Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen: My Favourite War

Let me start by giving the word to the director:

“My Favorite War” is a personal animated documentary that tells the story of the director’s growing up in Latvia, part of the Soviet Union, during the years from 1970 to 1990. The Soviet regime used World War II as a significant ideological weapon to intimidate and oppress the population during the Cold War. When Ilze discovers the remains of a German soldier in her backyard sandbox, she begins looking for other stories buried underneath the propaganda. “I had to make a choice then – who do I want to become and what do I believe in? The same questions young generations are asking themselves today”.

… and let me stay with the word “personal” as this is what makes the film


different from hundreds of documentaries on the USSR and the oppression. Ilze Burkovska tells her story in first person starting from her childhood with her family as important protagonists. The grandfather is important. He was an “enemy of the state” and ended up in Siberia. His artworks could not be exhibited. Her father was a member of the Communist Party and had good civil positions. Her mother was not a member until she had to join as she otherwise would be without a job; single mother with two children – the father died when Ilze was 7 years old in a car accident.

The title refers to WW2 and the constant propaganda from the leaders of the Soviet Union: We have to be prepared for a WW3. Ilze learns how to handle a weapon , growing up in Saldus in the Courland (Kurland) region, where the Courland Couldron reminded the inhabitants of the German occupation during the last year of the war. A military camp was established in Soviet Latvia and the film includes many scenes of planes in the air of the childhood of Ilze…

… who decides to be a pioneer with the ambition of becoming a journalist. She becomes a very good one, is picked to be a delegate at a camp in Crimea, joined by her friend Ilga, with whom she has a very touching conversation (documentary) of today. Ilga had considered suicide, when she as a school kid had written an essay writing that there was a lack of freedom in the country. The essay had not been approved.

When she was 16, her mother fulfilled her dream to live as a farmer in the countryside leaving the flat for Ilze. It was the time of Gorbatchov and life became easier… 

I ask myself: Why is it that I really like an animation documentary film, a genre I know so little about and normally stay away from? The answer is simple: the story is so well written, cinematically conveyed and the child’s perspective accompanies perfectly the naïvity of the drawings. 

Mum and Dad and Ilze stands at the Baltic Sea behind the barbed wire, they are not allowed to go closer. The beginning of the film. Ilze and her two children at the Sea. The end of the film… where you also see the Baltic Way and the director organising an exhibition of her grandfather’s painting.

Norway, Latvia, 2020, 80 mins.

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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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