Docudays Kiev: Form Comes First

… which is of course a simplification but I was thinking of it several times during the days here in Kiev, where the Docudays goes on, one of those many festivals, less known, compared to IDFA, CPH:DOX, DOKLeipzig and Hotdocs BUT with a high quality selection and, as far as I have been able to register attending a handful of screenings, full houses. With a professional relaxed atmosphere.

Form comes first has director and editor French/Czech Stan Neumann said at many tutoring sessions. The same goes for Viktor Kossakovsky who talks about making an aesthetic choice as the first thing to do before you start shooting.

But sometimes you find the form, the shape, the handwriting as you go along, as did Georgian Alexander Kvatashidze, when he

did his “See You in Chechnya” (PHOTO) that was shown here in Kiev Monday the 26th. The director told the audience after the screening, how he kept on filming the war photographers, the subjects of his film, for years, at the same time as he was looking for the right way, the right form to tell the story. He found it, he made a first person narration that takes himself and the audience to the many interesting war photographers, we meet in the film. He could have made a straight forward more journalistic documentary, he did not make that choice and thanks for that.

The same goes for Salomé Jashi with her “The Dazzling Light of Sunset”, who starts her film with an amazing camera movement that ends up at a choir singing beautifully and thus setting the mood and telling the audience that here is someone, who makes films in a different, personal manner. As does Roman Bondarchuk with “Dixie Land”, when he opens his film with the band at the sea to set the tone regardless of classical dramaturgical rules.

One more to be mentioned among many, Slovak cinematographer and director Martin Kollar, whose “5 October” I had been waiting to see, and I was not disappointed – it is an intimate film about the director’s brother, who is to undergo a serious surgery and goes on a journey that might be his last… It sounds like a sensationalistic suspense documentary but Kollar has chosen his form, has made an aesthetic choice that for me takes the theme to a high existential, philosophical level. A many-layered documentary of the best. 

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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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