Written 30-09-2011 22:30:16 by Tue Steen Müller
They know how to remember and honour their artists in Lithuania, including the documentary filmmakers, I was reminded again today at the Vilnius Documentary Film Festival. Talking to directors Giedre Beinoriute and Audrius Stonys, they told me that a film club had been established in the name of Henrikas Sablevicius, a wonderful teacher and a fine documentary director, a father figure, for many the main creator of the Lithuanian documentary tradition, based on the image, always with many layers, lyrical in tone, like the city Vilnius often filled with an atmosphere of spirituality.
Henrikas Sablevicius (1930-2004) came to the Balticum Film & TV Festival on the Danish island of Bornholm in all 10 years of the festival’s existence. He was the proud leader of the delegation, he was the one who stood forward and made speeches and introductions, he invited the audience to retrospectives of Lithuanian documentaries, including some of his own, and he was a generous party organiser after the screenings at the Kino Gudhjem on Bornholm. He was also the one, who received us, the Danish selection team, when we came to Vilnius to watch films. He organised the screenings at the Film Studio in the city (torn down, what a shame!) and he served us tea and 999, the secret code that later became the way that I and director Arunas Matelis for years adressed each other.
I got a book on Sablevicius today, published last year, edited by Ramune Rakauskaite, entitled ”Soble” (his nickname), with contributions from colleague filmmakers and students like the three names I have mentioned. I can not read it, but just browsing through the book looking at the photos of the charismatic man with the wild beard, brings me back to our meetings on Bornholm, always with conversations that included an interpreter... Sobles Kino Klubas is the name and it has a facebook page!
Written 29-09-2011 11:42:36 by Tue Steen Müller
Sunny and peaceful Vilnius hosts for the 8th time a documentary festival, full of fine international documentaries, as well as a competitive Baltic section with 12 films. I am here for the latter to be a juror together with filmmaker and actress Nino Kirtadzé from Georgia and Bosnian Irena Taskovski, owner of the international distribution company Taskovski Film.
The festival (September 22 – October 2) opened with the newest film by local master Audrius Stonys, ”Ramin”, produced by Vides Film Studio in Riga, Latvia. The fllm (not in the Baltic competition) is a both touching and amusing portrait of an old man (Ramin), who has been a fighter (wrestler) his whole life and now (as the catalogue says) fights the old age loneliness. Magnificent camera work and the courage to let scenes grow reminds us how important a film poet Stonys is.
The Lithuanian audience will also have the chance to enjoy films like Position Among the Stars (Leonard Helmrich), Katka (Helena Trestikova), My Reincarnation (Jennifer Fox) and Boxing Gym by Frederick Wiseman.
A retrospective of films by Bulgarian Andrey Paounov (The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories) includes his brand new, The Boy Who was a King.
Written 25-09-2011 14:27:39 by Tue Steen Müller
It was the fifth edition of DOC Meeting Argentina that took place this last week. A workshop for pitch preparation of 24 projects was arranged September 19-21, the pitching forum took place the two following days, September 22 & 23, parallel to ”conferencias” where broadcasters presented their profile or talked according to specific themes. Today, September 24, meetings are held between filmmakers and potential financiers, who have had busy days, as they have also had meetings with producers and directors, who were not in the public pitching. There is a hunger to get financing, and it seems that at the same time as European broadcasters lose financing for creative documentaries, the Latin American conveyed much more optimism with public funding attached as well, in Argentina through the INCAA.
Around 150 people were registered participants for the event that was hosted by the Art Institute of the university UADE on the Avenida 9th of July in Buenos Aires. I was tutoring the workshop and moderating the pitching sessions together with Mikael Opstrup from EDN.
The projects came from Argentina, Colombia, Italy, Spain, Uruguay, Germany, Mexico, Venezuela, Brasil, Canada, Australia and Kenya (!). They were at different stages – early development, in production or in postproduction. The panelists came from ZDF/arte, arte France, ORF Austria, YLE Finland, LIC China, History Channel, Canal Encuentro Argentina, TV3 Catalunya, Chellomulticanal, GNT O´Globo and Futura Brasil, Hispan TV (an Iranian Spanish language channel to start in November), History Channel Latin America and RTVC Colombia.
The atmosphere... well as there is quite a different ambiance at the Camp Nou football stadium in Barcelona and the home ground of Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires, there was passion, solidarity and strong applauses in the room far away from a pitch session in a North European country.
Written 25-09-2011 14:20:05 by Tue Steen Müller
In the ”conferencias”, three broadcasters in a row: History Channel Latin America, ORF Austria, ZDF/arte. Three different profiles. And three different ways of presentation. Miguel Brailovsky from History Channel Latin America used power point as the presentation tool, when he told the audience that ”tv is entertainment”, ”factual entertainment” and proclaimed that next year will be 100 years after Titanic, and that will be strongly marked in the programming of his channel. His clips were purely American commercial style, his presentation effective.
Frans Grabner from ORF in Austria, on the contrary to the power point, opened his textbook and looked down at his handwritten notes. For him the development of a film project is the most important, he wants to create a relationship with the director. We should not lose the audience, he said, and continued to express his concern about the tv audience – no young people watch television – ”sometimes I think that I am producing more for the past than for the future”. But let’s make films for the audience and not for the ratings. Grabner referred to the strong film tradition in Austria after the world war 2, with names like Haneka, Glawogger, Geyerhalter and Ulrich Seidl, and showed a clip from the Bosnian director Begovic wonderful and original ”Totally Personal”.
Reinhart Lohmann from ZDF/arte’s theme evening department placed his 10 handwritten A4 pages on the table, started to read, but dropped the link to the paper, put the pages away, expressed his pleasure to work in arte from the very beginning – same picture in two countries, two languages – at the same time as he was worried about the influence of the internet on the future of arte. Lohmann showed a 9 minute long compilation clip with quotes from arte programming the last year on Latin America. Quite impressive with reference to great films like ”El Olvido” (photo) by Heddy Honigmann and ”Sins of My Father” by Nicilas Entel.
Written 25-09-2011 14:13:32 by Tue Steen Müller
Stories, stories, stories... a pitching forum like this in Argentina is in a way one long learning process for someone from the North, who has some, but still a pretty limited knowledge about Latin American history, art and culture, religion, social and political conditions. This learning process goes of course also for the panelists from Europe, who for themselves and their audience asked about a context or a universal perspective when responding to the pitches. There are films that have a universal appeal and there are films that are local – and if you say ”local” about Latin America... there is a huge market potential.
There were projects about tango, carnival in Brasil and salsa in Colombia – projects that subject-wise had some fine starting points, but then on the other side had to struggle with the many other films made about the same themes. They had to stress the difference in approach, and they did. While a very fine film clip about the recently deseased Argentinian writer Ernesto Sábato (photo), based on material shot by the director Juan Pablo Lacroze in 1995, was discussed in the panel. Austrian Frans Grabner from ORF asked the director for an introduction of the author, in the film, while Jordi Ambros from TV3 expressed that the great material should keep its strong cinematic structure. To be added – Sábato is translated into many languages, and of course he is more known in Spain than in Austria.
The same looking for a European link was the case for a film about the charismatic bishop Jerónimo Podestá. The director Miguel Mato and his script writer Eduardo Spagnuolo showed amazing archive material with Podestá, who was part of the liberation theology movement and with him and his Clelia, ”his love and guide”. How to put the story about the controversial bishop into a context that works for a European audience?
Easier with the beautiful story about Inés, presented by Colombian Luisa Sossa, a film about her great grandmother, who had 20 children (!) and a violent husband. Ines wrote her diaries in a textbook and the director wants to let her fine words lead the story about a woman and her family.
In many cases it was obvious that projects divided the panel into a Latin American relevance and a European – with the supplement of a Chinese tv investor.
Having said so there were definitely stories that appealed to both sides of the ocean – see below.
Written 25-09-2011 14:06:59 by Tue Steen Müller
The most applauded film projects were connected to blindness. The young director Argimiro Wanadi Siso Saldivia (what a name!) from Venezuela presented ”The Labyrinth of the Possible”, which seems to become a strong documentary about the charismatic Sonia Soberats, a blind photographer, who lost her two sons and had her ”lifestyle changing drastically... developing in Sonia techniques of no-visual photography, as a therapy in a way but also as a recreational activity”.
The most moving presentation was done by experienced director and editor, Chilean/Canadian María Teresa Larrain, who has a low vision and wants to tell her story, which is ”her fight to keep her dignity and her voice as an artist”. Larrain did a presentation that was precisely full of dignity with a clip that had a lyrical tone. From her synopsis: In a small editing room in Toronto, a filmmaker suddenly goes blind. This documentary follows her walk into darkness... an autobiography about overcoming loss and rising from the ashes”. Can’t wait to see that film that will travel all over, no doubt.
DOC Meeting was full of talent and interesting, promising stories. Personally I am looking forward to see the film by Argentinian Federico Aletta, who as many others joined as a volunteer after the earthquake in Japan, on March 11, and filmed the physical and mental reconstruction in Ishinomaki (photo) – rock & roll city, he called it. It is told in first person – the filmmaker wants the film to be completed for the one year commemoration of the earthquake.
Likewise – another earthquake, Chile, February 2010 – there was an amazing stylistical touch in the material that was shown by young Australian/Iranian Nora Niasari, who wants to ”uncover the human face in the wreckage of the alarming (6500 homes were destroyed) statistics... Three characters with conflicting social pressures are bound together by the transformations of one devastating event in the neighborhood of Seminario”.
Written 24-09-2011 13:29:13 by Tue Steen Müller
A film festival is threatened, Punto de Vista in Spain, an important fest for the artistic documentary. A petition has been established, see below. And here are some texts taken from the website of the prestigious festival:
The International Documentary Film Festival of Navarre, Punto de Vista, is a meeting place on several different levels. Firstly, it is a space for audiences, filmmakers and theorists to relate and interact around the documentary genre and all trans-frontier manifestations and heterodoxies of non-fiction. Secondly, it is a spatial and temporal meeting space. Punto de Vista aims increasingly to become a place where documentary film from all around the world can converge. But it also strives to offer a space for dialogue between the past and future of documentary film. A space where the most diverse traditions in non-fictional film can embrace the most daring and innovative proposals. Punto de Vista, therefore, sees itself as a dialogic space where all these encounters can occur with an ambitious and innovative determination.
One of the fundamental aims of the Festival is to attend to audiovisual creators who turn their work into a daring proposal, a kind of search or quest; those who conceive their work as a process of knowing and understanding human beings and their living conditions in specific social contexts; authors who, through their work, reflect on reality and the ethical relationship formed with both the subjects of their formal proposals and their audiences. The Festival aims to be a stopover for filmmakers that will broaden their perception of reality and the ways in which they express it and conceive it through the audiovisual medium. Ultimately, the Festival is open to all documentary films that represent a reflection and an endeavour to understand reality
Written 21-09-2011 08:42:25 by Allan Berg Nielsen
Den amerikanske titel spiller måske sprogligt på en berømt succes. Den blæser sig op, og det holder den slet ikke til. Det er bestemt ikke et værk, der sætter foden i døren. "Den forsvundne millionær" hedder dokumentaren stilfærdigt scherfigsk i sin danske version. Det giver også falske associationer. Der er desværre ingen underfundigheder i den film. Det er derimod ganske ligetil - og dødkedelig - dokumentar mainstream. Sådan interviewbåren så det mærkes autentisk, på den måde skærer vi den historie, forekommer det mig Spraic og hans hold har tænkt. Sådan vil de derude have det. Og her sad jeg så og ville have noget helt andet, først og fremmest et bud fra en sikker fortællerposition på dette usædvanlige menneskes særprægede biografi. Et klogt og dybt og tænkende bud.
Det drejer sig om den mystiske rigmand Larry Hillblom, grundlæggeren af DHL, hans forsvinden ved en flyulykke et sted i Stillehavet, og så det efterfølgende opgør om arven. Det viser sig, at han har børn, adskillige faktisk. Så forskningsinstitutionen, som havde troet den skulle have det hele, kommer i økonomisk knibe og måske i moralsk dilemma. Advokaterne slås og nupper deres del af pengene.
Spraic gør det til en kulørt historie, til en uskøn historie, til en banal ugebladshistorie, overfladisk og småsnerpet og smagende faktisk. En historie som dem i Rapport i gamle dage. Og det var jo ikke, hvad jeg ventede i Dokumania, så jeg er skuffet.
Dokumania viser den kommende måned filmen på sin hjemmeside. Se selv filmen efter i sømmene, det kan være jeg tager helt fejl.
Written 20-09-2011 12:57:35 by Tue Steen Müller
Press release from DOK Leipzig: In its focus on the Arab world, DOK Leipzig features films from Tunisia and Egypt. The upheaval in the Arab world is far from over, yet the 54th DOK Leipzig will be presenting the first documentary films from Tunisia and Egypt. Six films will be shown in the Focus on the Arab Spring which is part of the Official Programme. Most of the films will come to Leipzig straight out of the cutting room.
Some of the film makers were swept up into the chaos of the events – they show the reality that fired the revolution and caused it to spread so rapidly. Others used the opportunity to film Tahrir Square for several weeks. With their pictures these directors and film makers became not just observers, but an important part of the societal transformation.
The directors will be present at all screenings and available for discussion. In addition, the current situation in the Arab countries will be discussed by film makers and experts at a panel discussion.
In this way a tradition that stretches back decades will continue, as since the 1960s Arab film makers have been meeting at the DOK festival, which has even been called the “home of Arab documentary film”. As recently as 2006 there was an extensive special programme on Arab documentary films. Some film experts are even drawing parallels between the events in Leipzig in the autumn of 1989 and the Arab Spring of 2011.
The programme for this year's festival with 341 documentary and animated films will be available online on 29 September.
Written 17-09-2011 16:15:36 by Tue Steen Müller
Lithuanian producer Dagne Vildziunaite writes after the Baltic Sea Forum in Riga – a perfect follow-up to the doc-discussion on this site:
I usually say it was nice to meet you again. But this time I want to say a bit more. During five hours trip home (from Riga to Vilnius, ed.) I got into melancholic mood and realized it is exactly 4 years after the first time I "came on the international documentary stage". It was also in Riga I was pitching ANTIS by Giedre Z, the project I sometimes thought we would never be able to finish...
All I remember from that time was me shaking in front of Nick Fraser from BBC.
This year I came back with an almost finished film, with two beautiful new projects (“Toys” and “Father”, ed.), with more hopes than fears and with much better understanding what documentary filmmaking means to me. I think I have found the way and I am 100% sure I would never had done it without the support by the wonderful tutors I have. Let me be a bit emotional and confess how happy I was to see your proud faces while us making confident speeches. I felt like delivering final words after getting university diploma and feeling inspiring smiling eyes of my two professors (hmmm, Mikael Opstrup and Tue Steen Müller, ed.). I feel a constant deep need to make you feel proud of us, to feel how worthy your work and support for me and for many others is.
I may sound like a small girl waiting for confirmation that she is nice and good. But the reality is I'm travelling, pitching for quite a long time, still have not received any CEs' support but every day I wake up with a stronger and stronger believe about what I'm doing.
And even more - this time after the meetings with all the CEs, after talking and looking in their eyes, I really understood they are not simple " free travellers".
They are people who do care (no matter if they have money or not) and I think this is something exceptional that makes our documentary community alive under any conditions. We are like a small country that suffers the most during any crisis but at the same time is the most united and resistant.
We have our strong inside discussions, arguments and disappointments about each other, but we all together are searching for the way how to survive. I guess it is because we all - filmmakers, funders, CEs - all are in love with our babies "documentaries" and we simple can not imagine we could live without them. I am sure we'll meet very soon again!
Written 16-09-2011 21:56:37 by Sara Thelle
This blog has followed with great interest the popular uprising in the Arab world, the good news and the bad news. Coming home to Paris after the vacation, the first results of how the situation translates into films are starting to come out. Here are two of them, both regarding Egypt, surely there are others and much more will come, hopefully many Arab voices too.
Goodbye, Moubarak!, written and directed by Katia Jarjoura, was filmed before and during the elections in Egypt in November and December last year. The crew worked under very difficult circumstances, filming without official authorization in a dictatorship, that nobody knew at the time where about to take its last breaths. We get to meet the heroic hardworking opposition, hear the hair-raising, nearly hilarious discourse of the official political power and get a rare insight of the Egyptian society just before it all cracks up; the repression, the exasperation, the fear and the courage. As Katia Jarjoura mentioned at the preview of the film at la Scam Tuesday night, this film was thought to be visionary, instead it became a historical document! The story of the film is of course told through this new perspective and gives an instructive view of the background of the revolution and its different protagonists and stakes. I highly recommend that you take a look at Arte on Wednesday night September 21 if you have the possibility.
And to follow up on the story of Egypt, I very much look forward to see Tahrir Liberation Square by Stefano Savona, screened at the Locarno Film Festival this year. The film will now be shown on Monday September 19th for the first time in Paris in the always-interesting bar, Le 61, a convivial meeting-place for...
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Written 16-09-2011 16:31:58 by Allan Berg Nielsen
Den store fortælling om den magtfulde islandske familie Thors i fire generationer og med vægt på to biografier, den danske udvandrer Thor Jensens og hans oldebarn, finansmanden Björgólfur Thor Björgólfssons vævet ind i Islands politiske og økonomiske historie gennem mere end hundrede år bliver vist på DR K den 18. september 21:00.
Jeg har på Det Danske Filminstituts FILMupdate skrevet tilbageskuende om nogle af Ulla Boje Rasmussens tidligere film, som på mange måder leder frem til hendes nye filmværk, som jeg opfatter som et meget modigt forsøg på at forene en poetisk observerende dokumentarstil med en speakbåret analyserende, illustreret fremsstilling.
Written 14-09-2011 12:52:21 by Tue Steen Müller
Facebook is a very important tool for us to achieve information about what happens in Syria. Filmmaking friends are bloggers, who constantly convey the hard facts about the daily atrocities – while other media give space for analyses connected to realpolitik. Unfortunately for us most of the texts and links posted on facebook appear in Arab language. But there are exceptions. I picked 3 for you
(New York) – Syrian security forces forcibly removed 18 wounded people from al-Barr hospital in the central city of Homs on September 7, 2011, including five from the operating room, Human Rights Watch said today, based on reports from witnesses, including doctors.
Dr. Rafah Nashed, 66y, Syria’s leading Psycho-analyst and a prominent psychoanalysis promoter and teacher, a Sorbonne-educated analyst, she's been abducted today at the Damascus Int’l Airport. Her husband’s inquiry about her was answered with denying she was there. Nashed founded the ‘Damascus School of Psychoanalysis’, teaching, publishing & defending psychoanalysis & its necessity in Syria, she’s been dedicated to helping many reach a better sense of themselves & of the atrocities around them
In this video, dated June 2011, you can see Abdullatif Alwa, from Inkhel, Syria, and his great non-violent attitude, minutes before Security Forces murdered him. Almost four months after that, Syrians are still defending pacifism... and are still being killed. If some violent reactions erupted at some point, in some place, the world has to understand... I will understand while I keep on defending pacifism.
و الشخص الظاهر في الفيديو هو الشهيد محمد عبد اللطيف العلوه ( الزعبي )ا من مدينة إنخل و قد غناها بعد استشهاد الشهيد ضياء ماجد الشمري بتاريخ 1
-4-2011 حيث ظل مع...
Written 14-09-2011 12:44:47 by Tue Steen Müller
So, no more pitching sessions, the young distributor said to me during the Baltic Sea Forum for Documentaries in Riga? She had followed the Doc Discussion on this blog, and had read the many skeptical texts from filmmakers, who saw the pitching sessions as a kind of show without any content (= money).
What to answer? It is true, and should not be hidden behind halleluja marketing language like ”come to our pitching session and get your film financed”, that the financial situation is pretty weak when it comes to contributions from public broadcasters, and that many leave frustrated with unfulfilled expectations.
On the other hand it was again, having just been to Riga, very encouraging to meet experienced producers bring new talents to the table. There was a focus on their projects for several days, they were discussed, criticised and developed, coalitions were made that can endure and make the films better. A Lithuanian producer, who had been to other pitch events before, is now working on two projects with a German and Belgian editor. An Estonian producer matched with a Georgian director, which made the representative from Estonian Film Foundation say that the door could be open for further funding. And several projects made such a strong promotion that the filmmakers can come back at a later stage. A Swedish director/producer felt that the positive reactions she got in Riga could help her chances at the national film fund. And so on, so forth.
The sessions should definitely continue. And in a realistic workshop-like frame – we meet to bring forward and develop new projects and new talented directors, we meet to create new contacts and strengthen the already existing ones, to sum up, we meet to keep the creative documentary alive!
Not only young talents pitched in Riga - 85 years old Herz Frank (photo from themovingarts.com) went on stage with his exciting story about Larissa, who has married the murderer of Rabin, and have a child with him.
Written 12-09-2011 08:29:24 by Tue Steen Müller
It was the 15th edition of the Baltic Sea Forum for Documentaries that ended in Riga yesterday with the presentation of a new project by Herz Frank, ”Without Fear”, to be co-directed by the master himself and Maria Kravchenko, with Guntis Trekteris, Ego Media, as the producer. The catalogue annotation goes like this: ”In 2004 Larissa Trembovler, philosophy professor and mother of four, leaves her husband and marries Yigal Amir – the assasin of Yitzhak Rabin. Three years later she gives birth to their son.” The film is in its early production stage and will definitely receive international support when more material is watchable.
Apart from this presentation from the man, who has inspired generations of filmmakers with his impressive work, the Forum also this time formed the first step for new young talents, in many cases accompanied by experienced producers like Estonian Peeter Urbla, Latvian Antra Cilinska and Lithuanian Rasa Miskinyte.
But there were also filmmakers who came on their own. Gunilla Bresky from Sweden presented ”I Stop Time”, a film that is ”a unique testimony” from the war photographer during the Second World War, Vladislav Mikosha, based on his photos and footage. As well as Georgian Alex Kvatashidze who showed amazing material shot by war reporters, and interviews with some of them reflecting the personal consequences of the profession.
Lithuanian producer Dagne Vildziunaite took part with two very promising projects. One is ”Toys” about people in a small Belorussian city. The young director Lina Luzyte showed me a rough cut (around 70 minutes) of the film – very promising it was, a new talent from a strong documentary country. The other film project brought by Vildziunaite was ”Father” that is being edited right now, a former criminal, 20 years in jail, 13 children, ”an insatiable lust for life”. Director Marat Sargyan.
Russian producer Vlad Ketkovich also brought two projects to the table, ”Heralds from the Big World” by Tatyana Soboleva, a story about a floating hospital, the people working there and the patients boarding the ship, and ”Men’s Choice” by Elena Demidova, about men going to the North to do shift work. The energetic producer deserves credit for bringing Russian talented directors to the international documentary community.
Photo from the production of Ego Media, "Chronicles from the Last Temple" about the Latvian National Library, the coming city monument of Riga, director: Davis Simanis.
Written 09-09-2011 08:10:59 by Tue Steen Müller
Mikael Opstrup writes: Dear Louise, Thanks a lot for your thoughts on the future for documentary. I think you are pointing out the right issues, I will try to address a few of them.
For me this debate started with the question about independent feature film docs and the decreasing TV financing that the filmmakers meet when pitching at the many sessions around Europe and abroad.
It’s been easy to see that over the last 5 years it has become much more difficult and this of course causes frustration. Frustration can be very negative but it can also be the starting point of new ideas and necessary changes. I think this is key issue. Think back, the technical changes have always changed art and the production conditions. And that’s where we are, digitalization and the web is changing almost everything: TV, production, distribution etc.
What is hasn’t changed is storytelling, the need for strong stories is eternal. So – still focusing on documentary and TV – I think we need to see it like this:
Storytelling, no problem. The technical development offers a variety of newshooting and distribution formats, in fact it’s much richer than the existing slot-length tyranny. TV programming, where the film is available online, needs no length limitations. The web, mobiles, VOD etc. opens to all kinds of formats. Where it will take us is extremely difficult to predict and I think we will have to live with the financing-limbo for some years but at a longer perspective I think the development offers more opportunities than restrictions.
Feature length ‘creative documentary’, the format we know today, will have a smaller place in the television of tomorrow. So in terms of financing I think we need to think differently. Of course the national or regional funding will have to
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Written 08-09-2011 10:14:27 by Tue Steen Müller
Louise Rosen, who started this Doc Discussion writes: Dear Mikael (Opstrup), Reading the posts is uncomfortable - the humiliation and frustration of the filmmakers, the sense from the CEs/funders of being overwhelmed and likewise frustrated. I feel both sets of experiences - as a consequence of representing filmmakers and being approached by filmmakers to represent them. Everyone's trying to find their way in a profoundly changed and changing world. Right now it's futile to speculate on the financial potential, or lack thereof, in digital distribution. In any event, there's nothing to suggest thus far that the digital world will be a robust source of widespread production funding.
What can be done to improve matters - in the near and long term? We share a framework for considering the issues as the documentary form encompasses a broad range of formats and styles. Doc series, and single docs that fit into existing formatted series on TV are doing quite well these days. But for the sake of discussion here, let's assume we are focused on single, longform films of an hour or feature length and filmmakers whose goal is to reach as wide an audience as possible.
So, what can filmmakers do? What can funders and CEs do? How can we collectively make a more effective case for the value of documentaries?
Demonstrating the power of docs
Are there data and metrics that can be compiled to make a more compelling case for feature docs - to networks, funders and investors? How can making an anthology strand/home for single docs on a network prove or improve their ratings potential? What can be learned about marketing, promotion and branding by all parties?
Making docs more cost effective/designing new business structures
Are there ways of making production and post-production more cost efficient,
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Written 07-09-2011 11:03:59 by Tue Steen Müller
Charlie Phillips writes: Tue has kindly given us an opportunity to respond to some critical comments about Sheffield Doc/Fest in the last few months on his blog.
We think this blog is brilliant, especially with the recent discussions over the direction of documentary, so we’re certainly not using this opportunity to complain about anyone’s right to express their opinions here. We love documentary for its democracy and its diversity of views – if anyone doesn’t feel we’re serving their needs as doc professionals, then that’s their welcome right. We’re just using our right to reply.
First, we want to respond to Tue’s comments on 7th June that we were looking a bit provincial at the 2011 festival. There were 21 different countries represented in the film programme, of which the UK and US were just two, and the diversity of delegates attending numbers about 50 different countries.
We think we’re truly international, but regardless, festivals aren’t a numbers game. It’s about showing the best work, and though the process of reducing 2000 submissions to under 200 screened films probably does miss some treats and involves hard decisions, the greater evil would be a tokenistic geographical spread. Public funding for festivals especially involves a need for diversity and spread that doesn’t implicitly reflect quality. We’d be criticised for implementing a quota system – isn’t that the greater evil than a system that puts quality first ? Albeit of course subject to the idiosyncrasies of human programmers.
The other blog we’d like to respond to is Doug Aubrey’s of last week. Many of his criticisms of commissioning and the current risk-averse culture of some
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Written 06-09-2011 09:04:55 by Tue Steen Müller
Documentary filmmakers from the Baltic countries, Russia, Poland, Norway and Sweden gather this week in Riga, Latvia. For the 15th time the Forum, that started on the Danish island of Bornholm, organises a meeting between those who have ideas for documentaries and those, who come from tv channels and film funds to look for new documentaries for their audiences. This so-called industry meeting, organised by National Film Centre of Latvia with the support of the EUMEDIA programme, has a very important public addition, a film programme of very high quality, entitled ”Daring Minds”:
A couple of the films have been reviewed on filmkommentaren.dk – ”Steam of Life” from Finland and ”Regretters” from Sweden. Others that have been seen by this blogger are the shocking investigative ”Give us Tomorrow” by Michael Colling and Marty Syjuco, a Shakespearean drama about an innocent man trialed and condemned for murder in a totally corrupt Philippene society - and Estonian Marianna Kaat’s human story ”Pit no.8” from an Ukrainian mining environment, where children work illegally. Also to watch is the Irish ”The Pipe”, a classic David-Goliath story (director Risteard O Domhnaill) about Irish farmers and fisherman, who rise up in protest when Shell tries to build a pipeline for natural gas through their county. Russian Alina Rudnitskaya proves again her big talent with “I will forget this Day”, a cinematically beautiful short film about young women waiting to have an abortion performed. Equally talented is local Kaspars Goba, whose “homo@lv” premiered at the Berlinale this year. This is a clip of the presentation text of the film:
“In the summer of 2005 two guys came up with the idea to organize an unprecedented event – a festive lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’s parade through the streets of Riga, the capital of Latvia. Little did they know that their good intent would spiral into a chain of inconceivable events lasting several years: the great emotion stirred up would dramatically divide Latvian society; the persons involved would be showered, in turn, with human excrement and holy water, families would be torn apart, jobs lost, and a pastor expelled from the church for free thinking.”
Two more films will be shown – and reported on by filmkommentaren.dk: Cyril Tuschi’s “Khodorkovsky” (photo) and Banksy’s “Exit through the Gift Shop”.
Written 06-09-2011 08:58:18 by Tue Steen Müller
A film about an ordinary couple, Aleksay and Valya, it could be a story from everywhere... she sits at home in the house far away from big cities, she knits and sews and waits for the husband to call and come home, next to her is her beloved protector, a dog. He is a long distance truck driver, always, literally, on the road, at home once in a while, tough working conditions, phone calls between them, you sense a good ambience, the filmmaker takes his time in accordance with the life that is presented, nothing really happens apart from the dog getting more and more ill, it dies, is buried, big grief from the side of the woman.
... and sometimes the children and grandchildren pay a visit, it is warmly described, an ordinary family, for once not a film about a Russian famliy with vodka drinking all the time, no this is a non-sensational film about a family divided because of the man’s job. At the end of the film the information is given that Aleksey is seriuosly ill.
The film has a tone, it is well composed, one could maybe have wished for more context as it comes in a fine way towards the end through truck drivers communicating their opinion about Russian politics and social conditions, at the same time as you are with Aleksey in his truck in a long and hopeless queue on the road.
Russia, 56 mins., 2011
Written 05-09-2011 09:03:08 by Tue Steen Müller
This is a review in Danish language of a new documentary made by Anne Wivel, acclaimed veteran in Danish documentary. For years she followed her husband, politician Svend Auken in his work in- and outside Denmark. Auken, a strongly committed humanist, suffered from a cancer illness but was active until his death in August 2009. The film, that premieres this month, is brilliant.
Udgangspunktet er jo klart fra start. Dette er en film om en mand, som er død. En dansk politikers sidste år, ”filmet og erindret af Anne Wivel”, som skrevet står på lærredet i filmens begyndelse. Anne Wivel som levede med Svend Auken i syv år, fra 2002 til hans død i august 2009. En hustru som filmer sin mand, som er syg af kræft, det kunne gå hen og blive flæbende, det er det ikke, slet slet ikke, det er tværtimod en bevægende og smuk erindring som instruktøren giver sit publikum, og på mange måder også en almenmenneskelig henvendelse, som efterlader én smilende glad over at have mødt et fint, kærligt menneske. Og forpustet for det var dog helt utroligt, hvad Svend Auken nåede af møder, taler og tv-medvirken. Og trist, naturligvis, over at det gik den vej, som det gik. Som han siger, jeg ville jo gerne leve lidt længere.
Svend Aukens engagement i klimapolitik, hans internationale betydning som medlem af diverse bestyrelser, hans retoriske begavelse og talent for at tale til store forsamlinger og gribe dem om hjertet, hvad enten han talte på dansk eller engelsk – er stærkt dokumenteret af Anne Wivel, som fulgte ham på mange rejser verden rundt. Men det er ikke derfor, at denne film om en mand, som var politiker, hæver sig højt over de mange andre politiker-film vi er blevet præsenteret for i de sidste år (Fogh, Khader, Lykketoft f.eks.). Grunden er den enkle, at her bringes vi i selskab med en politiker i sit hjem, i sit sommerhus, i en sommerlejlighed i det sydlige Frankrig, på et hotelværelse med himmelseng i Brønderslev! Med Anne Wivel bag kameraet, i årtier en af dansk dokumentarfilms stærkeste profiler som instruktør og producent.
Og det er jo derfor, at filmen hæver sig. Det er en film, det her, der er foretaget nogle valg ud fra et stort materiale, der er i klipningen fundet en rytme, hvor pauserne i det politiske ”udeliv” spiller en rolle, ind imellem de mange møder, hvor de mange små vidunderligt sigende og smukke dagligdagsøjeblikke træder frem og skaber tonen. Når Svend kommer hjem, står Anne for enden af trappen og filmer ham igen og igen. Man sidder faktisk undervejs og venter på at den scene skal gentage sig. Når Svend småsnakkende til kvinden bag kameraet spejler æg i det lille køkken og varmer mælk i mikroovnen. Det gør han mange gange i filmen. Når han starter en sætning, men ikke kan afslutte den, fordi han læser avis og ikke kan ”multi-taske”. Når han sidder i en stol med sit boardingkort i jakken, strandet i Ålborg lufthavn, maskinen går ikke pga. maskinfejl, så falder man med ham helt ned, stresser af og tager på hotel i Brønderslev. Eller når han bliver hamrende irriteret, fordi taxaen ikke kommer og han skal være i et tv-studie om et øjeblik, tingene skal klappe. Genkendelig hverdagsbeskrivelse.
Anne Wivel er bag kameraet, hun stiller spørgsmål til Svend, svarer når han spørger og beder om reaktioner til sine taler, hun er der hele tiden, men trænger sig ikke på, viser ikke hvor forfærdeligt, det må have været at filme sin mand blive mere og mere syg – for så i én sekvens, Villefranche i Sydfrankrig i januar 2009, at lade kameraets bevægelser skrive et digt om et dejligt rum med udsigt til vand, et rum med smukke ting, musik og stearinlys. Det emmer af kærlighed.
Danmark, 110 mins., Instruktør & fotograf: Anne Wivel, Klippere: Camilla Skousen og Peter Winther, Komponist: Povl Kristian. Med støtte fra DFI og DR.
Filmen får premiere i 68 DoxBio biografer den 11. september og den 14. September, derefter vises filmen dagligt i 10-15 af biograferne. Hvor og hvornår se
Written 04-09-2011 14:30:54 by Tue Steen Müller
Comments on the Doc Discussion have been posted on facebook as well. They take different directions. Producers Marie Olesen, Scotland and Sinisa Juricic, Croatia characterise the pitching as “a fool’s game” and “a showcase of big ego’s from the other side of the table… not a useful tool for film financing”, wheras several acknowledge the contribution of Philippe van Meerbeeck. Mark Daems, producer from Belgium writes: “I'd like to click the 'like'-button, but in fact I don't like that Philippe is so close to the truth”.
The debate can, and should, go on but in this round the idea is now to ask Louise Rosen and Mikael Opstrup to make some closing remarks that could very well deal with: What can be done, what’s next? Their texts will be brought asap, before that you may want to read what others have to say:
Simon Kilmurry, very active commissioning editor for POV in the US writes: Hi Tue, This is a fascinating discussion, and Louise (Rosen) and Mikael (Opstrup) make some interesting and troubling observations. Another part of the problem, I think, is the sheer volume of work being produced. We are seeing twice as many films as we did 10 years ago. But resources and slots have not increased commensurately. While we have a few more slots at POV, overall broadcast space has diminished. Thanks for sharing this.
Kilmurry kindly refers to two articles about “The Fate of Documentary”, the first one, with that title, to be found in New York, August 16, written by Leslie Stonebraker – to be responded by guest blogger at POV, Heather McIntosh. I quote the end words of her article, but read both articles in full length, through sites below:
“... Documentary is an amazingly flexible, versatile and innovative form, and its makers and believers have been remarkably creative in applying it and bringing it to audiences. The mainstream presence is new, and it will become part of the documentary history as we move through the changes over time. The mainstream presence certainly expands the documentary conversation, but it is such a small part of the rich form with an even deeper and more nuanced history. Not to mention, an even deeper and more nuanced present.”
Photo: Armadillo, Janus Metz, recently broadcast on POV.
Written 02-09-2011 00:46:39 by Tue Steen Müller
Iikka Vehkalahti writes: Dear Tue and others. I am delighted, that Louise and Mikael took the cat on the table (or how do you say in it real English?).
Anyway, now after one month out from the position of a commissioning editor (who very often has a quite weak position in his or her own organization) and when writing from Finland, the former “heaven of documentaries” here are some few sentences. I have written during the last months so much about melancholy and the situation in Finland and in the world, that I don´t want to repeat what has already been written – and maybe the situation was very much worse some 20 years ago: There are more documentaries produced in the world than ever?
But what kind of future and possibilities do we have for that kind of films Louise, Mikael and Tue have in their minds?
Feature length documentaries. When aimed for the big screen they should also get the financing from the same sources as any film aimed for big screens. It means public funding ( Art Councils, Film Funds etc…) and cinema distribution in co-operation with tv-stations, who will also in the future have interest in having well known, brand products for transmission. The budget for these projects is and will not be huge compared to the fiction films, but big compared to the so called normal docs. But their surviving strategy can not depend on the television.
TV-docs. Television is another platform than festival and cinema distribution. It has to be accepted and seriously considered what kind of docs are best for television (not at festivals or in cinemas). Documentaries were very strongly tied with the television distribution some 10-15 years ago. It has changed when festivals and cinema have become players in that field. We need to go back to television and to make docs, which will conquer the television of today. Instead of using the television as a funding source for films that aim foremost to big screen or festivals.
Personally I would love to see the life and development of the challenging, demanding real documentary films – very often seen only at festivals. The question is; how to arrange the financing of those? Rich patrons, public funding? Or different kind of production process: “returning to the origins”: man and camera? But in every case we need new steps in the area of the distribution.
So many net platforms have been created for the distribution of documentaries. I don´t know any that functions really well. Why? For two years we have developed and tried different concepts and one of the solutions is to build a co-operation with broadcasters the same way as has been done with the co-production of individual documentaries.
Co-operation would make possible to charge the fee when downloading the films (what is difficult or impossible to the public broadcasters in most of the cases) even if the sum would be quite small (my guess is somewhere between 1, 99 -2, 99 euros). If and when by a real co-operation of different partners a global reach of the platform can be build, can also these docs reach a substantial amount of audience.
Iikka Vehkalahti, filmmaker and for many years commissioning editor at YLE, Finland. Famous for his international orientation and pioneer work with for instance Steps for the Future”. Now visiting professor at School of Communication, Media and Theatre at the University in Tampere, Finland. Photo of Viktor Kossakovsky, director of "Belovs", documentary film favourite of Vehkalahti.
Written 01-09-2011 08:51:03 by Tue Steen Müller
Doug Aubrey writes: Hi Tue, here are some personal comments that I would like to share with you...
I'm glad to see that some of the more - shall we call them - mature protagonists are addressing the issue of the 'State of the Docs' across the generation gap at last.
However I have to say that what's happened is also as a result of the old pitching forum system being hijacked to become a 'Dragon's Den' or 'Apprentice' style reality TV show where it's simply all about money, greed and exploitation - rather than a rigorous platform for a filmmaker's creative, cultural and political issues to be tested. Indeed one Doc-maker I spoke with compared pitching at IDFA now to being like a performer in a pole dancing bar full of businessmen - only without the dignity!
Still perhaps the worse example of this, is what's happening at the SIDF (Sheffield, ed.) with its speed pitching, its 1 minute trailer et al culture that favours celebrity filmmakers, shallow ideas and geek/nerd film-making; More to the point it - like many festivals - is rapidly ceasing to be the place where you see difficult, challenging and even experimental works. Instead you can witness 100's of new film students/ emerging filmmakers (some with a lot of talent) sidling up to TV executives, who mostly are interested in hanging around bars - understandably, far from the maddening crowd - with their pals from the 'travelling circus', or hiding in the toilets. They have 12-50 strands to fill a year - with est 2000 films on offer - so somehow sympathise...
SIDF's trade event calls itself the Meet market for a very ironic reason that's probably lost in translation (and which the Americans will never understand anyway! - it being a Canadian invention and aw).
Another example of what's happening, is the evident demise of EIFF (Edinburgh,
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