Uljana Kim Receives Big Award

Eurimages and the European Film Academy have the pleasure to award producer Uljana Kim with this years’ Eurimages International Co-Production Award. The award goes to her “to mark her outstanding commitment to co-production and the strong co-producing partnerships she has built up over the years. It is also an acknowledgement of the excellent track record of her company in the competitive arena of the Eurimages co-production support programme.” Uljana Kim will be an honorary guest of the gala for the 36th European Film Awards on 9 December in Berlin to receive her award in person.

Uljana Kim, born in 1969 in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, graduated from the Institute of Cinematography in Moscow (VGIK) in 1993 and is a film critic by education. She emigrated to Lithuania, where she founded Studio Uljana Kim in 1997. At that time, she was the first female producer in Lithuania. Since then, the Vilnius-based production and distribution company has produced 34 feature and documentary films, being one of Lithuania’s leading companies. Most of them premiered at the most important international film festivals and others were successful at the domestic box office.

The company’s films include Valdas NavasaitisCourtyard, premiered at Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight in 1999, Kristijonas VildžiūnasThe Lease [+], premiered at Venice in 2002, Kristijonas Vildžiūnas’ You am I premiering at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2006, Ignas Jonynas’ The Gambler [+], premiered at San Sebastian in 2013, Mantas KvedaravičiusMariupolis [+], premiered at Berlinale’s Panorama in 2016, Sergei Loznitsa’s Mr. Landsbergis [+], premiered at IDFA in 2021, Mantas Kvedaravičius’ Mariupolis 2 [+] premiered at Cannes in 2022 and Tomas Vengris‘ recent Five and a Half Love Stories in an Apartment in Vilnius, Lithuania [+], premiered this month in Black Nights. As minor co-producer Studio Uljana Kim produced feature films such as Sergei Loznitsa’s A Gentle Creature [+] and The Natural History of Destruction [+]. Uljana Kim has co-produced ten films with Eurimages’ support, six of which as a majority producer.

Text and photo taken from Cineuropa of today.

Verzio Budapest

“This year marks the 20th edition of the Verzió International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival. From 22 to 29 November, the prominent film festival, a cinematic reflection of our current world, will present a renewed logo, a fresh image to match this year’s focus theme and an exceptionally rich program of 82 films. The key question this year is: Where are we headed?

The film program is impressive with “We will not Fade Away” by Ukrainian Alisa Kovalenko opening the festival in a couple of days and closing with “Nothing Compares” as a fine homage to Sinéad O’Connor made by Kathryn Ferguson. There is a section called Anthropocene where you find strong film as “Against the Tide” by Sarvnik Kaur and “Matter out of Place” by Nikolaus Geyerhalter. In a section named “Viewfinder” the festival has been looking for films that are “Exploring and expanding the dynamic concept of documentary, (where) the filmmakers are continuously experimenting with expressive ways of grasping reality with and through images. The films in this program look for novel approaches to storytelling, using both archival and contemporary images…”. Of course Lea Glob is there with “Apolonia,Apolonia” and Mark Cousins with “The March on Rome” and Alecu Solomon with “Arsenie. An Amazin Afterlife”.

And there are concerts, educational activities, a “young critic workshop” run by Pamela Cohn, one of the best critics and moderators, who are helping film festivals around the world and a DocLab that I will write about separately as I am part of it. I saw the guest list, many directors of the films to be shown will be there celebrating 20 years of a festival taking place in a European country full of political controversies towards the rest of the EU – but in a city with history and beauty. Congratulations with the two decades!

The website: https://verzio.org/en/2023/catalog

Adnan Patwardhan: The World is Family

A quote from an interview made by Aseem Chhabr for rediff.com (you can google it) October 12 2023: “In his latest documentary, The World is Family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam), Patwardhan takes us through the lives of his late parents and other family members, all of whom were part of India’s freedom movement. He also shares photographs of family members with leaders of India’s freedom movement. The result is a heartwarming essay where the filmmaker reveals the basis of his political understanding…For nearly a decade, I was filming my parents because they were getting old and I wanted to preserve their memory. Only later on, because of the oral history that was coming out from talking to them, that I thought this might be interesting to other people.”

And the IDFA synopsis:

Anand Patwardhan has been making documentaries about socially and politically charged subjects for more than 50 years. In 2018 he won the IDFA Award for the best feature length documentary for Reason, which examines the rise of the extreme right in his home country of India. While he stays closer to home in The World Is Family, world history is never far away. Patwardhan filmed his parents when they were elderly, and when he watches these old home movies again ten years after their death, he realizes that the story of his family extends far beyond purely personal nostalgia.

Patwardhan grew up in an artistic and political family. His mother was a respected ceramist who as a young woman had to leave her birthplace of Hyderabad, in present-day Pakistan. His father’s brothers fought for the independence of India. Both sides of the family were at the forefront of the struggle for independence and the subsequent Partition. From the moving domestic scenes of the bickering elderly couple emerges a far broader narrative—about courage, independence, and justice.

India, 2023, 96 mins.

IDFA Winners 2023


The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) has announced the winners of this year’s festival.

  • IDFA Award for Best Film – International Competition: 1489, dir. Shoghakat Vardanyan
  • IDFA Award for Best Directing – International Competition: Life Is Beautiful, dir. Mohamed Jabaly
  • IDFA Award for Best Editing – International Competition: The World Is Family, editor Anand Patwardhan
  • IDFA Award for Best Cinematography – International Competition: Flickering Lights, cinematographers Anupama Srinivasan, Vandita Jain and Mrinmoy Mondal
  • IDFA Award for Best Film – Envision Competition: Canuto’s Transformation, dir. Ariel Kuaray Ortega and Ernesto de Carvalho
  • IDFA Award for Best Directing – Envision Competition: Silence of Reason, dir. Kumjana Novakova
  • IDFA Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution – Envision Competition: Canuto’s Transformation, dir. Ariel Kuaray Ortega and Ernesto de Carvalho
  • IDFA DocLab Award for Immersive Non-Fiction: Turbulence: Jamais Vu, dir. Ben Joseph Andrews and Emma Roberts
  • Special Jury Award for Creative Technology for Immersive Non-Fiction: Natalie’s Trifecta, dir. Natalie Paneng
  • IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling: Anouschka, dir. Tamara Shogaolu
  • Special Jury Award for Creative Technology for Digital Storytelling: Borderline Visible, dir. Ant Hampton
  • Special Mention – IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling: Despelote, dir. Julián Cordero and Sebastian Valbuena
  • IDFA Award for Best Short Documentary: At That Very Moment, dir. Rita Pauls and Federico Luis Tachella
  • Special Mention – Short Documentary: My Father, dir. Pegah Ahangarani
  • IDFA Award for Best Youth Documentary (13+): Sister of Mine, dir. Mariusz Rusiński
  • IDFA Award for Best Youth Documentary (9-12): And a Happy New Year, dir. Sebastian Mulder
  • Special Mention – Youth Documentary Competition: Boyz, dir. Sylvain Cruiziat
  • IDFA Award for Best First Feature: Chasing the Dazzling Light, dir. Yaser Kassab
  • IDFA Award for Best Dutch Film: Gerlach, dir. Aliona van der Horst and Luuk Bouwman
  • Special Mention – Best Dutch Film: Mother Suriname – Mama Sranan, dir. Tessa Leuwsha
  • Beeld & Geluid IDFA ReFrame Award: Selling a Colonial War, dir. In-Soo Radstake
  • Special Mention – Beeld & Geluid IDFA ReFrame Award: Milisuthando, dir. Milisuthando Bongela
  • FIPRESCI Award: 1489, dir. Shoghakat Vardanyan
  • IDFA Forum Award for Best Pitch: Son of the Streets, dir. Mohammed Almughanni
  • IDFA Forum Award for Best Rough Cut: Coexistence, My Ass!, dir. Amber Fares
  • IDFA DocLab Forum Award: Turbulence, dir. Ben Joseph Andrews and Emma Roberts

Maj Wechselmann: Min Mor

The film was presented at the Baltic Sea Docs 2013 in Riga and Maj Wechselmann was there, not only to present her film project about her mother but also – with her long experience as documentary director – she helped and encouraged the younger filmmakers present. I had the chance to watch a 55 mins. version of the film (original 76 mins.) due to the excellent initiative of Swedish Television, SVT Play, that once a week presents a documentary classic that (some of them) can also be seen outside Sweden – so if you understand/read Swedish, you have access, for free.

This fine offer from SVT has an editor, Lars Säfström, who also used to visit Riga for the pitch. Redaktør Säfström…

som han omtales, har skrevet denne fine omtale af Maj Wechselmann og hendes film:

En dokumentärfilm kan ha ambitionen att få publiken att se världen på ett nytt eller åtminstone annorlunda sätt. Ibland kan den till och med sträva efter att förändra världen genom att övertyga eller upplysa oss om samhällets brister eller missförhållanden. Filmaren blir då aktivist i sin strävan att få oss på andra tankar och filmen blir ett medel som manar till aktion och politiskt ställningstagande. Problemet med aktivistfilmer är att de så lätt blir propagandistiska och som sådana har en tendens att bara nå de som redan är övertygade om det filmen vill övertyga om.

Maj Wechselmann är en av Sveriges mest engagerade och stridbara filmare. Hon har gjort en rad filmer som tar en klar politisk och ibland medvetet provokativ ståndpunkt. Det har handlat om allt från unga flickor på en chokladfabrik till kamp mot kärnkraft, EU, och militärindustrin. Mest känd är hon kanske för sin film om stridsflygplanet Viggen från 1973.
Men hon har också gjort en rad filmer som lyfter fram starka kvinnor; journalisten Bang, författaren Moa Martinsson. Till den senare kategorin hör filmen om hennes egen mor.

Hundra år efter mammans födelse reser hon tillbaka i hennes fotspår och träffar överlevare och vittnen. Med hjälp av stillbilder, dokument, arkivfilmer och rekonstruktioner berättar hon hennes historia, från de fasansfulla pogromerna i Ukraina i förra seklets början fram till efterkrigstidens Köpenhamn. Hon skildrar hur hennes mamma radikaliseras i mötet med de usla arbetsförhållandena för textilarbetare i Montreal men samtidigt hur det förflutna ständigt jagar henne. I filmen säger Maj Wechselmann: ”Mamma, du var så rädd för att vi båda skulle dö, så jag blev rädd för att leva.”

Filmen Min mor är kanske Maj Wechselmanns mest personliga film men också, som alla hennes filmer, ett klart politiskt ställningstagande mot övergrepp och förföljelse och som alltid på de svagas och utsattas sida.  

Maria Fredriksson: Miraklet i Gullspång

En Spøjs film. Synonymer: Snurrig, Pudsig. Iflg. en ordbog “sjov på en uventet måde”. Det er ihvertfald svært at kategorisere denne film, som i løbet af sine 108 minutter tager nogle drejninger, som er uventede, og sjove, for personerne i filmen opfører sig anderledes end dem vi normalt møder i dokumentarfilm om problemer eller overraskelser i familien, som er hvad Kari og May støder på, da de en dag sidder overfor Olaug, som de ser som deres afdøde søster Lita’s tvilling, som de aldrig har mødt. En genforening i fryd og gammen… næh, en start på en historie fuld af de overraskelser, som ellers er få i dokumentarfilm. Hvem lyver, siger instruktøren desperat på et tidspunkt; hun fik historien serveret af søstrene Kari og May, dykkede ned i den som en anden detektiv og gav os tilskuere den underholdning, som må komme frem, når de troende norske søstre, fra landet i Norge, møder Olaug som er vokset op i luksus, har været officer i hæren, er ikke-troende og vil finde ud af om Lita, hendes tvillingesøster døde for egen hånd eller…

Der er nogle herlige scener, nej der er mange herlige scener, da Olaug besøger familien ude på landet, hvor en bror og hans familie holder til, hvor hun bor i en campingvogn så længe hun kan holde ud at være med sin familie. Eller er det nu familie? Hvad skal vi tro? Skal vi overhovedet tro på noget eller nogen? Et mysterium foldes ud, mennesker træder i karakter og det er mennesker med karaktertræk, vi kan genkende – som Kari, May, Olaug og broren Arnt. Kig dig omkring i din egen familie! Spøjs og skøn film!

Norge, Danmark, Sverige, 2023, 108 mins.

Agniia Galdanova: Queendom

I was not in the jury of the CPH:DOX this year but I agree totally with the motivation to give the film an award:

Urgent and Political, this award goes to a powerful and intimate coming of age story about an Outsider within her family and her country. With exquisite gentleness and outstanding visual beauty, the film quietly builds upon itself, ultimately crescending into a loud and expressive rebellion and rallying cry against a brutal regime and its attempts to violently control and intimidate both young and old generations. In this present moment, it’s impossible not to recognize the bravery of both the protagonist and the filmmaker. This film will remain a breathtaking and striking reminder of arts role in speaking truth to power.”

… and it is a heartbreaking story to follow Gena Marvin’s unsuccessful attempt to reconcile with the grandparents, who live 8 hours flight away from Moscow, in Magadan, where Gena is born. The grandfather wants him to have an education and when he is kicked out of a make up school because he was present at a demonstration for Navalnyj, grandfather stresses that Gena (Gennadiy) should at least earn some money on his performing art in the streets, wearing high heels and amazing costumes. The film includes small video performances where you can see the artistic skills of Gena Marvin. At the end we see him in Paris calling grandma and grandfather, excellent dramaturgical build of a strong and touching documentary about the right denied to be different.

USA, France, 2022, 98 mins.

Alisa Kovalenko & Simon Lereng Wilmont: Girl Away from Home

This is the IDFA catalogue description: Nastia is a gymnast in Kyiv, training intensively with her four teammates for the Ukrainian National Championships. At other times they make dance clips, perform acrobatic feats, and giggle a lot. Nastia knows that together they can achieve anything. But then the war breaks out, and Nastia’s parents send her to her grandmother in Germany, hoping that the separation will be temporary.

In this youth documentary, Nastia speaks in voice-over about how she’s experienced this intense year—how she had to leave the country in a hurry and was then stuck indoors in a German apartment block for weeks on end. She sadly re-watches the carefree clips she made just a short time ago with her besties. On the phone to her parents, she bravely tells them all is well. But it’s not. She’s wondering whether she’ll ever see her homeland again.

Nastia only starts feeling a bit better once she has joined a local gymnastics club in Germany. The war is still raging, but the surroundings now feel like a kind of home. A story about a resilient girl, strong family ties, friendships, and the solace you can find in sport.

Ukraine, Norway, 2023, 22 mins.

IDFA Calls for an Immediate Ceasefire

At IDFA we believe in the value of life, and in the universal dream of a peaceful world. We respect the pain and the huge loss on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides of the on-going conflict. We stand by the families of all victims and condemn all acts of killing. We hope that all hostages are returned safely to their families, and that a new beginning becomes possible, where both sides have the right to exist, where children are safe and empowered, and where they can dream of the future, and then make a better future for everybody.

Today, as the escalation of a cycle of violence that extends back over decades is raging and reaching new heights. The tolls of death keep rising, and the most vulnerable are unwilling victims.

We believe that documentary filmmakers, Palestinian, Israeli, and from all over the world have already warned us, repeatedly, and told us, in uncompromising films, that violence will only escalate, with rising nationalism, rising radicalization, prevailing hopelessness, and continuous dehumanization. 

To acknowledge the suffering of the Palestinian people today does not mean ignoring the pain of the victims on the Israeli side. All pain is respected, and all this killing must stop. The world of arts and culture has a responsibility towards this, and IDFA acknowledges that. 

We call for an immediate ceasefire, immediate humanitarian aid, a restoration of basic services and infrastructure, so that peace can have a chance someday.

Read here the statement from IDFA and Artistic Director about the events of the Opening Night.

Olya Chernykh: A Picture To Remember 

Hello Olya, how are you sweetheart? The voice of Babuschka Zorya from Donetsk, the hometown of Olya, who is now living in Kyiv with her father and mother. The film is built in a way that I as a viewer look forward to the next call Olya makes to Zorya to hear, how she is. They are and have always been close! An 80 year old woman full of life, who has had an important role in the life of Olya. The film is a gem, (also) when it comes to a family archive that includes – as family footage always does – gatherings around the table, lots of material from when mum and dad were married, when Olya was a baby and learned the names of her family and so on so forth. All of that held together of a personal voice narration of Olya, and that’s where the pain comes in, the pain of February 24 2022, when everything changed and the family left Zorya and Donetsk, “the city with millions of roses and coal”. We get glimpses of what it was, a rich city – and now…

Yes, it is a family film, memories and today, as she says, Olya, who originally wanted to make a film about her mother’s working place, a morgue! Now the morgue is a fine location with the mother and her colleagues, lots of humorous conversations and a birthday party for the mother, and a scene with a cleaning lady who wants to stop working there as the salary per month is 50€!

The challenge with a family film is of course to find the tone of the film and give it a flow and an atmosphere… I was not bored at any moment, I loved the family members, also the father who was painting during the night, a very good painter, would have loved to have more of him in the film, but a wise decision to focus on the three generations of women and their lives.

Hello grandmother, how are you… They are bombing all the time, Olya, I have changed all the windows, but let’s not talk about sad things. And at a zoom call in beforehand this fantastic woman looks like a samurai, Olya says to the woman, who wanted Olya to be in the sun to have a fine teint when a teenager. A sweet film it is, taken from a family’s love to each other, memories, also tough ones as the family is displaced from Donetsk, excellent editing work by Polish Kasia Boniecka.