Written 31-03-2011 10:01:38 by Tue Steen Müller
It is a graduation film from a film school, The Sam Spiegel in Jerusalem, it is strictly personal, it is filmed by the young woman, who is the main character of the film, it is very private, and yet it is also personal and universal, because it is so well made, both light in tone and style, and because Orion Barki is like a character in a Eric Rohmer film, une demoiselle, who goes to the beach with her dog, to the disco with her friends, talking with them about sex (”I think that I am the only virgin student at the film school”) and about male relationships, she gets one, it was not good, she has another orientation, she rides her bike in the streets, she buries her dead dog, she is enthusiastic about being in the snow, she has to phone her father to tell, there is this sense for the detail and for the-not-important, which turns out to be important, she finds someone, a girl, for whom she dances like Anna Karina did for Jean-Luc Godard in ”Vivre sa Vie”. Big talent, I met her in Tel Aviv, she wants to make a sequel, please do!
The film is from 2007, plays 26 mins. and has been broadcast by Israeli channel YesDocu.
Written 29-03-2011 11:20:02 by Tue Steen Müller
It was a nuisance to leave Israel as I did this monday morning. It made me sad and angry. Upon arrival on a sunday night a week ago I went straight through the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, got my passport stamp, was picked up and arrived quickly at the Cinema Hotel (see below). Easy. I had a wonderful time in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah. Meeting interesting documentary people and projects.
This morning it was a different story. I left from Ramallah, Palestine. I got picked up at the Red Crescent Hotel at 11am, my flight was at 3pm, should be enough time. The taxi driver from Jerusalem, Arabic origin, chose not to pass through the Kalandia checkpoint, too complicated, too much waiting time, he said, so we took a different itinerary with a view to Israeli settlements and Arab villages. We took a bad road classified as an A road, exclusively for Palestinians, to be followed by a good C road, for everybody, an Israeli built road. The taxi driver told me his story – he lives in Jerusalem and works from there, although he has a house in Ramallah. If he lives in Ramallah permanently, has his address there, he will lose his ID and working permit in Jerusalem. They do everything to make life difficult for us, he said, while we were passing a village where muslims and christians live together without problems, he said. He was right about the difficult-statement. When getting closer to the airport, he asked me whether I wanted to say that we come from Jerusalem or whether I would say Ramallah, the truth, which probably would mean more checking and waiting time at the security point outside the airport. I chose the truth, which meant 30 minutes of check of me and the driver. That
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Written 29-03-2011 10:49:03 by Tue Steen Müller
To make a follow-up on the text above, it goes without saying that this reality, well not for a traveller like me, but for a Palestinian like the taxi driver, for someone who lives in the West Bank, for someone who has no permission to travel freely in Israel, not to talk about the conditions for those who live in a Gaza that is completely isolated – that this is – with a very stupid German expression – gefundenes Fressen for any committed documentarian, Israeli or Palestinian. There were strong human stories from both sides, there were character driven stories, conflict after conflict, a lot of tension in the verbal, written and visual pitches, rough material to be shown. In the workshop in Ramallah and at the individual meetings in Tel Aviv.
But maybe not so many original approaches, call it creative treatments. There is, one feels, a now-or-never feeling of impatience connected to many stories. Many filmmakers or filmmakers-to-be, both Israelis and Palestinians. come from the News. They are used to the saying - we have to get it out NOW, and think less about the aesthetics. Fair enough, some stories have to go out now but actuality and little time mean less creative thinking, and less sense for the detail and for eventual other layers that can be taken out from a story. To say it in a less polite way – we can not keep on watching Israeli soldiers beating the shit out of Palestinians. Or keep on watching victims of suicide bombers. We need distance to the events, analysis, breathing, other approaches. The camera leaves often far too early a face instead of staying and wait for more from a scene, to interpret the pauses, to let a narrative breathe.
Learn from Leacock and his magic moments. Learn from Herz Frank and his emotional analysis.
Both workshops, the CoPro and the Storydoc, are described below and through their websites.
Photo: Nagham Mohanna, who last year presented "Romance in Gaza" at ramallah.doc and took part in the Storydoc sessions. She and her project are now at the Documentary Campus 2011.
Written 29-03-2011 10:09:00 by Tue Steen Müller
Two of the four Palestinian projects selected for the Storydoc sessions in Corfu, Greece in July and in Athens in November are at a stage between production and postproduction. For these two film projects the Corfu session of Storydoc will be a perfect chance to achieve reactions from filmmakers, including editors, and broadcasters, before reaching the final cut stage. Nahed Awwad (PHOTO) showed us unique material from her 28 minutes long, scene divided disc. She presented what is to be an observational film entitled ”The Mail” that gives us both knowledge and emotion. Knowledge when it comes to the documentation of the transport of ID application papers in a cardboard box from the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank to Israeli authorities, that has its office in a settlement! Emotion, to mention just one scene, when a mother and her daughters watch a clip with the son/brother, who lives in Gaza and can not get a travel permit to see the family unless strong illness in the family is proved! Division, humiliation, what else would you call it – but here shown in a non-agressive manner with big effect. She dares the pauses in her filming, what a relief in a stressed film environment where the idea seems to be to get as much as possible out to the audience as quick as possible.
More aggressive is the story by Khaled Jarrar, simply because its subject is so strong in its visual documentation. Jarrar, a video artist and photographer, and a former 8 year long bodyguard of Arafat, has for years filmed Palestinians who have found their way into Jerusalem. They wander through sewers, they climb the Wall, or they smuggle bread under the wall to a seller waiting on the other side. There are many reasons to break the rules of the occupiers and Jarrar has caught them in what is going to be a character driven, creative documentary, so far with the working title, ”Sneaking”.
At an earlier stage is Wafa Jamil with her ”Coffee for All Nations” about a man who lives in a cave in a village near Bethlehem the whole year round serving visitors from all over, who come to him and his small place to show a sign and wish for peace. The man, however, has a wife and seven children at home, and the wife does not like his self-chosen mission. To put it with an understatement.
And totally at the research stage is Ahmed AlBakri with his proposal to film old Arab men who sit and do nothing or are still active as the three men, he has found and who he wants to film: a taxi driver, a man who wants a new keffiyehs and a farmer who is still, at the age of 74, ready to dance the night through!
Written 29-03-2011 09:49:00 by Tue Steen Müller
Isra’ Odeh is a young Palestinian photographer who is supported by Anis Barghouti, experienced director, producer and teacher, and the man behind The Young Palestinian Filmmakers Society, which is going to arrange a festival for new films in October 2011. Isra’ Odeh presented a project at the seminar in Ramallah, still to be developed, but she also showed us her 2004 film about kids selling chewing gums in the streets of Ramallah, titled ”The Chewing Gum Gang and I”. Which is a quite inventive and playful short film with sweet kids. She made them take the camera to make short interviews with each other. Fresh it was, with a lot of fun and energy.
Odeh has a photographic exhibition running in Al Kahf Gallery in Bethlehem until 4th of May, but if you are not in that part of the world, take a look at her website, adress below.
And if you know about new young filmmakers and their films, contact Anis Barghouti to help him build the festival.
Written 28-03-2011 22:44:00 by Sara Thelle
The International festival of documentary films Cinéma du réel March 23rd -April 5th 2011 opened this Wednesday in Paris at le Centre Pompidou for the 33rd time. Readers of this blog are used to a broad coverage of this festival, unfortunately this year Tue Steen Müller and Allan Berg are not in Paris, so you will have to settle with my short account of what is going on.
The opening night Wednesday offered a tribute to the Syrian filmmaker Omar Amiralay, who passed away February 5th this year by showing his first film Film-Essay on the Euphrates Dam (1970) and his last film A Flood in Baath Country (2003). His friend, Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mohammad, made a beautiful introduction and the whole audience stood up for a minute of silence for the Syrians killed in the demonstrations that day.
In his introduction in the program booklet, the director of the festival, Javier Packer-Comyn, asks for a reconsideration of the notions we use around documentary film: “Ethics”, “Gesture”, “Documentary”, “Otherness”, “Cinema”, “Relationship to the world”, “Point of view”, “Just distance”, -these are precious words and must be used with accuracy, he states. We should re-discuss the fundamentals and “reflect on the meaning of all these undertakings. Why make documentaries? Why see them? Why show them? To who? How? Refine our practice, even the act of transmission. Accept the limits of festivals, these places that today accommodate so many different desires. Avoid that they become just pipes to be filled, recipes to apply. I think that the specificity of “Cinéma du reel” is salutary in the festival landscape of today. To centre ones choice beyond strategies and opportunism of circumstances sometimes offered by the diktat of world premieres that certain festival of our size limits itself to apply. Without any resignation, offer a program that is dense, open, generous in its approach, without pretention, and with an editorial project strongly directed towards the audience of the festival” (My translation!). And indeed it is another great program.
What I particularly like about the festival is its fine historic programs of “classic” American documentary. It is at Réel that I have seen Shirley Clarke, Jim McBride, Howard Alk, the Maysles brothers, over the last years. Again this year, I’m in for a treat: tributes to Richard Leacock, who so sadly died the day of the opening of the festival, and Leo Hurwitz, a privileged screening of invisible films and the program America is hard to see, the Conscience of a Nation. Here is the program I have made for myself so far:
Richard Leacock’s films, off course, because I have been part of the team who works for his book-project, and it is wonderful to see his films on a big screen: Canary Island Bananas (1935), Primary (1960), Happy Mother’s Day (1965), Chiefs (1969), Tilton’s Jazz Dance (1954), Pennebaker’s Company (1970) and Les oeufs à la coque (1991) made with Valerie Lalonde.
Invisible films: Portrait of Gina (1958), a lost TV-film by Orson Welles found in 1986 at the Ritz hotel in Paris and only showed once before. Followed by Introduction to the Enemy (1974) by Haskell Wexler, Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, a film of their visit to North and South Vietnam.
Leo Hurwitz, The Young Fighter (1953), Native Land (1938-41), Strange Victory (1948) and Dialogue with a Woman Departed (1980).
Henchman Glance, a document by Leo Hurwitz re-edited by Chris Marker. During the Eichmann trial in 1961 (filmed by Hurwitz), the accused was shown the film Nuit et Brouillard by Resnais. The scene was filmed by Hurwitz and years later re-edited by Chris Marker, thereby confronting the views of three filmmakers.
In the international competition I will see Nous étions communistes (2010) by Maher Abi Samra. The filmmaker returns to Lebanon to reunite his old friends from the communist party to reflect over the fragmentation of the Lebanese society.
Then I will wait and see what the juries decide…
Allan and Tue, I hope you come back next year!
For those of you who read French, I highly recommend to follow the French journalist, film critic and historian Jean-Michel Frodon’s blog Projection publique on Slate.fr. Here is his recommendation on what to look out for at Cinéma du réel with a good introduction to the American documentary pioneer Leo Hurwitz: http://blog.slate.fr/projection-publique/
Written 28-03-2011 11:47:05 by Tue Steen Müller
... is to be recommended if you go to the White City by the sea. They have a nice website, take a look at their YouTube clip. Here is a quote from the site text:
The building was constructed in 1930, in the best tradition of the Bauhaus style, as the Esther Cinema – one of the first theaters of Tel Aviv. The building was recently restored (no cinema any longer!) and renovated to become an elegant and unique hotel... As you browse through the hotel, you will notice some of the projectors, movie posters and theatre chairs. Laurel and Hardy on the wall in the lobby and popcorn to add to the nostalgic armosphere.
Written 28-03-2011 11:03:06 by Tue Steen Müller
It is pitching session edition number 13 that is arranged by Orna Yarmut and her crew. Amazing how it has developed, take a look at the site and see the many activities that are offered Israeli filmmakers. Here is a quote for what it is about, from the site:
”Copro is the first and only organization of its sort in Israel that serves as an independent marketing channel for documentary films. CoPro is a registered non-profit organization that promotes the making of documentaries in Israel by arranging for Israeli filmmakers and producers to meet television network executives and producers from around the world, thereby creating a cultural dialogue and encouraging joint productions... CoPro works to pass on to millions of households around the world the message of Israeli and Palestinian documentary filmmakers and their angle on the complexities of Israeli society. This way it provides audiences with fresh viewpoints and understandings of life in Israel...”
I spent three days in Tel Aviv meeting the filmmakers of the 24 projects that have been selected to be pitched to a panel of film fund representatives and broadcasters from all over the world at the ned of May. Many of the projects had a link to holocaust and to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For the latter category all with a criticism of the Israeli policy as it unfolds right now, many with quite a courageous attack on the settlement policy or the activities around the checkpoints or interviews with soldiers who took part in the non-media-coverage war in Gaza. Luckily there were also positive, yet conflicted stories, like one that has a young Arab Israeli teacher as the leading character, who teaches arabic language and tolerance to kids in a Jewish school.
Israeli documentaries have been quite strong in the past decade. Compared to many other countries the filmmakers have quite a few options for funding – tv stations like YesDocu and several funds play a role, to put it in another way, there are many doors to knock on for the filmmakers. And with Orna Yarmut and her initiative they have the best promoter they could ask for.
Still: A Film Unfinished by Yael Hersonski (2008) was pitched at CoPro some years ago.
Written 28-03-2011 09:53:57 by Tue Steen Müller
We have posted texts about the master of documentary, Herz Frank, at least 6 times on this site. He is for this blogger the intellectual observer and interpretor of Life, where Richard Leacock (see below) was the instinctive reporter and interpretor. I met Herz Frank in Tel Aviv the other day. He, 85 years of age, is in a very good shape. We talked about the good days on the Bornholm festival (Balticum Film & TV Festival 1990-2000), about his living in Jerusalem close to one of his daughters (the other lives in Moscow), about the Latvians soon doing a retrospective celebration to him, about the Jerusalem Cinématheque having fine 35mm prints of 20 of his films. He showed me his book on his life and thoughts on documentary film making, it exists in a Russian version, and in a shorter German one, but not in an English version. Who could help with that, he asked. I had no spontaneous answer.
Another undone matter – it would be obvious to make a dvd-box collection with his films, who could help with that?
Herz Frank understands English, speaks ok German, and is fluent in Hebrew. During our small café meeting he adressed, in Hebrew, Kearn Telias, who works for the CoPro (more about that is posted elsewhere) (Kearn took the photo of Herz Frank and me) and was immediately invited to visit Herz Frank to watch works like ”Ten Minutes Older” and ”235.000.000”, the film from 1967 made by Uldis Brauns and Herz Frank to celebrate the 50 years of USSR. The film was not celebratory enough for the Soviet leaders and was put away. And has therefore not taken the place in the hall of fame for documentaries that it deserves.
New film project? Yes? What about and how? Herz Frank will send me an exposé and trailer, what I can disclose is the name of the character he wants to make a film about/with. Larissa Trimbobler. Read this text from an article I found online, to give you an idea of the context: Yigal Amir, an ultra-nationalist Jew, shot Rabin to death after a peace rally on November 4, 1995, because he opposed the prime minister's policy of ceding West Bank land to the Palestinians. He was sentenced to life in prison. Although he is held in isolation, Amir has been permitted conjugal visits over the past year with his wife, Larissa Trimbobler, whom he married while in prison. Their son was born in 2007...
Photo: Herz Frank and Tue Steen Müller in Tel Aviv 2011 (Kearn Telias)
Written 27-03-2011 22:27:56 by Tue Steen Müller
I am in Ramallah in Palestine and have just completed a three day workshop with filmmakers from the West Bank and Gaza – the ones from Gaza connected through a videoconference. I am on the 8th floor of the Red Crescent Centre just outside the city, children are still playing football down on the pitch near the school, cars are passing on the motorroad, it is getting dark and chilly after a sunny sunday, which we (20 filmmakers and 6 tutors) could only enjoy from inside out. We have seen clips during the three days and I reminded the filmmakers about the always actual sentence of Richard Leacock: It is about being there. I remember him from the few workshops I attended with him, I remember his passion and commitment, and his wonderful enthusiasm when he was telling the new generations: Go there, observe, find the details which are interesting, be present, listen and watch, and bring it back home to the editing table to make it interesting and present for the audience. Make them feel that they are there. I am sure the words were not like that, but this is what he meant, and this is what the observational documentary has brought us at its best.
And being there... well, we have seen Israeli and Palestinian documentaries about being there... at the checkpoints, at the wall when soldiers have pointed their machine guns at Palestinians who try to make their pass into Israel, or when families mourn their dead relatives, or when humiliated women tear their passing-a-checkpoint paper into pieces, or when Israeli settlers get into fights with fellow Israelis and call them "nazi capo"! I could continue and can only admire the courage of the cameramen and –women on both sides of the wall. They are there, and some have a Leacock’s eye for the human detail just next to what is obviously the main focus, which is to be recorded as well. Being There. Where something happens that is important for all of us.
Still: Louisiana Story (1948) , camera Richard Leacock
Written 25-03-2011 09:30:59 by Sara Thelle
Sad news. Documentary pioneer Richard Leacock died this Wednesday in his home in Paris. He would have celebrated his ninetieth birthday in July. He played a crucial role in the history of documentary film, as a filmmaker and cinematographer and as a forerunner on its technological field.
Friday the 25th of March he should have presented his book-project “The Feeling of Being There – a filmmaker’s memoir” at the festival Cinéma du reel in Paris before the projection of a selection of his films (Soirée spéciale Richard Leacock: Canary Island Bananas, Primary, Happy Mother’s Day and Chiefs). The tribute the festival has chosen to pay Leacock with the program Dédicace Richard Leacock has now taken a whole other signification.
Richard Leacock had written his memoirs and was preparing the publication of the DVBook, his invention of combining text with actual film-quotes, this summer. The project was, and is, a truly independent venture. And what a life!
We should have honoured and celebrated Ricky together with him, sadly he is no longer here.
My thoughts go to his family and in particular to his beloved Valerie Lalonde.
Cinéma du réel, Dédicace Richard Leacock, March 25th , April 2nd and 4th:
Read more about the book-project:
Written 20-03-2011 14:38:08 by Tue Steen Müller
.. is the name of the newsletter of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival that also carries the name: Images of the 21st Century. A clip from the newsletter text:
The 13th Thessaloniki Documentary - Images of the 21st Century ended on Saturday, March 19, 2011. The closing ceremony was held in the packed Olympion theatre, flagship venue of the TDF. Festival Director Dimitris Eipides welcomed the audience by saying that “the Documentary Festival’s goal is always geared towards the audience. We want to see our theatres filling up, because today documentaries are more than ever a necessity. Current events are shaking us up and the Festival aims to address our worries; it constitutes a hopeful effort to move and motivate people. We believe that these goals were achieved, as attendance this year showed a 20% increase. For us, this is the biggest and most meaningful reward”.
Mr Eipides noted that during the 13th TDF, 233 films were screened, coming from 52 different countries. He took stock of the event’s most powerful moments and themes, such as the Panel Discussion of the How I Am: Challenging Perceptions tribute (on developmental and intellectual disabilities); the compelling presence of this year’s Greek documentary production; the 2 scholarships going out to immigrant children towards studying; the live streaming project that connected Thessaloniki with Corfu, Patras, Rethymno and Nicosia, where audiences were able to simultaneously enjoy films screened during the TDF, as well as the directors’ post-screening Q&As.
An award ceremony followed – check the website – a prize had already been given to the festival director himself: “The EDN Award is presented annually during Docs in Thessaloniki to an institution, group or private person for outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture. The EDN Award 2011 goes to Dimitri Eipides, Director of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. He receives the award for his enthusiastic and energetic work with establishing and continuously developing the documentary film festival in Thessaloniki.” Photo: The prizewinner and Hanne Skjødt from EDN.
Written 18-03-2011 09:21:12 by Tue Steen Müller
POV means Point of View and is the name of ” American television’s longest-running independent documentary series”, part of the PBS in the US and led by executive producer Simon Kilmurry, who is a frequent visitor to documentary events all over. From him a press release was sent to filmkommentaren.dk – here is an excerpt that gives you the idea that the American audience can watch high quality, creative documentaries. If you want to know more about POV, go to the website, that has trailers, background articles, a blog etc.:
The new season in June kicks off with Kings of Pastry. D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus' behind-the-scenes account of France's greatest pastry competition, an epic, a three-day test of passion, perseverance, artistry amd nerves. In advance of the new season, on June 7, POV will present a special encore broadcast of the Oscar nominated film The Most Dangerous Man in America, in honor of the 40th anniversary of Daniel Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers, an event that changed the course of the Vietnam War and world history. POV airs on PBS on Tuesdays at 10 pm...
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Written 17-03-2011 09:48:45 by Tue Steen Müller
Wish we had a documentary channel in Europe! We do not. The Americans have: The Documentary Channel, that also offers a very valauable newsletter that advertises the broadcasts of the channel AND a so-called Docstore, where films can be bought or downloaded.
Coming soon is a series of Robert Drew documentaries, including the classics ”Primary”, ”The Chair” and ”Crisis” (these films can also be bought in Europe, of course). In clips Drew gives anecdotes about the shooting of these and other films in his retrospective. Entertaining and informative doc film history.
Written 16-03-2011 08:26:22 by Tue Steen Müller
Ukranian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa is being honoured with a big retrospective of his work (11 documentaries) at Doc Fest in Thessaloniki, that runs until March 20. The festival has a fine newsletter (free subscription) from where this press text – in an edited form – has been taken:
Loznitsa talked about his sources of inspiration, the differences between fiction and documentary films and his relationship with audiences during a press conference he gave on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 in the framework of the 13th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
His career in the documentary genre began during a very fruitful time of his life, even though he was not as yet devoted to art, but to science. He was born in 1964 in Belarus. Shortly after, his family moved to the Ukraine, were he studied applied mathematics and control systems at Kiev’s Polytechnic. The director said that he decided to change profession because of the low-quality training he received in Kiev, but he added that mathematics helped him in his transition to filmmaking. “A film is, in a way, a means to control things, and also a language used by people to communicate. Control systems are not all that different from films. In my view, anyone who wants to work in
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Written 14-03-2011 13:45:36 by Tue Steen Müller
Here are words about a film project that I have been following for a couple of years. It is in production and will be a good film, I can assure you from what I have seen so far. The producers have introduced the so-called crowd funding and have collected around 3.500$. Here is a text from the site:
The Runner is the latest feature documentary from the award-winning filmmaker Saeed Taji Farouky and the team at Tourist With A Typewriter. It is intended as an 80 minute theatrical release, with a 52 minute television edit, and will premiere in time for the London 2012 Olympics.
The Runner is a film about the limits of our endurance. It tells the story of a champion long-distance runner who - in one dramatic moment - became the symbol of a national liberation movement. Salah Ameidan is a man willing to risk his career, his family, his nationality and his life to run for a country that doesn't exist: Western Sahara, officially the last colony in Africa. Virtually unknown on the world stage, Western Sahara is an area larger than the United Kingdom and has been under Moroccan occupation since 1975.
As a talented young athlete, Salah was forced to compete for Morocco, the country occupying his homeland, since the age of 14. During that time, he and his family suffered harassment, detention, arrest and torture at the hands of Moroccan police. One day in 2003, during a race in France, he made a bold
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Written 13-03-2011 08:47:35 by Allan Berg Nielsen
Fra Tue Steen Müllers private videotek: Arkivmaterialets alvor, en dokumentarisk rekonstruktion som filmisk elegi.
En gammel mand sad for længe siden i en mørk biograf i Berlin og så Berlin, Sinfonie einer Grossstadt. Skribenten, som fortæller historien, sad i nærheden, ja, det var Niels Jensen, og Jensen hørte ham mumle for sig selv: ”Anhalter Bahnhof, Anhalter Bahnhof…” op mod de stumme sort/hvide scener. Det kom fra en dyb smerte, tabet var stort. Udenfor var nu "kun brudstykket af en portal, murbrokker og græs tilbage.”
Jeg så for lidt siden omsider Yael Hersonskis berømte, Sundance-vindende film og kom til at tænke på det citat, denne korte replik, som blev ved med at gentage sig i mig, som en melodilinje, der ikke vil forsvinde. Jeg så nu disse nutidige mennesker, som var børn dengang, sidde i en moderne biograf og 65 år senere se optagelser fra Warszawas jødiske ghetto, hviske og udbryde og direkte sige sådanne ting til boomstangens mikrofon: ”Måske kommer min mor om lidt gående der på gaden…” Det er dyb smerte, tabet er værre end forfærdende, moderen blev vel kort tid efter dræbt i Treblinka som tusinde flere.
Oplevelsen i biografsalen er uafrystelig, at se ansigtet som ser. Som Anna Karinas ansigt, når hun i en mørk biograf i Paris ser Jeanne d’Arcs lidelse og død. Lidelse og død.
Jeg ved godt, at Yael Hersonskis hovedanliggende er en detektivisk kortlægning af den tyske besættelsesmagts manipulering af dokumentarfilmen. Filmen var i sin begyndelse i 1942 tænkt som propaganda. De indespærrede i ghettoen levede iscenesat en times tid som forkælede bedsteborgere. Som nu herren, som sidder og læser ved chatollet. Men så blev der i arkivet fundet en glemt filmrulle med fraklippet. Der blev fundet to dagbøger, som fortalte om optagelserne, om de tyske dokumentarfolks arrangeren alting. Den læsende herre er altså tvunget til at sidde der i ro, og det er, hvad han har tilbage, disse tre møbler, bag kameraet er stuen fyldt med resten af hans familie. I soveværelset bor en anden familie, i de andre værelser andre, én familie i hvert rum. Fraklippene på den nyfundne rulle viste kamerafolk gå ind i hinandens scener, sådant måtte jo ud. Og det måtte den åbenlyse nød, sult, brutalitet, vold og død også. Nu er det hele omhyggeligt på plads i Hersonskis uafviselige og umistelige værk. Omsider sidder jeg foran arkivmaterialets alvor: Warszawa, Warszawa..
Yael Hersonski: A Film Unfinished, Israel 2008. Tue Steen Müller har tidligere kort omtalt filmen set på Memorimage festivalen i Reus.
Written 12-03-2011 13:06:55 by Allan Berg Nielsen
Fra Tue Steen Müllers private videotek: et topografisk og historisk essay. Min blogkollega har generøst og givet mig eksklusivt indblik i sin blandt kendere så berømte private dvd-samling. Jeg må kvittere med et par bemærkninger om mine oplevelser af disse film, som er at se på festivaler for tiden. Så vidt jeg kan finde ud af det, vil jeg skrive, hvor filmene kan erhverves.
Jeg ved godt, at Sivans film handler om den israelsk-palæstinensiske konflikt, at filmen delvist allegorisk er en politisk analyse. Det lod jeg ligge, da jeg så den. Jeg var med det samme og hele vejen igennem kun optaget af et overdådigt topografisk arkivmateriale, som i de smukkeste billeder skildrer en vidunderlig middelhavsby og dens opland af appelsinlunde helt tilbage fra fotografiets opfindelse i midten af 1800-tallet, fra begyndelsen af 1900-tallet selvfølgelig suppleret med filmoptagelser af samme intense skønhed. Jeg så dette lag af Sivans film som ét langt stilleben eller måske snarere et nature morte koncentreret om et vemod, som to andre lag forholder sig nutidigt levende til. Et med medvirkende intellektuelle, som besøges i deres arbejdsværelser, hvor billederne projiceres og disse udsøgt forstandige mennesker kommenterer, hvad de ser. Blot dette at være hos dem i deres rum af bogreolers, maleriers og skulpturers trygge uforgængelighed af indsigt. Og endelig et dokumentarisk lag af nye optagelser i varme farver hos kloge, besindige bønder ude blandt de tusinder appelsintræer omkring Jaffa.
Eyal Sivan: Jaffa, The Orange´s Clockwork, Israel 2009, 86 min. Tue Steen Müller har tidligere kort omtalt filmen set på Memorimage festivalen i Reus. DVD-kopi kan købes hos Eyal Sivan selv. Producent er Alma Films.
Written 11-03-2011 12:01:40 by Tue Steen Müller
Could not resist, had to bring that photo, even if I have now idea about the film – it has its premiere at the festival. Here is what is written about it on the site:
The first big piece of news about the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival has broken, and it’s a doozy. To open the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, presented by American Express®, we’ve assembled some serious talent: award-winning director Cameron Crowe, seminal rock keyboardist Leon Russell, and Elton John (photo), with the latter performing live on April 20! What do these three men have in common? Well, in 2009, Elton John teamed up with his longtime idol Russell to make an album called The Union, produced by the legendary T-Bone Burnett. Director Crowe—himself an avid music fan, having explored the musician’s life in such classics as Almost Famous and Singles—decided to film their collaborative process, from writing through recording. The result is a documentary of the same name, the world premiere of which will be shown as the opening night film on Wednesday, April 20, 2011.
The festival continues until May 1st and has a strong documentary programme with 12 films competing in the so-called World Documentary Feature Competition (WDFC), plus another 9 docs to be found in a new section called Viewpoints. Films from USA and the UK dominate the selection for the WDFC, but what a pleasure to see that “Cinema Komunisto” by Serbian Mila Turajilic has been taken as an outsider, well done selection committee! As well as Swedish Gabriella Bier’s “Love During Wartime” – love between an Israeli and a Palestinian. Look forward to see that film as well as “Marathon Boy”, which will have its Danish premiere on “Dokumania” this coming Tuesday.
Also with Danish eyes – Eva Mulvad’s “The Good Life”, that has been running in cinemas in Copenhagen for weeks, is in the Viewpoint category that is characterised like this by the festival programmer: In our new Viewpoints section, we celebrate films that have unique, personal perspectives in their approach to their subjects, and which connect a wide range of global stories.
Written 11-03-2011 10:31:34 by Allan Berg Nielsen
Vi fortsætter næste uge samtalen om Per Kirkeby, nu i Mandagshøjskolen i FOF-Randers. Vi skal naturligvis igen se Pernille Bech Christensens Pers Metode (2008), men lige netop med den medvirkende vil det være naturligt og vigtigt at huske på hans næsten glemte betydning for filmkunsten. I 1970 instruerede han sammen med Jørgen Leth Dyrehaven, den romantiske skov. Det er et udgangspunkt, dels fordi filmen nu er tilgængelig på dvd i Jørgen Leths bokssæt, dels på grund af en bemærkning fra dengang af Hans-Jørgen Nielsen i hans anmeldelse i Information, 18. juni 1970 under overskriften "En meget mærkelig film": "...Fotografen Henning Camre fejrer triumfer i disse dvælende farveorgier i harmonisk naturskønhed. Farvefilm har aldrig før været anvendt med en sådan artistisk følsomhed og teknisk overlegenhed i dansk filmproduktion. Men inden i og samtidig med disse banalt smukke og konventionelt romantiske billeder er der endnu en film. En metafilm om den umiddelbare naturfilm, der holder denne frem som en ren og skær historisk skrift. Den egentlige bedrift i så henseende er Per Kirkebys. Alle filmens billeder er totalt behersket af hans særlige måde at se på. Den er et af maleren Per Kirkebys hovedværker..." Citatet er fra Anne Hejlskov Larsens Per Kirkebys malerier 1957-1977 (2002), hvor hun blandt alt det meget andet har skrevet en komplet oversigt over Kirkebys film. Kun få af dem er umiddelbart tilgængelige, men Da myndighederne sagde stop (1972), som han instruerede sammen med Arkaluk Lynge og Asger Jorn, en film (1977) kan dog lånes på biblioteket i VHS kopi.
Written 09-03-2011 15:04:52 by Allan Berg Nielsen
Jeg tror, de var begejstrede, de entusiastiske elever på FOF's Onsdagshøjskole, hvor vi i dag så Bech Christensens film efter jeg en halv times tid havde introduceret den. Der var faktisk applaus bagefter. Klapsalven gjaldt Pernille Bech Christensen elegante klippearbejde, denne usynlige kunst, som vi som indledning havde talt om. Om omhyggeligt at afbalancere de to medvirkende med et fintmærkende instrument inde i sit nervesystem, om at følge den samme sætning, som er konstrueret af måske en begyndelse i Tøjners Louisianakontor, en fortsættelse foran billedet inde i udstillingssalen, hvor det er under ophængning og en slutning på samme sætning helt ovre i Kirkebys hus i Gentofte. En fra højskoleholdet havde mistet to busser og derefter oplægget til filmen, men den nåede hun dog, glad fra begyndelsen. Hun kunne bagefter smilende notere, at Kirkeby sandelig var hurtig til at skifte skjorte. Flere gange i samme udredning af et kompliceret forhold i et maleri...
Written 09-03-2011 14:52:46 by Tue Steen Müller
The festival in Damascus still runs today and tomorrow. I left this morning and the few times I was in the cinema, it was full. Beyond any doubt, this festival – that has been running for four years – has found its place in the cultural life in Damascus. There is a hunger for films, from Syria, from other countries in the Arab world, well from all over the world. For films that never reaches Syria if not for Dox Box. The festival leaders told me, as just one example, about the atmosphere in the hall when naked Finnish men opened their hearts on camera in ”Steam of Life”, dividing the audience into those who found that the film crossed the line of what you can show, contrary to those who loved the film – and those who giggled whenever a new sequence introduced nudity! I have previously praised the selection of international films, good to hear and see that they are also watched with good audience numbers and that they are appreciated, as are the films of Kim Longinotto, guest of honour at the festival this year.
With Longinotto and Syrian artist Ahmad Moulla, I was in the jury of ”Voices of Syria” section of the festival. We saw 6 films and they were not on a very high general level, to be honest. The filmmakers tend to forget the visual side, they go for the words and very often with one political correct interview after interview to constitute the structure. The reportage genre is the inspiration, the journallistic tradition. The selection of the 6 was done from 17 films. We found a winner, one stood out for its story and commitment and main character, the result will be revealed at the closing ceremony tonight.
There is hope that this situation can change if you look at the parallelly running Campus training session that thematically is described below. There was talent to find among the 14 projects coming from 9 countries. Especially among the female directors, who dared to pick up controversial subjects for discussion, with a lot of energy and passion, even if there still is a long way to go for many of them before they acquire filmic skills and find their own voice. But for them the documentary film is to be made to change something or at least to point at something that needs to be changed. Combined with the many different funds and their connected training and development initiatives, there is reason for optimism that more creative documentaries will come forward. Seen in the light of the revolution in Egypt and its inspirational spread, the only thing EUropean filmmakers can do is to help training. The many European training programmes should be open, also for Arab filmmakers. In times of democracy building.
Written 09-03-2011 14:50:46 by Tue Steen Müller
So there we were at the beautiful Danish Institute in Damascus on a rainy tuesday, March 8. The small shops at the soukh were closed, not because of the International Women’s Day but to celebrate the constitution of the governing Baath Party on this very day in 1963. The sun came out later in the morning, and the shops opened for afternoon customers.
Inside the Institute a presentation of the 14 projects of the 2011 Dox Box Campus were taking place for a handful of hours. In a relaxed atmosphere where representatives from different regional and international funds were present to comment on the filmmakers projects, encouragement and constructive critique: Cara Mertes from the Sundance Institute, Lucan Rosan from Dubai Film Connection, Marie-Pierre Macia from Abu Dhabi film festival fund, Usama Rifae from AFAC (Arab Culture Fund), Melanie de Vocht from Jan Vrijman Fund – Paul Baboudjian from Screen Institute Beirut had been there days before to on-to-one meetings with the project owners. Producer Orwa Nyrabia and directors Kim Longinotto and Raed Andoni joined the panel to come up with collegial remarks... no television channels present and maybe again a sign of the future of documentary financing, also in this part of the world: public or private funding will make the creative documentary genre not only survive but hopefully also blossom. There is indeed a long way to go for the filmmakers at the Campus but they have stories and passion, and they want to tell them NOW in times where big (and smaller) changes take place in many of the Arabic and Middle Eastern countries. At this Campus session the main theme was the role of women in muslim societies. It was approached from many different angles. There was a story about women riding bikes in Damascus, very few do so, fathers and husbands forbid it. There was a very courageous, personal project about women and their sexuality in Syria, told through three open-minded women. There was a beautiful story about an orphanage girl from Jordan. And a short one about cats – by the director to be accompanied by fragments of women monologues... and many other strong stories. And there was (photo) "Let me entertain You" by Dania Alhamrani (in the middle of this photo taken at the Toronto Documentary Forum) about three performers in Saudi Arabia. She comes from the only women run production company in the country.
Three project prizes were given, see below.
Written 09-03-2011 14:48:52 by Tue Steen Müller
Three projects were given a financial support at the end of the presentation day at Dox Box Campus 2011:
”Brakes” by Bassel Shehade received the ”Best Syrian Project Grant” of 6000$ (previous title: Female Wheels).
”My Uncle. ”The Terrorist”” by Elias Moubarak from Lebanon received the ”Dubai Film Market Development Grant” of 5000$.
”Woman With a Camera” by Karima Zoubir (photo) from Morocco received ”Best Arab Project Grant” of 3000$.
More information on the winning projects can be achieved by contacting the Dox Box festival and Campus staff. Or me!
Written 07-03-2011 09:07:01 by Tue Steen Müller
I am listening to Cara Mertes from the Sundance Institute, she has a power point presentation. Behind her is a quote by Robert Redford: Because audiences are starved for new ideas, voices and visions... as a motivation to set up the festival and the Sundance Documentary Film Program. It is film culture and not television we are focusing on, she says.
The room is full of young upcoming filmmakers from this region, where history happens every day. Yesterday the demonstrators were attacked at the Tahrir Square in Cairo, Libya is burning, in Saudi demonstrations are banned... The filmmakers from Egypt go online several times during the day to check the news.
Women, young women are here and they might not have professionally developed projects yet, but they have strong proposals and treatments:
A Moroccan filmmaker wants to make a film about a woman, who makes wedding videos in a male society. A Syrian filmmaker wants to make a film about three different women, one, in her fifties, who is totally open to talk about her sexuality, one who is raised in a strict religious environment and the filmmaker herself, who takes experience from her own hard upbringing. A Jordanian filmmaker who wants to make a film about a girl, who was brought up in orphanages and has fought her way out of misery, and is very much helped by the filmmaker herself. Who by the way used to play in the Jordanian national football tema for women... yes, you get surprised in this training Campus at the Dox Box Festival, you learn a lot from the participants, you get alternative information and is told not to trust BBC and other Western media, or the Al Jazeera. This is why documentaries are so important, is it not?
Robert Redford talks from the screen, it is about bringing people together – as they are doing here in Damascus.
Photo: There are still demonstrators at the Tahrir Square (Ekstra Bladet, Copenhagen some days ago)
Written 05-03-2011 08:54:52 by Tue Steen Müller
There is no revolution in Damascus – small demonstrations in front of the Egyptian and Libyan embassy were stopped immediately by the authorities - but there are many revolutionaries among the participants at the Dox Box Campus that runs parallel and as an integrated part of the Dox Box documentary film festival. The Egyptian young filmmakers were all on the Tahrir Square in February when freedom was in the air. ”They all want to make documentaries now”, says one of the participants with a smile. A former stewardess she is here to promote a film project about a young woman with a hearing problem – who expresses herself through paintings, as the director does through her film. Both come from a background with mothers who protect them in a way that is also caging them. A soul-sister documentary.
Smoke is in the air in Damascus, must be the most smoking city in the world!, but ideas are also floating in the rooms of the Dox Box festival, where filmmakers meet mentors and funders. A young Lebanese male director has an exciting film project called ”My Uncle the Terrorist” – Fouad Chemali was one of the main figures behind the Black September movement, a poet, a lawyer and a political activist. He died in 1972 before the happenings at the Olympics in Munich. The director – through his mother and the brother of Fouad, and several other people who knew Fouad – wants to make a film ”from inside” wanting to understand who he was and why he decided to go for the planning of the Munich massacre on Israeli sportsmen.
And what about a film from Saudi Arabia about entertainers... in a country where there are no cinemas, public concerts do not happen. A flamboyant director presents the film here in Damascus – characters so far in the film are a stand-up comedian and a magicien, in will come, probably, a musician and a filmmaker.
What can you do as a mentor... inspire, encourage, inform, I would say... Among the mentors is cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, who shot ”The Oath” (PHOTO)together with Laura Poitras, and who is very generously sharing her advice to the Middle East participants hungry for inspiration. It is indeed a scoop for the festival to have her present, one thing is to be a good cinematographer, another is to have the pedagogical skills to convey what you are doing.
Written 02-03-2011 09:09:42 by Sara Thelle
Documentary pioneer Richard Leacock will be celebrating his 90th birthday June 18th of this year. He has been working on his memoirs for several years and now the book is finally ready to be published.
The Feeling of Being There – a filmmaker’s memoir is not only the story of Leacock’s own life; it is also a journey through almost the entire history of documentary cinema seen from the inside. Richard Leacock made his first film, Canary Bananas, in 1935 at the age of 14 and finishished his last film, A Musical adventure in Siberia, in 2000.
Leacock was the first person ever to film the Galapagos Islands; participated in the second world war and filmed the battle for Burma and the Japanese surrender at Nanking; he was a cinematographer for Flaherty (Louisiana Story); a pioneer of Direct cinema; made together with Drew Associates (Drew, Pennebaker, Maysles…) the first document following a campaign filming the primary elections opposing J. F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey in Primary (1960) and again, following closely the confrontation of Alabama governor George Wallace versus John F. and Robert Kennedy, caught a key moment of the implementation of civil rights in America in Crisis (1963); he has made amazing portraits of musical geniuses (Stravinsky, Bernstein…); Leacock-Pennebaker produced Happy Mother’s Day, Monterey Pop and Don’t Look Back and had a chaotic collaboration with Godard (1 A.M., to become 1 P.M.); Leacock developed and taught at the documentary film department at M.I.T. from 1968 to 1989 and made highly innovative projects with the M.I.T. Media Lab; had an intimate encounter with Louise Brooks resulting in Lulu in Berlin (1984) and so much more…
It is fascinating to read and as Leacock has always been on the forefront of innovative media, his book is not just to read, it includes over a hundred film quotes functioning as visual footnotes, because, as he states in the introduction, “writing about film has much in common with writing about wine: you can’t taste the wine by reading. Well, I think you have a similar problem when you write about films: you can’t see the movies on the printed page. So it occurred to me that if I embed excerpts, and often entire films, within the book, then you, the reader, could actually experience what I am talking about” (excerpt from the introduction).
Leacock lives in France with Valerie Lalonde with whom he has made films with since 1989. The Feeling of Being There – a filmmakers memoir will be published this summer by the non-profit association Canary Banana Films and the French publisher Semeïon Editions.
You can read more about the book and how to contribute to the project here:
More about Richard Leacock here:
Written 01-03-2011 23:16:01 by Tue Steen Müller
Fourth edition of a festival – without Omar Amarilay, see below – that deserves a lot of respect for its ambition to show creative documentaries from all over the world to an audience that normally has no chance at all to get to watch them. For a bit more than a week Diana El Jeiroudi and Orwa Nyrabia, the founders and leaders of the festival, together with their team, offer the Damascus audience diversity and quality – at the same time as they develop their so-called industry section that includes a week of project development of documentary projects from countries like Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt and Algeria. Danish Mikael Opstrup from EDN (European Documentary Network), American cinematographer Kirsten Jonsen, American editor Amanda Laws, Dutch/Croatian director and teacher Rada Sesic and this blogger are the tutors for a programme that also involves a pitching session to a panel of funds and tv channels, as well as a retrospective and a masterclass with documentary world star Kim Longinotto.
These films in the programme – I will write about the Syrian and Middle East films when I get to watch them – have been reviewed or noted on filmkommentaren.dk:
Boxing Gym by Frederick Wiseman opens at this festival before it goes to cinemas in Paris... just to make you understand the sense for actuality that also characterises the festival in Damascus.
Written 01-03-2011 22:57:29 by Tue Steen Müller
It can only be a very sad opening of the fourth edition of the Syrian documentary film festival Dox Box, that runs from March 2nd to 10th in Damascus. The reason is that the festival will be without THE Syrian documentary filmmaker, Omar Amiralay, who passed away in the beginning of February. Omar was always at the festival, he supported it and he was a leading figure, when initiatives were to be taken to better the documentary environment in the region. He was several times in Denmark, he was often used a juror at international festivals, last time at idfa in Amsterdam, and his own films were shown all over the world. An important name in modern documentary history, a dedicated author, and a mild and generous gentleman, who made films that were and are still not publicly available in his own country. The organisers of Dox Box write this about him:
On the fifth of February, 2011, we missed a friend, a mentor and a partner. Omar Amiralay was the pioneer who planted the seed we are cherishing today. A seed of appreciation and respect to the great art of documentary cinema. Omar made more than 20 films between 1970 and 2004, he made films in Syria, Lebanon, France, Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen and Kuwait. His films constitute an outstanding record of life in Syria and the Lebanese civil war, among other vital topics. Omar’s role in developing the documentary industry in the Arab world was exceptional, he was a co-founder and the president of the Arab Institute of Film, he closely advised and supported countless young filmmakers around the region, and he was a close and important advisor to DOX BOX since its very beginning. With his absence, we miss him, and we continue the journey. "Three Films by Amiralay" are in the program of DOX BOX 2011.
Written 01-03-2011 22:52:02 by Tue Steen Müller
Place Clichy, Paris. Montmartre. Where Truffaut shot ”Les Quatre Cents Coups” and Bertrand Blier ”Préparez vos Mouchoirs”. And where Henry Miller found his inspiration for ”Quiet Days in Clichy”, a scandalous success novel. At the restaurant Wepler, to be recommended for its sea food, the menu gives the floor to Miller, for our French readers:
”Je m´y suis assis à la terrasse et à l’intérieur, par tous les temps et à toutes les heures du jour et de la nuit. C’était pour moi un livre ouvert. Tous les visages des garcons, des gérants, des caissières, des putains, de la clientèle et même des dames de lavabos sont gravés dans ma mémoire comme les images dùn livre que j’aurais feuilleté tous les jours”.
Henry Miller, literary documentarian!
Café Wepler, Paris
Written 01-03-2011 12:43:29 by Tue Steen Müller
Tomorrow, 2nd of March, it is twenty years ago that the French artist icon, Serge Gainsbourg, died. This is being celebrated by the French. Yesterday the daily newspaper ”Libération” brought a black & white poster photo with ”Gainsbourg nu”, at least almost naked, staging himself in a position in his bed, smoking a cigarette. The eternal cigarette of the singer, who also brought it to the stage when performing.
The French-German European cultural channel, Arte, of course, dedicated a whole theme evening to Gainsbourg, entitled ”Gainsbourg Forever”, including a quite well done documentary voiced by Jane Birkin, based on the holiday films and videos she made when the two of them lived together. You see the singer being a clown in front of the camera, with his dog, and playing with the daughter of Jane Birkin, Kate, and later with their child Charlotte, destined to be an actress herself. It sounds banal and the images are private from the places they went, always to Venice by the way, but Jane Birkin gives it emotions with her voice-off, full of reactions to what she remembers from when they were together. Unsnobbish, loveable.
Mes images privées de Serge, 2011, 40 mins.
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