Ben Kempas:Upstream Battle:The Story

This is one of those films that you can only appreciate: It takes you to a place in the world that you (I) don’t know anything about. It has some charismatic characters who fight for a cause. You get to know and love them. It has a strong and relevant, universal story that is straight forwardly well told. With a development. Something happens, it is complex but you are well informed about what.

A rich film in other words, because the director-cameraman has taken his time – years – to do a deep research and to get close to the characters to gain their trust. Which goes both for the native Americans, who see their life and culture at the Klamath river north of California threatened by the big hydroelectric dams that they want to be taken down – and for their opponents who work for the energy companies that make a profit but also claim that they have an environmental profile. The consequences of the dams are that the salmon that used to swim upstream the river has almost disappeared. Bring the salmon home, is the message from the tribes.

People from several tribes are in the film, I can’t mention them all, so let me highlight the couple, Merv and Wendy, he a big tattooed man, who beautifully explains to us the rituals and religion attached to the Hoopa tribe, she, a mother of four, the spokeswoman for the battle, emotional – a great couple with four children that you are surprised to see at the same time live a modern American life, totally skilled when it comes to modern communication. The fight goes on, as it is said on the site of the film: Their struggle may trigger the largest dam removal project in history.

Photo: To the left the couple Merv and Wendy George, to the right the director.

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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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