Written 27-02-2012 18:07:33 by Juste Eigminaite
This stunning film is a very appealing story about glaciers that are melting globally. A well-known photographer James Balog who has photographed nature (for National Geographic among others) for many years, had a deep concern of glaciers melting way faster than one could expect or even imagine. He created a team of photographers, filmmakers and technicians to start a project called Extreme Ice Survey. This team installed more than 50 cameras in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and Montana in order to photograph glaciers that are constantly dissolving. Cameras were programmed to take a picture every hour throughout more than three years of time and time-lapses, in Chasing Ice coming together as horrifying, stunning footage.
The whole journey was portrayed in a very adventurous manner. Beautifully presented extreme changes that occurred during recent years helped to reveal the great damage that has been caused by us. Pictures ‘before’ and ‘after’ are nothing less but shocking. Moreover, James backed these pictures up with factual information. He is an activist and tries to visit as many conferences as possible that deal with climate change (one of them was COP15) in order to bring his study to masses as an eye opening experience.
The film is very convincing but must be seen on a big screen to strengthen its beautiful nature. Constantly changing landscape shapes, vivid colors and irrepressible power of melting glaciers in this wonderfully crafted film, must be seen and cannot impress the same way when retold.
USA, 2011, 75 mins. Seen at Sundance 2012
Written 27-02-2012 15:59:53 by Tue Steen Müller
This is a text for the ZagrebDox catalogue 2012: The films that you are going to watch from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the finest examples from a cinema that has, from country to country, its own individuality and its own individuals. You will meet films by young and old talents, some with quite a track record, nationally and internationally. Directors with a vision, both in terms of theme and aesthetics.
The selection for this retrospective programme of documentaries from the three Baltic countries have been done with a focus on the last 10 years, omitting not only films from the last century but also films from 2010 and 2011 – some from these years were already shown at ZagrebDox.
Allow me to be personal to say that the relation between me and the Baltic documentary is a pure love story, which started in the year 1990 when the Soviet empire was falling apart. In Denmark we started a film festival on the island of Bornholm where filmmakers from the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea came to present their works. The festival went on for 10 years and we travelled to Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius to select the film. In this century I have continued to visit the countries to scout for films other festivals and to take part in the Baltic Sea Forum, where new film projects are being pitched.
What we met way back in 1990, was of course a documentary tradition that was based on the Soviet tradition – and on its way to break with the very same. In Estonia the leading figure was Mark Soosaar (whose beautiful, personal film ”The Home for Butterflies” is part of the retrospective), in Latvia the names were Juris Podnieks, Ivars Seleckis and Herz Frank, in Lithuania
Read more / Læs mere
Written 25-02-2012 15:28:30 by Tue Steen Müller
At the Archidoc training session at the la fémis film school in Paris yesterday, where ten projects were presented to a panel of producers, broadcasters and festival representatives, two so-called hybrid documentary projects stood out as upcoming films that are to be built on private archive footage of professional character.
Seb Farges has been filming his life with different girl friends for 20 years, in New York, with different technical equipment. An obsession he said at the pitching session about his project called ”Womanmanhattan”, an autobiographical story about a man who hides behind his camera, filming the girls and NY. But now, being 40 years old, it has to come to an end. I intend to go to Bratislava with Vladislava, a new girl friend, and she will, with her skills in docu-animation, help me find out what has happened with me, constructing a mental map. Serge Fabrege has for years put his footage on his vimeo website that has had more than 500.000 followers. Fabrege showed a trailer with material that due to the dialogue between him and Vladislava (photo presents the two of them, Seb and Vladislava) had a humourous distance-creating approach that was very much appreciated by the audience.
Portuguese José Fernandes has also been filming his life and love stories. Through six years. His film project, conveyed through an aesthetically attractive style, called ”Lily, Sachi and Me”, contains a story about the director travelling to Italy to fall in love with a Japanese popstar, going with her to Japan, leaving her again to seek freedom in California, where he falls in love with a girl from South Korea. He goes with her to her country, where he gets a call from the Japanese girl who wants him to come back to Japan. José Fernandes is obviously a great cinematic talent and I trust that he can make a film that follows in the footstep of other travellers, who are fascinated by Asian culture, Wim Wenders with his ”Tokyo-Ga” and Chris Marker with his masterpiece the essay ”Sans Soleil”.
Private stories made public, and in the hands of talented filmmakers, universal, why not, the interest to share every little thing from your private life is evident on facebook, and in these two upcoming films. Watch out for them!
Written 23-02-2012 08:44:00 by Tue Steen Müller
One more festival, and one of great importance. The following text is taken from the site of IDF (Institute of Documentary Film), that stands for a huge so-called industry programme parallel to the festival. It all takes place in Prague, March 6-15.
One World is the largest human rights documentary film festival in the world. This year, the festival opens in Prague followed by another 40 towns across the Czech Republic. The program features engaging and thought-provoking documentaries that promote a deeper understanding of political and social issues both in national and global contexts. On top of its year-round projects, One World also supports human rights film festivals abroad, e.g. the first annual Baghdad Eye Festival in Iraq in 2012.
Right to Know
Read more / Læs mere
Written 19-02-2012 21:23:27 by Tue Steen Müller
The 8th edition of a festival that has a strong programme with an international competition programme, a regional one, a retrospective with star director Jay Rosenblatt, a section with controversial documentaries like Mads Brügger’s ”The Ambassador” (photo) and Fredrik Gertten’s ”Big Boys Gone Bananas!”, music documentaries, a selection of 14 films from the Danish Film School, a retrospective of Baltic documentaries from the last ten years selected by this blogger. And several other good offers to documentary people in the Croatian Capital. A small pitching session is also organised, as before, where regional projects are presented to a panel of potential investors.
The international competition programme of 29 long and short films includes among others ”5 Broken Cameras” by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, ”Bakhmaro” by Salomé Jashi from Georgia, ”I will forget this Day” by Russian Alina Rudnitskaya, ”Phnom Penh Lullaby” by Polish Pawel Kloc, ”Ramin” by Lithuanian Audrius Stonys and ”The Will” by Christian Sønderby Jepsen from Denmark.
The regional competition of 20 films presents fine films like Romanian ”Noosfera” by Ileana Stanculescu and Artchil Khetagouri, Stefan Valdobrev’s portrait of a football fanatic ”My Mate Manchester United” and Nikolas Geyerhalter’s ”Abendland”. Plus a lot of films that I am in the lucky position not to have seen, yet, including ”Family Meals” by Dana Budisavljevic.
Reports will be posted from ZagrebDox, a festival created and run by the tireless Nenad Puhovski. And a PS. The website of ZagrebDox is clear, beautiful to look at, competent in text and full of trailers to watch. Bravo!
Written 19-02-2012 14:23:01 by Tue Steen Müller
It is a good programme that the organisers of the Swedish documentary film festival has put together for ”a six-day-long documentary party” in Stockholm March 6-11.
New Swedish documentaries in competition, among them Fredrik Gertten’s ”Big Boys Gone Bananas” and Michel Wenzer’s ”At Night I Fly”, which recently got the national award Guldbaggan as best documentary. A retrospective and masterclass with Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill. Music documentaies. A selection by local alternative orgnisation Filmcentrum.
AND, very interesting, a new award that carries the name of local icon Stefan Jarl. Six films compete for the ”Stefan Jarl International Documentary Award”: The magnificent ”5 Broken Cameras” by Emad Burnat & Guy Davidi, a film that deservedly travels all over with its both alarming and touching story from the occupied territories in apartheid Israel. ”Bombay Beach” by Alma Har’el, ”Inside Lara Roxx” by Mia Donovan, fascinating ”Phnom Penh Lullaby” by Polish Pawel Kluc, impressive ”Cinema Komunisto” by Mila Turajlic and Idfa winner 2011 ”Planet of Snail” by South Korean Seungjun Yi. Happy that I am not a juror with such a line-up of strong films!
Written 17-02-2012 21:36:46 by Tue Steen Müller
Nick Fraser, commissioning editor at BBC’s Storyville, wrote an article for The Observer (February 5), constructed as a diary from and about the Sundance Film Festival, where ” I have two films in the American competition. I am also judging films for the world documentary jury.”
Among many observations about being a juror, and about the worry of whether ”his” film ”The House I live in” (photo) by Eugene Jarecki – read the whole article – would get an award or not, it did win, Fraser, in a for him very unusual situation, writes about being nervous before sitting in a panel with the founder of Sundance:
”There are lots of ways of celebrating one's birthday. This year I'm spending mine with Robert Redford - on a panel to discuss documentaries - and I am distinctly nervous. But I notice similar symptoms in the other guest - the redoubtable Sheila Nevins , head of documentaries at HBO and acknowledged queen of the genre in the US. We exchange anxieties. How will we behave in the presence of cinema royalty? Do we call him Bob, Robert or Mr Redford? We cannot decide. Stuck in ski resort traffic, he arrives late, and it is reassuring to find that near-deities are subject to the same vicissitudes as the rest of us.”
Written 16-02-2012 17:20:54 by Tue Steen Müller
One more text from Dox Box festival Orwa Nyrabia, who has turned war correspondent and frequently writes in English on Syria and Me – The Revolution Chronicles:
Damascus: The regime's security forces, backed by armed operatives, raided the office of activist and journalist Mazen Darwish, the director of the Syrian Center for Media and Free Expression, in central Damascus after sealing the area. Security forces arrested Mr. Darwish and a number of other professionals in the office. The LCC is verifying the names of those arrested.
(LCC is a resistance group, described like this: Local Coordinating Committees of Syria, an umbrella organization with members from most cities and many smaller towns across Syria. Ed.)
Written 16-02-2012 16:10:45 by Tue Steen Müller
One of the best documentaries recently is ”The Interrupters” (photo) by Steve James, who was also the man behind masterpieces as ”Hoop Dreams” and ”Stevie”. Film journalist Jennifer Merlin has interviewed James, site address below, and out of that comes many interesting comments from a modest true documentarian.
Here is a clip from the long and good interview:
There are all kinds of different films and all kinds of hybrids. I like all kinds of films and all kinds of documentaries, but I see a lot of films and thing, gee, I could never make that -- not from a judgmental standpoint, but just because I don't think that way. I'm just not that kind of storyteller. So, you know, I'm old fashioned. I like cinéma vérité.
The films that had the biggest impact on me when I was getting interested in film were the verite classics, on the one hand, like Barbara Kopple's work or the Maysles.
The other films that interested me, and I think my films are a kind of hybrid with these, are Michael Apted's UP Series and especially The Times of Harvey Milk, which I saw at a particular moment of time when I was starting to love documentaries and I was just struck by how powerful, and insightful and emotional that film was without being sappy or anything like that. And those are both films that are interview driven films. They're not verite films. So I think my style is a kind of a hybrid.
Written 16-02-2012 15:39:44 by Tue Steen Müller
The Cinéma du Réel has chosen its competition films for the 34th edition of the festival that takes place in the Centre Pompidou in Paris March 22 to April 3.
15 films have been taken for the International Competition and the International First Films Competition. Many are world premieres, some international premeieres and some French premieres. Among the latter you find the success ”Five Broken Cameras” (photo) by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi and ”Two Years at Sea” by Ben Rivers. There is a competition of short documentaries, very much welcomed of course, a French section of course - more than 200 films are screened and there are workshops and tributes with/to John Gianvito, Dick Fontaine, Susana de Sousa Dias, Mario Ruspoli and Raúl Ruiz.
“Arrested Cinema” is a section where “From Iran to China, from Syria to Tibet, many filmmakers, documentarists, artists or ordinary demonstrators have been arrested, imprisoned, confined to their residence or killed. With its new "Arrested cinema" section the festival aims to create a space each year and give regular news updates for a cinema confined to resistance.
And to stay on the political track there is, again. A section called “Exploring Documentary: Combatants” which is “A tribute to the filmmakers who have fought and continue to fight on liberation fronts, using deadly weapons (rifles, machine guns), non-deadly weapons (cameras, tracts…) or the two together. With films by Tobias Engel, Margaret Dickinson, Jocelyne Saab, Clarisse Hahn, Deborah Shaffer, Jean-Michel Humeau, Dick Fontaine and some films of the Slon-Iskra audiovisual collection.”
Written 15-02-2012 10:20:33 by Tue Steen Müller
Our German language readers should know about the fine work done by the Stuttgart based Haus des Dokumentarfilms. Yesterday I received a ”Dokumentarfilm Newsletter” from the Haus with a link to a website – in German – that provides you with a lot of information, on new docs in German cinemas, support that thas been given, documentaries on television, new dvd releases and so on.
The mission of the Haus: ”Unser Haus dient der Förderung, Forschung und der Sammlung des Dokumentarfilms. Wir wollen Filmemacher, Redakteure, Produzenten und am Dokumentarfilm Interessierte zusammenbringen.”
Long and good articles about films are to be found on the website, and of course there is information about the ongoing Berlinale, as well as info on the work of the German ag-dok, the strong association for documentarians.
The photo is from Cyril Tuschi impressive documentary about Khodorkovsky. It runs in German cinemas.
Written 13-02-2012 17:05:24 by Tue Steen Müller
.. detained by security forces since February 2nd. The following text is taken from Facebook:
Bahraa Hijazi, was born in 1986 in Damascus, Syria. Her family is originally from Jeiroud, a city 50 kilometres from the capital. Bahraa’s father Abdul Nabi Hijazi is a well-known Syrian novelist and TV writer. Bahraa is a student at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus, majoring in the Department of Visual Communication. She works in visual design and animation, and has been creating children training workshops in this field. Bahraa has directed a short animated film entitled "Heart Torments " which was produced by Tawasol network in collaboration with the United Nation Development Program and the International Centre for Journalists. Most recently she was preparing her first feature documentary, depicting the life of women in Syria. The project represents one of 10 projects that was chosen by DOCMED 2011 International Program for young producer and filmmaker -------------------------------------------------------------- Née en 1986, Bahraa Hijazi est étudiante en 4ème année au département de Communication à la Faculté des Beaux-Arts de Damas, et fille du grand auteur et scénariste Abdul Nabi Hijazi. Graphiste, réalisatrice de films d'animation et chargée de projets et d'ateliers de formation pour les jeunes dans les domaines de la conception et de la réalisation. Son court métrage d'animation "Tourments de coeur" a été produit par l'atelier Tawasol (communiquer) organisé en coopération avec l'atelier du Programme des Nations Unies pour le Développement et le Centre international pour les journalistes. Elle prépare actuellement son premier documentaire sur les femmes en Syrie. Celui-ci a obtenu le soutien du programme "Doc Med", et a été sélectionné récemment dans le cadre du programme de production du Festival International du Film de Rotterdam.
Written 11-02-2012 11:34:38 by Tue Steen Müller
It is quite a challenge to choose one’s own family as the theme of one’s first feature documentary. Nevertheless this is what Carlo Guillermo Proto (1979) did with ”El Huaso”, a film that demonstrates a strong visual competence to convey the story of a father, who has decided to commit suicide if he, like his own father, gets alzheimer. He does not want to be a burden to his family.
Carlo, the son, the filmmaker, follows his father on his journey to the doctor, to the psychologist, and back to Chile, his home country, where his horse riding apparently makes him a free and happy man away from the depression that makes him suffer in Toronto... where he also is a happy grandfather when he plays and talks with his lovely grandson.
It is tense, it has a fiction feel in many staged scenes, and especially one brings memory of Ingmar Bergman: The whole family placed in a couch, including the protagonist, the father, discussing the good and bad sides, the right and wrong, about his eventual decision to take his life! There the director, also in the couch, reaches the point where you as a viewer feel uncomfortable to watch. Gives you a painful impression. Like when you watch the Swedish master.
Talent is needed to make a private story personal and universal. Here it is done beautifully.
Canada/Chile, 2011, 80 mins.
Seen at DOCSBarcelona 2012
Written 11-02-2012 10:44:27 by Tue Steen Müller
”Your online documentary cinema”. This is how the excellent vod Doc Alliance Films characterises itself. Based in Czech Republic at the address of IDF (Institute of Documentary Film), they are doing great work. The selection of films available is indeed a feast for the documentary lover. Newly added titles are ”Cave of Forgotten Dreams” by Werner Herzog, ”Avenge, but one of my Two Eyes” by Avi Mograbi and ”The Arrivals” by Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard.
However, this week, Doc Alliance goes royal to celebrate the sixty year rule of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (!) by offering classic British documentaries for free. So here you go, take a lesson in film history, start by reading this very fine introduction from the Doc Alliance site:
The two most significant periods of British documentary film to enter the world’s history of cinematography are the British Documentary Movement and the Free Cinema movement. Financed by state institutions as well as big private corporations, the filmmakers of the British Documentary Movement conceived their work as public service. They were choosing among the wide range of themes resonating inthe British society, focusing primarily on the changes the society and its various strata were undergoing at that time. The film methods they employed varied greatly. Although their works are associated with the term of documentary film, today they would rather fit the docudrama genre (a documentary genre making use of stage-managed situations, reconstructions of real events). However, their works primarily shared the immense interest in the depicted subject accompanied by an attractive and intelligent film form. That is what secured them a constant attention of their spectatorship.The DAFilms portal introduces the following famous films of the British documentary school: Night Mail with the score by Benjamin Britten and verses by W.H. Auden; Drifters by ideologist of the British school John Grierson; Industrial Britain by legend of the documentary genre Robert Flaherty; and Fires Were Started filmed in the heavily bombed London in the middle of the war by Humphrey Jennings. In the Docalliance selection, the Free Cinema movement is represented by the “swinging” Mama Don’t Allow by Tony Richardson and Czech-born “Winton’s child” Karel Reisz. Richardson as well as Reisz are significant representatives of the movement who later became famous for their fiction films, some of them further developing the Free Cinema principles. From the works by Karel Reisz, we further present We Are Lambeth Boys, a portrait of everyday life of youth from London’s working class Lambeth borough situated on the Southern bank of the Thames. Both films belong among the significant short documentaries made at the very beginning of the movement.
Written 10-02-2012 10:41:45 by Tue Steen Müller
”Think Big! Is what young producer and director Ilona Bicevska has done throughout a year of participation in the Ex Oriente 2008.” This was the text posted here in October 2008. Two years later another text was posted: ” Think Big! Is what Ilona Bicevska is doing. For a couple of years she has been pitching a project that I have praised on this site with a simple Bravo! Now the potential directors have been invited to come to Latvia, to Sigulda 50 kilometers from Riga, from where I write these words. A development workshop goes on, discussions, clips are being watched, coffee is being drunk – and harder stuff as well.”
Now the series is finished, has its industry screening at the Berlinale and is being screened on arte February 6-24 at 10.30pm, 15 films around 15 minutes long, from the 15 ex-Soviet republics about young people and their lives. In her long journey Bicevska succeeded – among many other funders in Latvia and abroad, including the MEDIA Programme - to get arte on board with Serge Godrey from Alegria as co-producer.
I remember talking to many experienced producers during this process . They all said that this is not possible, this is too difficult, but the energy of Ilona Bicevska was second-to-none as were the attitude of the young directors, who now get the chance to have their works and their talent exposed on the international scene. You will see these films on festivals and tv in the coming years, as a whole series or individually – and a 90 minutes version is being made as well.
I repeat my Bravo and Congratulations to all 15 young filmmakers, who are going to have a 12 (why not 15?) hour party at the Berlinale! Enjoy!
Written 09-02-2012 13:34:09 by Mikkel Stolt
Joyce McKinney was hot stuff in the British tabloids back in the 1970’es and the case known as the “Mormon sex in chains case” started out when McKinney allegedly kidnapped her Mormon husband-to-be and forced him to have a good time with her – if you get my drift. The story has it all; a former beauty queen challenging a cult church, sex pictures, clever escapes from the authorities, a relentless press and a shocked public. No need not to make a documentary about it.
Errol Morris is a giant in the documentary field but I quite quickly got this uneasy feeling that something was wrong. In this film he has most of the characters in a studio – including McKinney – where they all take us back to the days and each telling their side of the story. I grant that Morris has a certain skill to arrange his material in a clever way, but the whole thing just gets too clever or too arrogant even. His other visual aids are old still photos, collages/animations and archive footage from fiction films and this style very often comes across as strangely old-fashioned and tiresome, even when the intent was clearly to be comical. For instance when a character says in a talking-head shot; “…and then the phone rang”. Cut to footage of an old-style telephone which rings in some obscure fiction film. Cut back to someone talking about what that phone call implied.
At that point I began to feel that Morris was pulling my leg or even mocking us. Or worse, mocking the people IN the film. Quite often you hear Morris react sarcastically as the interviewer or he takes a word from an interview and puts it in capital letters directly on the screen. He’s not too shy to use supposedly funny sound effect either and the whole thing led me to believe he’s not really interested in this story. He’s interested in the telling of a story and that is when it could have gotten really interesting in my view. Who do we believe and why do we believe them? Can we believe the storyteller – can we believe Morris?
This could - with a different and more humble approach - have been a very clever and self-ironic piece of self-mockery which would have been quite becoming for the filmmaker. Instead, it’s a film which doesn’t seem to take its story, its characters or the audience seriously. Why would I take this film seriously then? I really can’t but I would like to be proven wrong, scolded or told off. Hit me!
Watched at Cinemateket, Copenhagen.
USA, 2010, 87 mins.
Written 08-02-2012 12:07:31 by Juste Eigminaite
This film is about American healthcare system and its severe problems. Americans spend around 300 billion U.S. dollars a year on pharmaceutical drugs. That is almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Healthcare throughout years became a huge business in America and unfortunately almost every player in this industry is highly interested in keeping Americans ill.
The majority of patients are coming to their doctors repeatedly because they are not being cured after their first visit. Moreover, about 75% of the healthcare costs are spent for diseases that are easily preventable. In the film a number of doctors explain how American healthcare system forces them to send their patients from one specialist to another, unfortunately usually with no luck to get better.
ESCAPE FIRE offers a lot of facts and tries to focus on many issues. First of all it is focusing on rapidly growing obesity in America. The filmmakers claim that at the moment around 65% of America’s population is overweight. The issues are hidden not only behind Americans’ general inactivity but also affordability of eating right.
Another issue that is presented concerns the quality of care in the U.S. military. The film offers shocking numbers of soldier deaths as well as suicides that are caused by
Read more / Læs mere
Written 08-02-2012 10:00:15 by Tue Steen Müller
“Me in English... from Syria 2012, as frequent as possible. Orwa”, was the short sentence that came up on facebook yesterday from film producer and Dox Box festival in Damascus director Orwa Nyrabia, who has been reporting from Syria since the revolution started March 15 2011. Knowing Orwa since the start of the festival that I visited the four times it has taken place, I can only express admiration and gratitude for this gesture from a reliable and tireless communicator. Facebook people, go to “Syria and Me – The Revolution Chronicles” and follow what Nyrabia posts of texts and clips.
“I will do my best answering questions and helping understand the Syrian situation today if you ask me! Kindly ask through comments.”, writes Orwa Nyrabia.
On this facebook page you will also find a link to Reel Festivals, a Scottish based initiative that “believe that art and culture are the best way to break down barriers and increase communication” through events that have focused on Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan with poetry, music and film. A very interesting site, address below. Khaled Khalifa’s letter is being spread through Reel festivals, among others. I don’t know Khalifa personally, this is what Reel Festivals writes: KK is a Syrian author based in Damascus. His 2006 novel “In Praise of Hatred” was a finalist for the International Prize for Arabic fiction, and has been banned in Syria.
Back to Orwa, 47 minutes ago: Dear World, war in Syria cannot be prevented anymore... because it already started. We can hear it, then, every time one finds the courage to walk towards the sound, one does see it.
From now on, war can only be won, quickly.
Written 07-02-2012 20:20:26 by Tue Steen Müller
Letter From Syrian novelist Khaled Khalifa to his friends around the world:
My friends, writers and journalists from all over the world, in China and Russia, I would like to inform you that my people is being subjected to a genocide. A week ago the forces of the Syrian regime stepped up its attacks on the rebellious cities, especially in the cities of Homs, Zabadani, the suburbs of Damascus, Rastan, Madaya, Wadi Barada, Figeh, Idlib and villages of the Zawiya mountain. In the past week, up until the moment in which I am writing these lines, more than a thousand martyrs fell, many of them children, and hundreds of homes were destroyed on top of their inhabitants.
The world's blindness encouraged the regime's attempt to eliminate the peaceful revolution in Syria, with an unrivaled repressive force. The support of Russia, China, Iran and the silence of the world in the face of the crimes committed in broad daylight, has allowed the regime's killing of my people for the past eleven months. But in the last week, since February 2cd, the features of the massacre were made clear. The scene of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who took to the streets of their towns and villages on the night of the massacre of Khalidiya, the night of last Friday to Saturday, raising their hands in prayer and in tears, is heartbreaking and puts the humanitarian tragedy of Syria in the center of the world. It is a clear expression of our feeling of orphanhood, resulting from our abandonment by the world, which is content to do political and economic sanctions that do not stop murderers or restrain blood bathed tanks.
My people who faced death with bear chests and songs is, in these very moments, subject to a cleansing campaign. Our rebellious cities face sieges unprecedented in the history of world revolutions, preventing medical personnel to attend to the wounded, as field hospitals are being bombed in cold blood and destroyed. The entry of help organizations is also prevented, phone lines are cut, and food and medicine are blocked to the extent that the smuggling of blood bags or Satamol tablets into the affected areas is considered a crime worthy of imprisonment in detention camps, the details of which will shock you one day.
In its modern history, the world has not yet seen valor and courage such as those displayed by the revolutionary Syrians in all our towns and villages, as the world has not yet seen such a silence, that is now considered a complicity in the murder and extermination of my people. My people is the people of peace, coffee and music, that I wish you will taste one day, roses the fragrances of which I hope you will breathe one day, so that you know that the center of the world is today exposed to a genocide, and that the whole world is an accomplice to the spilling of our blood. I can not say more in these difficult moments, but I hope you will take action in solidarity with my people, through whatever means you deem appropriate. I know that writing stands helpless and naked in front of the Russian guns, tanks and missiles bombing cities and civilians, but I have no wish for your silence to be an accomplice of the killings as well.
Khaled Khalifa, Damascus.
Text taken from Syrian film friend's facebook posting.
Written 07-02-2012 15:50:32 by Tue Steen Müller
The auditorium of the CCCB, cultural Centre of Barcelona, was full of hundreds of observers to the 15th pitching forum of DocsBarcelona. They provided the enthusiastic atmosphere for the 23 projects that were to be pitched there during two days, in a hall that had 30 invited professionals to respond to the pitches, 16 of them around the table: commissioning editors from tv stations, distributors, film fund representatives. The quality of screening of the trailers and teasers was excellent, cinema hall size, so all conditions were there for the well performed forum that it turned out to be.
In the present situation of course! As pitch trainer and moderator Paul Pauwels wisely said to the pitchers at the workshop before the pitching forum:
Remember that this is not about the money, this is about putting yourself on the agenda, on the market, promoting your film and yourself”.
Promotion, yes, and that did happen for the projects and for the documentary genre as such. And for sure some creative contacts and prebuys will come out of DocsBarcelona as it has always done, and that can lead to important financing from MEDIA and/or national public funding and/or from the international funds that have come up lately around Tribeca Film Festival.
300 professionals from more than 30 countries.
Written 07-02-2012 15:46:11 by Tue Steen Müller
Session after session the pitch forum organisers and participants talk about the financial crisis in the European documentary market, mostly exemplified through the cutdown in budget, staff and time slots for documentaries in the public broadcasting companies.
It was therefore quite refreshing, on a cold saturday morning in Barcelona, to sense warm winds coming from Latin America. At the second Latin Forum for documentaries held as part of the DocsBarcelona 2012. One after one the filmmakers from Argentina, Bresil, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and Ecuador gave their brief intro to the situation for the creative documentary in the respective countries. And there was no crying! Well, you could always wish for more but the impression was definitely that things are going in the right direction when it comes to public film funding, film education, film festivals for documentaries, and also some tv stations were mentioned positively.
The 6 filmmakers presented their film projects to representatives from YLE (Finland), Lichtpunt (Belgium), WDR (Germany), idfa forum & Jan Vrijman Fund (the Netherlands), Colombian television, TV3 Catalunya.. All projects were well received as projects of a high professional and creative standard. Several were close to rough cut and/or post production, and will for sure be going for festivals and broadcast in some stations worlwide.
David Rubio has filmed brilliantly inside a university prison in Argentina where inmates and guards are equally taught as classmates, ”13 Doors” is the title. Wanadi Siso is almost ready with a fine cut of ”El Laberinto de lo posible” about the blind art photographer Sonia Soberats. Siso was given first prize for his pitch of the project at DocMeeting Argentina last year. The brothers Federico and Martin Aletta is finishing a film that brother Federico shot one year ago when the tsnunami hit the NorthEast of Japan, titled ”Ishinomaki, Rock n’Roll City”. Nuria Ibanez (photo) is also close to have ”I’m Eleven Years Old” ready for international release, the teaser she showed was a heartbreaking scene with mother and her daughter, who wanted to take her own life. Bresilian producer Luciana Freitas came with a fresh proposal called ”Lan – Box of Hopes”, referring to Lan houses, internet cafés, that take the kids away from the street corners. Finally, Nicolas Alonso took us, with excellent cinematography, to ”Monte Adentro”, to a small society of muleteers in Colombia. Watch out for these films!
Written 07-02-2012 15:40:11 by Tue Steen Müller
The opening was fun and sweet, clever, serious and thoughtful. Alessandro Negrini (photo), director from Italy living in Northern Ireland & Tor Arne Bjerke, producer from Norway, took the auditorium by heart and brain with their ”Ballad of a Ghost Town” to be released in 2013 50 years after a natural disaster, only 3 years ago declared a man-made human tragedy destroyed five towns in less than seven minutes, killing more than 2000 people. The filmmakers go back to the Italian town and to the inhabitants. Great stuff!
As was the project that closed the pitching forum, ”La fin du Monde”, presented brilliantly by local director and producer Ventura Durall i Soler, who advised that the next DocsBarcelona better be in Bugarach in France because this is the only place that will survive the catastrophy that will hit the world the 21st of December of 2012. Nanouk Films is the company, Nanouk was the first documentary in the world, maybe ”La fin du Monde” will be the last!
There were many projects that were well received, I can only mention a few here, you can see the titles of the selected projects at the website below, and google many of them for further information.
Juanjo Giménez Pena from Barcelona presented a wonderful cinematic project ”Contact Proof”, built on negatives and slides from the French photographer Pascal le Pipe, mostly Americana as I understood it. His director colleague from Barcelona, who has attended DocsBarcelona several times, Albert Solé, plans to go with charismaric Spanish science pioneer back to the Antarctica to revive ”Frozen Memories”. Polish Krzysztof Kopczynski presented the strong story, “Dybbuk”, from Uman in Ukraine, where Chassids travel to celebrate Rosh Hashanah at the grave of Rabbi Rachman, and where clashes appear between the locals and the visitors. Italian Ivan Gergolet has a wonderful 90 year old Maria Fux, who helps people find themselves in “Dancing with Maria”. Macedonian Atanas Georgiev charmed with “Funeral and Wedding Orchestra”, like his previous “Cash and Marry” full of cinematic quality, humour and atmosphere.
Written 07-02-2012 15:31:00 by Tue Steen Müller
I can not leave Barcelona and the documentary event that – on a personal note – I have been part on since its start 15 years ago, without having another personal note on football! I am lucky that I editorially can make a link to one of the film projects, ”Ishinomaki. RocknRoll City”, the one that the brothers Aletta from Argentina are making. In one scene, shot by Federico, who was a volunteer at the camps after the tsunami one year ago in Japan, a little boy shouts with joy into the camera: ”Come here, Messi, Coooome”. It shows how much that club means to us big and small boys all over the world, how much football means, no now I am getting pathetic... anyhow it was obvious to give Barca-fan and –member, DocsBarcelona director big boy Joan Gonzalez a Barca shirt with DocsBarcelona on the back and number 15 referring to the age of the event, and it was obvious that I had to write this on my way back to Copenhagen seeing fathers and sons (some of them 5-6 years old) entering the plane after having been to Camp Nou to watch Messi!
Written 06-02-2012 10:55:25 by Tue Steen Müller
The 15th edition of DocsBarcelona closed last night with quite a spectacular performance. After the screening of ”The Human Tower”, directed by Ram Devineni and Cano Rojas, a group went on stage to make the human tower happen in the beautiful Palau de la Musica Catalana. The small boy on the top unfolded a piece of cloth saying ”At Night, They Dance” (photo), the film that was awarded the price as the Best Film of DocsBarcelona 2012. Directed by Isabelle Lavigne and Stéphane Thibault, Canadians, the film gives a strong and warm portrait of a family of belly dancers in Cairo, shot before the revolution.
A special mention was given to Viktor Kossakovsky for his ”Vivan las Antipodas”. Kossakovsky was definitely the star of the festival with a masterclass for 300 and three sold-out screenings of his films in the Renoir Cinemas, followed by 45 minutes of Q&A. Kossakovsky is a magnificent filmmaker but also a great entertainer.
The award for best ”human rights” film was given to Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco for their impressive film ”Give Up Tomorrow” and the campaign they have led to free Paco Larrañaga, wrongly accused of rapes and murders in the Philippines, but now, due (also) to the film, and his Spanish family roots, sitting in a prison in Spain. Look at the website, below, and you will see how impressive the work these two filmmakers are doing. All over the world. And they will not stop before Paco is free.
Yuval Sagiv from Israel got the prize for being best New Talent with “How I filmed the War”, and a teenage jury awarded “Maria and I” as best film for kids.
Written 03-02-2012 10:46:45 by Juste Eigminaite
The film Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present (see below) focuses mostly on the presentation of her exhibition. In this article I would like to look deeper into Marina’s personal experiences during the whole process.
I saw Marina in Park City at least 5 times. She attended various workshops, meetings, stayed after movies to talk to other filmmakers and she was always very talkative, especially about her own exhibition.
The most important and many times repeated claim was that she would never ever go through this again. It required too much physical and mental strength from Marina; moreover she believes that it would never have the same affect on people as it did back then.
In the beginning organizers were very anxious of what would happen if nobody would dear to sit in front of Marina and the chair stayed empty? Marina herself took the decision to sit in front of an empty chair and wait for someone to come. However, this (that it was empty) never happened during the whole 3 months period.
It is interesting that no one limited the time a person could sit in front of Marina during the exhibition. In the film one can see that people changed constantly, but that was not the case. Some people sat for couple of minutes, while there were people who stayed there for hours. There was one person who sat in front of Marina just when museum opened its doors and stayed for 7 hours when he was forced to leave by security guards. Another person came three times and waited for about at least 5 hours each time to spend just moments with Marina. She later commented that she felt an unbearable sorrow coming from that person and was happy to help him to break away from it.
Journalists kept asking Marina: How is it impossible to affect strangers so much in such a short period of time? Some people would be crying, some laughing, some would be very thankful or sometimes they even wouldn’t be able to walk away and needed assistance.
It wasn’t an easy task for Marina. She believes that the main key lies within the emotional state of mind. According to her, in the absence of any kind of emotion the gaze mirrored back the initial emotions of the people, thus showing them the real inner self.
Marina was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to complete the task. The hardest issue was to be in a present time the whole time. Fridays would be almost unbearable, because it would be 10 hours of sitting instead of 7 as usual.
That needed not only mental but also physical preparation. It took Marina one year to complete this process. She went to India to clean her body and changed her diet, since she didn’t have lunch for 3 moths and that could cause serious health problems. She also trained her body not to want to go to a toilet during the whole day and to cope with gradually increasing physical pain.
People waited for hours and hours even slept outside MOMA just to get in.
Marina herself felt mostly touched by the security guards. She told that there are 65 guards at MOMA and many of them would come on their free days as regular visitors and would wait in a line just to sit in front of Marina.
It is unbelievable how many people were touched by this exhibition. They created groups on Facebook and still meet to discuss it. There was even Marina’s support team that came from New York to Sundance to tell others about their unforgettable experiences.
Report from Sundance Festival 2012
Written 03-02-2012 08:41:12 by Juste Eigminaite
This feature-length documentary by Matthew Akers beautifully portrays Marina Abramović, an unforgettable artist who is capable of using herself as a tool for expressing modern art. Marina is Belgrade-born New Yorker and widely known for her exhibitions that exceed general norms, sometimes even physically hurting herself and others. This film is a powerful picture of Marina and her one-year’s thorough preparation for the Exhibition Artist is Present that took place in 2010 at MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art, New York).
Artist is Present is a 3 months long performance, where Marina would be sitting on a chair in a middle of an empty spacious room fully emotionless to offer a gaze to someone who would choose to sit on a chair across from her.
This performance became a huge success. People would wait more than 16 hours to get a possibility to look Marina in the eyes for couple of moments. It was the longest performance in Marina’s career and it demanded all the possible physical as well as emotional preparation from her. As she claimed herself: ‘The Hardest thing is to do something which is close to nothing’.
The film crew follows Marina for one year of preparation and 3 months of performing at MOMA. Moreover, there is also a strong romantic love side to this movie. Marina’s long year partner German performance artist Ulay is about to reunite with Marina and perform together once more.
This film has everything what a good story entails: a strong artistic value, wisdom, dreams that did and did not come true, unforgettable love story, drama, disappointment, hard work and above it all a lot of hope and genuine emotions.
Seen at Sundance 2012.
About the exhibition:
Written 02-02-2012 14:07:40 by Allan Berg Nielsen
Det er godt at være københavner lige nu. Cinemateket viser her i februar store dele af Errol Morris værk, 2.-8. februar hans Tabloid (2010) som månedens film. I morgen kan man også se The Thin Blue Line (1988). Det store Morris program omfatter endvidere i løbet af februar The Gates of Heaven (1978), A Brief History of Time (1991), The Fog of War (2003) og Standard Operating Procedure (2008). Se tidspunkter her:
Still: The Fog of War
Written 01-02-2012 16:23:43 by Juste Eigminaite
When I finally got to Park City it was sunny, white and very cold. It was the 22nd of January, Sunday and I suddenly realized that I came too late.
But let’s begin where it all started. Along with the Sundance Film Festival arriving in Park City so did a snowstorm. After many cars got stuck on a highway, roads were finally closed and many people were forced to head back to Salt Lake City and overnight there.
However, the stormy weather did not seem to bother them that much. Broadway theaters in Salt Lake City were full; people had to wait at least one hour to get their tickets but still were very enthusiastic.
I have heard about long queues at Sundance before, but reality hit me when I finally got to the Box office in Park City. Ticket packages were sold out way before festival started and open tickets to films were already taken during the first days of the festival. The only way to see films were to go to the venues 2 hours before the screening, pick up a waiting ticket and then come back no later than 30 minutes before the screening hoping to be lucky to get in.
There are a lot of interesting hidden things behind this whole Waiting list idea. First of all, theaters are highly spread in the Park City, so the distances from one theater to another can be up to 30 minutes walking or even more. There were shuttle buses but you never knew how long it would take you to leave the theater and come back. Therefore most of people would come to a theater 2 hours prior to the screening and would stay there.
Theater venues are far away from the ones in Europe. For example Theater MARC stands for Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center. What I am trying to say is that for 2 hours you were stuck not in a nice waiting lounge with small tables drinking café latte, but in a huge tennis cord sitting on the floor and watching people on the first floor running laps.
Pass holders would be the ones to come last and get in first. Then it was the turn of the ticket holders and only when everybody would be seated, people with waiting tickets had a possibility to buy a ticket to the film. Sometimes 10 people would get lucky, sometimes 55… you could never know. The only thing you could do, was to wait.
Read more / Læs mere
Written 01-02-2012 15:28:00 by Tue Steen Müller
A gift to filmkommentaren and its readers! Juste Eigminaite from Lithuania contacted us to offer texts from her US documentary festival tour that started at Sundance and will go on until end of June. Below you can see the lists of festivals that she will visit.
Juste Eigminaite has a bachelor at Roskilde University, Denmark in Communication and Cultural Encounters, and a master at Copenhagen University in Cognition and Communication. She is 28 years old and came to Denmark when she was 20.
She ”is interested in documentaries for many years and I am deeply in love with people in general. I praise Danish documentaries for very distinctive storyline and Eastern European films for the poetic film nature. I love films that have both: a poetic film with a strong storyline. The best recent example would be ”How to pick berries” by Finnish director Elina Talvensaari”.
The link is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQNo-06pEg0
Photo: Juste Eigminaite
Written 01-02-2012 08:44:29 by Juste Eigminaite
I have quit my job, suspended my studies at KU, left my apartment in Copenhagen and moved away to USA for 8 months to do what I enjoy the most – to watch documentary films.
I learned that watching film is only a little part of the whole experience what can be obtained if you actually go to a film festival and meet filmmakers and producers, participate in Q and A sessions, go to the after parties etc.
My task is to visit at least 10 Documentary film festivals in USA and Canada and to present you a bunch of movies that are selected for festivals’ main competitions.
I will offer you film reviews, pictures, external links and ‘Behind the Scenes’ articles that will be based on Q and A sessions, filmmakers’ / producers’ interviews and more. Furthermore, I have already been to Sundance and it is amazing how much this film festival differs from the ones in Europe. Therefore I also decided to write about each film festival as such.
Lastly, I am a long-winded supporter of a two-way communication. Therefore I kindly ask you to participate in my journey. Do not hesitate to contact me with requests of all kinds, comment on my articles and please criticize me if you feel so.
Here is the list of Film Festivals I will cover:
1. Sundance Film Festival (January 19-29)
2. The Thin Line Film Festival (February 10-20)
3. True False Film Festival (March 1-4)
4. SXSW Film Festival (March 9-18)
5. American Documentary Film Festival (March 29-April 5)
6. Full Frame Film Festival (April 12-15)
7. Tribeca Film Festival (April 18-29)
8. Hot Docs Film Festival (April 26- May 6)
9. Doxa Film Festival (May 4- 13)
10. Los Angeles Film Festival (June 14-24)
11. Silverdocs Film Festival (June 18-24)
I hope that you will follow my adventures and that you are excited at least half as much as I am.
Photo: Geneve Animation Festival, October 2011, ready for the audience (Juste)
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