DOXBOX Damascus Diary 6

Last day of festival. I have a seminar in the morning where I present the state of the art of documentary in Europe. I am trying to find the right approach to the audience which includes people, who come because they are interested in culture in general, experienced filmmakers and younger people who want to work with the media.

Plus a couple of foreigners. I talk about the decline of documentary in television, about the golden age in festivals and on the internet – and show some clips that have these magical moments that you can only catch if you are very well prepared, and have a good portion of luck. As had Sergey Dvortsevoy when he made his diploma film from Kazahkstan, ”Happiness”. From there to the staged documentary, to the documentary where the filmmaker is present in his film (master example: Nick Broomfield) and to the docu-comedy. So much to talk about during three hours. Hope I gave the 35 people in the theatre some food for thought.

In the afternoon I saw two films by Lebanese director Maher Abi Samra, who has studied in Paris at the INA and who won the first prize in Leipzig 2007 for his short film, ”Merely a Smell”. Here he also showed ”Shatila Round-About” from 2004, which is a filmic visit to the Palestinian refugee camp that was subject to a massacre from the Israeli and the Falangist side in 1982, and since then was one of the locations for the ”Guerre des Camps” where Arafat and Assad, to put it simple, were battling to gain the power over the Palestinians.

Samra, however, has not made a political film but puts his focus on the human side. He observes some characters, who just hang around without anything to do, they sit on these ugly white plastic chairs that flood the world, they tell their stories, they express their wishes for a future that is more than insecure, they can leave the camp (8-10000 live there) if they wish but as the director said to me: they are mentally totally linked to this spot.

As a spectator you get a very strong impression of what it means to live here, in slum, a boring life, as one says, with the television running constantly in the background. With some tourists occasionally passing by with the camera. A life based on memories.

The evening comes. ”The Shutka Book of Records” gets the audience Prize, money and a small sculpture, the audience shouts ”Bravo DOXBOX”, I can only agree and express a big applause for this new festival that now travels to two other cities in Syria. To mission for the art of documentary.

It all ends with the magnificent film ”Santiago” by Brasilian Joao Moreira Salles. It will be dealt with in a review on this site. So this Diary 6 is all from Damascus from my side.  

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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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