IDFA: Kogusashvili/ Sarvestani/ Hendrikx

Three more brief reviews of ”Gogita’s New Life” (Levan Koguashvili), ”Prison Sisters” (Nima Sarvestani) and ”Stranger in Paradise” (Guido Hendrikx). With some genre simplification: A docu-comedy, a journalistic/humanistic documentary and a hybrid documentary.

Georgian Koguashvili, whose film, with all respect, a bit surprising was selected for the feature length competition, follows Gogita, who leaves prison after 13 years, comes back to mother and brother, and a computer on which he surfs on the internet to find a wife. He finds a candidate, but mum thinks she is too fat, he has the same opinion, he meets her for a date, she leaves immediately, we don’t hear their conversation, but it must have had something to do with her size. Afterwards, he apologizes, they meet again, things get better, she is a fantastic cake maker, they get married. Voilà! It is funny, there are lovely drinking situations of the nature we know from other Georgian films, but in general I found many scenes far too long and without energy. Too small a story for a feature length documentary.

”Prison Sisters” (PHOTO) by Nima Sarvestani operates on many levels. And is a remarkable documentary. It is a sequel to ”No Burqas Behind Bars” and intends to follow the protagonists from that film, Sara and Najibeh, after their release from the prison. Sara escapes to Sweden to live with the director and his wife, the producer of the film, Maryam Ebrahimi, while noone seems to know what happened to Najibeh. Rumours say that she has been killed. In Sweden the film follows Sara and her experiencing to live in a complete different culture. She receives her residence permit to stay in Sweden and can get her Afghan husband come and live with her. In Afghanistan, however, Nima Sarvestani starts a classic journalistic investigation to find Najibeh. If he succeeds and if Sara gets her husband come to Sweden, I will not reveal, as the film is built like a thriller, one thing leading to another, and with journalist-director Sarvestani as a (no irony) true hero. His – and his wife’s – involvement in the lives of the girls deserves all the praise, it can get. But But I have to ride my hobby-horse: Why all that bombastic music, put on sequences to tell the audience what to feel, unnecessary with that amount… let the audience be part of the film.

Whether Guido Hendrikx ”Stranger in Paradise” is a documentary or not could be discussion in more hard core documentary circles. But it does not take long before you find out that the teacher in the class room is an actor – a very good one – who has a group of migrants in the room to check with them, who qualifies and who not to have an asylum granted. A chamber play, original and intelligent, unfolds according to (that’s where the documentary part comes in) Dutch and European rules for getting an asylum. The film is shot in Italy, an epilogue includes refugees who talk to the actor and asks him where the film can be seen. And what it costs to make a film like that. 180.000€ he says to the refugees who have empty pockets. Of course one can hope that this documentary hybrid full of facts and statistics on the European migration situation can create a debate based on facts and not on feelings. 

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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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