Camilla Nielsson: Democrats

Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, directors of the Magnificent7 Festival in Belgrade present ”Democrats” that will be screened February 2nd at the festival. The text also includes words from the director:

One of the best Danish documentaries in past several years inspired by some legendary documentary masters like Richard Leacock, who started new era in documentary filmmaking entering with his camera in strictly closed official spaces. And Camilla Nielsson does the same, but in a foreign country, without the knowledge of the native language and under the constant threat of possible violence.

Over the course of more than three years director Camilla Nielsson has been up close in the inner circles of politics in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. With the process of creating Zimbabwe’s new constitution as the film’s narrative backbone, “Democrats” tells the story of a political elite fighting a battle over the founding principles defining the country’s possible future. Two political opponents are appointed to write the new constitution, and Camilla Nielsson has gained unique access to the thrilling political game being played between the two parties.

The film unfolds in ways that neither the director nor her main subjects could have foreseen. From unbelievably close range Camilla Nielsson develops her discrete and precise observing, transforming the political story into exciting and emotional anthropological study of main characters. Surprisingly she was immediately becoming invisible part of all events and cautiously revealing hidden conflicts that merge into thrilling drama, but finally into a fantastic film twist with catharsis. A brilliant example of how documentary can make complex processes comprehensible in a way that a thousand expert’s reports can not.

Director’s Word: The biggest challenge in making this film was filming a politically sensitive story in a country with a long history of both censorship and banning of foreign media. Also, being a country with no tradition for observational documentary filmmaking, roaming around in Zimbabwe as a white documentary-film crew, we caused quiet a circus at times, and our safety was often at risk. I think in my own case it has often been an advantage to be a woman, especially in some of the difficult places I have made my films. I think a male director would have had much more resistance in terms of access.

Denmark, 2014, 109 mins.

dfi.dk/faktaomfilm/film/da/79654.aspx?id=79654

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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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