DocuDays 20th Edition 2023 Opening

Written 02-06-2023 23:47:45 by Tue Steen Mller

DocuDays 20th Edition 2023 Opening

I was in Kyiv last night. Again. For the opening of the 20th edition of the DocuDays ua International Human Rights Documentary Festival. Online via Facebook. It was like it was before in the Zhovten Cinema: An opening with speeches in Ukrainian and English including one from a representative from the main sponsor of the festival, the Swedish Embassy in Ukraine (bravo Sweden for the continuous support), clips from the many competition programmes, a hall full of spectators…

And yet it was different. Of course it was. Ukraine is at war. The film program illustrates this and there were strong emotional moments of demonstration and commemoration during the opening ceremony:

The whole hall of spectators stood up with signs “#free Maksym Butkevych”, the human rights activist and journalist, who was working with the festival and who was captured by the occupiers and sentenced to 13 years of prison for “his support for IDPs during the war in Donbas and because of his history as a journalist for the BBC…”being “labelled as a neo-nazi and British spy” (Wikipedia).

Dary’a Averchenko, head of the festival’s communication department, made a speech that commemorated film editor Victor Onysko “who died defending Ukraine”. His widow Olga Birzul curated a program “Editing Transition” in memory of her husband. On the festival website ( there is an interview with Birzul, who for many years took part in the programming of the festival. I remember Roman Bondarchuk, director and art director of the festival characterized her as “the soul of the festival”. A quote from the interview: 

… First of all, I wanted to talk in detail about the whole variety of montage in this programme: as a technique, a political gesture, a reconstruction of memory and a time machine. I tried to show the scale of this phenomenon. After all, montage is the grammar of the film language. Before the emergence of montage theory, cinema was pure entertainment. After that, it became an art. 

At first, I chose three films, as you say, political ones: The March on Rome by Mark Cousins, Private Footage by Janaína Nagata and Arcadia by Paul Wright. Together with their critical optics, they all are just suited for a montage cinema slot. But I couldn’t get Lea Glob's beautiful Apolonia, Apolonia out of my mind. I felt that conceptually it was a bit out of place. It's a personal and even confessional film, which, by the way, also includes a lot of politics and activism, but at the same time, editing stops playing a major role there. The film is not cut up or used as a method of researching reality. In Apolonia, Apolonia, we see the other side of documentary cinema – a work with time…

Ahhh, clever words. The festival opened with the film by Alisa Kovalenko, reviewed/ praised on this site, “We Will not Fade Away”, a masterpiece.

still: we will not fade away 


Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mariam Chachia & Nik Voigt: Magic Mountain

Written 02-06-2023 18:53:16 by Tue Steen Mller

I was a juror at the DocsBarcelona and contributed to the jury choice of Georgian documentary “Magic Mountain” for the main award in the Panorama section. In beforehand I had written the following key words for the deliberation meeting, having seen the film:

…beautifully crafted cinematography, dares to go for long atmosphere creating sequences, multilayered, people, history of the country, the landscape around…

Cinematography first, excellent work by Voigt through the many years of shooting – the two started filming in 2014. With the camera he is inside and outside the impressive Abastumani, he is there when it is light and when it is dark, catching panoramas of the mountain and the landscapes and making superb observations of the people in the tubercolosis sanatorium. Going close when the director Chachia goes close to meet, talk to and play backgammon with the men, who for many have been there for years. 

The film is full of long sequences that serve to create the nightmarish atmosphere that met Chachia, when she was ill and now, when she returns to experience the sadness and melancholy that reign at the magic mountain building, that is taken down as it has been bought by the Georgian oligarch, who by the way is also the one, who transported trees for his personal park in the film of Salomé Jashi! A building in decay, poverty and decadence.

Abastumani is a historical place – a member of the Romanov czarist family is said to have been there and was cured for the disease, a statue of him was built in gratitude - and taken down when the communists came to power and made the hospital a famous health place in the USSR. 

Thus the film has many layers but for me the patients and the staff were the main attraction. A conversation with Ismaël  that Chachia has, is both full of humor as it takes place - he is planning to go home to meet a woman, he has met on the phone, to have a life with her - and of sadness when later Chachia is informed by other patients that Ismaël passed away after he left Abastumani. Or Manana who can not take her pills even if the doctors try their best, she denies, she can not swallow them. Very touching scenes. Or the unlucky priest or…

It all comes together in a beautiful film, emotional and informational it is and it has found the right tone for its narrative and cinematic interpretation. Wish it a good further festival life.

Georgia/Poland, 2023, 73 minutes.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocsBarcelona: Camilla Nielsson

Written 31-05-2023 11:16:15 by Tue Steen Mller

Camilla Nielsson: President”You’ve got to have love for your characters and do everything you can to give them confidence in the job you’ve been assigned”. Said Camilla Nielsson to me in an interview back in November 2014, published in a Danish Film Institute magazine on the occasion of her film’s showing af IDFA that year. I refer to ”Democrats” that we followed quite intensely on this site on its road to festivals – and awards – around the world.

Love for characters, I was happy to meet again Paul Mangwana and Douglas Mwonzora, the protagonists of ”Democrats”, in Nielsson’s new film ”President”. Their job in ”Democrats” was to create a constitution – Mangwana on behalf of ZANU-PF, Mwonzora for MDC-T. Two very different characters and temperaments I got to like thanks to filmmaker Nielsson and her cameraman Henrik Bohn Ipsen. In ”President” they are side characters, Mangwana furious in a long scene, where the members of ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) is questioned on their impartiality by the opposition party MDC-T, and the elegant cool Mwonzora being present in several scenes as one of the sympathetic strategists working hard to win the presidency for Nelson Chamisa.



Camilla Nielsson succeeds to make Chamisa and his people interesting to follow. With a clear structure and very much based on the “reading” of faces – the film is full of lovely close-ups – that cameraman Ipsen gives us. Example: We study Chamisa in cars taking him to meetings with the people at the election campaign; sometimes you sense he is nervous, sometimes he is happy with people’s warm reception of him, sometimes he is reflecting or is in sadness like when he has met the family of one of the six, who were killed by soldiers confronting MDC supporters with water cannons and bullets. There is a rhythm in this, the dramaturgy of the film plays constantly with emotional contrasts. Jeppe Bødskov is the editor, great work.

Character-wise, with more charisma I find with Nkululeko Sibanda, who is the spokesperson of Chamisa, passionate and it´s almost heartbreaking to see his reaction, when he discovers he has been fooled to let the police bring MDC staff into a van “for protection”. “Did I make a mistake?”. And you find other personalities as the man with the hat, who says that this is “not an election, it’s a selection”. Or, the images of Justice Chigumba, chair of ZEC, when she sits in the court room like a sfinx attending the post-election court case by MDC against the same ZEC, accused of fraud and manipulation… Stone-face and yet a couple of times with flickering eyes. Advocate Mbofu is proceeding for MDC, we viewers have followed the MDC collecting evidence like “how come the voting results are identical in 16 cases”!!!

Not to forget the press conference given by Mugabe, where he indirectly declares his support for Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is now the president of Zimbabwe. He answers with humour as he sits there, an old weak man, a statesman, could not help like him at that moment…

In another interview Camilla Nielsson has said that she prefers character to story. That’s where her huge talent comes forward again as it did in “Democrats”, the talent as a true vérité filmmaker, who brings us “the feeling of being there” as Leacock said. In scenes that are full of energy. Far away from journalism and yet, Nielsson and Ipsen are covering the presidential election of Zimbabwe with nuances, one-sided?, well no doubt where the sympathy is – with those who want democracy, change change change as Chamisa declares again and again in the mass gatherings where the people show their palms – but the two were at the inauguration of Mnangagwa. The film ends with him looking at us viewers. What’s next? Yes what’s next with the film, can it/will it be shown in Zimbabwe. It took time for “Democrats”, “Camilla Nielsson against Zimbabwe”!

Photo: Henrik Bohn Ipsen, from the film.

Categories: Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Eimantas Belickas:

Written 23-05-2023 15:11:09 by Tue Steen Mller

Eimantas Belickas:

This is a copy paste of an article published by FilmNewEurope yesterday, written by Alexander Gabelia.:

VILNIUS: The new project by Lithuanian director/editor Eimantas Belickas, the long documentary /, is built around the fact that on 1 May 2004, some 50 children were born in Lithuania at the same time with Lithuania's integration into the European Union. The experiences, searches and journeys of a generation are captured in documentary cinema.

At the initiative of film director Arūnas Matelis, a creative group of camera operators captured the birth of 29 babies in 2004. Every few years, they would revisit some of the heroes, and in 2023, the brightest and most unique among them were selected to testify about their first stage of existence. 

Until now, material has been collected, occasional meetings with the growing children have taken place and filming has been done gradually. At the moment the shooting is almost done and the editing stage will start soon.

“The initial recordings were about observation and getting to know them. We remain observers, trying to get as close as possible to our heroes and merge with their daily lives. Moreover, our heroes have come of age and can now critically assess and reflect on their own experiences, so their own thoughts will be very interesting. It will also be interesting to observe their relationships with their parents, a generation born in a completely different era, who are bringing their fears and uncertainties from that time. Have they managed to avoid such influence or are they now helping their parents get rid of Soviet-era ‘ghosts’?”, Eimantas Belickas told FNE.

The film is produced by Arunas Matelis and Algimante Mateliene through the award winning Lithuanian documentary studio Nominum. Ramune Rakauskaite is the executive producer.

The total budget of approximately 120,000 EUR is partly (75%) supported by the Lithuanian Film Centre and the Lithuanian public television LRT. The Ministry of Culture financed the archival work, while Studio Nominum provided financing for the rest of the process.

"When we started this project, the main idea went beyond simply perpetuating newborns; it aimed for much more ambitious goals: marking the anniversary of the new European Union, continuing this documentary cycle by documenting the fate of children born on the same day until the end of their lives. The idea of documenting the newborns of the new Europe attracted unprecedented international attention, with one foreign magazine calling it an unimaginable ‘real Truman Show’, Arūnas Matelis told FNE.

International coproducers are welcome to join the project.

Production Information: by Eimantas Belickas, in the photo: Lukas in 2022, credit: Studio NominumProducer:
Studio Nominum (Lithuania)

Director: Eimantas Belickas
Screenwriters: Arunas Matelis, Ramune Rakauskaite, Algimante Mateliene, after an idea by Arunas Matelis
DOP: Algirdas Vaičaitis

photo: (still)

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

DocuDays Kyiv Workshops

Written 20-05-2023 14:16:05 by Tue Steen Mller


We continue presenting to you this year's DOCU/PRO programme. On June 4-7, the Industry Platform invites you to a series of workshops. The participants will have a chance to understand the intricacies of editing and marketing strategy, analyze successful production cases, and discuss peculiarities of creative approaches to producing successful films in the genre of creative documentary.

The series of events will open with a discussion on one of the most important tools of the film language. At 2 PM on June 4, we invite you to an online workshop The Art of Documentary Film Editing with two editors. Dana Bunescu (Romania) and Niels Pag Andersen (Denmark), who are among the most experienced film professionals in Europe, will open the doors of their editing rooms and share their knowledge about the fascinating ways of translating reality into film.

The dialogue about methods of work will be continued by two prominent filmmakers. Elvira Niewera, a jury member of the DOCU/WORLD international competition, Polish-German director and screenwriter, will reveal the details of her own creative techniques in a conversation with the renowned Ukrainian director Kateryna Gornostai. We are waiting for you at the Zhovten cinema at 11 AM on June 5, at the event About Documentary Films and Beyond.

The next workshop will help you understand how to effectively promote your film. How to make your film stand out among the others? How to find and keep in touch with your target audience? During the workshop, our guest Mirjam Wickenkamp, an expert in the field with over 15 years of experience, will discuss in detail all the steps of PR and effective communication campaigns in a conversation with moderator Anastasia Klysakova, a marketing specialist. The online event Mark Your Film on the Map: Marketing Strategies for Documentary Films will take place at 11 AM on June 6.

Case study “A House Made of Splinters” – From Development to the Oscar Campaign will keep us focused on success stories. Monika Hellstrom, one of the most famous documentary film producers, will talk about her work on A House Made of Splinters, her approaches to producing this widely recognized film, and her experience of organizing the Oscar campaign. The conversation will be moderated by Darya Bassel, Docudays UA programmer, DOCU/PRO director and producer. We’ll meet online at 11 AM on June 7.

To participate in these events of the Industry Platform, don't forget about your accreditation. The events DOCU/PRO TALK: European Solidarity Fund for Ukrainian Cinema and Case Study: How Can Films Bring the Victory Closer? Civil Pitch Experience are open for everyone.

Categories: Festival, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Honorary Heart of Sarajevo to Mark Cousins

Written 16-05-2023 12:30:10 by Tue Steen Mller

Honorary Heart of Sarajevo to Mark Cousins

In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the art of film, director and writer Mark Cousins will receive the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo Award at the 29th Sarajevo Film Festival. 

This will not be his first encounter with the city - his first visit to Sarajevo was during the Siege, in the mid 90s. He and the Edinburgh International Film Festival had visited the Obala Art Centar cinema, where they showed films in support of Sarajevo’s besieged citizens. That cinema will come to be the birthplace of the Sarajevo Film Festival. 

„Taking films from the Edinburgh International Film Festival to Sarajevo during its siege showed me why movies matter. Most things I've done since have been influenced by those scary, inspiring weeks in 1994. Going back to Sarajevo for the first time, after 29 years, will open a dam of emotions for me. The Honorary Heart of Sarajevo will take pride of place in my home and remind me of the need to take risks, to act in solidarity. I can still learn from the young man I was and, far more so, from the pioneering people in Sarajevo who understood that movies aren't just a pastime. They are a crucial part of our lives. I'm so grateful“, said Mark Cousins.

Mark Cousins is a Scottish-Irish filmmaker. His themes are the inspiring power  

Read more / Ls mere

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mansky & Titarenko: Eastern Front

Written 13-05-2023 13:21:25 by Tue Steen Mller

Mansky & Titarenko: Eastern Front

This film has been shown at numerous festivals and now the audience In Barcelona gets the chance to watch it and meet one of its directors, Vitaly Mansky, in the Q&A. At a session the day before, entitled “Documentary filmmaking against the backdrop of war”, Mansky will be on stage together with Alba Sotorra Clua , Barcelona based director, who has made fims like the documentary feature film Game Over (2015), which received the VIII Gaudí Award from the Catalan Film Academy and Comandante Arian (2018), nominated for the Gaudí Awards for Best Documentary in 2019.

I have seen "Eastern Front" and it is a strong documentary from the frontline at the same time as you get some impressive and positive insights to what a group of volunteer medics perform to help injured soldiers get to hospital before it is too late - often it is. Yehen Titarenko, charismatic co-director with Mansky, filmmaker, is on the screen driving the car through muddy roads OR he is with his medic friends in quiet Western Ukraine, where they go to relax and celebrate a baptism, and talk talk talk about what this war has meant  and means to them. A quote from the description of Titarenko on the website of DocsBarcelona: 

“On 24 February 2022, Yeyhen and his friends decide to volunteer to join the first aid battalion on the eastern front of the Ukrainian war. They are willing to provide all necessary support and evacuate the wounded. For six months, the hand-held camera follows them with showing the rawness, fear, hatred and bitterness of war with shocking proximity and without intermediaries…”

“Eastern Front” will be shown in Barcelona the 25th of May, the day before Mansky and Alba Sotorra will have the mentioned dialogue, moderated by Marc Marginedas, about documentary filmmaking in the midst of armed conflicts:

What are the challenges when filming a war or bringing real stories to the big screen against the backdrop of an armed conflict? What role does the documentary gaze play as a political positioning and what is the implication behind directing documentaries while highlighting the more human side of war? How does the filmmaker find hope in the midst of war? What filmmaking decisions do they make to show the rawness and violence, but at the same time, hope? How does one write the script/editing of a war film from a perspective, where hope prevails? When does the filmmaker realise they are in front of a great sequence in the midst of the conflict?

6 pens

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Silver Crane Award Nominations

Written 09-05-2023 08:25:20 by Tue Steen Mller

Silver Crane Award Nominations

The Lithuanian national film awards, the Silver Cranes, will be announced on June 4. The nominations have been announced. Yesterday English version via FilmNewEurope. I took a look at the list of nominated documentaries, that includes the following:

Antanas Sutkus. Scenes from Photographer’s Life / Antanas Sutkus. Scenos Iš Fotografo Gyvenimo (Lithuania)
Directed by Vytautas V. Landsbergis
Produced by Studija APropos

Decadent Nr. 2419 / Dekadentas NR. 2419 (Lithuania)
Directed by Saimir Bajo
Produced by Ketvirtaversija

Burial / Kapinynas (Lithuania, Norway)
Directed by Emilija Škarnulytė
Produced by Just a moment
Coproduced by Mer Film

Mariupolis 2 (Lithuania, France, Germany)
Directed by Mantas Kvedaravičius, co-directed by Hanna Bilobrova
Produced by Studio Uljana Kim, Extimacy film
Coproduced by Easy Riders films, Twenty Twenty Vision Filmproduktion

Back from New York / Sugrįę iš Niujorko (Lithuania)
Directed by Ramunė Rakauskaité

I have seen the two last ones on the list - for the Danes: "Mariupolis 2" will be shown at Cinemateket tomorrow, whereas "Back from New York", produced by Studio Nominum, is a wonderful one hour homage to Life and Art. Here is the description of the film from the website of the production company: “Back from New York” is a film about two unique and appreciated artists, close friends, whose lives were greatly influenced by emigration. It is not only a story about the discoveries of these wanderers, but also about the true joys of life, coming back and creating a new life in their homeland. By choice, they decided to return to Lithuania after many years spent in the rattling and enchanting New York. Photo-artist Arūnas Kulikauskas has settled in a monocot in Ukmergė district, painter Eugenijus Varkulevičius-Varkalis – in his hometown Kaunas... The film has great material with Jonas Mekas, whose influence on the two is strongly in focus. 

Ramunė Rakauskaité is also nominated in the Best Director category and also the editor Audinga Kučinskaitė is appreciated for a work that perfectly has found the rythm to answer the bohemian life in New York and at home. 

Categories: Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Mantas Kvedaravicius Mariupolis 2

Written 08-05-2023 21:09:29 by Tue Steen Mller

Mantas Kvedaravicius

In 2011 I attended a Summer School in Neringa Lithuania for film students. A film by Mantas Kvedaravicius was shown, his first.

”Stasys Baltakis, teacher at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, the film school of the Country, introduced the film and its director. ”He is not a film director, he is a thinker”, he said about the debutant Kvedaravicius, who made the film over a period of years, now completing his PhD (and a book) on the affects of pain. And the film is about pain, about people in Chechnya, families whose members disappear or have undergone torture. Shot illegally, and with one year in the editing, the film expresses pure love and respect for the characters without turning to sentimentalism…

The camera catches magical moments inside the houses, the characters tell their stories of pain and torture, mainly off the picture, car trips give the narrative a flow and information about how a devastated city looks, at the same time as the Russian authorities have done a lot to lighten up mosques and other buildings. Pure facade for the invisible violence, it seems. While watching the film you sense a growing anger and sadness witnessing the life of people, who wait and hope…” (from the review of Barzach, 2011)

”Kvedaravicius, whose last film (his first) ”Barzakh”, a masterpiece, took place in Chechnya, has again created a tense work of a beauty that lies in the aesthetic choices he has made with the camera, that he and two others have operated. You enjoy frame by frame, scene after scene, sequence after sequence the way he has placed the camera and the naturalness with which the editing takes you around.

How shall I leave this praise of a film that develops and towards the end brings images of exploded cars and destroyed buildings, and has scenes where the population is taught how to put out fire… I want to and will remember the shoemaker repairing shoes and having conversations with clients and family. A location that comes back, with peace, a statement of survival of humanism, as this great director has delivered with what is only his second film…” (from the review of Mariupolis, 2016)

And now Mariupolis 2, shot by Kvedaravicius, shown at festivals and awarded as the best European documentary at the EFA ceremony in Reykjavik in December. The film was before that shown at IDFA where it was introduced like this: “In 2022, Mantas Kvedaravičius returned to the ruined city of Mariupol in Ukraine to film the people he met for his 2016 documentary Mariupolis. There, he was killed in early April by Russian troops while documenting the Russian invasion of Ukraine. His fiancée managed to escape with the footage. After his death, producers and crew gave their all to edit his final, unfinished film and show it to the world.”

Watching the film I can only echo what was written about the two previous films. Mantas Kvedaravicius shows his respectful approach to human beings in need, he stays with them, no sensationalism, he follows them when they clean the ground after the Russian bombings, when they gather to eat in the cellar, where they pray and sleep, when they prepare a soup outside, where two men transport a generator at a place, where two corpses lie on the ground, accompanied by the sounds of bombings around all the time, “let’s go to the mass grave” someone says referring to the airstrike in March of the Theatre of Mariupol, where civilians had found shelter.

The great director Mantas Kvedaravicius created with this film what one of the legends in documentary history called “the sense of being there”, with love and respect. RIP

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

Stonys & Briede: Bridges of Time

Written 03-05-2023 10:35:14 by Tue Steen Mller

Stonys & Briede: Bridges of Time

This is a text I wrote for the premiere of the film, 30th of June 2018:

Wow, it's tomorrow at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival that Bridges of Time has its premiere. The film, a co-production between the three Baltic countries, is introduced like this by the festival: "Kristīne Briede and Audrius Stonys’s meditative documentary essay portrays the less-remembered generation of cinema poets of the Baltic New Wave. With finesse, they push beyond the barriers of the common historiographic investigation in order to achieve a consummate poetic treatment of the ontology of documentary creation."

A fine intro, however, I would make it a bit longer with these words: "This is a film for all cinema lovers. It tells about the Baltic poetic documentary cinema that was created during the Soviet Union. In opposition to the USSR propaganda films. It was a wave of a personal free visual language that celebrated life and humanity. Together with Latvian Kristine Briede, Lithuanian director Audrius Stonys, who in his own work continues the tradition for a poetic look at reality, has picked magical moments from unique long and short documentaries to let them meet the old masters as they look today or when they were in front of the camera decades ago. The directors in the film about this special artistic phenomenon in film history are Herz Frank, Uldis Brauns, Ivars Seleckis, Andres Sööt, Robertas Verba, Henrikas Sablevicius, Arvis Freimanis, Mark Soosaar."

I have been invited to come for the premiere in Karlovy Vary, which I do with great pleasure as someone whose professional life changed completely in the 1990'es, where I discovered the Baltic documentary on the island of Bornholm where a festival, Balticum Film & TV Festival took place until 2000. Today it is my joy to go to Riga every year to take part in the Baltic Sea Docs that is a continuation of the adventure on Bornholm, as is the collaboration of the three Baltic countries cinema-wise with this celebration os something very special - the film will be followed by a superb retrospective of the primarily short documentaries made by the masters in the documentary. 

Categories: Festival, Film History, Articles/Reviews ENGLISH

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