cph:dox 9-17/11 The Fall by Peter Whitehead

Oh, how joyful it is to discover something new, when you think that you know your documentary film history, have seen it (almost) all, at least what is considered as masterpieces and know where your priorities lie.

And there comes Peter Whitehead from the sixties, a brilliant film director and magnificent cameraman with a short but exciting career. So far I have only seen one of the films in the retrospective at the festival, “The Fall”, but that alone is enough to see a talent that was playing with the medium in a mix of Richard Leacock direct cinema approach (“It’s all about being there!”) and post-Godard staged scenes. A quote from an article: Reviewing Godard’s Pierrot le fou in mid-1966 for Films and Filming, Whitehead wrote: “There is no longer a continuous, flowing, narrative reality, for anyone anywhere; it must be a collage of signs, images, instants, quanta of perception and emotion and thought.”

This is exactly what “The Fall” is. The year is 1968. Its the year of revolution and conflicts. Its New York. Its music. Psychedelic feelings. The war demonstrations. Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh. Washington Square. Pro et contra the Vietnam war. An actress (sexy version of Anna Karina) in the film getting up, getting dressed, making coffee, and love, beautiful she is, 16mm grainy and scratchy images, small episodes and out to the wild NY intercut with the photographer reading the NY Times sunday edition as heavy as always. Its Robert Kennedy in his last year, its me watching a film that was made when I was 21.

Peter Whitehead is the name. Go and watch it. It has more than many other documentaries about the sixties an authenticity in the fictional scenes, facts and the documentary interpretation of reality. And it has a standpoint and I understand this was what made Whitehead leave filmmaking, disappointed with how politics go.

Peter Whitehead: The Fall, 1969

More about the festival: http://www.cphdox.dk/d1/front.lasso

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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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