Message2Man St. Petersburg/ 4

Politics. Freedom to say what you want. In films as well. The Message2Man – that had its 24th edition this year – and its organisers are of course backing this basis for any film festival. Nevertheless the festival cancelled a screening of ”Pussy against Putin”, made by the anonymous group called Gogol’s Wives. Without any explanation I was told. The festival jury – read by the member Philip Gröning (”Into Great Silence”) – presented a statement raising this question but it was unfortunately wrapped into enigmatic and metaphoric language so the protest message did not come through. Why not say it directly that this is wrong… Even if the minister of culture and his entourage was present? Was it wrapped to protect the festival?

I talked to a jury member of the national competition and asked if he had found any critical or controversial films in the selection. Not really, he said, even if (my words) you can indeed say that the winner of the national competition deals with politics. The title says it all, ”Cardiopolitika” (photo) by Svetlana Strelnikova, who has a skilled surgeon as main character, who enters politics hoping it will help his profession to have better facilities. (See below).

We talked politics in St. Petersburg. Of course. At a moment where there is a war going on

in Ukraine. And at a moment where sanctions are made from Russian and American/European side against each other.

We were at a dacha yesterday with a family of mum and dad, son and his wife, daughter and her husband – and the son’s two lovely children of 3 and 5, who did not mention anything about Putin… But the grown up part of the family did, indeed. When I referred to Baltic film friends being scared that the past could become the present (= Russian invasion), the whole family said that they could understand that. And when I referred that they (the Baltics) mentioned that the Russian propaganda was like the one of Goebbels, they said – ”even worse”. When can this change, I asked. When economics get worse. It’s about living standard and oil prices, nothing else, and of course about ”him” wanting to have a Greater Russia built up. He is clever, the son said, and the people from the opposition are not at the same level. There are none who can compete, but there will be when the time for change comes. All family members are indeed anti-Putin but have different opinions about when and how change can/should happen.

I was at M2M for the fourth time in a row. The new Velican Centre where most of the screenings take place is a shopping mall with cinemas, as we have them in Western Europe. It is a pretty noisy venue in the middle of a park but with halls that have superb projection quality. Out of five cinema halls the festival goes on in four and that provokes a cannibalism = some screenings suffer because others ”eat” the audience. The Danish documentaries suffered, I regret to say, should have had a bigger audience, but the Danish directors present Andreas Johnsen, Anders Østergaard and Andreas Koefoed did a great job in Q&A’s and at well attended masterclasses for film students at film schools/universities. In two hour sessions the three of them showed clips from their films and gave the hungry-for-knowledge youngsters inspiration and answers to questions. Østergaard and Koefoed were also at the fine Danish Cultural Institute on the Mojka Embankment, which has previously supported Danish/Russian documentary meetings. The director Finn Andersen welcomed us generously.

About the cannibalism – I wonder if the festival should decrease its number of films? Actually the programme is huge and very competent when it comes to the retrospectives, the experimental section, the international competitions, whereas I can not judge the national programme – many told me that most of the films in that section had been supported by the Ministry of Culture… in other words, had been given an official stamp.

St. Petersburg. Noisy – the amount of cars seems to be increasing from year to year. Lots of traffic jam and taxis that gave up to go to Petrogradskaya island. St. Petersburg. Beautiful. You can’t stop admiring the architecture, the canals, the museums, to be reminded about the history, to eat the borsch and the pelmeni. And the vodka, not to forget, to be enjoyed with the many friends in the city. Spasibo bolshoi!

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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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