AmDocs Palm Springs

It was one of these pleasant surprises. Last summer I got a FB message from a Teddy Grouya, who invited me to come to his festival in California. The surprise was double as he wrote to me in Danish (well not perfect but totally understandable). We met in Leipzig, where the kind and committed man told me more about his festival and revealed that he had been in Denmark in his youth as a student. And there we are – I will be in Palm Springs March 27-31, where the festival runs its third edition. In the following I have taken quotes from the website of the festival that shows documentaries, short and long, and animation films from the US and the rest of the world.

“This year, the American Documentary Film Festival and Film Fund will screen over 100 films over its five day run at three Coachella Valley venues. “We’re utilizing six screens this year,” said Festival Director and Founder, Ted Grouya. “It will be our largest festival ever.””

My visit to AmDocs include three elements. I am going to be a juror for 10 American feauture docs, I am to be on a panel with critics and film writers and I am invited to observe the Film Fund Pitch Competition.

Some words about the latter first: “In addition to our annual 5-day film festival, we are proud to share the American Documentary Film Fund with independent American filmmakers who will participate and compete for financing for new projects as well as works in progress.  An amount up to $50,000 may be awarded or distributed in any given year. A panel of film industry professionals will review a select group of documentary filmmaker projects for funding consideration. Filmmakers will provide detailed story outlines and budgets for their works in progress or new projects. Filmmakers will screen a five (5) minute preview of their film projects before the industry panel and take part in a 10 minute Q&A.” It sounds like the way we do it in Europe, but is there an American touch?

And words about the films at the festival that The MovieMaker Magazine nominated the festival as ”one of the world’s coolest documentary film

festivals”: ”Opening night gala includes the screening of Julie Cohen’s ”I Live to Sing” with in-person vocal performances by the film’s cast and a Q&A with the director.” The film “is a documentary and performance film following three of the opera school’s top students through a year in the program. Cohen & her team travel with the students from their townships, where they’ve faced financial hardship (and, in some cases, health struggles) to Cape Town, where they perform in the city’s Opera Hall (once a flash point in the anti-apartheid movement), and to New York, where they sing at the prestigious Glimmerglass Festival.”

Actuality – “On March 2, 2014, Academy Award®-winning director Malcolm Clarke won a second Oscar® for the moving, uplifting, and brilliantly-told story of Alice Herz Sommer, the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor.  Alice, at age 109 during filming, has been a pianist and teacher during her extraordinary life, and — in the film — still treats her neighbors almost daily to the same beautiful piano music she’s been playing for over a century.” “The Lady in no.6” will be shown at Amdocs, PHOTO. 

And many many more films that (especially the Americans) I have not seen, including ”two episodes of Oliver Stone’s series ”Untold History of The United States”… Here is a re-examination of some of the under-reported and darkest parts of American modern history using little known documents and newly uncovered archival material.  We see beyond official versions of events to the deeper causes and implications, and explore how pivotal moments from the past still have resonant themes for the present day.” 

From abroad – there are pretty many German films but also films from Iran and China. There is the Polish ”Deep Love” by Jan P. Matuszynski, ”Before the Revolution” (in Iran) by Dan Shadur and Babak Heymann, ”Chimeras” on two Chinese artists by Finnish Mika Mattila, Stefan Tolz film from Georgia ”Full Speed Westward”, ”Normalization” by Robert Kirchhoff from Slovakia, three Danish films– many filmmakers are present and the films run from morning till night.

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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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