DOKU.ARTS: Essaydox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Andreas Johnsen: Bugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sergey Kachkin: Perm-36. Reflexion

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

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

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

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

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Heart Of Sarajevo

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

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

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

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

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MakeDox Films and Talks Under a Fig Tree

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

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

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

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

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Baltic Sea Docs 20 Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DocAlliance Offers ”The Event” for Free

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

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

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

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

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

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European Film Awards Documentary Shortlist

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

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

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

The whole list to be found on

And for the selection procedure:

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

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A Healthy Rose to Dokufest

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

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

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

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Dokufest Prizren/ 8/ The Winners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the rest of the awards, please check

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

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Dokufest Prizren/7/ Johnson/ BDC Pitch/ Kiarostami

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

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

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

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

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

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Dokufest Prizren/ 6/ Starless Dreams

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

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

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

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


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Dokufest Prizren/ 5/ Lumbardhi

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

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

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

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

The city is proud of its yearly film cultural event!

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Dokufest Prizren/ 4/ Homeland (Iraq Year Zero)

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

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

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

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Dokufest Prizren/ 3/ Il Solengo/ Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dokufest Prizren/ 2/ LoveTrue/ Weiner

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

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

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

And then American ”Weiner” by Josh Kriegmann and Elyse

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Dokufest Prizren/ 1

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

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

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

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

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

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Welcome to the 15th edition of DokuFest!

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

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

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

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

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

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Zhao Liang: Behemoth/ 2

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

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

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

And here is the link to Berg’s review:

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Siebert, Wagner & Abou Bakar Sibidé: Les Sauteurs

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

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

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

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

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Film History at Doclisboa

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

7000 Submissions to M2M

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Kirsten Johnson: Cameraperson/2

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Laura Israel: Don’t blink – Robert Frank

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

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

See the trailer:

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

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


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

Read more and see program:


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

Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon: The War Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Documentary in Odessa

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

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

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

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

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

From left Gennady Koffmann, Marina Razbezhkina and Rada Sesic.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Nordisk Panorama Competition Announced

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

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

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

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

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

Bon appetit!

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sarajevo - Documentary Competition 2016/ 2

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

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

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

… Unlike most documentaries that have previously been made in

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sarajevo - Documentary Competition 2016

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Natalie Bookchin: Long Story Short

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

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

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

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

United Stetes,2016, 45 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Dokufest Prizren 2016: Music Documentaires

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ukraine, 1930, 83 mins.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jonas Mekas: I Had Nowhere to Go

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Dokufest Prizren 2016

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Claas Danielsen – New Job

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Robert Frank’s Don’t Blink In New York

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

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

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

Categories: Cinema, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Documentary Winners in Karlovy Vary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Miguel Llansó: CRUMBS

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


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

Etiopien 2015

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

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


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

Director: Miguel Llansó, Ethiopia 2015

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

Documentaries in Karlovy Vary

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Alex Holmes: Stop at Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

Australia, 2014, 90 mins.


Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Andrei Nekrasov: The Magnitsky Act

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

… has the subtitle ”Behind the Scenes” and indeed this is what it does, or rather where he takes us, Andrei Nekrasov, known for his controversial film on the poisoning of Litvinenko, for his ”Russian Lessons” that deals with the Russian-Georgian war and for his tv series ”Farewell Comrades”. In other words Nekrasov is an experienced, professional director behind big international films. His new film digs into what actually happened to Sergey Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison in 2009, where he had been sitting for 380 days, arrested by the police after having reported a financial tax fraud of considerable size. To the authorities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Moscow Intl. Film Festival/ Doc Winners

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mikhail Barynin: 24 Snows

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia, 2016, 90 mins.

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



Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ryan White: Serena

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA, 2016, 90 mins.


Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Two of the Competition Films at MIFF

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Cinema, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Youth in Randers 1978-1979 /2

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

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

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

“The reportage confrontation is a fragile method of documentary work. But even so unfavorable an assigment situation can be transformed: IF the photographer is given sufficient time, IF he is given time to gain a knowledge of the environment that will enable his pictures to function as documentary statements, IF he has the personal qualifications to deepen his empathy, his social commitment, and his responsibility as a fellow human being…”

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

Publisher of the newspaper catalogue: Finn Larsen 


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poland, 2016, 75 mins.


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Doc Alliance Selection 2016

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Ung i Randers/Youth in Randers 1978-1979

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

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

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

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

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

It was seen for a while.

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus på SVT

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

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

Categories: TV, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Cameraperson wins in Sheffield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Til lykke med fødselsdagen JØRGEN LETH

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

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

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

Nenad Puhovski: Generation 68

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Croatia, 2016, 86 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH


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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Why I Love Polish Documentaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Krakow FF: New York, New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Krakow Film Festival: Quality and Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Krakow Film Festival Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona Awards and Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona: Chechen Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona Vermut & Shadow Girl

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

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

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

And then to the cinema to sit next to Maria Teresa Larrain in a cinema, where her ”Shadow Girl” had its second screening at the festival, where she pitched the film a couple of years ago. The film is strong and emotional in its description of how Maria Teresa grows blind, a film that is without sentimentality but full of reflections on what it means to become blind. She meets blind street vendors, she shows the film to them and it is said that the worst thing about getting blind is to lose your dignity. Maria Teresa does not, she is a role model of great courage in a film that has a clever personal text from her and a visual flow of colours. It must have a long festival life and come on broadcasters, this is also for you, or for us television viewers! 


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona: When Directors Intervene

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Maria Cilleros

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona Films Meet Audience

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona 2016 Started

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jakob Brossmann: Lampedusa in Winter/ 2

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Magnus og Fredrik Gertten: Den unge Zlatan /2

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

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

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

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

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

Sweden/Holland, 2016, 85 mins. 


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

Gabe Polsky: Red Army

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

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

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

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

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

USA, Russia, 2014, 84 mins.

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


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Artikler/anmeldelser DANSK

Doker 2016 Program

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

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

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

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

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Doker 2016 Profile

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

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

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

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

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Film Uni Babelsberg Konrad Wolf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

6 Types of Documentaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Andrés di Tella: 327 Cuadernos

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

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

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

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Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Michael Madsen Posts/Blogindlæg

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

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


Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Michael Madsen Retrospective For Free

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

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

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

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Web

Daniel Abma: Transit Havana

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holland, Germany, 2016, 82 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Marta Prus: Talk to Me

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

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

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

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

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

Poland, 2015, 43 mins.


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Christian Braad Thomsen: Fassbinder /2

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

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

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

Read the rest:

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

Photograph courtesy Christian Braad Thomsen 

Categories: Cinema, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona 2016

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

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

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

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Zelig Documentary Film School 2016-2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

CinéDOC Tbilisi – Good EUnews

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

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

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

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

The festival takes place October 21-25.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona 2016 Poster

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Jonas Mekas See Everything Like for the First Time

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

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

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

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

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Audrius Stonys: The Truth of Life…

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Sara Broos: Homeland

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

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

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

Sweden, 2015, 14 minutes


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Alberti & Zickyte: I’m Not From Here

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

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

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

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

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

Chile, Lithuania, Denmark, 26 mins., 2016


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DOK Leipzig 2016: Disobedience

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Krakow FF Announces Intl. Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Olexa & Scalisi: Half Life in Fukushima

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

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

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

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

Switzerland, France, 2016, 61 mins.     


Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Salomé Jashi: The Dazzling Light of Sunset

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

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

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

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

Read more / Læs mere


Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Peter Greenaway: A Medium for Visual Intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

Read the whole article on The Guardian: link

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH, Directors

Don Edkins – EDN Interview

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

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

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

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

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Visions du Réel - Barisone, Stonys, Greenaway

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

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

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

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

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

50 Documentaries You Need to See…

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

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

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

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

Read more / Læs mere

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami: Sonita

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

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

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

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

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

Germany, Switzerland, Iran, 2015, 91 mins.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

IDA – Magazine & Essential Doc Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Full Frame Doc Fest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amdoc 2016: Winners of Film Fund Competition

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

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

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

Brief descriptions from the catalogue:

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amdoc 2016: Pannone, Zuluhoops & Longinotto

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amdoc 2016: Thank You for Your Service

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

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

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

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

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Categories: TV, Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Amdoc 2016: Brother’s Keeper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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