John Appel: The Player

3 stronger characters and some accompanying. Not unusual.  And three characters with the same in common: the desire to gamble; driven by an addiction that has heavily influenced their lives. One is no longer alive, the father of the filmmaker, the two others still practise in different ways, on different levels and in different areas of operation. One is in prison and talks with a low voice about what he has been doing, waiting to get out very soon. This does not happen, he has his imprisonment prolonged because he can not refrain from gambling (= swindling) from his cell via his mobile (cell!) phone. The other is a festive man full of stories and fun and lust for life. A showman, who offers the viewers a guided photo tour picturing the women with whom he has enjoyed life – for a certain period, as long as they could compete with the real love and passion of his life: Gambling. We see him as the charming bookmaker, he is, and we sense the back side of the coin, the loneliness, as he speaks.

The main character, however, is the father of the John Appel, as he is seen and described by the son. Appel approaches the character of his father in a very fine and balanced manner, where he leaves a lot of reflection to the viewer. He intertwines the story of his father with the two other addicts and maybe he was a mix of the two – the low voice prisoner and the outspoken party seeker and show man. That Appel is an experienced filmmaker and knows the rules of storytelling is evident, and again it is a pleasure to hear a well written and spoken personal commentary. Towards  the end of the film, Appel tells us that he after the death of the father often drove with his mother to the place of the horse races. This is where the father had his seat every sunday. They sit there in the big car, all is silence – one of many beautifully composed images full of the melancholy that suits this film so well.

Holland, 80 mins., 2009

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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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