Guy Davidi: Innocence (Uskyld)

Instruktøren: Det er en film om, hvad det betyder at blive soldat i Israel, og hvordan samfundet i Israel lægger pres på børn og unge fra en meget ung alder, frem til at de melder sig til militærtjeneste. Med filmen vil jeg gerne have publikum til at indse, at skildringen af militærvold ofte er meget anderledes end det billede, vi bliver præsenteret for.“Filmen fortæller historierne om fem unge afdøde soldater. Jeg ønskede ikke at følge én bestemt karakter, jeg ville vælge nogle stykker. Det tog mange år at opbygge. I stedet for at lave forskelle i hver historie, forsøger jeg at skildre den vigtigste historie, som de alle deler, nemlig presset ved at vokse op og gå ind i militærtjeneste”, siger Guy Davidi.

Citat taget fra pressemeddelelsen da filmen havde premiere i Danmark i slutningen af september i år.

Det er en betagende smuk humanistisk anti-militaristisk documentar i essay-genren. Som blander personligt arkivmateriale med uddrag af breve og dagbogsnotater i en imponerende cinematografisk ramme. Det er tydeligt at Davidi har arbejdet med materialet i årevis for at finde den rette respektfulde balance i forhold til de unge, som tog deres eget liv.

Danmark, Israel, Finland, Iceland, 2022, 101 mins.

IDFA Opening Night

Earlier this evening, the 36th International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) officially opened in the Royal Theater Carré with the world premiere of A Picture to Remember by Olga Chernykh.  

IDFA 2023 takes place from November 8 to 19 in more than 30 theaters and festival locations throughout Amsterdam. In those venues, IDFA will present 270 films and 32 new media projects from 137 countries. This 36th edition will welcome over 3000 professional delegates and guests who will be able to immerse themselves in a diverse program that includes films, interactive projects, an exhibition, performances, events and workshops. 
The opening night ceremony kicked off at Royal Theater Carré, with Artistic Director Orwa Nyrabia taking the stage to officially welcome all filmmakers, documentary professionals, and guests to Amsterdam:“With more than 3000 professionals arriving to Amsterdam and an edition that is the most international to date, we are looking forward to sharing films that will live long, travel the world from here, and filmmakers whose careers will shape the future of this field. It is at such terrible times that a film festival proves its worth, accepting that we are many and we are not in agreement, but we can still think together about this world that we share”

Opening film of IDFA 2023: A Picture to Remember by Olga Chernykh 
The festival opened with A Picture to Remember (Ukraine, France, Germany), in the presence of Ukrainian director Olga Chernykh. The film is her first feature-length documentary and presents a deeply personal and essay-style account of the ongoing war in Ukraine and its violent history, seen through the prism of three generations of women: Chernykh herself, her mother, and her grandmother. In a bid for connection and intimacy, the filmmaker uses old family films, recordings of conversations, and news reports to bridge the distance between her and her grandmother. The result is a kaleidoscopic and personal film that travels through time fluidly.   

A Picture to Remember received IDFA Bertha Fund support in 2023 and is nominated for the IDFA Award for Best First Feature. View the overview of awards at the festival here

Cultuurfonds Documentary Stipend goes to Luuk Bouwman 
During tonight’s opening ceremony, the €50,000 Documentary Stipend—made available annually by an anonymous patron—was awarded to filmmaker Luuk Bouwman for his documentary All Against All. The awarded sum is intended to financially support his next documentary project and his already-established careersin documentary film. The award was handed out by last year’s laureate, filmmaker and artist Pim Zwier. 

Talks with filmmakers and film professionals during the festival   
Throughout the upcoming festival, IDFA will host over 60 talks to accompany its film and industry programs, giving festival visitors unique insight into the filmmakers’ backgrounds, the journeys behind the films, and current developments in the documentary film industry.  

The extensive program is divided into the categories Film Talks, Filmmaker Talks, Corresponding Cinemas Talks, and Industry Talks & Sessions. All events will be hosted as in-person events, and a selection will be recorded and made available on-demand to all accredited guests in the Talks Library within 24 hours of the live event.   

With the theme Phenomenal Friction, IDFA’s new media section explores friction in all its forms. The exhibition program invites audiences to look beyond technological efficiency and convenience, to explore the resistance that propels creativity forward and the conflict that reveals life’s complexities. The selection will showcase over 30 interactive and immersive documentary works that use or comment on emerging technology in new and innovative ways.

Mstyslav Chernov: 20 Days in Mariupol

This text is from the website of the film:

“An AP team of Ukrainian journalists trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol struggle to continue their work documenting atrocities of the Russian invasion. As the only international reporters who remain in the city, they capture what later become defining images of the war: dying children, mass graves, the bombing of a maternity hospital, and more.

After nearly a decade covering international conflicts, including the Russia-Ukraine war, for The Associated Press, 20 DAYS IN MARIUPOL is Mstyslav Chernov’s first feature film. The film draws on Chernov’s daily news dispatches and personal footage of his own country at war. It offers a vivid, harrowing account of civilians caught in the siege, as well as a window into what it’s like to report from a conflict zone, and the impact of such journalism around the globe.”

This text is from the Ukrainian DocuDays festival website – the film won the first prize in the Ukrainian competition category and the Audience Award. The motivation for the first one goes like this: “Unprecedented document of the time and evidence of crime. But despite all the captured monstrosity and dehumanization the film leaves the viewer with a sense of forceful determination to keep resisting – because of the professional commitment and public service of the ordinary heroes in front and behind the camera.

All of you remember the scene with the pregnant woman being carried to the hospital, an iconic photo… mother and child did not survive – I chose another photo taken from the DOC/NY site.

DOCA Documentary Association Georgia

… was founded one year ago, November 2022. And has since then performed an avalanche of activities, first of all protesting against the Ministry of Culture and its Reorganization at Georgian National Film Center followed by demonstrations outside the Center and outside the Ministry together with other parts of the cultural sector, whose independence of political influence was equally threatened, I posted on this:

A month ago – at the festival in Batumi – DOCA held a well attended meeting “How to Navigate a politically charged environment”. Filmmakers discussed the boycott of the Georgian Film Centre, here are quotes of a statement: …More than 200 people working in cinema – directors, actors, scriptwriters, cameramen, film studios, etc. – signed a statement boycotting the Georgian National Film Center. This came after the Minister of Culture, Tea Tsulukiani, controversially reorganized the Center and appointed her loyal cadre to direct it… “As a sign of protest, we will no longer participate in the competitions and projects announced by the seized film center; we refuse to be members of the competition commissions because we do not want to become a formal participant in the process that leads to the destruction of modern Georgian cinema, culture, and science,” – reads the statement.

DOCA has established a Film Club as well to SHOW the strength of the Georgian documentary right now, where it wins awards at numerous festival around the world but also to invite the audience to explore high quality international documentaries like “Workingman’s Death” by late Michael Glawogger. Furthermore seminars are set up and of course it is a good idea to have the CEO of the Danish Film Institute Claus Ladegaard come to talk about how that state institution is organised and runs. It takes place next week, November 10 in Tbilisi and the IMS has helped financially.

… and one more thing – take a look at my FB page – PEN America has published “Taming Culture in Georgia” with an elegant reference to the film of Salomé Jashi, “Taming the Garden”…

Pedro Costa at Festival dei Popoli

Retrospective and masterclass with one of the absolute masters of Cinema today, Portuguese Pedro Costa, at the legendary Festival dei Popoli that starts in two days. The festival site has this introduction to Costa:

“To go back on Pedro Costa’s filmography means first of all to follow the mutations and changes, film after film, of his recurring characters, such as Vanda Duarte, Ventura, and Vitalina Varela. The bodies change, decline, and as years go by expose the truth of time, which carves the marks of grief and pain on them. Real bodies that incarnate collective traumas, a theme that has always haunted the cinema of the Portuguese director. 

Costa is not seeking mercy for the last; he shows their power, their almost sacred dimension with its transfiguring potential, reminiscent of Pasolini. Each of Pedro’s shots is therefore potentially documentary, precisely because it is in search of a truth of the world by submitting spaces (Cabo Verde, or the Fontainhas neighbourhood) to a transformation process. At this juncture, enter the other great ‘character’ of his cinema: black. In Costa’s films, the bodies and spaces are sources of light surrounded by darkness. Black, however, is not an ornamental choice or aesthetic mannerism: on the contrary, it descends from a precise theoretical decision. 

Black is the truest and deepest offscreen space of film. Time falls in it and hides, swallowed by a present without memory that pushes nonetheless to come to the surface. In black lies grief; the traumas and sorrows of the past have settled on it. Light and white (like the hospital in Cavalo dinheiro or the new houses in Juventude em marcha) thus become the obliteration of time, the aseptic sign of obliviousness.”

The festival also welcomes other big names like Ulrich Seidl and Liv Ullmann. Photo of Costa from the site of the festival

Ostrochovsky, Pekarcik: Photophobia

… with the first names Ivan and Pavol are known by me for their “Velvet Terrorists”, that I called “an original, intelligent and humorous” film in a review from 2013 ( If you take away “Humorous” and use “poetic” instead, it fits what I think of this film from a metrostation in Kharkiv Ukraine. Filmed during 4 months from the day after the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine.

Original in the way it uses the “photophobia”. The family that lives underground in the metro does not dare to exit in fear of light and of the strikes happening or that could happen just walking on grass as one says – mines are placed there. And intelligent in the way the two main protagonists, Nikita and Vika, around 12 years old, can experience the world outside through watching slides of people (mostly) posing for the camera holding animals. This is how the world is shown outside in the slides. With smoke from bombings but also with the sun rays that the two can catch, when they go to the staircase to the metro. Poetry!

Nikita wants to go out, his mother says no, brings him to the doctor – there is a clinic in the metro, much is very organized here – who gives him some vitamine pills and advice to write a diary instead of staring at his cell phone all the time. But he meets Vika and that becomes a small love story with the two running around in the metro having fun and thus also showing us viewers around in the world downstairs, where small “homes” are arranged and where Nikita’s mother is cooking the okroshka soup, he likes.

Apart from the intelligent set-up of the love story of the two kids, accompanied by a cowboy-hat bearded singer who with his guitar brings love songs alive, the film gives the audience numerous sequences of impressions and stories of especially older people, who have ended up here, whose relatives have passed away or are not to get hold of. Classical documentary scenes from the beginning of a senseless war.

Slovakia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, 71 mins.

Veronika Lišková: The Visitors

Oh, what an intelligent film with many layers, was my thought after the 85 minutes in company with Zdenka and her family in Svalbard. Including not only the young Czech social anthropologist going to the Arctic with her family to study the life of the people, who have chosen to live there, and how the community is built up, but also existential questions like “what can we give back to other people”, when you are – as she says, clever Zdenka – “a short time visitor or a long time tourist”. In a skype talk Zdenka has with her mentor, the latter tells her that you can not be an anthropologist and a social worker. This is one of the many qualities of the film that it takes the protagonist from being the neutral interviewer to become involved in the complex mindset of being a Svalbard citizen, who tries to be at home or build a home. Is it Norwegian, Svalbard, not really the film says through the many conversations Zdenka has with citizens of Longyearbyen – what a name for a city. Zdenka talks to a journalist, a mining engineer (the mining industry is to stop or has stopped), the mayor of Longyearbyen, a priest, a librarian, a biologist, a student, a goldsmith, an Ethiopean, Zdenka has helped but who has no job and can not get a place to stay… the anthropologist breaks down, “I can’t help you”, she says in that scene.

I/we would like to stay here, my kids (she has three of them) consider this their home, she speaks good Norwegian, she gets along with everybody, she has a nice husband. But what is home and she misses the green trees and the smell of spring back home in Czech Republic?

Which brings me to the thought that Veronika Liškova must have had in mind, while making this beautifully shot (the icy sceneries, the tiny kids in the extraordinary nature playground) respectful and also personal documentary about the good human being, who wants to understand and help: But has to realize that it is not possible for a Zdenka or a film director Veronika, who will stay the short time visitor. But less is more and again a skilled documentary director has taken her audience to a mythical place on the earth. Enjoyable and food for thought.

Czech Republic, 2022, 85 mins.

Anneta Papathanasiou: Laughing in Afghanistan

There is quite an interview in this both entertaining and scary documentary: Mohammad Sadic Akif Mujahir, spokesman for the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and prevention of Vice, says that music is a satanic art… and reflects, rather he states that there are three kinds of smiles: There is the one where the lips are sealed, then there´s the smile where you can see the teeth, and then there´s the loud laughter. Which is a bad thing in our society, he says. A mullah, just after the interview, shouts that loud laughter is not allowed in the new (taliban) Afghanistan, which leaves no space for charming actor Karim Asir, the protagonist of the film, who wants to be the Afghan Chaplin, and that he can fill in that role, is demonstrated elegantly by Anneta Papathanasiou, organising small Chaplin b/w sketches as we know them. They make us laugh but they can not be performed in the home country of Karim, the country he had to leave after death threats when he had performed.

Anneta Papathanasiou could have made a reportage style film with interviews, she decided “to go with” the actor, tell his story, do it in a way full of charm and funny episodes – and then cut to Karim to have him express emotionally NOT to be in his country and make people happy with his art. Touching!

According to Anneta Papathanasiou the film has done well in cinema screenings, it will be shown at Al Jazeera Balkan and at festivals, I am sure, it has an audience. My recommendation!

Greek Documentary Association

… was built up in May 2013 “by professionals of all disciplines – directors, producers, screenwriters, cinematographers, editors … – with a common passion for Creative Documentary…” with the vision “From the start, we sought to support the Documentary as a distinct form of filmmaking in Greece and to work for its further recognition and promotion internationally, by Organizing spezialized educational events/ Developing ways and means for the promotion and distribution of documentaries/ Building collaborations with similar organizations, international festivals and markets/ Fighting for the recognition and standing that the Greek Creative Documentary deserves from state authorities” – quoted from the website of the association,

In June same year, 2013, the public broadcaster ERT was closed and this raised a lot of protests, also from the Association. On this site we brought a text sent to us by filmmaker Marianna Economou, I quote again “…

“We, the creators of documentaries, united citizens and peoples, will fight for the immediate re opening of ERT, so that Greek creativity and culture reaches every house. We will fight the bill that the government announced as it continues and even strengthens the interference of the political parties and their control of public television. We will make propositions for necessary reforms in order for this voice to acquire its important educational, cultural and ethnic role, especially during these difficult times that we are traversing.

We are the only country in the world that has a black out on the public television screen and where the radio waves are silenced. Let’s fight, so that these media become the essential means, guardians and catalysts for the promotion of education and culture.” The whole text is here: ERT exists today, don´t know for how long time there was “black screen”!.

The Association has around 200 members today, it organizes documentary events, is active at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival and arranges its own small festival for new Greek documentaries and projects in development. I was invited to come to Athens to do two masterclasses, one was for makers, who wanted to know more about how to prepare projects, pitch (writing, showing via a teaser/trailer, talking) where I had the pleasure to make a case study together with talented Ukrainian/Greek Vera Iona Papadopoulou and her work-in-progress “Nova Opera – The Art of War” AND do a presentation (the second day) of the narrative diversity of the documentary genre of today showing clips from Denmark, Sweden, Eastern Europe including Georgia. Not with the same countries but with the same INSPIRATION goal as 25 years ago (!), where I was invited to do the same but with more days. It was indeed a wonderful come back to friends from the documentary scene in Greece – including memories from numerous visits organized by Kostas Spyropoulos in the periods 2009-12 and 2013-17, through Storydoc.

… and you are treated well in Greece. That’s what I chose as a photo taken by a waiter with the cell phone of Marianna Economou, who is the one in yellow on the left side of the table. On FB there are other photos with introductions.


Festival East By Southeast

Under den 12. udgave af festivalen East by Southeast præsenterer Cinemateket 10 af de bedste helt nye fiktions- og dokumentarfilm film fra lige så mange lande i Central- og Østeuropa. Formålet med festivalen er ikke mindst at give et dansk publikum mulighed for at stifte bekendtskab med kulturen og den rige filmproduktion i vores europæiske ’nabolande’. Alle ti film har danmarkspremiere under festivalen, der får besøg af fem instruktører.

Under den 12. udgave af festivalen East by Southeast præsenterer Cinemateket 10 af de bedste helt nye fiktions- og dokumentarfilm film fra lige så mange lande i Central- og Østeuropa. Formålet med festivalen er ikke mindst at give et dansk publikum mulighed for at stifte bekendtskab med kulturen og den rige filmproduktion i vores europæiske ’nabolande’. Alle ti film har danmarkspremiere under festivalen, der får besøg af fem instruktører. I de fleste central- og østeuropæiske film er karaktererne stadig vigtigere end plottet, men i forsøget på appellere til et større (hjemme)publikum, udnytter regionens filmskabere i stigende grad en række genrekonventioner, som det sker på kreativ og effektiv vis i det rumænske actiondrama ’The Father who Moves Mountains’ og i den tjekkiske thriller ’Suppressed’. Mange instruktører i regionen udsender dog stadig meget personlige værker. Det gælder f.eks. ungarske Dimitry Ljasuk, der besøger festivalen med den inspirerende feel-good-film ’Island of Good Hope’, hvor hovedpersonen/instruktøren går i selvvalgt eksil på en lille ubeboet ø ved Tisza-søen. Et andet eksempel på en personlig tilgang er Agnieszka Zwiefkas ’Vika!’ – et bevægende portræt af den 84-årige polske dj, Wirginia Szmyt. Den slovakiske instruktør Peter Kerekes præsenterer under festivalen sit prisvindende drama ’107 Mothers’ der følger den autentiske historie om 107 mødre i et fængsel i Odessa. Kerekes har desuden været producer på den rørende dokumentar, ’Fragile Memory’, hvori den unge instruktør, Igor Ivanko, portrætterer sin Alzheimers-ramte bedstefar, Leonid Burlaka, der i perioden 1964 til 1999 stod bag kameraet under produktionen af 30 film fra det berømte Odessa Film Studio. East by Southeast åbner filmgrænserne den 2. november med danmarkspremiere på den forrygende litauiske komedie ’Parade’ (2022), instrueret af Titas Laucius, som selv vil introducere sin film og svare på spørgsmål fra publikum, og Litauens Ambassade byder på et glas vin i Asta Bar efter filmen. Tak til de central- og østeuropæiske ambassader, der yder støtte til gæstebesøg og afholder receptioner i forbindelse med forestillingerne. Mette Camilla Melgaard og Jesper Andersen, programredaktører / Cinemateket