Docudays UA: Jon Bang Carlsen

I am a landscape painter, said Jon Bang Carlsen at his masterclass at the Docudays in Kiev last night. I found it to be a perfect auto-description after having seen his ”It’s  Now or Never”, that came out in 1996, and has a camera that constantly caresses the Irish green and stony fields, where the director chose to have his story take place about the bachelor Jimmy looking for a woman.

I was film consultant at the National Film Board of Denmark (now The Danish Film Institute) in the early 1990’es and commissioned this film, when Jon Bang Carlsen (together with Jørgen Leth and Anne Wivel the Danish ”auteurs” of that time) came to me with a list of film themes/stories that he would love to make into films in his original style that he himself called ”staged documentary”. Today it is almost ”menu of the day” and called ”hybrid”.

The film is wonderfully old-fashioned, the characters are lovely, the

story totally romantic, straight forward it goes with Jimmy searching for a woman with the help of a matchmaker. Shot on film, the film became a success as a documentary in Europe, and as a fiction in Asia, the director told the audience.

Jon Bang Carlsen is excellent at a masterclass. He formulates himself in an inspiring manner, he expresses doubt about what he is doing, and he does so with the humour that you also see in his films. Of course he had to show a clip from ”Before the Guests Arrive” with the two old ladies in the pension before the season starts. Of course he expressed his fascination with the landscapes in South Africa where he lived for 10 years – clips from ”Addicted to Solitude” and ”Blinded Angel”, the latter he described as ”clumsy and wild” in its style, and yet this man who has travelled the world had – he said – to return to his roots, the Danish landscapes of Northern Jutland.

The audience asked questions. One was ”what were you looking for when you were 20 and what are you looking for now as 65…”. Another complimented him for asking questions with his films and not giving answers. ”In my last film ”Déjà Vu” that is just finished a woman gives the answer to it all…”, he said at the masterclass that had a full Blue Hall in the Cinema House in Kiev.

The film was part of a Danish “High Five” programme that I put together and the Docudays festival organised – with no help from the Danish Film Institute, to my big surprise and disappointment. But that is another story…

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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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