Nordisk Panorama – the Forum/ Second Day

It’s 9.10am and everybody is there – the financiers sit at the table, the pitch team members are at the first rows in the audience waiting for their turn to perform, and the moderators Gitte Hansen and Mikael Opstrup, who were obviously happy about the way the first day went, are now eager to keep the civilised documentary family atmosphere intact. Yes, we Nordic people are trying to be punctual, and 10 minutes delay is not really a delay. From the point of view of someone, who has organised workshops in the South of Europe!

Again a very tough start of the day. Theme: Sexually abused street children in the Philippines, who are, as said in the catalogue, ”offered a new life at a center on an island South of Manila”, a film to be directed by Danish Mikala Krogh. Actually it is a film already in production; the director is in the country with her family and has been there for a year. That’s a true commitment and for me there is no doubt that this will be another fine film from the hands of Mikala Krogh backed up by producer Sigrid Dyekjær and the company Danish Documentary, and financially with 200.000€ (!) from the Danish Film Institute, consultant Helle Hansen. The pilot, as the pitcher Dyekjær called it, was very well made (only objection: again too dominant music) and the response from the financiers were Yes = This is good. Only one that needed ”to see structure” was NRK’s Tore Tomter…

Equally succesful in terms of good response, prologues for the

individual meetings in the afternoon, some even said ”I’m in” (= financially) was ”The Other Jerusalem” by PeÅ Holmquist and Suzanne Khardalian, who with passionate gesticulation introduced the story about Palestinians being forced out of East Jerusalem. She mentioned that 20.000 demolishing orders are published – in the clip you meet two Palestinians suffering from ”the annexation”, that ”they” call it, not occupation, as Khardalian stressed, and you are in the room of the lawyer Ziad, who seems to be a central character in the film, the one ”the victims” come to talk to. Holmquist has secured coproduction agreements with Finland and Norway, so no doubt that this film will be made. If fully financed… you never know! From the reactions it seems so.

The Icelandic project ”FC Kareoki” about mud or swamp soccer was a good relax after the two thematically hard starters, and one where jokes could made about – as SVT’s Charlotte Hellström said – another game that Men play to have fun; Whereas the Finnish ”My Plato’s Cave” was a proposal about an autistic young man, well presented it was. But no real enthusiasm for any of those two.

And then to something completely different as ”they” say: ”Mogadishu Soldier” by Norwegian acknowledged director Torstein Grude, who has 400 hours of material shot during a year by two Burundian soldiers, who fight Al-Shebaab in Somalia. Very very hard to watch the clip with close-ups of corpses with heads shut off, graphic indeed, raising a lot of ethical questions. We are in the process of selecting scenes, said producer Bjarte Mørner Tveit, it is going to be ”from the soldier’s perspective”, a bit like ”Act of Killing”, whose Danish editor Niels Pagh Andersen has been hired to do the job of making a watchable film.

Trailers are the most important in a pitching session, you quickly notice sitting at a Forum like this. Most of them are made trying to be on two legs: to be informative and to convey the visual style of the film to be. Difficult that is, but possible as shown through ”Bobbi Jene”, a project presented by from Danish producers Julie Leerskov and Sara Stockmann with Elvira Lind as director, a fascinating – finally there was one – love story, where the director has followed the protagonist for three years. In Tel Aviv and now in New York, where Bobbi Jene wants ”to create her own boundary breaking and violently personal performances”. A character-driven story and as with the previously mentioned project, the name of the editor, Adam Nielsen, was launched to push for individual meetings to get money. 75% of the financing in place for this character-driven story.

Trailers can tell how a film will be in tone and that was the case for Swedish ”After Inez” by Karin Ekberg, who two days after the birth filmed the parents of a stillborn daughter. I had to turn the head away for a moment, when the camera pointed at the dead child but I got back and sensed the respect from the filmmaker towards the parents and their grief. She has followed the parents for two years to observe how they handled the grief – until the moment where Inez gets a little brother. During the two day Forum these were the most silent moments at Amiralen!

What is the balance – a buzz word during the two days – between this and that, was a very often expressed sentence, and it came back when Danish director Boris Bertram presented his ”Photographer of War” with photographer Jan Grarup as main character – referring to the transformation process that Bertram wants to observe of Grarup, who from being totally focused on his job, now – after the illness and death of his ex-wife – ”has to take care of his four children by himself”. As a Dane: Grarup is a very interesting character, a film on him is welcomed, if Bertram can catch the change, if it happens, maybe it has already, that was not quite clear from a visual presentation with a pretty bombastic sound design. Not needed, Grarup’s photos could easily stand on their own.

End of two days with high quality documentary projects, high budgets, most of them around 300.000€, a demonstration of a well-functioning Nordic collaboration financially. With big money from the film institutes and less from the tv stations, it is a Paradise when you compare with other European countries. One could wish for more participation of the true authors – as a friend of mine from a distribution company said ”it is very much subject-orientated”, for television more than for theatrical release, and for festivals of course. And for the show-side of it: Could one wish for some more breaking  the rules that the audience/the observers could avoid some fatigue seeing the same way of presenting and answering from the panel. Having said so I am a loyal fan of these public pitches contrary to the one-to-one meetings. In the Malmö public pitch you get the chance to know what happens in the Nordic documentary world right now. To see the players on stage.

Photo: Teddy Gruoya, Amdocs Festival, Palm Springs.

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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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