M2M How to reach the Audience/ 4

And some words about the male interventions at the conference in Saint Petersburg on the second day, and some small conclusions or call it reflections.

Festival director (and film director and producer) Pavel Pechenkin from Flahertiana in Perm had just completed the 2016 edition of the old festival that carries the name of the man, who for many was the one who invented the name ”documentary” and who was also the one, who said that ”we have not achieved our goal before it is quite as easy to get access to a film as it is to a book”. Is that where we are today?

13000 visited the festival this year, Pechenkin said. His speech,

however, was more focused on the importance of involving teachers in documentaries. He mentioned that students are writing essays about documentaries they have seen, that school screenings are arranged in the cinema complex that he is responsible for, he has 6 halls. To the question if there is film education, meaning lessons on dramaturgy, how to analyse a film etc., on the curriculum of elementary schools or high schools, Pechenkin answered ”njet”. Pechenkin stressed the importance of showing film historically interesting documentaries in his cinema, where there are Film projectors in some halls, it is not all digitalized. Did you hear that Western cinema owners…

Alexey Nedviga from the Rodina cinema in the city represented the classical approach to Film, a film lover who would never think of watching a film on a computer or on a smart phone. He is programming documentaries in his cinema – come with your films to me, he said to the filmmakers present – and ”I don’t care if there are only 2 viewers in the cinema, maybe there will be 5 the next day…”

Contrary to him, very much contrary I would say, was Alexey Laifurov from the tv station 24Doc, a true film buff working for a commercial channel that shows documentaries in loops, normally with Russian dubbing – the exception, however, being the film of Laurie Anderson, because ”her voice is so important”… in the evening I saw Snowden in Laura Poitras film speaking Russian. Strange, but that’s how it is in many countries. Anyway, the channel, Laifurov said, has three legs: it’s a tv channel, it has a vod platform, it does theatrical distribution – works a lot with film festivals. Laifurov focused in his speech on what the channel does on art, planning a series/programmes on/with Louise Bourgeois and, if I got it right, Gerhard Richter. 9 million people can watch 24Doc, 55.000 followers on FB. The channel has recently done a relaunch omitting what Lairufov called ”politisized” documentaries, I think he meant films with a social and/or political angle. On the other hand he mentioned that ”Wolfpack” was shown. A social/psychological documentary? Website below.

The attendance to the conference was not big, so good that Viktor Skubey had organised that everything was filmed and put online in both an English and Russian version – the many interesting speeches deserve to be heard and seen by documentary people all over.

Reflections… the situation for documentaries in the Nordic countries and in Russia is totally different when it comes to reaching the audience. Having said so, Russia has a lot of festivals, there are film clubs and there are festivals that work all year round and have the ambition to make the triangle Film/Director/Spectator come into reality. Doker is the example, an independent grassroot festival set up and run by filmmakers, with a considerable audience. M2M here in Saint Petersburg has an audience, an international profile and there are many other. The basic question is of course how to get more of the 250 yearly supported to reach an audience, if the makers and producers want that. But, maybe very naïve, who should they not want their films to be watched?

And how can the many Nordic and European documentary initiatives give access to the Russian documentarians and documentaries. The latter is maybe not a problem, there are many excellent documentaries coming out of Russia, not only those which are in opposition to the system, ”the Putin films”… Russia is so full of stories, we want to know and understand, don’t we. At the recent Baltic Sea Forum one story after the other dealt with Russia of today and its past. But the training initiatives, the vod’s, the lounges etc. – are they also part of the sanctions ”we” Europeans perform right now? Cultural sanctions, does it make sense? Of course not!


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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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