Danish Documentaries 2014

It was almost ”business as usual”, when the DFI (Danish Film Institute) proudly could announce that 15 Danish documentaries were selected to be screened at IDFA, for most documentarians the festival for films that have been categorized to be a ”documentary”, today the name is a quality mark for a genre that is in constant development enlarging its own narrative potential at the same time (”hybrid” is a buzz word) as the classical observational documentary is very much still alive and doing well. IDFA likes Danish documentaries, as does the cph:dox, of course…

I had 3 Danish documentaries on my ”2014 – Best of…” – Joshua Oppenheimer’s ”The look of Silence”, Anders Østergaard and Erzsebet Racz ”1989” and Camilla Nielsson’s ”Democrats”, all of them films that deal with themes that are not Danish. All three have managed to get international financing for films that travel the world to festivals, win awards and – sorry for the cliché – make a difference. ”The Look of Silence” and ”Act of Killing” are being shown in Indonesia and have broken the public silence about the atrocities. ”1989” puts new light on the year, 25 years ago, where the world changed totally. ”Democrats” brings hope that something will change in Zimbabwe…

The two first films have been to Danish cinemas – superb reviews but no success at all (1368 and 1559 tickets sold). Let us not forget that the golden days of Danish documentaries do not include that they make an audience go to the cinema. The films are watched at festivals world wide and on television world wide. And online via vod’s.

And yet two Danish documentaries did – for documentaries – ok in cinemas with 12.356 tickets sold for ”Ekstra Bladet uden for citat” by Mikala Krogh (Engl. Title: ”The Newsroom – off the Record”) (praised here by colleague Allan Berg) and ”Så meget godt i vente” (Engl. Title: ”Good Things Await”) with 11.309 tickets sold. The latter made me think back on my work at Statens Filmcentral (National Film Board of Denmark), where high-quality documentaries due to their subject were often screened all over Denmark in connection with debate arrangements. Phie Ambo’s film has done and is doing the same.

As does ”Mission Rape – A Tool of War” by Katia Forbert Petersen and Annette Mari Olsen, a film that takes a closer look at a dilemma in international law – how the healing process is affected when rapists are not prosecuted and convicted for the crimes they have committed – instead they have been punished for Crime against Humanity or other serious war crimes.

Another Danish documentary that takes place in Denmark is ”Cirkusdynastiet” (Engl. title: ”The Circus Dynasty”) by Anders Riis-Hansen, a warm & fine insight to a circus environment where two families, the Casselly and the Berdino, hope that young Merrylou and Patrick will get together and run Circus Arena. It does not go that way. The drama between the two youngsters did not really keep my attention, whereas the parent’s generation and their stories and charisma and their caravans, and the many great scenes from the performances, the acrobats, the elephants etc. make a film that must appeal to an audience, who wants adventure.

And then the film that won the IDFA Jury’s Prize, ”Something Better to Come” by Hanna Polak, who has been following homeless children in Moscow for 14 years. Is the film Danish or Polish? Well, the director is Polish, but (bravo!) Danish producer Sigrid Dyekjær met Polak, raised the money to have the film completed and there it is, absolutely moving, a humanistic document and yet I ask myself having seen material by Hanna Polak during the years: Should the film have been longer, could it (also) have been made into a mini-series, have there been too many cooks in the editing process. Sorry to say so but there is a disturbing abruptness in the way the film has been structured.

That’s all about Danish documentaries 2014. Many films have not been mentioned, I have focused on the so-called ”creative documentaries”, I have not digged into documentaries for children and youngsters. As well as the many more tv-orientated documentaries.



Share your love
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.

Articles: 3866