Being There – Leacock

I am in Ramallah in Palestine and have just completed a three day workshop with filmmakers from the West Bank and Gaza – the ones from Gaza connected through a videoconference. I am on the 8th floor of the Red Crescent Centre just outside the city, children are still playing football down on the pitch near the school, cars are passing on the motorroad, it is getting dark and chilly after a sunny sunday, which we (20 filmmakers and 6 tutors) could only enjoy from inside out. We have seen clips during the three days and I reminded the filmmakers about the always actual sentence of Richard Leacock: It is about being there. I remember him from the few workshops I attended with him, I remember his passion and commitment, and his wonderful enthusiasm when he was telling the new generations: Go there, observe, find the details which are interesting, be present, listen and watch, and bring it back home to the editing table to make it interesting and present for the audience. Make them feel that they are there. I am sure the words were not like that, but this is what he meant, and this is what the observational documentary has brought us at its best.

And being there… well, we have seen Israeli and Palestinian documentaries about being there… at the checkpoints, at the wall when soldiers have pointed their machine guns at Palestinians who try to make their pass into Israel, or when families mourn their dead relatives, or when humiliated women tear their passing-a-checkpoint paper into pieces, or when Israeli settlers get into fights with fellow Israelis and call them “nazi capo”! I could continue and can only admire the courage of the cameramen and –women on both sides of the wall. They are there, and some have a Leacock’s eye for the human detail just next to what is obviously the main focus, which is to be recorded as well. Being There. Where something happens that is important for all of us.

Still: Louisiana Story (1948) , camera Richard Leacock

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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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