I met Kim Christiansen from DR TV Sales before the Forum started its second day at Amiralen in Malmö. I asked him which film was his best sell recently. To my pleasant surprise he said ”Cold Case Hammarskjöld” by Mads Brügger, a film with a non-mainstream storytelling, controversial also in subject, indeed a very good film, that Christiansen has sold to both broadcast and theatrical release. Brügger is a documentary director, who is mixing journalism and cinema and who likes to play with the medium.
Christoffer Guldbrandsen was the excellent journalist behind the first project
to be adressed to the decision makers. The project is confidential, the director was not present, he is in the US shooting, but I have to make a comment to what the DR commissioner Anders Bruus said, when he introduced Guldbrandsen as “an icon in Danish documentary”. God damn, he is not, as everyone could see from the trailer of the confidential journalistic project, and from his previous journalistic pieces about Danish politicians Naser Khader and Mogens Lykketoft. Icons in Danish documentary… Jon Bang Carlsen, Anne Wivel and Jørgen Leth. Carlsen was at the Forum pitching a new project at individual meetings together with his co-producers from Final Cut for Real, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Heidi Elise Christensen.
Sorry, had to get that comment out.
The second presentation – to continue my subjectivity – introduced a place, where I have been on holidays with good documentary friends from Lithuania: The beautiful Curonian Lagoon with dunes next to the Russian Kaliningrad. Using music of Estonian master composer Arvo Pärt the trailer to the film “Ribos” by Vytautas Puidokas, produced by Lukas Trimonis and with Belgian and Norwegian companies co-producing, was visual as almost all Lithuanian documentaries are, but not so clear when it comes to the story about ornithologists working on each side of the border, trying to find collaboration.
There was “Born to Struggle” by Swedish couple Nima Sarvestani and Maryam Ebrahimi, a film that has to be made. About “three post-genocide survivors”, who live inside the Kutupalang refugee camp in BanglaDesh. A film that wants to give “voice to the voiceless”. Strong trailer. Ayaz is looking for his little sister in a camp with 1,3 million refugees !
And there was Sami director Nils Gaup, who made the Oscar nominated « Pathfinder » in 1987 – edited by Danish Niels Pagh Andersen (the start of his career) – who came up with a crazy story from the art world, working title « Images of a Nordic Drama – Who is to Judge What True Art is ». Gaup talked about the « Munch Mafia » (see photo, thanks Robert Goodman), that did – and does – what it can to prevent paintings of the late Aksel Waldemar Johannesen to be exhibited, even if Much himself had talked positively about the paintings. The art collector Haakon Mehren is the man, who found Johannesen’s paintings and has organised exhibitions in Venice and wants to donate the collection to the city of Oslo. But the Munch Museum art people’s advice is « don’t accept the offer ». The trailer was full of humour that fits this absurd story that I am looking forward to see.
Staying in the art world I was also impressed by « The Choir ». Producer is the experienced, charismatic Swedish Stina Gardell with debut director Amanda Pesikan and Ellinor Hallin as cinematographer, whose work I admired last night in « Scheme Birds ». I asked my neighbour at the table in Amiralen, photographing filmmaker Robert Goodman what he thought of the camerawork in the trailer. Thumps up. And that is so important, when you are to film a choir and catch the emotions of the leader of the choir Cedwin. The film wants to take the audience behind the scene of a gospel choir to “raise questions about the human need for togetherness and spirituality ». The director has followed the choir for five years and now they are off to Chicago, the home of gospel, where Cedwin hopes that the members of the choir will understand the Christian background for the music. Conflict, drama, music.
« Fly so Far » takes us to El Salvador, where a group of women have been imprisoned because of miscarriage. Teodora is the character to carry the story. She is in her mid-thirties, was imprisoned and released in 2018, now she is an activist, who has presented the terrible stories at the European Parliament. The director, Celina Escher, has been filming for 2 years, the editing is being finished. If the film keeps what it promised with the trailer, it’s an obvious choice for DocsBarcelona 2020. This year the festival showed « La Cachada », also from El Salvador, also about a group of women, who fight injustice in a patriarchal society.
Anorak Films is of course based in Nuuk and it was the right choice to have a Greenlandic project to close the Forum 2019. With a very strong character Aaju Peter, who fights for the right of the inuits in Greenland and Arctic Canada in a film that has the title « Twice Colonised ». The camera likes her to use a cliché and the filmmaker Lin Alluna does not refrain from – in the trailer – showing that Aaju Peter has/has had alcohol problems after her son took his own life in 2018. « She’s a natural born storyteller », you feel that and I would love to see that film finished and bring it to the festivals I am involved in, when it is finished in 2021.
Those – I could have mentioned more – were my choices for this report. Now for some grumpy comments/suggestions that came to my mind during these two days:
Is it really necessary to have all funders sitting with the filmmakers giving their reasons for ”being on board”? Most of them just say ”amazing”, ”unique”, ”fantastic” – words to that effect. Minutes could be saved for the filmmakers/the decision makers?
Why are there so few, actually noone this year, who break the rules and start showing the trailer right up front and then talk afterwards. Convince the audience, catch our attention, it’s (also) a show for those of us, who are not at the table. Who observe. Show us that you know how to use the film language.
It is not very good that many at the table on this second day said “we met yesterday”, “we have been in touch before” – it lowers the intensity of the discussion and you wonder, what the conversations were about at the meetings. And it limits the flexibility of the poor moderators, as so much seems to be pre-arranged on who to ask.
Thank you for the invitation, dear Anita Reher. And good luck to the filmmakers! And bravo organisers to have so many documentary interested people listening, watching and commenting for two days.