CPH:DOX 2017 /Forum

2 days of Forum at the CPH:DOX March 22-23. I was there to check out what is happening with the ”creative and visually strong film projects”, that the CPH:FORUM ”financing and co-production event” is set up to help. Are great documentary films that use the language of cinema coming up? Concluding impressions at the end of this text.

First the venue, the new ”palace” of CPH:DOX, Charlottenborg in central Copenhagen near the harbour area. An absolute improvement for the ambitious festival. Lively activities inside and outside in the courtyards. Open to the public were several activities – discussions on subjects of today’s world.

The Forum took place in the colourful (see photo) Social Cinema, a very good place, a bit too hot, some called it a sauna, but I sat well and heard and saw, what was going on up there on the stage, where Tribeca’s Ingrid Kopp and Sundance’s Tabitha Jackson were moderating. They did that well. Not an easy task as most of the pitchers and panelists talked too much and went over the 14 minutes dedicated to each project. 300 projects had been submitted, 30 were picked. With overlapping categories ”fictionnonfiction”, ”cinema”, ”f:act”, ”art”.

In its presentation of the Forum, CPH:DOX circles around big names, well-known auteurs, who unfortunately were not there in persona, but were presented by producers, who often had brought

along videos, where directors like Hubert Sauper, Roberto Minervini, Sally Potter and Jørgen Leth talk about their project. It created respectful comments from the panelists – 4 per project, changing from project to project – but it is obvious that a dialogue with the director present would have been much better. Much depends on the visuals presented and for Sauper and Minervini it was almost impossible to see what that could lead to. Tabitha Jackson, one of the moderators, argued that ”the creative process is messy”, yes, but the visuals presented on occasions like this must at least be attractive. Sauper and Minervini had put no work into it.

Sally Potter, however, with ”Oh Moscow”, had made an explanatory fascinating video with herself in the picture, ”a musical film using solely archive footage, based on a song cycle inspired by the cold war, drawing parallels between past and present”. My reaction: I want to see that film. With Jørgen Leth the same, our great great filmmaker, who was warmly presented by producer Sigrid Dyekjær who takes care of the project together with Jacob Thuesen, who had made a brilliant teaser for ”I Walk”, I knew that project in beforehand, I was moved to see and hear Jørgen talk about what it means to be close to 80 and have problems with walking. He talks about slowness, about his postponing getting out of bed in the morning, about life and love. Nothing new if you know Jørgen Leth but from a new perspective.

CPH:FORUM wants to be different. With the selection this year they were not. Lea Glob and Andreas Koefoed want to make a film about ”United Nations – The End of the Beginning”, yes, I will watch the film because I know they can make something interesting, but what they showed was nothing special, maybe too early for the pitch? Andrei Nekrasov was not able to communicate why he wants to make a sequel to ”Magnitsky Act”. The American ”Alt-Right” was pure journalism without any creativity shown, ”The Second Israel” was categorized under ”Cinema”, I could not see why, ”Jozi Gold” the same but with a charismatic main character so maybe a Film will come up …

Too American? Well, there were many projects from the US and many from other countries dealing with American reality. And the majority of the panelists invited to the stage to comment were from the US. Of course it is questionable, why there are no projects from Asia, from Eastern and Central Europe (there was Filp Remunda from Czech Republic), from South America. Do they not apply? Do they consider the Forum to be élitiste?

Anyway, two of the American projects I look forward to see as finished films: Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack) had wonderful visual material to accompany her ”Skate Girl” as had RaMell Ross, a photographer’s first feature documentary with ”Hale County this Morning, this Evening” from the Black Belt region in the US. Both of them were present and had prepared fine texts for their presentation.

All right, let me give the benefit of the doubt to photographer Seamus Murphy and his ”Staring Through the Glass”, where he follows PJ Harvey making a new album inspired by his photos and their common travelling – the problem was the classical at pitching sessions: Sympathetic Murphy told the audience that the film is not going to be as the trailer… Very well received was ”Sisters With Transistors” by Lisa Rovner, a story about female pioneers in electronic music. Great archive material did the job.

What happened at the individual meetings after the two days of Forum, I have no idea, hopefully there were inspiring dialogues between those, who make the films and those who need them for distribution in theatres or on television.

A professional event, full house, good atmosphere, a more precise project selection is needed with a wider geographical spread and with the stressing of the artistic/cinema language. FILMS, please!


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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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