Best Documentaries 2016/ Intro

2016… should I choose 20 or 16 as the Best Documentaries I have seen this year. I took 16. They appear in a random order. I have not put them in order of 1, 2, 3 etc. with 1 being the best. Should I be asked if any of the films stand out: Yes, Abbas Fahdel’s extraordinary 5 hour long ”Homeland, Iraq Year Zero”. I was lucky to be a jury member at the Dokufest in Prizren, where the film was shown. It was my first visit to the festival in Kosovo that has found its own fine way of treating the audience with documentaries of artistic quality.

Other three of the films on the list I enjoyed at the well programmed DOK Leipzig: Sergei Loznitsa’s ”Austerlitz”, Vitaly Mansky’s ”Close Relations” and Miroslav Janek’s ”Normal Autistic Film”, which of course also reveal my love to documentaries from the Eastern part of Europe. 2016 brought a new film by Lithuanian master Audrius Stonys as well as the chamberplay by Pawel Lozinski ”You have no Idea How Much I Love You” that had its premiere at the festival in Krakow that also premiered talented Piotr Stasik’s NY film ”21 x New York”. I have high expectations to his next film(s) as I have to Georgian Salomé Jashi, whose beautiful ”The Dazzling Light of Sunset” is on the list as is Serbian Ognjen Glavonic with his ”Depth Two”.

But it is not all Eastern docs, there are three American films on the list: Laura Israel’s film on ”Robert Frank, Don’t Blink”, Kirsten Johnson’s ”Cameraperson” and Raoul Peck’s ”I am not Your Negro”. The two last ones are on the way to be Oscar nominated, I cross my fingers.

From IDFA, Amsterdam I picked ”Machines” by Indian Rahul Jain, ”Mogadishu Soldier” by Torstein Grude and Niels Pagh Andersen and ”Liberation Day” by Ugis Olte and Morten Traavik. And from DocsBarcelona Argentinian Martin Solá’s ”Chechen Family”.

16 films that will stay in my mind. And 16 films we have written about in reviews or note-wise on this site. 2016, a good year for artistic documentaries.

The photo is from Dokufest, Prizren, Lumbhardi Cinema.

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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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