Message2Man St. Petersburg/ 3

It was a Swedish documentary that got the Grand Prix at the Message2Man 2014 festival: Forest of the Dancing Spirits (photo), directed by Linda Västrik (104 min. | 2013 | Sweden, Canada).

I copy-pasted a description of the film from a festival catalogue: In the deep jungle of the Congo, untouched by civilisation, live the Aka, a tribe of pygmies. Linda Västrik lived among the Aka from 2005 to 2012, and captured the fascinating life of this hunter-gatherer tribe. It is a life governed by magical rituals, myths and traditions just as it was centuries ago. Against the background of the personal story of couple Akaya and Kengole, whose greatest desire is to have children of their own, is a depiction of the harmony of human coexistence with the jungle, the source of all life and death. But thanks to the plans of the state forestry company, this coexistence will probably be short-lived.

In the short film category two films shared the award: the documentary Beach Boy by Danish Emil Langballe (28 min. | 2013 | UK, Denmark) and the short fiction Sunny by Barbara Ott (30 min. | 2013 | Germany)

In the national competition the winner was Cardiopolitika by Svetlana Strelnikova (64 mins., 2014). At a press conference in connection with the

MIFF (Moscow International Film Festival) the director said, and I am sure she speaks for many Russian documentarians in her words about the situation for the filmmakers (edited version):

… the film was being shot almost without any financial support. The government of Perm partly provided the project with some money and the Ministry of Culture’s attention was drawn to the film when it was already being finally edited. The film was first released in Europe where, in Svetlana Strelnikova’s opinion, they pay much more attention to such films than in Russia. 

The main character of the film is a Perm cardiac surgeon Sergey Sukhanov , an unchallenged authority for many people in his region but Strelnikova had no intention of showing him only from a positive side. “He is not a super hero for me”, – she said. The film shows his work during the election campaign in 2012. This episode of his life had become a part of the film occasionally, the film makers assured. As Svetlana Strelnikova said, one could notice that Sukhanov was changing during the shooting getting involved in political games and becoming more and more irritable.

It was not easy to follow the artistic idea of the film-maker because Sergey Sukhanov is an authoritative independent person who doesn’t have time for special shooting. “There is one staged scene in the film: I asked him to come out to the balcony and start smoking”, explained the film maker. As for the rest, the famous surgeon trusted the process that allowed the film crew to use a camera almost everywhere including the cardiac surgery department and the campaign office. “He said we can film and that means that nobody can disobey, that’s why I felt free to do everything I need”, noted Strelnikova.

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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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