnificent7 festival that starts in two weeks.

This came out today, discussions will follow, they already are, especially because the film by Steve James on late film critic Rogert Ebert, ”Life Itself” was not nominated. ”Citizen Four” Laura Poitras – according to Variety – said: “Steve James should have been on this list”. “I’m in shock” .“When his name wasn’t up there, I thought, ‘how is that possible?’ He’s a legend in our field with an incredible body of work. I assumed his film would be nominated, so it’s a bit of a heartbreak.”

For the short documentary nomination – I have only seen one – ”Joanna” by Aneta Kopacz. In October 2013 I wrote this: I watched the film - if you can put it like that - with pleasure and emotionally touched, to say the least, well what else can I say but BEAUTIFUL. As a film and as a hymn to Life and Love, whatever might happen... I cross my fingers for this film February 22nd.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Documentaries in Trieste

Written 15-01-2015 11:16:34 by Tue Steen Müller

Trieste – the city of Claudio Magris – still miss a creative documentary on this magnificent author – hosts a fine festival that starts tomorrow January 16th and runs until January 22nd. The documentary programme has quality and is also daring taking off with Romanian ”The Second Game”, a full football game. Here is the description given by the director C. Porumboiu: “This film is a football match, a derby between two Bucharest teams, Steaua and Dinamo, which took place on the 3rd of December, 1988. My father was the referee. We re-watched the match together, some 25 years later.” Writing history in an original way!

This is one of the 12 documentaries in competition. Others are Croatian Tiha K. Gudac's "Naked Island", "Euromaidan. Rough Cuts" by the team behind the DocuDays festival in Kiev, "Velvet Terrorists" by Slovak trio Ostrochovsky, Pekarcik and Kerekes, Hanna Polak's "Something Better to Come" and Alina Rudnitskaya's "Victory Day".

All fine films with an international appeal. On top of that there is a rough cut session for documentaries and a pitching event for new projects. It's all very professional and competent. Take a look at

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Chile Doc on DocAlliance

Written 13-01-2015 16:36:49 by Tue Steen Müller

For those of us travelling to festivals like DOKLeipzig and idfa it has been obvious that something good is happening with documentaries in Chile. Good fims are made and delegations arrive to the festivals to launch films through the ChileDoc, whose executive director Flor Rubina is interviewed for the site of DocAlliance. She says that ”information is ”power”, we an amplify it”. Later on in the fine interview, she says that ”Something that we have definitely improved in the last decade is the cinematography of the films. Visual approach, sound design, and the search for new languages to tell stories are very important to our filmmakers. As I mentioned before, diversity and eclecticism are characteristic of current Chilean documentary production. As any filmmaker, Chilean directors are looking for ways to reach global audiences through small stories that connect them with issues that any human being cares about…”

BUT check it out for yourself on DocAlliance, eight films are free for all until January 18, including the great “The Last Station”. by Cristian Soto and Catalina Vergara.

ChiChiChi – LeLeLe!

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Hommage Documentaire à ”Charlie Hebdo”

Written 10-01-2015 15:26:39 by Tue Steen Müller

The excellent French language ”Le blog documentaire” posted today a text with the headline above. The editor C.Mal has listed (some with links to clips/trailers) films made on some of killed cartoonists (like Cabu, photo) or on the satirical cartoon genre in general. Here is his introduction text:

“Après la sidération, après la consternation et les mots qui manquent, Le Blog documentaire se raccroche aux images. Images en forme d’hommage à Charlie Hebdo. Voici quelques propositions de films sur l’hebdomadaire satirique, et sur ces dessinateurs qui nous sont si chers. Certains d’entre eux viennent d’être rediffusés sur les chaînes du service public français.”

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Big Award for Best Nordic Documentary

Written 10-01-2015 11:04:36 by Tue Steen Müller

From the website of Göteborg Film Festival (January 23 – February 2): French sadomasochism, Canadian social workers and an American free zone for convicted pedophiles are all found in the eight films nominated for the Dragon Award Best Nordic Documentary 2015. The prize sum of 100,000 SEK makes this one of the Nordic countries’ largest festival award for a documentary film…

I am curious to watch Swedish Magnus Gertten’s “Every face has a Name”, a follow-up to the excellent “Harbour of Hope”. The director is “tracking down several of the people who appear in the pictures” taken in 1945, when prisoners of war and holocaust survivors arrived in Malmö, “asking them to tell their story”.

To be mentioned is also the Swedish/Danish “Pervert Park” by Frida and Lasse Barkfors, a strong and touching documentary shot in Florida Justice Transitions, “a trailer park that serves as a free zone for” convicted sex offenders.

Among the eight nominated are also Camilla Nielsson’s “Democrats” from Zimbabwe and Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Look of Silence”, no further introduction needed – and as on many other festival occasions Oppenheimer will hold a Master Class during the festival.

The photo is a still collage of the nominated films made by the festival.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

East Beats West

Written 09-01-2015 08:22:44 by Tue Steen Müller

I know it looks stupid and tabloid, but I have been using that headline so many times and I do believe that there is a lot of documentary talent and originality to be found in the Eastern European countries. More than in the West where many filmmakers play according to television format requirements. And there is an interest in getting together as the news from IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) in Prague demonstrates:

… We are happy to announce the final selection of projects picked for the upcoming 15th edition of East European Forum, held in Prague within the fourth East Doc Platform. The board of experts went through more than 200 applicants and eventually picked 10 projects. These will be joined by 12 more projects that took part in 2014  Ex Oriente Film workshop. Together all the filmmakers will take part in a five-day-long preparatory workshop and get ready for their public presentations. After the weekend of public project pitching they will all eventually get to the round tables as well as individual meetings, where they will face the industry professionals (TV, funds, festivals and distribution and production companies representatives) from the whole Europe and North America and negotiate support for their documentaries…

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

News from Paris: René Vautier 1928-2015

Written 07-01-2015 18:31:47 by Sara Thelle

Grand old man and enfant terrible of French militant cinema René Vautier died Sunday January 4th in his home in Cancale, Brittany, at the age of 86. Originally from Brittany, René Vautier fought the Germans as a very young member of the French Resistance during the Second World War, at 16 he was decorated with the Croix de Guerre and honoured by de Gaulle. After the war he wanted to pursue the combat but not with arms and his friends then encourage him to take up a new weapon: the camera. His battle was to last a life long.

Vautier graduated in 1948 from the film school IDHEC in Paris. In 1949 he gets a command to make a film for the Ligue de l’enseignement about the benefits of the French educational mission in the West African colonies. The result, Afrique 50, became, on the contrary, a violent critique of the French colonial system. Vautier’s first film was also the first anticolonial film ever to be made in France and the reaction was violent in return: Vautier was faced with 13 charges and sentenced to one year of prison!

The film has an incredible story. To escape the limitations of the 1934 decree of the Minister of the Colonies Pierre Laval (forbidding any filming in the colonies without the presence of a an administration official) Vautier went on to film in secret. He almost got his film rolls confiscated for destruction in Africa but managed to get his work back to France where he finally had to illegally retrieve the reels kept under seizure by the board of censors (he got 17 of 50 reels). The film was finished in secret and stayed censured in France for over 40 years though it was awarded as one of the best documentaries of the year at the World Festival of Youth and Students in Warsaw in 1955 (with Joris Ivens as president of the jury). In 1996, a copy of the film was finally handed over to Vautier by the Foreign Ministry during the first official screening in France and only in 2003 the film was broadcasted on French television. The Cinémathèque française has recently made new copies of the film as part of their effort to safeguard the entire oeuvre of René Vautier initiated in 2007.

Afrique 50 is a short powerful outburst, a rhythmic pamphlet, swiftly edited with an attacking voice-over. Playing with the genre of educational state propaganda documentary but turning it against the government, the film pinpoints, with humour and great seriousness, the link between capitalism and racism. Film historian Nicole Brenez, specialist of avant-garde cinema at la Cinémathèque française, has called it the greatest film in the history of cinema. Go see it, it’s on YouTube!

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

Miroslav Janek’s ”Olga” on DocAlliance

Written 06-01-2015 22:53:31 by Tue Steen Müller

DocAlliance starts its new year with a present to its (hopefully) many viewers:

Olga” by Miroslav Janek is available for free viewing until January 11.

It is a film that was on my Best of 2014 – here is a quote from the review:

Many words are taken from her memoirs and Janek found a woman, who knew Olga, and had the kind of voice she had to read pages about her upbringing in communist Czechoslovakia. Editor Tonicka Jankova and director Miroslav Janek have done a great work to make this archive film fresh to watch. The montage is brilliant. Janek has said that he – in ”Citizen Havel” – could feel ”her persona”. Director and editor has succeeded to offer the audience the same. You never get really close to Olga, she wanted to keep her integrity and dignity, the filmmakers respect that dignity, her unsentimentality and humour – it is a film full of admiration for the protagonist, playful, informative, what more could you ask for...?

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Pasolini in Rome in Berlin

Written 06-01-2015 22:43:03 by Tue Steen Müller

On the way to the Zelig film school in Bolzano a stop was made in Berlin for some days. Apart from enjoying oysters in KaDeWee or la Fayette the city’s many good restaurants often have Kalbsleber in its classic version on the menu. And with Berlin with January weather you find it right to go to exhibitions. Three were visited, the RAF (Rote Armée Fraktion) in Deutsches Historisches Museum (until March 3), the West:Berlin in Ephrahim Palast and Pier Paolo Pasolini in Martin Gropius-Bau. As exhibitions the level of quality were in the same order.

The RAF was very interesting with lots of visuals (clips from the enormous amount of Dokumentation that has been made from the demonstrations, the fights in the streets, the story chronologically presented – but the elements had been given far too little space, it felt packed and klaustrophobic. So what do you do – you buy the catalogue! The approach of the exhibition organisers, a quote from the website can illustrate that: ...In the 1970s the attacks took place primarily in southwest Germany. The Red Army Faction set their sights above all on the office of the Federal Prosecutor in Karlsruhe and the headquarters of the US Army in Heidelberg. The state reacted to the assassinations with the most extensive search and surveillance actions since the end of the Second World War. The escalation during the “German Autumn” of 1977 spread fear and a feeling of powerlessness among the people. Many citizens called for the death penalty for the terrorists... Sorry for not being more accurate but I could not see the exhibition for other visitors blocking the view!

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Online is Great/Don't Forget the Quality DVD

Written 02-01-2015 22:54:27 by Tue Steen Müller

First text of 2015. Happy New Year to all our readers! I sit in the armchair of my room, the place to be when football is to be watched on the small tv screen, or documentaries on the computer via links sent to me or books or magazines to be read. Including the DOX Magazine that we have advocated for to stay in (at least once per year) a printed version. Let it happen in 2015.

Books are on the wall to the left, dvd’s are on the wall that separates my room to the one of my wife. It’s been like that for years, the bookcase is full of dvd films. There used to be a lack of space at the time of vhs, but I threw them all out, except for some crown jewels that I knew would never be available on dvd.

And now I very seldom receive dvd’s. It is much easier to send vimeo links of new films and with the great idfa docs for sale, the east silver library, the new DOKLeipzig online initiative, the formidable DocAlliance, the festival scope, the Filmkontakt Nord online catalogue – I can easily do my job as festival consultant and selector, and reviewer on, combined with visits to some big cinema screens, when I am present at festivals or go to press screenings in Copenhagen.

So from a practical point of view a fine development – you can get what you want to see quickly and the quality is ok, yet of course it can not compete with the big screen. Back to the dvd’s. A couple of days I received a gift from Lithuanian Giedrė Beinoriūtė, who had managed to have her “Conversations on Serious Topics” published in a fine dvd with the film itself, chaptered so you can choose what you want to see, extras with material (conversations with kids) that did not make it to the final film, “from the shootings”, all very nicely put together in a box that I am happy to have in a room where there are also books and dvd boxes – one with films by Chris Marker, the fine series with films by Jørgen Leth, one with Jon Bang Carlsen films (there should be more), Marcel Lozinski, Kieslowski, Johan van der Keuken… Yes, more dvd boxes please in 2015, more quality presentations of finished films that should stay as  - let’s be a bit French – oeuvres in film history. For documentaries there will definitely be a need for financial to make this digitization happen. An obligation for the film institutes and maybe a project for the Creative Europe of the EU? 

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Danish Documentaries 2014

Written 29-12-2014 12:44:22 by Tue Steen Müller

It was almost ”business as usual”, when the DFI (Danish Film Institute) proudly could announce that 15 Danish documentaries were selected to be screened at IDFA, for most documentarians the festival for films that have been categorized to be a ”documentary”, today the name is a quality mark for a genre that is in constant development enlarging its own narrative potential at the same time (”hybrid” is a buzz word) as the classical observational documentary is very much still alive and doing well. IDFA likes Danish documentaries, as does the cph:dox, of course…

I had 3 Danish documentaries on my ”2014 – Best of…” – Joshua Oppenheimer’s ”The look of Silence”, Anders Østergaard and Erzsebet Racz ”1989” and Camilla Nielsson’s ”Democrats”, all of them films that deal with themes that are not Danish. All three have managed to get international financing for films that travel the world to festivals, win awards and – sorry for the cliché – make a difference. ”The Look of Silence” and ”Act of Killing” are being shown in Indonesia and have broken the public silence about the atrocities. ”1989” puts new light on the year, 25 years ago, where the world changed totally. ”Democrats” brings hope that something will change in Zimbabwe…

The two first films have been to Danish cinemas – superb reviews but no success at all (1368 and 1559 tickets sold). Let us not forget that the golden days of Danish documentaries do not include that they make an audience go to the cinema. The films are watched at festivals world wide and on television world wide. And online via vod's.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Michael Haneke

Written 28-12-2014 12:02:15 by Tue Steen Müller

Back to film blogging after holidays. Michael Haneke is the right one for a comeback. In the Paris Review winter 2014 issue there is a small excerpt from an interview with the director – if you want to read the whole interview, you can purchase the issue, 20€. Interviewer Luisa Zielinski.

I take a clip from the text from the director, who has said ” “A strict form such as mine cannot be achieved through improvisation.”:

“I’ve never seen good results from people trying to speak about things they don’t know firsthand. They will talk about Afghanistan, about children in Africa, but in the end they only know what they’ve seen on TV or read in the newspaper. And yet they pretend—even to themselves—that they know what they’re saying. But that’s bullshit. I’m quite convinced that I don’t know anything except for what is going on around me, what I can see and perceive every day, and what I have experienced in my life so far. These are the only things I can rely on. Anything else is merely the pretense of knowledge with no depth. Of course, I don’t just write about things precisely as they have happened to me—some have and some haven’t. But at least I try to invent stories with which I can personally identify…”. Food for thought.

Photo by Polfoto – Haneke received the Danish Sonning Prize 2014.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

2014 - Best Documentaries Intro

Written 21-12-2014 12:14:13 by Tue Steen Müller

Here we go again. A year has passed. I have seen films at festivals and in cinemas around Europe and in the US. I have seen films at home via links sent to me, thanks to many for their generosity. 2014 was a great year for the creative documentary, the one where there is an artistic ambition and a personal interpretation of the world we live in. I know it is "normal" in games like this to go by 10 or 25, but when I had my list of 16 I found it impossible to cut away, so you get 16 from me, below in alphabetical order, and in most cases you can click and get to a review. Photos have been chosen from films that I have not written about - here 20,000 Days on Earth by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, UK.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

2014 - Best Documentaries

Written 21-12-2014 11:52:10 by Tue Steen Müller

Alphabetical order:

1989 by Anders Østergaard and Erzsebet Racz, Denmark/Hungary

20,000 Days on Earth by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, UK

Alentejo Alentejo by Sergio Tréfaut, Portugal

Citizen Four by Laura Poitras, Germany/US

Democrats by Camilla Nielsson, Denmark

Garden Lovers by Virpi Suutari, Finland

Judgement in Hungary by Eszter Hajdu, Hungary

Les Règles du Jeu by Claudine Bories and Patrick Chagnard, France

Mitch by Damir Cucic & Misel Skoric, Croatia

Of Men and War by Laurent Bécue-Renard, France

Olga by Miroslav Janek, Czech Republic

Pelican in the Desert by Viesturs Kairiss, Latvia

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait by Wiam Simav Bedirxan & Ossama Mohammed, Syria

Teatime by Maite Alberti, Chile (photo)

The Look of Silence by Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark

The Salt of the Earth by Wim Wenders & Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, France

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait/ 2

Written 19-12-2014 19:48:22 by Sara Thelle

Shame on me that I in my turbulence after the screening did not remember the beautiful review that Sara Thelle wrote when she had watched the film in connection with cph:dox. I repeat two paragraphs here:

... I (Sara Thelle) wish I had never seen Silvered Water. Images will haunt me for the rest of my life, scenes in my head will never go away. Horror. Hell. And yet I strongly recommend you to go see the film... First, because it is Syria, there is so little access to information about life there and, of course, we have to see what the two directors Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan want to show us. But also because this is an exceptional film, I wouldn’t hesitate to call it a masterpiece. It is poetry, in the dialogues, in the images, in the editing.

You get to understand the pain and the guilt of the exiled. Mohammed expresses his agony in a strong cinematographic language of metaphors, he is the one who has lost his freedom, his life has stopped. In the first part of the film, we see horrible scenes of torture and executions that are unbearable to watch. Raw images captured with mobile phones by the torturers, the security forces of the regime, and put out on the Internet. You can only try to imagine what pain Mohammed have inflicted on himself in working with these images, seeing them over and over again when doing the editing. And we understand that, strangely enough, the besieged Bedirxan is the one who is the most free and alive. The courageous woman, who has turned cinematographer to survive the in the midst of the civil war, becomes his eyes and his hope. The title, Silvered Water, is the signification of her Kurdish name Simav.

The original music, beautiful and devastating, is composed and performed by Mohammed’s wife, the renowned Syrian singer Noma Omran, originally from Homs...

Sara Thelle had the courage and skills to put words on what she saw.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait

Written 19-12-2014 12:14:26 by Tue Steen Müller

by Wiam Simav Bedirxan & Ossama Mohammed.

It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and has been to major festivals like Toronto, cph:dox and idfa. Two days ago it had a theatrical release in 30 cinemas in France, where the exiled Syrian director Ossama Mohammed lives. The reception in France... le Monde writes ”chef d'oeuvre”, masterpiece.

And what could I write but the same, after for months having hesitated to watch because I knew what horrifying images were waiting for me. I do not recall, when was the last time I have been so strongly affected by a film. To an extent that I find it meaningless to line up words to describe what I saw and felt. It would be reviewer clichés after clichés. I can not do so. So you get three brief comments followed by more laconic synopses:

Wiam Simav Bedirxan's filming in Syria is courageous and heroic. Ossama Mohammed has treated the unique material in an outstanding and personal way. The two have made true Cinema!

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Zdeněk Miler: Krtek

Written 17-12-2014 18:41:45 by Tue Steen Müller

I love them all, the three year old grandchild Henry said, referring to the Krtek films made by Czech Zdeněk Miler. Even if he runs around saying Ninja Turtle all the time, his best moments are those with the animation films featuring the mole and his friends. Which one do you want to see, we ask him. The answer is ”the one with the bulldozers”. A couple of days ago he saw ”Krtek ve městě” (The mole in the city) (1982, 29 mins.) 3 times. He knows every cut, he asks us grown-up’s to be totally quiet so he can listen to the sound – nobody says anything, no dialogue, but the sound score of this and other Krtek films is excellent.

Why do you like that one so much? I just do, is the answer. So why do I, grown-up documentary fanatic love it. Let me try and let me guess why he, the three year old likes it, as does his cousin Thomas, half a year younger.

It starts dramatically. The mole and his friends (the mouse and the hedgehog) lose their homes as trees are felled and bulldozers move out to plow the land to make it ready for buildings for human beings. The bureaucrats arrive wearing their high hats and hearing the crying of the three small ones, one of them decides to give them an official paper that states that whereever they come, they are to be helped. They have to leave the forest that is no longer there, they arrive in the city after succesfully passing police and military authorities due to the signed document, they get an appartment, decorated as the piece of nature they left, but in plastic, they experience the noise and pollution of the city until one day they have had enough and when they get the chance it's back to nature flying on the backs of swans...

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Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Stephen Smith & Julia Szucs: Vanishing Point

Written 16-12-2014 16:47:44 by Tue Steen Müller

Stephen Smith, one of the directors of “Vanishing Point”, wrote to me a couple of months ago. He asked if I would care to watch his film, produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Apart from a very fine recommendation by late Peter Wintonick, there had been no real attention, he wrote, even if the film – see website, link below – has been going around to mostly Canadian festivals. I got the dvd and started to watch and was immediately brought back down memory lane – Greenland and the many Danish documentaries made from there, especially by Jørgen Roos (1922-1998), who for decades returned to adventurous Greenland to film the hunting culture and the conflicts between traditional way of living and what we Danes has taken with us to Greenland. If anyone Roos has visualised inuit in Greenland. My vision of the island comes from him.

Roos would have loved “Vanishing Point” that is a very well told and beautifully filmed story, non-sensational in a calm rhythm and with a charismatic leading Navarana K'Avigak Sørensen – more Danish can a surname not be! Navarana is the one who tells the story in first person tracking her own family roots back to Qitdlarssuaq, a shaman, who in the 1860'es migrated with a small community of Inuits from Baffin Island to the North of Greenland. Navarana is the descendant, who takes the viewer by the hand to show and reflect on the Inuit culture of today up there near Uummannaq, where her family used to live until they were displaced due to the building of the American Thule base (Jørgen Roos has made a film about this Danish-American scandal).

Naduk is the daughter of Navarana or did I get that wrong... doesn't matter, Navarana goes with her family (Naduk's husband is Ole... again more Danish

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Rain of Awards in Riga

Written 15-12-2014 19:55:32 by Tue Steen Müller

There has been quite a film party going on in the Latvian capital. Not only has the city, as Cultural Capital of Europe, hosted the EFA Awards - films have been shown at the Riga International Film Festival that ran from December 2-12, masterclasses and panel debates have been going on at the new National Library and awards have been distributed, among them the National Film Prizes, which – to my great joy – includes a number of awards for documentaries. My source is Film New Europe, link below for a list of all awards:

Best full-length documentary award went to Peteris Krilovs personal ”Obliging Collaborators” (photo), a personal historical film that as a motivation point has the death of the director's father due to ”the KGB repressions, which is closely linked to the devious game Soviet Latvia's KGB played against Swedish-British-American spy agencies”. Original in narration, the films uses clay animation. To be a bit patriotic, the editor of the film is Danish Julie Vinten, with whom Krilovs also worked on the film on Klucis.

Best Documentary Film 60 minutes was Davis Simanis ”Chronicles of the Last Temple”, that has been praised on this site: ”a superb interpretation of the new and much discussed National Library of Riga, a film that shows Simanis ability to capture the grandeur of a building and its details in a super aesthetic form.”

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Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Tiazhlov & Shtyka (eds.) Ukraine_Voices

Written 10-12-2014 15:52:05 by Tue Steen Müller

A couple of months ago I wrote a text about the upcoming second edition of the Cinedoc festival in Tbilibi, Georgia. The festival included a section called Ukranian Voices with several films, also one that I had not heard about, ”Ukraine_Voices”. The day after I was informed by Dmytro Tiazhlov and Ella Shtyka, what was hidden behind the title – ”a documentary almanach”, 8 short documentaries made during the workshops organized by the Indie Lab project initiated by the two filmmakers. Tiazhlov has been reviewed on this site before for his works ”Cornered” and ”I was a Monument to Myself”. So I downloaded the film and watched. Here is the synopsis taken from the Georogian festival site:

A collection of 10 documentaries (in my download there were 8, ed.) gives a glimpse into nowadays Ukraine just before the crisis started. These short films are all directed by different filmmakers and tell us various stories, through these films we observe Ukraine from different points of view and get to the heart of what really matters to millions of young Ukrainians, we also get to know some unknown heroes and learn their stories.

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Carmen Cobos: Imperfect Harmony/ 2

Written 10-12-2014 11:45:35 by Tue Steen Müller

Got this mail from Carmen Cobos this morning referring to a screening in Aarhus, Denmark tomorrow; "IMPERFECT HARMONY - my debut film as director will be shown in your country this Thursday, maybe you care to see it" - the Doc Lounge Aarhus is the venue, FB link below and here is what I wrote about it on this site:

Louis Andriessen, charismatic Dutch composer, and Mariss Jansons, charismatic Latvian chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. The two characters in the fascinating observational documentary drama, which is very well told, interesting and entertaining.

The drama evolves as the days pass. Andriessen has composed music for the 125 year's anniversary of the Concertgebouw, and enters the building to follow the rehearsals during the last five days before the performance. The camera stays very much on the face of the composer, who appears a bit nervous and confused in the beginning. His relationship to the musicians is warm and generous, while the relationship to the conductor is on the contrary a bit complicated. At some moments, to say the least... ”school teacher”, says Andriessen having discussed details with Jansons, ”he is a pain in the...”. Some of the musicians seem to agree with Jansons and his need for pedantry – it is clear that he in his questions to the composer that this is not the kind of music he favours – others like the more open attitude to interpretation that Andriessen stands for.

It is a very generous film. You get very close to the artistic creation of a fine piece of music, you get a fine impression of how two characters of different temperament get closer to each other, two old proud professionals who have to meet each other, whether they like it ot not. You see how an orchestra works preparing down to the smallest details, asking questions to the composer. Andriessen has very interesting comments to his work, to music and to from where his inspiration comes... Happy Ending, Andriessen walks out of the building, out into windy Amsterdam mission completed.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Festival dei Popoli Firenze/ Winners

Written 08-12-2014 18:59:58 by Tue Steen Müller

Sergei Loznitsa was awarded one more time for his ”Maidan” (photo) at the festival in Firenze. The brief jury motivation goes like this: Timely in this current passage of History, the filmmaker calmly and masterfully engages in the unfolding of a people’s unrest with a conflicted system.

Click the link below and you will get an interesting interview (in English) with the director – 15 mins.

Alexander Nanau received the audience award for his ”Toto and his Sisters”. There is a clip from the film and an interview with the director – 10 mins. Click the link below.

For other awards check the website for the festival, that has ”Reality is More” as its motto. ... Is it?

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mehran Tamadon: Iranian

Written 07-12-2014 10:22:00 by Tue Steen Müller

After a long career at festivals (winning the Grand Prix at Cinéma du Réel 2014) the feature length documentary by Mehran Tamadon opened in cinemas in Paris December 3. In many cinemas in the French capital, that is still unique in its repertory of art house films. I watched the film at 11 in the morning – 40 people in the cinema…… to a film that basically is built on 105 minutes of talking between the director and the four mullahs he convinced to take part in the film after a couple of years of filming discussions with other, who ended up saying no to take part – some (according to the director) because they did not want to be seen together with ”someone like me”, others out of fear for public reactions in Iran.

”Someone like me” – the director is atheist and his ambition with the film, and inviting the mullahs to stay with him for two days, was to find out if it was possible to find a way to ”vivre ensemble”, to ”live together”. The mullahs arrive to his house outside Tehran, they eat together, some have their wives and children with them, they sit for hours discussing and drawing on paper on the floor, discussing what kind of books could be on common ground, what kind of music could be played, what kind of photos could be on the wall, the veil etc. It’s all being discussed in an atmosphere without aggression and with the mullah number two from the left on the still photo as a very efficient leader of the mullahs in terms of rethoric talent. It’s actually at times quite entertaining to watch, also when the director is instructed on how to pray and wash arms, hands and face.

At the end of the film, driving back to Tehran, the director, who lives in Paris, tells the audience that he had his passport confiscated upon arrival to Iran, because of the official knowledge of his film project. He got it back but with the message that if he came back, his passport would be taken from him, preventing him from leaving Iran. ”Vivre ensemble”?

There is a long – in French – interview with the director on Le Blog Documentaire, worth reading. Link below.

His previous film about the ”Bassidji” (Orig.) (2009 / Frankrig, Iran, Schweiz / 114 min.) is available through DocAlliance, link below.

France/Switzerland, 2014, 105 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Kristof Bilsen: Elephant’s Dream

Written 06-12-2014 12:35:39 by Tue Steen Müller

Is it wrong to characterize a film as lovely? Well, the young woman on the still photo is wonderful to be with, and she has been made lovely through the approach of a director, who dares to leave the main road, when it comes to a documentary from and about Congo. To give the viewer an insight to what some citizens, actually they are all civil servants, think about their jobs, primarily, and the future of their tormented country. It is fun to watch and warm in atmosphere, and reaches the audience brilliantly even if it raises some narrative problems that the director has chosen to bring comments and thoughts forward as voice-offs, stopping the flow sometimes. But by this choice he has made it possible to work with great tableau-like, composed images that you remember so well. Henriette on the still photo is waiting for the post system to be modernised, equally Simon from the railway station sits and waits as does his colleague from the fire brigade. Waiting for something to happen. It does for Henriette, things are moving, and she is the one, we follow to a religious meeting and to her home.

Bilsen showed his film at DOKLeipzig and at idfa this year and a premiere is now to happen in Belgium. He demonstrates an obvious talent for catching situations, create his own tone and visuals, and has a feeling for a montage, where you go from the noisy streets of Kinshasa to the quiet public service venues where something is to happen. Lovely!

Belgium, England, 2014, 72 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ivette Löcker: When it Blinds, Open Your Eyes

Written 06-12-2014 12:24:39 by Tue Steen Müller

Zhanna, Lyosha and Maria. St. Petersburg 2013. Small apartment. Full of smoke from the cigarettes of Zhanna and Lyosha. Maria is the mother of Lyosha. She provides the two junkies with food – and love. She works, they do not – and yet, Lyosha is seen at the beginning of the film helping other drug addicts. He gets out of the appartment, Zhanna does not except for the ending of the film in a wheel chair pushed by Lyosha.

It is a chamber play of great intensity. A story about despair and misery, but also an intimate interpretation of a couple, who are still alive against all odds. Zhanna is the constant talker, Lyosha is thus more silent, they delve into the past where they had a better life.

It is a film that is difficult to watch was it not for the three strong individuals, who have given the director access to their lives. She has reacted to this generosity by making a non-sentimental, compassionate portrait. As intervals she has decided to have clips from a rock concert, probably thought as a companion in text and expression to the situation of the couple in the appartment.

Austria, 2014, 75 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Covi/Frimmel:Photographer In Front of the Camera

Written 06-12-2014 12:19:50 by Tue Steen Müller

Erich Lessing, born 1923, Austrian reportage and art photographer, associated to Magnum, famous for photos from Hungary 1956 and for photos of art in museums. And probably for much more – which is not the theme of this film that primarily wants to make a portrait of an old man, a fine artist, who is still going strong, when it comes to select his photos for a book, photos for an exhibition and who has clear opinions about, what he has wanted to catch with his camera.

Those scenes where he discusses and selects and formulates are the best. ”I’’m a storyteller. In my photos there has to be a story… All pictures have a political message” – some of the sentences expressed by Lessing, who is followed by his wife and helper in his métier, a warm side motif, one can say.

It is always inspiring for documentarians to see the work of a photographic artist, who has an eye for people and situations and can talk about his work. And to meet one more fine photojournalist next to Capa and Cartier-Bresson.

Austria, 2014, 75 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Frederick Wiseman: National Gallery

Written 05-12-2014 11:42:42 by Tue Steen Müller

The other day I visited the National Gallery in London. I was there for three hours, generously being introduced to the fabulous collection by skilled art historians, who took me and others to watch and learn. We stood in front of one masterpiece after the other. I watched the reactions of my fellow visitors, the concentration they had, and some of them sat down to copy the works. I also had the chance to get behind the scene and discover how fascinating it must be to work with the restoration of paintings, the x-ray technique being used, and I met staff members who discussed budget matters for the museum, I saw how new exhibitions are being set up, I saw model painting classes by amateurs, blind people seeing pictures… all of it was arranged for me by Frederick Wiseman and his team, who again has made an inviting institution film with the right rythm, indicating the conflicts there are at a place like that – policy towards the audience, how populistic do you have to be etc. – but first of all this time with a focus on the art. It is simply wonderful to be there…

And then you can, as I did here in Paris, where ”National Gallery” is running in several cinemas, inspired go and watch Mike Leigh’s new film ”Mr. Turner”. Brilliant as well.

USA, France, 2014, 180 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona Starts Documentary Film School

Written 05-12-2014 10:58:13 by Tue Steen Müller

Normally, there is no reason to bring a photo of two men signing a contract but in this case I want to honour my dear friend and colleague Joan Gonzalez (right) for making one more of his many dreams come through - here is the press release that came out:

DocsBarcelona creates DocsBarcelona Documentary School to strengthen international documentary training. To accomplish this project DocsBarcelona has associated with the School of Communication and International Relations of Blanquerna University.

The agreement has been signed between Dr. Josep M. Carbonell, chairman of School of Communication and International Relations of Blanquerna University and Joan González, DocsBarcelona director.

DocsBarcelona Documentary School will offer a wide training program in the documentary field. The program, that will start its activity in 2014-2015, will include an International Master of Direction and Executive Production of Documentaries, Postgraduate studies of Interactive Documentary and a Summer School of Documentary, among other training activities.

DocsBarcelona Documentary School has the aim to become a referent in the field of international documentary training during next years.

DocsBarcelona has more than 18 years of experience in the training field in Spain, Europe and Latin America. Designing, coordinating and giving courses in universities, film schools, markets, festivals and televisions.

More information:

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Festival dei Popoli Firenze

Written 03-12-2014 00:35:01 by Tue Steen Müller

The 55th edition of the Firenze based documentary Festival dei Popoli is running now – until December 5. A rich programme and it’s all very professionally presented on the website. And I liked the welcoming words of the festival director, so I made a copy-paste – his name is Alberto Lastrucci, who brings a modest, unpretentious text:

Humankind needs stories. It needs them to learn as well as recognize itself. To acquire information, nourish its inexhaustible curiosity, and respond to its innate instinct to share, to participate, and to hand down experiences, opinions, and fantasies to others. And, is there a better generator of stories than Reality?

Reality produces situations, incidents, and events with an incredible fecundity: it is a tight web of lives, thoughts, actions, and passions. ‘Film-makers of the real’ are deeply aware of this because they are its keenest observers. They explore it, they scan it, they investigate it, and then pick those thin threads that will wind into a story. The vicissitudes of certain individuals at a given time and in a faraway place take shape and become a narrative: a new story to tell. Thus, that event takes off and starts a journey to go and strike the imagination, fantasy, and heart of thousands of people. It becomes universal.

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Kosmorama: Body Language in the Moving Image

Written 02-12-2014 11:29:52 by Tue Steen Müller

Denmark’s oldest film journal Kosmorama (first issue in 1954) presents a slate of articles (online and in English as well) that could interest the true film buffs among our readers. The articles are written by film historians and academics. The titles are ”Body Language and Media Context” (Lennard Højbjerg), ”Figures in Landscapes” (Casper Tybjerg), ”Expression Suppression” (Henry Bacon), ”Making Love Detumescently” (Mariah Larsson) and ”Movie Stars in the Flesh” (Helle Kannik Haastrup). The information about this December issue of Kosmorama I received this morning, so no time yet to read, only to browse. It is all very appealing, with good illustrations and clips from films.

The link below also refers to other articles at Kosmorama, in Danish or English.

And the photo, well you know the man in the middle: ”Occupations” by von Trier – to be found on the internet.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Essays

Sergey Loznitsa Retrospective Online

Written 01-12-2014 11:47:24 by Tue Steen Müller

Got this press release from Andrea Pruchová from DocAlliance this morning – concerning an early super-generous xmas gift to all of us documentary fans:

His films tend to attract general attention. While festival juries churn out awards, as seen in Cannes, Karlovy Vary and at Jihlava IDFF, viewers are charmed by the quiet pace of his poetic images he has recently employed to capture the revolutionary events at the MAIDAN square in Kiev. Sergei Loznitsa, director of the remarkable feature films My Joy and In the Fog, now receives another honour for the first time; the launch of his online world film retrospective. Ten documentaries by Sergei Loznitsa, including his yet unpublished film master class, are available from December 1 to 14 at the portal for free.

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Idfa – Innovative Jury Method?

Written 29-11-2014 17:09:52 by Tue Steen Müller

How should a jury work? Is there a recipe? No, of course not. Should a jury talk after each screening or… how to remember the films you have seen?

The idfa jury 2014 for First-Appearance competititon did like this, an idea to copy? Read about it:

On the first day we were clear about one matter: not to talk about the films right after we had seen them. We all needed to digest the films properly and not too quickly.
So, after the last film on our schedule, we came together to finally discuss the films. One of our jury members, came up with the great idea to take a pair of scissors and cut the 15 films out of the catalogue... only the image, the title of the film and the director. When we placed the colorful cutouts on the table, it looked like a game of Memory... you know the cards you have to turn around and remember the images...Well that's what we finally did... trying hard to remember all these 15 wonderful films... after 3 hours of playing, certainly not cheating... we sincerely hope that we we have turned the right ones around:

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

idfa Winners 2014

Written 29-11-2014 09:07:26 by Tue Steen Müller

Here is the full press release from idfa - it came in late last night:

The winners have just been announced in IDFA’s various competition programs in the Compagnietheater in Amsterdam at the awards ceremony of the 27th IDFA. Of Men and War by Laurent Bécue-Renard won the VPRO IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary. Naziha’s Spring by Gülsah Dogan won the BankGiro Loterij IDFA Audience Award.

The film Giovanni and the Water Ballet by Astrid Bussink was chosen by a jury of children as the best Dutch youth documentary of the past year.

Laurent Bécue-Renard won the VPRO IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary (€ 12,500) for Of Men and War (France / Switzerland). The film is about a group of American Iraq veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Director Bécue-Renard follows the group for many years during therapy sessions in a clinic for veterans.

From the jury report: The Jury recognizes a film that confronts us with our fragility as human beings, revealing that we must treat each other with gentleness and love. In a way that is never intrusive, the camera participates in therapy sessions for traumatized veterans. (…) A more powerful anti-war film is hard to imagine.

In addition, the jury presented the Special Jury Award to Something Better to Come (Denmark / Poland) by Hanna Polak, who for fourteen years followed

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nadine Sahib: Mother of the Unborn

Written 27-11-2014 12:31:26 by Tue Steen Müller

I met her in Damascus during the DoxBox festival and later again in Cairo for a workshop, so I know how hard Nadine Sahib has been working to complete her film, that now (bravo!) is at idfa, in the First Appearance Competition. I am not there but will watch the film on the brilliant Docs for Sale Online.

Melanie Goodfellow made an interview for the idfa daily – I have picked some quotes, please go and read it all, link below:

… the film explores prejudices towards infertile women in Upper Egypt through the plight of Hanan, a childless woman living in an impoverished village in the region. “I was intrigued by the Egyptian ancient tradition of naming infertile women ‘Mother of the Unborn’, or ‘Um Ghayeb’ in Arabic," explains director Nadine Salib on the origin of the documentary. 

“I'd heard this term used a lot in Upper Egypt and decided to investigate the issue. These women are often stigmatised, even sometimes accused of bringing bad luck.” “I wanted to make a film about the Mother of the Unborn, but I didn't exactly know what it would be about. Deep in me, I wanted to meditate on why it was so important for the women in the region to have a baby and why the women in the region were so keen to carry on living in such a harsh environment.”

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cinema Vérité Festival Tehran

Written 26-11-2014 14:13:04 by Tue Steen Müller

From November 30th till December 7th the DEFC (Documentary & Experimental Film Center) organizes the 8th edition of Cinema Vérité Iran International Documentary Film Festival.

There have previously been appeals for boycott of this festival, that of course is supported by the government, several have asked me whether they should let their film go there or not, my answer is yes, ”take a look at the programme of the festival” and I have listened to what EDN’s film consultant Ove Rishøj Jensen has said, he has been there and knows the people behind the festival.

And this year he and EDN (taken from EDN website) ”… are in collaboration organising the first edition of Cinema Verite DocPro. It is a three-day seminar focusing on the international documentary market. Taking place in the framework of the 8th Cinema Verite documentary film festival, Cinema Verite DocPro will offer Iranian filmmakers three days of seminar sessions, focusing on a variety of aspects connected to working with international documentary projects. Among the topics covered during the seminar are pitching of documentary projects, international financing possibilities, how to construct documentary narratives and project consultations…” The workshop runs December 4-6.

The festival has a fine programme – let me mention Oppenheimer’s ”The Look of Silence”, ”Deep Love” by Jan Matuszynski, ”The Man who Made Angels Fly” by Wiktoria Szymanska   , ”Two Ragin Grannies” by Hpåvard Bustness, ”A Diary of a Journey” by Piotr Stasik, ”National Gallery” by Frederick Wiseman, ”Five Broken Cameras” by Guy Davidi and Ema Burnat, ”Concerning Violence” (photo) by Göran Olsson, ”Happiness” by Thomas Balmes as well as there are retrospectives from Visions du Réel and a panorama of Japanese documentaries. Read more on the website, which is still a bit incomplete.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Camerimage Poland

Written 26-11-2014 10:03:36 by Tue Steen Müller

The 22nd edition of Camerimage in Poland, a festival that has its focus on cinemetography ended on the 22nd of November. The festival includes documentaries in its award-giving and distributes life-achievement awards as well. One was given to a well-known, world famous documentarian:

“It gives us great pleasure to announce that the recipient of this year's Camerimage Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking will be Kim Longinotto (photo), one of the most acclaimed cinéma vérité filmmakers in the world, a true activist whose life's mission is to shed light on the problems of women in different parts of the globe, and to inspire people to seek the change within themselves first.”

In the documentary category of this year’s competition two films were awarded, to the cameraman/men, two from Russia and one from Colombia:

Golden Frog — Grand Prix: Blood

cin. Yura Gautsel, Sergei Maksimov

dir. Alina Rudnitskaya

Special Mention: Monte Adentro

cin. Mauricio Vidal

dir. Nicolás Macario Alonso

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Eszter Hajdu: Judgement in Hungary

Written 24-11-2014 17:52:21 by Tue Steen Müller

It's never too late to review an important documentary. I had for years known about "Judgement in Hungary", seen clips, some very rough cuts, always in doubt whether it would be possible to make a feature length documentary (primarily) located in a court room. I hesitated but a day during the Jihlava festival, at the videotheque, I watched it, I saw no more films on that day deeply impressedby what I saw. Hajdu and her team has succeeded to make a film, shot over several years, into a drama that will stay as an artistically formulated document over xenophobia in our times in a European country. A story about horrific attacks on an ethnic minority.

Content - taken from the One World Festival catalogue:

For three years, a film crew followed the trial of four members of a Hungarian criminal gang accused of a series of racially motivated murders of six Roma, including children. It took more than a year just to apprehend the culprits, and the case dragged on, mainly because of a lack of evidence and gross police misconduct. Thanks to the constant presence of cameras in the courtroom, director Eszter Hajdú succeeded in capturing the dramatic progress of the closely watched trial, which created a media frenzy. Will the trial conclude with a verdict that brings the survivors of three Roma families some measure of closure? Can they trust in the fairness of the Hungarian state?”

The verdict is given on Day 167 of the trial! For those who have not seen the film, I will not reveal what the judge states in this final scene. Watching the film you wonder, what will be the final result. What I can say is that the building of the film is unique. You get to know the 4 accused of killing six people, including one child, you see the relatives being questioned in the court room, and first of all you have a main character, the judge, who presides over it all like a conductor of an orchestra or like the director of a play on good and evil. He shouts at both parties, the accused and the witnesses, making them understand that they should behave according to his codex. The judge is ”a mental sadist”, one of the accused says! Sometimes it is like a performance of an absurd theatre piece followed by a constant sound of a typewriter/computer, where every word being said is put down. In and out the court room the accused are being led by guards with covered faces. In and out the stage. Step by step the drama is built. Accompanied by music here and there. Sentimental, no, but bringing the tough images of the crimes to the eyes of the viewer.

No wonder that this film has got so many awards and after its international premiere at idfa 2013 still travels.

Hungary, 2013, 108 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amir Labaki on It’s All True

Written 24-11-2014 01:27:34 by Tue Steen Müller

Festival director and film critic Amir Labaki is in Amsterdam for IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) and is interviewed for the fine Daily News of the festival – an online press service of the festival, in general to be recommended, in this  case specifically to know why the high quality documentary festival has the name it has. Here is a small quote from the interview by Nick Cummingham:

”… And then there’s the festival name, inspired by Orson Welles’ unfinished ‘masterpiece’ about Rio. “Welles came to Brazil and tried to make his film, but he couldn’t finish it. The Americans called him back, cut his budget, took away the prints and he could never work on it again. When I was starting the festival two things happened.

In Berlin, I saw the documentary (also called It’s All True) about the Welles film and it was obvious that it was as important to Welles as Que Viva Mexico was to Eisenstein. And then Beatrice Welles, Orson’s daughter, came to Brazil in 1995 and I immediately thought of the festival title, to say thank you to Mr Welles because he came to Brazil to make a great film about my country – but also because it’s a great title for a festival…”

Indeed it is – the 20th edition takes place April 9-19 in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo – I was a jury member in 2002, pure pleasure, and the winner was ”August” by Avi Mograbi, a film that by no means has lost its actuality.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sebastião Salgado: Genesis

Written 22-11-2014 18:27:19 by Tue Steen Müller

This is how the ICP (International Center of Photography) introduces the exhibition: ”Genesis is the third long-term series on global issues by world-renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado (born Brazil, 1944), following Workers (1993) and Migrations (2000). The result of an eight-year worldwide survey, the exhibition draws together more than 200 spectacular black-and-white photographs of wildlife, landscapes, seascapes, and indigenous peoples—raising public awareness about the pressing issues of environment and climate change.”

Right they are in using superlatives. It is an outstanding presentation of a great photographer’s fascinated interpretation of nature and people. So full of love, the black and white photographs are. Of course there is a message: Look at what a beautiful world we have!

The film by Wenders, “The Salt of the Earth”, co-directed by the son of the photographer Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, gives a fine insight to the way Salgado works and what he thinks about his profession, try to watch that when it comes to a cinema near you, and if you visit New York, it is a must to go to the ICP.

I have taken a still photo from Wenders film to accompany this text – there are cp on all Salgado’s work – but google him and you will find the Genesis photos. An inspiration for all documentarians.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

On the Bowery

Written 21-11-2014 16:57:46 by Tue Steen Müller

I was there yesterday – on the bowery in New York. And of course remembered the 1956 docufiction classic by Lionel Rogosin. That carries the title “On the Bowery”. Back in the hotel I watched the trailer of the film, beautiful images, strong social document. You can get it from the distributor Milestones, and that is exactly what it is according to Martin Scorcese:

"A milestone in American cinema… On the Bowery is very special to me… Rogosin’s film is so true to my memories of that place and that time. He accomplished his goal, of portraying the lives of the people who wound up on the Bowery, as simply and honestly and compassionately as possible. It’s a rare achievement."

The changed Bowery has a great museum, New Museum, that right now hosts a colour- and joyful exhibition of the British artist Chris Ofili, to be strongly recommended for his sensual portraits of African women. His small “Afromuses 1995-2005”, 26 diptychs, watercolor and pencil on paper, are attractive and unpretentious, as are the huge paintings. The exhibition runs until end of January 2015.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Proposal to continue DOX Magazine in print

Written 20-11-2014 04:42:47 by Tue Steen Müller

All members of EDN received this mail yesterday before the General Assembly to be held at the General Assembly at idfa in Amsterdam. The proposal will be presented by PeÅ Holmquist:

Dear EDN member,
In relation with the General Assembly of Sunday, November 23d, we received one written proposal, to be discussed during the meeting in Amsterdam.
We''re forwarding the text of the proposal, as received by the EDN office.

Proposal to continue DOX Magazine in print

The three of us have expressed our strong disappointment with the decision to stop the printed version of the DOX Magazine. Many have shared our concern at losing an important forum for nurturing the documentary culture and the genre as an art form.

As Emma Davie has put it: If EDN focuses just on the business of documentary and not the culture behind it, it runs the risk of forgetting to feed the creativity which the market needs to thrive on. Films like "The Act of Killing" do well not because they have listened to a market but because they come from a passion, an enquiry into form, an awareness of a tradition behind it. This enquiry is fed so little in any magazine. DOX is unique for providing us with inspiration in this way. We need this as filmmakers to survive in this business as much as any strategies for dealing with dwindling tv sales...

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Idfa, Ally Derks and Leo Messi

Written 20-11-2014 04:04:56 by Tue Steen Müller

Idfa started yesterday, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, the 27th edition, amazing it is in itself, and ” what differentiates IDFA from other European doc festivals is its appeal to public audiences and professionals alike”, a quote from realscreen (link below), very right so, there is definitely an audience for documentaries in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, and idfa has had a key role in building it to what it is today.

Realscreen has an interview with Ally Derks (photo), who founded the festival and is its charismatic leader, recommends some films and admits wonderfully that even if she comes from the country of football, from where Johan Cruyff comes, the man who stood behind a new way of playing football and implemented his philosophy at FB Barcelona, that she did not know Messi!

She talks about Álex de la Iglesia’s documentary about the best football player in the world: …“I liked the film but I had no idea who [Messi] was. He’s like God,” she says – explaining that all screenings of Messi sold out an hour after its selection to IDFA was announced on local television…”

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Laura Poitras: Citizenfour

Written 19-11-2014 00:45:42 by Mikkel Stolt

This is by every standard a remarkable film – not because it tells us about the extensive surveillance of all but everybody, but because we get to meet an otherwise obscured person of such significance to today’s society and because the access and the tension are unsurpassed. Even if the whole film only consisted of the scenes in the Hong Kong hotel room where the director meets whistleblower Ed Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, it would still be a remarkable film. Come to think of it: It would be an even better film. And with THAT approach (and a small buildup to those hotel scenes) it would possibly have been one of the most thrilling documentary films with a capital F.

The filmmaker is enough of a filmmaker to acknowledge this but in my view also too much of an activist-journalist to completely trust us to gather info elsewhere on the subject matter. But we all have, haven’t we? And I don’t need it here. I want to be in that hotel room – I want to feel the natural excitement, the anxiety and the occasional relief.

Yes, the subject matter is of great importance, and too much awareness is not a bad thing. Only here I feel, that what we non-criminal regular-Joe-spectators need is to feel the power of the authorities – not to be told about it. I know I oversimplify things in the film a bit here, but the core of hotel scenes does it so splendidly. It’s a radical form of observational cinema which is really getting to you, and that’s the way I’d rather think about this film.

This review will self-destruct 10 sec. after your reading.

USA, Germany, 114 mins.


Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Tabitha Jackson and Herz Frank

Written 18-11-2014 16:47:00 by Tue Steen Müller

Sundance Documentary Film Program director Tabitha Jackson talked at the DOC NYC, the documentary film festival that runs in new York right now, until the 20th of November. Jackson who used to work at Channel 4 in London, and was one of those commissioning editors that I always loved to have at a panel in EDN workshops, because she was able to formulate constructive criticism and not just say ”yes” or ”no”, presented the profile and policy of the Sundance Documentary Film Program saying that “The lingua franca of non-fiction filmmaking should be the language of cinema and not the language of grant applications.”

There is a fine report on Jackson’s keynote speech at the festival in the “Filmmaker” – what I loved to read – a quote – was this:

… she found a rallying cry for sensitive and artistically compelling documentary practice in the work and words of Latvian filmmaker Herz Frank, whose 10 Minutes Older, an excerpt of which she screened, contained for Jackson “every emotion you might experience in an entire lifetime” in the single shot of a child watching a puppet show.

She quoted from Frank’s writings: “The first rule of the documentary filmmaker is, have the patience to observe life. If you are observant, if you look not only with your eyes but also with your heart, then life for sure will present you with some particular discovery. And then the reality recorded by you will gain an artistic point of view, become inline with art and always excite people. The facts and events will become old — they become history — but the feelings we felt regarding those events stay with us. Therefore, art is the only living bridge between people of various generations and time periods.”

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Marcq My Son the Terrorist/Toomistu Soviet Hippies

Written 17-11-2014 16:06:13 by Sevara Pan

Around three weeks ago I had a pleasure attending Leipzig Networking Days, a much anticipated annual pitching event brought about by Documentary Campus in the framework of its development workshop Masterschool. It was my third time at the event and I always see it as a wonderful opportunity to get informed about the up and coming films that are still in the making. Since I no longer work for Documentary Campus, nor do I partake in the selection process of Masterschool projects, I was pleasantly surprised to see it venture out the beaten path. Besides classical documentaries of human interest and social issues, this year's programme perked up with a couple of nature/wildlife documentaries (“Killing Bambi” and “Scarface”), occasional thematic amalgams (“Sex and Oysters” and its transdisciplinary 'food/sex/science' bend), and projects of a cross-media nature (“Dressed To Kill”).

Since Masterschool is a development workshop that presents its projects to the public in the form of a conventional 8-minute pitch, I feel in no position to offer an exhaustive review of the films' dramaturgy or their visual approaches. Nevertheless, I would not want to miss an opportunity to introduce you to two of the pitched projects that I personally consider compelling. The first and one of my personal favorites is the project “My Son, The Terrorist” by a UK-based production company Latimer Films. “My Son, The Terrorist” is directed by Nick Marcq, the person behind the BAFTA-nominated film The Real Notting Hill (which, as I have learned, was his first feature) and produced by the former Channel Four commissioning editor Tamara Abood and Matthew Hay, whose name some might recollect thanks to his rather polemical “Going To The Dogs” for the Cutting Edge documentary strand on Channel Four.

As the title explicitly suggests, the film recounts a story of “radicalization through the prism of the mothers” whose sons had sunk into the cycle of on-going brutality and ravaging. The statement borrowed from the film's synopsis that goes, “Behind every horror is a perpetrator and behind every perpetrator – a mother,” seems to propel the film. Set against

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014/ Doc Alliance

Written 16-11-2014 18:23:35 by Tue Steen Müller

Hurry up, Breaking News: CPH:DOX has announced the list of films that will be available for free streaming in cooperation with Doc Alliance. Over the course of 48 hours, on 16 and 17 November, the following five films will be screened online: "Web” (photo), "The Iron Ministry", "Palestine Marathon", “American Interior" and "Me and Dad – No Expectations of Applause". You can read more about the films and stream them on

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

CPH:DOX 2014/ Winners/ Oppenheimer and Nielsson

Written 14-11-2014 22:46:07 by Tue Steen Müller

The main competition awards of this year’s cph:dox, the DOX:AWARD went to two brilliant documentaries according to the jury – and the editors, who have praised both ”The Look of Silence” by Joshua Oppenheimer and his many named and anonymous collaborators – the main award – and the special mention award that went to Camilla Nielsson for her ”Democrats”.

Nielsson also received the Real Talent Award to be shared with Lea Glob, who was awarded best NORDIC:VISION AWARD for ”Olmo and the Seagull”, a film made together with Petra Costa-

Furthermore the NEW:VISION AWARD was given to ”The Dent” by Basim Magdy, and the FACT:AWARD to Katy Chevigny and Ross Kaufmann for ”The E-Team” with a special mention for ”Virunga” af Orlando Von Einsiedel.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014/ Eurimages Award

Written 14-11-2014 19:43:08 by Tue Steen Müller

As someone close to the philosophy of Eurimages (the cultural support fund of the Council of Europe. Established in 1989, currently numbers 36 of 47 member states), that is not the EU, I am happy to bring this message from yesterday's award ceremony:

For the second year running the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award of €15,000 was awarded for the best project pitched at CPH:FORUM - CPH:DOX’s international financing and co-production event.

The winner is ‘On Screen Off Record’ by Rami Farah (photo) and Lyana Saleh produced by Signe Byrge Sørensen of Final Cut For Real. The project is a reflective film about the Syrian conflict in a media-conscious manner. It focuses on how we act and interact with media in current time, especially in a conflict that was over mediatized and little comprehended.

The jury has chosen ’On Screen Off Record’ for the following reasons:

”For the way familiar footage was presented, allowing deeper understanding of the complexities of the conflict that affects us on so many levels, for the quality of the project and the team, the organic co-production structure the Eurimages Co-production Development Award goes to ‘On Screen Off Record.’”

The film has been developed with support of IMS, Danida and Timbuktuprisen and it is produced by Final Cut for Real, in partnership with the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University.

Eurimages is a support fund for the co-production, distribution and exhibition of European cinematographic works, established by the Council of Europe in 1988. Since then, Eurimages has supported 1488 European co-productions for a total amount of approximately 451 million EUROS.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014 - Extra Screenings

Written 14-11-2014 11:06:07 by Tue Steen Müller

Press release from the Copenhagen festival "that has yet again experienced a severe demand from the audience and a great number of films has guaranteed full theaters during the festival - now CPH:DOX sets up even more screenings of the most popular films like ‘Foodies’, ‘Nas’, ‘Me and Dad - No Expectations of Applause’, ‘In the Basement’ and ‘Little People Big Dreams’ - and not least ‘Citizenfour’ with up to 7 extra screenings!

Documentary films are popular. And especially one film in particular has been popular at this year's CPH:DOX. Laura Poitras' film about Edward Snowden, ‘Citizenfour’, is the fastest selling film at CPH:DOX ever and the film's premiere was sold out even several weeks before the festival.

To cater the enormous demand to watch the film, it has now gotten no less than seven extra screenings from Saturday the 15th of November up to Wednesday the 19th of November - the highest number of screenings a film has ever gotten at the festival.  

CPH:DOX’s festival director Tine Fischer is extremely enthusiastic about both the film, which she regards as one of the most important documentaries recently - and the fantastic reception it has had:

“We are pleased and overwhelmed by the huge interest for Laura Poitras' splendid film. The film is without comparison one of the most important historic testimonials about/of NSA’s mass-surveillance of all of us, and we have chosen to offer seven extra screenings because we as a festival recognise the need to tell the story about the attack on democracy that that mass-surveillance is an expression of, which is both captivating and has a political aspect”.  

The extra screenings of ‘Citizenfour’ already starts this Saturday - the other screenings start from this Monday. You can see the entire list below or here

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014 /Camilla Nielsson

Written 13-11-2014 21:29:59 by Tue Steen Müller



Camilla Nielsson

Jeg havde egentlig tænkt mig at anmelde Camilla Nielssons ”Democrats” på engelsk, men da jeg så Kim Skottes slappe afvisning af filmen, på ti linier i dag i Politiken, skiftede jeg mening og skriver dette som en stærk anbefaling til alle dokumentar-fans: Se filmen i morgen i Cinemateket eller lørdag i Grand Teatret. Den er et mesterstykke.

For filmen placerer sig ind i den trio af fremragende nye danske dokumentarfilm, som har haft sin premiere i forbindelse med cph:dox: ”The Look of Silence”, ”1989” og så nu ”Democrats”. Den er et smukt opbygget stykke klassisk dokumentarisme, som nænsomt introducerer to vidt forskellige karakterer, i temperament og udtryk, to mænd som får til opgave at skrive en ny forfatning for Zimbabwe i den periode, hvor landet lededes af en koalition mellem Mugabes parti og oppositionens leder Tsvangirai. Camilla Nielsson og hendes fotograf Henrik Bohn Ipsen har sensationelt fået adgang til de to hovedaktører Paul Mangwana and Douglas Mwonzora og det er tydeligt, at de har haft tillid til filmholdet, som skildrer hvordan de to modstandere, Mangwana fra Mugabes parti og Mwonzora fra oppositionen nærmer sig hinanden. I et interview som jeg har lavet med instruktøren for Det danske Filminstituts blad, der udkommer i forbindelse med idfa festivalen I Amsterdam, hvor filmen naturligt nok er udvalgt til hovedkonkurrencen, siger instruktøren: you’ve got to have love for your characters and do everything you can to give them confidence in the job you’ve been assigned.

Der er masser af varme og kærlighed i filmen, som skildrer hvordan en forfatning i et diktatur bliver til under store anstrengelser og med stor modstand, men den bliver til og blot det må give håb for landet. Når der er en sådan energi og så kloge mennesker I det politiske system, så må der da ske noget, når den onde mand, som Mwonzora kalder Mugabe, stiller træskoene.

Som de bedste observerende dokumentarister har Nielsson og Ipsen fanget detaljerne, de små dramaer med og omkring de to forhandlere, de har læst ansigternes udtryk, fanget hviskende samtaler – ind imellem tager man sig selv i at overvære en komedie samtidig med at man kniber en tåre, da de to når til vejs ende og står med den trykte forfatning, som skal til afstemning hos befolkningen. Konklusion: denne film er simpelthen en bedrift og den vil få et langt international liv.  

Danmark og mange andre lande, 2014, 109 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

East Doc Platform

Written 11-11-2014 19:56:26 by Tue Steen Müller

East Beats West... that is what I have often written on and this year in Jihlava I again saw fine Eastern European works and attended workshops with Wojciech Staron and Peter Kerekes, and had meetings with talented people from the Ex Oriente training scheme that I used to work for. So, breaking the rule is easy for me when Mása Markovic from IDF (Institute for Documentary Film) asked me to advertise the upcoming East Doc Platform. This is her text:

If you have a project in development/production/postproduction and want to pitch it, find a co-producer or a commissioning editor, NOW is the time to apply for EAST DOC PLATFORM! It gives you a chance to present your project to more than 350 professionals. One of the projects in development will receive 7500 EUR.

For application forms and details, see our website:

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014 /Wenders & Salgado

Written 11-11-2014 09:34:06 by Mikkel Stolt

Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado:


Arrogant as I am, films about still photography (or paintings) are not something I usually pay much attention to. The relationship between the timeless photography and the time-dependent moving image is something film directors only rarely find a way to transmit in a truly satisfying manner.

Ever so more, there’s reason to be satisfied with this portrait of photographer Sebastião Salgado. The film’s sense of time and space turns out to be the perfect conveyor of Salgado’s pictures and words. The horror and the beauty in the protagonist’s work are presented to us in a way that reveals how great interpreters of reality both the still photographer and the directors are.

And horror there is: killings in Rwanda, burning oil fields in Kuwait, countless refugees and victims. It’s too appalling, too much – in the end also for Salgado himself - and you want something pretty and uplifting. And, thank god, you get that too. The pictures of the horrific are also too beautiful to some but that dilemma is part of taking the decision of snapping pictures of real horror to begin with. It’s not fiction, mind you, and you don’t need to make things up to show what the hell man is doing to himself and others and the world.

Nor does Wenders and his co-director (Salgado’s son) make stuff up. They lend their ears and their time to the protagonist and they arrange the material and write a voice-over that weaves their film and Salgado’s life together. Because they all want us to see – really see – the world and what’s in it.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014 /Michel Gondry

Written 10-11-2014 10:53:03 by Mikkel Stolt


Wow, the theatre is almost packed. Average age is around or even under 30 and several hipster beards are in sight. I suspect these are fans of either Gondry or Noam Chomsky or both… or linguistic students at least. This film is namely basically a dialogue between the two – filmed over three visits, it seems – but you only see Chomsky (or Gondry) in little vignettes or inserts in the almost entirely animated pictures.

Certainly Gondry is a fan of Chomsky and he sets out to make a film about some of his theories and thoughts. He wants to make an entertaining film on epistemology and philosophy which is a highly appreciative idea, but I’m not quite sure he succeeds completely.

Let me see if I can explain why to myself. Can I see if I can explain why to myself?

The title refers to a linguistic puzzle which apparently shows that even a child can change the sentenceo “The man who is tall is happy” into a question by picking the right “is” (the second, not the first) and put it in the beginning of the sentence. This is actually very interesting but like most of the theories and ideas that are covered, the amount of words and animations are so overwhelming that we hardly get a chance to think for ourselves. It becomes almost like a lecture, which I am pretty sure was not Gondry’s idea.

Read more / Læs mere


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CPH:DOX 2014 på DR2

Written 10-11-2014 10:47:07 by Tue Steen Müller

For those who can watch Danish television – DR2 viser i morgen ”1989” i det sædvanlige tirsdag-slot ”Dokumania” og i de kommende to uger en række af de film, som vises på festivalen cph:dox. Da cph står for Copenhagen = København, som ikke er hele Danmark (!), er det et initiativ, der kun kan betragtes som et naturligt og rigtigt valg. Her er titlerne og så kan I kan læse om dem på festivalens hjemmeside. Det starter i aften, klokken 23:

Mandag: Våbensmuglingen

Tirsdag: We are Journalists

Onsdag: Mig og min far - hvem fanden gider klappe

Torsdag: Palestine Marathon

og i næste uge

Bronx Obama

Tirsdag: Hornsleth – på dybt vand

Onsdag: Et civiliseret land

Torsdag: Drone

Categories: TV, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CPH:DOX 2014 /Davis Simanis

Written 10-11-2014 10:21:16 by Tue Steen Müller

ESCAPING RIGA by Davis Simanis

One of those screenings where everything worked out as it should. Young Latvian director Davis Simanis (looking at you from above on this page) travels to Copenhagen, where he has never been before. He walks from the hotel through the city together with the one, who has posted this text, they have a glass of wine in one of the autumn dressed squares in the centre of the city. The director – and I – are a bit worried that there will be nobody at the screening of ”Escaping Riga”, a film in b/w, shot on super 8, about two local heroes, who both left the Latvian capital: the passionate and wild artist Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein and Isaiah Berlin, philosopher, historian and essayist. Not an obvious attraction for a festival audience, one should think…

But we were wrong. More than 100 were in the cinema to a screening that was introduced by Karsten Fledelius, Danish university professor, a man who seems to know all about the Balkan countries, who is a tour guide to Turkey and other countries, and who in an elegant way gave the audience basic knowledge about the two in the film. After that a fine projection quality, good reactions from the audience and a warm welcome to Davis Simanis at the Q&A that he managed so well with a competent festival moderator next to him.

At the end Fledelius asked a question to Simanis – you have a personal intro in the film, having worked on the film for such a long time, who are you closest to? Simanis answered that he had always aimed to be like Eisenstein, involved and controversial, but “I always end up as Berlin”, the reflecting observer. Bravo, thank you cph:dox for bringing the film, that has one more screening at the festival, see link below.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Middle Eastern Film Days in Aarhus

Written 09-11-2014 12:11:39 by Tue Steen Müller

Cph:dox fills our columns these days – reviews, reports etc. BUT the second largest city in Denmark, Aarhus, has its own festival, Aarhus Filmfestival that includes shorts and docs, the latter with themes like ”fights”, ”life”, ”female”, ”ex-Soviet” and titles like ”The Look of Silence”, ”Once I Dreamt of Life”, ”Happiness” and ”Maidan”.

Of special interest is a programme section of Middle Eastern films with directors and producers visiting. It is curated by H.C. Korsholm Nielsen, former director of The Danish Institute in Damascus, at that time a strong supporter of the Syrian documentary makers – and from January 1st 2015 director of ”Dansk-Egyptiske Dialog Institut i Cairo (DEDI)”.

The days include the visit of Mohamad Malas with the film “Ladder to Damascus” (photo), Amir Ramses with “Jews of Egypt”, the producers and festival directors of DoxBox Diana el Jeiroudi and Orwa Nyrabia – and their productions “Return to Homs” and “Silvered Water” Wiam Simav Bedirxan and Ossama Mohammed. The latter will attend the screening.

Sara Thelle, scroll down, reviewed ”Silvered Water” today. A must-see film!

Visit also the FB page ”Middle Eastern Film Days”.

Aathus Film Festival runs from November 11-16.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Documentaries Nominated for European Film Awards

Written 06-11-2014 21:51:36 by Tue Steen Müller

A copy-paste from the fine Cineuropa of today:

Just the Right Amount of Violence
 (photo) Denmark Written and directed by Jon Bang CarlsenProduced by Helle Ulsten and Jon Bang Carlsen 

Master of the Universe [+]
 Germany/AustriaDirected by Marc Bauder Produced by Marc Bauder and Markus Glaser

Of Men and War [+]
 France/SwitzerlandWritten, directed and produced by Laurent Bécue-Renard

Sacro GRA [+]
Italy/FranceDirected by Gianfranco RosiWritten by Nicolo Bassetti Produced by Marco Visalberghi and Carole Solive 

Waiting for August
 BelgiumWritten and directed by Teodora Ana MihaiProduced by Hanne Phlypo and Antoine Vermeesch 

We Come as FriendsAustriaWritten, directed and produced by Hubert Sauper  

The nominated films will now be submitted to the more than 3,000 EFA members to elect the winner. The European Documentary 2014 will then be presented at the 27th European Film Awards Ceremony in Riga on Saturday 13 December – it will be streamed live on

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Eastern Europe in the Centre of Documentary Events

Written 06-11-2014 21:32:10 by Tue Steen Müller

Is the headline of the generous invitation made by unique vod DocAlliance, that until November 9 (you better hurry up!) offers excellent documentaries, all nominated for the Silver Eye Award, read more about it on the site that you have to go to in order to have access to five films, for free.

The films are Bahkmaro by Georgian Salome Jashi (her portrait is on the head of, in the middle), Father and Son by Polish Pawel Lozinski, A Diary of a Journey by Polish Piotr Stasik, Linar (photo) by Russian Nastia Tarasova, I don’t Love You by Pavel Kostomarov and Alexander Rastorguev and Homo Ciris by Slovak Jana Mináriková.

Yes, East Beats West! This selection proves it convincingly!

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

CPH:DOX /Joshua Oppenheimer

Written 05-11-2014 11:24:30 by Tue Steen Müller

THE LOOK OF SILENCE by Joshua Oppenheimer




It's horrifying, it hurts to watch the scenes that shows these brutal perpetrators re-enact their killings committed around 1965 in Indonesia, where the slaughtering of communists were performed by a military regime and its gangs that had come into power. One million were killed. The Americans (and the rest of the world?, at least we did not hear about it, or did we?) made no objections as an American NBC news clip shows in this second Descent to Hell, Indonesia 1965 and today, the first being ”The Act of Killing”. This time seen from the point of view of an opthalmologist, Adi, a man in his forties with wife and two children, a mother and a father – and a brother, Ramli, who was killed back then.

The overall theme of the film is the same, yet ”The Look of Silence” is completely different from ”The Act of Killing”, that framed the story of the perpetrators horror by having them make their film about the act of killing. Surrealistic scenes came out of that, to say the least. Whereas ”The Look of Silence” brings Adi to the centre to make him meet old men in the neighbourhood, men who took part in the atrocities. He comes to check their sight and starts to ask about the past. He gets to know more and more and ends up discovering the involvement of his own family – an uncle was a guard in the prison that Ramli was taken to before he was – that is the word

Read more / Læs mere


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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 11/ Scenes

Written 03-11-2014 10:45:47 by Tue Steen Müller

Scenes to remember… one of the many good things about being at a festival is the conversations you have with colleagues in the breaks. Conversations that very often bring up scenes that have impressed you, scenes that will stay in your mind.

Example: You might not remember the title of the film but you will remember the scene with the man at Maidan Kiev, who silently puts his body over the broken statue of Lenin, protecting the head of the father of the 1917 revolution and what he stood for in Soviet times. He does not want to move or be moved. The youngsters around him either shout invective words to him, ”go home, your time is over”, trying violently to get him away, while others express ”leave him alone”. The scene is from the Ukrainian ”All Things Ablaze”, a shocking documentary descent to Hell, alarming to watch. ”Let me have a piece of Lenin”, many scream with a hammer in hand, they are photographed next to the Head or with one leg on the same statue Head – the old man is brutally taken away by hooligans, he no longer has his hat, we see him on the ground, one shouts ”help him he got a heart attack”, the music is dramatizing, it’s very strong and all sympathy lies with the man, who is being humiliated.

That was one way of looking at Maidan, Sergei Loznitsa had quiet a different one with his ”Maidan”. He is distantly observing and not involved (not meaning that he does not have a point of view, indeed he has), he makes the viewer observe and have the eyes go around his images that are like paintings, as the jury stated in their motivation for giving an honorary award to the film. Several long shots included the singing of the Ukrainian anthem, where you let your eyes wander within the frame, as was it a work by Brueghel! Unique moments they are.

Or the start of Ulrich Seidl’s ”Im Keller” (”In the Basement”) where a snake slooowly moves towards the mouse for attack, you know what is to happen, and yet you are jumping in your seat when it happens, as you are shaking your head when the nice Austrian Bürger enters his basement rooms full of Hitler and Nazi trophies. Not to forget the chained naked man, who licks the toilet clean on demand from ”die Herrerin”. One scene after each other, tableau-like, a pity they do not become a whole.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 10/ Jury Motivations

Written 02-11-2014 08:59:18 by Tue Steen Müller

Here follows the jury motivations for the main competition winners and for the German competition winner, Domino Effect, a film that has been reviewed on

Golden Dove: Claudine Bories und Patrice Chagnard (Frankreich) for the film Les règles du jeu (Rules of the Game) Jury Statement: Adapting to society and the strange demands of the marketplace is the theme of this subtle, poetic documentary comedy about a group of young Frenchmen, who cannot hide their contempt for THE RULES OF THE GAME.

Honorary Mention: Alexander Nanau (Romania) for the film Toto şi surorile lui (Toto and His Sisters) Jury Statement: In spite of the total deroute of their impoverished, drug ridden family Toto and a sister fight to create a decent future for themselves. A straight forward, non-sentimental story about having to leave your family to survive.

Honorary Mention: Sergei Loznitsa (Netherlands, Ukraine) for the film Maidan (PHOTO) Jury Statement: An iconographic piece of filmmaking about a society in despair framed and timed masterly. A cinematic depiction of a troubled moment in history that reads like a grand painting.

German Competition Winner: Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski (Germany, Poland) for the film Domino Effekt (Domino Effect Jury Statement:The East European Riviera at the Black Sea, a former war area, wistfulness and decay. The filmmakers get to know an Abkhazian-Russian pair who fiercely argues about their love. Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski tell the story of this absolutely impossible love with great warmth and a visual feeling for tragicomical, surreal scenes. And, at the same time, about the absurdity of an absolutely impossible society on the edge of Europe.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 9/ Winners

Written 01-11-2014 22:29:40 by Tue Steen Müller

The winners have been found. And apart from "my" main prize the juries agreed with me, awarding "Les Regles du Jeu" and "Toto and his Sisters". Here is the press release and notice that you can find the motivations on the site of the festival:

DOK Leipzig awarded the prestigious Golden Doves on Saturday night. 17 prizes worth a total of 66,500 Euros were presented at the 57th edition of the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Films. This makes DOK Leipzig the most highly endowed documentary film festival in Germany. The biggest German documentary film festival has been screening 368 films during the festival week which ends tomorrow.

The Golden Dove in the International Competition Documentary Film was awarded to "Les règles du jeu" ("Rules of the Game") by French directors Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard. The Prize is endowed with 10,000 Euros, donated by the MITTELDEUTSCHER RUNDFUNK, and was presented by the MDR’s artistic director, Prof. Dr. Karola Wille.

The Golden Dove for the best Animated Film, endowed with 5,000 Euros, was awarded to the Swedish entry "Still Born" by Åsa Sandzén. The Silver Dove in the International Competition Animated Film, endowed with 2,000 Euros, went to Daisy Jacobs from the United Kingdom for her film "The Bigger Picture".

The Golden Dove in the German Competition Documentary Film, endowed with 10,000 Euros, was awarded to "Domino Effect" by two Polish directors living in Germany, Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski.

Read more / Læs mere

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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 8/ Alina Rudnitskaya

Written 01-11-2014 12:45:45 by Tue Steen Müller

The title refers to the 9th of May, where Russians celebrate the end of the WW2, the nazi capitulation, a day that is not celebrated by the gay and lesbian couples in the new film of Rudnitskaya. Maybe that angle is a bit subtle, anyway it is a well constructed film where the couples tell their private stories: where and how they met, how long they have been together, and they express their reactions to the law banning ”propaganda” for homosexuality. Their fear – what if something something happens to you, they say to each other – is mixed with television clips bringing outrageous opinions from politicians, hateful homophobia in its most ugly form.

It’s not a film that has the same high artistic quality as the director’s many previous works, but it is a precise statement, has a rythm and brings articulate people to our eyes and ears.

Watched at DOKLeipzig 2014.

Russia, 2013, 29 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 7/ Polina Kelm: Positive

Written 01-11-2014 12:42:38 by Tue Steen Müller

Allow me to be nostalgic – this film brings me back to my days at Statens Filmcentral (National Film Board of Denmark), where brave women were sitting in a row, repairing the 16mm copies that had been returned from screenings. Very often with scratches or torn apart with the need to be spliced. Wearing white gloves they did, what the Ukrainian ladies do in this sweet homage to Film and to those behind the scene. Who are in this documentary the protagonists in front of the camera – in their cosy working place next to piles of film cans, with a cat running around, with a window view to the world outside, they eat next to the editing table and they are a bit shy but of course they love for once to be in front of the camera. There are some fine montaged music-born sequences (mostly from Ukrainian chronicles) in the film, whereas I am not sure it was the right decision to bring them to watch a 3D film.

Watched at DOKLeipzig 2014.

Ukraine, 2014, 29 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 6/ My Winners

Written 31-10-2014 16:53:09 by Tue Steen Müller

Your correspondent has seen the 12 long documentaries in the Dok International Competition 2014. He thinks it would be fun to make HIS list of winners for that category. I.e. a main prize and two honorary mentions. The films have been seen at the Dok Market during the last week, and it has to be said that the general level of quality for the 11 is high and that I appreciate the diversity in themes and storytelling.

Best film

”Suddenly My Thoughts Halt” (Portugal) (by Jorge Pelicano) (2014), 100 mins.

For its cinematically conveyed love to its characters at the hospital in Porto and the humorous and original storytelling approach with an actor, who moves in and tries to understand and to interpret insanity, helped by intelligent patients with wise words and authenticity.

Honorary Mention

”Rules of the Game” (France) (by Claudine Bories & Patrice Chagnard) (2014), 106 mins.

This well made, excellently photographed and edited human documentary catches, what it means to be young and unemployed, and to be involved in a training programme, where you are taught to write applications and ”sell” yourself at job interviews. It’s light in tone, it’s universal, the youngsters keep their own personality in this apparent no-go situation.

Honorary Mention

”Toto and His Sisters” (Romania) (by Alexander Nanau) (2014) 93 mins.

Heartbreaking. Mum is in jail, one sister is on drugs, the other fights for herself and for Toto in this film about a lost childhood, misery and poverty. With a society that tries to get the small boy away. Yes, away but to what? Toto is good at hip hop, that takes him away… A film with a strong sensibility for character and narrative.

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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 5/ Jon Bang Carlsen

Written 31-10-2014 15:45:00 by Tue Steen Müller

I have just left a nice chat with a former Zelig film school student – one of a handful who go to Leipzig to watch films and meet people, build contacts and enjoy masterclasses. It helps that Leipzig is such a pleasant city full of people in cafés, a market on the main square, churches to enter (Orgel Koncerten), good food many places, and Curry Wurst of course und so weiter… in other words what surrounds DOKLeipzig makes you in good mood before you enter the cinemas or the market to watch the current horrors of the world we live in!

Back to the first sentence, yes the programme of DOKLeipzig is rich, not only of films on the big or small screen (10 parallel screenings!) but also of masterclasses/presentations/debates related to the documentary. Impressive it is, indeed.

I went to the masterclass with Jon Bang Carlsen yesterday, lots of young people, who had a good time (2 ½ hour) with a director, who has been part of my professional life since he started his long career. Danish Bang Carlsen was in Leipzig because of a retrospective homage to him, 8 films, on top of that he is also a member of the main jury. The audience was spoilt with several clips and with words/sentences from the director to explain his method. Let me give you some of them: ”I don’t want to be a victim of life’s coincidences” (referring to his ”staged documentary”), ”we all become part of the landscape” (referring to his Northern Jutland background), ”I have to be able to control the visuals”, ”I love framing”, I have to find a way ”to write the visuals”, ”our personal scars give us the energy”, ”there has to be a keyhole between me and my character”, ”I find it hard to believe in pure narrative”, ”you have to make yourself vulnerable… ”Blind Angels” (2007) was made by me in a period of contemplation”, ”you have to use the stuff that happens before the brain comes in”. Clips were shown from ”Before the Guests Arrive”,

”It’s Now or Never” and the connected ”How to Invent Reality”, ”Addicted to Solitude”, ”Blinded Angels”, ”The Right Amount of Violence”.

Photo by Jon Bang Carlsen from ”How to Invent Reality” (director left, main character Jimmy right).

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 4/ Dok.Incubator

Written 31-10-2014 00:06:29 by Tue Steen Müller

Czech Andrea Prenghyova, the founder of DOK.Incubator, was on stage to welcome the participants to the presentation of the 2014 film projects that had been developed during half a year with the help of Claas Danielsen and Ilo von Seckendorff from DOKLeipzig and a gallery of tutors – producers and editors and distributors – led by Danish Sigrid Dyekjær.

A clip from the press release from the website of DokIncubator: ”For the first time, the nine extraordinary feature-length documentary films were presented to over 180 the decision-makers of the international industry at the ceremonial atmosphere of the Leipziger Kabaret Pfeffermühle. The DOK.Incubator Workshop 2014 ends with a confirmed premiere of three of the films at the biggest documentary film festival at IDFA: Always Together /CZ/ as a story of a dream of an ideal family life that just went too far; Drifter /HU, DE/ an intimate portrait of a young rebel in desperate need of a lacking, supportive father and Queen of Silence /PL, DE/ – a documusical starring a deaf girl from an illegal Roma settlement, who escapes the reality into the Bollywood world...”

The creative idea of the organisers is to bring in film projects that are in or close to a rough cut stage and have them profit from comments from colleagues and so-called experts. And – at this final session – pitch their projects to (in this case) decision-makers from festivals, distribution side and television. In the pitch several of the nine called for sales agents, and there were many of them in the room. The idea of having the filmmakers make a verbal presentation, show a trailer and one or two scenes worked well and there are very promising films coming up: The three mentioned above and the Italian called ”Between Sisters” - go to the website where you can also watch the trailers.

The third edition of a well thought and developed training programme – if I may lift one little finger: Please play down the self-praise a bit, some of the project presentations by the tutors were overcooked marketing, if that still exist... more sobriety, please. Photo from a previous Dok.Incubator session.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOKLeipzig 2014/ 3/ Citizenfour Awarded

Written 29-10-2014 23:26:39 by Tue Steen Müller

Copy-pasted press release from the festival: The documentary film CITIZENFOUR about the NSA scandal and Edward Snowden’s revelations was awarded the “Leipziger Ring” on Wednesday night. US American filmmaker Laura Poitras received the film prize of the Peaceful Revolution Foundation, which is endowed with 5,000 Euros, in the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church) in Leipzig. The “Leipziger Ring” is the first prize to be awarded during the ongoing 57th International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film. With this prize, the Foundation honours an artistic documentary film that shows exemplary civic engagement for democracy and human rights or was made with great personal commitment and courage in the face of resistance and restrictions of the freedom of opinion and the press.

The jury stated that Snowden had risked his life and freedom to make the world aware of intelligence service practices that hardly anyone would have believed possible. With her film, Laura Poitras had rendered a great service to the freedom of all people.

CITIZENFOUR is a US-German production from 2014 which celebrated its German premiere at the opening of DOK Leipzig. In a short video message, Snowden honoured Leipzig’s role in autumn 1989 and emphasised that “Leipzig reminded us that the wall and the GDR didn’t go

Read more / Læs mere

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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 2/ Claas Danielsen

Written 29-10-2014 08:35:33 by Tue Steen Müller

In his opening speech to the audience of DOKLeipzig Monday the 27th, departing festival director Claas Danielsen reflected on ”freedom” and gave good advice to the public broadcasters! I have copy pasted some sequences of the speech, the whole one can be read on the site, link below:

… One of the things that make it so rewarding for me to work with documentary and animated films is that in these genres there was always a great freedom to experiment and tell extraordinary stories in a very individual way. These films are free and resist censorship, predictability and formatting. Which latter point makes them such an unwieldy commodity for television.

Many documentary filmmakers rate their intellectual and creative freedom higher than their profit. They are often passionate people who act out of conviction. And yet: making a good documentary film today, from research to concept development to the protracted financing process up to the shooting and the long post-production period takes two or three years. A filmmaker can’t really work on more than two projects at the same time. The average author’s and director’s pay for a feature-length documentary in Germany is about 30,000 Euros. That’s not enough to support a

Read more / Læs mere

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DOKLeipzig 2014/ 1/ Edward Snowden

Written 29-10-2014 00:12:21 by Tue Steen Müller

Time runs. From Jihlava to Leipzig monday, from one documentary film festival to the next one with a special bus, a symbol of festival friendship, this initiative has been called. And we were many, who accepted the generous offer of transport. 6 hours, internet, free coffee, beer and water to be paid for. Many slept for hours, some small-talked, some read or watched films online.  

Arrival in Leipzig, accreditation at the festival centre at the Art Museum and off to the opening ceremony at Cine Star 8. Totally full with an extra cinema occupied. Speeches and jury presentation and then “Citizenfour” by Laura Poitras. An impressive documentation, I need to watch it again, it was late after the bus ride and I took what I think is called a “nickerchen” in German!

But before the film a video message from Edward Snowden was shown: I’ve never agreed to do an introduction to this film. Not in the UK, not in the US – not in New York or San Francisco or anything like that. But when somebody asked me if I would do it for Leipzig, I said yes and that`s because your history is an inspiration to me. It`s critical that we remember the lessons from history. And Leipzig reminded us that the wall and the GDR didn`t go down because of bombs or guns or violent resistance. It was brought down by ordinary people on the streets in the square on Mondays. Ordinary people against extraordinary powers reminded us that the legitimacy of governments is derived from this consent of the people that they are governing. And today when that  principle is so often forgotten,  we have so many governments, even in liberal democracies, western democracies, not just authoritarian regimes, that so frequently favor tactics of deception and secrecy we do remember that the consent of the government is only meaningful if it`s informed. Thank you and I hope you enjoy the film.

I am writing this in a new Motel One super-designed hotel next to Nikolaikirche, where the peaceful Monday-demonstrations took place 25 years ago.

Snowden's speech to be found on

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Jihlava 2014 /Winners

Written 28-10-2014 08:42:15 by Tue Steen Müller

The website of the Jihlava IDFF announced last night:

OPUS BONUM – Best World Documentary Film Award

Best Film: Je suis le peuple (I Am the People), dir. Anna Rousillion

Special Mention: 20 Centavos (20 Cents), dir. Tiag Tambelli and Persiguiendo al Dragón (Chasing after the Wind), dir. Juan Camilo Olmos Ferise

Member of the jury: Želimir Žilnik

CZECH JOY – Best Czech Documentary Film Award

Best Film: K oblakům vzhlížíme (Into the Clouds We Gaze), dir. Martin Dušek

Special Mention: Několik Let (Lets Block), dir. Martina Malinová

Members of the jury: Bohdan Bláhovec, Ivo Mathé, Tereza Czesany Dvořáková, Martin Kolář, Petr Hruška

FASCINATIONS – Best Experimental Documentary Film Award

Best Film: Hacked Circuit, dir. Deborah Stratmen

Special Mention: Sexuální boj zboží (The Sexual Struggle of Commodities), dir. r. Pavel Sterec, Vilém Novák

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Silver Eye Winners Announced in Jihlava

Written 28-10-2014 08:23:28 by Tue Steen Müller

News taken from the website of the IDF (Institute of Documentary Films): For the sixth time at Jihlava International Film Festival, Institute of Documentary Film announced Silver Eye winners at the Closing Ceremony. The holders of the awards are three extraordinary documentaries from East Silver Market, selected in three categories, as well as three Special Mentions.

The aim of the Silver Eye award is to introduce the new talents to the international audience and to bring the attention of industry professionals to the new interesting films from Central and Eastern Europe, and to help the nominated films to find sales agents, broadcasters and festival releases. All Silver Eye winners receive the trophy designed by Czech artist Tereza Durdilova, as well as 1 500 EUR prize money. On top of that, the awarded films are about to enjoy the year-long distribution support within East Silver Caravan festival service, shipping them to more than 108 international film festivals.The awards are supported by MEDIA programme.

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Jihlava 2014 /Wojciech Staron

Written 26-10-2014 09:26:06 by Tue Steen Müller

Take a look at the photo. It’s about Love, isn’t it? It comes from the film of Polish Wojciech Staron, ”Siberian Lesson”, that he made in 1998. On film stock. Here is the Jihlava catalogue description of the film: In an attempt at renewing the national identity of emigrants, after the fall of communism, Poland began to send teachers to areas, where Poles had settled. The director’s wife was one such “missionary”, and her commentary recounts her experiences of living on the remote Siberian plains.

Indeed it does recount and you get a fine impression of people and life in tough living conditions, but the film is also a declaration of Love from film director and cameraman Wojciech Staron to his girlfriend Malgosia. Caught by a caressing camera of the young Wojciech, who more than a decade later has established himself as one of the most prominent European documentarians with a unique ability to ”follow through emotions”. One of many quotable

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Jihlava 2014 /Kerekes and Janek

Written 25-10-2014 08:38:35 by Tue Steen Müller

Gustav Mahler was in Jihlava. His face is looking at me from the wall in the breakfast room of Grand Hotel, which was grand once, an art nouveau building from the outside but how could they put that terrible furniture into the lobby! Tasteless. Anyway, service is fine and kind. Back to business, well actually pleasure:

After having three one hour meetings with filmmakers participating at the training programme Ex Oriente, a masterclass was held by Peter Kerekes and it lived up, to what I had expected. Kerekes showed clips from the three films that have given him the well deserved reputation as a documentary auteur with his own style, ”66 Seasons”, ”Cooking History” and ”Velvet Terrorists”.

The Slovak told the audience why he is not able to make observational documentaries, he feels uncomfortable by being there and telling his characters that ”just don’t notice that I am here”! Reality is not in front of the camera, it’s in my head. For the ”66 Seasons” I did a deep research to make sure that they would talk about the past, what happened way back around the swimming pool in Kosice. I wrote everything down when having filmed, a good

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Anders Østergaard & Erzsébet Rácz: 1989/2

Written 24-10-2014 17:07:28 by Tue Steen Müller

Click below and you get the local organisers of the pan-European screenings of ”1989”, and in many cases also the location of the screening that takes place on November 5th. What a great effort that lies behind this initiative. The click also gives you access to watch the trailer of the film.

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Jihlava 2014 /Kerekes, Mansky, Nellis

Written 24-10-2014 09:19:36 by Tue Steen Müller


I am back in Jihlava after 5 years. I stopped working for the training programme Ex Oriente in 2009, where the final session with pitching took place in this cosy provincial town, where time seems to stand still. But where a documentary film festival is taking place for the 18th time. From the start under the leadership of energetic Marek Hovorka, who is always going for the different films and have established interesting sections for his programme. The festival has a huge industry programme, the excellent DocAlliance is here, the Silver Market, loads of masterclasses with directors like Godfrey Reggio, Peter Kerekes and Nicolas Philibert.

I went to the Silver Market and watched some short documentaries. Peter Kerekes came up – again – with a surprise, entertaining and thought-provoking. Title ”Second Chance” (photo, 12 minutes, he visits an old lady, whose birthday is October 28, the independence day of Slovakia (1918). To ask for her advice. His plan is to fight the corrupted policy of current Slovakia and his idea is to ask a country to invade Slovakia to establish better conditions – as communist leader in Czekoslovakia Bilak did in 1968, when he and others in the top of the communist party asked Brezhnev to help! Kerekes goes to Finland for help! It’s excellent!

More observational is Vitaly Mansky’s ”The Eternal Light”, shot in Ukraine on Victory Day, May 9, where the war veterans join around the memorial statue and the eternal flame that unfortunately has gone out. He meets a veteran in his home, stories from the war are told. 15 minutes, whereas Laila Pakalnina has made a two minutes piece, that in her classical search for weird situations has one shot on football players lined up side by side waiting for the result of a penalty shoot… for football freaks like me funny, will others understand.

At night a walk through the quiet and softly lighted town, following the white lines that take you from cinema to cinema, a fantastic idea that the festival has performed year after year. To a three hour opening of the festival, a show for more than one hour and a film about families adopting children, ”Auditioning for Parenthood” by Alica Nellis. For me a mainstream tv documentary full of talking generalities, have to talk to Marek Hovorka why a festival that advocates for film Art starts like that.

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CPH:DOX 2014 /Østergaard & Rácz

Written 22-10-2014 13:29:39 by Tue Steen Müller

1989 by Anders Østergaard & Erzsébet Rácz 

Of course the film had to start with 1956 and it does so with very fine and moving archive footage of people searching for the remains of Imre Nagy, whose government was not accepted when the Russians invaded the country. Nagy was executed in 1958. That historical reference is important to include as the re-burial of Nagy, the rehabilitation of him, happened in the years around 1989, and with the support of Miklós Neméth, who served as prime minister 1988-1990 and is the main character of ”1989”, an intelligent, informative, entertaining and provoking documentary.

Yes, it deserves all these superlatives for its fresh look at what happened 25 years ago, when the wall went down as did the Soviet Union. Neméth, economist, coming into power, looked at a country close to bankruptcy and found the border control mechanisms extremely expensive – so he decided to have the borders opened, to tear down the iron curtain. He did so and had strong opposition from the hard-liners in his communist party, his rooms were bugged, and his manouvres were looked upon with more than skepticism from the GDR leader Erich Honecker, as the result was that thousands of Eastern Germans flew to the West through Hungary, before the wall went down in their own country.

They are all there in the film – Gorbachev, Helmuth Kohl, Honecker – and

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Maloof and Siskel: Finding Vivian Maier

Written 21-10-2014 09:54:11 by Tue Steen Müller

”Finding Vivian Maier” is ”documentary of the Month” at the Cinematheque in Copenhagen with screenings from the 23rd of October, so Copenhageners – this is a must-see, it is lovely portrait of a mysterious woman, who her whole life was working as a nanny or governess, serving others at the same time as she, always with a camera around her neck, was taking photographs that she never showed to others. A person who ”never fit in”, an eccentric. She lived from 1926-2009. Close to her death, a quote from the website of the film...

”... Maier’s massive body of work … came to light when in 2007 her work was discovered at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side. From there, it would eventually impact the world over and change the life of the man, who championed her work and brought it to the public eye, John Maloof.

Currently, Vivian Maier’s body of work is being archived and cataloged for the enjoyment of others and for future generations. John Maloof is at the core of this project after reconstructing most of the archive, having been previously dispersed to the various buyers attending that auction. Now, with roughly 90% of her archive reconstructed, Vivian’s work is part of a renaissance in interest in the art of Street Photography.”

Of course one might say that it is the work of an artist that is interesting and not her/his life. In this case, however, the putting her life together piece by piece through the photos and interviews with those, who employed her and

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Cinedoc-Tbilisi Second Edition /2

Written 20-10-2014 16:05:06 by Tue Steen Müller

The festival in Georgian capital Tbilisi ended yesterday and I found this message on the FB page:

The award ceremony is over and we would like to announce the results:

International Competition: The main prize of this section goes to "Judgment in Hungary" (dir. Eszter Hajdu). 
The special mention to "Ne me quitte pas" (dir. Sabine Lubbe Bakker & Niels van Koevorden)

Focus Caucasus:
 The main prize of this section goes to "Blood" (photo) (dir. Alina Rudnitskaya). The special mentions to "Zelim’s Confession" (dir. Natalya Mikhaylova) and 
"Biblioteka" (dir. Ana Tsimintia)

Cinedoc Young:
 Our special jury - the youth - gave the main award of this section to "The Barrel" (dir. Anabel Rodriguez Rios)

Our opening film "Do you believe in love?" (dir. Dan Wasserman) received the Public Prize.

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Riga – and Gustavs Klucis

Written 19-10-2014 06:10:58 by Tue Steen Müller

The premiere was in 2008, in Riga, the film about Klucis, ”The Deconstruction of an Artist”. Directed by Peteris Krilovs. And here I stand in front of the Arsenals Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art, where there is an exhibition of the artist (runs until October 26), a very good one and for one who knows his work from the film it is a pleasure to walk around and see all the posters and collages from the film, here hanging with no movements, in the film set in motion in an intelligent presentation and with a superb flown and rythm in the montage.

This is a quote from one of many texts, that has appeared on about the film:

”Latvian director Peteris Krilovs' documentary about legendary artist Gustav Klucis took several prizes at the National award ceremony in Riga a week ago: best director, best editor (Danish Julie Vinten), best script (Pauls Bankovskis) and best sound mix (Andris Barons). A big triumph for the company Vides Film Studio and its energetic leader Uldis Cekulis.

So well deserved. The same team has just completed a film from Krilovs. ”Obliging Collaborators”. Here is a promotion text from the internet:

With this full-length documentary, director Pēteris Krilovs delves into an

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Riga - and Herz Frank

Written 17-10-2014 08:03:59 by Tue Steen Müller

I am in Riga – again – to take part in a “Baltic Sea Region Documentary Film Research Seminar” arranged by LAC Riga Film Museum. It starts today and my job is to give a brief introduction to the Danish documentary fllm history. More about that in the coming days.

Last night I met with producer Guntis Trekteris to catch up on the theme: When is the premiere of ”Beyond The Fear”, the last film of Herz Frank, made in collaboration with Maria Kravchenko, who finished the work after the death of Frank.

Trekteris told me that idfa had rejected the film so the premiere will be in Riga as the opening film of the new Riga International Film Festival on the 2nd of December. The festival runs until the 12th of December and includes the European Film Academy Awards Ceremony. Also the film will be the opening film of the ArtDocFest in Moscow (December 9), run by renowned director Vitaly Mansky. It was Mansky, who said the following about Herz Frank: "Years will go by, and only 2-3 documentary film-makers will be remembered from each century." But even today it is clear – Herz Frank is on that list for the 20th century!”

… and the photo is me in front of the beautiful plaque of Herz Frank in Lacplesa Street 29, Riga. Photo taken by Lelda Ozola early September when we still had "indian summer"!

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EDN Interview with Claas Danielsen

Written 15-10-2014 14:29:13 by Tue Steen Müller

Cecilie Bolvinkel from EDN is responsible for extensive ”Member of the Month” – interviews, that can be found on the website of the association. A fine one came out two days ago with Claas Danielsen because ” DOK Leipzig 2014 will be Claas’ last edition as Festival Director - EDN has talked to Claas about the festival’s past and present and his own future.” I have taken a text quote, but please read the whole interview, link below:

“The funding is and has been a huge challenge. It is as complicated as putting an international co-production together and the requirements literally get more bureaucratic every year. It’s unbelievable how many small sources of income we have to generate to make the festival happen.

Secondly, it was not easy to win the trust of many people closely connected to the festival who were suspicious of me as a “Wessi”, a person from western Germany. Having worked for an organisation branded by Discovery Channel before, some thought that I wanted to change their “Dok Film Week” into a TV festival. To modernise a festival with such a long tradition was a huge task for me.

Another challenge for every festival organiser is the competition between festivals for films and professionals attending. With IDFA only three weeks away, this of course is a problem for us like it is for the other autumn festivals.

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The Flaherty and Sergey Loznitsa

Written 15-10-2014 13:43:55 by Tue Steen Müller

No week without good news from The Flaherty, this time the following newsletter came in:

The Flaherty is very pleased to enter into a new collaboration with Colgate University named the Colgate/Flaherty Distinguished Global Filmmaker. This project will fund a filmmaker's travel to the US and a four-day residency including a series of interdisciplinary screenings and lectures.

Integrated into the itinerary is a Flaherty NYC screening, and, during the Colgate residency, a public event facilitated by the Flaherty NYC programmers. Each year the filmmaker visit will provide a significant means of examining the complexities surrounding documentary film, including the conceptual, logistical, political and aesthetic decisions involved - as well as contemporary theoretical concepts of the "global."

This fall the Colgate/Flaherty Distinguished Global Filmmaker collaboration will bring acclaimed Russian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa to the Flaherty NYC screening series on Monday, November 3 at Anthology Film Archives in New York City, and to Colgate University for an intensive weeklong exploration of film and filmmaking. The project will run for three years, thanks to support from the Colgate University's Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty and the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor CORE Fund. 

If you click the link above you get to know about the films of the director to be presented, as always good and useful information. 

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Idfa and cph:dox 2014

Written 13-10-2014 11:06:25 by Tue Steen Müller

After DOKLeipzig and Jihlava IDFF have announced their programme, these (idfa and cph:dox) two significant documentary festivals have press released selection decisions, ambitions and visions.

Idfa (November 19-30) first – take a look at the website, link below – seven competition sections, six non-competitive and eight so-called ”special focus”, including one on Heddy Honigmann, so well deserved, and Honigmann is also the one who has made the ”top ten”, which is always interesting: Which films have important directors chosen? Lovely to see films by Victor Erice, Fernando Birri and Wang Bing on the list as well as two films by Johan van der Keuken, one ”The Reading Lesson”, 10 mins., that I have never heard about. By the way, Honigmann’s great new film ” Around the World in 50 Concerts” opens the festival this year.

It is impossible to go through all categories, and title-dropping is boring but let me just express joy that Danish Camilla Nielsson’s ”Democrats” is in competition as well as Hanna Polak’s ”Something Better to Come” and Nima Sarvestani’s ”Those Who Said No”, all three films that I know about from workshops and pitch sessions, and all three films that characterise idfa as a place for social and political interpretation of our world today. Also happy to see Davis Simanis (photo ”upstairs” on our website) represented in the Panorama programme with his cinematic ”Escaping Riga” and Egyptian Nadine Salib’s ”Mother of the Unborn” (photo) in the ”First Appearance” competition.

Cph:dox (November 6-16) is launching its full programme today, monday the 13th, and we will talk about that as we have already done, announcing the opening film, ”1989” by Anders Østergaard. The festival, however, wants to be

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Tiha K. Gudac: Naked Island

Written 11-10-2014 10:24:20 by Tue Steen Müller

They have always been and they are still made, these gripping documentaries about people being arrested and sent to isolated islands for punishment. By the people in power. On this occasion, I remember several films on the camps on Makronissos in Greece, the best being one by Ilias Yannakakis and Evi Karabatsou from 2008. And now this important film from Croatia produced by the production company Factum, that has never hesitated to focus on controversial themes, untold stories from the past and the present. This time told by a granddaughter, who wants to know her family story. Starting point: Why was grandfather’s body full of scars?

It was not talked about, when he was alive. It was a taboo what happened in Yugoslavia during those years in the beginning of the 1950'es, when grandpa, ”an enemy of the state”, was away for four years. It took a generation to deal with it, it was the granddaughter, the film's director, who wanted to bring the story to the world. Which became a painful journey in itself. She had to address her mother, her sister, her father and a couple of ”aunts and uncles”, who were also sent to the island and were close to Marijan, the grandpa.

The mother carries pain from her life. She has, to say the least,

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Svetlana Strelnikova: Cardiopolitika

Written 09-10-2014 13:08:47 by Tue Steen Müller

Sergey Sukhanov is the hero of this film. When in Eastern European countries for workshops I very often ask the filmmakers to say or write ”main character” or ”protagonist” instead of hero. But in this case Sukhanov is a hero. He is totally dedicated to his job, to be a cardio surgeon doing open heart operations and he has saved thousands of lives. It is a call for him, who is tough but fair when he discusses with his staff – or complains that they are not competent or attentive enough: I will deduct from your salary! He wants his colleagues to have the same dedication as himself: Being sick here is uncool! Tough but fair, well also heroes have unpleasant sides of their personality.

The chain-smoking surgeon (!) has problems with the local authorities. A new cardiac centre seems to be ready but there are still budget matters to be solved before it can open. He walks the empty corridors, checks the facilities, but when? An offer to head the presidential campaign for Putin locally is presented to the popular man, who, although doubtful, can see an advantage for his new centre, supported by Putin, and the population in the region of Perm.

This is the main theme of the film – a doctor, until then, far away from politics, decides to play the game of politics, not for personal gain but from an altruistic reason. The director of the film puts it

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Anna Yanovskaya: Ten Centimeters of Life

Written 09-10-2014 12:05:22 by Tue Steen Müller

First an explanation of the title of the film, enigmatic and fascinating it is: It refers to the ten centimeters of space below the ceiling where there was no water...  the space that saved lives at the unbelievable dramatic flood tragedy in the Krasnodar region near the Black Sea in Russia, in July 2012, an event that killed up to 200 people and left thousands homeless.

However, it is not statistics that interests the debutant director Anna Yanovskaya, it is the human dimension. She is using some archive material from 2012 – some shot via a cell phone from a roof top – to frame the visits she made to the city of Krymsk, where people more than one year after remember it all, while trying to rebuild their lives. The director uses a first person narrative, she is sometimes in the picture, ”I was in the epicenter of grief”, yes this is what it is about in a film that includes moving scenes of deep deep pain but also demonstrates the human being's will to go on...

A grandmother is in focus. Her grandson comes home from military service, the family gathers around the table, singing and drinking, drinking and singing, a wonderful typical Russian gathering, there is a tone and an atmosphere in these scenes – but the conversations keep on going back to what happened in July 2012. There is a lot of anger towards the authorities, ”they did nothing”, we see a mother holding a picture of her small son, a picture taken two hours before he disappeared, unbearable, as is the archive footage showing a man swimming, trying to grap a pipe, ”hold on”, they scream to him, but he can not, he is taken by the water and we are told that he did not make it, he drowned. A young man from the municipality (I guess) goes around to visit to see how the reconstruction is progressing. His meetings with old couples are caught by the camera, sweet bitterness.

Grandma is sitting outside her house, you read her face, grief but also survival will... a fine  work, this is, personal, terrifying theme, maybe sometimes a bit messy in structure, still, the most important is that the director brings the viewer into the souls and minds of those who suffered and still do so.

Russia, 2014, 66 mins. 

The film was in the national competition at the


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