Magnificent7 2021 Belgrade

”My headline is ordinary people”. Director Marc Isaacs is behind the camera skype-talking with his producer, who gives him the information that the broadcasters of today only want to give money for more commercial/sensational stories. Not ordinary people stories.

For me being involved in the extraordinary festival Magnificent7 I have always been drawn by extraordinary films about ordinarypeople. ”Filmmaker’s House” by Isaacs is a film like that, including warmth and love and respect for its characters. Ahh, I don’t like the word ”characters”… better is human beings caught by the camera in a film that is intelligent, playful, fun to watch, lovely human beings, who are who they are – on the stage of the Real and Extraordinary Life.

Absolutely the same you can say about “Merry Christmas, Yiwu” by Mladen Kovačević: Intelligent, playful, respectful… I don’t recall to get so close to  

Chinese people in a film made by a film team that is not Chinese. Festival directors Svetlana and Zoran Popovic approached me cautiously asking if this Serbian documentary was good enough for the festival. It’s a masterpiece, was my answer, we must have it. Later on I had the pleasure to be on the jury of the Sarajevo Film Festival, where there was no doubt, when the main award was to be given. The film is available on different platforms but the magnificent cinematography and narrative rythm demands the great screen and a full cinema in Belgrade!

The Popovic couple did not push for the Serbian film from China and I – as a Dane – did not for „President” by Danish Camilla Nielsson but I hoped they would like the sequel to „Democrats” that already was at Magnificent7. Oh my God, they did and I was happy as I consider Nielsson as one of the (if not the) best documentary directors in Denmark right now. Even if the film has the focus on a country and its politics, again Nielsson lives up to what she said to me in an interview long time ago: ”You’ve got to have love for your characters and do everything you can to give them confidence in the job you’ve been assigned”.

Also „Holy Father” by Andrei Dăscălescu was awarded at the Sarajevo Film Festival for its intimacy, for crossing the border between what is private to personal in the narrative approach making it an extraordinary film about an ordinary theme, father and son. Dăscălescu risks, his father risks, the monk from Mount Athos; it becomes philosophical and existential and there are many points of identification in this so well constructed, emotionally balanced film. Lovely that it can be shown on a big screen even if the main sponsor is HBO, the broadcaster. No blocking.

Family is indeed also the theme of the French “The Man Who Paints Water Drops”. Kim Tschang-Yeul is the name of the artist, Korean, director is Oan Kim, his son, who wants to know (more about) his father, who does not talk a lot; no need for that as the audience is given superb access to a fascinating world artist and the word charisma seems to be an understatement to be in company with Kim!

Children and old people. Very very often they constitute the best gallery for extraordinary films about ordinary human beings. In the selection this year for the festival we chose two films, one from the beginning of life and one from, when the end is near. Finnish film ”School of Hope” by Mohamed El Aboudi takes the viewer to the desert of Morocco, where children go to school to learn, simply. The teacher is fantastic, the children are individuals who have to support their parents and find ways to avoid classical gender roles imposed by the older generation. Full of magical moments. 

Heddy Honigmann, a true master of documentary concludes this intro. Her film “100UP” is also full of unforgettable moments that advocate for – as one of the centenarians put it – life as a miracle, said by ordinary people who have lived long enough to know!

Hope that you also will enjoy to GO TO THE CINEMA to see fascinating lives unfold on the screen – visual beauty. 

Very Best

Tue Steen Müller

PS. A special screening of the festival, film number 8, is “Taming the Garden” by Salomé Jashi from Georgia. It started its screening career at the Sundance Festival in the beginning of 2021 and has since then been praised in festival after festival. I was lucky to watch rough cuts of the film in 2020 as a true admirer of Salomé’s previous work and I was looking forward to recommend it to Svetlana and Zoran Popovic as the film is a true Magnificent7 film from all angles. They agreed with huge enthusiasm. I told this to the director. First and foremost it is a magnificent authored documentary with many layers giving me associations to Hans Christian Andersen and his “The Nightingale” watching trees in the park being watered and held with wires. Fake. It should have been one of seven selected, it became number 8 as another Serbian festival took it placing it among more than 100 films… To the dissatisfaction of the director. Read elsewhere in this catalogue why the festival directors chose to have a number 8 with a special focus.      







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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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