Idfa Forum 2012

… edition Number 20! In itself a marvellous event where filmmakers from all over the world meet to present their projects, catch up on professional and private matters, it is indeed a clear sign of the both warm and professional climate in the international documentary community. And there are many people around the table, mostly broadcasters but also an increasing number of representatives from funds. AND that is important as the broadcasters basically have no money or little money – you sometimes wonder why they want to sit around the table and express their opinions when they can not help the pitching filmmakers – for creative documentaries.

Creative documentaries… yes, where were they. Or call it artistic documentaries, where were they? Is it a matter of a bad selection from idfa, or is it because the selection is done so it fits to the fact that broadcasters are not interested in creative, artistic documentaries. ”Content is King”, it has been said and that is right, but the form/ the filmmaking, what about that, is it not important?

To be fair: I watched 15 out of 20 presentations in the so-called Central Pitch, and none in the round-table, where more ambitious projects often are to be found. The first morning I was suffering: A noisy tv-interview based doc, ”The Shadow World” about arms trade, a total – sorry for my French – shitty superficial cliché-filled about Stalinists and Russia of today, ”In the Wake of Stalin”, a straight forward interview based, character driven tv programme from Naples, ”Zero Waste”, ”Eurocalypse-Why we are poor now”, scripted by Nick Fraser from BBC, to be directed by Ben Lewis, in the presentation constantly stressed to be funny- it was not, not at all. Two exceptions: the winners of idfa last year with ”Planet of Snails”, came up with a beautiful teaser, ”Like Wind, Yeji and I” (photo), and the Finns had a story from Uganda that had an artistic feel, ”Prior to Farewell”. Funny it was to hear the producer state that the editor of the film will be Danish superstar Niels Pagh Andersen, to calm down eventual doubt: then it can’t go wrong!

The second day, to stay in the positive mood, the Israeli ”The Visual Crash” about media coverage of the 2010 Gaza Flotilla, by Yael Hersonski (”A Film Unfinished”) had a great teaser and artistic ambition (”sophisticated” a man from New York Times called it), and raised a good discussion. An American project, however, about people from Human Rights Watch and their work around the globe, ”The E-Team”, had a disgusting teaser cutting the energetic youngsters with dead corpses accompanied by dramatic music. Only one commissioning editor (thank you Sabine Bubeck from ZDF/arte) objected to this non-ethical approach – the answer from the filmmakers was, ”oh yes, but it is only a trailer”! Content is King, maybe, but ethics demonstrated in the form, please!

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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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