DocuDays Ukraine 2021 Online

Yes, online again this year for the 18th International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival that I have visited several times with many memories in and outside the cinema. Yesterday Ileana Stanculescu from CinéDoc Tbilisi reminded me and Lithuanian Audrius Stonys of our common experience in Kiev 8 years ago where the snow was a true challenge for many, including me who was almost carried up the hill to the hotel Rus by the young and fit filmmaker and festival director Roman Bondarchuk…I arrived, many did not, many came late. But we had a great time.

This year I have no idea how the festival weather in Kiev has been as I have been sitting in my armchair in Copenhagen – I attended with my laptop. 

And I have enjoyed again the imagination performed by the team of DocuDays. Starting with the wonderful cartoons by Anatoliy Surma, who we, the audience, met at the opening through a small report from where he lives – and with his cartoon characters being the continuous figures right until the end, where the awards were handed out. Tonight.

I was there tonight for the ceremony but before that I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon watching documentaries by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Under the headline ” Krzysztof Kieślowski. A Documentary Biography”, the festival offered its audience to watch 9 documentaries from the master, with a small introduction by Agnieszka Holland. She talked about his sensitivity and how curious he was to depict the human destiny – and his wish to find out what space the society gives to the citizen. I guess all documentary lovers know ”Talking Faces” from 1980, one of the nine, all of them interesting dynamic portraits of people and places. ”From the City of Lodz” from 1969 was new for me, lovely it is, I copy the precise description from the DocuDays website:

”This documentary, filled with interesting observations and a fair share of humour, is a multifaceted portrait of Łódź, where Kieślowski studied at the film school from 1964 to 1969. Careworn women, the textile workers of Łódź, appear on the screen, as do Sunday-afternoon strollers, Edward Ciuksza’s well-known mandolin orchestra, a folk fête, old apartment buildings and new, high-rise estates. Images of work, rest and boredom intertwine.” 19 minutes of poetry.

The awards tonight: There were a lot – check – I did not manage to watch so many but I did know and adore Salomé Jashi’s “Taming the Garden” that won the main award in Docu/World, the motivation of the jury was read by Scottish Emma Davie: 

Elegant and impressive, this film talks about those who disturb the spirit of the forest and its ancient creatures with all its roots, stories, silent cries and whispers. With imagery which will burn in the mind long after viewing, the film follows the effects of the absurdist megalomania of one man’s desire to conquer nature. The prize for the best documentary film in DOCU/WORLD competition goes to Taming the Garden and its Princess Mononoke, the director Salomé Jashi, who stands on guard for both trees and human beings… the other jurors were Jihlava FF’s director Marek Hovorka and last year’s successful Ukrainian director of “The Earth is Blue as an Orange”, Iryna Tsilyk. This is not the last award that will be given to Salomé Jashi for this exceptional film.

And I saw the winner in the Docu/Ukraine catagory „Ivan’s Land“ by Andrii Lysetskyi about folk art painter Ivan Prykhodko, a charismatic man who lives in the countryside, talks to his dogs and cat, a man of nature – and for me a great artist who reminds me so much of a late Danish artist Heerup. A life always in creation, sharing – portrayed through exceptional camerawork, where the film is co-poetic letting the artist perform like a shaman. Great film.

Good choice, even I would have loved to see an award go to “Roses.Film-Cabaret” by Irena Stetsenko. I have followed that film since it was pitched at the Baltic Sea Docs (BSD), it’s wonderfully messy, it has unique moments, the women performing in this band are powerful, to say the least. After BSD I wrote on this site ” dynamic, energetic, feminist approach, 7 women „from the freak cabaret Dakh Daughters Band“, poetry, music, provocative and enjoyable from start till end. It’s gonna be a hit!” Hoping for an international carreer for this film. Bertolt Brecht in memoriam!

The award from Current Time TV, the broadcaster that supports the festival so well, went to «This Rain Will Never Stop» by Alina Gorlova with this motivation: For the monumental artistic work immersing the viewer into the black and whites of eternal living in between, for the archetypal depiction of war in its constant presence and for subtle portrayal of the fragility of the human being… I love when a broadcaster uses the word «artistic». It is a film that I have seen pitched several times, a film that has developed to the high quality it shows now -and I have to watch it again and write about it.

And I love to see how the creative people of DocuDays cope with the isolation situation we all are in and find a way to reach an audience in Ukraine to offer 105 films and a lot, really a lot of industry activities, lectures, debates, all kind of angles, commercial or artistic. Tomorrow I have signed up to hear about music in documentaries… Thank you! You can still visit the festival until April 4 midnight.

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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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