Baltic Sea Docs 2017

… is over. During two days 24 projects were presented in a good atmosphere on the top floor of Albert Hotel in Riga. Business as usual from an organisational point of view but with fresh projects at different levels of development. Some had just come back from first days of shooting, some lacked some shooting and some had a rough cut or were entering final stage of editing. That’s how it is, the decision makers and broadcasters know it, as do the filmmakers. They also know that positive remarks from the panelists do not necessarily mean that a pre-sale/distribution contract can be signed. It takes time and the most common remark in a pitching session like this still is: I want to see more. However my gut feeling is that many will profit from the forum, and that many good films will arrive.

The photo is taken today (by the forum photographer, Latvian Agnese Zeltina). The old man moderating is congratulating the filmmakers with a fine presentation of ”Journey to the End of the Night”, the last production at the forum, pitched by skilled and experienced Estionian Max Tuula and directed by Russian Ksenia Elyan, who has filmed nomadic families living above the Arctic Circle with a focus on the children and their teacher, who comes to stay in the darkest months of the year – to teach. And they are so bright these kids and ask clever questions that could challenge any grown-up, questions like: when does the universe stop or similar more existential questions.

I leave the workshop with quite an increase of knowledge of what

goes on in Russia now and what went on before. The ”Telebridge” documentary project, written by Rira Ruduša and Ivo Briedis, and to be produced by local strong production company Mistrus Media, is searching for an answer to whether ”Homo Sovjeticus” is still around, and where does he sit in your body? Head or Heart…

”Teacher’s Day” by Yulia Vishnevets is to tell the story of two young teachers, who arrive to a local, provincial school with the intention of changing the old Soviet-style way of pedagogics. The super-energetic director had filmed the first school day, September 1st, with all its rituals. The film crew will follow the teachers and the school for a year.

Space for mention of three more Russian stories: ”Provincial Town of E” directed by Dmitry Bogolyubov, I saw it already in Prague earlier this year and it is still a film that has a lot of potential with its alarming lot of Putinist propaganda that influences the town.

The favourite, however, at this year’s forum, was the Ukrainian ”Home Games” by Alisa Kovalenko, produced by French Stéphane Siohan. A social drama about a young female football player, who had to stop her carreer, when her mother died – to take care of her siblings. The couple has a rough cut and hopes for a premiere at the upcoming IDFA. Cross my fingers on their behalf. And the film, I was told, has a happy ending.

1968, 50 years ago, the invasion of Soviet troops into Prague. We remember it very well but I have never heard a story told from the occupier’s point of view, which is what offers by Latvian producer Sergei Serpuhov and Ukrainian director Anna Kryvenko – an archive based documentary that takes its start in the director’s family, where a great-uncle, who was in Prague as a soldier took his own life because of the traumas he experienced.

If there had been an award for the best trailer, and I was the juror, it could have gone to ”My Unknown Soldier” – or to the Danish team with producer Lise Lense-Møller and director Kristoffer Hegnsvad for their surprisingly strong ”The Bus Stop Hunter”. I think most of the panelists were sceptical when they read the text about Soviet bus stops, but changed their minds when they saw and listened to the energetic Canadian photographer Christopher Herwig hunting the fantastic bus stops you can find in the provinces of former USSR, built with a fine sense of aesthetics. Some of them are funny, some are also beautiful. What an interesting angle for a film about Soviet Union – and Russia today.

Panelists – We were quite lucky to have Kenan Aliyev from Current Time channel at the table. The Czech-based channel broadcasts to Russian language areas. He showed interest in acquiring many of the Russian stories as well as projects from Georgia and Latvia. Otherwise tv veterans from YLE (Sari Volanen) and Estonian TV (Marje Jurtshenko) were there as was, for the first time, SVT’s Lars Säfström. And many sales agents who have to find out when is the best moment to step in – when the film is unfinished or when it is finished?  





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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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