CPH:DOX 2017 /The Unforgiven

LARS FELDBALLE PETERSEN: THE UNFORGIVEN

1992. Celebici in Bosnia-Hercegovina. A prison camp for Serbs. Esad Landzo, 19 years old was a guard. He killed and tortured, he was one of the worst, say survivors who remember what ”Zenga”, his nickname, did to them and friends and relatives. In 1996 he was arrested and in 1998 sentenced to 15 years in prison at the Court in den Haag. He sat in a Finnish prison from 2003 till he was released in 2006. He now lives and is married in Finland.

Facts about a war criminal, who is the main protagonist of this important documentary that puts focus on the question whether you can forgive. Esad suffers after his release, ”my old demons come back, they don’t let me sleep”, ”I am a dead man walking”, ”I need my life back”. His life story is told, you meet his parents, there is archive material from the camp, showing strong emotional material of prisoners sitting in a squat position, waiting for the next atrocity to be committed. He visits a psychiatrist.

It all builds up to the confrontations. Esad writes to some of the former prisoners to ask if they will meet him. And the film takes its time to let us viewers meet them – before the confrontation – to hear, what they remember, and to see them get ready to meet Esad – at the camp. Several other people are built up as characters in the film. Accompanied by the man, who was a doctor at the camp, and who seems to be respected by the survivors, as well as by Esad, they come to meet Esad, who asks for forgiveness, ”I am not here to excuse”, ”I want to apologize”, he says to one after the other, a broken man talking to people, broken as well, they have scars on their souls – it is very tense, very sad to watch these authentic and actually mostly silent scenes that reminds you that the best documentaries do not give answers, they raise questions.

Lars Feldballe and his Finnish producer have worked on this film for years, with respect for the theme and the involved, they have avoided tabloid journalism to make a film that will have a long life ahead. Hopefully not only at festivals but also whereever post-war traumas are being dealt with. It deserves to be used like that.     

Finland/Denmark, 2017, 75 mins.

The film will be shown at CPH:DOX Monday 20.3 at 8pm Empire Bio, Wednesday 22.3 at 4.30pm Nordisk Film Palads, Saturday 25.3 Nordisk Film Palads. At the two first screenings there will be debates. More about who and what on

https://cphdox.dk/program/film/?id=120

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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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