ArtdocFest in Riga

Well, I should have been in Riga now, where the International Film Festival is one day old, and were it goes on until the end of the month. It is a festival with many sections: a tribute to Ingmar Bergman, a competition for fiction films, Latvian and Baltic films… and, the reason why I should have been there: Artdocfest Riga with 21 documentaries, competitive with legendary theatre director Alvis Hermanis as one of the jurors. The festival, founded and run by Vitaly Mansky, who now lives and works out of Riga, presents itself like this on the festival’s website:

ARTDOCFEST/RIGA constitutes the documentary section of the RIGA IFF. It’s not merely a programme of thought-provoking and outstanding documentaries from across the world, but also a platform for meetings, roundtable and panel discussions conducted by international media representatives. All the film screenings of this selection are Latvian premieres and the presence of the authors is ensured. Starting from 2018, this programme showcases the full competition programme of the most significant festival of documentary films in Russia – Artdocfest.

Let me mention some of the films that I would love to watch:

Sergei Loznitsa’s “The Trial”, the website description goes like this: “Moscow, USSR. 1930. The Pillar Hall of the State House of the Unions. A group of top rank economists and engineers is put on trial accused of plotting a coup d’etat against the Soviet government.   Unique archive footage reconstructs one of the first show trials, masterminded by Stalin, which unfolds as a theatrical performance with actors – prosecutors, witnesses, defendants, judges – lying to themselves, to the audience and to the world. The drama is real, but the story is fake. The film gives an unprecedented insight into the origins of a deadly regime, which made the slogan “Lie is Truth” its everyday reality.” Loznitsa’s way of dealing with archive is exceptional, luckily I can pick up this film at DOKLeipzig.

Other films are talented Dmitry Kabakov, who presents ”Circumstances of the Place and Time” with immigration as the theme, “Our Africa” by Alexander Markov about the Soviets in Africa to – as said on the website – “document the “glorious advance” of socialism on the continent”. I saw a rough version of the film and it is well made with wonderful use of archive.

And the touching – watch the trailer – “The Son” by Alexander Abaturov, described as this “Dima was killed on the 23rd of May 2013 at the age of 21. Enlisted in the Russian army, he was shot in the head during a military operation in Dagestan. His parents face the void following his death, whilst the army continues to train young soldiers for future missions. The two universes intertwine to portray what Dima’s life was like and its brutal end.”

I could go on but let me mention the films I have already seen and can recommend:

“Delta” by Olexandr Techynsky –

“Home Games” by Alisa Kovalenko –

“My Father is my Mother’s Brother” (photo) by Vadym Ilkov – have not reviewed the film but seen it and praised it to producer Darya Bassel.

All three are from Ukraine, “The Distant Barking of Dogs” is shot there by Danish director Simon Leeng Wilmont –

Impressive programme, unique chance for catching up on important and – in many cases – controversial documentaries.

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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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