… is a yearly seminar day dedicated to the documentary film, open for participation by Danish filmmakers, producers, film school students, television people with a relationship to the genre, consultants etc. from the Danish Film Institute (DFI), that is the organiser and programmer of the event that takes place in the Film House in the middle of Copenhagen.
I have participated several times and also this year it was well organised with informative and inspiring sessions… and you get to meet old friends and have a chat.
Claus Ladegaard, head of production at DFI, opened the day’s programme with a short speech that outlined the situation for the Danish documentary seen from the DFI point of view. Three points are essential for us, he said: Quality, Diversity and Volumen. He found it difficult to be worried about the Quality of Danish documentaries that travel the world and are screened on television nationally and abroad. Nevertheless, he quoted editor Niels Pagh who at a previous seminar had asked his colleagues: ”are we tooo good in storytelling…” pointing to the fact that many Danish documentaries have adopted the classical Hollywood dramaturgy and make smooth, predictable films accordingly. In the upcoming political agreement for the next 4 years, said Ladegaard, the DFI is thus calling for more experimentation, hybrid forms, interactive documentaries etc. And for financing models that do not necessarily include television. DFI is soon
publishing a research on the financial status of Danish documentary companies and it looks like (the few) companies that live primarily from producing documentaries, live longer – still, as he concluded: the financing is fragile, the results impressive. He also mentioned that the % of financing from DFI, for the individual project, has gone up to 50. Producer’s job to raise the rest! By the way, the DFI has spent 220 mio. DKK (a bit less than 30 mio.€) on documentaries in the past four years.
I attended a fine informative ”interactive documentary” session, inspiring it was, especially when it came to a discussion about form and content, what comes first, whereas (no surprise) there was a general understanding that technique must not be the decisive element – and yet there was of course technical problems at the session. I learned a lot so no question about the value of the theme brought forward.
The highlight for me, however, was a session with the three filmmakers Anders Østergaard (Burma vj), Jakob Thuesen (director and editor of many documentaries, among them the masterpiece ”Haïti Untitled” by Jørgen Leth) and Laurits Munch-Petersen. The latter is the grandchild of Gustaf Munch-Petersen (photo), poet and painter, who was shot in 1938, 26 years old, in the Spanish Civil War, that he joined to become a Republican volunteer. He left Denmark and, without notice, his pregnant wife. The daughter Ursula, mother of Laurits, never saw her father.
Munch-Petersen had plans to do a fiction film on the life of his famous grandfather (whose poetry became natural reading in the gymnasium for my generation) but dropped it and is now finishing his documentary with the help of Østergaard and Thuesen. The three of them showed clips that looked very promising and Østergaard explained how the collaboration between the two had been. It was the intention of Østergaard to push Munch-Petersen into the film, to become a character. In the clips shown, you see how convincingly that works and you see how lucky the directors were suddenly to be able to include in the film a reconstruction of the battle of Ebro, which are performed every year by amateurs. Munch-Petersen puts on a uniform and takes part. A unique chance to make the direct parallel between Gustaf in 1938 and Laurits today. The wonderful wildness of editor Thuesen came out totally in clips where he integrates quotes from ”Le Chien Andalou” and other surrealistic (Gustaf was part of that -ism) films as well as many other archive bits to give atmosphere. Looking fwd to that film!
Later in the afternoon director Joshua Oppenheimer and producer Signe Byrge Sørensen told about ”The Act of Collaboration”, giving an overview of the production story of ”The Act of Killing”. I had never experienced the two together – it was fine to notice how beautiful the director talked about the Danish producer and her commitment and competence.
As always the Dok Day ended with a screening of a new film. This was the Swedish/Danish coproduction ”Freak Out!” by Carl Javér, which ”tells the untold story of the birth of the alternative movement and unfold the uncanny similarities between our time and what they revolted against in the early 1900s”, in the way that it ”mixes interviews, archive and animation in a beautiful combination bringing you straight back to the early 1900 as seen through the eyes of theese young radicals.” Quotes from the website of the film: