Ivan Sautkin: A Poem for Litlle People

I think the still photo says all about the approach and the intention of the director: In the middle of the horrible war an old woman writes and reads poems, surrounded by flowers; here in the beginning of the film and later on she reads a poem addressed to a mother from her son, a soldier in the Russian army. The poems are for the motherland Ukraine, her contribution. The other old woman the director talks about below in a quote I have taken from the press release. It’s a film that does not go with the soldiers to the front line even if the sound of war is there all the time.

Old women, otherwise, are characters, named like that at the end credits, who together with old men are evacuated by the volunteers, who drive from place to place, village to village to pick up people in areas, where they are in danger. A 91 old grandmother and her blind husband are led to the rescue car, aunt Nina with her cat the same, the woman who are worried for her paralyzed brother and “can I take my cat”, the 87 year old woman who is picked up, her son stays and comes out to the evacuaters to give them a big jar of honey, are you a bee keeper, they ask, yes is the answer, the painter, younger than the other, who has to leave his atelier…

And in a morning a group of nurses and doctors meet to pray before they go with the ambulances to meet people in shelters – to help. That it the theme, to help, in whatever religious or not interpretation you want to choose, in the name of compassion and humanity, it happens in Ukraine, in Gaza, all over, and making a film is also to help as Ivan Sautkin writes:

“At the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, I, like most of my colleagues, was confused.  Everything I was doing until that moment lost its value. The world of war is radically different from everything we are used to. My first reaction was to mobilize and pick up a gun, but I made the rational decision to pick up my camera.  I started with a series of short documentaries.  With their help, I discovered a new reality for myself.  

After the de-occupation of the north of Ukraine, I went to the village where my old friend Zinaida Lukyanenko lives. I was interested in how she survived the difficult times and learned that during the occupation she did not sit idly by but helped our military.  I was struck by the courage of this woman and it was from her story that my film began. I keep in touch with my characters in the film, we also became close friends. I try to help their mission as much as I can and in the future I plan to return to the front line territory to work with them.This movie taught me many things. The most valuable experience is the ability to appreciate people regardless of their views and other things that distance us from each other.”

What can I say: This is a rich and beautiful film in the fragmented way it is made – Sautkin is the cinematographer himself I understand – with the way it embraces those who help and those who are helped. And its audience.

Ukraine and other countries, 2024, 86 mins.

Democracy Noir & Kix

Two films about/from Hungary. “Democracy Noir” by Connie Field and “Kix” by Bálint Révész & Dávid Mikulán.

The first “Democracy Noir” is primarily informative with a lot of tv archive on Victor Orban, but also material shot during demonstrations in the streets and interviews at the homes of the three courageous female protagonists “opposition politician Timea, journalist Babett and nurse Nikoletta (Niko) – who fight tirelessly to expose the lies and corruption embedded in Orbán’s government. But they face a well-funded and sophisticated opposition in Orbán’s ultra-conservative Fidesz party, which has a strong influence on voters and has already changed key democratic constitutional laws to further cement one-party rule.” We knew it all about the disgusting Orban, from newspapers and tv but credit to the ambition to make this film and its subject easy to understand and therefore – I hope – sellable to public broadcasters. Except the Hungarian, of course, as this is controlled by the dictator as he is called in one of the clips from an EU meeting.

“Kix”, yes what is this, what is happening, is it going to be, as it is said in the festival catalogue “handheld skate video” the whole way through. No, it changes, as the protagonist Sanyi changes, he is followed over 10 years and he changes. It is a powerful portrait of him and his pals, his family and their poor living conditions, social problems, a heroic mother who has three jobs to feed the family, a grandmother who can analyze why this and that happens to Sanyi, not to forget the little sister. Lot of reflections on life, poetic rapping voice off; I was totally charmed by the intelligent boy and his growing up, having a girl friend… and then there is a twist at the end of the film. There is so much energy and presence in this film. Yes, let’s use the word Authenticity. Award tonight? I guess so!   

Kateryna Gornostai: Timestamp

This film is to be made, well HAS to be made. I was not at the pitching Forum yesterday, where it was presented but I saw the trailer, which proves very much, why it got the top price at the Industry Award ceremony, announced last night. Here is from press release:

The Eurimages New Lab Award for Outreach worth €30.000 Euro went to Timestamp by Kateryna Gornostai (PHOTO), produced by Olha Beskhmelnytsina and Natalia Libet (2Brave Productions / Rinkel Film & Docs, UA & NL) presented at CPH:FORUM 2024. The Outreach Award is designed to promote public awareness of innovative and experimental projects at the end of production or in post-production.

The jury consisted of Emile Hertling Péronard (Producer, Anorak Film), Eleni Chandrinou (Audiovisual Consultant, Greece) and Patricia Finneran (Impact Fund Officer, The StoryBoard Collective).

Their citation reads: “This war movie takes place far from the frontline where soldiers, mostly men, fight for their country. It is the story of teachers, mostly women, who fight to preserve a sense of normalcy for the children going to school in bombed out buildings, underground metro stations, or on Zoom from laptops in their teacher’s backyard.

The jury is pleased to give the 30,000 Euro Outreach Award to a highly cinematic film that avoids traditional narrative structures to tell the story of a school year in a country at war, crafted by an all-women team of Ukrainian filmmakers. 

This film provides a nuanced image of life in a war-torn country, and we hope that this award will help it find broad international audiences.

Elena Mikaberidze: Blueberry Dreams

I was in the cinema Dagmar the other night to watch the Georgian film “Blueberry Dreams” produced by Elene Margvelashvili from Georgian Parachute Films and directed by Elena Mikaberidze. It is a masterpiece from a director, who has stayed long enough with her protagonists to catch, what is so important in documentary observation, MOMENTS, of the poetry of life as it is to find in a family of four, mum and dad and two wonderful boys. Here is the CPH:DOX catalogue description:

“Led by the good-hearted father Soso, a family of four starts a blueberry farm to secure their future together. But with a home in northern Georgia, their village is close to the troubled border with the Russian-backed region of Abkhazia, where new conflicts have been rumbling for 30 years. Soso is a retired engineer, but together with his wife Nino and their sons Giorgi and Lazare, he throws himself into the ‘Plant the Future’ programme set up by the Georgian authorities to stabilise the area. Nino is haunted by memories of the war and dreams of her children experiencing the world, while Soso wants to maintain their connection to the land. But Giorgi and Lazare long for a different future, immersing themselves in anime and dreaming of visiting Japan. In the midst of their daily lives, the family navigates between hardship, joy and contemplation of a different future.”

On the photo you see the youngest son Lazare, who is my darling of the film. Full of life, in constant movement, quick in conversation, normally with a hat on his head, showing his drawings of life, and one on war – what will become of him, a lot I hope, life can´t stop him.

Ileana Stanculescu from CinéDoc Tbilisi was at the premiere as well. Read her fine words:

“Yes, this was a great world premiere, in a full cinema, with an audience that was laughing and reacting at every important moment in the film and… most relevant… an audience that was touched by the story of Soso and his struggles to survive, to raise his boys and to develop his blueberry farm in West Georgia, in spite of many difficulties. Such a warm film, beautifully shot, great editing… Soso and his family will stay with us for a long time.”

Georgia and other countries, 2024, 75 mins.

CPH:DOX Forum 1 & 2

Stepping out of the Metro on Kongens Nytorv yesterday morning on my way to the Royal Theatre’s “Stærekassen”, Danish poet Peter Laugesen was steps ahead of me. It threw my thoughts back to my dear friend and co-editor of this site, Allan Berg Nielsen, who passed away some days ago. Allan loved Laugesen, made in 1989 a film with him, photographer was Lars Johansson. I was just getting the idea that Laugesen, an old beat poet, was maybe invited to read a poem at the opening of the second day of the festival’s Forum. Of course not, Laugesen passed “Stærekassen” with his dog…

It IS wonderful that the Forum can hold its 4 day Forum in a theatre like this one that has its special atmosphere of performance from the stage with an audience. There are balcony seats and seats near the ceiling, where “les enfants du paradis” can be placed. Many stairs, wooden floors, toilets for “damer” and “herrer”, the latter with pissoirs as I remember them, where you line up and can talk to your neighbour…

“Change” was the title of the first day’s Forum, presented like this by the festival: CHANGE is our development co-production training program in collaboration with IMS and EAVE, featuring documentary projects in development from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Great initiative implemented for the second year with Georgian “Nana´s Wings” as the first project on stage, presented by director Maradia Tsaava and producer Mariam Chachia, both filmmakers previously praised on this site for their works “Water has No Borders” and “Magic Mountain”. Maradia Tsaava introduces like this: “it was a dark, cold, very windy night, when Nana arrived in a small-town Telavi. She had only one thing with her – a small brown bag… This is how the film will start, the story of my grandmother’s aspiration to fight post-war agony with art””. They presented precisely and with passion and had a trailer with a cliffhanger, i.e. do you want to know more. The project was previously presented and awarded at CinéDoc Tbilisi

6 projects were presented, a couple without allowance to write about them. Let me mention a couple more from this session: Ukrainian Pavlo Dorohoi, whose “Metro” and “89 Days” I have met before and appreciated, came with “The Ferryman” (Photo), very good trailer, promising film-to-be about 16-year-old Danylo, “who works as a ferryman in the shadow of a destroyed bridge 50 km from Kharkiv to earn money and continue his studies at a sports academy, but dreams of becoming a professional kayaker collide the reality of wartime”. And “Land of Fairy Tales and Dreams” by Denis Pavlovic is also one that could end up successfully on the screen with its stories from Transnistria, the almost unknown region in Moldova that supports Putin. Some tour guides are meant to be the guiding characters.

The format was fine, the classical one: 7 minutes presentation and 7 minutes questions from the moderator, who was American Sean Flynn, very well prepared, and the teams had been trained in beforehand, but the moderator’s tone was monotonous, it gave a dry atmosphere but luckily there were screens in both sides of the stage that brought his words as he was speaking…

… and then today the Forum for projects that are developed, many of them close to being characterized as “ready to go” but still lacking funding. I listened and watched the first six that went one after the other – after a pretty long but ok start with speeches by Kathrine Kiilgaard and Niklas Engstrøm, managing and artistic director of the festival, the new head of Industry and Training Mara Gourd-Mercado and the project manager Anna Krasztev-Kovacs. There was a tribute to late Jess Search, who was a moderator of the Forum for many years, her wife Beadie Finzi was there and a clip was shown. Respect.

And then the moderators took over, professional and experienced Karolina Lidin and Tabitha Jackson, who managed the short time in a fine way, having three commentators come on stage for presentation of themselves and questions to the teams pitching.

Let me mention two of the six projects: The Chinese/Dutch “Whispers in May” by Dongnan Chen, a film made in collaboration with the kids taking part, having Qinghua, who is 14, having her first menstruation that “sets in motion a quest for self-discovery … a road trip with her two besties to find a skirt for the menarche rite of passage”. The presentation was charming and convincing, the clip full of poetic scenes, lovely!

And then Arthur Franck, whose “The Hypnotist” I saw and loved some years ago, Finnish humour, Franck took the audience’s attention totally with his stage performance of “Showtime in Helsinki”, 1975; cold war meeting with Kissinger, Gerald Ford, Brezhnev, Honecker, Harold Wilson, Olof Palme… Maybe the most important and simultaneously the most forgotten Cold War event to take place, as they put it in the catalogue. “Horror and comedy”, Franck said.

to be continued… in Stærekassen in Copenhagen.

Allan Berg Nielsen 1940-2024

Fredag døde Allan fredfyldt i skumringstimen. Hans datter Maria var ved hans side. Lang tids sygdom sled ham op.

Det var en gave at kende Allan, som vi gjorde siden slutningen af 1970’erne. Andre kender meget mere til hans virke på Kulturhistorisk Museum, beskrevet i hans Randersbiografien, som er en forrygende flot hjemmeside, en bog, som dokumenterer Allans viden om sin by og dens bygninger, blandt andet Sct. Mortens Kirke, hvor han i mange år var en skattet formand for menighedsrådet.

I slutningen af 1970’erne startede Allan Danmarks første kortfilmbiograf på museet. 16mm ruller blev sendt til Randers og Allan betjente projektoren og viste eksperimenterende film af Kirkeby og Jørgen Leth og mange andre.

Det blev til en filmfestival i Randers og til et venskab, som startede i en fælles passion for filmen, men rakte langt videre. Til rejser i ind- og udland. Til glæden ved mad og drikke. Og bøger. Hvor Tue talte film med Allan, var det bøger, som der oftest blev talt om med Ellen. Når vi besøgte ham i Niels Brocks Gade, var han altid i gang med en to-tre bøger, danske som udenlandske. Han var ikke god til engelsk eller tysk og alligevel læste han Rainer Marie Rilke på originalsproget – og Werner Herzogs erindringer. Der blev snakket og drukket en lille whisky eller to. Eller set film. Kieslowskis franske trilogi…

Allan var ikke glad for at tale til store forsamlinger. Alligevel gjorde han det og vi var både stolte og glade, da han holdt et foredrag i Istanbul for tyrkiske dokumentarister, som var vilde med ham og kaldte ham Alan Delon! Med sin viden og sans for filmisk kvalitet var han en oplagt kandidat til juryposter og han var i Pilsen i Tjekkoslovakiet og i Spanien i jury med Pedro Costa, hvis film han forgudede. Og så var han nærmest fast jurymedlem på Balticum Film&TV Festival fra 1990 og ti år frem. Han havde sit eget faste værelse på købmandsgården i Gudhjem og faldt totalt for de baltiske film, ikke mindst Audrius Stonys korte film.

Allan var medlem af Statens Filmcentrals bestyrelse sammen med bl.a. Erik Sigsgaard og Reimer Bo Christensen, respekteret for sin viden og evne til argumentation. Og det var naturligt, at han blev filmkonsulent i Det Danske Filminstitut efter SFC blev lagt sammen med DFI. Det var hårde år for ham for alle skulle behandles ordentligt, men ikke alle var glade for hans grundighed. Der var protester fra instruktører, nogle ville have ham afsat, men DFI’s Thomas Stenderup og Henning Camre støttede ham; det samme gjorde Jørgen Leth, Anne Wivel og Jon Bang Carlsen.

I de fem år  som konsulent – 1998-2003 – boede Allan en del af tiden hos os. Når vi stod op, var han som regel allerede gået på arbejde, men om aftenen stod den tit på rødvin og røde bøffer. De sidste købte Allan hos slagter Thrane i Nansensgade – det var huslejen.

Og så – i 2007 – kom www.filmkommentaren.dk. Det var Allans idé at han og jeg ”gamle drenge” (et udtryk Allan aldrig ville have brugt!) startede den filmblog, som nu bringer hans nekrolog. Han skrev på dansk, jeg på engelsk. Jeg har ikke talt efter, men Allan har nok leveret 1000 tekster, hvoraf mange fik mig til at sige til den beskedne, kloge ven fra Randers: Det er der ingen andre, der skriver bedre end dig. Det er jo poesi! For eksempel om Anne Wivels seneste film, som fik en Bodil i går!

Allan var en sprogets mester og mange har nydt godt af det. Han elskede at skrive, førte dagbog, skrev kærlighedsbreve – og var til det sidste én af få, som holdt fast i at skrive postkort!

Åh, kære kære Allan, vi kommer til at savne dig, du fine menneske!

Foto: Allan i sin båd.

Ellen og Tue, 17.3.2024

Zara Zerny: Echo of You

A brief and warm recommendation of the Danish debutant Zara Zerny’s film on a group of men and women between 80 and 100, who lost their husband, wife or partner and how they have overcome the grief connected. But mostly about the memories, the small and bigger moments of a long life together, and suddenly you are alone. Some of them, however, have found a new partner in life, some not but cope very well – from their home or from the nursing home they have moved into.

It sounds thematically like a déja vu so it´s all about how the film is constructed and the director’s skills to get close, asking questions in a fine respectful manner. Zara Zerny’s ambition is clear from the start, I am not going to make an interview film, it has to be lively and for my taste she succeeds fully. She is playing with the protagonists, they are playing with their bodies, there are movements and it helps of course, when one of them – the one on the photo – was performing at Cirque du Soleil togther with his late wife. They had a comeback when they were 73! Archive proofs their ability.

There is also the clever, reflective 100 year old woman, who is eating an ice. There is the homosexual, who has found or was found by a 20 year younger man, who finds him sexy. There is the woman from the countryside, who got a child before marriage, which was not approved by the parents. There is talk about being unfaithful, yes of course most of them say, not a big deal…

The tone is light and I understand completely, why the CPH:DOX has chosen to send this film to all corners of the kingdom. It will be appreciated as it was for me and my wife – we (at least I) are not 80 years yet. But we are getting there.

Denmark, 2023, 76 mins.

Kristoffer Juel Poulsen & Christian Als: Daughter of Genghis

… Knud Brix took part in the creation of the film as did producer Andreas Dalsgaard, Elk Film. And many others…

Again it is beautifully demonstrated, how important Time is, when you do documentaries. This film is shot over a period of 8 years, 2015-2023. Things happen during these years for the protagonists Gerel Byamba and her son Temuulen, who is six years old, when we meet him. With a cliché: the camera loves the two and convey through many close-ups expressions – hate, love, sadness – of mother and son.

Gerel hates the Chinese, has formed her own feminist gang that has as its mission to fight prostitution and enter with violence brothels. She uses the swastika, wanting Mongolia to be for Mongolians only, the camera is with her and her gang at a couple of raids. Quite tough to look at.

Paradoxically, Gerel takes a job as security officer at a Chinese railroad project in the Gobi Desert. The son is left in the capital Ulaanbaatar with some family, misses his mother, who tried to get her father take care of the boy. In vain. Slowly the film tells its audience about her childhood, a mother who passed away, while Gerel was a child and a father, who was not present in her life.

The film provides in an excellent way the necessary information to its audience about Mongolia but where it really catches the attention and evokes emotions are in the scenes between mother and son. Especially after she comes back from the job, has saved enough to get a good flat for Temuulen and herself. It is amazing how natural these scenes are, chapeau to the filmmakers for getting that close and for creating poetic moments. The scene where Gerel opens up to tell her son about his father is second to none. It seems like the filmmakers started out to make a journalistic documentary about the nationalistic movement and the anti-chinese thinking, but – as the years went by – focused on mother and son and made that relation THE theme, outstandingly put in the foreground in what is a true creative documentary that took me by the heart,

A strong contender to awards at CPH:DOX.

Denmark and other countries, 2024, 86 mins.

Sissel Morell Dargis: Balomania/ Anmeldelse

Early in this amazing film a boy says about the balloon phenomenon: It’s an art form. People express themselves through the balloons, I’ve heard… cut to a policeman who is in the middle of a balloon on ground. Do you like it, the director asks him. Yes, it’s beautiful, but forbidden, he answers.

Before that, in brief television clips, we have seen raids on the so-called balloon gangs, actions that the director, who in Portuguese takes us into the world of Baloeiros, questions: how come it seems to be seen as more dangerous than the drug scene in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the locations of the film.

Danish Sissel Morell Dargis, a grafftti artist, entered the balloon environment, when she was 19 and slowly – as the film puts in – she is accepted with her camera. First by “Playboy”, then by Jaba and first and foremost by the respected Godfather of the Baloeiros, Sergio, to whom the film is dedicated. “He was the one, who had most confidence in me”. They open up to her with some skepticism as it is an invitation to a secret world, because of the constant police surveillance. At some point Sissel says that she was observed by the police as well and had to change cards for her phone. Nobody wants to say when and where a balloon release is to happen, some of the balloons, at least one, is said to have measures of a football pitch! And why Pavarotti on a balloon, Sissel asks in a scene, that takes place in a workshop, where the balloons are created. We don’t know, but Brazilian people love opera, is the laughing answer!

Oh, there is so much energy and passion in this film. Maybe the right word is Presence. Because of a young girl with a camera asking questions again and again to discover a world, she knew very little about. Curiosity is what she has, as a true documentarian combined with a lot of courage. Her intimate talks with “Playboy” and especially Jaba give the social dimension; it’s not a rich world and she does not really get an answer to the question, where the money for the creation and release of the balloons come from. Sponsors there are for sure.

There are two interconnected ways: You can be part of the creation and you can be part of the crazy chase of the balloon. Or both. Once the balloon is up in the air the question is where it will land! Both parts are followed in a film about an art form and its artists. I have been in Rio and Sao Paulo enjoying the passion around football, now a brilliant film has shown me another Brazilian world of passion, sharing, loving, fighting to be the best. Thank you for bringing me there. And be sure this film will travel all over!

Denmark and other countries, 2024, 93 mins.

Sissel Morell Dargis: Balomania

Fra pressemeddelelsen om “Balomania” som jeg gætter vil blive en af de mest populære film på CPH:DOX. Premiere – og anmeldelse – om et par dage. Instruktøren skriver følgende som en optakt, og billedet er af den flyvende instruktør…

”Da jeg som 19-årige trådte ind i ballonmiljøet var det som de anekdoter, man hører om folk, der ender i sekter eller mærkelige kulter. Jeg havde været del af et andet miljø, graffiti-scenen i Sao Paulo, som på daværende tidspunkt var i eksplosiv vækst. Jeg malede først under et andet alias, indtil folk begyndte at kalde mig Simba. For dem var det en flinkere måde at sige: ‘du er sådan lidt gullig, og du er oss’ noget af en kæmpebaby, der prøver at løbe med os løver… Hvis du vil overleve må du lære at løbe hurtigt nok.’… Jeg kunne aldrig helt løbe hurtig nok, og det endte med, at jeg var ulovligt i Brasilien, uden penge, og godt hustlet af nogle typer, der ‘kunne hjælpe’ med papirer til at arbejde og ændre min legale status. Og så pludselig den dag jeg følte mig mest på røven, kom en ven og fortalte mig, at det var på tide jeg lærte ballonverdenen at kende”.