Written 31-01-2010 19:55:26 by Tue Steen Müller
Short film expert par exellence Richard Raskin, Associate Professor at the Information and Media Studies at Aarhus University in Denmark has asked us to post the following, which we do with great pleasure:
“I have been asked to start a new journal – SHORT FILM STUDIES – that will be published in the UK by Intellect Books. Could you possibly help circulate the call for papers attached here? I am hoping to include articles written by people working with short films in a variety of frameworks – at funding organizations, national film institutes, regional film centers, film festivals, etc. - in other words, not just by academics.”
More about the new journal: Short Film Studies is a new peer-reviewed journal designed to stimulate ongoing research on individual short films as a basis for a better understanding of the art form as a whole. In each issue, two or three short films will be selected for comprehensive study, with articles illuminating each film from a variety of perspectives. Occasionally an outstanding commercial or PSA will also be included… and go to the site below to know where to send your texts!
Photo: Chris Marker: La Jetée (1962)
Written 30-01-2010 17:20:24 by Tue Steen Müller
Krzysztof Komeda... was the one who made the music for several of the films of Roman Polanski, Jerzy Skolimovski, Andrzej Warda, Danish Henning Carlsen and Jørgen Leth. He died in 1969, 38 years old.
I am sure you remember the lullaby in ”Rosemary´s Baby” and maybe also the extraordinary score from”Sult” (”Hunger”) by Henning Carlsen. Both directors are interviewed in this tv documentary, that is well done and is wonderful to watch simply because it includes so many film clips from the great film that Komeda made music for. We hear about his way of working and living back in the times of the European iron curtain. Polanski’s short films arte quoted as well as his early polish works like ”Knife in Water”. Both Polanski and Carlsen stress that ”we were working for Krzysztof, not him for us”. Social and political background is added to this competent work on the often neglected art of film music that Komeda mastered.
2008, Germany, 52 mins. Director : Claudia Buthenhoff-Duffy
Written 30-01-2010 16:45:27 by Tue Steen Müller
Fipa means Festival International des Programmes Audiovisuels and has been going on in Biarritz for 23 years. It is a festival for television orientated programmes, including creative documentaries, reportages & current affairs, music and performing arts programmes, short films, panoramas. The best of the best new is not here, a producer told me because that would mean that you ”burn other possibilities” = other festivals of more importance, festivals that do want national or international premieres. But films like ”Videocracy” by Erik Gandini and a new film by the Hungarian master Peter Forgacs (”Hunky Blues”) have found their ways to the casinos where most of the film screenings take place in classy surroundings.
I have been in Biarritz for many years watching the festival and the market from a distance as I have been working for the Archidoc programme (see below) and its pitching session. And I have many critical remarks to make. First of all the festival programme is published quite late, the publicity is lousy. Secondly is it a huge exaggeration to call Fipa an international event. The television people from the Nordic countries and UK and Holland and Belgium have long ago dropped Fipa, simply because the market is too weak or because they sense that this is a national gathering! From the numbers of people from arte and France Télévisions that I have seen during the years I can only agree with them. Not a place to do business but a place to watch programmes and eat oysters. And shake your head after numerous meetings with French bureaucracy.
Photo from Forgacs film: Péter Forgács created a documentary exploring the fate of hundred thousands of Hungarian men and women who arrived to the United States between 1890 and 1921. To tell their sagas the director weaved this grand epic from the early American cinema, found footage, photographs and interviews. The film reveals the difficult moments of arrival, integration and assimilation, which eventually fed the happiness of the later generations and their fulfilment of the American dream.
Written 30-01-2010 15:22:44 by Tue Steen Müller
10 projects were presented at the third and final session of the EU MEDIA Training Programme, Archidoc, initiated and run by the French film school la fémis. With a constantly changing, rather dramatic weather outside the Casino Bellevue in Biarritz the filmmakers from Spain, France, Romania, Russia, Poland, Latvia and Italy were getting ready to pitch their archive based documentary projects to a panel of experienced producers and some broadcasters from Belgium, Greece, France, Switzerland, Germany.
They did a good job, their trailers were of high quality due to the supervision provided by Internationally acclaimed editor Erez Laufer and his team, who had worked with the filmmakers at two previous sessions in Paris and in Jihlava in Czech Republic.
The reactions from the panelists were in general of the same depressing nature when it came to talking about the personal creative story and its chances to get a place on public television: ”We like what we saw and heard but we do not have slots for that”. Whereas more obvious themes like a film on designer Paco Rabanne and on ”sex in the USSR” seemed to fit into modern tv.... the more important it is to keep the public film funding in good shape around Europe.
Written 26-01-2010 23:54:07 by Tue Steen Müller
Last night of a festival with a small amount of films and a huge audience. With the focus on the authored films and with the authors – or other creative persons from the crews – present and taken care of in a warm family-like atmosphere, created by the organisers from Kvadrat film school and production company, Svetlana and Zoran Popovic. Surrounded by a team of young Serbian filmmakers, and supplemented by a workshop with the present filmmakers for 35 film students and upcoming documentarians.
Two films were shown in the big hall, ”Below Sea Level” (PHOTO) by Gianfranco Rosi, watched by almost 2000 people, and ”My Life with Carlos” by German Berger, watched by around 1200 spectators. A loyal and enthusiastic audience attends and year after year it is growing in this festival for European feature documentaries. An estimate is that the audience grew 50% this year for at least 4 of the screenings. The sixth edition of Magnificent7 is over and the organisers have no reason not to be proud of what they are doing on a shoestring budget. The festival was the only one totally dedicated to documentaries 6 years ago when it started, now there are two other documentary festivals in Belgrade as well as the international FEST that has included documentaries in their programme.
This can only be called a Magnificent Film Political Work.
Written 26-01-2010 23:44:19 by Tue Steen Müller
In ”Way of Nature” (”Naturens Gång”) Swedish filmmaker Nina Hedenius uses a radio piece to convey to the audience that there is a world outside the farm that is the location of her film. In a workshop session at Magnificent7 in Belgrade, the director showed clips from her previous films, and revealed that a radio clip from her film ”Vintersaga” from the 70’es was the same as the one in the film from 2009, including a report on Israeli bombing in Southern Lebanon! Noone has reacted, said Hedenius, who refrains completely from social and political themes in her films - even if you can only interpret this 20 year old sound clip as a subtle comment to world politics!
To verbally characterize the work of a filmmaker as Hedenius, who does not use many words but insists on the image, seems unfair and a banalization... but I dare phrase that this unique filmmaker, who does everything herself, is constantly searching for beauty. Her films bear witness of a background as a painter working with magic images where she very often goes ultra-close and transform the skins of cows, or the feathers of chicken, or the hair of a dog into abstract tableaux that you can dive into meditatively.
For ”Way of Nature” Hedenius edited for 14 months, 4 to 5 hours per day. The reason for this long period is to be found in a very strong work on the sound. In the session in Belgrade, she told how she records sound when she is shooting but ”cleans” the sound to make it more authentic. I cant have a dog barking outside the image if there is no dog in the film! Unique in production, Hedenius is as well. She presents her projects to SVT (Swedish public television)(she only wants one financier and no producer), gets the funding, respects the deadline and delivers without having anyone seeing the film in beforehand. Not even colleagues and friends, I asked her, no I get confused from comments. An independent and free filmmaker who is so because of her groundbreaking audience successes with ”The Old Man in the Cottage” (Gubben i Stugan) and now ”Way of Nature”. (Both films are available on dvd, Swedish version, but the dialogue is so scarce that the films can travel all over).
Written 25-01-2010 11:20:45 by Tue Steen Müller
Take a look at the photo. The young woman leaning forward is Caroline. She is a social worker at a reception centre for asylum seekers in a municipality of Paris. The woman with her back to the camera is Zaleh, she is Sudanese, pregnant, and has come for help. Caroline is good at her job – from a bureaucratic point of view, but when it comes to deal with the asylum seekers as human beings, she has no idea.
”The Arrivals”, by French couple Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard, awarded with the Golden Dove at DOKLeipzig 2009, is an impressive and masterly done direct cinema documentary about the European political and social problem number one: Immigration. In this case told through the observation of people on each side of the desk – the seekers and the helpers. Apart from a couple of small tours in the streets of Paris, the scenes in the film are all shot inside the small offices of the centre or in the bigger room, where the first registration takes place. The characters are Ethiopians, Mongolians, Sudanese, Sri Lankese... and then there is Caroline and Colette, who is the motherly social worker, who is constantly over budget but finds her ways to solution.
It is touching, you laugh and you cry, and you think while you are watching one humiliating moment after the other. At an excellent session the two French filmmakers invited the audience to get an insight to methods of filming and reflections on the profession of being a documentarian. The camera was integrated in the room, they never forgot that they were filmed, and we did not want them too, said Chagnard. At the beginning – the first out of 4 months of shooting – we lost the power, we were too quick and they did not really trust us, but gradually we achieved our ”authorisation intérieure”, which is the most important, because when you have that, the reality organises itself, and you have the patience and the courage to wait. This is an important humanistic, creative document about a European reality, that could be everywhere where people come and aim at a better life than the one they had. And it shows the strength of the observational style combined with time and cinematographic skills.
France, 2009, 111 mins.
Written 25-01-2010 09:05:15 by Tue Steen Müller
Eric Cardot is in Belgrade because of his co-direction of ”Kill the Referee”. At a session with young filmmakers from Serbia, he revealed how the film came about. It was the football association UEFA, that wanted the film and addressed the producers of the – in Belgium and France – very well known tv series Striptease. UEFA wanted human stories to be conveyed to the audience, and not necessarily a defense for the profession of being a referee.
To illustrate to the seminar participants what is Striptease, Cardot showed a 13 minute long Striptease episode about the production of kosher wine, amazingly funny because of the characters and atmosphere of presence. For the series – Cardot has made 10 of them – 800 episodes have been made starting at primetime at the RTBF, Belgian television, and developed by Marco Lamensch and Jean Libon. The series is now run by French television since 1992, in Belgium it stopped in 2002. The broadcast often ends up with scandals for the involved as Cardot himself explained and showed with a clip from a four hour long series called ”Police et Polissons”. A policeman attacks a youngster in his office, verbally and physically in a scene that resulted in the sacking of the policeman after its broadcast. Very much direct cinema style!
Striptease is out on dvd in boxes published by the distributor MK2.
Written 23-01-2010 09:39:27 by Tue Steen Müller
Jukka Kärkkäinen (JK) and his cameraman J-P. Passi (JP) are in Belgrade to present their film ”The Living Room of a Nation” that has been highly praised on this site several times. The JK presentation of the film and himself was full of shyness and a sense of showmanship. Gazing at his shoe and clutching his hat he told the audience that they were at eye level with the characters, physically and mentally. We showed them who we were and they showed us who they are. Tero (photo) is my alter ego, the difference is only that he wants to be in front of the camera, me not. Russian director Sergey Loznitsa and Swedish master Roy Andersson are sources of inspiration, JK continued, and sang a song before the screening, translated by his cameraman from a Nokia phone. The two have definitely already won many hearts here at the Magnificent/ festival in Belgrade. Here is a text clip from the review of the film from this site:
...this minimalistic approach is underligned by the way the camera is placed without any movement recording what happens within the frame. Or one could say on the stage of Life. It gives a distance, it gives you respect for the people you are watching, and, the more you get into the film, also compassion for their destinies. The main character is the young man, who becomes a father – you never see the mother – and knows that a new life must begin, without alcohol. Towards the end of the film you hear him say that he can only see his child once a week. He is indeed a tragic character, as is the big man who moves from one apartment to another, a smaller one, where he gets his arm chair placed at the point for watching television. The filmmakers must have been with the characters for a very long time. It all seems so truthful what we are invited to watch, most of the time with a sad feeling but as in a play of Samuel Beckett or a film of Roy Andersson, the interpretation of meaningless goes well with humour. And bravo for an editing that elegantly takes us from one situation and character to the next and the next... and back again.
Written 22-01-2010 09:44:15 by Tue Steen Müller
The Sava Center in Belgrade hosted two films for the opening of the 6th European Feature Documentary Festival, Magnificent7. The big hall made last night room for around 1500 spectators for each of the two films, that were introduced to the Serbian audience, who could do nothing but enjoy the fascinating insights to normally closed worlds that were given in ”Pianomania” and ”Kill the Referee”.
In the Austrian/German coproduction ”Pianomania”, directed by Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis, you meet Stefan Knüpfer who is an extremely sympathetic and energetic magician in his profession that is to tune pianos for world famous pianists like Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Lang Lang. Aimard and his way to recording Bach’s ”The Art of Fugue” constitutes the red thread of the film, whose editor Michèle Barbin is in Belgrade to meet the audience.
Eric Cardot, present in Belgrade, is one of the three directors of ”Kill the Referee”, that provides an insight to the world of those men on the pitch, who we love to hate. Shot during the Euro 2008 the films follows the referees at work – the funny and amazing sound communication between the referee and his assistants during the matches are recorded – in the dressing rooms before and after the matches, at the meetings with the UEFA officials, including Michel Platini, as well as their families at home, watching husbands and fathers at work. English Howard Webb (photo) is the main character in the film, the man who was threatened by the Polish nation because of a mistake in the opening match against Austria!
The organisers of Magnificent7 had invited the former international Serbian referee, Zoran Petrovic, to attend the screening which he did with applause to the film and clever reflections on the hardships of a profession that to my opinion has never been so well conveyed as in ”Kill the Referee”.
Written 21-01-2010 10:37:37 by Tue Steen Müller
The 6th European feature Documentary Festival opens tonight in the big hall of the Sava Centre in Belgrade. My guess – based on ticket office information and on experience from previous years – is that more than a thousand spectators will attend each of the screenings of the two films of the opening night: ”Pianomania”, presented by the editor Michèle Barbin, and ”Kill The Referee”, presented by one of the directors Eric Cardot.
As usual the organisers Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, with their team of young Serbian filmmakers (Mila Turajlic, Iva Plemic, Sonja Blagojevic, Jelena Stankovic and Andrijana Stojkovic) have done a huge work to promote the festival in electronic and printed media.
... including a free full page advertising of the festival in the local version of Playboy! Yes, documentaries are getting ”sexy” and can appeal to a big audience and find a natural place surrounded by Hugh Hefner’s girls and a big article on the best football player in the world, Leo Messi. Greetings from a sunny, snow covered beautiful Belgrade. More reports to come.
Photo: "Pianomania" by Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis.
Written 20-01-2010 19:55:51 by Tue Steen Müller
The Catalan public broadcaster TV3 has since 1990 performed a very honourable competition for reports and films that ”raise a voice against the violation of human rights. The goal is to defend the rights of individuals and democratic values such as tolerance and respect for minorities”.
I was in the jury this year together with TV3 Head of Documentaries Joan Salvat, Colombian producer Maria Pia Quiroga living in Buenos Aires, Lebanese filmmaker and distributor Soha Saleh and Melissa Caron from Echo Bridge Entertainment. 15 films were to be seen from a total of the around 50 that had been sent in for the competition – a pre-selection had been done.
The films came from different continents, they had a diversity of themes, sometimes reportage style, sometimes more personal, and many times a mix between investigative journalism with the clear goal to inform, and more creative documentaries that go to create an emotional link to the viewer. Brain and Heart. For most of the films there was a clear commitment from the filmmaker, for many there was a lack of visual thinking. Result: storytelling based on words. All presented themes were interesting and important.
There were indeed many words in the film that the jury chose as the winner of the 10.000€ of the TV3 International Award. But they were there as part of the dramatic story, ”The Coca Cola Case”. Which is the title of the Canadian film by German Gutierrez and Carmen Garcia. It is a well crafted and well told, sometimes visually very elegant, shocking story about the more than dubious activities of the multinational giant all over the world with an emphasis on atrocities in Colombia. An annotation from the site of the producer, National Film Board of Canada: This feature length documentary presents a searing indictment of the Coca-Cola empire and its alleged kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders trying to improve working conditions in Colombia, Guatemala and Turkey. The filmmakers follow labour rights lawyers Daniel Kovalik and Terry Collingsworth and an activist for the Stop Killer-Coke! campaign, Ray Rogers, as they attempt to hold the giant U.S. multinational beverage company accountable in this legal and human rights battle.
The film will be shown at the DocsBarcelona festival that starts February 3 where also the award ceremony for the TV3 prize will take place.
Canada, 85 mins. 2009
Written 20-01-2010 19:19:05 by Tue Steen Müller
This is one of those films that stays in your mind. Not because it is a high-quality visual experience, not at all, almost on the contrary, but because here is a filmmaker, who has committed herself to act by doing what she finds important: documenting a daily expression of intolerance and humiliation of human beings in a conflict zone. As it takes place on the road between Ramallah and East Jerusalem.
For six years the Israeli filmmaker Neta Efroney went to the Kalandia checkpoint on the West Bank, stood there, observed what happened, and created a relationship to some of the Palestinians who had to pass the checkpoint daily to go to work or to school. Children being taken through mud, looking at soldiers with machine guns and seeing their parents being searched or shouted at. What wounds will these children have when they grow up? They are taken through these kind of turning gates that stops and leaves you stuck for a moment until it is your turn to continue your journey to do the work in Jerusalem in the country Israel, where many of them they have a citizenship.
What an achievement of the filmmaker to use this method! She continues from the very first moment till the end where the wall is built that separates Palestine and Israel. (The wall that the Israelis call "the security wall"!). She talks to the people from behind her camera, also to an older soldier who claims that his young colleagues are too eager to be controllers and have forgotten that the people who want to pass are human beings, who are not necessarily terrorists. The film is never sentimental, it documents, by using the mere dates of filming as chapters in a diary format that simply by adding one date after the other makes the viewer think. The director is an active member of ”Machsom Watch” (Checkpoint Watch) that is a non-profit association of Israeli women, who observe, document and publicize what happens close to home. ”You don’t let us live”, says a man to the camera carried by the Israeli filmmaker.
How long is this inhumanity and humiliation going to last...
Israel, 2009, 60 mins.
Written 19-01-2010 12:41:21 by Allan Berg Nielsen
De tre herrer på fotografiet leder efter sandheden. Vist nok på hver deres måde. Eller rettere, den nærmeste gør. Han hedder Tore Sandberg, han er privatdetektiv. Rigtig privatdetektiv. I virkeligheden. Han har fattet mistanke til en bestemt sag om to sammenhængende mord. Mener en uskyldig mand er blevet dømt. Det er en af arbejdsdagene i tiåret 1998-2008, hvor han arbejder med sagen.
Manden i midten er en pensioneret politimand, fra kriminalpolitiet, meget erfaren. Han hedder Frode Asbjørnsen. Han er efterhånden blevet ven med Sandberg, men er stadigvæk skeptisk. Stiller sig hele tiden tvivlende, men bistår ham hele vejen igennem. Hans sandhed er de opklaringer, politiet har foretaget, de domme retsvæsnet har fældet. Så han arbejder på at fjerne tvivlen.
Den bagerste mand er filminstruktøren Erlend Mo. Han er ekspert i at følge langvarige historier, han bliver bare hængende ved med sit kamera. På sin måde lige så stædigt vedholdende som de to første. Så han har arbejdet på sin film gennem en stor del af det samme tiår. Han laver dokumentarfilm. Vil på sin måde finde sandheden om denne jagt på sandheden og lade sin film skildre den.
På vores blog her anmeldte Tue Steen Müller 19. maj sidste år filmen og gav den begejstret alle seks penne. I går så vi den så i FOF-Randers mandagshøjskole og blev rystede. Vi forstod at det med sandhed ikke er så enkelt. Den døve anklagede forstod ikke ordet, måske blev det slet ikke oversat til tegnsprog. Han forstod, ja, han vidste fra sin daglige avislæsning, at der ude i de ikke-døves verden var sket to mord. Og så opfattede han det således, at dommeren ville have ham til fortælle, hvad der var sket. Det kunne han jo så gøre efter sin avisresearch, og hans fortælling blev opfattet som sand, og det blev hans skæbne. "Jamen, jeg slog ikke pigerne ihjel", fastholdt han, men hans fortælling modsagde ham. Sandhed er en abstraktion sagde den kloge og indlevende psykolog. Den findes ikke i virkeligheden.
Erlend E. Moe: SANNHETSJEGEREN, Norge 2009, 86 min.
Written 18-01-2010 19:48:46 by Tue Steen Müller
The 32th (!) edition of the festival in Paris takes place March 18-30. Both bloggers of this site will be there to report in Danish and English. Here is an overview of what the programme includes, taken from the site of the festival, and signed by its director Javier Packer-Comyn.
The 2010 Cinéma du Réel programme: International Competition / First Films / French Panorama. Some forty international and French films that have mostly never been screened, with particular focus on the films’ documentary writing and ethics. Encounters and debates with the invited filmmakers. And this year, for the first time, the First Films section focusing exclusively on first works.The Dedication: Albert Maysles. Revisiting the works of Albert Maysles (PHOTO), a landmark figure of the 1960s’ American direct cinema and the musical documentary (with his late brother, David). This tremendously vivacious 82-year-old will propose a retrospective based on the first part of his work, as well as a master class. Both of us. Both of us plunges us into the creative process of filmmakers working in tandem, in pairs, in partnership, in couples. We take a look at how various individual films are made and try to understand how this singular, yet double, entity comes to light in their filmmaking. With films by Yervant Gianikian/Angela Ricci-Lucchi, Jean-Luc Godard/Anne-Marie Miéville, Yann Le Masson/Bénédicte Deswarte, Raymonde Carasco/Régis Hébraud.
Read more / Læs mere
Written 16-01-2010 15:16:05 by Tue Steen Müller
This text about Polish master Marcel Łoziński is written by grand old man in Finnish documentary, for many years a producer, director and commissioning editor at YLE, Jarmo Jääskeläinen. The text is taken from the site of the international film festival Docpoint that takes place in Helsinki 26-31.1.2010:
If one were to look for a pair for Marcel Łoziński in developing Polish documentary, it would be Krzysztof Kieślowski. They were best friends, and both belonged to the generation of directors that in the beginning of the 1970s were no longer satisfied with what their teacher Kazimierz Karabasz had taught them in the Łódź film school. They abandoned realistic observation of the environment and began to look for deeper stories, often containing staged, fictive elements, that would critically portray the totalitarian system of power in their country.
The basic conflict in their films was created by juxtaposing the individual and an unrealistic system. Both Łoziński and Kieślowski encountered various forms of censorship. They developed special expertise in writing between the lines, in finding forms of expression that the handbook for censorship did not yet have a chapter on. A good example of this is Łoziński’s How to Live (1977), a story from an educational summer camp of the Union of Young Polish Socialists. Just a few months earlier, workers in Ursus, Radom and other parts of Poland had started to protest against the price increase of food supplies. Thousands lost their jobs and many of the protesters got unreasonable prison sentences. Meanwhile, the summer camp of Marcel Łoziński’s film is all dance and laughter, although there are individuals present who dissent. Many of his other films also cannot be fully understood until they are reflected against the social circumstances in Poland at the time.
Kieślowski’s documentaries were often built on stories about an individual or a small group, Łoziński’s on larger themes and collectives. This difference led
Read more / Læs mere
Written 16-01-2010 15:06:22 by Tue Steen Müller
This text is taken from the site of the Finnish documentary film festival Docpoint, that goes on 26-31.1.2010:
I never made the decision to become a documentarian, to place myself in some fixed category. I don’t even like the word "documentarian". The term is an attempt to give a strict definition to a genre known for its porosity and constantly evolving boundaries; a genre that is almost inseparable from the one it is always opposed to: fiction. After all, images are not as true to ”reality” as they are to the intentions of their creator.
Nevertheless, my first film was a documentary (His Master’s Voice, 1978) and it made me want to make another one and another one, and I'm still as excited as ever. So I have become a documentarian and, although I dislike the word, nothing has managed to quench my thirst for filming; not the efforts needed to get a project started and surmount one’s demons nor the threats that hang over the existence and circulation of one’s most personal works.
I feel the need to create a frame for each film, a starting point that I can build upon. This frame consists of the things that I find motivating and exciting when working together with the subjects of the film. When filming starts, the final destination is unknown to me and I don’t know which path I will follow. A
Read more / Læs mere
Written 14-01-2010 19:57:11 by Tue Steen Müller
”What an achievement! I don’t recall, when was the last time that I witnessed so captivating a historical documentary, here told by Czech Jewish survivors of the holocaust. They were interviewed between 2000-2006 by Lukas Pribyl, the researcher, writer and director behind the four 90 minutes long films that share the same title, ”Forgotten Transports”, with the adding of where the transports went: ”to Latvia”, ”to Estonia”, ”to Belarus”, ”to Poland”.
This is a text clip from this site where Lukas Pribyl’s films were given an enthusiastic review in August 2009. I also put the film series on my list of best films 2009. Now I see with pleasure that the prestigious film festival in Göteborg, in its very exclusive documentary section, includes 3 screenings of each of the 4 films. I can only say to our Swedish readers and the Danish professionals, who visit the festival: Go and watch these impressive films.
The 178 pages big catalogue also invites to screenings of other high-quality documentaries that have been written about on this site – and will be screened next week at the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade: ”My Life With Carlos”, ”Pianomania” and ”Kill the Referee”.
The festival goes from January 29 to February 8.
Written 13-01-2010 15:57:08 by Tue Steen Müller
… does not only refer to the fictional documentary, mockumentary, of Woody Allen, but is also the name of the film school in Bolzano in the Alto Adige region of North Italy. Documentary films are being taught and made here in an atmosphere of warmth and competence. I can say so about the school and its permanent staff having been one of the priviliged regular teachers there since 2007. Diploma films are now in production from the hands and eyes of the students, who have been there for almost three years and who this summer will leave the protected environment of the film school to enter the audiovisual jungle. With skills, knowledge and hopefully a hunger to tell stories. (Several of the students have been writing on this site, write zelig under "search").
A new three year cycle 2010-2013 lies ahead and the deadline for application is February 1st. This is a quote from the site where YOU, upcoming documentarian can find more info:
“No more than 30 candidates will be admitted to the 2010-2013 cycle. Past experience has shown that a large number of applicants will be competing for these slots. Therefore the admissions process has been divided into two phases. The tri-lingual exam commission will select up to 60 candidates from all the applicants, and invite them to Bolzano for a five-day battery of admissions exams. Recommended age of applicants: 20-30 years.”
Written 12-01-2010 20:17:07 by Tue Steen Müller
Yes, it is him on the small poster, that advertises a fine programme to be performed by The Danish Institute in St. Petersburg.
For four days a Film Festival Denmark will take place showing an excellent programme of films from the Danish National Film School. Including ”Nocturne” by von Trier from 1980. Other highlights are ”Little Man” by Peter Schønau Fog, ”The Last Round” of Thomas Vinterberg and ”Last Symphony of Woyzeck” by Nicolai Arcel. The festival opens January 21 and runs until January 24 incl. in the cinema centre Rodina. A meeting with Elizabeth Rosen from the film school will take place on the 20th at 5pm at the great venue of the Institute.
What lies at the feet of von Trier? Dead raven, sleeping cats...
Written 12-01-2010 10:41:52 by Tue Steen Müller
Recruit training in Georgia. From Recruit Gurchiani to Private Gurchiani. A symphathetic young man from Upper Abkhazia is the main character in this documentary from Georgia. He is followed through some months in 2008 that leads up to the Russian-Georgian war in August the same year, in the Tskhinvali region. 186 Georgian soldiers died and 58 were injured according to the film. (The much higher civilian casualties on both sides are still not officially recognized, this is not in the film). And although the film ends with images from the graves of the fallen soldiers, thus the title, it has a different aim:
To show the tough recruit training, to let the soldier Gurchiani and a couple of sergeants talk about what they do, how it feels, and why they do it. There is an understandable patriotic atmosphere but although the soldiers-to-be have T-shirts with ”army” written on the front, the training can not compete with the one, we have seen in numerous documentaries of American origin, Frederick Wiseman’s ”Basic Training” to mention one.
It is clear that the director wants us to have good feelings about what we see, and for Gurchiani, and we do have, also softened by funny sequences about the young boys going on a leave for the first time after two months, sending hopeful gazes in the direction of young females. Brilliant observational camera work. Propaganda, yes, but ok for me.
Georgia, 61 mins., 2009
Written 12-01-2010 08:38:37 by Tue Steen Müller
This is the second impressive documentary that I have seen ABOUT Sergei Parajanov (1924-1990) (the first one by Vartanov is previously written about on this site), this time made by his nephew, who gave the film to me when we met in Istanbul. It is a generous introduction to the world of the director about whom, Andrei Tarkovsky said: Always with huge gratitude and pleasure I remember the films of S.P., which I love very much. His way of thinking, his paradoxical poetical ability to love the beauty and ability to be free within his own vision...
The film includes words from his letters, fragments from his last work ”Confession” and from the films ”Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”, ”The Color of Pomegranates”, ”Surami Fortress Legend”, ”Ashik Kerib” and ”Arabesques about Pirosmani”. They are put together as a story told by the director himself about his life and work, including amazing footage of his collages and assemblages and small sculptures made in prison and while he was forbidden to work as a film director by the Soviet authorities.
Dvd’s of the Parajanov films are on sale from numerous internet sources, if you come to Yerevan, visit his museum, and on the site below much more is to be found on the master.
Russia, 2004, 52 mins.
Written 10-01-2010 14:39:55 by Tue Steen Müller
Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen has been sentenced to six yearsʼ imprisonment. This is a press release from the site “Leaving Fear Behind” where clips from the film of the same title is to be found.
Zurich, 6. January 2010. Dhondup Wangchen, the Tibetan filmmaker who is currently in Chinese detention, has been sentenced to six years' imprisonment by the provincial court in Xining (capital of Qinghai province). His arrest in March 2008 came shortly after completion of filming for his documentary film «Leaving Fear Behind» in which Tibetans spoke out about their lives in Tibet.
The sentencing took place on 28 December 2009 but his relatives in Xining were neither informed about the trial nor the verdict. According to reliable information, Dhondup Wangchen will appeal the sentence but the appeal period will expire on Thursday, 7 January 2010. Furthermore, Dhondup Wangchen has no access to independent legal assistance. The lawyer originally hired by his family was barred from representing him by the Chinese government. His wife Lhamo Tso, who is together with her children on pilgrimage in Bodh Gaya/India, said today: «I appeal to the court in Xining to allow my husband to have a legal representative of his own choosing. My children and I feel desperate about the prospect of not being able to see him for so many years. We call on the Chinese authorities to show humanity by releasing him. My husband is not a criminal, he just tried to
Read more / Læs mere
Written 08-01-2010 12:13:59 by Tue Steen Müller
In two days the big football event Africa Cup of Nations 2010 will kick off. DR Congo did not qualify even if they were close to get there and do what they did in 1968, when they won the tournament, passing on to the World Cup 1974 in Germany as the first African team. Some of us, who are old enough, vaguely remember ”The Leopards”, the nick-name of the squad, who played 3 matches and lost them all, but displayed great technical skills and made a lot of headlines in the newspapers. Many of the players ended up playing in Europe, as today.
What happened to the players after their return to Zaire and their football enthusiastic president Mobuto? This is the quest of the two young student filmmakers in this film that is not at all a football nostalgic story, but rather a social one about players, who were treated like kings and then almost forgotten. A Rise and Fall narration.The two young filmmakers, male and female, were not born, when the Leopards performed and their lack of knowledge combined with a curiosity (and for the beautiful young girl a constant change of dresses) gives the film a fine, light tone of naïvity. They ask the surviving players, what happened to them, what they remember, if they felt badly treated by the leaders of the country. How the matches were ”organised”. Clips (not many, however) from the matches are shown and the title reference to elections come from that fact that one of the players is a candidate and wants to enter the parliament to do something for the foootball players.
In other words, this is a fine piece of social African football history and I could easily see this film on European public tv channels as a prologue to the World Cup this summer in South Africa.
2009, Congo, Belgium, Benin, 56 mins. (Original title: ”Entre le Coup et l’èlection”).
Shown at DOKLeipzig 2009.
(interviews with the director)
Written 06-01-2010 14:39:17 by Tue Steen Müller
At the DoxPro workshop in November 09 in St. Petersburg I met many talented Russian documentary directors, who deserve more attention from Western European broadcasters and festivals. I took several dvd’s back home to watch and comment, and I still have a pile on my desk. I can not write about them all on this site but I would like to share my enthusiasm with you for the films of Alina Rudnitskaya, whose ”Civil Status” was reviewed last year in September in connection with the Baltic Sea Forum in Riga.
Today I saw three other short films directed by the director from St. Petersburg, all three proving her extraordinary sense for situations and for the so called magic moments that no director can mise-en-scène. You can see that Rudnitskaya has the confidence of her characters, who are offering her film emotionally vulnerable moments and she is able to deal with sadness in a way that you don’t feel embarrassed being that close. Humour is very much present in all three short documentaries.
In ”Communal Residence” about the kommunalka (shared appartment) a poor real estate agent meets people, who do not want to move out. In ”Besame Mucho” (Photo) women in a choir dream themselves away from their tough life in a poor, flooded village. By singing and having warmth and solidarity towards each other. Finally it is tragicomical to be with the young women at the ”Bitch Academy” where they learn how to find a man! The camera reports what happens in the room between the male teacher and the women, and between the women themselves. But suddenly the reporting stops and to the film is added layers of existentiial insecurity and despair. The three short films also demonstrate the emotional density in film language you can achieve with several characters in ONE place without playing according to the mantras of ”development of (few) strong characters” and ”strong story” that glues to the one-hour tv format.
Communal Residence, 2002, 13 mins – Besame Mucho, 2006, 26 mins. – Bitch Academy, 2008, 29 mins.
Written 05-01-2010 16:27:08 by Tue Steen Müller
The title of the film indicates where the director stands. As does the building of this observational documentary from one of the patriotic youth camps in Georgia. With a fine eye for details young director Salome Jashi (previously written about on this blog) follows the 10 days of leadership education for Georgian teenagers, who do in the beginning of the film act like all summer camping teenagers do. They are having problems with all the rules and the discipline, they would rather just have fun, it seems. But slowly what at first sight seemed to be a harmless Western-like scout camp turns into a pure propaganda machine where patriotic slogans are taught to make the youngsters proud of their country, their language, their culture, and dislike others: ”Glory to our Country”, ”Kick the Russians Out”, ”the Future is Ours”...
The director has chosen to follow the development of some fine characters. The leader of a squad, pretty relaxed, baggy trousers and a potbelly but constantly trying to make the young ones understand that lack of discipline will be punished. The very young boy, who is not at all happy being at the camp, and wants to go home, but is persuaded by the woman leader of the camp (quite a scary manipulator) to ”sacrifice one more day for me”. And the leader-to-be who takes everything according to what he is told. With a big smile. A scene at the end of the film gives you the creeps. A theatre play is performed that relates to (the province) Abkhazia as a person, who has suffered all atrocities but will overcome. It reminds you of propaganda scenes from the USSR that Georgia broke away from!
A text before the end credits roll informs you that 100.000 youngsters have visited the camps that were initiated by the president Sakhasvili in 2005. The film is to be shown on Georgian tv this coming friday. Hopefully it will create a big necessary debate about a country that does not need to repeat what totalitarian states have done and do. The high quality film of Salome Jashi deserves to be treated like that in and outside Georgia.
Georgia, 2009, 45 mins. Produced with the support of Goethe Institute Tbilisi.
Written 05-01-2010 16:07:48 by Tue Steen Müller
I got this dvd by Slovak Marek Sulik, the editor of the two original documentaries by Peter Kerekes, ”66 Seasons” and ”Cooking History”. Sulik has obviously enjoyed this new job of making the impressive b/w photos of Lida Suchy into a film under the direction of Misho Suchy. Accompanied by some well chosen sound bites, including a song and an old man’s reflection on getting nearer to death, the film communicates the calmness of Kryvorivuya in the Carphatian Mountains of Ukraine from where the family of Lida Suchy comes, and where she stayed for a year to study and catch Life and People with her camera. She gives this information in the additional series of photographs on the dvd in which she also tells about the old woman, who insisted on having her photos taken wearing a replica of the clothes she wore, when she was imprisoned in a Stalinist camp. A wedding, a funeral, kids swimming, living rooms, sheep-shearing, landscapes – and fine colour drawings by one of the villagers. A pleasure to watch.
Slovakia, 21 mins., 2008
+ photography series with written text by Lida Suchy
Written 04-01-2010 17:48:27 by Tue Steen Müller
The director of the banned film ”38” (see below) touches upon another black spot in newer Turkish history with this enormously touching documentation of the horrible atrocities that took place in the Diyarbakir prison in the military coup period 1980-84. In this case he constructs his story by letting witnesses tell what they experienced as inmates who were subject to torture and all kind of humiliations. Men and women. Kurdish people but also socialists oppposed to the regime. It is actually talking faces from beginning till end, with time-for-reflection nature images and elegic music, or tableaux of shadows of prisoners on a wall or drawings made by one of the survivors. Some lawyers comment as well on the absurd prosecutions, and again pathos is the word to characterize the director’s ambition to document and interpret the emotions of the witnesses, and honour the many who were killed due to the torture, or by own hands through death fasts or burning. Let me end this strong recommendation of a film document by quoting one of the survivors (via the English subtitles):
”I was asked... did you like our guest house? At that moment you might think to say, ”yes it was great, Sir! Thank you!” And then just go away. However your honour doesn’t let you do that. I said: We were brought up in this country, we studied in this country. Before I came to this prison I was saying my country, but I could not ever think that I would live such horror in my own country. You are calling this ”a guest house”, you put us through such horrible situations that even animals should not be put in! Forget you identity, you destroyed our personalities... I have become an enemy to this state as I am leaving this place now.”
Many (this is not in the film) think that what happened in the Diyarbakır prison in 1980-84 gave the fundament to PKK. The government plans to close the prison, many think it should be kept as a museum. The torturers and their superiors have not been prosecuted.
Turkey, 2009, 97 mins.
Written 04-01-2010 17:03:47 by Tue Steen Müller
The old man asks for the camera to be turned off. He has a lot to say but he is worried. No broadcasting, he almost shouts loudly... no broadcasting, the voice behind the camera assures him, but turn it off, the old man repeats. Faces of old women, who say nothing, pass by, also in the beginning of this film which is banned in Turkey, will never be shown on the state controlled television but circulates through other channels. The topic of the film, says one of the interviewed historians, ”can be characterized as a genocide. But neither the Kurds living in Dersim, the Alevi Kurds, nor the written press, nor even the universities in Turkey, are conscious of the issue”. In 2008 this tabooed topic was raised at a conference in the European Parliament together with the Armenian genocide performed by Turkey.
The Turkification, by Atatürk and his government called the civilisation programme, of the Dersim (today renamed Turceli) province took place through force, deportations and massacres of rebels under the leadership of Seyit Riza. His story (and heroic death) is part of what is being told in this elegy that is built up around interviews with historians and sociologists combined with a few survivors, who are able to tell what they experienced themselves or convey what was told them by relatives. The film is extremely wordy with documents being shown on the screen, at the same time as the director through music and editing appeal to the audience’s emotions. As pretty ignorant in Turkish modern history, and as you have to read subtitles all the time, you do sense the information bombardment as too much, at the same time as you can only admire the courage of the film team and hope they reach a substantial national audience.
Turkey, 2006, 67 mins.
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