Chaim Litewski: Citizen Boilesen

Danish born Henning Albert Boilesen was a succesful businessman during the military dictatorship in Brazil in the 60’es. He went to the top, had close contact to the rulers of the country, and as many other industrialists in Sao Paulo, he contributed financially to the operation of the OBAN that was set up by the government to fight the subversive revolutionary groups in the country. But not only was he contributing to the fight against the communists, he was said to hate, but he also, it is stated by several of the interviewed people in the documentary, personally witnessed or took part in the torture that was performed by the OBAN. In April 1971 he was brutally machine-gunned to death in the streets of Sao Paulo.

In this very well researched story, the narrative elements are constituted by interviews with former military people and historians, journalists, ex-militants – and people from his childhood community in Denmark, by clips from feature films, by an enormous amount of official and family photos and by archive material from the time where a climate of fear must have reigned in Brazil. In other words, an impressive piece of journalism. Serious stuff put in contrast to light (kind-of) bar music and quick, often playful editing. This is where I have my doubts and criticism of the otherwise convincing and maybe especially for a Dane interesting story about Boilesen, one of many who were on the side of the oppressors. Could another take on the story, some times during the story, have provoked more drama, more intensity through breaks in the format, through a different rythm and different sound design instead of having the same storytelling flow regardless the themes in the film? In order to show and not only tell that Boilesen had a dualism in his character – a sadist and a charming positive person as well. I can see the danger of making a story like this into something heavy and over-serious, but I also sense a touch of tabloid in the choice. (Like I saw in the recent film on Baader-Meinhof). Having said so, thanks for bringing this story to a Dane, who had never heard about Boilesen and his torture pianola sending electric shocks through the prisoners! And thanks for reminding us of the traumatic recent past of Brazil.    

2009, Brazil, 93 mins.
Winner 1st Prize National competition at It’s All True 2009

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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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