Baltic Sea Forum – Public Pitching

24 projects were presented in Riga at the big hall of the Ministry of Agriculture (!) Saturday and Sunday. To a panel of 9 women and 5 men representing television or sales companies. Mikael Opstrup and I moderated the sessions that were planned efficiently and with warmth by Zanda Dudina-Spoge and her team from the National Film Centre of Latvia.

Time will show what will come out of it, but good advice, constructive criticism, contacts, “I am interested, let’s talk more” were expressed to the pitching teams that had been trained

some days in advance by editor Phil Jandaly, Aleksandar Govedarica from Syndicado, Head of Estonian Television channel 1 Marje Töemäe, Polish producer Anna Wydra and Romanian Alexander Nanau.

It is impossible to mention all 24 projects – you can read all about them on the website, link below. But let me highlight some of them.

… like 18C from Ukraine, presented by the producer Illia Gladshtein about a group of “devoted pipefitters (who) rush from home to home to tame hot fountains and… to sing”. Gladsthein (the director, not present, is Nadia Parfan) had a great trailer that cleverly charmed the panel in its pointing out that “outdated social structures do not fit into the modern economy but continue to exist”. The title refers to the temperature agreed to be the right one in houses in Ukraine.

… like “New Imperium” presented by well known Russian producer Vlad Ketkovich and director Anna Shishova-Bogolubova, who want to tell a story about a group of youngsters, who by a secret agent were trapped into being called extremists, were imprisoned and tortured “to confess to crimes they did not commit”. The trailer showed them sitting in one of these cages that we know from Russian court, but the main focus is on the parents of two of the imprisoned, who have totally lost their trust in a state that they believed in totally. Ketkovich started his pitch saying “Russia is famous” and indeed it is, also in terms of projects being presented in Riga this year.

… as said Estonian producer Riho Västrik to me: It is a place for Russian stories, well not totally, I answered, but a majority deals with the huge country. He was there with Russian Ksenia Okhapkina, who showed the most beautifully composed images in a trailer that took us to the industrial town of Apatity for a filmic essay, “The Immortal”, a dark story from a mining city “on the brink of an ecological disaster”. The most cinematic project in Riga this year, a scary concrete and philosophical reflection on patriotism.

…the winner, however, in terms of positive feedback from the panel was “The Other Side of the River” by the two brave young women, German Antonia Kilian, director – and camera student at the Konrad Wolf film school in Potsdam – and the creative producer Guevara Namer, who Mikael Opstrup and I met in Damascus as part of the team that built up the DOX BOX festival together with Orwa Nyrabia and Diana el Jeiroudi. They are now all in Berlin. Kilian and Namer presented with passion the story about young Hala, who is brought up in a family that supports ISIS but wants to have freedom, goes to join the Kurdish Women’s Police Force, receives military and ideological training, goes back to the hometown on the other side of the river, wants to “liberate” her smaller sisters from her father’s wish to arrange marriage, is taken away from the Police force and – as the filmmakers say – wants to find a way to handle her life. The last news, however, is that she is going to marry a man, who supports Assad! What a story…

I wrote that some were winners, however I hope that all projects took something from the workshop and the pitching, several were at an early stage and will come back to other pitching events, when the film ideas are more developed.

The panel… the women were strong. Natalia Arshavskaya from Current Time TV – she was there with Kenan Aliuyev – proved to be an excellent commentator, precise in her warm analysis of the projects; the same goes for the two sales agents, Gitte Hansen from First Hand Films in Switzerland and Aleksandra Derewienko from Cat&Docs in France, both of them have been at the BalticSeaDocs before and love it; for Mandy Chang from BBC’s Storyville it was the first time and she was a pleasure to have with her professionalism, always constructive in her comments as were another experienced commissioning editor Jutta Krug from WRD. No bad words about the men – it was a scoop for the event to have NHK’s Yoshihiko Ichiya, a professional, who also brings humour to the table!

Photo of Guevara Namer and Antonia Kilian by Agnese Zeltiņa

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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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