Michael Glawogger 1959-2014

Written 23-04-2014 18:01:01 by Tue Steen Müller

Shocking news – Michael Glawogger has died from malaria during the shooting of a film in Africa. So young! My deepest condolences to family and the many, who were close to him.

In June last year I had the privilege to moderate a masterclass with Michael Glawogger (photo). It happened in Barcelona at DocsBarcelona, where his ”Whores Glory” was shown. I had recommended the masterclass to happen after meeting the director at the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade 2011, where he stayed the whole week of the festival, took everyone by heart with his warm generosity and ability to inspire, sharing his experience as a filmmaker, who never compromised and gave us, as he expressed it himself, a description of ”la condition humaine”.

In connection with a retrospective in New York, NY Times characterised his impressive work as ”A World of Troubled Beauty” – referring to his trilogy ”Megacities”, ”Workingman’s Death” and ”Whore’s Glory”. Films that will stay in film history.

A couple of quotes from his hand, taken from the many texts about Glawogger:  ”I start filming when I sense that nothing is exotic any longer. But common. Not before.”“For me documentary filmmaking is a very special kind of life and I come to see places in a way that I could not see by just travelling, and I would also feel lost travelling without the purpose of watching things in order to work with them, since that makes sense to me. If I weren't a filmmaker, I wouldn't take that time for travelling and watching, so that makes me very happy. The people I meet for these films, that make them very happy...”

Take a look at the photo, see his smile, see his calm and open invitation to ask whatever question relevant to the art of filmmaking that he mastered so wonderfully – most recent with the film from the National Library in St.Petersburg.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Baltic Responses to Ban of Russian Channels

Written 22-04-2014 23:23:23 by Tue Steen Müller

Is this a wise decision, I wondered, when i read a text on "Film New Europe" a couple of weeks ago:

Governmental bodies in both Latvia and Lithuania have banned broadcasts of Russian state TV channels. A three month ban began on 8 April 2014. Lithuania first issued a three month ban of the Russian channel NTV Mir two weeks earlier over broadcast of the documentary The Convicted. It later suspended broadcasts of RTR-Planeta (Russia) also for a period of three months. Latvia issued a three-month suspension of rebroadcasts of the channel Rossiya RTR over reports of biased coverage reflecting military propaganda. One-third of Latvia’s population is native Russian-speaking, and 8 percent of Lithuania’s population is comprised of native Russian language speakers...

I decided to ask three very good friends to give me their reactions, Latvian Lelda Ozola who works as Media Desk at the National Film centre, film directors Giedre Beinoriūtė and Audrius Stonys from Lithuania. The answers, the strongest one first, were:

STONYS: Let me answer you what I think about the banning of Russian TV channels in few questions. Would it be possible that ‘Der Stűrmer’ or ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ would be published and distributed in London in

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Bill Brummel: Erasing Hate

Written 21-04-2014 17:39:37 by Tue Steen Müller

Danish DR/Dokumania shows tomorrow the American tv (NBC) documentary “Erasing Hate”. I got a link to watch it for a review, I could go through the first third of the film then the link went on strike. So no points are being given but impressions from what I saw and clips found on the internet:

The story is simple: Bryon Widner used to be “ready to kill for the white race.” For 15 years he was a skinhead, he was a neo-nazi. One of the worst, an expert in the field says. Bryon, that is what he says, “became a role model for many”. But he changed his mind when he found Julie, who was also part of the movement, they got a baby and decided to leave their violent past behind. BUT Bryon was tattooed all over, he wanted to get rid of the “signification of a killer”. So, that’s the story… people from an organisation that investigates the far right movements in the US meet with Bryon and Julie, wants to help and an anonymous donor pays for the plastic surgery that is extremely painful.

It is indeed an American documentary: Narration, interviews where you hear the interviewer, close-up of the tattoos, music from “wall to wall”, reenactments, sweet sequences from the family life etc. No surprises, but pretty hard to watch the plastic surgery going on! A quote from the doctor: Your heart has changed, now we need to change the surface…



(This article give the whole story in details).

To be shown on DR, Dokumania Tuesday April 22

USA, 91 mins., 2011

Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Carmen Cobos: Imperfect Harmony

Written 19-04-2014 13:43:05 by Tue Steen Müller

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.

The film is shown in Tuschinski, Amsterdam May 6 in the context of the 75 birthday of the composer. It deserves an international life.

The Netherlands, 2014, 75 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cucic & Skoric: Mitch - Diary of a Schizophrenic

Written 18-04-2014 14:35:01 by Tue Steen Müller

It is rough. It is provoking. It is touching, poetic and shocking because you experience the difficulties of a man’s aim to come to terms with himself and life as it goes on in his head and around him in the psychiatric hospital, where he is, has been for 12 years and where he in a film, he is making himself, expresses his despair. Outstanding it is, nothing less!

He does not understand, why he is put up here, ”I am a bohemian, I write poems and songs, I take photographs, why am I here with retarded people”. And Mitch makes this film, together with Damir Cucic, filming himself and patients behind the bars, he is an intelligent well-formulated man, who talks about himself and asks questions in different languages to other patients. They sing songs, they rap and perform. Or sit on a bench, have given up, have been here for 22 years. These patients are not visually recognisable, they have been given silhouettes to cover their identity.

Mitch is a man who has been using many drugs, and you understand quickly that he is locked in because he has committed crimes. He turns the camera (a cellphone?) towards himself, he is filming himself at night time as well, and the director of the film, Damir Cucic, interprets his situation in these and many other

Read more / Læs mere


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Berdirxan: Silvered Water

Written 17-04-2014 22:26:09 by Tue Steen Müller

A mail came in today with the headline: Good News in Bad Times! It came from Orwa Nyrabia from Syrian Proaction Film, together with French Films d’Ici the producer of ”Silvered Water. Syria, An Auto-Portrait”.

Orwa Nyrabia: It is with much pleasure that we share with you, wonderful friends and partners, the news we received while Homs is under merciless shelling. Our new release is premiering in May, and taking the story another step further...

The film in question has been selected for the Festival de Cannes, Official Selection, Special Screenings.

Directed by Ossama Mohammed (photo) and Wiam Berdirxan, the description of the film goes like this, according to the mail received:

“In Syria, everyday, YouTubers film then die; others kill then film. In Paris, driven by my inexhaustible love for Syria, I find that I can only film the sky and edit the footage posted on YouTube. From within the tension between my estrangement in France and the revolution, an encounter happened. A young Kurdish woman from Homs began to chat with me, asking: ‘If your camera were here, in Homs, what would you be filming?”. Silvered Water is the story of that encounter.”

Indeed a Special Screening at the upcoming Cannes Festival!

90min, documentary

Music by Noma Omran

Editing by Maisoun Asaad

In association with Arte France - La Lucarne 

With the Support of CNC, AFAC and Sundance Documentary Fund, Procirep.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Vladislava Plancikova: Felvidek

Written 12-04-2014 16:59:54 by Tue Steen Müller

... with the subtitle ”Caught in Between”. ”An Animated Documentary” it is said in the press material, and indeed it is, including all kind of animation techniques that I don’t have knowledge enough to characterise correctly. But what I can say is that I don’t remember to be so wonderfully surprised as I did with this film by a director, who does not hesitate to use the film language in all its beautiful range of possibilities within the animadoc genre: archive material, photos, interviews, ”normal” documentary footage in ”normal” speed and in fast motion, a personal commentary...

”A director’s quote from the press material: …the film was inspired by my family history. I was intrigued to hear a casual comment which my grandmother made one day: My great-grandmother - her mother - never got used to living in Slovakia. When I learnt that my grandmother’s family only moved to Slovakia after they had left Hungary – their homeland – I was stunned. My grandmother was only four years old and, naturally, she doesn’t recall much about the events of those days. Yet she remembers that the turbulent times after World War II dramatically affected the lives of numerous Slovaks and Hungarians. Today Felvidek is a Slovak territory largely populated by ethnic Hungarians. But back in the 1940s, thousands of people were forced to leave their homes and resettle. I never knew that! The postwar resettlement was never mentioned at school… Hungarians had to relocate from Slovakia to Hungary. 89 660 Hungarians left their homes in Slovakia at that time and 71 787 Slovaks from Hungary returned to Slovakia. My film has an ambition to show how postwar events affected the fates of people in both counties.”

It is a complicated story that the director wants to tell and sometimes along the watching of the film I found the explanatory text too dominating but that is a detail compared to the many superb poetic sequences, where images tell

Read more / Læs mere


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Documentaries and Shorts for All Danes

Written 10-04-2014 20:33:44 by Tue Steen Müller

It’s gonna be a bit personal/sentimental as I worked with Danish short films and documentaries for 20 years. At the Danish Statens Filmcentral, where the distribution on 16mm was huge to the whole non-theatrical sector – schools, community groups and assocaitions, high schools, universities and for children of course the kindergartens, but also art and culture houses, and libraries... Of course many of the films were shown on television, but – even if we around 1990 had 300.000 screenings organised at these places, the question was always from the individual viewer: Yes, but where can we see these fantastic documentaries that you talk about? We don't have a 16mm projector at home...!

As of today, after we went from 16mm prints to VHS to dvd to internet streaming, the answer is easier, go to your computer – it is organised, NOW, by The Danish Film Institute, through (yes, they use the name of the film institution that existed from 1939 to the mid 1990’es where it was merged with The Danish Film Institute) Filmcentralen, that offers Danes to go online and find films they want to watch for free, or film links where they have to pay a bit on other platforms. On top of that the viewer gets information about the film and its director. The photo to the text is from the poster of the masterpiece by one of ”our” masters, Jon Bang Carlsen, ”Hotel of the Stars” from 1981, available for free, as are 12 of the films by this director, for three others from his hand there is a link to other streaming possibilities. That's a treat!

300 films are available for free, links to many others, through this Filmcentralen, sorry it is not for non-Danish but why not pick up this idea? It’s cultural policy at its best!

There are of course many films that are not there yet, but it is an excellent start. Bravo!


Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Peter Liechti 1951-2014

Written 07-04-2014 21:00:20 by Tue Steen Müller

Today I got this emotional FB message from Sevara Pan, who has written many reviews for filmkommentaren, including one on “In My Father’s Garden”, an absolute highlight in modern documentary: Dearest Tue, I hope my email finds you well. I just wanted to let you know that today I've read the Swiss/Austrian news about Peter Liechti. I couldn't find any news in English about what happened. But maybe you can google translate this article. I couldn't believe it to be honest. I had an interview with him for DOX back in October. What a loss. It seems like his last film "Father's Garden" was his final to find peace before he passed away…

No google translation but an obituary from Swiss Films in English:

The Swiss director, author and cinematographer Peter Liechti died on Friday, 4 April 2014 in Zurich at the age of 63 after suffering from a serious illness. With Peter Liechti, Swiss cinema loses one of its most exceptional filmmakers with a remarkable international career.

With his documentaries and essays, Peter Liechti leaves behind a comprehensive and independent-minded opus, which has been shown at renowned film festivals worldwide and honoured with numerous retrospectives in New York, Rotterdam, Buenos Aires, Vienna, Leipzig and Berlin. He won the European Film Award in 2009 for “The Sound Of Insects – Record Of A Mummy”. In Switzerland, Peter Liechti won the Zurich Art Award and the Grand St. Gallen Cultural Award in 2010. His last film, “Father's Garden – The Love Of My Parents” was shown in the Forum competition section at the Berlin Film Festival in 2013 and was honoured with the Swiss Film Awards for Best Documentary Film and Best Editing in March 2014.

Peter Liechti was born in 1951 in St. Gallen and initially studied painting and worked as an arts teacher, before turning to filmmaking. His interest in music and writing have always influenced and enriched his approach to cinema. His aphorisms appeared in “Lauftext – ab 1985” and in “Klartext” he published the conversations and thoughts that motivated his film “Father’s Garden: The Love of My Parents” (Vexer Verlag). As script consultant and producer he was committed to younger generations. Numerous filmmakers found their own cinematic voice thanks to his sharp mind and critique. As a cinematographer, he left visual marks in the works of other filmmakers.

Zurich, april 7, 2014



Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays Ukraine Winners

Written 05-04-2014 21:47:50 by Tue Steen Müller

A bit late, but you should know… taken from the website of the festival: 11th International documentary films about human rights festival has ended in Kyiv. The awards ceremony was held On March 27 in Cinema House in Kyiv. Hosts of the ceremony: popular journalists Nataliya Gumenyuk and Andriy Saychuk.

Films were competing for prizes in three categories: DOCU/LIFE, DOCU/RIGHT, DOCU/SHORT, and for the special prize from Students’ Jury. The festivals’ Orzanizing Committee favorite is awarded with the Andriy Matrosov Award.

Docudays UA 2014 Winners:


Main prize: The Last Limousine (director Daria Khlestkina, Russia, 2014) (PHOTO: director and the jury, Mitic, Macdonald and Baumann). For a dignified, compassionate portrayal of state-factory workers lost in transition, but not in humanity. Perfectly casted, well crafted, and touching in its social, economic, and political absurdity.

Special mention: Crepuscule (director Valentyn Vasyanovych, Ukraine, 2014) For a visually and emotionally superior depiction of human resilience, sensibility, and interdependence.

Special mention: Night Labor (directors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, USA, Canada, 2013) For a provocative, atypical, allegorical description of industrial work and personal freedom.

Jury members: Boris Mitić, a Serbian documentary filmmaker, journalist; Chris McDonald, president of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival; Simone Baumann, a German producer, head of the documentary department of Saxonia Entertainment GmbH


Main prize: Mother’s Dream (director Valerie Gudenus, Switzerland, 2013) For a highly sensitive, empathic, and artistic presentation of a controversial and socially resonant human rights problem, affecting the fates of women and children globally.

Special mention: No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka (director Callum Macrae, UK, 2013) For the powerful use of video advocacy in global awareness-raising and opinion-shaping regarding the mass murders of civilians belonging to a Tamil minority in Sri Lanka.

Special mention: Captain and His Pirate (director Andy Wolff, Belgium, Germany, 2012) For exceptional courage of the film crew and an outstanding presentation of international piracy phenomenon as presented by a victim and his prison guard.

Jury members: Andrzej Poczobut, a Belarussian journalist; Natalka Zubar, a Ukrainian human rights activist, journalist, screenwriter, director; Oksana Sarkisova, a Program Director at the Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival (Hungary).


Main prize: Liza, Go Home! (director Oksana Buraja, Lithuania, Estonia, 2012) For filmmaker's poetic sensibility and respect for other humans’ secrets.

Special mention: Joanna (director Aneta Kopacz, Poland, 2013) For filmmaker's ability to be both intimate and discreet.

Special mention: Mom (director Lidia Sheinina, Russia, 2013) For ability of the filmmaker to find in the closed world of one apartment "things that quicken the heart".

Jury members: Andrei Zagdansky, a Ukrainian-American director and producer; Victoria Belopolskaya, film critic, а programming director of ArtDocFest, the most influential Russian festival for creative documentaries; Stéphanie Lamorré, a French documentary filmmaker, international independent writer, producer and director


Tucker and the Fox (director Arash Lahooti, Iran, 2013) For an optimistic story about a life-long passion.

Jury Members: Viktor Kylymar, Oleksandr Shkrabak, Halia Vasylenko, Petro Vyalkov, Tetyana Chesalova.


Joanna (director Aneta Kopacz, Poland, 2013)


A Diary  Journey (director Piotr Stasik, Poland, 2013)


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ke Guo: Thirty Two

Written 02-04-2014 20:10:32 by Tue Steen Müller

At the end of the film photos of old Chinese ladies come up on the screen. They have had the same experience in their lives: They were captured by the Japanese during the war and kept as prisoners in a camp to be abused by the soldiers. They were placed in a so-called ”Comfort Station”.

92 year old Wei Shaolan is one of them and she tells her own story that could quite as well have been one of the others. A clever decision of the filmmakers to concentrate on one – in this case a unique – storyteller. She lives with her son, the consequence of one of numerous rapes, ”a Japanese”, as he has been called many times, 68 years old he is and it seems that he does communicate with his mother. SHE is fabulous. Shocking to listen to her story about the suffering during the time as a prisoner, as well as her hard time back home with the husband, who did not recognise the son of a Japanese soldier. What a life and what a will she has had to survive, and how beautiful a cinematography. That makes her beautiful and where you really are invited to read her old face. Which is like a landscape. Lived Life and a film that is an important historical document that is very well made and respectful towards the woman and all the others, who experienced the horror.

China/ Hong Kong, 2013, 43 mins.

Watched at:





Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The American Documentary Film Festival/ Winners

Written 02-04-2014 19:54:31 by Tue Steen Müller

Amdocs distributed several awards on the final evening of the festival. I was involved in the pitch competition and a juror for the Best American Feature Documentary. For that reason they come first on the list with some comments from my side. I did not watch the other winners.

The American Documentary Film Fund, part of the festival gave support to three film projects in different stages. 7 projects were pitched, 3 of them got $5000 as a grant, they all had an international perspective:

The Surrounding Game by Will Lockart, Cole D. Pruitt and Richard Miron... is a film about the Chinese fascinating play Go, its origin and some of its players.

The Most Fearless by Heather Kessinger... is a film about a Bangladesh girl, who wants to surf and thus break rules of a society that does not easily give space for women.

Encounter by Bruce Donnelly and Fermin Rojas... is a film about an upcoming (the first) gay men's chorus in Cuba. It is in an early stage but the two showed an impressive documentary about artists in Cuba, “Alumbrones”, at the festival.

Best American Feature Documentary ($500 each)

Queens & Cowboys by Matt Livadary, a warm, touching, well constructed, character driven documentary about members of the Gay Rodeo Association, shot over a year. 92 mins. Website link below. (PHOTO).

A Man Called God by Christopher and Kristoff St. John, a sensational film told by the son Kristoff about himself, his father and step-mother going to India in 1980 to make a film about Sai Baba, the spiritual leader, who seduced thousands of people - and sexually abused children, Kristoff being one of them, now as a grown-up telling the story. The film is to be released in the US, the Sai Baba organisation is expected to what it can to prevent it. 107 mins.

Best Foreign Feature Documentary ($500 each)

Edison Cajas: The Waltz (Chile)

Hugo Latulippe: Alphee of the Stars (Canada)

Best Foreign Short Documentary ($1000)

Sami Ajrami: On The Spot (Hungary)

Best Animated Short ($1000)

Rambaum/Scharbatke: Olgastrasse 18 (Germany)

Best American Short Documentary ($1000)

Lukas Dong: Smoked Salmon (USA/Sweden)

Filmmaker Who Makes a Difference Award: Harvey Weinstein

Rozene Supple Humanitarian Award: Cleve Jones





Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

American Documentary Film Festival/ 4

Written 02-04-2014 19:47:21 by Tue Steen Müller

As some other documentary festivals, DOKLeipzig is an example, Amdocs screens animation films. A good choice I thought after having attended a programme of 8 short ones from Germany, mostly from the film school in Baden-Württemberg. Puppet animation with beautiful handmade characters, dramatic stories, stop motion, ”normal” animation (this is not my genre as you could guess), several of them having this playfulness and wish to try something new and original that you often miss in documentary filmmaking. (Photo from the animation winner, ”Olgastrasse 18”, photo Jörg Rambaum)

Many things have impressed me during this my first time in Palm Springs. One of them is the interest of the filmmakers to attend the screenings. Festival director Teddy Grouya has managed to get many premieres to his festival, whether it is a US or North American or Californian or Palm Springs premiere. That adds to the good atmosphere in the cinema and gives some interesting Q&A’s that in most cases are more content-orientated than dealing with film language.

Palm Springs is indeed also a place for cultural events. Before the documentary festival there was a Jewish Film Festival and the International Palm Springs (feature) film festival and up comes also a short film festival. The citizens are used to go out, we were told by asking several of the volunteers. ”We eat out around 3 times per week”, several said, ”it’s nice and not very expensive”. Must be the reason for all those restaurants you see when being driven around. We tried a couple of them. No complaints on food or films.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDFA Bertha Fund Supports Talents

Written 01-04-2014 18:25:22 by Tue Steen Müller

Press release from IDFA, know several of the projects and people, great choices: For the February selection round of 2014, the IDFA Bertha Fund (previously Jan Vrijman Fund) considered around 300 projects from more than 65 different countries. In total, an amount of € 132,000 was granted to 10 projects. The committee selected three projects for script and project development and seven projects for production and post-production.

The selection committee for this round consisted of Ally Derks (Director of IDFA and IBF), Adriek van Nieuwenhuijzen (Head of Industry IDFA), Denis Vaslin (producer at Volya Films), Steven Markovitz (producer at Big World Cinema) and Elizabeth Wood (Director of DocHouse).


▪                Two Schools Under the Same Roof by Srdjan Sarenac, Bosnia-Herzegovina

▪                Dream in their Eyes by Siddharth Sinha, India 

▪                Thank you, Doctor! by Adilet Karzhoev, Kyrgyzstan

Production and Postproduction

▪                Ukrainian Sheriffs by Roman Bondarchuk & Dar’ya Averchenko, Ukraine (photo) 

▪                The Guitar School by Miriam Menacherry & Maheen Zia, India/Pakistan 

▪                In Praise of Nothing by Boris Mitic, Serbia 

▪                Growing up in Oil by Anabel Cristina Rodriguez, Venezuela 

▪                Kula: A Memory in Three Acts by Inadelso Cossa, Mozambique 

▪                Two Anonymous projects from the Middle East

See more at:

-    http://www.idfa.nl/industry/latest-news/idfa-bertha-fund-supports-ten-new-projects.aspx#sthash.xJcoyJjR.XdZ6vwNt.dpuf

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

American Documentary Film Festival/ 3

Written 30-03-2014 00:07:22 by Tue Steen Müller

Festivals would not be able to function without volunteers. People who help without being paid. The American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs is no exception. In its third edition the help you get from local people who support the festival is second to none. They drive you, show you around, welcome you in the theatre, ”how are you today” – but contrary to most festivals, where youngsters sign up, here they are retired people, who give a hand... or host a reception or a dinner. It is quite remarkable and extremely nice. We are in Palm Springs that many people have chosen to live in in their so-called third age, enjoying the good weather – I am wearing shorts here, they say we are entering spring from winter!

I was asked to introduce the Polish film ”Deep Love” by young Jan Matuszynski, who was present and received quite an applause for his cinematically brilliant interpretation of the love relationship between Janusz, who got paralyzed when diving and Joanna, his girl friend, who worries as he insists to continue diving and break the record by going down to 100 meters, even if his medical status, as the doctors tell him, does not allow him to do so.

This is what I wrote back in November when I saw the film at DOKLeipzig: ”Deep Love” is a multi-layered story. It is about a man, whose life first of all consists of a passion for diving, a passion that had severe consequences for him when his head hit a rock, making him a handicapped man, who understands what the people near him says to him but can not talk himself and has a paralysed arm and leg. Nevertheless, he wants to get into the sea again and go deeper, encouraged by his close friend and co-diver, yet discouraged by his girl friend, who is afraid of what could happen to him if he realises his wish to go 100 meter down. Here lies the core of the film, the relationship between them, the love story with her in the centre, with her constant care and anxiety. A very strong story but for my taste a bit too dramatic and disturbingly set up with music and sound... on the big screen in Palm Springs, my objections were no longer there, I have to say. Reminding me of how important the watching situation is for your evaluation of a film.

Festival director Teddy Grouya, who is constantly moving from venue to venue, energetic and welcoming filmmakers and audience, has also arranged panel meetings in the morning. The first morning I attended a pitch competition as one of four judges, 7 projects were presented, we will announce the winner later. Yesterday morning I was local journalist Bruse Fessier (us two on the photo) talking to filmmakers about how to draw attention to their works – the one hour session turned into an interaction where some of the filmmakers pitched their projects and got reactions from the two of us. My humble contribution from a European point of view was that you start your marketing the moment where you go public with your project, applying for funding, taking part in a pitch etc. In the US, as we saw in the morning pitch, most projects have reached (almost) the rough cut stage before they are asking for funding.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

American Documentary Film Festival/ 2

Written 28-03-2014 18:08:48 by Tue Steen Müller

Opening night in Palm Springs: Julie Cohen’s ”I Live to Sing”, or in xhosa language: Ndiphilela Ukucula. A warm film with three black, young upcoming opera stars from South Africa, who tell their stories, which are sad and uplifting at the same time. They came out of the poverty of the townships, their parents experienced the apartheid regime, they got into the Cape Town University opera section, were taught by Kamal Khan, a charismatic and dedicated teacher for them and they have now started what seem to become very succesful careers for all three of them. The film director deserves much credit for having found a tone in the film, where you laugh and enjoy the three wonderful main characters and their background. And see them develop their skills and personalities. Hilarious are the scenes with the bass baryton Thesele and his parents, who the filmmakers take to watch him and the others perform in Tales of Hoffmann – and to the first flight tour ever for them. Linda, the soprano, who do not have her parents any longer – you see her train with Khan in extraordinary, touching scenes, and you see and hear the tenor Makudupanyane, a charming boy, who will make it as a singer and maybe also as a composer.

At least that was what he told us in the audience after the screening, where the three of them with Khan came to the stage for a Q&A after each of them had performed for a full hall in Camelot Theatres. The audience, we, enjoyed this grand night full of applause from start till end. A feel-good film in the best sense of the word, well put into a historical frame: Robben Island, Mandela, Verwoerd (OMG, what a quote from this man!), and the three of them actually not interested in politics. From the stage, with a smile. Thesele said that having seen the film again, he realised that he has to follow his father’s political engagement…

I am here as a guest to take part in the festival as a juror and panelist in an atmosphere of superb hospitality in the desert where Palm Springs is situated and where the sun seems to shine all the time!


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Theodor Christensen 100 År

Written 26-03-2014 17:30:14 by Tue Steen Müller

The Danish Cinemateket celebrates the founder of Danish documentary Theodor Christensen from May 1st with an exhibition and a retrospective. In Danish:

Ja, ham ville jeg gerne have mødt og røget en cigar med... Men han døde allerede i 1967, hvor min dokumentariske interesse ikke rigtigt havde taget fat. Men jeg har set hans film, læst hans inspirerende artikler og hørt om ham fra Jørgen og Ole Roos og mange andre danske instruktører. For ikke at tale om østtyske og cubanske filmfolk, som har nikket anerkendende og sagt ”Christensen was an inspiring authority” med henvisning til hans virke i Cuba i 1960’erne.

Theodor ville have fyldt 100 den 6. April. Cinemateket inviterer til film og indledning... ”filmforsker Lars-Martin Sørensen introducerer sammen med kunstner og sociolog Søren Kai Christensen – Theodor Christensens søn og der vises 2 film: ”C – et Hjørne af Sjælland” af Theodor Christensen og Karl Roos og ”De 100 dage” af Theodor Christensen.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival 2014/ 2

Written 25-03-2014 22:03:52 by Tue Steen Müller

A short trip to Thessaloniki it was, but I managed to attend a Docs in Progress session at the Olympion Cinema as well as the first 7-8 projects which were pitched at the Docs in Thessaloniki Forum, arranged by the festival and EDN (European Documentary Network).

In both cases the filmmakers made a short introduction and showed material. For the Docs in Progress the time slot for visuals was 10 minutes, at the pitching session the classical 7 minute concept was practised, including the verbal and the visual pitch. At both arrangements the filmmakers were to have individual meetings with broadcasters, distributors and sales agents.

I was impressed (and charmed) by one of the clips presented by director and producer Marco Gastine, who through his Minimal Films a couple of years ago made a series of films for the Greek Public Television (formerly ERT) on life in Greece. He is now in the process of finishing a new series, also called Docville, 13 episodes of 45 minutes, described by him as ”a cinéma-vérité documentary series” on Greece in times of crisis. I am looking forward to see ”Nikos and Miltos” by Katerina Patroni being completed – about twins who live at home with their mother, who takes care of her unemployed sons, who perform with a lot of humour and do express that the mother must take care of them in these moments of crisis! It seems she does not have a choice. The

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

EDN Award 2014

Written 22-03-2014 23:34:53 by Tue Steen Müller

I have just returned from Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival after a (far too) quick visit for the following reason - thank you so much! - this is the press release of the festival:

The European Documentary Network (EDN) award, which is given to individuals and organizations from Europe that have made a great contribution to the field of documentary, went this year to Tue Steen Mϋller, a prominent figure in the documentary world with a great body of work to his credit. The awards ceremony was held on Friday, March 21st at the Electra Palace hotel, as part of the 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, in the presence of TDF Director, Dimitri Eipides.

The award was presented on behalf of the European Documentary Network by Ove Rishøj Jensen, Web Editor and Film Consultant of the EDN, who addressed the audience and Mr. Eipides by noting: "It is a pleasure to work and jointly host the Docs in Thessaloniki Pitching Forum 2014 for the 16th year in Thessaloniki, as part of the Documentary Festival. It is also a great pleasure to be here and to work with you, Dimitri. "Before awarding the EDN prize to Tue Steen Mϋller, Mr. Jensen noted: "It has become a tradition at this festival to honor with our award any person or organization that has made an excellent contribution to the documentary genre. This year we grant this award for the tenth year and I felt that it should be something more special. In the past, for the most part we have honored people, groups or organizations for a specific initiative or event. This year we would like to honor a man who works beyond particular initiatives, organizations and events. We give the EDN award to this man for his great devotion to documentaries. We grant him this prize simply because he is who he is. Looking at previous years’ winners,

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nicolas Philibert in Thessaloniki

Written 22-03-2014 13:48:54 by Tue Steen Müller

Dimitri Eipides, founder and director of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, had made the obvious choice to present two tributes at the festival, one for the late Peter Wintonick, who came to the festival so many times to pass his wisdom and inspiration, and a retrospective with Nicolas Philibert, with whom there was an interesting press conference, here is the intro, if you click “press conference” below you get it all:

“I apologize for not speaking Greek. My father, however, did study ancient Greek and this always impressed me about him,” Nicolas Philibert, the French director said in the opening remarks of his press conference that took place in the context of the 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which is paying tribute to his work. Talking about the elements that link his documentaries, he said: “The first one is that I always try to “infiltrate” a group of people. My films are about working people, but I believe that at a deeper level they revolve around language, speech, voice. I am interested in sound, in noise, in language; these are the things that all my films have in common. There is also an underlying political theme in all my work, a moral theme if you will, which could be epitomized by the question: “What on earth am I doing here?”

The festival ends tomorrow, March 23rd.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocuDays Ukraine with Euromaidan Chronicles

Written 21-03-2014 07:48:03 by Tue Steen Müller

The organisers of the festival in Kiev has this text on their website:

11th Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival opens on March 21 at 7 p.m. with Euromaidan chronicles:

Three months of revolution. From indignant protest to national unity. From pots on their heads to batons and body armor. From the euphoria of victory to the mourning of the fallen Heavenly Hundred. Revolution as an explosion of revived dignity, as the euphoria of freedom, as the pain of awareness at the cost, as the birth of the modern history of Ukraine.

This year we have decided not to have an opening film, because all our attention is focused on the changes taking place in our country today. We have asked the directors, who filmed the Ukrainian protests to share their best shots with us. The episodes of these upcoming films about the Euromaidan were formed in a kaleidoscope of revolution, which needs no comment. We offer you a chronicle of the Ukrainian protest. Experience the three months of fighting with us, feel and see the revolution through our eyes.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Architecture and Film Festival

Written 20-03-2014 12:51:42 by Tue Steen Müller

In Copenhagen, starting March 27, running until March 30, the first of its kind, an ambitious set-up with discussion, tours around Copenhagen, and films, more than 80, new and old from all over the world.

It is indeed an impressive programme that the organisers put forward. ”Cathedrals of Culture” is reviewed below, it’s new, but there is also Antonioni’s ”Red Desert”, Leth’s ”66 Scenes from America”, the finnish ”Steam of Life” (photo) by Berghåll and Hotakainen, films about and with Eames and Oscar Niemeyer, Pernille Grønkjær’s masterpiece ”The Monastery”, Peter Greenaway’s ”Belly of an Architect” and Jytte Rex fine film on Henning Larsen.

Just to mention some of the titles and to give you an idea of the wide repertory of the festival.



Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cathedrals of Culture

Written 20-03-2014 10:44:03 by Tue Steen Müller

6 3D documentaries by Wim Wenders, Michael Glawogger, Michael Madsen, Robert Redford, Margreth Olin and Karim Ainouz. Executive producer: Wim Wenders. Each film is 26 mins. long.

Subtitle: ”If Buildings Could Talk” and this is where the overall problem lies if the idea is that they have to be watched as one film with six locations... I saw it like that at the press screening tuesday and this is how the 6 are to be screened at the Copenhagen Architecture Festival x Film, with one small break.

So for you festival people out there or television buyers – show them one by one, or maybe in pairs, there is a couple of excellent works to be enjoyed. If you – literally – sit and watch buildings talk in first person to you (”I am a building”) film after film, you get exhausted, even more, simply fed up by a constructed verbal concept that almost makes you want to shout ”shut up”, let me watch!

Having said so, of course you can not put all under one roof, the films are different in quality as I will try to phrase in the following mini-reviews that follow the viewing order of my screening:

Wim Wenders: The Berlin Philharmonic

... is so wonderful to watch, and listen to, and the fatigue around the ”I am a building” first person is not there, yet – maybe that’s why Wenders as ex. producer put himself first!? Anyway, you get a beautiful tour in the concert hall, you get information about how the building was constructed, you get the historical background, there is a fine use of archive material, there is a sense

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Danish DOK2014

Written 19-03-2014 09:47:10 by Tue Steen Müller

... is a yearly seminar day dedicated to the documentary film, open for participation by Danish filmmakers, producers, film school students, television people with a relationship to the genre, consultants etc. from the Danish Film Institute (DFI), that is the organiser and programmer of the event that takes place in the Film House in the middle of Copenhagen.

I have participated several times and also this year it was well organised with informative and inspiring sessions... and you get to meet old friends and have a chat.

Claus Ladegaard, head of production at DFI, opened the day’s programme with a short speech that outlined the situation for the Danish documentary seen from the DFI point of view. Three points are essential for us, he said: Quality, Diversity and Volumen. He found it difficult to be worried about the Quality of Danish documentaries that travel the world and are screened on television nationally and abroad. Nevertheless, he quoted editor Niels Pagh who at a previous seminar had asked his colleagues: ”are we tooo good in storytelling...” pointing to the fact that many Danish documentaries have adopted the classical Hollywood dramaturgy and make smooth, predictable films accordingly. In the upcoming political agreement for the next 4 years, said Ladegaard, the DFI is thus calling for more experimentation, hybrid forms, interactive documentaries etc. And for financing models that do not necessarily include television. DFI is soon

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Docudays Ukraine Starts in 5 Days

Written 16-03-2014 21:33:29 by Tue Steen Müller

Yes, it does, wish you all the best, you are so brave and clever and thoughtful as this text documents, taken from the website of the festival:

Three times I started writing an address on behalf of the Docudays UA team, and three times I postponed it: the situation in this country has been changing practically every minute, and we didn’t know what the end of that day or that night might look like. Repeatedly the team discussed the possibility of postponing or even cancelling it this year, but still the warm support of our friends and colleagues from all over the world has assured us that this year the festival is needed more than ever.

We need it as a weapon in the information war, which we are still losing to Putin; we ourselves need it as a consolation in hard work over these tragic four months. Because now we should get people involved, tell them about the invincible power of human dignity, share experiences with them, and inspire them to develop new ideas and projects for building our own new Ukraine...

We prepared Docudays UA this year in exceptionally difficult conditions. Our festival office was just a couple of steps from the Maidan. It became a shelter, a warming place, a night lodging for journalists and documentarians from various countries who had come to us because they wanted to sort out what had and was happening in Ukraine. Due to their heroic efforts with global media, the ideas of Maidan started to emerge unbiased, the protesters in the eyes of the media became ‘citizens’ and ‘protestors’, rather than ‘mutineers’ or ‘fascists’. The members of our team did everything, from documentary screenings on the Maidan stage in Kyiv and other cities, and handing out tea on the square, to providing first aid, patrolling streets with the Automaidan, and shooting the most striking footage. We ourselves became familiar with the batons of the Berkut, tear gas, and rubber bullet wounds. We endured, and we won’t forget those who were less lucky.

This revolution stripped us naked and made us better. There’s a wise Chinese saying, “the worse, the better.” After everything we’ve lived through, we now truly understand what the Chinese mean by this.

I am grateful to all our guests who weren’t afraid of coming to Ukraine. But I am most grateful to the team of Docudays UA, and I’d like to express my admiration to those dear to me who didn’t give up and fought despite everything so that this year’s festival could happen. Glory to Ukraine! Blessed be the heroes!

Dar’ya Averchenko, PR-Director and member of Selection Committee at Docudays UA


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Written 15-03-2014 11:56:34 by Tue Steen Müller

What a wonderful surprise, and well deserved it is, that the Russian documentary Linar opened the festival in Thessaloniki Greece. Here is the text from the newsletter of the festival that always has a highly professional communication activity.

A deeply touching human story, starring a young real life hero, will kickstart the 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival on Friday, March 14, at the Olympion theater. Nastia Tarasova’s documentary Linar follows the odyssey of Linar, a Russian boy who travels to Italy to receive a heart transplant. Tarasova narrates with sensitivity Linar’s adventure and the relationships he forms with the people who take care of him, highlighting his inspirational courage and will. The film will have its European premiere in Thessaloniki.

The 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival will take place from March 14 to March 23. Screenings will be held in the following Festival theaters: Olympion, Pavlos Zannas, John Cassavetes, Stavros Tornes, Frida Liappa and Tonia Marketaki. Through its diverse film lineup, which includes documentaries from around the world as well as a parallel programme consisting of discussions, masterclasses and an exhibition, the Festival aspires to raise awareness on crucial contemporary issues.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Chris Blum: Big Time

Written 13-03-2014 06:34:17 by Mikkel Stolt

What a treat I got last Friday during the music film festival in Copenhagen: To be able to watch this old Tom Waits-film on the big screen again. It’s from a time in his career when he had almost redefined himself as an artist (with invaluable help from his wife Kathleen Brennan on the three albums “Swordfishtrombones”, “Rain Dogs” and “Frank’s Wild Years”), and the film consists of concert performances loosely glued together with fictionalized intermezzos with some off-beat Waits-personas.

He has always been inspired by American musical culture (blues, Tin Pan Alley-songwriting, jazz’n’poetry of the Beat-generation to name a few) and in this period he throws in a lot of other good stuff too (different European music styles for example). He manages to take it all in, give it a twist and a growl and then you have that unmistakable musician he had become at that time. His musicians matches him perfectly (including the innovative guitarist Marc Ribot), and my biggest objection to the film is that it offers them too little screen time.

But the film also documents that Waits is just one hell of a performer. Not a good actor in films, no - never thought so - but having seen him live on three occasions I can vouch for the impression that this film brings: he is a quite unique composer, lyricist, storyteller, comedian AND entertainer.

Though it may not be the best introduction to his music for Waits-novices (it IS a rather wild ride); as a concert or music film it is just right and despite being from around the time of the early days of MTV it actually feels rather timeless. It is both a document of a certain time in an artist’s career and a semi-avant-garde experience in its own right.

The film has never been released on dvd and the “literature” is a bit vague on the reasons. It can, however, be found on the internet, but you didn’t hear it from me since I’m pretty sure that neither the director nor the Waits-couple has agreed to it.

USA, 1988, 87 mins


Categories: Cinema, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Alexandru Solomon and Kino Kombat

Written 12-03-2014 16:08:54 by Tue Steen Müller

I just discovered that it is 20 years ago that I met Alexandru Solomon in Bucharest. My wife worked at DR (Danish Public Broadcaster) and I was at the National Film Board of Denmark. We bought two of his visual experiments/short films for broadcast and non-theatrical distribution. Titles: ”Shriek into the Ear-Drum” (1993) and ”2 x 5” (1993), pretty wild stuff... would never pass through today’s overall filmic normalization, well maybe at art museums and galleries.

Times have changed, Solomon is now an internationally renowned and committed documentarian, who has made several films on politics in his country. His films are made through hifilm, the company of his wife Ada, who produces award-winning fiction films on an international level.

Back to why I am writing this: Kino Kombat is online and for free until March 16, 5 films are available from the current programme of the 7th edition of One World Romania International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival.

You can read more about the films on DocAlliance website, see below, where there also is an interview with Alexandru Solomon, who is the director of the festival. He gives the following answer to ”Why Kino Kombat?”:

“Each year we express the focus of the festival’s current edition through a slogan. In Romania, in the past year we have seen a fresh civic commitment expressing itself in the streets, through protests and gatherings, but also through the arts. We are premiering two Romanian films that portray these demonstrations and we are exhibiting the drawings of Dan Perjovschi, one of the most important artists of our time, who reflected and nourished these protests. “Kino Kombat” stands as recognition of our double pledge – to human rights and to documentary cinema, as one of the best tools to promote human rights in a creative way. The Romanian version of this slogan is “Cine-luptă”, meaning cine(matic)-fight, and our central picture for the 7th edition is the camera-weapon. A weapon that is honest, intelligent and non-violent. The documentaries we select and promote are usually committed to a certain cause but they are not politically correct, they are provocative and have multiple layers, because they are also cinematic.” BRAVO!




Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Eduardo Coutinho

Written 12-03-2014 16:00:15 by Tue Steen Müller

The Brazilian documentarian, who died tragically on the 2nd of February, 80 years old, is the obvious subject for an homage at the upcoming Cinéma du Réel in Paris (March 20-30), where ”Cabra Marcado Para Morrer” (119 mins.), said to be one of his most important works, will be shown. The film that won the Grand Prix at the festival in 1985 is described like this in a newsletter from the festival:

« Au Brésil, le tournage d’un film sur l’assassinat d’un leader paysan est interrompu par le coup d’Etat de 1964. Vingt ans après, le réalisateur retrouve Elisabeth Testera, la femme de ce leader, et ses enfants. Il tente de l’aider a réassumer son passé […]. Au moment où le Brésil change, ce film nous fait mieux comprendre une certaine réalité du pays pendant ces vingt dernières années. » (Cinéma du réel, 1985). The short film “Sobreviventes de Galileia” (2013, 27 mins.) is also shown on this occasion -  and on March 13 in the Cinema La Clef “Edificio Master” (2002, 110 mins.) will be on the screen:

“Ce film suit, au quotidien, les habitants de l'immeuble « Edificio Master » à Copacabana , Rio de Janeiro. 12 étages de 23 appartements chacun. En tout, 276 logements où vivent près de 500 personnes dans la décadence, l'espoir et la solitude. Prostituées, trafiquants, domestiques, retraités, tous racontent leur histoire simplement et dignement.”

I have – without success – tried to find a thorough English language article on the work of Coutinho. However, below a link to a young filmmaker’s appreciation of the director, plus (in Portuguese) statements from Brazilian film people in connection with his death.



Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Katrine Borre: Mette's Voice

Written 11-03-2014 11:01:03 by Tue Steen Müller

"Mette's Voice" is reviewed below by Allan Berg, who praises the film. The film is available in an English subtitled version and could definitely be interesting for festival selectors. Here is the synopsis: Denmark is supposed to be a country of happy people. It is also ranking no. 2 in the world as consumer of psychopharmaca, and one out of ten Danes takes Prozac on a regular basis.

Mette is 43 years and a trained nurse. She has been a psychiatric patient for the past 15 years. She has been hearing voices since she was 8.Diagnosis: Paranoid Schizophrenia. Treatment: Vast amounts of medicine, 150 electro-shock treatments and disablility living allowance.

To psychiatrists, Mette represents one of the most complex patient groups. She is stigmatized and surrounded by prejudice. This film tracks Mette’s life and her ups and downs during four years. She is finally getting along and achieves some of her greatest goals.

A warm and thought provoking film about mastering your own life. About growing yourself and encountering life’s trauma – despite diagnoses. About never bereaving other people of their hopes.

The film takes Mette’s perspective. It has become a strong manifest in very

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Guardian Film Awards and Post Oscar Recognition

Written 09-03-2014 17:46:56 by Tue Steen Müller

For me the best English language newspaper critiques and general film coverage is to be found in The Guardian and New York Times. It was therefore with great pleasure that The Guardian, in their first Film Awards, placed The Act of Killing on the top as best film:

The Act of Killing has taken the top prize at the inaugural Guardian Film Awards. Joshua Oppenheimer's surreal study of the Indonesian death squads of the 1960s was nominated in three fields – best director, biggest game-changer and best film. It triumphed in best film over the Oscar winners 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, as well as two other foreign language films, The Great Beauty and Blue is the Warmest Colour.” In other words not in a documentary category. You can read more about the award and the voting clicking on link below.

From the NY Times – you need a subscription – I receive every friday a list of all new theatrical releases, including news and features. Melena Ryzik, who predicted that ”Twenty Feet from Stardom” would win the Oscar as the best feature documentary, had this week a fine article titled ”When the Battle Is Over, What remains Is... Art”. She writes after having reported on the Oscars for five years: ... (I’ve learnt) about moviemaking, about celebrity and mostly about how to keep artistic faith in balance with professional cynicism. It’s true: The Oscars are a popularity contest, with prizes conferred for a career narrative as often as for an individual performance, and undoubtedly there are politics at play. Otherwise, the campaigns would be dull, and the consultants wouldn’t be paid all that money…

At the end of her article she puts the spotlight on Sara Ishaq’s “Karama has No Walls” (photo). She had talked to the 1ad Abdurahman Hussain, who said that at first, they wanted to make a YouTube video, but then they realized it was a bigger story. Their 30-minute short, “Karama Has No Walls” — “karama” is Arabic for dignity — uses footage shot guerrilla-style by those in the middle of the action. The director, Sara Ishaq, a Scottish-Yemeni woman, submitted it to film festivals, which led to its Oscar nomination. The Oscars are not well known, culturally, in Yemen, Mr. Hussain said. Still, after the nomination, the filmmakers met with the Yemeni prime minister, and there have been government-sponsored screenings.



Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDFAcademy Summer School

Written 09-03-2014 11:23:00 by Tue Steen Müller

Normally we don't advertise training programmes but as we know that this one is NOT limited to EUrope and we have many talented documentary filmmakers as readers...

"The IDFAcademy Summer School is open to:
• Directors making their first or second feature documentary (no filmschool students)
• Ten projects in the script development phase and six projects in the rough-cut phase
• Creative documentary projects
Call for entry: IDFAcademy Summer School 2014

IDFA is looking for emerging documentary film talent!

From June 30 through July 5 2014, IDFA organizes the seventh edition of the Summer School: a tailor-made training program for emerging filmmakers, taking place in Amsterdam and aimed at strengthening the narrative structure of documentary projects. Around sixteen projects from all over the world will be selected for the Summer School 2014. The deadline for submission is April 1, 2014.

IDFAcademy Summer School offers the opportunity to meet and work with highly esteemed filmmakers and film professionals who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with emerging film talent. The Summer School combines individual coaching with group sessions and an inspiring cultural program in a relaxed atmosphere. It offers two types of training possibilities: Script Development and Editing Consultancy.
Filmmakers who are selected have the opportunity to bring a sparring partner: a creative producer, a co-scriptwriter, or an editor in the case of participation in Editing Consultancy. If a project is selected, a participation fee for two persons of a total of €1000,- (excluding VAT) or in case of one person for a total of €750,- (excluding VAT) is due. This fee does not cover travel, accommodation or food expenses. There is a scholarship available per project (accommodation) for international participants.
Participants will be coached by eight international documentary experts. In previous years experts like Gianfranco Rosi (Director, Italy), Audrius Stonys (Director, Lithuania), Emma Davie (director, Scotland), Kate Townsend (Executive Producer BBC Storyville, UK), Sabine Bubeck-Paaz (Commissioning Editor ZDF, Germany), Debra Zimmerman (Distributor Women Make Movies, USA), Jesper Osmund (Editor, Denmark) and Peter Wintonick (Producer/ Director, Canada) were tutors at the Summer School.

For more information IDFAcademy Summer School how to apply, see http://www.idfa.nl/industry/idfacademy/attend-summer-school.aspx

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

AmDocs Palm Springs

Written 06-03-2014 12:53:44 by Tue Steen Müller

It was one of these pleasant surprises. Last summer I got a FB message from a Teddy Grouya, who invited me to come to his festival in California. The surprise was double as he wrote to me in Danish (well not perfect but totally understandable). We met in Leipzig, where the kind and committed man told me more about his festival and revealed that he had been in Denmark in his youth as a student. And there we are – I will be in Palm Springs March 27-31, where the festival runs its third edition. In the following I have taken quotes from the website of the festival that shows documentaries, short and long, and animation films from the US and the rest of the world.

“This year, the American Documentary Film Festival and Film Fund will screen over 100 films over its five day run at three Coachella Valley venues. “We’re utilizing six screens this year,” said Festival Director and Founder, Ted Grouya. “It will be our largest festival ever.””

My visit to AmDocs include three elements. I am going to be a juror for 10 American feauture docs, I am to be on a panel with critics and film writers and I am invited to observe the Film Fund Pitch Competition.

Some words about the latter first: “In addition to our annual 5-day film festival, we are proud to share the American Documentary Film Fund with independent American filmmakers who will participate and compete for financing for new projects as well as works in progress.  An amount up to $50,000 may be awarded or distributed in any given year. A panel of film industry professionals will review a select group of documentary filmmaker projects for funding consideration. Filmmakers will provide detailed story outlines and budgets for their works in progress or new projects. Filmmakers will screen a five (5) minute preview of their film projects before the industry panel and take part in a 10 minute Q&A.” It sounds like the way we do it in Europe, but is there an American touch?

And words about the films at the festival that The MovieMaker Magazine nominated the festival as ”one of the world’s coolest documentary film

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Voldtægt som Krigsvåben

Written 05-03-2014 15:06:04 by Tue Steen Müller

Danish veteran documentarians Katia Forbert Petersen and Annette Mari Olsen premiered yesterday their new documentary, that has the English title ”Mission Rape – A Tool of War”, a film that will travel not only to the foreign broadcasters involved but also to festivals. The premiere yesterday in a Copenhagen cinema was folllowed by a debate about the theme, described here at the site of The Danish Film Institute:” "Mission Rape" is a creative documentary film which takes a closer look at a dilemma in international law - how the healing-process is affected when rapists are not prosecuted and convicted for the crimes they have committed. Instead the rapists have been punished for Crime against Humanity or other serious war crimes. In the aftermath of any war in which rape has been systemically used as a weapon, it is crucial to the healing process that war criminals are convicted for all war crimes, including sexual violence.” Change to Danish language:

Det var et flot arrangement, som fandt sted i Grand Teatret i går aftes: Indledning ved DR’s Mette Hoffmann-Meyer, som hyldede de to instruktørers engagement og professionalisme, som hun havde nydt godt af i mange år. Fulgt af en indledning af de to instruktører – Katia Forbert fortalte, at hun første gang havde hørt bosniske kvinder fortælle om grusomme voldtægter for 22 år siden på flygtningeskibet Flotel Europa. Siden da havde de to mange gange taget tilløb til at lave en film om emnet.

Nu er den der så, filmen, en stærk dokumentation i en blanding af samtaler med ofre, arkivmateriale fra krigen på Balkan og fra Krigstribunalet i den Haag, oprettet i 1993, ansigter fyldt med smerte, den store bestræbelse for at blive anerkendt som krigsoffer – og ikke mindst dette, citeret fra Det Danske Filminstituts faktablad om filmen:

Hver dag mødes en gruppe kvinder i en forening beliggende i forstad til Sarajevo. Alle har de en fælles historie. Foreningen er filmens

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

Oscar 2014 - Long Documentary

Written 03-03-2014 11:49:27 by Tue Steen Müller

... and the winner is ”Twenty Feet from Stardom” by Morgan Neville, in the category Feature Length Documentary.

”So Hollywood is Still Hollywood”, wrote Niels Pagh Andersen on FB. The editor of ”The Act of Killing” expressed indirectly what many had expected, including the NYTimes Melena Ryzik in her prediction, that the feel-good documentary from American showbusiness ”Twenty Feet from Stardom” would take the Oscar. Her argument: (it is) a crowd-pleaser that also happens to be a well-told tale about a subject close to many performers’ hearts — the careers of backup singers, a.k.a. the talented lot who don’t often get the recognition they deserve...

It was the decision of the Academy members, a disappointment for the many, including me, who had hoped for ”The Act of Killing” after the many awards to an innovative, controversial film with big impact.

The winner does not even approximately reach that standard. Anyway ”Hollywood is Hollywood” and personally the Oscar has not really had my interest before these last two years after the change of the rules to get there. So what is to be saluted is that quality films like ”Five Broken Cameras”, ”Sugarman”, ”The Gatekeepers” last year and ”The Act of Killing”, ”The Square”, ”Cutie and the Boxer” this year, get all the well deserved publicity through being nominated.

One last thing: Some have called the Oscar the world championship for documentaries... forget about that, there are many masterly films worldwide that have no chances to get to the Oscar.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

ZagrebDox Awards 2014

Written 02-03-2014 10:30:40 by Tue Steen Müller

I have copy pasted the list of winners from the website of the  festival, that cleverly brings forward the jury motivations as well. The following films have been written about/reviewed on filmkommentaren: The Last Station, Return to Homs, Ne Me Quitte Pas, Stories We Tell.   


International Jury
Damir Čučić, director and editor
Jean-Pierre Rehm, FIDMarseille managing director
Josh Gibson, director


dir. Cristian Soto & Catalina Vergara, Chile

The jury is pleased to award the Zagreb Dox Big Stamp Award to "The Last Station". In quiet dignity this film reveals the lives of those discarded by society and their families. But the elderly become not so much the subject as the metabolism of the film. The rhythms of their lives pulse through and render the filmic world.  Sounds are alchemized into forgotten memories. The jury would like to congratulate the filmmakers for finding the nuanced frequency and pacing that permits us to experience the humanity at the end of life.

Special Mentions

dir. Talal Derki, Syria, Germany

It's in the human nature to leave and to return to our hometowns, but to constantly keep returning to madness of a town caught up in war is an especially courageous act. Striving for freedom can sometimes get euphoric and close to a romantic rapture, even if the price we pay is death. The courage which the protagonists, cameramen and director embedded in the film "Return to Homs" is unutterable. With their devotion to the idea of freedom, they showed us that nothing in this world is impossible.

dir. Niels van Koevorden & Sabine Lubbe Bakker, Netherlands, Belgium

For its impressive ability to dive into the lives of its characters, for its subtle

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Oscar Prediction 2014

Written 01-03-2014 10:34:18 by Tue Steen Müller

Tomorrow night is Oscar night. On filmkommentaren.dk all five contenders in the feature length catagory have been reviewed, the latest watched in Zagreb the other day: ”Twenty Feet from Stardom”, an entertaining film, about which I wrote ”but  the film is not so well put together, it feels a bit messy in structure, and too long, maybe because, with all respect, the women are not all sooo interesting, but they get equal film time...”

Nevertheless it is this film that NYTimes Melena Ryzik thinks will get the Oscar. This is her interesting argumentation: If only documentarians and select members who saw the nominated films in theaters voted on this prize, as was the case until last year, “The Act of Killing,” a chilling and inventive look at death squads in Indonesia, would walk off with the top prize. But now Academy members are sent DVDs and invited to vote for documentaries. That means “20 Feet From Stardom” should pick up the statuette: It’s a crowd-pleaser that also happens to be a well-told tale about a subject close to many performers’ hearts — the careers of backup singers, a.k.a. the talented lot who don’t often get the recognition they deserve. It doesn’t hurt that the film’s campaign was handled by the Weinstein Company, for which no opening or musical event was too small to trot out its very willing stars…

Interesting, let’s see if she is right. For me, who fall into the category of “documentarians”, there is no doubt that the film to have the Documentary Oscar is “The Act of Killing”. The company behind the film is described in the DFI (Danish Film Institute) website, read the whole article, here is a quote:

It seems fitting that the Copenhagen production company Final Cut for Real is located on Forbindelsesvej – literally, "Connection Street." Talking with company co-founder Signe Byrge Sørensen, who produced Joshua Oppenheimer's Oscar-nominated "The Act of Killing", makes it clear that Final Cut for Real was put in this world to make connections – between people, filmmakers, cultures and world events….



Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Creative Europe

Written 28-02-2014 17:51:34 by Tue Steen Müller

Of course there had to be a meeting in Zagreb about the EU supported programme ”Creative Europe”, that runs from 2014 till 2020 and has two sub-programmes: MEDIA and Culture. The MEDIA Desk Croatia, Martina Petrovic, hosted the meeting in a building in the street next to the Kaptol Center, the location of the five cinemas, where the ZagrebDox films are screened. The building needs restoration but that is expensive so for the moment the authorities have invited the Croatian Audiovisual Center, ZagrebDox/Factum (the company of Nenad Puhovski, director of the festival), HulaHop (company of Dana Budisavljevic) and other companies and festivals to have their address there. This forms a kind of Film House.

Paul Pauwels (PP), director of EDN, that now has an office in Copenhagen and in Brussels, was well prepared in his excellent presentation of the new Creative Europe, having read the 380 (!) pages of a programme, which – said PP – will make it more difficult for “all of us”. There are many changes made from the previous MEDIA Programme. For instance, said PP, the applicants for development support will now be able to get a lumb sum of 25.000€ if you can raise the other 25.000€, which can no longer include any in-kind contribution. The latter is a radical change.

In Eastern European countries that will be pretty difficult, said Hrvoje Hribar, Head of the Croatian Audiovisual Center, who told the participants that an Eastern European Alliance has been set up to discuss Creative Europe and to come up with suggestions for amendments. PP stressed several times that the people from Creative Europe to him, when he has met them in Brussels, have stated that they consider 2014 as a test year and that he had found a

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Tatjana Bozic: Happily Ever After

Written 28-02-2014 06:15:43 by Tue Steen Müller

Does she wants too much, Tatjana Bozic? From Life and from the Film, she has made and in which she is the main character? A film about a woman looking back at her love life to find out what went wrong in previous relationships – and about what she can take from that in terms of understanding herself. And get on with her life as a mother.

You can't get it all, her friends say, when she, in the present layer of the film, is complaining that her marriage with Dutch Rogier, with whom she has her child, does not work perfectly. You want everybody to love you, that's the problem, her father says to her. Mother died, what would she have adviced me, she asks her father, should I leave the marriage? Your mother would have said Yes, the father replies.

She is a handful, Tatjana, and she does not hide that in the film about herself. On the contrary, you get very close to her, you see her suffer, you see and hear her being unbearably pathetic but also cheerful and direct. In between you reflect on whether you watch a private or a personal film.

She wants the film to be funny. And it is, especially when she is visiting her ex-boyfriends. Pawel, Russian Pawel, is the one who analyses, if you can use that word, her best. They were together for four years, before he chose to live with another Tatjana. The visiting of the past is a great idea for the film, the ex-lovers are from different cultures and that makes the film lighter. The mother of the Englishman did not like Tatjana! The Russians drink too much! Klichés but still, Balkan mentality, British stiff upperlip and Russian melancholy do not fit together.

Unfortunately the director also wants to send a message. In several wordless sequences you see faces of women... close-ups, they look at you, apparently to kind of ask us about/feel ashamed of the condition of women today. I don't think it suits a story which has already mant facets and is so rich anyway and it does not generalise, on the contrary it has a focus on one individual and her effort to find out about herself searching for Love. That is more than enough, there is no need to include the whole world. She wants too much, Tatjana Bozic.


Holland, Croatia, 2013, 83 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Lucy Walker: The Crash Reel

Written 27-02-2014 12:52:53 by Tue Steen Müller

OK, this film represents everything that I dislike about a certain kind of documentaries: It is – to quote the description in the site of the festival here in Zagreb – ”eye-popping”, ”stunning” and I could add sentimental over-the-limit of decency and what is worst: hypocritical.

The film shows how a young really good snow boarder, Kevin Pearce, crashes dramatically (you are invited ”to enjoy” the accident again and again), recovers his brain injury, wants to get back to the sport, mum and dad and brothers (one of them with down’s syndrom) don’t like the idea, the doctors warn him as his brain is not as it was, and at the end he gives up and starts a fund/social movement it is called called ”Love your Brain”. Halleluja!

The hyprocrisy comes in through the storytelling that the director has chosen. She paints a super glamorous picture of the sport and its young fit practitioners. Fantastic images of their acrobatic jumps and movements in the air, all wrapped in music from wall to wall, and of course a hurrah for an artificial world that is full of money and commercials. She points at the competitive point between Kevin and Shaun White, another snow boarder, it’s all very good and healthy. Accompanied by visits to the house of the understanding family Pearce, who sits down at the dinner table and talks about Kevin and what he wants with his sport and life – brother David with the down’s syndrom is the one who says that he suffers from Kevin’s playing with life and death. And mother crying again and again as she goes around with her son to doctors and psychiatrists... It’s just too much...

And then at the end of the film, after another injury where a young female snow boarder dies (of course we see the deadly crash), the film tries to raise just a bit of discussion about the sport... and we hear a panel of the young colleagues of Kevin express that they have also broken this and that in their bodies many times but... why bother, is the impression of the message you get after having been through the visual hymn to a sport that is dangerous but produces superb and entertaining and sensational images!   

USA, 2013, 109 mins.




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Svetlana Sigalaeva: Not With Us

Written 27-02-2014 11:54:18 by Tue Steen Müller

We have very often been informed about the terrible conditions for the inmates in Russian prisons. The released Pussy Riot members were the last ones to point out that something needs to be changed... to use an understatement.

This film, produced by the film school VGIK, adds excellently to the information that we have, not by showing but by having an ex-inmate tell her story from a point of view that (literally) is placed just opposite the prison building that is surrounded by barbed wire. Sometimes there is no water available. Sometimes the light is kept on during nights to prevent the inmates to fall asleep. The inmates (it is a prison for women) are not allowed to communicate from one cell to the other. If that happens, sounds of sirens are put on so nothing can be heard. And so on so forth, a flow of examples of physical and mental torture.

The film crew is inside the prison as well. They have filmed rehearsals and performances of songs and sketches, melancholic Russian love songs conveyed from a stage. But they have also caught faces and situations of tenderness between the women inside. Love grows between the women, not allowed of course, but families are created in the prison, as says the chain-smoking woman who is our storyteller, and who also painfully tells us her own story of relationship(s) that broke. 76 out ot 100 go back to prison – no freedom outside, better suffer inside... You could argue that the camerawork could be better but (also) in this case the content is so strong that it takes you by the heart. Good choice by ZagrebDox!

Russia, 2012, 43 mins.



Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Morgan Neville: Twenty Feet from Stardom

Written 27-02-2014 11:18:33 by Tue Steen Müller

This Oscar-nominated documentary is very entertaining because of its interesting characters, who are full of life and memories about their lives as back-up singers – and about their attempt to get to the foreground as lead singers. People like Sting and Bruce Springfield talk well and supporting about the unique voices they have used to help them perform, there are great archive with the two and the singers and with Ray Charles, as well as interviews with Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger, fine anecdotes, yes for sure an entertaining film, which is also about the tough commercial music industry fighting each other, and about the roots in the gospel music.

And then – surprise, surprise - comes the critic’s BUT the film is not so well put together, it feels a bit messy in structure, and too long, maybe because, with all respect, the women are not all sooo interesting, but they get equal film time. Here they are: Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Táta Vega, the Waters. The photo shows three more: Jo Lawry, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer. Especially the latter shows her extraordinary talent in the film. She came to the forefront, got awards, released record(s) but did not make it further.

And we would have loved more music, would we not... here enters the question of rights and money to buy clips.

Anyway, I was humming on my way back to the hotel after the late night screening at ZagrebDox, cinema 5, full house.

USA, 2013, 90 mins.



Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Thomas Balmés: Happiness

Written 27-02-2014 11:12:06 by Tue Steen Müller

ZagrebDox places the film in the ”Happy Dox” category. Here is some background on theme and on story from the idfa catalogue synopsis 2013: Bhutan is one of the least developed countries in the world. There is barely any industry, and electricity was not commonplace until very recently. This meant that people led their lives without TV, let alone Internet. But both arrived at last in 1999, following an official announcement by King Jigme Singye Wangchuk. The advent of electricity was revolutionary for the tiny mountainside villages in this Himalayan kingdom. Peyangki is a dreamy and solitary eight-year-old monk who lives in the last village to get hooked up. In anticipation of this big event, Peyangki’s uncle decides to buy a TV set, which will take a three-day journey to Bhutan's capital of Thimpu. Peyangki will go along on the trip, his first foray into the big city. “Do you expect TV to make you happy?” asks the lama of the last five monks at Peyangki's monestery. The answer is a resounding “Yes.”…

“Happiness” is beautifully shot, the boy is brilliant and convincing as is his mother, with whom he has many wonderful scenes, it is here that the film lives, whereas the story about the tv, that breaks so the uncle has to go to the city to buy a new one, feels fake and too arranged, and does thus not really work in this scripted documentary, that makes you smile, think of Sergey Dvortsevoy without Balmés having his rough poetic touch, it is much more smooth in style, and the ending of the film with a sequence of faces looking at us viewers/Westeners is far too much in its “moralistic” message: What are we doing to the people, who had a natural and harmonious life far away from “our” world. This is how I read it. What a pity for a film that could live without such finger-pointing… respect the audience, please.

France/Finland, 2013, 80 mins.




Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Damir Cucic

Written 26-02-2014 10:23:56 by Tue Steen Müller

Croatian director (b.1972) Damir Cucic “opened” my 2014 ZagrebDox screening schedule, and thanks for that. The festival had very rightly arranged a small retrospective of the work of a director, who deserves much more international attention that he gets at the moment, for his original approach and personal documentary film language. Let me highlight two of the films in the four-titled programme: “La Strada” (2004) (photo) and “The Forgotten” (2002). 

Vodnjan is the location of the 29 mins. long observation of people and life in a town close to the sea and Italy. The film is episodic, it conveys the impressions of its director in a beautiful rythmic way. You are taken to a Southern European mood, where children are playing in the looong street (“La Strada”), men are hanging out with a beer in hand, old people sit in their plastic chairs looking at the young women passing by, it is all very summerly and inviting, many languages, old couples discussing what was good in the past and today, faces, small situations – great great camerawork, unconventional editing.

“The Forgotten” (35 mins.) takes you to the countryside, to a village, Zumberak, which is at the border of Croatia and Slovenia. Again the cameraman Boris Poljak and the composer Goran Strbac (as in “La Strada”) together with the director/editor Cucic break the rules of dramaturgy, taking the viewer away from the main circling structure around people and the environment, stopping at other moments, where snow is melting into drops of water from the trees, a small symphony one could say, a film “within” the film,

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Pitching at ZagrebDox - Memories

Written 25-02-2014 17:37:16 by Tue Steen Müller

ZagrebDox 2014 is running. I have watched several films, reviews and reports will follow. Here are some memories which are published in the catalogue of the festival. A look back to the first edition of ZagrebDox Pro:

In 2005 ZagrebDox started. And today it is a very well established and functioning documentary event, respected among professionals all over Europe and (most important) with quite a strong audience attendance. It has a regional Competition, an international competition, side programmes, retrospectives, debates, you name it...

The man in the middle, the founder of it all, Nenad Puhovski, asked me for advice and help, when he started the festival. He wanted to establish a pitching forum like the ones we had been organising for almost a decade at the EDN (European Documentary Network), where I was the director and Nenad member of the Executive Committee. The first year, 2005, it was more a kind of workshop, where 14 projects were brought for development discussions with knowledgeable people like Sabine Bubeck from ZDF/arte, the distributor and producer Heino Deckert, Rada Sesic from the idfa Jan Vrijman Fund – and Nenad, Cecilia Lidin, my colleague from EDN and me.Among the 14 filmmakers were names like Macedonian Atanas Georgiev, Sinisa Juricic from Croatia, the Serbians Zeljko Mirkovic and Boris Mitic, Assen Vladimirov from Bulgaria. All of them now well known names internationally, who have pitched their way to co-productions and/or support from broadcasters and funds.

The 2005 opening of the festival was great for me, not only because of the workshop but also because Nenad had asked me to a member of the jury – that has to watch all international AND regional films. I was with idfa’s Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen and local master Krsto Papić. We did not have time to watch all the films in the theatre, so Adriek and I were running down the corridor of our hotel to exchange vhs tapes of the films. Pioneer times!

Pitching... I asked Nenad to refresh my memory for this introduction...

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The Flaherty Celebrates its 60th Year

Written 24-02-2014 16:51:49 by Tue Steen Müller

For new readers: “The Flaherty is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the proposition that independent media can illuminate the human spirit. Its mission is to foster exploration, dialogue, and introspection about the art and craft of all forms of the moving image. It was established to present the annual Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, named after the maker of such seminal documentaries as Nanook of the North, Man of Aran, and Louisiana Story. The Seminar remains the central and defining activity of The Flaherty…”

But there are many other events going on around the year. I have to confess that my knowledge of The Flaherty was pretty limited until former colleague from EDN, Anita Reher, crossed the Atlantic and took over as Executive Director - and got me on the list for receiving the informative newsletter of the organisation.

Yes, 60 years, and the Ex. Director has asked for memories. In the February newsletter Dorothy O. Olson , who programmed the second seminar together with the widow of Robert, Frances, looks back. She remembers three films, that she writes passionately about: Satyajit Ray’s Pater Panchali, (photo) shown in 1961 in Puerto Rico on 35mm:

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ukraine & Docudays

Written 23-02-2014 18:54:11 by Tue Steen Müller

There you sit in your comfortable armchair. You watch, you listen, you read about Ukraine, feeling shocked and hopeless... December seems far away, at that time I posted a text about the Docudays festival people taking active part in the events on Maidan in Kiev (photo). This is what they wrote before a screening took place in the square:

”Docudays UA is an apolitical festival. But it is about human rights and the choice each one of us always has: to accept the dictatorship regime or to fight for the victory of democracy. The future of Ukraine depends on the choice each one of us has to make. That is why Docudays UA is with Maidan!”.

To say the least the events in Maidan have taken quite a different direction. More than 80 protesters have been killed. Nervously about the DocuDays people, I wrote and got an email answer from one of the dear friends from the festival yesterday: ”It's tragic time here: we can't believe how many beautiful people died for new country. And it's happy time here: we feel, that now we are absolutely new nation: strong and brave…”

The festival people have their office close to Maidan. It serves as a shelter for friends, foreign journalists, film-makers, activists – and for preparing the upcoming DocuDays March 21-28. What an energy and dedication! Respect and hugs, wishing them all the best!

To read about the latest developments, the DocuDays people recommend




Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Marathon Dok 2014

Written 22-02-2014 14:45:35 by Tue Steen Müller

... arranged by EDN (European Documentary Network) in Copenhagen, read more from the website:

”Marathon Dok is a looooong day full of funny, fascinating and fantastic documentaries. This one-day screening program brings new international high quality documentaries to the big screen in the beautiful cinema of the Danish Film School. The screenings start at 14:00 and end at 22:00...”

The programme is chaptered with fours blocks and EDN deserves much applause for showing  short documentaries that we (at least I) tend to skip when setting up our festival schedule, and with television, forget it, very few channels show short films.

Anyway, there are two films of high quality that you get the chance to watch if you are Copenhagen or – Malmö-based: the masterly done, shocking ”Return to Homs” (photo) by Talal Derki and Thomas Balmès ”Happiness”.

March 1, 2014. From 14:00 to 22:00. Theodor Christensens Plads 1, Filmskolen, Copenhagen, Denmark


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Bartosz M. Kowalski: A Dream in the Making

Written 21-02-2014 15:54:56 by Tue Steen Müller

Always dedicated Hanka Kastelicová, executive producer of documentaries at HBO Europe, handed me the dvd of the director Kowalski, who with his first documentary work has made one of those many Polish documentaries that shine of professionalism in camerawork, editing and use of music. This time also of the director’s ability to get close to his two main characters, Pawel and Bartek (photo), to convey their friendship and hope for the future in a social and mentally devastated environment in a district of Warsaw.

In cold bluish exterior colours the film paints the picture of the area in which the two move around. Pawel, who is a bit older than Bartek, trying to help the latter to achieve what he did not manage to do in his young life. Bartek enters a school for stunt men, the film follows his development and his many physical efforts to become good in that, helped by Pawel in rooms in ruined houses where they can train. Pawel, married, outlines what is important for him and many others in similar social situations: family and Legia (football club in Warsaw). He seems like he wants to have a father role towards Bartek, who grew up in an orphanage and not with his alchoholic parents. Bartek is the one who tells the story in this very tense and talented HBO production (yes, you sense the channel's wish to have an action-led narrative) about a world (Bartek’s words) that is a ”fucking shitty mess”.

It seems hopeless, but the director lets Bartek turn to the audience in the closing sequence with a smile that communicates that he will make it!

Poland, HBO, 50 mins.



Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

ZagrebDox 2014

Written 20-02-2014 09:45:24 by Tue Steen Müller

Sunday 23rd of February ZagrebDox International Documentary Festival takes off for the 10th time in the Croatian capital – in the Cineplexx, Centar Kapitol cinemas. I have been to the festival several times, from the first edition as a juror, later on as programmer of a Baltic doc retrospective and several times as part of the team of ZagrebDox Pro, the training and pitching event, where new projects are presented. Nenad Puhovski, the founder of it all, film producer/director/professor, asked me for this 10th edition to put together a programme of films that were pitched at the ”Pro”, I did so with pleasure having the chance to remember titles like ”Cinema Komunisto” (Mila Turajlic), ”Caviar Connection” (Dragan Nikolic), ”Cash and Marry” (Atanas Georgiev), ”Bird’s Way (Klara Trencsényi) and “Sevdah” (Marina Andrée Skop). Not to forget “The Cycles” (Vladimir Gojun) and “Orchestra” (Pjer Zalica). I have to say that with these films, that all have a strong creative strength, and with all the other films that I have seen during the years in Zagreb, I have learnt a lot about the region, its current status and Yugoslavia.

Nenad Puhovski, same age as me, all right to be precise, he is 2 years younger, has made a programme that will not only appeal to our generation. I am sure there will full houses for a lot of the almost 150 films to be screened. I have seen many of them but going through the titles I marked 23 that I want to see when down there – I know from experience that this will not happen but as many as possible! One of them is “Twenty Feet from Stardom” (Morgan Neville), Oscar nominated, and the one of the five I had not seen before. The festival offers its audience to watch this one and two more (“Cutie and the Boxer”, “Dirty Wars”), “The Act of Killing” was at the festival last year. Only one missing is “The Square”.

A bit more title-dropping: In the international competition you will find the Lozinski films, “Father and Son” (by the son Pawel) and “Father and Son on a Journey” (by the father Marcel), Giedre Beinoriute’s “Conversations on Serious Topics”, “Return to Homs” by Talal Derki, the amazing short by Swedish Ida Lindgren “Rings of Life”, “Stories We Tell” by Sarah Polley and “The Last Station” by Cristian Soto and Catalina Vergara. And in the regional competition go and watch “Life is almost Wonderful” by Svetoslav Draganov, the original “Velvet terrorists” by Peter Kerekes, Pavel Pekarcik and Ivan Ostrochovsky, “The Last Black Sea Pirates” by Svetoslav Stoyanov, all good films that I have seen already, whereas I am really looking forward to watch Damir Cucic “Mitch – Diary of a Schizophrenic” (photo), produced by Sinisa Juricic. I have high expectations.

Have to stop here, take a look at the website, it is going to be a fest!

Links to (some of) the films mentioned:

Cinema Komunisto: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/1346/

Caviar Connection: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/718/

Cash and Marry: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/703/

Bird’s Way: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/1056/

Sevdah: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/829/

Cutie and the Boxer: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2606/

Dirty Wars: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2607/

Father and son: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/1536/

Conversations on Serious Topics: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2337/

Return to Homs: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2615/

Stories We Tell: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2341/

Velvet Terrorists: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2418/

The Last Black Sea Pirates: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2432/


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sara Ishaq: Kamara has No Walls

Written 17-02-2014 10:56:33 by Tue Steen Müller

Before Scottish/Yemenite Sara Ishaq directed the personal, wonderful “The Mulberry House”, she made this 26 mins. long documentary that is nominated for an Oscar in the Documentary Short Subject category. It is extremely tough and shocking to watch because the director, in this her first documentary, brings reportage footage shot by courageous cameramen Nasr Al-Namir and Khaled Rajeh in the streets of San’a in Yemen, and in the hospitals where dead and dying victims are brought in, into a context, where the two cameramen are interviewed looking back on what happened, as well as the fathers to a dead young man and a boy who got blinded by the bullets from the regime’s soldiers. Here is the synopsis of the film from the website of the film, link below:

Through the lenses of two cameramen and the accounts of two fathers, Karama Has No Walls encapsulates the tragic events of a day that changed the course of Yemen's 2011 revolution (Friday of Karama [Dignity], March 18th 2011). The film retells the story of the tragic events of the day as they unfolded, from a peaceful prayer gathering to a barrage of bullets.

By changing the reportage material into a creative documentary with a human perspective, including people who were there filming or who came there to find out whether their loved one was one of the victims… you are watching a film, an interpretation of what happened on the square Karma, that means dignity! It’s as simple as that but it takes a clever filmmaker to get there. Read what she has written on the website of the film: 

“The strongest motive that led to the making of "Karama has no walls" movie was meeting young Saleem Al-Harazi, during Yemen’s 2011 revolution, who

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DoxPro Conference on Video

Written 14-02-2014 11:05:52 by Tue Steen Müller

Remember the days where content of conferences ended up in big reports that ended up on shelves to be very seldom looked into after the event? I would argue that it is much more attractive to look at a video from a conference, as the DoxPro people Ludmila Nazaruk and Viktor Skubey has published together with the Russian Documentary Guild’s Georgy Molodtsov. The conference, covered on this site (links below), took place late September in St. Petersburg and is now available on video in an English and Russian version. Take a look, find the subject you are interested in, it is divided into chapters, very user-friendly.

Finnish Iikka Vehkalahti opened the conference, there were talks about transmedia, crowdfunding, about the Russian Documentary Film Centre and the Russian Documentary Guild, there were insights to Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Icelandic and Norwegian documentary issues, crossmedia, webdocumentarires, debates... producer and curator of Moscow International Film Festival Grigory Libergal closed the two days.

Russian version: http://rgdoc.ru/promo/2013/mezhdunarodnaya-konferentsiya-doxpro/video.php

English version: http://rgdoc.ru/en/promo/2013/doxpro/video.php


Links: http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/2473/




Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mahdi Fleifel: Xenos

Written 12-02-2014 16:16:07 by Tue Steen Müller

A World not Ours” was in Belgrade for the Magnificent7 festival – and was met with enthusiasm. The director told us that a follow-up short film had been selected for the Berlinale short film competition. The first public screening takes place today in Berlin, I got a dvd to watch here in Copenhagen. For those of you who are in Berlin, go and watch the film, there are still screenings scheduled. You will discover a harsh cinematic interpretation of what it means to be a refugee in today’s Europe.

The main character of ”A World not Ours”, the charismatic Abu Eyad, fled his Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon to end up in the streets of Athens, where drug addicts lie on the pavements and where he sleeps in a cellar room together with other refugees. To say the least, they hate to be in Athens, they take drugs to survive depression, and Abu Eyad earns money through sex with men and ”grannies” as he calls them.

The film is based on rough material from the streets and the cellar, including photos, with the sound of a phone conversation between the director and his pal Abu Eyad. It works perfect.

There is no smile on your face having watched this short documentary from... yes from Hell.

Xenos means "stranger", "enemy", "alien".

13 mins., 2014, United Kingdom, Denmark

Link: berlinale.de/en/programm


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocAlliance Offer Films by Peter Liechti

Written 12-02-2014 09:30:00 by Tue Steen Müller

The vod that calls itself “your online documentary cinema”, and very right so, always high quality has this time chosen to present 11 films by a real auteur, Peter Liechti, for free until February16. The text that introduces the director follows below and on the site you will also find the interview that Sevara Pan has made with Liechti for the spring2014 issue that just came out. Pan made earlier a review on filmkommentaren of Liechti’s “Father’s Garden – the Love of my Parents”, which is not part of the retrospective. If you have time for only one film, choose “Sound of Insects”.

DocAlliance: What forms can documentary film take? Really extraordinary ones, as far as films by internationally renowned Swiss director Peter Liechti are concerned. To Liechti, the film medium is an open field entered by other art elements such as music and literary text. Under his directing guidance, plastic documentary images emerge, dominated by a common trait; that of a stream of imagination. Learn more about the power of Liechti’s visual language in a unique online retrospective from February 10 to 16 at DAFilms.com for free!

The online selection of Liechti’s works represents a summary of his films made in more than 20 years. During this time, Peter Liechti, who had originally studied visual arts, has created a specific film language with an emphasis on the powerful combination of long takes, macroscopic details and literary means of expression. In case of Liechti’s films, the label “documentary essay“ is more than fitting. The unique compilation, with its accord of narrative and visually powerful images, is perhaps best represented by the highly suggestive documentary The Sound of Insects: Report of a Mummy, which has received the Prix Arte of the European Film Academy in 2009. The voluntary death of the protagonist, accompanied by a philosophical reflection on the birth and death of life, is captured by means of the miniature movement of individual natural elements.

However, the rest of Liechti’s works deserve attention as well. A specific combination of electronic music and film characterizes Liechti’s debut Kick That Habit. Music has also been the main theme of the appreciated film Namibia Crossings capturing an ethnically diverse group of musicians on tour in the South African state. Whereas music is a strong linking element between the individual protagonists, their cultural differences and bias lead to many a misunderstanding. The director’s personal testimony about the search for his own roots, integrated in the story of his attempt to get rid of his nicotine addiction, is given during the contemplative journey to the director’s native city in Lucky Jack.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Bakker & van Koevorden: Ne Me Quitte Pas

Written 07-02-2014 14:16:06 by Tue Steen Müller

Shit happens... Det var min hensigt at anmelde, og anmelde positivt om denne fine film, produceret af Hollands fremragende dokumentarproducent Pieter van Huystee. Jeg så den i Amsterdam, hvor den var nomineret til den store pris, men ikke vandt, men det kunne den sådan set godt have gjort for sin indlevende og kærlige beskrivelse af to herlige alkoholiske, lommefilosoferende skæbner, der ligeså godt kunne være bænket i Ørstedsparken om sommeren. Vejrbidte mænd med flaskerne indenfor rækkevidde.

Jeg nåede ikke at skrive før afrejsen til Beograd, så nu nøjes jeg med at gøre opmærksom på filmen, som to dage efter sin premiere via DoxBio stadig er til at se i 10 biografer landet over, se link nedenfor. OG for dem, der som mig oprindeligt troede, at Jacques Brel’s sang er med i filmen – nej, det er den ikke, men derfor kan I godt nynne den efter filmen, som fra starten kalder på melankolien. Her er en beskrivelse fra idfa festivalen:

The Flemish Bob and the Walloon Marcel have come together in the lonely woods and empty fields of Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. At first everything is bleak, bare and gray, just like the two men feel inside. Both have seen their lives slip through their fingers, and they have come together to share sorrow and drink-sodden nights. Bob, who looks like a weather-beaten explorer, hardly ever sees his grown-up children. He has lost his girlfriend and drinks rum like water. Marcel is a broken man caught up in divorce proceedings who drowns his sorrows in liters of beer, but at least they have one another. Together they visit the dentist, celebrate carnival in the village pub and go to Marcel’s intake at a rehab clinic. But usually they meet at one of their kitchen tables, where drink and conversation flow freely. Although the pair is able to bring a sense of humor to bear on their gloomy lives, they always end up discussing a suicide pact. The camera follows this couple thrown together by fate over several seasons in Direct Cinema style. This exceptional, character-driven story delivers heartwarming and sad, hilarious and very painful moments in provincial Belgium, which, like the two main characters, also seems to be in decay.

Holland/Belgien, 2013, 107 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

Magnificent7 Diary/ 8

Written 06-02-2014 08:45:58 by Tue Steen Müller

Take a look at the photo. It is taken at the oldest Belgrade kafana that has the name ? It is situated next to Saboma Church (The Cathedral) where the four of us always go. From left Zoran Popovic, then Tue Steen Müller and Svetlana Popovic, camera held by Ellen Fonnesbech-Sandberg. Wednesday morning there was time for a classical small tour that we have done during many years of Magnificent7: cakes at Hotel Moscow, candles at the church and this year also a small rakija kruska (pear brandy) at ?

Later that day we had lunch at the residence of the Finnish ambassador, who had invited due to the presence of the Finnish director Petri Luukkainen and his cameraman Jesse Jokinen, who back at headquarter, the Sava Center, gave a fine masterclass on their film. Luukkainen talked about the filming and the editing (they had 200 hours!) for this (the director’s word) self-reflecting film, where Luukkainen more and more felt that his presence was a kind of performative play.

EDN (European Documentary Network) director Paul Pauwels gave a motivating speech to the 30 young filmmakers present on this last day of the workshop: the media situation is changing, we need to share to survive, to make a good documentary you need a sustainable compay behind... PP responded to brief pitches give by a handful of the participants, and then we were all off to the closing ceremony in the big hall of Sava Center where the loyal audience knew how to praise Zoran and Svetlana Popovic and their team. The closing film ”Faith Connection” is magnificent – a fantastic documentation of Kumbh Mela, ”a fresco” as the Popovic’s write below, and a film where you fall in love with the kids that the director Pan Nalin so cleverly portrays – the small Babu, touching to follow the love he gets from his Baba, the Yogi who gets stoned several times per day. Not to forget Kishan Tiwari, the runaway kid who wants to be a sadhu.

Magnificent7 2014 is over. Time to go back to Copenhagen later today.



Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Diary/ 7

Written 05-02-2014 09:51:30 by Tue Steen Müller

Director and main character Petri Luukkainen accompanied by cinematographer Jesse Jokinen came to the stage after the screening of their film ”My Stuff” to receive a diploma and 1000€ from local BelMedic Clinic as a recognition of a ”healthy” film, healthy for your soul, an experiment into seeing what we really need.

The discussion in the VIP room, again full house as there was a full house in the big hall in the Sava Centre – it’s been like that all six first nights – took off in a very good atmosphere with two very nicely dressed Finnish filmmakers, who took us with charm with stories from the shooting over a year. Petri said that he was sick in the beginning of the film, minus 30 degrees it was in Finland at that time where he lies on the floor in an empty flat using his overcoat as duvet! And he had a crisis in the middle of the shooting and ”thanks God that I met Maia”, who comes in as a character and is there after the 365 days, when the storage room is opened.

To be the director and the main character... he felt a bit skizofrenic sometimes... but the one and only lovely grandmother was on many occasions the one to visit and get advice from. She stands out with her mildness and wisdom and it was easy to film the scenes with her, Jesse Jokinen added.

Conclusions? What did you get out of it? Were questions asked to Petri Luukkainen. I learned that ”All you Need is Love”, he said and added that without grandmother and Maia, it would have been a real boring movie. It is not, its is sweet and charming.

The film has had a fine run in cinemas in Finland and theatrical releases are planned in the UK, Germany, Sweden and Japan!

The last film of the 2014 Magnificent7 festival runs tonight, ”Faith Connections” by French/Indian director Pan Nalin, see below.



Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Pan Nalin: Faith Connections

Written 05-02-2014 09:48:05 by Tue Steen Müller

The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film: A grand cinematic spectacle! A documentary that takes us into the world of religious cults of India – the place where the rivers Ganges and Yamuna join with the invisible river Saraswati. Here every twelve years the world’s largest faith gathering – Kumbh Mela, takes place.

Tens of millions of people from all part of India come together over fifty-five days to bathe in the holy river and wash off their sins, thus ending the karmic wheel of reincarnation. Director Pan Nalin captures this massive human anthill in fascinating scenes conveying the eruption of colors and events, representing the vast space and the heaving human mass. Building on the frenetic activity, the filmmaker’s precise direction delineates the various groups of different sects, and among them the Sadhu – holy men. In contrast to their deep inner peace are the swarming thousands of ordinary people, confused and anxious, whom the power of faith has brought to this place where the earthly and heavenly meet.

During Kumbh Mela several thousand people get lost, and the filmmaker chooses to frame the film around lost children, three boys thrown into the crowd of people and abandoned to the twists of fate. Led by the notion that “faith is not faith until it is all that you have left to hold on to” Pan Nalin develops a majestic composition in search for the deep and powerful connections being woven around the boys and all they come in contact with.

“Faith Connections” are another triumph of the heights of documentary cinema. Pan Nalin, an international star of the cinematic skies, both in fiction and documentary, chooses one of the most important of subjects in India – man facing destiny, and gives it a European documentary treatment, to create an exciting, lavish fresco pulsing with frenetic inner rhythms.


France/India, 2013, 115 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Diary/ 6

Written 04-02-2014 09:47:59 by Tue Steen Müller

The Riahi Brothers had visited the festival before. Arash presented his ”Exile Family Movie” in 2007 in which his younger brother Arman is an important character as the film (the title says it all) deals with a family that meets in Saudi Arabia after 20 years of separation and without the possibility to get to the Iran most of the family left. Now the two works out of Vienna, Austria.

The inspiration to ”Everyday Rebellion”, that was last night’s screening in Belgrade at the Magnificent7 festival, came naturally from the Iranian Green Movement in 2009 that demonstrated against Ahmadinejad. The actions of the movement, as Arash said it, was violently cracked down but the brothers saw other movements coming up that had no leaders, were non-violent – they saw a pattern and decided to make a film. ”We wanted to make our contribution” and ”help the movements spread through a film that will go in cinemas, on dvd’s, with a website (link below) and an upcoming mobile application”. They saw several movements being connected, when they started filming the Occupy movement in the US, they met with Srdja Popovic, who was part of the Otpor that went against Milosevic, and who is a central character in the film describing the tactics of non-violent movements all over the world.

In the Q&A that I report from in this report - full house, around 70 of the almost 2000 spectators took part – Popovic formulated that ”those movements are the only way to change the world... it’s not facebook. It’s step-by-step actions with a will to change”, he said, and complimented the Riahi Brothers for ”a beautiful and inspirational film”.

Who are financing these actions, was the question that came up in the VIP room of the Sava Centre. And why is this not in the film? ”Our film is about the tactics, we did not look for answers”, and added his frustration that there are always someone that looks for ”the ones behind”.

... and then it became all Serbian in the room with no discussion about the film itself and pretty difficult for me to follow as the moderator Zoran Popovic stopped moderating to have looong interventions related to the subject of the film...as I see it missing the point that this is an informative film with a message and deep respect for young people all over world, who take action in different ways that are outlined in the film...well you can’t have it all.

The film of tonight is ”My Stuff” by Petri Luukkainen. See below.





Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Petri Luukkainen: My Stuff

Written 04-02-2014 09:35:49 by Tue Steen Müller

The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film:

What do we really need in life?

How much do the things we are surrounded by fulfill us, and how much do they enslave us?

In a moment of emotional crisis, a young Finn decides to draw on the wisdom of philosophers of antiquity, making a radical move in his life. Discarding everything around and even on him, in a brave and uncompromising step he put himself in an entirely new existential situation, one that sets him at a considerable, and sobering, distance from the modern world.

Petri Luukkainen signs and stars in this daring and unusual manifesto. Following a set of simple and strict rules the filmmaker documents his own experiment, examining modern culture and the perpetual dynamic of need-creation in a world swamped with consumerism. Are we still capable of understanding ourselves and recognising the true needs of our own beings, emotions and thoughts? This is a provocative adventure of the soul and body from the moment of stripping down to one’s freedom, in a metaphoric re-birth, to a world shaped and transformed by our own actions.

In equal measure intelligent, entertaining and moving, this film is a surprising study of universal and immutable values. Virtuoso photography, a masterfully playful and dynamic montage, and a strikingly effective narration rank “My Stuff” at the very top of contemporary documentary cinema.

Finland, 2013, 80 minutes.



Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Diary/ 5

Written 03-02-2014 00:23:55 by Tue Steen Müller

Last night was the screening of Nicolas Philibert’s ”La Maison de la Radio”. The director went on stage with festival director Zoran Popovic, for the second time in the history of the 10 year old festival. In 2011 he presented ”Nénette”, the orangutang, who, by the way, Philibert told us at a lunch, is still alive, gets up in the morning when the zoo opens and goes to bed when the zoo closes. A real performer!

We had expected that a film about a radio station would not attract the young part of the audience, we were wrong, the hall was full, as was the vip room afterwards, where the q&a sessions take place, around 30 people were there to listen and ask questions. Philibert talks so good about his view on documentaries and about his method, that you just sit down and write down some of the sentences from him:

”What I like about radio is the absence of images”. My challenge was ”how to make a film about radio without shattering the mystery”. ”I love their (the workers) continuous demanding – their trying to do their best”. He has a very positive approach to radio. ”Here you find authors and philosophers, who never appear on television.”

Philibert filmed in Radio France for ten weeks spread over 6 months. The station has 5000 people employed and 70 studios. It is a public service institution, and is thus, for the director, a small mirror of the society. He did not want to make a film that was ”trop daté” and refrained to give the Arab Spring and Fukushima too much space even if those were the hot issues during his time of filming.

About documentaries in general, Philibert pointed at the danger for normalization of the genre, ”it has to constantly renew form and shape”, he said in a visual clip, made when he was in Belgrade with ”Nénette”. A clip that answers the question ”what is a documentary for you”, put to all directors who in the ten years have visited the Magnificent7 Festival.

Tonight follows ”Everyday Rebellion” by Austrian Riahi Brothers.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Riahi Brothers: Everyday Rebellion

Written 03-02-2014 00:16:25 by Tue Steen Müller

The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film:

The world is in a state of rebeliion against political regimes, against as yet unbridled madness, against itself! In this contemporary, all-encompassing and ever-present ”Everyday Rebellion”, the rebels have uncovered new weapons that make them more active, more efficient, and more – entertaining! From subversive illegal cultural actions in Iran to silent demonstrations in Egypt, through bare-breasted provocations by activists in the Ukraine to the Occupy movement in the US, this film follows pioneers of new forms of protests, from the stages of preparation to their dramatic public staging.

The Riahi brothers manage to skillfully and thoughtfully encompass the entire world in a single gaze and single breath. In a series of dynamic episodes framed by a pointed and witty commentry, this lavish study of a planetary phenomenon pulses in a rhythmic succession of drama, carneval and floating conflicts. This is a story of the power of ideas and the spirit, of a modern-day David who unfailingly takes aim at an unfathomably giant Goliath, hitting his mark with a stone no larger than a grain of wisdom. And here is another reason for us to be particularly interested in seeing this film – one of the protagonists is a Belgrade activist who speaks to events that took place here, setting a precedent for events shaking up the world today.

This film is a festival favorite around the world, particularly of audiences that see in it a magic mirror in which everyone’s face and position is reflected with clarity. One of the largest productions in recent years, a film of undisputable aesthetic value, “Everyday Rebeliion” transcends it’s cinematic form, having become an active internet platform in which all anonymous and “little” people are invited to join in.

Austria, Switzerland, 2013, 110 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Diary/ 4

Written 02-02-2014 10:07:01 by Tue Steen Müller

The workshop connected to the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade attracts more participants than ever. 70 young film students and first time filmmakers have registered to hear about the documentary filmmaking in the presence of the filmmakers, whose work have been shown the night before.

Saturday morning Mahdi Fleifel was the one. His film ”A World not Ours” had been overwhelmingly well received in the cinema and the director, with his own words, ”gave his cv” to the workshop participants. ”A World not Ours” is the first professional work of the director, who right now lives in a suitcase, travelling to festivals with his film – next venue is the Berlinale, where he will present a sequel to ”A World not Ours”. For the Dane, who writes these lines, it was great to hear about Fleifel’s fascination of the documentaries of Jon Bang Carlsen – ”Hotel of the Stars” and the two Irish works ”It’s Now or Never” and ”How to invent Reality”, commissioned by me when I was film consultant at the National Film Board of Denmark (Statens Filmcentral).

Woody Allen is a source of inspiration for the director, who at his office in London has a banner saying ”what would Stanley do” referring to Stanley Kubrick. Fleifel went to NFTS, the National film school in England, and what really pushed him to make the film from the refugee camp was watching Ross McElwee’s ”Shermans March”.

He talked about the technical side of the making of the film, where Danish filmmaker and cameraman Jesper Jargil had given him the necessary advice on what camera to buy for the job.

Sunday night’s film is ”La Maison de la Radio" by French Nicolas Philibert.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nicolas Philibert: La Maison de la Radio

Written 02-02-2014 09:32:18 by Tue Steen Müller

The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film: The great French documentary master Nicolas Philibert takes us into the mysterious world behind the voices and music coming to us through the subtle sphere of sound waves. This is a journey into the heart of the most famous French radio house to discover the secret of a media whose essence is invisible. In the vein of some of his greatest works, this film has a simple narrative frame – this is a saga about a day in the life of radio. A day constructed as an exciting mosaic of scenes from studios, editors’ offices, technical checks, recording sessions, dynamic and passionate speeches, discussions, singing and performance, laughter. Philibert’s assured camera becomes a careful and patient observer documenting the world of radio secrets in mesmerising frames colored by beauty, warmth and an ever-present curiousity.

The titular “La Maison de la radio” is the name by which the French refer to the rotund building in Paris housing the national radio station – Radio France. With the skill of a great filmmaker, Philibert leads us into one of the powerful media fortresses of present-day Europe to reveal to us the ideas, skills, talents, beauty, humor and irony hidden in the labyrinth of hallways, studios and offices.

An extraordinary achievement of contemporary documentary about a medium pushed aside in today’s inflation of images and the visual, but which is staging a comeback everywhere. Like a water-lilly, blossoming under the magic touch of Philibert, the ever-present yet invisible sphere reveals to us it’s face in a spell-binding and unforgettable moment, captivating the viewer.

France, Japan, 2012, 103 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Diary/ 3

Written 01-02-2014 11:24:11 by Tue Steen Müller

The organisers estimated that 1500 attended the screening of Mahdi Fleifel’s ”A World not Ours” in the big hall of the Sava Centre. The director entered the stage with festival director Zoran Popovic and took a photo that he wants to send to his mother in Denmark, the country in the cold North that his family moved to after leaving the refugee camp Ain el-Helweh in the south of Lebanon. The camp that is the location of his film where he goes back on holidays to meet friends and the part of the family that has remained there, first of all his charismatic 80 year old grandfather. The main character of the film is Abu Eyad, a friend of the director, whose doubt about the way Palestinian politics is being performed becomes the red thread of the warm and humorous story as it unfolds with shootings of today and archive material shot first of all by the father of the director.

The audience included a big group of ambassadors and diplomats from the Arabic countries, headed by the Palestinian Ambassador Mr Mohammed K. M. Nabhan, whose first reaction to the film was ”this is my story”. On the photo that I took on behalf of Mahdi Fleifel the ambassador is the third from the right, Fleifel second from left.

At the dinner I sat next to the brother of the Ambassador, who expressed the wish that the film could be shown in Ramallah as Palestinians living there actually know very little about the many refugee camps. He and his brother, who lives in Sweden for 25 years, told me that they are 7 brothers and 2 sisters, spread all over the world, speaking, if you add it up, 11 languages!

Mahdi Fleifel and his team has started an Academy Award Campaign: Please help us qualify our critically acclaimed documentary for Oscars 2015 consideration. Here is the link to know more:


Tonight the film at the Magnificent7 festival is ”My Fathers, My Mother and Me” – German title ”Meine Keine Familie”, read below.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Paul-Julien Robert: My Fathers, My Mother and Me

Written 01-02-2014 10:47:16 by Tue Steen Müller

German title: Meine Keine Familie.

The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film: Deep inside this film lies hidden a drama which slowly and imperceptibly unfolds enveloping the actors of this family and non-family story. The filmmaker Paul-Julien Robert launches a personal investigation into the identity of his father, but also into his own childhood. A childhood that is far from ordinary – for he was born and raised in a commune, which from the beginning of the 1970s to the late 80s came to be the largest free commune in Europe. It was created by the legendary avantgarde Austrian artist Otto Mühl, and at it’s height it was inhabited with more than 600 people from all over Europe. All of them were drawn there by the ideals of absolute freedom, to live a life based on the principles of “self-expression, communal property, free sexuality, joint labour, collective upbringing of children and direct democracy.”

Within this utopia, among large groups of carefree and joyful children we discover Paul-Julien Robert, thanks to archival footage for which he obtained exclusive permission to show publicly for the first time. This enables him to face a part of his forgotten and repressed childbood memories. The basis of the film is a pain-staking questioning of memory, an analysis of archival images and a dramatic confrontation of the filmmaker first with his own mother, and then a succession of ‘fathers’ and playmates from one of the ‘freest’ kindergardens in Europe.

This film represents an exclusive, shocking and disturbing creation of two dedicated masters of the cinematic art: Paul-Julien Robert, an engaged, courageous, analytical and emotional author and his editor Oliver Neumann, who builds the dramaturgy of this investigation constructing it into a tense drama of extraordinary gradation and rhythm. The two come together to create a film of superior achievement, which, last year in London, won them one of the most prestigous awards in the world of documentary cinema, one that carries the name of the legendary John Grierson.

Austria, 2012, 93 mins.



Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Diary/ 2

Written 31-01-2014 10:45:50 by Tue Steen Müller

The morning after the opening of the 10th edition of Magnificent 7 Festival in Belgrade. The sky is clear but the wind outside is close to become a hurricane. A constant sound of wind enters the hotel room and is mixed in my head with the sound of ”Leviathan”, the first film of the 2014 selection, a film that brought an almost physical experience to many of us, who felt like ”being there” (as Richard Leacock always said was his ambition with his films) in this case on board a boat where fish of all kind end their lives, a drama it is, conveyed in a visual language that sometimes takes your mind away from the boat into surrealistic paintings and back again with a sound track that sits in you the whole way through this interpretation of Death. OMG, to be working there... we see the brave men once in a while but otherwise – with the words of Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw: … we can see what the humans see – and get the freaky, hallucinatory sense that we are also seeing what the fish see, what the gulls see, even what the ship sees…

We had dinner at the legendary Madera Restoran where Orson Welles, Hitchcock and De Niro have been eating, talking about the film and preparing for tonight, where “A World not Ours” by Mahdi Fleifel is to be shown. Fleifel grew up in Denmark, went to film school in the UK and has had a well deserved success with this film, that will be seen by a lot of Belgrade Palestinians, who have obtained tickets for the screening.

The 10th edition – let me show a picture from the first edition’s first film in the festival in 2005, Thomas Riedelsheimer’s “Touch The Sound”.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mahdi Fleifel: A World not Ours

Written 31-01-2014 10:10:41 by Tue Steen Müller

The Magnificent 7 directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic write about the film: From the moment of it’s appearance, this film and it’s young author received great accolades: a world premiere at the Berlinale, top prizes at leading cinema festivals including Edinburgh, Yamagata and New York and two awards for the leading young talent at Copenhagen Docs and the Nordisk Panorama within the section of “New Nordic Voices”.

Mahdi Fleifel brilliantly interweaves archival images with subjectively filmed material, creating a unique chronicle that manages to highlight the warmth of it’s main protagonists and the liveliness of daily events. Diverse video recordings of events, small and big, over a period of over 20 years are basis for a complexly composed film. This chronicle is an exlusive entry into a space which foreigners are strictly barred from, and so represents a valuable window into previously unseen life inside of one of the largest Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Enchantingly humorous, full of life and indeliblly captured moments, this documentary carries a unique atmosphere and a delicate narrative line, revealing in a surprising light the space and people whose life is stamped with collective tragedy and trauma. In the collision of entertaining and melancholy, the surreal and the absurd, “A World Not Ours” is a testimony to a forgotten dark corner of the world, but also a vindication of life and joy.

A documentary of masterful narration, deeply honest, marked by the personal engagement of it’s maker and a rare artistic achievement – the breaking down of a wall of prejudice and ideologically colored stories about the fate of a people.

UK, Denmark, Lebanon, 2012, 93 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Diary/ 1

Written 30-01-2014 09:29:07 by Tue Steen Müller

The festival in Belgrade opens tonight. I dare write that the hall will look very much like the photo that accompanies this text: hundreds, maybe a thousand spectators, for the opening film ”Leviathan” that the festival directors write about below, a text taken from the website of Magnificent7.

After one year of closing for renewal, we guests stay at Crowne Plaza (former Hotel Intercontinental), which has a direct access to the Sava Centre, where all screenings take place. One film per day is scheduled.

Belgrade weather is nice, cold yes, but with some sunshine this morning and a pretty view to the city covered with snow. A so-called survival kit (oranges, water, snacks, chocolate) stands in front of me at the hotel room. One of the many unique personal elements of a festival that treats its guests as kings and queens.

The coming 7 days will include a small report on filmkommentaren plus the text of the festival directors about the day’s film.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Véréna Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor: Leviathan

Written 30-01-2014 09:09:39 by Tue Steen Müller

Directors of Maginificent 7, Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, write about the film that opens the festival tonight:

The first great cinematic hit of a new visual era which is taking over the world. Something you have not seen before! A visual treatment that fully meets the great expectations of a cinematic vision born in the 20th century – a camera freed from the dictates of narration, a new all-seeing eye capable of creating a whole new world from the fragments of the old! “Leviathan” is the film which harkens the new possibilities of the visual in cinema.

The film takes us to the coast of New Bradford in North America, the former world capital of whaling, which served as the inspiration for Melville’s legendary novel “Moby Dick”. Today it remains one of the largest fishing harbours, from which over 500 ships sail each month. Filmmakers Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor follow one of these fishing vessels, sailing out into the murky, black waters on a trawling expedition.

And so begins a “gothic horror documentary! A world we have never seen before! “The most spectacular film of the year!” Such praise is heaped on by film critics fascinated by the artistic achievement of two noted visual artists.

Without a single spoken world, the film creates a Biblical sea beast, the Leviathan, embodied in a gigantic metal monster that thunders by, devouring fish while beseiged by flocks of seagulls. Time and space become foreign to us. An awesome and frightening document of a parallel dark side and at the same time an inner image of our world that is devouring both itself and the planet.

France, UK, USA, 2012, 87 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Siege of Leningrad

Written 29-01-2014 11:16:55 by Tue Steen Müller

On 27th January 2014 it was 70 years ago that the catastrophic and tragic siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) was lifted. I wanted to watch again the much acclaimed ”Blockade” by Sergei Loznitsa. Deckert Distribution was so kind to send me a dvd + a copy of ”900 Days” by Dutch Jessica Gorter. Two fine works that goes perfectly together. I have written about both films below.

But first some words about me and St. Petersburg, a city that I adore and have been so lucky to visit many times. First times in the beginning of the 90’es where I was part of a selection team for the Balticum Film & TV Festival on Bornholm (1990-2000). Head of the team was Russian born Sonja Vesterholt, the best guide to the city you can dream of. (On the 27th Sonja wrote the following on Facebook: ”I dag er der 70 år siden Leningrads 900-dages lange belejring blev ophævet.. 1 500 500 mennesker døde af sult. Min mor overlevede...” = Today, 70 years ago the 900 days long siege of Leningrad was lifted. 1.500.500 died of starvation. My mother survived...).

Later on I visited the city as consultant for the Baltic Media Centre together with Latvian colleagues Lelda Ozola and Ilze Gailite Holmberga. On one of these trips I met Ludmila Nazaruk, who stands behind the great website miradox.ru and together with Viktor Skubey have organised several meetings in the name of DoxPro in order to better the conditions for documentarians in Russia. The last effort of the two was the conference ”Financing of International Creative Documentary Projects in the Northern Dimension Area: Cutting Edge and Trends.” Russian speaking can follow (via miradox.ru) what was said at the Conference, where Mikael Opstrup from EDN and I were invited to be moderators. Link below. On top of that I have for two years been consulting the ”Message to Man” festival thanks to filmmaker Mikhail Zheleznikov and the new President Alexey Uchitel, who took part in the first edition of the festival on Bornholm. So all goes together in this nostalgic tour over two decades... It’s all about friendships, isn’t it?

Back to history and to the two films I saw. Sergei Loznitsa's ”Blockade” is 100% based on archive material, b/w, 52 mins, no words, no explanation, ”this is how cameramen filmed the siege”, he seems to say in this unique work, that shocks you and from a filmic point of view impresses you with its precise interpretation of sound: footsteps, small not hearable conversations, a sled being taken through icy snow carrying a corpse... He presents the

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Talal Derki: Return to Homs/ 2

Written 26-01-2014 18:50:38 by Tue Steen Müller

… while diplomats and politicians talk about Syria these days in Geneva, mentioning Homs in every sentence, news came today about the excellent film “Return to Homs”: It was Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the prestigious Sundance Festival. Bravo! That must increase the distribution of the film worldwide. Deserves to be seen all over.

The award was received by producer Orwa Nyrabia, who said:

“It was a very long journey until we were here,” he says. “This really gives us hope, us and everyone under siege in Homs and other places. It gives us hope that some day the siege will end. That some president can be ousted. And some other president in another place can do something finally."

On YouTube you can see Orwa Nyrabia and director Talal Derki’s thank you talks.

Here I repeat the review of the film, which was on the list of “Best of 2013”:

I met Talal Derki at a workshop in Athens a couple of years ago. He showed me some footage with Basset, the young revolutionary leader – and talented football goalkeeper – from Homs, fighting Bashar and his gang. What I saw was impressive and strong. I told him to make the film quickly: It is important to see what happens. NOW. He did not follow my advice. He did right. Instead of a report

Read more / Læs mere


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnificent7 Festival Belgrade

Written 26-01-2014 11:57:02 by Tue Steen Müller

The Magnificent7 festival starts thursday the 30th of January in Belgrade. Opening film is "Leviathan" (photo). From thursday and the following seven days a report will be posted from the festival as well as a presentation review by festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic. For the website (link below) I wrote the following text:

Ten Years Older...
Well, I am told that the festival celebrates its 10th edition! Really? Is it true? I feel the festival more to be Ten Minutes Older, to bring in the title of the legendary short documentary by Herz Frank.

For me it is just a moment ago that we (festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, the whole festival team including me) waited down at the stage in the Sava Centre in 2005. Anxiously to see an audience enter the hall to watch ”Touch the Sound” by Thomas Riedelsheimer. The opening film of this European Feature Documentary Festival. People came, in huge numbers, and it has been like that since then. The Belgrade audience has been more than loyal to Magnificent7, simply the best that this travelling documentary observer knows. Thank you! Veliko, neizmerno hvala!

Herz Frank again: "In front of me on my work table is the central fragment from Raphael's fresco "The School of Athens". Plato and Aristotle discuss the philosophical meaning of life. Plato is pointing upwards - the essence is the Idea! Aristotle, on the other hand, has his palm pointing down to the ground - the basis is the material! Even earlier in the Old Testament (Genesis) both views are united. In the first book of Moses the first lines states: In the beginning God created heaven and earth. Read - the spiritual and the material.”

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

New Danish Screen – 10 Years Celebration

Written 23-01-2014 11:25:13 by Tue Steen Müller

The Danish Film Institute publishes regularly – in English – its magazine Film. A printed issue is always available in connection with the big festivals in Berlin, Cannes and Amsterdam (idfa), and on top of that you can find digital issues, the last one being the Fall 2013 issue that covers films in connection with other festivals like Toronto as well as articles on coproductions with Danish companies.

This blog post, however, deals with a very generous offer, in a special digital issue on ”10 Years with New Danish Screen”. For those who don’t know what that is: ” Established in 2003, New Danish Screen is a talent development subsidy scheme providing support for fiction and documentary films.

Through this support scheme new generations of filmmakers are given the opportunity to push their limits and create new experiences for cinema and television audiences. New Danish Screen aims at making use of the energies and skills of talented creators, rather than guiding them in well-defined directions.

New Danish Screen is aimed at new talents working on the professional level as well as less experienced filmmakers. What counts is enabling manifested talents to develop, test out new ideas or change course since their past productions.

New Danish Screen (NDS) is founded on a partnership between the Danish Broadcasting Corporation DR, TV 2 and the Danish Film Institute."

And now about the celebration gift that also reaches out to a foreign audience (English subtitles): Choose between 53 films, supported by the NDS, and watch them online. Here are some titles to be recommended: "My Avatar and Me" by Bente Milton and Mikkel Stolt (photo), "My Father from Haifa" by Omar Shargawi, "The Invention of Dr. Nakamats" by Kaspar Astrup Schröder, Mira Jargil's new "Dreaming of a family", "White Black Boy" by Camilla Magid (this one with a small fee, otherwise the mentioned are for free). Those mentioned are all documentaries that I have seen, there are several fiction films, more experimental works and NDS deserves (also) much credit for bringing back the short film to a Danish, and now also an international audience. So - read all about it, NDS, and have fun with some films!


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Swedish Guldbaggen 2014

Written 21-01-2014 10:59:28 by Tue Steen Müller

Guldbaggen (The Golden Beetle), the yearly Swedish cinema award ceremony, took place yesterday and again documentaries played an important role – as last year where two films stood out: Palme by Kristina Lindström and Maud Nycander and Searching for Sugarman by Malik Bendjelloul.

Awarded as the best film this year was ¨The Reunion” (Återträffen) by Anna Odell, a hybrid film to use a modern terminology, or a docufiction, that Mikkel Stolt reviewed for filmkommentaren.dk

Danish director Per Fly got the beetle as best director for ”Monica Z” about legendary singer Monica Zetterlund.

Best documentary went to Mia Engberg for her ”Belleville Baby”, a very fine choice. I saw it in connection with the Nordisk Panorama festival in Malmø and wrote:

...it has a feeling, an atmosphere, a personal tone (the director’s own voice and her text is excellent) and a well told story from the past, where the director fell in love in Paris, lived with him for some time, experienced him becoming a criminal, because of his immigrant background, an honest film that also includes reflections on the fimmaker wanting to convey the good story, whatever the subject of the story thinks... it is so well made with a mix af material – super 8 blurred images, photos, newsreels and tv-reports from riots in France, home video from the director with her small son, all framed by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydike. An essay film on remembering, and remembering different moments and events, maybe they never took place. Impressive work...


Categories: Cinema, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Documentary Oscar Goes Political/ 3

Written 20-01-2014 11:42:33 by Tue Steen Müller

The nominations have been done. At least three of the films deal with current political conflicts (these ones):

The Act of Killing”, Cutie and the Boxer, The Square, Dirty Wars and 20 Feet from Stardom compete for the Best Documentary Feature prize at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2…”

I have seen them all (see below) except for “20 Feet from Stardom” (Photo). “The film has this synopsis description on the Oscar site (link below): Background singers heard on many of the 20th century's greatest songs have made a crucial contribution to the world of pop music while remaining unknown to listeners. The singers take center stage for an in-depth look at their role as supporting figures in the complex process involved in creating the finished recordings.” From watching Youtube clips and the trailer it is obvious that this is a film with wonderful music and women, based on interviews with them and people like Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Betty Midler. A classic tv language film.

So… who are my favourites having seen all five, one in excerpts? “The Act of Killing” and “The Square” stand out. No doubt about that. In film language, actuality and storytelling. Important films they are. If it comes to approach to theme, innovation and originality “The Act of Killing” is unique. It would get my vote if I was a member of the Academy. I am not.

If you want to read more about what is considered to be the two favourites, not only by me, go to the websites of the films, links below. Or get hold of the magazine DOX 100, where Joshua Oppenheimer and Werner Herzog talk “The Act of Killing” and Jehane Noujaim is interviewed by BBC-editor Nick Fraser about “The Square”. Fraser, who has called “The Act of Killing” “porn for liberals” thinks that “The Square” is “the best film I have seen this year”.    





Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jehane Noujaim: The Square

Written 20-01-2014 10:50:15 by Tue Steen Müller

I watched this film online (on the fine festivalscope, link below, subscription-based) after it had been announced as one of the five nominees for the Oscar award in the feature documentary category.

The film has this synopsis description on the Oscar site (link below): “The events that have shaken Egypt since 2011 have taken the country from a revolution aimed at ending political oppression to the overthrow of the new president, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. At the center of the story is Cairo's Tahrir Square, the gathering place for protesters and the site of many of the period’s most dramatic moments.”

… and drama there is, indeed, in this film that stays close to young revolutionaries for more than 2 years, catching the atmosphere of optimism after the fall of Mubarak, slogans, speeches in Tahrir Square, concerts, something’s gonna change - to the disillusion when the army has taken over and attacks the protesters, to more disillusion, when the Muslim Brotherhood negociates with the army, wins the election and appoints Morsi, who from the eyes of the young revolutionaries turns out to be worse than Mubarak. It’s observational reportage style footage that is the fundament of the film: People gathering. People in their tents. People being beaten up. People killed in the demonstrations, the mourning of their relatives, it’s terrible to follow. Some optimism returns to the face of Ahmed, when Morsi is taken away from power and the military is back. Yes, Ahmed (photo) is the character cleverly chosen by the director to bring in the emotional part – the young revolutionary, who is at the square discussing with people, who comments on what happens and how it influences him as time and events pass by. He is filmed in the streets, or through interviews. We read his face. The first, the direct works best, the latter feels a bit too staged. A scoop for the film, however, is that another central character is Magdy, who in an interview with the director is described as “a foot soldier” for the Muslim Brotherhood. His discussions with Ahmed, their friendship, stress that the director – although she follows the revolutionaries, who have also provided her with footage – does not want to condemn the Brotherhood as terrorists (as the military government does right now). Discussions like that as well as the actor Khalid’s skype conversations with his exiled wise father take the film take a step away from the constant bombardment of reportage material, whereas short interviews with military people made me confused – they can’t be as stupid as these ones all of them! 

USA, 2013, 1 hour 44 mins.




Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Richard Rowley: Dirty Wars

Written 18-01-2014 19:48:44 by Tue Steen Müller

I watched this film online (on the excellent idfa "docs for sale") today after it had been announced as one of the nominees for the Oscar award in the feature documentary category.

The film has this synopsis description on the Oscar site (link below): “One of the least-known components in the war on terror, the Joint Special Operations Command conducts its work in secret and seemingly without limitations. With no existing record of their actions or personnel, the JSOC carries out strikes against those deemed a threat to U.S. security while remaining entirely outside the scope of public knowledge.”

… which is actually not really how the film appears. Its is much more a film that has taken all its storytelling tools from fiction, a thriller, a detective story with journalist Jeremy Scahill in the leading role as himself, the reporter who with his notebook never gives up in his year-long search to reveal American war crimes in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia with some looking back at Iraq. He finds out the existence of the JSOC before it goes public, having success in finding and killing Osama bin Laden. It is a well-made film and no doubt that Scahill is a good journalist, but also a writing journalist, a man who works with words and has published praised books on his journeys into the secret world of the US fight against terrorism, a fight that with JSOC, as the film shows, has cost many lives of civilians. It is a formatted film with the journalist always at work, always on a case, seriously interviewing Afghans (the Gardez case where innocent, pregnant women were killed) and Yemenits about what really happened, when their dear ones were killed by the counterterrorist JSOC, accompanied by strong images of corpses, and clips from American television shows where his investigations were made into stupid entertainment. Scahill is serious but also a man, who constantly talks in first person (I decided to go but could not etc.) and only at the end when he meets the father of Anwar al-Awlaki, American citizen, who was killed because of his role in al-Qaeda, with the consequent killing of his 16 year old son, what did he do other than being the son of… you sense that the journalist – portrayed as a hero – has some feelings for what he is doing.

USA, 2012, 87 mins.




Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Zachary Heinzerling: Cutie and the Boxer

Written 17-01-2014 18:14:35 by Tue Steen Müller

I watched this film online (on the excellent idfa "docs for sale") today after it had been announced as one of the nominees for the Oscar award in the feature documentary category.

The film that runs theatrically in the US now, has this description on the Oscar site (link below): ”The 40-year marriage of painter Ushio Shinohara, known for his boxing paintings, and his wife, Noriko, who gave up her own career as an artist to focus on her husband, has become the subject of a series of comic strips drawn by Noriko. As the 80-year-old Ushio finds his own artistic reputation fading, Noriko's fame continues to grow.”

... and it is a very good film, a charming and touching visit to the home and studios of the two, Ushio who is 80 years old and Noriko, who is around 20 years younger, and who is the one who has been suffering from her husband’s heavy alchoholism, documented through strongly archive material and excellently through the mentioned comic strips. The narration leads up to an exhibition, where she gets her own space and decorates the walls with the story about Cutie = herself (photo). The location is New York, there is a lot of presence in the film with the now (for several years says Noriko) sober Ushio, who thinks high of himself and ”need” Noriko, who says sweetly that ”Cutie love Bullie” so much.

On the Dogwoof site, where you can also buy the film, the director writes brilliantly about the background of the film. (Link below).

US, 2013, 78 mins.




Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Documentary Oscar Goes Political/ 2

Written 16-01-2014 15:34:33 by Tue Steen Müller

Yes, it does, ”goes political”, it is to be said after the nomination has been done. At least three of the films deal with current political conflicts (these ones). My source - Realscreen news, this came into my mail box a while ago:

The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, The Square (photo), Dirty Wars and 20 Feet from Stardom will battle it out for the Best Documentary Feature prize at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2…

In addition, Rithy Panh’s Cambodian documentary “The Missing Picture” is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, alongside four narrative dramas…”

I had wished for three great films I had seen: “My hope is that three films will make it to the nomination for their originality in storytelling and unique interpretation of human existence: “First Cousin Once Removed,” by Alan Berliner, “The Act of Killing,” by Joshua Oppenheimer and “Stories We Tell,” by Sarah Polley. They have all more than a current political or mainstream family focus. They are extra-ordinary.”

The ”political” made it, the two others, both touching on the family and both with an original storytelling, did not make it.

Bravo for the nomination of Rithy Panh’s masterpiece!



Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dheeraj Akolkar: Liv & Ingmar

Written 14-01-2014 10:49:27 by Tue Steen Müller

Liv Ullmann is a true film star and one of those, who can catch your attention, when she performs ”outside” the films in interviews. Her autobiographical book ”Changing” (1977) is highly praised among others by legendary American critic Roger Ebert (link below). In that she writes about her life and work with Ingmar Bergman, with whom she made a dozen films.

Indian director Dheeraj Akolkar has made a film, produced in Norway, about the two, told by Liv Ullmann and based on ”Changing”, love letters from Ingmar to Liv and (a bit) on his ”Laterna Magica”. Ullmann sits in and outside the house on Fårö, the island where Bergman and she lived together for five years and where several of his films are shot. Chaptered with words like Love, Loneliness, Rage, Longing, Friendship the film tells about ”the painful connection” between Liv & Ingmar, words expressed by the latter.

Unfortunately the director has decided to combine/connect her narration to clips from films like ”Persona”, ”Scenes from a Marriage”, ”Skammen” (Shame), ”Saraband” etc. So when she talks about their many tough confrontations, you see Erland Josephson and Ullmann in a scene, or Max von Sydow and Ullmann or... it makes it all sooo banal and tabloid, sentimentalising and reducing an extraordinary director’s extraordinary work with extraordinary actors to something one-dimensional. On top of that music is poured on the images like sugar on a cake, and love letters from Ingmar to Liv are read (by Samuel Fröler) in a tone that is unbearable.

Is it a puristic Nordic comment to a film that obviously is made for an American market? Maybe, luckily there are for other purists several great films about Bergman and his actors and actresses, including wonderful Liv Ullmann, about whom Bergman said, ”you are my Stradivarius”.

Norway, 2012, 85 mins.



Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Merin and Fraser on "The Act of Killing"

Written 13-01-2014 17:43:40 by Tue Steen Müller

Jennifer Merin, American film journalist and critic, has again and again written against “The Act of Killing”, some days ago when it was awarded 2 big prizes at the Cinema Eye Honors. Merin is not the only one, BBC Storyville editor Nick Fraser agrees (with different arguments) with her opposition. The link below will take you to both Merin’s review and to Fraser’s opinions. A quote from Merin’s blog:

“The below published article is a preview of a longer piece that will appear in the next edition of Film Quarterly. In it, noted BBC Commissioning Editor and documentary film authority Nick Fraser comments on The Act of Killing, a film that has attracted supporters, garnered awards and been named to the 2014 Oscars shortlist

… Fraser's opinions are eloquently phrased in this preview, which he so graciously sent to me with his consent that I publish it exclusively at Documentaries.About.com.”


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Polemics

Dimitris Koutsiabasakos: The Grocer

Written 12-01-2014 12:46:25 by Tue Steen Müller

They are bent, they have crooked legs, they live in the Pindos mountains up NorthWest in Greece, far away from everything. Most of these old people have passed their lives here for decades.

And for decades Nikos Anastasiou, his wife Sophia and (for some of the time) their sons Kostas and Thimios have packed their van once per week in Trikala city to bring vegetables to the inhabitants of these mostly abandoned villages. Winter, spring, summer, autumn they come putting on classical Greek folk music on the loudspeakers so the customers have time to reach the road and get their goods. And have a conversation, an argument with others, a laugh or a short dance to the music from the van. 75 km.

Dimitris Koutsiabasakos followed the van through all seasons. With stops at places where they always stop meeting the characters. He catches the situations by fine observation, he sometimes follows the old women (indirectly the film confirms that women live longer than men, the old women are

In absolute majority) to their houses. Once it is sweet Fotoula together with one of the Anastasiou sons, who transport the Kosan gas and installs it in her small kitchen. Winter is hard, there is high snow, many have gone to the cities, few stay, like the man Aristides, with 20 cats, or the man who always talks about the weather: I am a shepherd but also a weatherman, he declares. And a woman who talks about sex all the time. Another woman who has her blood pressure measured by Sophia. The grocer family members put a little extra in the bag and always care about health and children and grandchildren. The surrounding world is only vaguely indicated – a dam project that will threaten the mountain culture, the crisis that means that the retired inhabitants do not get their pension...

It is a film full of life, with some beautiful arranged posing to the camera, a sense of details and camera angles. They are true heroes, they are close to people says a priest, and you can only agree. As most people will agree that this is a very good film.

Greece, 2013, 81 mins.



Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Footballkommentaren: Barca

Written 10-01-2014 16:42:33 by Tue Steen Müller

Loyal readers will know that football is of great interest to one of the editors of this filmkommentaren.dk – the one to the left on the photo together with another enthusiast, Zoran Popovic from Belgrade, who with his wife Svetlana are directors of the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade, that celebrates its 10th edition at the end of this month. Mr. Popovic points at the screen where we watch one of the legendary Messi's many brilliant matches...

… as I did the other day, where the Argentinian star returned to Camp Nou after 59 days of injury absence. He was on the pitch the last 30 minutes of a Copa del Rey match against Getafe and made 2 goals! Messi is back, as is Barcelona FC, Barca, I think, contrary to the many, who again and again have declared their tiki-taki football style as dead and do not think that the team will achieve any success this year. Well, Barca is in the lead in the national league, they are still in Copa del Rey, they are in Champions League (even if the next opponent, Manchester City, is playing fantastic soccer right now). So, what's the problem?

I am writing this the day before Barca plays Atletico Madrid, a top match where Barca has not only Messi but also Fabregas, Alexis, Pedro, Alba, Iniesta, Neymar in great shape. And with some adjustments the tiki-taki style will still be the most joyful to watch. Barca has for sure problems in the defense but as long as the team makes more goals than the opponent... As one of the founders of this way of playing football, Johan Cruyff, has said: Remember that the ball never gets tired, in other words, first time passes, always move around, make yourself playable, change tempo when needed. It's an art form, Barca performs, sometimes with great beauty.

Photo taken by Svetlana Popovic at Hotel Prezident, Sremski Karlovci in Serbia.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cinema Eye Awards 2014/ The Oscars

Written 10-01-2014 15:24:25 by Tue Steen Müller

No objections at all to the fact that the most important Cinema Eye Awards 2014 went to "The Act of Killing” by Joshua Oppenheimer and “Stories We Tell “ by Sarah Polley. The latter for “Outstanding Achievement in Direction”, “The Act of Killing” for “Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking” and “Outstanding Achievement in Production” given to Danish producer Signe Byrge Sørensen. So well deserved!

All awards are listed in the report from Hollywood Reporter, link below. I would like to highlight the “Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography” that of course went to “Leviathan” by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel and the so-called Spotlight Award for Chilean “The Last Station” (photo) by Cristian Soto and Catalina Vergara.

The Oscar nomination – the 5 titles for the grande finale – will be announced next week and Hollywood Reporter makes the following interesting reflection:

“The results (of the Cinema Eye awards) do not necessarily reflect the same tastes as the documentary branch of the Academy that determines the best documentary feature Oscar nominees -- the Cinema Eye Honors' nominees are determined by journalists and film festival organizers, not filmmakers, but the winners are chosen by several hundred filmmakers, amongst whom are many members of the Academy's doc branch. In any case, the outcome of the Cinema Eye Honors will not sway the doc branch's selection of nominees, since Oscar nomination voting ended on Wednesday night at 5 p.m. PST. But if these same films can make it past the announcement of the Oscar nominees on Jan. 16 -- over other top contenders such as Jehane Noujaim's The Square, Gabriela Cowperthwaite's Blackfish, Morgan Neville's 20 Feet From Stardom and Teller's Tim's Vermeer -- then a raised profile certainly won't hurt them in the final round of Oscar voting.”



Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Peter Zach: Böhmische Dörfer

Written 07-01-2014 12:28:37 by Tue Steen Müller

Here is one more proof that old people (like children) are good for documentaries. This is what I experienced watching this sympathetic, informative documentary that plays with the expression ”böhmische dörfer” – English title is ”Bohemian is all Greek to me”, for our Danish readers is would something like ”en by i Rusland” meaning that this is past and present history that we do not know about or do not understand.

The film makes the story of Sudetenland, its dramatic stories, victims of war and change of borders much clearer, and the old people adds an emotional element that I would have loved to have much more of. Jana Cisar – who is also the producer of the film – takes us to her grandmother, who was born in Thein (now Tynec) and like 3 million other Germans, who lived in Czechoslovakia before WW2, had to leave her hometown. She now lives in Mariánské Lázně, beautiful Marienbad and has never been back to the place where she was born and raised. The grandchild – Jana Cisar – makes her go back to

Read more / Læs mere


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Rithy Panh: The Missing Picture

Written 06-01-2014 20:48:53 by Tue Steen Müller

Co-editor of filmkommentaren.dk Allan Berg did not like the still picture that I had picked for the article on the Oscar race for documentaries. I am sure it is because he has not seen this amazingly strong hybrid documentary that competes in the foreign-language feature film catagory. A first person film, and now I quote from Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, a reviewer I always respect:

... ”a sombre, stylised memoir of the director's childhood when his country had been taken over by the Khmer Rouge… Panh tells his story through a mixture of Khmer Rouge propaganda newsreels and little clay figurines (photo). It was perhaps the only way of managing the devastating memories. Rather as infant victims of abuse will sometimes be asked by social workers to tell their story through soft toys, Panh tells part of his own history through these figurines. As well as this stratum of tragedy and pain, The Missing Picture has an element of Godardian reflection: the "missing picture" is the definitive image of truth for which he is searching…”

Yes, Godard is here, there and everywhere… and Panh’s film has the most touching and eloquent personal commentary I have heard for a long time.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Louisiana: DOX

Written 06-01-2014 14:11:17 by Tue Steen Müller

Louisiana, the Museum of Modern Art, a wonderful place at the Øresund, the strait between the Northern part of Zealand and Southern Sweden, one hour by train from Copenhagen, there are always interesting exhibitions, it is a place for relaxing and reflecting – has established a collaboration with the cph:dox festival. For four weeks (19 films, spread out on 11 days) screenings take place on some weekdays and in the weekends with free entrance if you have bought a ticket for the Museum, that right now – among others – have an exhibition of Asger Jorn and Jackson-Pollock. To be precise, I continue in Danish by quoting from the site of the museum – what a great initiative this collaboration is, I just want to add:

Louisiana: DOX (er et) intenst dokumentar-filmprogram i museets koncertsal i 11 dage mellem 7. – 26. Januar.

Store filmoplevelser venter, når Louisiana i januar viser nogle af de bedste og mest nyskabende dokumentar-film fra CPH:DOX-festivalen, som fandt sted i København i november 2013. I samarbejde med CPH:DOX har Louisiana udvalgt 19 dokumentarfilm, som museet viser 11 dage i januar, både hverdage og weekends.

LOUISIANA:DOX starter tirsdag den 7. januar med visningen af to dokumentarfilm, der begge har fokus på den kinesiske kunstner Ai Weiwei og hans situation. Den ene er Andreas Johnsens meget roste film Ai Weiwei – The Fake Case, den anden er filmen Stay Home! – en ny stærkt systemkritisk dokumentarfilm instrueret af Ai Weiwei selv.

Blandt de mange andre prisvindende dokumentarfilm, som vises i forbindelse med LOUISIANA:DOX, kan nævnes den enestående Manakamana, som er filmet i en svævebane i Nepal, Bloody Beans, en vild film om Algiers historiske kamp for uafhængighed, Michael H: Profession Director (PHOTO), et portræt af den østrigske filminstruktør Michael Haneke, samt Everyday Rebellion, som vandt Publikumsprisen.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

The Documentary Oscar Goes Political

Written 05-01-2014 13:48:01 by Tue Steen Müller

15 films have been shortlisted for the feature length documentary Academy Award. 5 of them will be nominated for the final round by January 16th. In other words – in a couple of weeks it will be decided which 5 films will compete at the Oscar ceremony the 2nd of March to be chosen as the best long documentary. Normally with the Oscars I shake my head and say ”who cares”, but contrary to this previous indifference felt about the documentary Oscar as being an internal American affair, it is this year more interesting because there actually are award-worthy films. Even if, I hurry to state, most of the 15 films listed are American. There are no East European films, no Asian, no African etc. So if this is absolutely not the world championship of documentary films, the list is interesting because it also confirms that documentaries deal with the health situation of the patient. There is a strong a focus on contemporary conflicts. And some of the films have a high artistic value.

Important newspapers like Guardian/The Observer and New York Times write long articles these days about the political documentaries on the short list with 15 titles. The recent interest is evoked by the fact that a screening in Moscow of ”Pussy Riot. A Punk Prayer” has been cancelled, that ”The Square” (= Tahrir) by Jehane Noujaim has not got its official permission to be screened theatrically in Egypt, and that the Indonesian people have difficulties to get to watch “The Act of Killing”. On the list is also “God Loves Uganda” about the rise of homophobia in the African country, very much “helped” by the work of American missionaries.

It is good that the documentary genre is boosted like this, and it is good that the alteration in the voting system will make more than special committees watch and judge the documentaries. Michael Moore, one of the people behind the new system: "It's clear to me, and lot of people in the academy, that going to a full democracy system where everyone votes has been the key to the vast improvements, we've seen," Moore said recently.

The newspapers mentioned above circles around “The Square”, “The Act of

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Copenhagen Jewish Film Festival

Written 04-01-2014 13:13:51 by Tue Steen Müller

There is a good climate for documentaries in Israel. Broadcasters invest more in the genre than you experience in Western Europe, there is public funding and private funds, there are film schools, the festival DocAviv and the unique CoPro, headed by Orna Yarmut, a marketing tool for Israeli documentaries abroad. I was for years involved in the selection of projects to the yearly CoPro pitching forum in Tel Aviv, where films on the development stage are presented to potential buyers from television stations and funds from all over the world.

Several film projects that took part in CoPro sessions are now finished films and can be watched at the Jewish Film Festival in Copenhagen at the Cinemateket January 9-12. Feature films and documentaries are presented with an absolute majority of the latter. Let me recommend some of them:

”Life in Stills” by Tamar Tal is a wonderful, very funny and warm film with a 96 year old grandmother and her grandson, who keeps a photo shop alive in Tel Aviv (closed now, I am afraid). The scoop photos are from the declaration of independence of the state of Israel but the film is first and foremost about the relationship between the two.

”One Day in Peace” by Erez and Mira Laufer, a film that has been touring festivals all over the world, and been subject to endless important discussions. Here is the text about the film taken from its official website: Can the means used to resolve the conflict in South Africa be applied to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? As someone who experienced both conflicts firsthand, Robi Damelin wonders about this. Born in South Africa during the apartheid era, she later lost her son, who was serving with the Israeli Army reserve in the Occupied Territories. At first she attempted to initiate a dialogue with the Palestinian who killed her child. When her overtures were rejected, she embarked on a journey back to South Africa to learn more about the

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

2013 – Best Of & Talents

Written 31-12-2013 14:34:12 by Tue Steen Müller

All right, here it comes, on the last day of 2013, from filmkommentaren's travelling observer of the documentary worldwide. The film lists below are based on screenings at festivals, in cinemas or online via vod's, or via dvd's. These are films that one way or the other made an impression on me, either to be placed in the “Best of” or in the Talent category. If you are a reader of the many hitlists coming up right now, you might wonder why “Act of Killing” and “Stories We Tell” are not there – they were on the 2012 list. Except for one film from 2011, “Hachazos”, that I saw a couple of years after it was made and could not resist, the films are from 2012 and 2013 – and there are even a couple which have just started or are about to start their tour around the world. There is no priority in the lists that I have made.

Criteria? Not really, except for Quality but if you look for some kind of directions, let me say that I agree very much with Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) who says:

“Films that only have content have already been done,”... “All disciplines need innovation, and innovation comes more readily through form than through substance.”

Hope you have enjoyed filmkommentaren.dk in 2013 – the photo is from a garden in Copenhagen, the tree was given to Tue Steen Müller, as a gift from wonderful women of the Prague-based IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) a handful of years ago. The name of the tree is "the documentary tree", colourful, shining, energetic...

Happy New Year!

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

2013 - Best Documentaries

Written 31-12-2013 14:28:04 by Tue Steen Müller

Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verana Paravel: Leviathan. USA, 2012, 87 mins.

Claude Lanzmann: The Last of the Unjust. France, 2013, 220 mins. (photo)

Talal Derki: Return to Homs. Syria, Germany, 2013, 87 mins.

Rithy Panh: The Missing Picture. France, 2013, 85 mins.

Ignacio Aguëro: The Other Day. Chile, 2013, 122 mins.

Marina Razbezhkina: Optical Axis. Russia, 2013, 90 mins.

Wiktoria Szymanska: The Man who Made Angels Fly. France, UK, Poland, 2013, 61 mins.

Khalo Matabene: A letter to Mandela. 2013. South Africa, Germany, 85 mins.

Avi Mograbi: Once I entered a Garden. 2013. France, Israel, Switzerland, 97 mins.

Andres di Tella: Hachazos. Argentina, 2011, 83 mins.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

2013 - Talents

Written 31-12-2013 14:25:14 by Tue Steen Müller

Youlian Tabakov: Tzvetanka. Bulgaria/Sweden, 2012, 66 mins.

Aneta Kopacz: Joanna. Poland, 2013, 45 mins.

Andreas Johnsen: Ai Wei Wei – The Fake Case. Denmark, 2013, 79 mins.

Juan Alvarez Neme: Avant. Uruguay, 2014, around 75 mins.

Daria Khlestkina: The Last Limousine. Russia, 2013, 75 mins.

Paul-Julien Robert: Meine keine Familie. Austria, 2013, 100 mins.

Madhi Fleifel: A World not Ours. UK/Lebanon/Denmark/United Arab Emirates, 2012, 93 mins.

Sara Ishaq: The Mulberry House. Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Scotland, UAE, 64 mins. (photo)

Maria Clara Escobar: The Days with Him. Brazil, 2013, 107 mins.

Anonymous (Production: Gogol's Wives): Pussy versus Putin. Russia, 2013, 60 mins.

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Slovak Documentary Masters Online

Written 20-12-2013 09:32:09 by Tue Steen Müller

… for the first time. This is how the vod DocAlliance presents its christmas present to us viewers. It is quite a generous offer that comes up in collaboration with the Slovak Film Institute that celebrates its 50th anniversary. If you only have time for one film, you should watch Dusan Hanak’s classic masterpiece “Pictures from the Old World” (photo). Here is the introduction from the site of DocAlliance:

Wild Slovak nature, the harsh life in deserted mountains, the beauty of almost forgotten folk traditions and powerful existential themes resound in the films by four Slovak documentary filmmakers Dušan Hanák, Martin Slivka, Dežo Ursiny and Martin Šulík. Thanks to the Slovak Film Institute, the works by the four leading figures of Slovak cinema are now available to international audiences. In the week from December 16 to 29, DAFilms.com presents a selection of over 20 short as well as feature-length films by unique filmmakers of the Central European region for free.

Founded in 1963, the Slovak Film Institute represents both the oldest and a single local professional film institution to take care of Slovak cinema in a complex way. This cultural institution manages archive collections preserving both early and contemporary Slovak film works. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the Slovak Film Institute presents; in collaboration with DAFilms.com, Filmtopia distribution company and with the support of the Slovak Audiovisual Fund; a special selection of 26 films covering primarily the second half of the 20th century and representing four remarkable filmmakers of four generations.

The works by versatile artist Dušan Hanák, who is also renowned on the cultural scene as a screenwriter and photographer, are represented by the highly prized film Pictures of the Old World ranking among the most significant documentaries of Slovak film tradition. Through the film camera, Hanák faces the questions of human existence in its rawest and purest form; manifested in the

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Wojciech Staron in New York

Written 19-12-2013 11:35:31 by Tue Steen Müller

“It has a story, a point of view, a humanistic approach and a director, who is also the cameraman and who has the skills to catch magical moments as they happen in life. A decade ago the director made ”Siberian Lesson” and now he goes to Argentina with (his family) the same teacher and her two kids...”

A text quote from the review I made in May 2011 about ”The Argentinian Lesson”, one of the most beautiful documentaries from the last years.

Now the two films (from Siberia and Argentina) have been released as one entitled ”Two Lessons”, in New York in the cinema founded by Albert Maysles. This deserves a big BRAVO and links to reviews from the US, including one very well written from New York Times. The question that comes to my mind is simple – why don’t we/you do the same in other cities and festivals?

The credit list of ”Two Lessons”:

Directed by Wojciech Staron; director of photography, Mr. Staron; edited by Zbigniew Osinski; produced by Malgorzata (Malgosia) Staron; released by Non-Fiction Cinema Releasing. At the Maysles Cinema, 343 Malcolm X Boulevard, between 127th and 128th Streets, Harlem. In Polish and Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 54 minutes.



Categories: Cinema, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ukraine Euromaidan

Written 13-12-2013 12:09:09 by Tue Steen Müller

“There is a choice”, was the slogan expressed in connection with the DocuDays UA festival in Kiev in March 2013. I was there as member of the jury and enjoyed a very professional and committed reception from the filmmakers behind the festival. A FB post led me to the website of the festival. Here is a text that shows the active inclusion of the festival in the protests in Kiev:

“The series of the International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival Docudays UA screening events on Euromaidan (Independence Square) in Kyiv begins at December 13, 7 pm, Labour Union House. Entrance is free!

Docudays UA is an apolitical festival. But it is about human rights and the choice each one of us always has: to accept the dictatorship regime or to fight for the victory of democracy. The future of Ukraine depends on the choice each one of us has to make. That is why Docudays UA is with Maidan!

We invite you to the screening of Open Access documentary almanac (dir. Volodymyr Tykhy, Dmytro Konovalov, Serhiy Andrushko, Zhanna Dovhych, Dmytro Tiazhlov, Ukraine, 2013, 98’). The screening will be followed by the discussion with the almanac creators. Moderator: Maksym Butkevych, a journalist and human rights activist.

Open Access chronicles the establishment of civil society and the personal stories of leading characters. They live in different regions of Ukraine, their values and beliefs are dissimilar, they do not know each other. The only thing that unites them is their proactive stand on civil rights issues.

The world premiere of the almanac took place at Docudays UA in Kyiv, March 2013.”


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sara Ishaq: The Mulberry House

Written 10-12-2013 14:26:28 by Tue Steen Müller

It is such a good beginning of the film. A family gathered around food, eating, discussing, among other matters the usual one, you think, about man/woman, boy/girl in a society with pretty conservative traditions, seen from our part of the world. They have fun, laugh, close-up on faces, children, youngsters, father, grandfather. They are all in a big house with a garden to which the daughter Sara has come back after having grown up in Scotland with her mother. She has a camera in hand.

Atmosphere... crucial, but always so difficult to establish in a film, here it is done beautifully to place you in the present-day-reality. Actually you, with this opening, tend to think that you are about to watch a Yemenite version of a Marcel Pagnol film.

But you are not. You are told that a family member is in prison for treason, and you are slowly, parallel to the development and characterisation of the main characters, aware that something is going to happen outside the house in the streets of Saan’a, where demonstrations against the dictatorship take place, it is maybe a revolution, for sure it is events that will influence the harmony of the family.

Father and grandfather. Sara behind the camera reminds her father that he, when she was 15, had planned to get her married to ”an old man”. He denies, but you see in his eyes that he remembers. He is a strong character with an open face, always readable, in the film, he is – like all of them when they watch the news in front of the camera – totally against the present regime, he brings food to the demonstrators, goes with others to give blood to the injured in the riots, he seems to be a lovely father to the kids in the house (never found out how many children he has!) and he ends up saying – to her - how proud he is of his daughter Sara for her documenting the ongoing revolution. Even if he during one of the demonstrations expresses doubt upon her ability to operate the camera!

My favourite, however, is the grandfather, a man full of dignity who goes around in the house and in the garden, he favours so much. He reads the quran, watches the television, dresses up when he goes shopping, gives advice, expresses opinions and calls Sara ”my sweetheart”. In a fine scene he asks her to leave the camera to help him with a plant in the garden, a flower will follow to be named Sara. 

A family film? Yes. Private? No. Personal? Yes, as it is a film about a daughter, who returns to her roots... oops, now the words start to be klichés. Roots, yes but conveyed in a way so we non-yemenites easily can identify with the family, the three generations and its situation, in a film that captures the warmth and passes it on to us in a light tone that is broken when reality knocks on the door.

And there is such a lovely ending of the film... will not reveal it other than say that it of course takes place in the garden, thus the title of the film.

A fine facebook page exists on the film.

2013, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Scotland, UAE, 64 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH


Written 10-12-2013 14:17:10 by Tue Steen Müller

Dubai International Film Festival is running right now. It has several documentary sections in its extensive programme even if it indeed is red-carpet festival for feature films with hommage(s) to stars of the cinema world, this year Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now).

I found  - to be screened - Mark Cousins with his wonderful ”A Story of Children and Film”, one from his impressive series about cinema, the fine ”The Shebabs of Yarmook” by Axel Salvatori-Linz, Errol Morris ”The Unknown Known” (!), ”The Square” by Jehane Noujaim, and Sara Ishaq with her ”The Mulberry House”, reviewed above.

The festival (10th edition) runs until December 14.

Photo from Ken Loach: Kes, included in the film by Mark Cousins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jeddah Doc Workshop /1

Written 07-12-2013 14:01:39 by Tue Steen Müller

If you want to know who I really am, go to facebook... was the comment from one of the participating filmmakers at the workshop for Saudi filmmakers in Jeddah. It was on the second and last day we spent together at the Athr Art Gallery, placed in a business centre – it is quite an inviting place for interesting contemporary art. The filmmakers had been asked to make a maximum-one-minute presentation of ”Who am I” and a colleague of the young man, who shocked this 60+ reporter from the event, also with his google glasses (if you don't know what that is, google it) had chosen to include clicks from his FB page to answer the question about identity in his clip.

This specific session, with a handful of clips, were set up and moderated by Jad Abi Khalil from Docmed in Lebanon - demonstrated clearly that there is visual talent to build on, when it comes to develop filmmaking in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), a country where there are no cinemas but quite a hectic activity on YouTube (see post below and to know more, click also on the link to the Reuter article on the Saudi YouTube adventure).

The workshop was arranged by AFAC (The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture) and was meant to be one of a series that will continue next year in Jeddah and Riyadh. Led brilliantly by the Fund’s director Oussaama Rifahi (who also solved technical questions and took the photos that I use for these two posts) and the responsible for the film programs Rima Mismar, the workshoppers got a general introduction to what documentaries are today through clips and words from the one, who writes these lines, a class on production and presentation by Kuwaiti producer Talal Al Muhanna and a meeting with American director and cameraperson Kirsten Johnson, who always communicates in a warm and personal way and therefore activates the audience to get into her world – on this occasion – of camerawork and ethics.

My knowledge of Saudi documentary makers? Dania and Danya, wonderful colorful women with the surnames Nassief and Alhamrani, who have been performing on the international documentary scene and who ”own and manage the first production company in KSA run by women”. The company name is Eggdancer Productions, it makes a lot of corporate videos and shows for television and of course documentaries dealing with women’s issues. At the workshop the company presented an interactive project, based on research on abuse of women. The director Dalyah Bakheet explained how the film side will include animation, that the interviews made with women will come out anonymous, spoken by actors. ”We want to create awareness”, said the director, ”in a country where 1 out of 6 women have been abused or raped”.





Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jeddah Doc Workshop /2

Written 07-12-2013 13:56:13 by Tue Steen Müller

Yes, ”we were blown away” as Kirsten Johnson, American filmmaker and tutor at the workshop, said on the second day, where several of the young visual reporters and artists, who took part in the workshop, presented their projects of online content in an energetic manner, full of joy and excitement and proudness over what they have achieved. ”We are a voice now”, they said, and the numbers of visitors to their YouTube accounts speak for themselves. ”No Woman, No Drive” has been watched by close to 11 million people, and many other shows and short music based videos of satirical character also reach big numbers. A side story according to the producers: What is interesting about the extraordinary visual comment on women with no right to drive is that many orthodox people actually think that the video advocates for/documents that women should not drive! What to draw from that - we should remember that films and videos can be interpreted in many ways. Satire does not go well with everyone.

The young visual artists (all male!) represented two content producers, Uturn and Telfaz11. Names Eyad Maghazil and Husam H. Al-Sayed (PHOTO, left to right). They explained how they get the programmes made. Or should one call them shows or videos or films? Doesn't matter. The themes come from the ones involved and from the YouTube viewers who are asked to contact them if they find some interesting stories that must be told. Television for these 25-30 old visual artists is not the way. YouTube is. If you go to the links below, you will get an idea of what is being done. A lot is made from a humorous angle, and if it has the same artistic quality as ”No Woman, No Drive”... Bravo. I asked them if they consider themselves as an alternative, commercial tv channel, the answer was Yes. The programmes are made from advertisement income, and there is a paid staff. A longer article about the YouTube online programmation by the two providers and others is to be found through the link below.

Second question: Is there a chance to include what we call ”creative documentaries”, a niche genre in a YouTube context? The answer was yes, we have and will make documentaries of artistic nature, as well as more experimental stuff. We will just make them and post them, said Husam H. Al-Sayed, who works with Telfaz11 and C3 Creative Cultural Catalyst, showed me several short documentaries that he had done. If you click the Telfaz site and go to ”watch” and ”filmmakers” you could see ”In The Eye of the Beholder”, 10 minutes, shot in Kuala Lumpur, definitely a sketch for a bigger observational documentary. And just one example by one of the creative young people, I met in Jeddah.

The title of the workshop was ”Creative Documentary Workshop”, it went far beyond that in terms of genres. Hybrid... indeed, how foolish we are when we always to want to categorize...

And a small observation piece: Wednesday night at a classical Saudi restaurant in Jeddah. Good food once again, women with no mandil (scarf), women with niqab which sometimes is changed so you see the face, and sometimes (that’s what I felt a couple of times) made back to niqab if you look in their direction, women with colorful scarf and abaya (the dress) (producer Danya Alhamrani takes the price!)... and women and men together smoking the sisha water pipe. All at midnight, good atmosphere, still heavy traffic, you don’t walk in Jeddah except for promenades on the corniche. Back to luxury hotel, perfumed air, air condition fight, windows not to be opened, super service...which can't be said about what I experienced in the airport of Jeddah, 2 ½ hours of waiting to have your passport controlled, arrogant treatment of Pakistanis waiting in my line, suitcase arriving 24 hours later, taxi driver young student with no identity card even if he was born in the country but father of Yemenite origin... Lots to be done, many stories to be told, the people to do it are there, no doubt about that.





Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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