Camilla Magid: Land of the Free

Time, yes, again Time means everything for many documentaries. And the other big T, Talent. And of course the most important quality for the documentarian, who cares… curiosity and compassion, maybe that is a big word, but in this case also a word that fits to the work done by a group of people, an NGO of volunteers, in Los Angeles, a priest, a psychologist/therapist and other social workers, who want to help people and families suffering from longer or shorter emprisonments. Camilla Magid, caring and compassionate, share the ambition to take strong human stories to the audience and she does it so well, because she has taken her time – the film is shot over a period of two years – and because she has a strong filmic talent as she already showed in her 2012 documentary ”White Black Boy”.

The film is structured around meetings in this Continuum, where

former inmates present their life stories. Three of them constitute the film: Brian, out from prison after 24 years convicted for murder, Mexican origin Juan out after being in for drug sales and Gianni, 7 years old, his mother was in for three years.

Brian is the main character, the others come second. BUT, Brian, what a character description and development, no fiction film could have made such a convincing and truthful portrait as Camilla Magid has done: In the beginning it is all outlined, Brian, 42 years old, stands at a highway where cars are passing at high speed. Wow, he says, drinking a starbucks coffee, delicious he says, did not know that coffee could taste like this. Slowly the story is built so fine, how to get a work, a place to stay, how to be intimate with women, how to meet his mother, what is e-mail and so on so forth. It is made with sensitivity and – sorry for that word again – care, your sympathy for Brian goes up and up, you want him to succeed, HE wants to succeed, if he does or not I will not reveal, look for yourself.

And Gianni, OMG there is scene of desparation with him and his mother, there is beating but there is also clever Gianni, with a lot of traumas from his mother being away from him, and there is the mother, who wants he boy to get away from the street and the violence, that he sees and hears every bloody day.

And the young father Juan, who comes out but can’t stay away from the drugs and the related Easy Money, you can earn in the streets, in again and out…

Far too many who get out, end up in jail again, says Mr. Richard, the psychologist/therapist who takes part in the Continuum meetings and is the one, who formulates the film’s strongest criticism of the lack of perspective in the authorities way of giving former inmates a chance to get a life.

Brian goes back to the place where he 24 years ago took another man’s life. Filmed with respect and understanding as is everything in this work… (PHOTO: by Consuelo Althouse) Brian looks at Gianni, who is about to give the ones at the Continuum meeting some good news…

Denmark/Finland, 2017, 91 mins.  

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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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