East Doc Forum 2018

Huge cinema for the highlight of the East Doc Platform 2018. After masterclasses, presentations, individual meetings at the market, receptions – all held in the good atmosphere that the IDF (Institute for Documentary Film) is so good in creating, and has been doing since the start of this century – it was show time for 24 projects, many of them coming from the 3 week long development programme EO, Ex Oriente.

The two main tutors of EO, Finnish Iikka Vehkalahti and Danish Mikael Opstrup, were again the presenters of the projects, an enjoyable and easy job for the two football aficionados, who maybe suffered a bit after having seen Tottenham lose to Juventus at ”our” Indian restaurant ”The Londoners”!

On the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, Vehkalahti welcomed the first pitching team, Polish

Malgorzata Goliszewska and Katarzyna Mareja, whose ”Lessons of Love” will be a tribute to a woman, who spent 30 years with an alcoholic husband, raised 6 children and now wants her own life, eventually with a nice man, she meets, when she goes dancing. She is wonderful and it will be a good film. 100 hours, two versions, 40 minutes of scenes to show at the one-to-one meetings after the Forum.

I will mention some more projects from the 24 – I loved ”Amoosed” by Czech Hana Novakova, whose passion is ”man and moose” and whose film will ”make you laugh by its sheer playful surrealism and touch you and make your heart melt”. The director will be in the film; what she showed in the trailer had this craziness that we often miss in modern documentary. Totally different, of course, is the new project by Polish Hanna Polak after her succesful ”Something Better to Come”. The title is ”Angels of Sinjar, Yazidis – 21st Century Genocide”, the latter referring to ISIS wanting to exterminate the Yazidis in Iraq. Polak was in Iraq shooting, the project was – as always – presented carefully and in a professional way by producer Simone Baumann. A strong, with graphic scenes, trailer.

No surprise that Hanna Polak’s film project was one of the winners – see the list in the next post – of the East Doc Platform. And for me quite as obvious was it that Estonian Marianna Kaat with her ”The Last Relic” received the main award in Prague. She has filmed in Yekaterinburg, the city where the last zar was killed by the bolsheviks 100 year ago, in July 2018. I guess Kaat wants the film to be ready for that occasion, I hope she can, so her film about modern Russia (with Stalinists, monarchists and activists) can enlighten us viewers with what is going on in the country, where Putin will be re-elected on March 18. Kaat presented the project at the Baltic Sea Docs in September and I was disappointed. What happened I asked the director? I found my main character, she said, 21-year-old Left Block activist Igor Frolov, who with his charismatic young appearence made the teaser convincing, full of energy.

One more Polish – amazing what comes from that country – is ”Of Animals and Men” by Lukasz Czajka, a fantastic story about a couple, Jan and Antonina Zabinski and their fight for animals and the heroic way they saved between 100 and 300 jews during the war. The story is simple, Zabinski set up the Warsaw Zoo in the late 1920’es; the zoo was destroyed when the Germans came – they took a lot of the animals to Germany – but the family stayed in their home at the zoo, hiding jews, also in the empty animal cages. The film will apart from this amazing historical event also be a warm love story between Jan and Antonina, who came back to the zoo when the war was over.

Readers of this site will maybe remember the many times I have written about Peter Kerekes (”66 Seasons”, ”Cooking History”…), who is a true auteur with his own style and humour. As in this one, ”Wishing on a Star”, where he introduces Luciana, astrologist, who has a specific, simple method ”to change your destiny by taking a trip on the day of your birthday”. The trailer was refreshing – the clients of the astrologist all want Love and Luciana suggests them to go to far away places. Kerekes: Luciana and the most famous Italian meal lasagna come from the city of Naples. I imagine this documentary following a ”lasagna concept”: a lot of layers mounted on top of each other, creating an unforgettable delicious taste… Multilayered, yeah, that is what we want documentaries to be.

In the following post you can read which projects were awarded in Prague at the East Doc Platform.

Photo Michal Hancovsky.

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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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