2012 Documentaries

Yes, it was again a good year for the documentaries. New forms, hybrid, personal, came up with the classical engaged and committed Film still going strong in times of crisis. Yes, Film with a capital F. Yes, most of the festivals reported about an increase of audience, who went to watch the films on the big screen. Yes, there were more documentaries released in the cinemas than before, at least in many countries that I know about. Yes, it is generally easier to get to watch good documentaries online via vod’s like the DOCAlliance. The eternal question ”but where can I see these documentaries” is easier to answer, again at least in many countries I know about. Where good people do a great job to promote and arrange screenings and debates. Of course the festivals do so but ”outside” festival time there are (often weekly or monthly) initiatives to be noticed, like in Catalunuya, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark… 

No, the public broadcasters did not increase their budgets for the creative documentaries. It is much more difficult to obtain finances from them than before but television is still the most important ”window” for documentaries, in many countries. No, there is not yet a European or World Fund for the Creative Documentary – but there are many smaller funds, bravo for that, and for the consistent support from the EUMedia Programme, and on a smaller scale wonderful that Jan Vrijman Fund continues with a new name, IDFA Bertha Fund, not the most poetic one by the way! No, as far as I know, it is still not possible to make a living as a documentary director unless you are one of the few, but important names, who make contracts with the anglo-saxon broadcasters. I have earned my money on teaching, not on making films, said legendary Richard Leacock, whose memoirs ”The Feeling of Being There” is the best film book that has come out for years.

Below, you find what I found to be the best documentaries of 2012, in alphabetical order, followed by a list of talented, upcoming directors works, which have impressed me greatly, and from whom you hope for more to come. For both categories,these are films that I have seen at festivals or online – thank you to IDFA Docs for Sale, Filmkontakt Nord, DOCAlliance and East Silver. Several of the films I have known since they existed as projects.

Happy New Year!

Photo: El Huaso, by Carlo Guillermo Proto

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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