Written 30-09-2009 16:45:54 by Allan Berg Nielsen
I min filmklub i FOF-Randers i aften skal vi snakke om Westerlunds film. Jeg vil forsøge mig med at sige, at den som hendes tidligere film er sat af i kunstneriske undersøgelser, frem for ønsket om at fortælle en historie. I The last Stranger, 1998 er det en undersøgelse af slægtskabet over kulturens grænser, i If I give you my Humbleness, do’nt take away my Pride, 1999 af vreden og attråen mellem kvinden og manden. Filmene er undersøgelsesresultater, rapporter i form af konstruktioner som arkitektur og skulptur. Karin Westerlund er jo også billedhugger.
I Gud, lugt og hende vil hun undersøge religionerne, hvad er de gode for? Og så vil hun undersøge lugten. Er der sammenhæng? Karin Westerlund aner det. Og hun sætter sig selv som hvid kvinde ind som filter midt mellem den europæiske kultur (Sverige, Island, Irland og – Barcelona..) og den mellemøstlige, som hun kender så godt (Ægypten), og den asiatiske (Indien), som hun har besøgt under researchen og vendte tilbage til under optagelserne. Midt mellem de religiøse systemer, mellem de flere sæt lugte og mellem de tilhørende kvindeidealer og opfattelser af det mandlige. Hvad, der filtreres fra, blev først til manuskriptet, senere til filmen.
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Written 29-09-2009 23:08:18 by Tue Steen Müller
Jetzt online, it says on the site of the DOKLeipzig festival that goes from the 26.10-1.11, and it is an overwhelmingly rich programme that the classic festival offers its local audience and many visitors. Read all about it, site adress below.
For this blog writer it is wonderful to see that the programmers of the festival, situated in the East of Europe, precisely has a strong look to the East and thus presents a handful of films from filmmakers from this part of the world, where – I know that I repeat myself – the originality and creativity are still alive and kicking. ”East Beats West”.
Among the films are these that you can read about on this site: August 17 (Aleksander Gutman), Altzaney (Nino Orjonikidze und Vano Arsenishvili), Cooking History (Peter Kerekes, ), The Living Room of the Nation (Jukka Kärkkäinen) (photo),
And with big expectations I look forward to seeing the new films by international documentary stars like Peter Mettler (Petropolis) and Pirjo Honkasalo (Ito – Diary of an Urban Priest) and Pawel Lozinski (Chemo).
Below some words about two other sections of the festival programme. There is much more going on – Joris Ivens retro, masterclass with Niels Pagh Andersen, 1989-thematic retro and much more.
Written 29-09-2009 22:46:41 by Tue Steen Müller
The festival introduced years ago the Generation DOK competition for young talents and it deserves credit for that. It is often there you find the innovative and original, and it brings a freshness to the festival and attracts a young audience.
Around 20 films are listed on the site and – confession time – only two of them have been written about on this site: ”Body Parts” (photo) by Maria Kravchenko and ”Side by Side” by Christian Sønderby Jepsen, very different films, one with a strong expressionistic language, the other in a low-key, tableau-like cinematographic language.
Written 29-09-2009 22:34:54 by Tue Steen Müller
In the festival world, at least at the big festivals like the one in Leipzig, the Panorama section always includes high quality international documentaries that either have been at other festivals, in competition, and therefore do not qualifym or did not make it in the final selection for the competition programme. Other criteria are possible. Anyway, looking at this year’s programme in Leipzig, there are wonderful films to watch for the Leipzig doc fans and the visitors to the festival.
You can read about some of them on this site: ”A Blooming Business” (Holland), ”Burma Vj” (Denmark), ”Disco and Atomic War” (Estonia), ”Cash and Marry” (Croatia/Macedonia/Austria), ”Gaza Hospital” (Italy), ”Osadne” (Slovakia), ”See You at the Eiffel Tower” (Bulgaria). Again films from Eastern Europe are strongly represented.
Photo from ”Cash and Marry” that the festival rejected last year. Bravo, that a mistake is recognized by the programmers.
Written 29-09-2009 22:01:26 by Tue Steen Müller
Calling all documentarians: Take a look at the NY Times site page that brings 11 of the photos that are exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York until January 3 2010.
Robert Frank is celebrated on the occasion of the 50th year of the publication of his classic ”The Americans”, the exemplary evidence of what a documentary interpretation of reality can be. In the review of the exhibition today in International Herald Tribune his work is characterized as an expression of ”mournful tenderness”.
Frank has been an inspiration for filmmakers all over the world. In Denmark the films of Jørgen Leth (”66 Scenes from America” and ”New Scenes from America”), to mention a couple that comes to my mind, would not be as they are if not for Frank.
Written 28-09-2009 00:57:44 by Tue Steen Müller
The IDF, Institute of Documentary Films, based in Prague is THE promoter of new Czech documentary films. This week the IDF was part of the team that organised Panel of New Czech Documentary Films. The following twelve directors and producers attended the event to present their latest documentary projects to be released in 2009/2010: Helena Třeštíková, Karel Vachek, Jan Gogola, Karel Žalud, Jan Šikl, David Čálek, Erika Hníková, Břetislav Rychlík, Lucie Králová, Nataša Dudinski, Martin Řezníček and Thomas Feierabend. Trailers for their upcoming films are now posted on the IDF website. Some of the films will be premiered at the upcoming international festival in Jihlava (27.10-1.11) (Photo from one of the most succesful recent Czech documentaries, René by Helena Trestikova).
Written 26-09-2009 09:12:59 by Allan Berg Nielsen
Selvfølgelig har jeg altid spekuleret på, om Storm P. opfindelserne ville virke, hvis de blev bygget. Det gør de! For nogle år siden satte Jørgen Vestergård nogle dygtige folk til at bygge dem i sit værksted. Og de lavede dukkerne, som maskinerne skulle bejene, og som skulle betjene maskinerne. Alt virkede! Bitte små og enkle opgaver blev løst på den mest komplicerede måde, tænkes kan. Alt i dyb, dyb alvor, med en vedvarende boblende, men al tid omhyggeligt tilbageholdt latter. Fastholdt af Henrik Koefoeds knastørre læsning af Storm P.'s tekniske forklaringer til maskinerne.
Filmen er en suite af ti små episoder, hver med en opfindelse på det alleromhyggeligste skildret af dukkefilmmesteren (hvad han altså også er..) Jørgen Vestergård. Den er i hans stædige arbejde med at få alle sine film ud på DVD gjort tilgængelig ved at Storm P. Museet til sin butik så forståeligt har bestilt et antal kopier. Køb den der, den er i hvert fald pengene værd, hører hjemme i samlingen, har gemmeværdi som det stykke gedigne frederiksbergske kultur det er. Fortolket af en thybo..
Jørgen Vestergaard: Storm P. Opfindelser, 2001, 15 min. English subtitles. JV Film & TV og Tinderbox. DVD'en kan købes på Storm P. Museet http://www.stormp-museet.dk/index.html
Written 23-09-2009 08:52:19 by Tue Steen Müller
The reason for this long presentation is the fact that the Danish Film House, in its Cinematheque in Copenhagen, shows an excellent retrospective of two of the greatest film artists of our time. New Danish viewers should go and discover the twin brothers surrealistic world, and others can acquire dvd’s of their work through Zeitgeistfilms. The following text is taken from the company’s site:
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Written 23-09-2009 08:49:05 by Tue Steen Müller
1st of October is the day where the 6th and final box of films by Danish film icon Jørgen Leth is published. The collection, administered and published by the Danish Film Institute, though financed primarily by a private investor, is an exemplarily well composed piece of publishing, in this case – box 6 – with his experimental film from the 1960’es amd 70’es plus 5 hours of bonus material and a teaser from his coming ”The Erotic Human”.
Written 18-09-2009 22:10:18 by Tue Steen Müller
It is one of those films that slowly develops. Something went wrong between Victor and his wife. He drank too much, he used drugs, he cheated on her, she did not want to go on, and he moved from her and their small child.
Which is where the film starts and where we get to know that Victor has cancer. Will he get an operation, will he survive, and at the same time, will he accept the wish for divorce from his wife, who still has a lot of warm feelings for him. Not to forget the relationship he has to his little daughter.
It is one of those films where the interest in and sympathy for the main character grows gradually. The film crew has followed him with respect and he has generously let them into his world of pain, anger and hope.
Latvia, 2009, 52 mins.
Written 18-09-2009 22:07:55 by Tue Steen Müller
Mauritania, Nouadhibou, a place at the coast, a place from where Africans want to go to the promised land, Europe, and from where many boats are leaving and have left, with people on board... with many tragic drowning events as a result. Many never made it.
Extremely well shot and produced, this film takes the audience to a place and an atmosphere of Waiting and to characters, who open their hearts and reveal their dreams to the camera. It’s a film with the ambition to describe a collective, it has the structure of a collage, it gives information, there is a respect for the characters so it understandable and well deserved that the film travels so well – visit the site of the film – as a reference point of one of the most actual problems of today.
But it is also a film that some times, though not all the time, seems to have been taken over by the cameraman. The images are so well composed and constructed (stranded ship wrecks, the Sahara landscape, sequences that play with light and the ocean in several angles, purely aesthetically thought and not really serving any narrative purpose), that they once in a while kill the contents and do not involve the audience emotionally.
Germany, 2008, 52 & 85 mins. (I saw the shorter version)
Written 18-09-2009 08:06:24 by Tue Steen Müller
This fine Russian director has, apart from the masterpiece ”Frescoes” from Georgia, made a couple of very strong documentaries shot in prisons, ”Three Days and Never Again” and ”Blatnoi Mir” (directed by Finnish Jouni Hiltunen, Gutman was production manager), and here comes another that I do not hesitate to call masterly done as well.
One day in the life of a prisoner, sentenced to lifetime for murders, a man in a small cell, watched through the small window in the dark cell door, walking from one end to the other, exercising, making a cup of tea, praying with his head towards an icon of the bleading Jesus hanging on the wall, getting some food... and a small walk to a strongly fenced and guarded courtyard, filmed from above to achieve the impression of a man in a cage, A close-up study that works because of the brilliant combination of pictures with the monologue of the prisoner. On Life, on the conditions in the isolated prison, on being alone and away from it all, on being close to guards who are there all the time and in a way sharing his destiny.
Sometimes with some shots from the courtyard outside. A horse stands there, an old man comes and makes it ready for transport, they leave the prison, and the camera stays – later on they come back with a coffin to pick up the corpse that we have seen in a previous scene. Or a window with a cat. Did I say that it was black and white. And slow. And extremely well edited. Not a moment too much. Sympathy for the murderer? No, not really, but respect for a human being, curiosity.
Russia, Poland, 2009, 62 mins.
Written 18-09-2009 07:56:47 by Tue Steen Müller
Well, no need for a review, the film has already been on the market for a long time, discussed and created debate, it is funny, it is a modern satirical, political film, it raises questions like Michael Moore does, you can not but agree with the two activist showmen and wish them good luck. See the film and read this from their website. It will soon be on dvd everywhere, on tv, and in festivals and in cinemas:
“Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno are two guys who just can't take "no" for an answer. They have an unusual hobby: posing as top executives of corporations they hate. Armed with nothing but thrift-store suits, the Yes Men lie their way into business conferences and parody their corporate targets in ever more extreme ways - basically doing everything that they can to wake up their audiences to the danger of letting greed run our world.
One day Andy, purporting to be a Dow Chemical spokesperson, gets on the biggest TV news program in the world and announces that Dow will finally clean up the site of the largest industrial accident in history, the Bhopal catastrophe. The result: as people worldwide celebrate, Dow's stock value loses two billion dollars. People want Dow to do the right thing, but the market decides that it can't.”
Written 17-09-2009 14:30:24 by Tue Steen Müller
It is actually ”a dirty business” to be interpreted in different ways: the use of chemicals in the flower farms and the consequent pollution of the Kenyan Lake Naivasha, and the abuse of people living there who have no labour rights, very low salary, long hours of hard work, sometimes unprotected against the spraying of chemicals... and so on, so forth. But the film pleasantly refrains from shouting to its audience, on the contrary the director treats the subject in a careful way, in a low voice bringing the mentioned terrifying information to the spectators through the characters, he has chosen, who are the ones with whom we get linked emotionally:
The mother with three children who gets up early in the morning to make breakfast and who goes to work and comes back late evening to cook again and be with her children. The fisherman who claims that the water is polluted because of the chemicals from the farms. The man who sells water (from the lake!) and transports it around on donkeys. The young filmmaker-to-be who has filmed inside the farms and wants his footage to be shown all over the world instead of the lying news reports from BBC and other Western tv stations. And others...
I learned something I did not know about, I met some people whose life situation is tragic and I was touched and informed in an intelligent non-sensational cinematographically beautiful manner. Thanks!
Have a look at the site of the film, a very well designed and informative piece of work – and did you know that 300.000 people work in the flower industry!
Holland, 52 mins., 2009 (next bigger festival: DOKLeipzig)
Written 17-09-2009 11:00:16 by Allan Berg Nielsen
Nogle af Jørgen Vestergaards film er simpelthen umistelige. Blandt disse først og fremmest hans mesterværk Et rigtigt bondeliv. Som altid har Vestergaard taget sagen i sin egen hånd og nu fået også den ud på dvd som led i et stort genudgivelsesprojekt. Det er så godt. Og gensynet med den 15 år gamle film er gribende. Det er jo en stor, en omfattende, men også præcist lavmælt elegi over en vældig kulturs sidste årtier i midten af 1900-tallet.
Det første jeg hæfter mig ved, er de medvirkendes aldeles usentimentale munterhed. Dernæst ved deres vedkommende viden om tingene og nøjagtighed i hver oplysning, i hvert udsagn. Vestergaards værk rejser sig som monument ved sin uhyre omfattende og detaljerede research. Her er noget så sjældent som ordentlig besked om tingene, og arkivmaterialet er på plads. Det, der tales om, er det, som indklippet viser. Det er frydefuldt. Grønthøster og Ferguson. Møgspredning og roehakning. Faglig og nøgtern præcision.
På dvd-en ledsages bondefilmen af den på mærkelige måder noget svagere Fjordfiskerne og den i mine øjne mislykkede Brødre. Den første lider under tydelige ambitioner om større tv-relevans. Om det er pålagte eller selvpåtagne begrænsninger er ikke klart, men så kompromisløs som Et rigtigt bondeliv er den ikke. Værre er det med Brødre, hvor Tue Steen Müller (dengang SFC programredaktør) foreslog at optage den uden dialog! Dels er de to medvirkende ikke meget uden deres særlige sprog som bærer af en særegen livstolkning, dels er det vestjyske sprog nok selve sammenhængskraften i Vestergaards sørgesange over denne egns forsvundne bonde- og fiskerliv. Og skildringen af de to fine mænd i den smukke gård fungerer slet ikke som billeddigt. Heldigvis findes der flere dages optagelser med de to brødre. Med dialog på vestjysk fra Holmsland. Der ligger i det materiale en film og venter på Jørgen Vestergaards energiske dvd-projekt, som han egenhændigt så prisværdigt fører ud i livet: samling på det samlede værk.
Jørgen Vestergaard: Et rigtigt bondeliv, 1994. 59min. Fjordfiskerne, 1996, 55 min. Brødre, 1996, 11 min. With English subtitles. Forlaget Knakken, Thisted email@example.com
Written 16-09-2009 23:17:45 by Tue Steen Müller
... is the obvious and banal slogan for a professional meeting in Trento, Italy that starts today and goes on in the coming three days. Buyers, tv commissioning editors, festival people, film fund representatives and some critics from around the world meet to talk about documentaries in general and first of all look at what is new in Italian documentary. Organised by the Italian documentary organisation doc.it, which launches the themes to be discussed in captions like these:
Discussion on cross-platforms, Are we serious on series, Theatrical releases for documentaries - How can we break the monopoly of theatrical distribution that banishes documentary-films?, Alternative Distribution.
The headlines illustrate clearly the necessity for the documentary community to find other funding possibilities than public broadcasters. In Italy more actual and necessary than in most other European countries... with the (almost) total monopoly of the Berlusconi entertainment channels.
Written 15-09-2009 20:40:12 by Tue Steen Müller
It is not everyday you see such an interesting thoughtprovoking text about film as the one I saw when visiting the site of Christopher Pavsek, that accompanies his film: To Those Born After (idfa 2005)
I firmly believe that film can be intellectually engaging and emotionally moving at the same time. Flms which demand serious effort on the part of their viewers can also be enjoyable. Brecht taught us that to think and learn does not of necessity exclude the possibility of pleasure. That is, I believe, a utopian element of my film. You have to work at it when you watch, but hopefully the work provides joy and is worthwhile. Not all work, after all, has to be toil done merely to earn a wage.
It is also utopian that something beautiful can be cobbled together from so much that is ugly. It proves that there is hope. This is important to remember for people like me who are constitutionally bleak-minded; it is also good to recall for my friends who tell me that my film depresses them. I think it is the world that is depressing them and my film makes them realize this a little.
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Written 14-09-2009 10:08:08 by Tue Steen Müller
An interesting compilation of films has been advertised for the coming idfa:
Israeli filmmaker Eyal Sivan (Haifa, 1964) will compile this year's Top 10 for the 22nd International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Major themes in his Top 10 include how our collective memory works, ethical issues and the representation of history. Themes that are also central to his own work. Here is the list of films:
Blind kind, Johan van der Keuken (1964), Ici et ailleurs, Jean Luc-Godard (photo) (1976), Hitler connais pas?, Bertrand Blier (1963), Ma'loul, Michel Khleifi (1985), The Memory of Justice, by Marcel Ophüls (1976), Moeder Dao, de schildpadgelijkende, Vincent Monnikendam (1995), Testimonies, Ido Sela (1993), Punishment Park, Peter Watkins (1971), Philips Radio, Joris Ivens (1931), S21, La machine de mort khmère rouge, Rithy Panh (2003).
Written 14-09-2009 09:42:38 by Tue Steen Müller
On this site the development in the critical situation around the survival of the National Film Centre in Latvia has been followed closely. And it seems like the independence of the Film Centre is saved. I wrote an email to Ilze Galite Holmberg, the director of the Centre to congratulate her on the succesful Baltic Sea Forum and to hear if things were clearer now. This is a clip from the answer from her:
There was a Cabinet of Ministers Committee meeting - and that supported the independence of NFC, with reforms, smaller budget etc, etc. This has to be officially confirmed by the Cabinet of
... photo from Latvian classic "The Minutes Older", director Herz Frank, camera Juris Podnieks.
Written 11-09-2009 18:11:21 by Tue Steen Müller
Swedish director Fredrik Gertten fights back against Dole… the case that we have written about earlier on this site – go to “search” and write bananas to get the background Here comes today’s: From the press release:
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (September 10, 2009) — In response to a defamation lawsuit brought by Dole Food Company, Inc. against the makers of the documentary film BANANAS!*, attorneys for filmmakers Fredrik Gertten, Margarete Jangård and WG Film AB today filed a Motion to Strike Dole’s Complaint under California’s Anti-SLAPP statute, which allows the court to dismiss meritless lawsuits filed for the purpose of stifling protected speech. Lathrop & Gage attorney Lincoln Bandlow serves as lead attorney in this matter.
As set forth in the motion, the film Bananas!* provides a balanced account of issues surrounding the treatment of banana workers and covers one of the many lawsuits filed by Nicaraguan banana workers against Dole and other companies regarding the adverse health effects suffered by workers as a result of the use of the pesticide DBCP in banana fields. Dole’s lawsuit, as set forth in the motion, simply seeks to “poison the fountain of free speech” by intimidating anyone who speaks out on this important issue of public concern who does not comport with Dole’s “spin” on recent events pertaining to DBCP litigation.
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Written 11-09-2009 09:16:30 by Tue Steen Müller
A house in the middle of nowhere. Or maybe a house in the centre of the universe. A couple lives there. They are artists, they do paintings and wooden sculptures. The sculptures have their own home in the house, a room for themselves where they stand in a circle, in harmony, in a room that is visited by the artists with lamps in their hands, pointing at them, making them come alive. It is a phantasy world with a couple – the man, who is talking in philosophical terms moving his arm around, a bit of a pretentious performance, but charming and with humour, if he is not throwing rude language at the woman, calling her dumb at one moment, and praising her as Mother Earth in the next. She looks strong, moves around as a powerful independent character, but she has her views on the relationship between man and woman: ”If she dominates it’s over”. Well, from the 48 minutes that I was invited to share with her and her husband, I did not get the impression of a suppressed woman.
And that is not at all what brilliant cameraman and director Kostomarov is after. He goes for beauty. The light playing in the face of the woman. Their hands cutting the sculpture figures. Their hugging and caressing, their letting the outside world be rude and cruel – they are murdering us, the man says peeping out of the window after a sequence with cranes and cars destroying something that we dont get to know what is. Not important, what is important is what we see inside, what Kostomarov (cameraman and co-director of ”Mother” and previously cameraman for Loznitsa) catches of Life and Love between two people who have been together for a lifetime. The name of the couple is Vladimir and Ludmila Loboda, and to summarize: This is such a wonderful intimate close-up of a Russian artist couple, an observation, yes, but what makes it extraordinary is the interpretative layer that the director adds, or should I say paints with his camera. There are superb sequences playing with light and shadow, where you see objects in the house or art pieces in compositions that stays in your mind. Taking the risk to have King Crimson music as an accompagnement!
Russia, 2009, 48 mins.
Written 11-09-2009 08:54:20 by Tue Steen Müller
I read on miradox.ru that Herz Frank is going to head the jury of the upcoming Russian festival Flahertiana (October 15-22), previously texted about on this site. Sitting in an airport thoughts go back to the many times I have met this master of documentary, and eaten his words of wisdom - in Bornholm, in Riga, in Tel Aviv, in Leipzig, in Paris, in Amsterdam, in Stockholm. Always he was prepared to share his knowledge with colleagues and audience, many times after an illness that almost killed him. I think of the endless times that I have shown his ”Ten Minutes Older” from 1978, the film shot by Juris Podnieks, the one-shot-film of a boy watching a puppet theatre with a camera that reads the many expressions of this boy, who in his grown up life became a renowned poker player, one of those who are not supposed to express anything. Poker Face! With his intelligence Herz Frank has meant a lot for filmmakers all over, always claiming that documentaries should have a philosophical message – I have quoted him on this site several times. One of his admirers, Lithuanian Audrius Stonys joins him in the jury, among others. Bravo and thank you Herz, and please take good care of your... Heart!
Written 08-09-2009 17:11:21 by Tue Steen Müller
I had never heard about him before, Alvis Hermanis, even if the Latvian film team Inese Boka and Gints Grube wrote in their file that he was famous all over Europe. They did so when we met at Ex Oriente workshop, first session, almost half a year ago, and one more confession: I did not understand their film project because I did not understand the working method of Hermanis. I do so now, and am so happy with the way that this intriguing project was received when pitched at the Baltic Sea Forum. The trailer not only explained it all but also did what a trailer should do: gave appetite for more. Luckily there was a fan and connaisseur of Hermanis in the panel, Outi Saarikoski from Finnish television YLE, who will take the project and help its further development, as will documentary veteran and expert, Russian Grigory Libergal, as one ot the three parts of the film will be shot in Moscow. Let me quote the short description of the theatre director in the catalogue, film working title is Larger than Life:
... a storyteller who claims he is able to transform any real life story into extraordinary documentary theatre. He once declared that no classic play or novel is more interesting than the life story of any real human being. Story is the only thing that makes it possible to describe and portray our world. The film tries to answer the questions: is life more interesting than its transformation in theatre, and is it possible to capture and record the secret of story creation.
Written 08-09-2009 17:06:45 by Tue Steen Müller
... so who were they, the people at the table who were supportive and constructively critical, well simply wanted to help and in many cases asked for meetings and to be kept updated on the development of the projects. If and when the positive reactions turn into letters of commitments and at the end into contracts that is of course another story, but for many projects this first step was also a proof of the potential of the project – and many returned home in a state of creative confusion, as the advices were different:
Cynthia Kane from ITVS in the US was as usual always warmly encouraging the pitchers and showed her passion for good social and human interest stories. Her US colleague from Sundance Institute, Cara Mertes, analysed quickly the projects’ weak and strong points, as did Alex Szalat from Arte france, who as Reinhart Lohmann from ZDF/Arte fought their best to see where the slot-linked European cultural channel par exellence with a strong tradition for creative documentaries could place the projects. Not easy... more easy for veteran forum panelist Wim van Rompaey, Lichtpunt in Belgium, who go for 52 minute documentaries that have an ethical angle to be discussed, and who never leave a forum without bringing one or two projects to his committee. Katja Wildermuth from MDR in Germany is for many an exemplary clear-talking commissioning editor as she always communicates yes, I would like to talk more, or No, this is not for me. Flora Gregory represented Al Jazeera and went for the more reporting documentaries, Charlotte Gry Madsen from DR/TV brought some optimism advertising the new historical and cultural digital channel, Austrian distributor (Autlook) Peter Jäger was looking for artistic theatrical documentaries and Russian Grigory Libergal (photo) was an excellent commentator on content and brought knowledge on Russian situation to the table. The three Baltic channels (represented by Marje Jurtshenko, Anna Rozenvalde and Tadas Patalavicius) did their job and supported their producing colleagues, and neighbouring YLE editor, Outi Saarikoski, was again wonderfully unpredictable and funny in her remarks.
Written 08-09-2009 16:52:48 by Tue Steen Müller
As a member of the organisational staff it is indeed the ambition to promote new people, talents, up-coming documentarians with good subjects and original treatments and an ambition to make them into documentaries that are creative and surprising. Please. And preferably non-formatted than formatted for television, but if formatted then at least playing with the format. Give us, the audience what we did not expect to get. And needless to say, make something that you think is important to express.
Let me pick three examples that can be associated with these characteristics: Obvious that is the case with the cinematographically extraordinary ”Field of Magic” (people living in a forest near a dumping ground) by Mindaugas Survila from Lithuania, as it is with also Lithuanian Egle Vertelyte and her beautiful story about a Mongolian boy, who wants to be a Lama, and as it is with Polish Magdalena Szymkow, whose film on ”The Reporter’s Daughter”, the reporter being Ryszard Kapuscinski (photo), for whom the director worked in his last years (he died in 2007), is so important, I would say, for the simple reason that the name of the Polish journalist icon seemed to be unknown for a good deal of the people in the panel and among the young colleagues of Szymkow.
Written 08-09-2009 16:42:26 by Tue Steen Müller
I can’t mention all projects that were pitched at the Baltic Sea Forum, and there is not enough space to highlight the many that did receive very positive feedback, but I will write about a couple – see above – that went very well and which some of you documentary professionals will meet on other marketplaces, and some of you members of the documentary audience will get to meet as finished works, hopefully as artistically interesting and ambitious as they were this weekend, when presented on the top floor of Hotel Albert in Riga.
So here first some remarks on pitching in public fora: The ones which are easiest to convey are the ones that are able to provide a strong and precise verbal pitch accompanied by a - yes, it helps, but of course you can’t adapt that tone for all subjects – trailer full of humour. Estonian Kiur Aarma, who worked with Jaak Kilmi on ”Disco and Atomic War”, had this time teamed up with Hardi Volmer (”Man from Animazone” on Estonian animation artist Priit Pärn) to bring forward a project (”The Gold Spinners”) on the production of commercials in the USSR. The broadcasters queued to express their enthusiasm after a superb trailer. Experience says it takes time but it looks so obvious that this film could be made asap with international funding. It is funny, informative, personal and Aarma just showed quality with the ”Disco...” film. Similarly great director Yuri Khashchavatski from Belarus (photo, search his name on this site) with his Estonian producer Marianna Kaat stands strong with the non-humourously toned film on the political brainwashing of the Russian population with the Georgian war as the starting point. Talking about authors with own hand writing, it was a pleasure for the Forum to include Estonian Kersti Uibo (”The Dark Side of the Hill”), Russian Andrei Nekrasov (”The Golden Autumn of Socialism”), Russian Alina Rudnitskaya (”The Blood of a Stranger”) and Latvian Peteris Krilovs (”Willing Collaborationists”).
Written 07-09-2009 10:26:36 by Tue Steen Müller
It’s over, the 13th session of the Baltic Sea Forum, that started on the island of Bornholm in Denmark and now has its permanent place in Riga. It is very efficiently organised by the National Film Centre of Latvia that paradoxically now is heavily threatened by the political situation of cut downs due to the huge financial crisis in the country. (This has been written about earlier on this site). In this week a decision is expected to be taken whether the independent structure of the film centre will be kept or the organisation will be taken back to being an office in the Ministry of Culture.
At the Forum 24 documentary projects were presented to a panel of 14 commissioning editors, sales agents and film fund executives from France, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Austria, Belgium, Holland and the US. For two days the pitching of the projects took place at the top floor of the Albert Hotel in the area of Riga, where Sergey Eisenstein’s father were the architect of many beautiful buildings.
Parallel to the meeting for the professionals a film festival took part open to the general audience in the Cinema K. Suns. I was there for 3 screenings and they were completely sold out. The humourous ”Disco and Atomic War” by Jaak Kilmi and Kiur Aarma, a mix of archive material and reenactments, charmed the audience due to its originality and the story about what it meant to be a child in Soviet Estonia making all kind of efforts to be able to watch Finnish television. Jaak Kilmi (photo, to the left) proves to be a fine talent for docu-comedies with a serious background. And the film will travel all over, no doubt.
Written 03-09-2009 08:00:39 by Tue Steen Müller
”The making of the documentary film Blood In the Mobile and the campaign and website bloodinthemobile.org is addressing the issue of illegal mining in Eastern Congo: Congolese children from the age of 5 to 15 are staying up to 72 hours in narrow mine tunnels. The minerals the children escavate from the mines are bought by the mobile phone industry, and used in the production of our phones.”
Voilà, this strong text piece is taken from the website that has been established by Frank Piasecki Poulsen and Mikkel Skov Petersen, who were here in Riga for a whole day seminar where they shared their experience and thoughts on how to build an audience, how to ”own” your audience, how to do crowd funding, how to build a network. Poulsen, who was behind the film ”Guerilla Girl”, that is now being distributed worldwide on different platforms, had just come back from shooting in Congo and showed strong material from his upcoming film. Skov Petersen invited the ”digital natives” (people born after 1978), as well as the ”digital immigrants” (the rest of us!) to different websites where filmmakers have built an audience and/or raised funding outside the traditional public and broadcast sources.
A very good day and I can warmly recommend the two energetic Danes for presentations and seminars on what they themselves call ”the upcoming new media reality”. Below some sites to visit:
Written 01-09-2009 09:19:35 by Tue Steen Müller
I am in Riga for the Baltic Sea Forum (BSF) for new documentary projects to be pitched this coming weekend. The BSF, however, includes a hig quality film programme for the general public at the Cinema K. Suns in Riga.
One of the films to be shown is ”Civil Status” by Alina Rudnitskaya, a brilliant observational documentary filmed at the Civil Registry office in St. Petersburg, where people come to have births, marriages, divorces and deaths registered. ”It’s like a theatre here”, one says in the beginning of the film, and it indeed is, the Theatre of Life. This has obviously been the aim of the director – to catch these emotional moments, where people come to have their divorces registered or to get married. The young women working in the office have a job that shifts from being verbally attacked and called idiots, to situations where they are subject to flirt, or where they master the happy ceremony of marriage. Faces, joy, sorrow, fun, despair... the camera stays sometimes at a distance and sometimes it goes very close. That close that we are watching a couple having a dialogue of reconciliation, or to be more precise, she tells him ”that there was nothing between us”, and begs him not to sign but walk home and give it another chance. Dramatic scenes like this are in the film.
It’s all very well composed, rythmical, with atmosphere conveyed, and lives up to what a documentary should be: multilayered and universal. And about Life.
Russia, St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studio, 29 mins., 2005
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