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!