Written 31-07-2011 23:34:55 by Tue Steen Müller
How to follow what happens in Syria? Incoming shaken visual reports, amateur footage from amateur cameras or mobile phones, many people risk their lives to report to us and to have their clips put on youtube or on the sites of tv channels.
I went to al jazeera tonight – their start lines from todays killings by the regime go like this:
Syrian forces have killed nearly 142 people, including at least 100 when the army stormed the flashpoint protest city of Hama to crush dissent on the eve of Ramadan, activists have said. Rights groups said it was one of deadliest days in Syria since demonstrators first took to the streets on March 15, demanding democratic reforms and the downfall of the government...
On the site of avaaz, see below, you can sign a petition ” to investigate and press for an end to the disappearances of nearly 3000 innocent Syrians”.
And on lccsyria.org videos are uploaded as the massacre continues.
http://www.lccsyria.org/ (photo from that site)
Written 30-07-2011 10:58:54 by Tue Steen Müller
American documentary master Frederick Wiseman stays in France. After his “La Danse” the Parisian production company Ideale Audience and Wiseman’s own Zipporah Films Inc. has produced a film from one of the most well known entertainment attractions in the French capital, Crazy Horse. The film is to have a special presentation at the coming Venice Film Festival. Here is the promotion text from the site of the distributor, Celluloid Dreams:
Celebrated documentary director Frederick Wiseman spent ten weeks with his camera exploring one of the most mythic places dedicated to women, ‘CRAZY HORSE’. This legendary Parisian cabaret club, founded in 1951 by Alain Bernardin, has become, over the years the Parisian nightlife ‘must’ for any visitors, ranking alongside the Eiffel tower and the Louvre.
Wiseman’s impeccable eye allows us to enter into this intriguing international temple of the Parisian club world and to discover what makes the CRAZY HORSE tick: elegance, perfectionism and a grueling schedule (with 2 shows a night and 3 on Saturdays, 7 days a week). The film takes us to the final curtain up, and the unveiling of the brand new show. DESIR is created by the greatest French choreographer Philippe DECOUFFLE and is an artistic, modern, humorous and colorful outburst that is the pinnacle of ‘NUDE CHIC’.
Still: "Crazy Horse". From cargo-film.de
Written 29-07-2011 14:07:26 by Tue Steen Müller
OK, I joined. I had asked a lot of people if I should. Many said yes, of course, if you can control the time-consuming. Others said no, it is dangerous, people have been misused on facebook, pictures of you may be manipulated... whatever.
I joined a week ago, and it is time-consuming so far. But also fascinating – and embarassing. The latter because so many of my friends, people with whom I am friends anyway, in the real world so to say, have expressed their surprise to see me there! Meaning, you are too old for that, 60+ is not for facebook, but welcome anyway...
Yesterday, a Danish film editor, on facebook himself, told me that after two weeks you will find your way of using it properly. It calmed me down... 62 friends I have so far, nothing compared to some of my friends who have more than a thousand, I don’t aim for that, but fascinating to see friends from all over the world, mostly because of my work of course, languages of all kind, that in itself will limit my reading as my understanding of Arab, Finnish, Greek, Russian, Hebrew and Serbian equals zero, and the knowledge of Italian and Spanish and Catalan is pretty fragile.
Many friends have changed their photo to the Norwegian flag, many write about the tragedy much better than in the Danish newspapers, yes many write actually about important matters in the world.
I have put some family/free-time-in-connection-with-work-photos on my page, but I will basically use it to find and convey information and links that have to do with the documentary film world as well as other kinds of visual treatments and activism. Like the one that Palestinian Khaled Jarrar is doing, stamping passports in different parts of the world. The links are below. In a way he and other Palestinian filmmakers who use facebook to tell and show the world (often clips from) their films, they have not many other ways, were the ones who pushed me to join facebook.
Written 26-07-2011 18:07:47 by Tue Steen Müller
Documentaries appear more and more on the programme schedule of big international film festivals. This summer the Moscow International Film Festival opened a competitive section for documentaries (reported on filmkommentaren.dk), below you can find the news about the premiere of the new Kossakovsky at the festival in Venice and now realscreen breaks the news that Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for “Superman”) will have his “From the Sky Down” as the opening film in the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival (starting September 8). The film, according to realscreen, captures legendary rock band U2 on stage and in the studio, and delves deep into the recording of their seminal 1991 album Achtung Baby… Guggenheim reportedly accompanied the Irish rock band to rehearsals in Winnipeg mounted during its current 360 Tour that focused on performances of tracks from the 1991 album.
Written 25-07-2011 22:57:48 by Tue Steen Müller
Breaking news in the world of documentary films. The long awaited world premiere of Victor Kossakovsky’s Vivan la Antipodas! will take place at the 68th Venice Film Festival. The organisers announced friday that the film will be the second opening film on August 31 – George Clooney is the director of the first...
Hollywood Reporter writes that ”the documentary, which explores the notion of Antipodes – the relatively rare instances in which a land mass is directly opposite the world from another landmass – was conceived when Kossakovsky discovered that directly opposite a lonely Argentinean fisherman he came across while traveling, was the bustling Chinese city of Shanghai. Kossakovsky, who started work on the film years ago, called it “a poem about a multi-polar world.” Kossakovsky juxtaposes the events happing on opposite sides of the globe: Argentina and China, Chile and Russia, Hawaii and Botswana, and New Zealand and Spain.
Producer and distributor of the film, Heino Deckert, puts it in this way on his site: With this film Victor Kossakovsky grants himself a childhood wish. Haven’t we all asked ourselves as children where we would come out if we dug a tunnel right through the centre of the earth? Haven’t we all wondered at some point what was happening just at this moment beneath our very feet at the other side of the planet? In this film those reveries turn into reality. In breathtaking images and a stunning montage we go on a trip to the world’s rare inhabited land-to-land antipodes. We discover the wonders and contradictions of nature and people around the globe. With unprecedented camera movements and exhilarating new perspectives our conventional view of the world is challenged. On the evocative title follows a revolutionary film, that gives three cheers to our planet and its people in all their antagonisms and commonalities: Vivan las Antipodas!
Written 25-07-2011 16:39:44 by Tue Steen Müller
Produced at the Swedish film school, Dramatiska Högskolan in Stockholm, this short documentary is a warm, straightforward portrait of a strong woman, who must be a role model for the Senegalese woman in her fight for equality in a male society with many traditions. She, Boury Mbaye, drives taxi in Dakar, she has children, she is the head of a big family, she is the one the family gets advice from, she wants to be the first woman to have her own taxi company in the country, with many employees.
The story is told through voice over narration and situational sequences where Boury talks to a younger female colleague, or argues with a sceptic male who – she says – give the kind of simple chauvinistic insults that she gets all the time, or, of course, in brief conversations with passengers in the taxi.
An unpretentious, well made simple documentary reminder to us that a lot needs to be changed in countries like Senegal, where many men still have many wives, and where a woman like Boury Mbaye is one of those who can make changes happen.
Written 22-07-2011 18:11:21 by Tue Steen Müller
The film school (Kvadrat) and Magnificent7 film festival owners and managers, Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, offer a summer pleasure to Belgrade citizens and visitors. Starting from monday July 25, Megalopolisi na filmu, great films on cities are being screened within the programme of the festival ”Belef – Audiovisuals in the 21st Century”. Free entrance, read more about it on the colourful Serbian language site that has clips and trailers from the films. Here comes the selection, quite inspiring for other film festival organisers, right?
Megacities (Michael Glawogger), Austria 1998, 90 mins.
Tokyo Noise (Pauser, Petri, Röed, Söderberg), Sweden/Denmark 2002, 80 mins.
Berlin. Sinfonie einer Grosstadt. (Thomas Schadt) Germany 2002, 77 mins.
Shanghai Space (photo) (Nanna Frank Møller) Denmark 2009, 60 mins.
El Olvido (Heddy Honigmann) The Netherlands 2008, 93 mins.
Nomadak tx (Raul de la Fuente) Spain 2006, 91 mins.
Photo from mubi.com
Written 22-07-2011 13:58:20 by Tue Steen Müller
There is 50 years between me and the two teenage girls; I have never heard about a German pop star called Bill from a band called Tokio Hotel; I am not sure I want to hear him play or sing, but I have no problems in remembering how it was for me at that age to go to the Beatles concert in Copenhagen or to become more than happy when I got the autograph of the world’s greatest football player, Brasilian Pélé.
So it is not difficult to understand the instant heartbroken disappointment, when the two girls, Arina and Angela, arrive at the Madame Tussaud in Berlin to discover that the wax model of their hero Bill has been taken fo Amsterdam for some months!
This very charming short documentary, which has been to festivals, including idfa 2010 and Free Thought in Moscow, and which is produced at the Swedish film school, Dramatiska Högskolan, is a very promising work by the two female directors. They demonstrate first of all the talent for creating a space full of tension and humour for the two girls to move in, they catch and construct moments of truthfulness, they mark the generation gap between the girls and their parents… “for us it’s happiness, what do you have in your life”, is one of the great lines from the girls talking about their addiction to Bill. The special dreamerish world of teenage girls is conveyed brilliantly in this film that (also) has fine camera to be happy about.
Sweden, 2010, 28 mins.
Written 21-07-2011 12:22:13 by Tue Steen Müller
When in Corfu, we asked the Syrian documentary colleagues for a reliable information source to follow the revolution in the country. They referred to the site of LCCS, Local Coordination Committees of Syria. The site is updated daily and includes captions like ”crimes”, ”briefings”, ”eyewitnesses” – texts, photos, videos. Here is the link:
Photo taken from the site.
Written 17-07-2011 20:06:55 by Tue Steen Müller
Documentary film projects from 11 countries, 21 of them, were developed during 5 days at the Ionian University in the city of Corfu. From morning till evening, July 11-15, the filmmakers, directors and producers, had meetings with invited tutors - filmmakers, broadcasters, distributors and all-round generalists. 14 tutors were there to give feed back, in group constellations, on what they saw and read from the filmmakers, who came with teasers and/or material to show. A very simple concept based on conversation and dialogue with the aim to give inspiration, convey knowledge and establish new alliances. Networking. A process that was very much helped by the fact that all participants at the workshop stayed at the same hotel that offered a swimming pool, a beach, a bar and a lobby, relatively cool, where emails could be checked and talks could be continued.
And very much stimulated by the generous and warm hospitality by the Storydoc daily management, the entrepreneur Kostas Spiropoulos and the organiser, often called Madame Storydoc, Chara Lampidou. It can not be easy to make a workshop in a country in deep economical crisis, but they do.
The five day workshop included so-called inspirational lectures and plenary presentations as well as a look at the Arab Spring and its consequences for documentary filmmaking in the involved countries. More about that below. Photo from a plenary session at the university.
Written 17-07-2011 19:59:20 by Tue Steen Müller
Two key tutors were given the floor on the first day of the workshop. Danish Mikael Opstrup from EDN (European Documentary Network) introduced some presentation tricks to the participants before they were to communicate the content and form to their colleagues and to the tutors. And Scottish filmmaker and teacher Emma Davie brought clips from documentaries that one way or the other had a creative element that she wanted to highlight.
First one was ”Gallivant” (1996) by English Andrew Koting, a ”dada filmmaker”, that is how he has introduced himself, she said. The clip reminded the participants about the importance of keeping the playfulness in what they are doing. Emma Davie continued with two danish films, ”Swenkas” (2004) by Jeppe Rønde and ”Burma vj” by Anders Østergaard (2008), both quoted because of their use of techniques that stem from fiction. For the latter, from the Burmese dictatorship, ”it let the limitation to be part of the storytelling”. Emma Davie concluded with a clip from ”The Eye of the Day” (2001) by Leonard Helmrich (idfa winner 2010 with the third part of this trilogy from Indonesia), and ”Wednesday” (1997) (photo) by Viktor Kossakovsky, the flm where the Russian director went to find people who were born on the same day and in the same year as himself. In St. Petersburg. Great clip with a train station controller followed on his way in the opposite direction of the arriving travellers, AND a scene with a man who eats his ice cream.
Still: Kossakovsky: Wednesday (From mubi.com)
Written 17-07-2011 19:55:18 by Tue Steen Müller
Stan Neumann inspired on the second morning at the Storydoc session in Corfu. The French editor and director, born in Czekoslovakia, had been given the task to urge the filmmakers to think about form and not only content. Form, he said, is ”the face of the film”, the way the content appears to the viewer. Make it skrink, have big things become small, you are creating an imaginary object, said Neumann, who was a master with his formulations and who showed pedagogically what he meant with examples from own work, first of all from the debut as a director, (after decades as an editor), ”Paris, Roman d’un ville” (1989). Form is always about taking some things away, explore reality and find your own place in it. With his masterpiece, ”A House in Prague”, he found out that there was no formal key to the film, he had to find other solutions. The point of making films... to make people remember a little longer than a tv programme.
It is easy to understand why Thierry Garrel, former head of arte france documentary unit, always mentioned Neumann as a very important documentary director. And a very good tutor, one could add. In Corfu he shared his competence in a strong team with Greek director Eva Stefani, a master in short, personally formed documentaries. It was said by both of them that their tutoring had been one long creative battle in words.
Written 17-07-2011 19:46:48 by Tue Steen Müller
With Mediterranean projects in focus it was a natural programme choice to have a session on the situation for documentarians in the countries that have experienced or are experiencing changes that have been named ”revolution” or the ”Arab Uprising” or the ”Arab Spring”.
The organisers had invited Jasminah Metwaly from Egypt and Diana El Jeiroudi (photo, taken by Orwa Nyrabia) from Syria to be the speakers in a session that evoked many interesting comments from the colleagues seated in the auditorium of the Ionian University.
Metwaly showed the three films from the Egyptian revolution that this blog have brought links to previously. They are direct cinema when it is direct, Leacock would have loved it, stating ”yes, it is about being there”, and we were brought to Egypt in the months where it all happened. ”Where is the FILMmaking”, a participant asked having watched the material. This remark brought many viewpoints forward. Some stated that Metwaly used tv language, which she might have done, she said that she did not think about form, when it all broke out, others said that form is not important in this situation, the documentation is what matters. Metwaly brought a project to the workshop, ”Land Without”, that showed another side of her obvious film talent – she had been one day to the countryside filming farmers, who suffer from no water supply, politics, and what she showed was a clip shot in one day with farmers, who are used to be visited by media people and know how to respond to tv news, screaming their despair into the camera, at the same time as they are asking: why are you filming here!? An intelligent film including the filmmaking could come out of this. The filmmaker goes from Corfu back to the farmers.
For Diana El Jeiroudi, who together with her partner Orwa Nyrabia are the couple behind the Dox Box festival in Damascus, the uprising/revolution had been ”cooking” for the last decade – to be manifested/started on March 16. El Jeiroudi, who during the workshop days, together with Nyrabia, reported that two of their staff members had been arrested (they were released again after a couple of days), told the seminar attendants about the tv station al Jazeera being silent for three weeks, about doing filming ”from behind” so the demonstrators can not be recognised if the tapes are confiscated by the authorities, about her asking a documentary maker about the situation right now for filmmaking... the answer was: we make only bad films, we are only documenting. She showed clips from films by Omar Amiralay, and told that the authorities now have approved of the showing of three of his films, until now they have been banned by the regime. Everyone has become a journalist in Syria now, El Jeiroudi said, reporting is done on mobile phones, homemade cameras are being used... but whatever happens, Syria is another country today, said El Jeiroudi, who was also a tutor at the Storydoc session in Corfu.
Written 17-07-2011 19:36:25 by Tue Steen Müller
21 projects took part in the workshop in Corfu. I have previously written about the 4 selected Palestinian projects which were selected at the Storydoc prologue session in Ramallah, Palestine. The selected projects proved their quality as did the filmmakers who attended: Wafa Jamail (”Coffee for All Nations”), Ahmad al Bakri (”The Neighborhood’s Old Men”), both projects at pre-production stage, AND Nahed Awwad (”The Mail”) and Khaled Jarrar (”The Infiltrators”), both projects close to rough cut stage. (More about Jarrar will follow). It is my wish and hope that these filmmakers will make it to big important markets like DOKLeipzig, idfa and Sheffield DocFest. Not only are their stories important but they have also ideas on how to find the right storytelling solutions.
The hosting country Greece had fine film projects to offer as well thanks to the strong and enthusiastic research done by the founder and chair of Storydoc, Kostas Spiropoulos. For sure we will soon see an interesting, well made observational documentary from the hands of Thessaloniki based director Dimitris Athiritis. ”One Step Ahead” is the working title of a portrait of super-energetic, charismatic Yiannis Boutaris, who describes himself as an alchoholic ”who stopped drinking 21 years ago”, and who got elected mayor in Thessaloniki in November 2010. There is also potential for a great film on the Greek artist Lucas Samaras, who lives in the US and has been a strong part of the American experimental, could one say ”fluxus” movement. Producer Lena Anastasiadou (re)presented the project with the working title ”I Spend Time Wtih Making”.
From Scotland came Finlay Pretsell with clips showing Scottish racer David Millar in his fight in Tour de France. It is the idea of Pretsell to make a film about this complicated, well formulated, interesting sportsman, who was out of the game because of doping, came back and has just published a book about his life and career. Working title: Road to Redemption. Intention: the inner struggle of David Millar.
I could mention many more projects, space makes a limit, so let me stick to one more, the one by Spanish brothers Jorge and Miguel Yetano, ”On the shore”, a visual essay to be, a reflection on tourism, on what we do when we go to places to relax, in this case the Spanish coast where environmentalists have a different opinion on the building activities than have those who construct the appartment buildings. A film to be full of interesting characters, an open film with no finger-pointing on the development.
Photo: Khaled Jarrar in his white t-shirt with the text "The State of Palestine", ready to stamp passports with the same text. Today (July 18) and tomorrow the Palestinian artist and filmmaker will stand at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin to express his political statement!
Written 10-07-2011 16:03:28 by Tue Steen Müller
In a report from the Moscow International Film Festival the following I wrote the following about the film about legendary Ayrton Senna: (the film) has a classical straight forward narrative, simple it is, and should be, with its focus on the career of the formula 1 driver, Brasilian Ayrton Senna, his fight with French Alain Prost, a love-hate relationship, his importance for his poor nation, his charming appearence. It is all built on archive, not a talking face, all comments come off the image, an excellent solution for a film that appeals to a broad audience.
In an interview in the Guardian, Saturday July 9, done by Stuart Feffries, the information is given on a film “that quietly (has) broken box office records to become the surprise hit of the summer. Now the picture is poised for a US release that might well put it in the frame for an Oscar.”
Continued by the following: “The 39-year-old Hackney-born director's film powered away from an unpromising position on the starting grid. It grossed £375,000 on its first weekend, three times more than Kevin Macdonald's 2005 documentary about two British mountaineers' near-death experience in the Andes, Touching the Void. After that impressive start, Kapadia's film looks set to become one of the most successful documentary films ever released in the UK. "At the moment, we're in third and chasing down second," laughs Kapadia. His film has accelerated past Justin Bieber's concert film, Never Say Never. It's now grossed more than £3m and is bearing down on the 2005 nature documentary March of the Penguins. "There's only one documentary we'll never overtake – Fahrenheit 9/11." Michael Moore's 2004 documentary has, like Ayrton Senna in the 1993 Brazilian grand prix, an unassailable lead in this race.”
The interview gives an excellent background to a film that was also very well received at the festival in Moscow.
Written 10-07-2011 11:58:51 by Tue Steen Müller
It is quite an experiment... you bring together 50 young film students from all over Europe, having grouped them in beforehand as directors, cameramen, editors, sound recorders and producers – let the directors pitch their stories and pick their collaborators, let them have some lectures from and meetings with invited tutors, 8 of them, directors and editors, have them focus, and then send them off to some few days of shooting in the area (the beautiful island Neringa at the Baltic coast in Lithuania) to end up with 10 short documentaries in very different styles and with a diversity of themes.... but it seems to work. I left the summer workshop this friday but look forward to seeing the final results once they are visible in around a week. Subjects: Dune guards near Nida on Neringa, Lithuanian spiritual life inspired by the many gods and goddesses the country have as legends, wild horses if they can be found, fishermen, a small boy at the beach, a bigger boy who declares his love to the director, surfing and waves, weathervanes, ordinary people who turn out to be extraordinary, jumping from an airplane (!). For sure with many other twists than the ones I mention here.
One of the tutors was Danish director and editor Nanna Frank Møller (photo) (Let’s be Together, Someone like You, De nøgne fra Skt. Petersborg (director Ada Søbye), Min fars sind (director Vibe Mogensen)), who made a very fine lecture on editing, stressing how important it is during the shooting ”to listen to the moment”, which is the ”most precious”. The students had seen ”Let’s be Together” and Nanna Frank Møller re-showed, and talked about, the confrontational scene, shot by herself, between the Brasilian father and his son, who is attracted to femininity. A scene that brilliantly gives an example on the importance of catching what happens outside the image instead of trying to follow the movements of the characters. ”As an editor I’m trying to find the soul/the spirit of the film”, she said and continued to show material from the masterpiece of Vibe Mogensen, ”Min fars sind” (The Mind of my Father): A grown-up man one day starts to cry, he does not know why, it gets worse, turns into a mental illness bringing him on strong medicine to survive. The daughter, the director, visits him, films him, as he has been filming her on holidays way back before he got ill. I have seen the film several times, every time it moves me immensely.
The Danish editor is a fine teacher, as is Rafi Spivak, Israeli-Canadian director and editor, who in his lecture took us back to wonderful direct cinema clips – ”High School” by Frederick Wiseman, ”Salesman” by Albert Maysles – as well as a clip from ”Crumb” by Terry Zwigoff, and other examples of American documentary storytelling.
The workshop goes on, it is of course on facebook, what a lot of wonderful energy!
Written 06-07-2011 07:41:30 by Tue Steen Müller
At the Summer Media Studio in Neringa Lithuania, a European Film Student Workshop, that goes on until July 17, with editing as the theme, ending up with 10 short documentaries, it was very appropiate to show the awarded Lithuanian documentary from Chechnya, ”Barzakh”. Lithuania, small country with around 3 million inhabitants, has a tradition for making films that have been characterised as ”poetic realism”, with Arunas Matelis and Audrius Stonys as well known names in the international documentary circle. The film by Mantas Kvedaravicius is no exception from that label, and after two very well deserved awards at the Berlinale, ”Barzakh” is now travelling the world of festivals.
Stasys Baltakis, teacher at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, the film school of the Country, introduced the film and its director. ”He is not a film director, he is a thinker”, he said about the debutant Kvedaravicius, who made the film over a period of years, now completing his PhD (and a book) on the affects of pain. And the film is about pain, about people in Chechnya, families whose members disappear or have undergone torture. Shot illegally, and with one year in the editing, the film expresses pure love and respect for the characters without turning to sentimentalism. ”Our life stands still” says the mother of Hamdan, who disappeared 6 years ago without any sign given to the family, and with loads of papers written to the authorities with no result. In a very slow and tense rythm the film makes the audience experience how life goes on. It has to. The camera catches magical moments inside the houses, the characters tell their stories of pain and torture, mainly off the picture, car trips give the narrative a flow and information about how a devastated city looks, at the same time as the Russian authorities have done a lot to lighten up mosques and other buildings. Pure facade for the invisible violence, it seems. While watching the film you sense a growing anger and sadness witnessing the life of people, who wait and hope.
Barzakh is a metaphor used in the film visually. This is how the director – on the film’s website – describes the phenomenon: Barzakh is a theological concept that comes from the Quran and has been elaborated by Sufi scholars. It loosely defines, through the metaphor of water, the space between life and death. At the same time the term is not merely a metaphor, but rather a paradigm on which the film is built. That is, it does not simply indicate that life in Chechnya is like Barzakh, or that because of its relation to Sufism, which is the predominant religious practice in Chechnya, it is a widely used local concept. Rather its main purpose is as a guiding principle, to distinguish the peculiarities of life there and to show how they link together and connect us into other spaces and temporalities.
Lithuania, 2011, 57 mins. PS. The film has, as many other important documentaries in these years, been supported by the Finns, the company of Aki Kaurismäki and YLE and Finnish Film Foundation.
Written 04-07-2011 21:24:07 by Tue Steen Müller
The 15th edition of Documentary in Europe in Bardonecchia, Italy starts tomorrow. It includes training, project development, pitching to a panel of commissioning editors, matchmaking between directors, producers and distributors – and screenings. (By the way, the organisers are making an exemplarily good promotion with their site and newsletter, see below)
And what a pleasure to see that a film that has been mentioned numerous times on this blog, Cinema Komunisto by Mila Turajlic, is the opening film in the nice local Cinema Sabrina. The afterlife of this film, that premiered nationally in a full Sava Centre at the Magnificent 7 festival in Belgrade in late January this year, has been one long success story for the director and her team.
Let me quote from the newsletter i received today from the organisers of Documentary in Europe: In February 2011, Cinema Komunisto became the first Serbian documentary film to gain distribution in multiplex cinemas in Serbia. This marked the beginning of an incredible festival run, from IDFA to Tribeca, during which the film collected 7 awards and counting. Amongst these the FOCAL International Award for Best Use of Archival Footage in an Arts Production! Four years in the making, with clips from over 330 feature films, and exclusive archive gathered from all over Europe, Cinema
Read more / Læs mere
Written 02-07-2011 22:01:28 by Tue Steen Müller
In this text I can only speak for myself as one of three jurors at the first documentary competition at the 33st Moscow International Film festival stating that there was a clear agreement in the jury for the winner, Hell and Back Again, see below.
For the other 6 films it was obvious that ”Abendland” by Austrian Nikolaus Geyrhalter was visually a strong film essay with a very relevant critique of our civilisation with beautifully composed (but badly projected in the imax cinema) images of surveillance cameras, immigrant interviews, a refugee camp, Oktober fest in Munich... it is methaphoric, it has magnificent moments but it also suffers (maybe a matter of taste) from its distant intellectualism.
Audrius Stonys deserves much praise for his ”Ramin”, a film about an old man in Georgia, his daily life, his attachment to his late mother, his looking for a woman he knew in his youth... the story is told in stunningly beautiful images by Audrius Kemezys, the story construction is complicated, but there are magical moments (like in most of Stonys films) that you will never forget, and original ideas. In this one it is a cross-cut from a loong celebration of Ramin’s birthday to a cat crying outside the house with a nice warm hen to lean on!
Whereas ”Senna” (photo) by Asif Kapadia, running more than succesfully in English theatres at the moment, has a classical straight forward narrative, simple it is, and should be, with its focus on the career of the formula 1 driver, Brasilian Ayrton Senna, his fight with French Alain Prost, a love-hate relationship, his importance for his poor nation, his charming appearence. It is all built on archive, not a talking face, all comments come off the image, an excellent solution for a film that appeals to a broad audience.
”Marathon Boy” by Gemma Atwal was a tabloid film with a constant noisy sound track attack, a story about a small boy being exploited by the media and his mother and his coach – no director point of view, as i saw it. And it was a mistake that ”Czech Peace” by Filip Remunda and Vit Klusak was shown in a one hour version with an introduction by Michael Moore (”watch this film”!) – I have seen a fine long version of the film in beforehand. Also a wrong choice it was to show ”Happy People: A year in the Taiga” by Dmitry Vasyukov and Werner Herzog in a disrespectful version where the voices of the Russian characters were dubbed into American, and where Herzog’s voice, which I normally like a lot, in this case was far too much sounding like the world was about to go under!
Written 02-07-2011 21:49:06 by Tue Steen Müller
”I love my pistol”, says Sergeant Nathan Harris, the protagonist of the film about an American soldier, who gets seriously wounded in combat in Afghanistan, is taken back to the US and to his wife Ashley, who helps him recover; at least she helps him getting through the day, the trauma he has from his time in Afghanistan, he does not seem to be able to fight on his own as the film tells the audience.
Many films have come out and is coming out from and about the war in Afghanistan and its consequences on heart and mind, especially on those going there as soldiers to secure changes in the country. This one is one of the best so far in its superb camera work from the battlefield, in its description, with a lot of dignity, of the Afghans who are victims of the constant search for Talibans by the Americans. They are told to leave their houses, their houses are searched, they are searched and controlled. The desperation comes from the Afghans, who don’t want to be ruled by the Talibans, but you soldiers do not really make the situation easier!
The emotional side of the film, however, lies where Nathan Harris is back home, suffering enormously from his pain, constantly taking strong medicin and – this is how the film is built – thinks back on Afghanistan where he definitely wants to be again as a killer, the word used by the doctor who examines him. As a spectator you look, with empathy, thanks to the approach of the director, at a man brought up in a society of violence, a young man sitting in a sofa at the end of the film playing with his guns... ”I love my pistol”.
US/UK, 2011, 88 mins.
Winner of 1st Documentary Competition at Moscow International Film festival 2011.
Written 02-07-2011 14:38:54 by Tue Steen Müller
Quite a shocking film it is. Protagonist: A warlord who during the Liberia civil/tribal war ran around slaughtering anyone near him, yes naked he was, surrounding himself with child soldiers ”educated” through Rambo films, has now found God, preaching reconciliation, goes around to find his victims, or relatives to those who were his victims, asking for forgiveness. He is given amnesty at the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Committee), flees the country and his family because of death threats, but comes back to continue his mission.
Archive footage shows the horrible, almost unwatchable images of massacres, he performed (he says himself that he thinks he and his gang was responsible for the death of 20.000 people!), mixed with interviews with him, observations of his preaching performances in and outside churches, building up stories about him and (one example) ”the Senegalese”, who had his legs amputated but forgives Joshua, the new name of General Butt.
He is not at all sympathetic, he seems to be a man, who could go back to killing any other moment, but he is now using his extraordinary energy in preaching. As a viewer you are fascinated by a story that is so well told with emotional attachment to some of the victims, and sympathy for his wife, who says nice things about her husband but at the end of the film admits that she is tired of being married to him!
”Modern” documentary: character driven, strong (an understatement!) narrative, but also balanced in tone letting the viewer think for him/herself.
Part of the Free Thought documentary programme at the 33st Moscow International Film Festival Programme.
Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion: "Redemption of General Butt Naked", USA, 2011, 84 mins.
Written 02-07-2011 09:04:07 by Tue Steen Müller
Archive material, interviews and commentaries, the film has a classical build up of a story about the chess genius, American Bobby Fischer (1943-2008), whose story is one of those written out of a reality that surpasses any Hollywood fiction script. Already a grandmaster as a teenager, he grew up to play the legendary match in Iceland in 1972 against Boris Spassky, a match between sportsmen but also a match with political significance in the middle of the cold war. He became the legendary world champion, we all remember.
But something was wrong with Bobby Fischer, and this is what the film focuses on. You sense it in the brilliantly told story, where again and again you see the haunted face of the kid and the young Fischer, whose eyes do not focus and who speaks unwillingly about his childhood. His behaviour during the Iceland match was unpredictable, not to talk about his play, a man of surprises and a man who turned mad in his older years, with totally anti-american and anti-semitic comments to everything around him. He ended up in Iceland again, after having travelled the world as a nomad, being arrested in Japan, threatened to be deported to the US, granted citizenship in Iceland where he stayed until his death having verbal fights with everyone.
Who was he, Bobby Fischer, the young kid with the worried eyes and the special skills, a man who often was searching for peace and quietness, but who did not get that in his fight with inner deamons?
Shown at Free Thought documentary programme at Moscow International Film festival 2011. For our Danish readers: The film premieres at Vester VovVov, Copenhagen, August 25.
USA, 2011, 93 mins.
Still: filmmakers pic.
Written 01-07-2011 16:17:03 by Tue Steen Müller
Yesterday I was interviewed for Voice of Russia in a radio programme edited by Donna West and Julia Reysner. This is the written introduction followed by the link, if you should want to hear a Danish person speaking his best school English.
The 33rd Moscow International Film Festival is underway here in the Russian capital. And part of what’s being shown is a selection of documentary films, often highlighted in festivals but ignored by the mass public. Today we take a closer look at this film format along with a judge on the festival's documentary program - Danish film critic Tue Steen Müller.
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