Docu Days: A Farewell to Cinema

In June 2012 the football championship UEFA Euro took place in Poland and Ukraine. And of course some films came out of that. An Ukranian premiere was arranged at the Docu Days festival. 10 films were collected as a Youth Documentary Almanac, the directors, many of them film students or newly graduated documentarians, who had made films about policemen learning basic phrases of English to be used when meeting the invasion of football fans, or a young poet on his own, or people collecting metal to be sold or one who had a grandfather who built the old stadium, now to be rebuilt etc. – social, about persons, fresh, but in general with no focus and with big editing problems. One of those where you say to most of the films – ah, what a pity, go back to editing and find your film.

A small revelation for me, however, was the screening of the programme ”A Farewell to Cinema”, 5 films from 1987-1992, supported by the state. The times were for social critical films as I knew from Latvian Juris Podnieks and his groundbreaking ”Is it Easy to be Young?”. All films with an artistic quality. First of all demonstrated by (now) veteran director Sergey Bukovsky, who had made two of the five, ”Tomorrow is a Holiday” (1987) (photo) from a poultry factory where the women expressed deep dis-satisfaction about their life conditions, and ”The Roof” (1989) from a shelter for disabled people in a local monastery. The title of the programme comes from the last film in the programme (a dvd is being made by the national film centre), it has the following description, taken from the festival site:

Recently documentary filmmakers have been filming mass protests (end of 80’es, ed.) in the streets of Ukrainian cities, and now they themselves have to organize demonstrations in order to receive an opportunity to film. During the first years of Ukrainian independence, the production of chronicle and documentary films was cut to a minimum. The lack of financing or any state support whatsoever drove the veteran of Ukrainian documentary film, Israel Goldstein, to state: “The authorities are preventing us from filming because they are afraid that in several decades, the viewers of our films might ask: who was in power back then? Who put the people in such a state?” Today, the ‘authorities’ are well-known to everybody, but there is almost no film evidence of the consequences of their work. A Farewell to Cinema demonstrates why it happened this way: the filmmakers had to work as doormen, the studios were closed down, film financing was stopped. This film is one of the most radical in the genre ‘cinema about cinema: this is a film about the way that cinema ceased to exist.

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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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