Written 30-11-2007 10:52:04 by Tue Steen Müller
I was at the IDFA Forum as an observer. Documentary film and tv projects were presented (pitched) to a panel of so called commissioning editors. The pitching time was 15 minutes, 50% to those pitching, 50% to those responding. It was the 15th time that this event was organised.
The venue was new, and there was a new format for the pitching. Some projects, most of them, were pitched in the big auditorium, some in a smaller room with a round-table discussion to follow the pitchings that always consist of a verbal presentation and a visual (= a clip/trailer/demo/pilot).
Also new was that it was possible to enter projects that did NOT have 25% of the financing in place. And projects that were at the rough cut stage.
3 days from morning till night - and what did the observer get out of it:
Originality and creativity come primarily from the new EU countries and the countries outside the EU.
The market in general asks for mainstream formatted documentaries.
The broadcasters (= the commissioning editors) around the table do in general NOT take any chances, they want to play safe, and pitched projects that do not include humour and are just a bit complicated - they meet hesitation and "I want to hear much more".
Many of the experienced producers pitching are surprisingly weak in their presentations.
Many of the experienced commissioning editors are surprisingly weak in their responses to the filmmakers.
Most of the people around the table can only go for pre-buys and not for coproductions.
Maybe this should be reflected in the set-up of the Forum?
Conclusion: On one side there are so many talented people who want to make documentaries and the interest in documentaries have never been so big as now. Festivals are growing like mushrooms. On the other side - the role of television as the innovator of the documentary genre internationally is minimal both financially and creatively.
Without public funding, where would the creative documentaries in Europe stand today?
Written 28-11-2007 00:49:46 by Tue Steen Müller
On the second day of the pitching at the Forum at IDFA Viktor Kossakovski, one of the few stars of the international documentary scene gave the following remark after his pitch:
You know what, I remember when it started many years ago and I had a pitch. It was quite a different situation. Ten years ago the crucial person in the cinema business was the filmmaker. And commissioning editors were people who wanted to support good filmmakers, but still the filmmaker was the person who created the film… and now we have a strange situation. The filmmaker is like nobody and the commissioning editor is like a Tsar. And they decide what film I will make, what kind of film, how I must do it. They even want me to sign a contract [to say] they have the final cut. I wish to Ally, to Adriek and all the team not to forget the idea of Forum – not to support the television industry but to support the creative person who knows how to move cinema forward… They [commissioning editors] have to know that if we continue this way, then we will not have filmmakers any more. (Viktor Kossakowski, filmmaker, Russia)
Quote taken from www.idfa.nl
Written 26-11-2007 23:50:41 by Tue Steen Müller
Det var pokkers! Et af dansk dokumentarfilms absolutte mesterstykker bliver genudsendt i morgen tirsdag på DR2. Det drejer sig om Jon Bang Carlsens "Før gæstertne kommer", en film som med succes er gået verden over for sin fine og varme og sjove beskrivelse af de to gamle damer, der gør et lille pensionat på Fanø klar til det store rykind, det vil sige det beherskede antal først og fremmest tyskere, der år efter år finder vej til den stille idyl.
Værelserne støves af, lamperne checkes, alt skal bringes i orden, det er dansk hygge i yderste potens, som den kunne folde sig ud for 20 år siden - eller rettere sagt som den fremragende dokumentarist Jon Bang Carlsen så den og beskrev den ved hjælp af sin såkaldte "iscenesatte dokumentariske" metode.
En kort film med et langt liv. Vi kipper med flaget for DR2 og deres temaaftener, bliv ved, der er masser af guld at tage af!
Written 24-11-2007 17:03:56 by Tue Steen Müller
... skrevet i 1948. Relevant i dag?
Written 23-11-2007 10:49:41 by Tue Steen Müller
The 20'th edition of the IDFA festival started yesterday and goes on until the 2nd of December. Fantastic, and what a contribution to the success of the genre, Ally Derks and her committed team has performed during these 20 years. Thank you! You may always discuss the selection of films, the demand for exclusivity for the films to be screened, if there are too many films and too many people, if the definition of the genre is too broad. BUT it is THE festival for the documentaries and it has set the standards for many others, as well as institutionalized initiatives like the Forum, the Jan Vrijman Fund, the Academy etc.
The following text is taken from their new site: www.idfa.nl
Every year, IDFA presents the best documentaries, selected from a huge field. This selection is made on the basis of clear criteria. In short, IDFA looks for documentaries that are interesting from a stylistic point of view, or are particularly innovative, relevant to social issues and successfully manage to communicate with their audiences.
If you dont go there, follow the festival on the site which has trailers, reports from seminars etc.
Written 22-11-2007 11:24:56 by Tue Steen Müller
It had all that a documentary should have. Conflict, drama, magical moments, excellent observational camera work! The starting point was made clear from the very start: The Croats did not have to win, the English had to win or make a draw. Both teams had their supporters surrounding the pitch, in different colours, with different songs - most of them were English as the action took place at the Wembley in London, the most famous location for a drama to take place.
In the first part of this live documentary where all was taken in one shot, to be repeated from different angles, the Croats showed their technical skills and fighter instinct. Twice the anti-hero, the goalkeeper of the English were passed. The first time he kneeled down to grab the ball but it slipped and the crowd, as a Greek choir, expressed their anger with him as the ball rolled into the net. Close up on his face: Pain. Close-up on the faces of the coach and the substitutes on the bench - more than pain, more than irritation, would this end up as farewell to the qualification, a tragedy.
In the second part of the drama, the English casted a man, who has often been the main character, the leader of the gang and who now has his home in Hollywood and takes part in the fictious glamour life: David Beckham. Who was welcomed by the supporters, who had forgotten all the trouble he had given them earlier in his career. He made a difference and suddenly it was equal, enough for the English to qualify. Wild handheld close ups of a hugging crowd when the man, tall as a lighthouse, Crouch is his name, let the ball go from his chest down to his right foot and behind the Croat goalkeeper.
Equal... but not enough drama, something had to be done dramaturgically. The Croat coach, known for his many years in England, had changed his dress from sporty casual to a nice black suit. From fighting image to strategical thinking. He chooses to send in a bald guy like Beckham but much younger and with more dynamite in his boots. In a beautiful move he sends the ball behind the tragic hero in the English goal.
Its over, there is winner and a loser, the English coach is the first to leave. His face is caught by the camera, he has no future, we know it, he knows it. Beckham is already in his thoughts back in Hollywood, John Terry and Mickey Rooney, both unable to play look like someones who could commit murder...
5 pens, could have been 6 if not for the commentators on Danish TV2 Sport, who spoke about the match with a kliché filled language as they were communicating to imbeciles.
Written 20-11-2007 22:42:49 by Tue Steen Müller
Instruktøren har skrællet alt det overflødige væk. Ingen hospitalsgange eller -bygninger. Der gives ingen konkrete oplysninger om, hvad de medvirkende egentlig har fejlet, det får vi først at vide til slut. Alt er fokuseret på at skabe én lang fortælling om, hvad det betød at være på hospital som barn. Fortalt af en håndfuld medvirkende, som fortæller godt og direkte til kameraet på en sort baggrund. Intet må forstyrre fortællingen om lidelsen og smerten, som den voksne husker den.
Til dette konsekvente valg af stil kan der indvendes om ordene ikke ligeså godt kunne have været skrevet ned i en bog eller være bragt som en radiomontage. Måske, men jeg ville alligevel ikke have undværet ansigterne, de langsomme næsten umærkelige indzoomninger og de herlige pauser, som fortællingen har. Der er en monotoni over det hele, hvorfor slutningens bevægende kapitel med den voksne Mortens tilbageskuen på at kunne bevæge sig virker så stærkt, som den gør.
Det er ikke en film, der siger noget nyt om at være hospitalsbarn. Det er en film, som fortæller, hvad vi har hørt før - på en ny måde.
Written 19-11-2007 20:40:49 by Tue Steen Müller
Jeg har tidligere på denne plads reklameret for den gratis nyhedstjeneste, som DR Dokumentar tilbyder sine seere. Her orienteres om de dokumentarer, som sendes og jeg vil gerne gentage at DR sender mange gode dokumentarer, specielt på DR2, danske og særligt udenlandske.
Nu er jeg i tvivl om redaktionen af denne tjeneste. I morges modtog jeg en mail, som gjorde opmærksom på en dokumentar, som skulle komme samme aften, "Bag valget" hed den og den skulle følge fire politikere i valgkampens sidste to uger: Pia Kjærsgaard, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Anders Fogh Rasmussen og Jørgen Poulsen.
Så jeg sad der og konstaterede nok en gang, at der er gået inflation i begrebet dokumentar, som engang betød en fortolkning af virkeligheden, en fortælling i billeder, en observation filtreret gennem et temperament.
Hvad vi fik var en gang hurtigt sammenflikket dit og dat, forsynet gudhjælpemig med to splitscreen indklippede eksperter, der fortalte at her gik det galt for den og godt for den. Garneret med lidt spænding til sidst om hvor vidt Jørgen Poulsen kom i Folketinget eller ej. Det mente han selv var lidt ligegyldigt og det var det helt oplagt.
En lille pen gives for én scene, der holdes i mere end få sekunder: Pia Kjærsgaard og Naser Khader, der venter på at skulle ind til en duel og ikke vil tale med hinanden. Det var sjovt, det var et kameras observation, en holdning, hvorefter der med svirpelyd bliver klippet til næste interviewscene.
Det er forhåbentlig sidste gang nedennævnte laver et sådant hastigt makværk af ren overflade.
Written 13-11-2007 18:37:19 by Tue Steen Müller
Phie Ambo is one of the most obvious talents in new Danish documentary film. She showed great observational skills in her last film "Gambler" about the filmmaker Nikolaj Refn Winding (the "Pusher" trilogy), skills she is also using in her "Mechanical Love", which is primarily about the robot research and fabrication done in Japan.
Stylistically, however, the film is completely different. Ambo has decided to use static panoramic totals, that enables her to stay "cool" when it comes to the Japanese researcher(s), and that makes it easy for her to swift from Japan to Germany, to the old lady that loves her robot baby seal as was it a living pet.
It seems like Ambo has decided not to fall into the trap of an easy condemnation of the robot making as "inhuman" and dangerous for our future. Her withdrawn position makes her open to hear and watch what the researchers are actually able to do. This makes the Japanese part of the film exciting. And scary, of course, when we see the daughter of the researcher look at a geminoid of her father, not wanting to touch it. The mother, on the contrary, has no problem in wiping away the left chocolate from her geminoid husband's lips. The researcher is the one that carries the film with his philosophical reflective remarks to the director. A clever, yet also obsessed man... who has made copies of his daughter and wife. They can move their heads and their bodies, next step: can they have feelings? Like the baby seal that makes the every day of frau Körner in Germany endurable.
Written 12-11-2007 18:22:01 by Tue Steen Müller
Ved åbningen af Københavns internationale dokumentarfilmfestival CPH:DOX torsdag den 8. november uddelte Producentforeningen for fjerde gang GuldDok-priser som en hyldest til årets danske produktion af dokumentarfilm. Det Danske Filminstitut uddelte Roos-prisen som en påskønnelse af særlig bemærkelsesværdig indsats for dokumentarismen.
Bedste Lange Dok
Bedste Korte Dok
Bedste Børne- og Ungdom Dok
Årets Debut Dok
Bedste Dok Lyd
Bedste Dok Klip
Bedste Dok Foto
Juryens specialpris: Bedste Dok – produktion
På www.cphdox.dk kan man læse mere om festivalens film og arrangementer.
Written 12-11-2007 18:16:42 by Tue Steen Müller
Det Danske Filminstituts store dokumentarfilmpris på kr. 25.000 blev tildelt dokumentarfilminstruktøren Steen Møller Rasmussen under dokumentarfilmfestivalen CPH:DOX’s åbningsgalla.
Prisudvalget, som i år har bestået af tidligere direktør for European Documentary Network, filmkonsulent Tue Steen Müller samt direktør for European ThinkTank on European Film and Film Policy, Henning Camre og Agnete Dorph Stjernfelt, pressechef (DFI), begrunder pristildelingen således:
Roosprisen 2007 går til Steen Møller Rasmussen fordi:
Roos-prisen blev etableret i 1995 med det formål at påskønne særlig bemærkelsesværdig indsats for dokumentarismen.
Written 08-11-2007 15:54:57 by Tue Steen Müller
Another strong story from the Iraqi war. This time about a journalist, Yunis Abbas, who was captured by the Americans accused for being part of a cell that planned to kill Tony Blair when he was to visit his war zone. Yunis Abbas tells the story himself through a long interview. He speaks clearly, he tells the story straight forward to give the time development of the film. Him being captured together with his brothers, followed by detainment, finally to end up in the worst part of the Abu Ghraib prison.
With a release after nine months accompanied by a "sorry", "we don't know why you are here"!
The filmmakers have wisely chosen a tone of the film that stresses the more than absurd story that Yunis Abbas tells. They use light pop music, they intercut his story with cartoon-like drawings that brings in humour, they aim at an ironical tone but does not refrain from being pathetic in sequences that illustrate the horror of the war. A camera is following the capture of the Abbas family, demonstrating the respectless behaviour of the American soldiers. (Later on the prisoners are called monkeys). I wonder where they got the material from.
An American soldier tells the story from his perspective. He got friends with the brothers, he is a good boy and the prisoners are greatful to what he did for them.
In that way the film demonstrates nuances, it's not only Good and Bad, it also brings in a universal element - this could happen everywhere, in every war. We knew it happened in Aby Ghraib, this time we are reminded about it, in a good film that has taken a good choice of storytelling.
The Prisoner Or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair
More about the festival: http://www.cphdox.dk/d1/front.lasso
Written 05-11-2007 14:26:16 by Tue Steen Müller
Oh, how joyful it is to discover something new, when you think that you know your documentary film history, have seen it (almost) all, at least what is considered as masterpieces and know where your priorities lie.
And there comes Peter Whitehead from the sixties, a brilliant film director and magnificent cameraman with a short but exciting career. So far I have only seen one of the films in the retrospective at the festival, "The Fall", but that alone is enough to see a talent that was playing with the medium in a mix of Richard Leacock direct cinema approach ("It's all about being there!") and post-Godard staged scenes. A quote from an article: Reviewing Godard’s Pierrot le fou in mid-1966 for Films and Filming, Whitehead wrote: “There is no longer a continuous, flowing, narrative reality, for anyone anywhere; it must be a collage of signs, images, instants, quanta of perception and emotion and thought.”
This is exactly what "The Fall" is. The year is 1968. Its the year of revolution and conflicts. Its New York. Its music. Psychedelic feelings. The war demonstrations. Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh. Washington Square. Pro et contra the Vietnam war. An actress (sexy version of Anna Karina) in the film getting up, getting dressed, making coffee, and love, beautiful she is, 16mm grainy and scratchy images, small episodes and out to the wild NY intercut with the photographer reading the NY Times sunday edition as heavy as always. Its Robert Kennedy in his last year, its me watching a film that was made when I was 21.
Peter Whitehead is the name. Go and watch it. It has more than many other documentaries about the sixties an authenticity in the fictional scenes, facts and the documentary interpretation of reality. And it has a standpoint and I understand this was what made Whitehead leave filmmaking, disappointed with how politics go.
Peter Whitehead: The Fall, 1969
More about the festival: http://www.cphdox.dk/d1/front.lasso
Written 02-11-2007 08:15:53 by Tue Steen Müller
"This is the director's point of view on Jacques Vergès which may differ from the opinions of people interviewed in the film". These words are to be found on screen at the start of this fascinating film about a man, who during his whole life as an advocate has defended and had connections to criminals like Barbie, RAF people, Carlos - and who is up to take the case of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge comrade Khieu Sampran.
Well, what the director's view really is stays a bit unclear to me but what stands out is the focus on a charismatic adventurer Jacques Vergès, who sits behind his enormous desk, constantly with a wonderful cuban cigar in his hand, a man who has enjoyed a life as a star advocate with a very simple anti-american political agenda. This is declared from the very beginning with a clip of Pol Pot who quotes a book by Vergès. In this he describes Pol Pot, the mass murderer, as a smiling and gentle person. Cut from Pol Pot to Vergès who puts forward his doubts about the numbers of people killed by the regime of Pol Pot and says that what the Americans did was much worse. His words accompany the images from the killing fields in Cambodia.
Yes, in this sequence the point of view is clear.
Barbet Schroeder tells his story through an excellent mix of archive, interviews with a lot of people who have worked with or been friends with Vergès, and with some of the terrorists now out of prison. Like Magdalena Kopp, Rote Armee Fraktion, the lover of Carlos and Vergès?
For me, however, the most interesting part of this tour-de-force of pre-9/11 world terrorist history is the long early start of the film where French politics in Algiers is the subject. Vergès was involved in the fight for freedom for the Algerians and married the female hero of the fight, Djamila Bouhired, who is portrayed in the film "The battle of Algiers" by Pontecorvo. Clips from this film, great archive material and interviews revive the French massacres and the answers from Algerian side.
The film is more than two hours long but you feel informed, sometimes angered and admittedly entertained by this elegant mysterious character who gives you no more information than he wants to.
Barbet Schroeder: Terror's Advocate. France, 2007
More about the festival: http://www.cphdox.dk/d1/front.lasso
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