IDFA Opening film

The artistic director of IDFA Orwa Nyrabia announced yesterday what will be the opening film of the 2023 festival: A Picture to Remember. Here are the words about the film from IDFA’s website:

Olga Chernykh spent her childhood in Donetsk in the 1990s, before moving with her parents to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Her grandma stayed in the Donbas region, large parts of which were occupied by pro-Russian rebels in 2014. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and the ensuing war, only increased the sense of distance between Chernykh and her grandmother.

A Picture to Remember is an essay-style account of the war from the perspective of three generations of women. There are frequent video calls between Chernykh, her mother (a pathologist working above a morgue, where it feels surprisingly safe during bomb attacks) and her grandmother. Recordings of their conversations are interspersed with photos and videos from the family archive, and news reports, as well as images of the parasites Chernykh’s mother observes with a microscope.

The result is a kaleidoscopic and personal film. Traveling fluidly through time, it connects the current violence in Donbas with the destruction there during the Second World War—as related by Chernykh’s grandmother. A sense of absence and loss prevails throughout.

And take a look at the photo (still?) from the film. Reminds me of Latvian Herz Frank. and the opening of “Bridges of Time” by Kristine Briede and Audrius Stonys

IDFA Press Conference 2023

… was held yesterday afternoon with artistic director Orwa Nyrabia in the leading role after Head of New Media Kaspar Sonnen had introduced the DocLab: Phenomenal Friction. For more than an hour Nyrabia talked us through the 2023 program with a start of mentioning the atrocities going on in the world, the conflicts, the wars, stressing that the festival is also a place to debate – and let´s try to listen. He invited the audience to enjoy the new old place Vondelpark, that will be one of the venues for meetings and screenings during the festival. (I remember sitting there being in the jury in 1996 together with wonderful Diane Weyermann, who is no longer with us). Wang Bing is guest of honor and has chosen 10 films, Chinese, from 1999-2012, and he has a retrospective of 8 films of his own. Great initiative. And there is a chance to enjoy 5 films of Peter Greenaway + an unfinished film from the “dissident of Cinema” as Nyrabia characterised him.

Before going into details with two sections of the festival – “Envision” and “International Competition” – Nyrabia mentioned section after section, I sometimes mention a couple of director names: “Fabrications” (Safi Faye, Shirley Clarke), “16 Worlds on 16” mm (Varda, Maysles), “Corresponding Cinemas”, “Best of Fests” (Alisa Kovalenko, Mariam Chacia & Nik Voigt…), “Special Screenings” (Raul Ruiz with a film from the Allende period, restored after having been on the shelf as it was critical to Allende and Ruiz decided to nor show it after the death of the President), “Signed” (previously mentioned on this site, focus on the filmmaker rather than on the film), “Paradocs”, “IDFA on stage”, Competitions – youth, short, “Frontlight”, “Luminous”, where Nyrabia said that Love was a strong theme – and colonialism!

“Envision” – what is evident after Orwa Nyrabia became artistic director of IDFA is the diversity in geography. Here there are films from Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Russia, China, Tunisia and glad to see Macedonian Kumjana Novakova’s strong “Silence of Reason” selected, was also in Sarajevo FF.

And re: the International Competition, “the best films of the year”, Orwa Nyrabia was highlighting “The World is Family”, the first really personal film by Indian master Anand Patwardhan. But also the Danish surprise (for me as well) “As the Tide Comes in” by Spanish/Danish Juan Palacios on the island Mandø (the only time I did not understand Orwa Nyrabia’s pronunciation…) is there and “Limitation” (PHOTO) by Elene Asatiani and Soso Dumbadze from Georgia, really happy for them, they worked hard on the film (also) during the Film Mentoring Program of CinéDoc Tbilisi this year. And many many other films like Jaboly´s “Life is Beautiful” from Norway/Gaza, and films from Armenia, Central African Republic, Taiwan, Poland… Global? Oh Yes!

And the Opening Film, praised by a proud Orwa Nyrabia is “A Picture to Remember” by Olga Chernykh from Ukraine, 3 generations.

IDFA takes place 8-19th of November 2023.

Alas, I will not be there but hope to watch a lot from home with a newly replaced hip…

Yes, HipHipHurra for IDFA!

DOKLeipzig Awards 2023

Last night the DOKLeipzig awards were distributed – and there were many. The festival has always been good at finding sponsors for the awards to their sections of long, short and animations films. Here is a copy paste of the press release:

The seven Golden Doves and two Silver Doves of the 66th edition of DOK Leipzig were awarded at the Schaubühne Lindenfels in Leipzig on Saturday.

In the International Competition Documentary Film, the Golden Dove Feature-Length Film went to Peter Mettler, to whom this year’s homage was dedicated, for “While the Green Grass Grows” (Photo). This cinematic diary draws upon the Swiss-Canadian filmmaker’s own memories and family relationships as it looks at life cycles and the way the world is constantly changing. “An unpredictable film whose quality of observation makes the viewer see everyday events, places and objects in a poetic new light” is how the jury described it. The 10,000-euro Golden Dove is sponsored by Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk. The award was presented by MDR commission editor for documentaries Thomas Beyer.

The Golden Dove Short Film, which includes 3,000 euros in prize money, was presented to Bo Wang for “An Asian Ghost Story” (Netherlands, Hong Kong), a search for traces based on the 1965 US embargo against “communist” real hair wigs from Asia. The jury called it “a smart, hip, funny amalgam of fact and fiction made with exceptional craft”.

The films that have earned Golden Doves in the International Competition Documentary Film qualify for nomination for the annual Academy Awards®, provided they meet the Academy’s standards.

The Silver Dove Feature-Length Film, sponsored by 3sat, for the best feature-length documentary by an up-and-coming director, was awarded to Hovhannes Ishkhanyan for the Armenian-French production “Beauty and the Lawyer”. The jury praised it as “a film that builds an intimate relationship with its characters who generously let us into their lives as they invent a new path to deal with a homophobic world”. Johannes Dicke, head of programming at 3sat, presented the filmmaker with the 6,000-euro award.

The Silver Dove Short Film, which includes 1,500 euros for the best short documentary by an up-and-coming director, sponsored by the Sächsische Landesanstalt für privaten Rundfunk und neue Medien (Saxon State Agency for Commercial Broadcasting and New Media, SLM), went to “30 Kilometres per Second” by Jani Peltonen (Finland). The jury described it as “a film which, by using the montage as its main strategy, unveils potentialities for this cinematic direction.” The award was presented by Katja Röckel from the SLM’s Media Council.

The winners of the International Competition Documentary Film were selected by Jennifer Fox, Radu Jude, Marie-Pierre Macia, Steven Markovitz and Rima Mismar.

In the International Competition Animated Film, the newly created Golden Dove Feature-Length Film, endowed with 3,000 euros, went to Xu Jingwei for “No Changes Have Taken in Our Life” (China), the story of a musician who tries in vain to find work after graduating from university. The jury called it “a courageous and challenging film that is as specific as it is universal, and as critical as it is witty, tackling the uncomfortable subject of dreariness and a lack of perspective”.

The Golden Dove Short Film in conjunction with 1,500 euros, sponsored by the Deutsches Institut für Animationsfilm e. V., was awarded to Barbara Rupik for “Such Miracles Do Happen” (Poland). In its statement, the jury said: “The film uses outstanding technique of a kind of liquid stop-motion animation, which is also irreplaceable and deeply connected to its theme.” Dr Volker Petzold (chairman of DIAF) addressed the audience at the award ceremony.

The film that earns the Golden Dove Short Film qualifies for nomination for the annual Academy Awards®, provided it meets the Academy’s standards.

Jury members Pavel Horáček, Anne Isensee and Irina Rubina also awarded a Special Mention to Tomek Popakul and Kasumi Ozeki for the animated Polish short film “Zima”.

In the German Competition Documentary Film, the Golden Dove Feature-Length Film went to “One Hundred Four” by Jonathan Schörnig, a real-time documentation of a rescue at sea on the Mediterranean. “The film team and the crew of the rescue ship show us clearly what it means when we look the other way every day. But they also show that help is possible and needed,” the jury emphasised. This 10,000-euro award is sponsored by Doris Apell-Kölmel and Michael Kölmel.

The Golden Dove Short Film, in conjunction with 1,500 euros, was awarded to Franzis Kabisch for “getty abortions” (Germany, Austria), a desktop video essay that explores how media illustrate the topic of abortion. “Our award-winning film finds a convincing contemporary form to address an ancient and at the same time highly topical issue,” said the jury comprised of Birgit Kohler, Claus Löser and Serpil Turhan.

This year’s winner of the Golden Dove in the Audience Competition was selected by jury members Billie Bauermeister, Fritz Czaplinski, Anna Eulitz, Charlotte Hennrich and Annegret Weiß. They honoured Asmae El Moudir for her documentary film “The Mother of All Lies” (Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar). In her search for memories of her childhood, the filmmaker recreates her neighbourhood in Casablanca as an elaborate miniature and in the process comes across a trauma of Moroccan history. “With great fervour and love of detail, a surprising work emerges that dissolves the boundaries between fantasy and reality,” extolled the jury. This 3,000-euro award is sponsored in part by the Leipziger Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Filmkunst e. V.

DOKLeipzig Partnership Awards

There are so many awards to be handed out in Leipzig today that they had to be split into two ceremonies. Here is a copy paste of the press release about the first round of applauses, that happened this afternoon, the second comes later tonight after the embargo has been lifted:

The DEFA Sponsoring Prize, which includes 4,000 euros and is granted by the DEFA Foundation, went to Julia Charakter for “The Children of Korntal” (Germany).

The 3,000-euro MDR Film Prize for an outstanding eastern European documentary film was awarded to Marianna Kaat for “The Last Relic” (Estonia, Norway).

The Film Prize Leipziger Ring, which honours a documentary film about human rights, democracy or civic engagement, is sponsored by the Stiftung Friedliche Revolution and includes 2,500 euros in prize money. This year’s award went ex aequo to Jonathan Schörnig for “One Hundred Four” (Germany) and Nantenaina Lova for “Where Zebus Speak French” (France, Madagascar, Germany, Burkina Faso).

The Goethe-Institut Documentary Film Prize, which includes 2,000 euros, licensing and subtitling in eight languages, was also awarded to “One Hundred Four” by Jonathan Schörnig.

“One Hundred Four” further received the 1,500-euro ver.di Prize for Solidarity, Humanity and Fairness, bringing the total to four awards, making this the film earning the most honours at DOK Leipzig 2023.

The 2,250-euro Prize of the Interreligious Jury was awarded to Sarah Mallégol for “Kumva – Which Comes from Silence” (France). This award is sponsored by VCH-Hotels Germany along with the VCH-Hotel Michaelis in Leipzig as well as the Interreligious Roundtable and the Oratorium Leipzig.

The Prize of the International Film Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) was awarded to the South Korean production “Universe Department Store” by Taewoong Won.

The mephisto 97.6 Award went to the short animated film “Compound Eyes of Tropical” by Zhang Xu Zhan (Taiwan).

The Gedanken-Aufschluss award went to Nele Dehnenkamp for her first feature-length documentary film, “For the Time Being” (Germany). This award was voted on by a jury comprised of prisoners at the Juvenile Detention Centre Regis-Breitingen.

Ramallah – Documentaries from Palestine

This text was written by Tue Steen Müller in 2010 after a stay in Ramallah meeting Palestinian filmmakers including those in Gaza, with whom we tutors from Western Europe met to select makers to come to Corfu in Greece to develop their projects further.

Palestine, 4 days, end of March 2010. It’s blue sky but still a bit chilly in Ramallah, where I have been for a couple of days. Lively activity outside in the streets of a nice and calm city, 40.000 are here during night, 80.000 during day. The capital of the Palestinian Authority expresses a friendly atmosphere, and energy – waiting for a Palestinian state to be established. Yellow buses, yellow taxis, building work going on everywhere, white buildings, a hilly city with beautiful viewing spots. A city whose economy is very much depending on investments done by rich Palestinians, who have made their money in the Gulf states and return home one month per year.

I am here with some fellow tutors for a workshop including 10 documentary projects. The intentions behind the initiative are triple: 1) The filmmakers are trained for a pitching of their projects to 12-15 tv editors – that takes place late May. 2) The filmmakers are competing for a participation in the Storydoc documentary programme that has its first session in Corfu, Greece in the beginning of July. 4 of the 10 projects will be picked for that purpose. 3) The filmmakers have their projects discussed and their pitching skills improved – the writing, the verbal and the visual. They are being provided with a huge amount of information and

inspiration, hopefully, by Anne Julienne, Télévision Francaise, Kostas Spiropoulos, Skai television Greece and head of the Storydoc initiative, Jordi Ambros, TV3 Catalunya, Cecilia Lidin, EDN and me.

The learning process goes in both directions. The communication with the Palestinian filmmakers is like one long eye opening process. Their personal stories about not being able to go where they want to go, their isolation, their split-up family relations, the life in a village that is being demolished to give space for one more Israeli settlement, I could go on and on, with words that are not sufficient to describe the constant humiliation of human beings in a occupied territory. There is only one word for this: apartheid.

3 of the projects in the workshop are being dealt with through a video conference system. The Palestinian filmmakers in question are based in Gaza and can not travel to Ramallah. Weird it is to sit and watch them move around, smoke cigarettes, drink tea, small talk and listen to their colleagues discuss and present their proposals in Ramallah in the al qattan centre. It is like a film in itself, an observational documentary, they know that the camera points at them, that we in Ramallah can see them, but they forget, like we forget that they watch us!

It takes a special attitude to live in the occupied territory. Politics is on the agenda every day if you want to move from one place to the other. You have to know if and when the Israeli checkpoints are open, you have to find out whether you are allowed to/can get a permission to go from one place to the other. We asked the local organisers, film director George Khleifi and audiovisual attachée from the French Consulate in Jerusalem, Lucie Meynial, if they thought that we can get the chosen two film project holders from Gaza to Greece, they can only say – it depends on the political situation at that very moment. Planning is not easy!

How do you cope with all that… with a bitter smile, with sarchasm, with melancholy… if you have chosen to stay in Palestine. Our days in Ramallah were full of jokes that referred to the political situation.

The current political situation as it is present in people’s daily life is present in two of the film projects that will be promoted through the Storydoc. Nagham Muhanna , a young energetic woman, is looking for answers to why ”Romance in Gaza” (working title) has gone with the wind. She wants to describe the theme through three generations – from the hypothesis that the daily hard social situation does not leave space for love! Her colleague in Gaza from the media production company Target Group, Mohammed Abu Sido will join the Storydoc with ”Waiting for You” that will try to gather a divided family in a film, as they can not meet in real life: Mohammed is in Gaza, his internet girlfiend is in Ramallah, they can not meet, one of his brothers is in Ramallah as well, and the other in Dubia from where he could go home but does not want to as he is in opposition to the ruling Hamas party. His mother is in Gaza and can not assist to the coming wedding of her daughter, who is also on the West Bank!

Two Ramallah based projects of very different nature will go to the workshop in Vcorfu, Greece. ”Off Frame”, to be directed by Mohanad Yakubi, is the story about the PFU (Palestinian Film Unit) that in the sixties and seventies was not only a strong instrument in the building of a Palestinian identity but according to the filmmaker also aestetically innovative. The filmmaker want to include archive from the revolutionary times, clips from the films, interviews with icons who helped the PLO, like Jean-Luc Godard. A very promising film project. As is the one by Ghada Tirawi, who wants to make ”Palestinian Folk Tales” into an investigation of the Palestinian society. She showed the workshop participants a previous film where she demonstrates a talent for mixing animation and a person telling a story, with real life footage of a methaphoric character.

On the way to Ramallah from the airport in Tel Aviv, during night time, we passed the Kalandia checkpoint about which a very good film, ”Kalandia – a Checkpoint Story” (PHOTO)  has been made (reviewed here, search ”Kalandia”). The taxi driver, a born entertainer, told us that we would go quick through the holy checkpoint in his holy car in the holy land where they have built holy walls to separate the holy people, Arabs and Jews. In this Easter time, can one hope for a holy agreement to re-start holy negociations for peace and a two state agreement?

2012: Emma Davie, Scottish filmmaker and teacher at Edinburgh College of Art, and tutor at numerous workshops for filmmakers from Europe and elsewhere, was in Ramallah at the Storydoc/Ramallah.doc workshop. She has given us permission to re-post this beautiful text. When I asked her for permission, she said “Go Ahead, Words fail for what is happening but good to remember the historical context of this brutality.


by Emma Davie

It’s a bar in Ramallah called Beit Aneesh. Apparently named after an old lady that lived there. A laid back place with posters from the history of the struggle of the Palestinian people. We had just completed a documentary workshop in Ramallah and Tue (Steen Müller), who has helped so many emerging filmmakers from all over the world, suggested anyone who likes, joins us for a beer or coffee at 8.

Few have come. Most have long, unpredictable journeys through the occupied territories where they will undoubtedly be stopped several times.

Khaled (Jarrar) has turned up though – just arrived from France where his work as a radical conceptual artist has become celebrated. We’re so pleased to see him – a filmmaker of huge promise as well as an artist. Tue has just seen the rough cut of his first film which is about the wall. He shows us a scene with him with a tiny chisel, chipping little bits of the wall off. Tue suggests he end his new film like this. It’s a futile act of defiance, made funny by its impotence. Khaled is also funny and strong in a way that only gentle people can be. I had seen scenes from his film the year before when we were working with him at the Storydoc workshop in Greece. I remember a mother and daughter who could not see each other due to the wall which now carves right through between the West Bank and Jerusalem, splitting up areas. They were forced to slip photos and letters under it to each other. I remember them touching hands through a gap under the wall.

I also remember seeing a boy pushing bread through one of the holes on the wall. What struck me was not the bizarre act itself, but the look on

the boy’s face when caught by the camera’s gaze. Maybe I imagined it, but the look seemed to see himself from outside for a split second, acknowledging the weirdness which had transformed everyone’s life in this country of zones and codes and divisions and passes and discriminations and humiliations – and the wall.

We had seen it earlier that evening. George Khleifi, a local producer and the organiser of Ramallah.doc, had taken us to see how it lacerated the place in two, cutting through roads to Jerusalem which had been the main roads to see relatives, loved ones and to travel to work.

In the dark we deciphered words which had been written across the top by a South African visiting artist.

“We are the children of our histories. Yet we may also choose to be struck by the stories of others. Perhaps this ability is what is called morality. We cannot always act upon what we see but we always have the freedom to see and to be moved”?

Ramallah is a big jail. It is worse than we could have imagined.

George tells us how the wall came up. He explains it is like experiments done on laboratory animals. You get them used to their new captivity gradually. So the wall started with gaps through which people could pass freely. Bit by bit more was erected until the whole thing was up, making the flow of daily life almost impossible. Of course the situation was already bad for any Palestinian in varying degrees. George told us how he was a 5 star occupied person- meaning his family were in Jerusalem in ’48 so he had an Israeli passport and can travel with more freedom and use the main roads to Tel Aviv – most Palestinians are not able to use these roads. What happens if they try? I ask the taxi driver the next day. They get shot at. Most of the people on the workshop were 3 star occupied persons – living in Ramallah or the West Bank. Of course the worst situation is for the Gaza inhabitants- George called them minus two stars.

We saw the check point through which the Palestinians in Ramallah who can travel to Jerusalem for work, have to pass through. It is the only way for them to get their much needed jobs. They have to get there at about 2 or 3 in the morning and queue in order to get through the tiny single metal turnstile in time for work the next day. They repeat this every day with little time for sleep or seeing family.

We used these turnstiles to get to Jerusalem the next day. Maral Quttieneh, a local producer, gives us a tour. Her family were one of the oldest families in Jerusalem she tells us, they used to own 350 houses. All were taken from them in ‘48. She, though, like George is a 5 star occupied person able to travel from Jerusalem. However, when she was away in Paris studying, after a few years she was warned if she didn’t return, her current home would also be taken from her. She shows us home after home where Palestinians lived, grand homes in leafy areas, now belonging to Israelis. She tells us of families who all over again are being evicted from the homes they moved to after being expelled from their original houses. They now have to make way for new Orthodox Israeli immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe.

It’s Spring in Ramallah. In the centre of the town some of the women from the countryside are selling fresh herbs and mint and boys seem to spin some thin bread out of air. George explains how it was once green, how olive trees were here and an orchard there. Now it is a huge concrete building site made bearable by the good humour and generosity of those living there. George’s own family were Greek Orthodox. He shows us the yellow lights of the ever growing settlements on the hilltops around Ramallah. More walls. More divisions and a huge infrastructure of roads and walls and fences and soldiers to support and protect them. I hear of farmers who can’t get near their land to cultivate it any more as these settlements or the roads cut them off. I heard of a man who loved to walk in the hills around Ramallah and was shot dead by soldiers. A father of 3.

The day I head for the airport, the papers report how a group of Jerusalem football fans run amok in a shopping mall climbing all over the chairs and tables, aggressing Palestinian cleaners there and shouting slogans “Death to all Arabs”. No-one was arrested. No police stopped them. I imagine these same cleaners must probably have got up at 3 am to get to work. There is no commentary in the paper.

I start to feel like the boy who has been caught by Khaled’s camera. The transgressive has become so normalized that we are all stunned and don’t respond. Of course what is so shocking in Palestine is not what the Israeli Government does but what the rest of our Governments tacitly endorse. This is the week that America has voted against the UN move even to have an enquiry into the affects of the settlements on the Palestinians.

I tell the taxi driver of Khaled’s art project, to stamp passports with Palestinian stamps and how I wanted to do it last time I saw him but this time on arriving at Tel Aviv airport, was stopped 3 times and questioned so aggressively by Israeli passport officials, that I decided against it. I feel cowardly now and think of the daily hassles my Palestinian friends have. Maral told me how she makes the soldiers who go through all her stuff, put it back exactly as it was. Small triumphs in the face of petty brutality. So what can we do to help you ? I ask the taxi driver. Tell people, he said.

Tel Aviv airport book shop is full of lovely picture books of Israel and the countryside. I feel I am walking through a vast shared hallucination. I think of the filmmakers I have been working with, of their hushed, insistent need to tell, of the yellow lights of the settlements on the tops of the hills- of the hands touching under the wall, of all the stories which we so need to hear.

Emma Davie

The photo refers to Khaled Jarrar’s film “Infiltrators”.

ARTE “Generation Ukraine” at DOKLeipzig/ 2

I was there in my armchair with my computer to follow the DOK Industry Talk yesterday afternoon about Generation Ukraine, “a new initiative by the ARTE Group aimed at supporting the Ukrainian filmmaking industry by co-producing 12 documentaries that explore Ukrainian reality in the throes of the ongoing war”, to quote the festival press release. I wanted to hear the visions behind 6 of the 12, including introductions and clips. Was looking forward for a long time as there were quite a lot of words from representatives of the ARTE group, but for once you got to see and hear the many commissioning editors behind the project that “… are financed by the ARTE group (ARTE France, ARTE GEIE and ARTE Germany), through co-productions or pre-sales, and in collaboration with the broadcaster’s European partners. Projects completed by autumn 2024 will be included in the ARTE Media Library. All films will be broadcast on ARTE at a later date…”. So patience was needed before the filmmakers came to the stage to present their works-in-progress. Unfortunately the technique failed a couple of times, black screen, so I did not get an impression of all 6 but two of them drew my attention:

“The Days I would Like to Forget”, directors Alina Gorlova, Yelizaveta Smith, Maksym Nakonechnyi, Simon Mozgovyi, production Eugene Rachkovsky, Maksym Nakonechnyi, Karina Kostyna (Tabor Films / UKR), Ralph Wieser (Mischief Films / GER), SWR / ARTE… SWR represented by Bernd Seidl, who was at Baltic Sea Docs this year and made a very strong impression with his comments. Eugene Rachkovsky and Maksym Nakonechnyi were there as well as veteran Austrian producer Ralph Wieser. Maksym Nakonechnyi is very well known for his strong feature “Butterfly Vision”, Alina Gorlova for her masterly done documentary “This rain will never Stop” – the upcoming film is a collective film, a triptych with the themes “Human and War”, “Death and Life” and “Space and Time”, festival versions in the coming three years and the tv version in 2026. From the site of Tabor “…different personal experiences combine a holistic collective one, showing war´s influence and presence on all levels of existence”. (PHOTO from Tabor website). The team showed a strong clip. I have high expectations… the same goes for

“Another Man’s Diary”, directors Oleksandr Tkachenko, Dmytro Dokunov, production Illia Gladshtein (Phalanstery films / UKR), BR / ARTE, that I knew in beforehand as it was pitched at the Baltic Sea Docs in Riga. Tkachenko and Gladshtein presented the film-to-be with Dokunov as the protagonist, “a soldier, pacifist, vegetarian” and cinematographer, who is filming himself and reflecting on whether he can keep his humanity. The clip that was also shown in Riga uses split screen, it’s a very exciting and original approach.

I would have loved to write about “The Blessed Ones” as well – director Andrii Lysetskyi, production Olha Beskhmelnytsina, Gennady Kofman, (MaGiKa-film / UKR), Uldis Cekulis (VFS Films / LAT), Erik Winker (Corso-Film / GER), MDR / ARTE with four contemporary artists, it was pitched in Riga 2022, it looked nice but there were many words but no subtitles… alas

Heidi Fleisher was the moderator saying that this was not a pitching session – well, all the presenters mentioned that they were looking for more funding, sales agents etc. so the pitching aspect was indeed there, fair enough and that will probably also be there at the 3-day workshop that starts today at the impressive MDR building in Leipzig. Good luck and Slava Ukraine.

DOKLeipzig: Panorama

”DOK Leipzig is opening a window on the world of Central and Eastern European cinema. The short and feature-length works presented here span the range from the socialist past through the times of upheaval to the present – personal, funny, dramatic, existential, lyrical or enigmatic, but always original and engaging.” Words from the site of the festival that started yesterday and runs until October 15. A focus of the festival has always been a look to the East – actually it was part of the East, I remember being there at the first edition “Nach der Wende” 1989/1990 together with my friend Andreas Steinmann and many thought that this would be the end of a festival that was very much run according to what was approved by the GDR government and cultural censorship. I remember that Danish documentary legend Jørgen Roos had made a film about Carl Nielsen, Danish composer, where a lot was shot in Israel… the film was selected because of its quality but the censorship went into action: No films from Israel!

Andreas and I had to hire a car to get home from the festival as the new situation – one united Germany also brought a train strike…

Back to 2023 and the program of 8 films in the Panorama, where I look forward to see Marianna Kaat’s “The Last Relic” described like this on the site: “Insights into the Russian opposition before the war in Ukraine. In the Yekaterinburg metropolis, only a few take to the streets against Putin. There is a lack of support – but not of courage.” Danish Jesper Osmund is the editor and talked enthusiastically about the collaboration with the Estonian documentary veteran at a workshop in Skopje this August.

And of course the beautiful, personal essay “Selfportrait Along the Borderline” by Georgian Anna Dziapsh-ipa is there, original in narration, full of humour, a winner at festivals that appreciate the art of documentary. (Photo).

Wish I was there, luckily I can watch several of the films from my armchair here in Copenhagen.

Arndt Ginzel: White Angel – The End of Marinka

It makes no sense for me to make a review of this shocking documentary from Hell on Earth with heroes, who literally drive from house to house to help the population be evacuated, mostly old people, convincing is needed for many of them, who do not want to leave, others leave with wounds from the shelling, others leave in black plastic bags… It’s what the Germans call a “Dokumentation”, war crimes documented, touching, sometimes unbearable to watch. I saw it online, when this is published the audience is gathered for the opening of DOKLeipzig. Here is what Christoph Terhechte, director of the festival wrote in the festival catalogue:

”The small town of Marinka lies in the Ukrainian Donetsk Oblast. Almost 10,000 people lived there, even though the town was under constant attack by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. When the war escalated in the spring of 2022, however, Marinka came under heavy artillery fire and practically all residents had to leave the town by September. The local police helped get them out. One of the policemen is Vasyl, the protagonist of this film. In a white van, soon christened the “white angel” by the population, he and his colleagues pull civilians out of the line of fire, recover the wounded and the dead. Vasyl’s helmet camera records the dramatic events of their missions: evacuating scared people from their cellars, first aid for the seriously injured, the hasty gathering of personal belongings, the painful and permanent partings.

Six months after the end of Marinka, the Leipzig-based investigative journalist Arndt Ginzel and his crew return to eastern Ukraine. They find the survivors, rescued persons and rescuers, and let them comment the action cam images. They speak of losses, of pain and grief, but also of hopes and dreams. “White Angel – The End of Marinka” is more than a film about war. It is a document of humanity and the longing for peace.”

Germany, 2023, 103 mins.

Fisher Stevens: Beckham

I could not leave it, the four part series on David Beckham, a superstar in football history, a businessman, one part of a celebrity couple, married to Victoria, one of the Spice Girls, nicknamed Posh Spice. It’s a well made, good, constantly entertaining story that Netflix presents with many layers going from the childhood of the boy, whose father pushed him forward, totally engaged with Manchester United, where David started his amazing career in 1991 (born1975) picked by (now Sir) Alex Ferguson, a father figure, who meant everything for him until the relationship broke in 2003 and he went to Real Madrid for four years.

David Beckham became an icon, he was good looking and was in the media for good and worse. He knew (knows) how to dress and change haircut, he and Victoria loved to be on the front pages until their children were born and the paparazzis followed them 24/7.

The film is built on interviews with the couple and when it comes to football, with – for a football idiot like me – lovely meetings with legends I have seen again and again, here they are pensioners looking back: Gary Neville, the right back, who was his true companion in ManU and on the national team of England, the charismatic Eric Cantona, Paul Scholes the midfielder by many characterised as the most underrated player of the team ever, Rio Ferdinand the defender who played more than a decade for ManU – and when he came to Madrid: lovely magnificent Brazilian Ronaldo, Luis Figo the traitor says the writer of this text, who is a Barca fan, fantastic Brazilian Roberto Carlos with whom Beckham had to compete on who to take the free kicks, one of the specialities of Beckham, who was also fantastic with corners and long shifts from the right side of the pitch to the left.

Football-wise there are at least two highlights that are described through archive from the matches and interviews/ comments from Beckham, who remembers from a sofa in his house in the English countryside: The World Cup match in 1998 between England and Argentina, where he got the red card (by Danish referee Kim Milton) for kicking down Diego Simeone, who had got him down with a tough tackle. The consequence of that (England lost the match) was that Beckham was hated for years – death threats, a bullet in an envelope, a loop outside a pub… In the series he says that this event has haunted him since then. Was a red card too much, Simeone is asked in the series. Yes he says, I did a good filming, with a smile, no regrets from the tough player, now coach for Atletico Madrid. The year after, in 1999, ManU won the treble with the 2-1 against Bayern Munich as a match that will never be forgotten. I was in a German airport waiting for a connecting plane, when the Germans was in the lead but Sheringham equalled and in the extended time Ole Gunnar Solskjær made the goal to 2-1. Was it within 10 minutes. In the film a wonderful receptionist of ManU tells how she could not stand to watch, leaving the sitting room to make coffee. Me in the airport did not dare to express my joy to see Oliver Kahn and company be beaten!

There are many side-characters in the series and people, who are there due to archive like Glen Hoddle, the fantastic technical West Ham player who became the national coach and put Beckham on the bench… Beckham who had always admired Hoddle as I did, and of course you almost get tears in your eyes when the series presents a couple of clips of the ManU player of all times, Bobby Charlton. Hoddle did not want to be in the series. Long sequences with Mum and Dad, nice they are, they talk with love about their David and about their disagreements – Mum thinks that Dad pushed David to much.

Beckham goes after Madrid to play in the US, his wife is happy, finds a house and schools for the kids, but the footballer gets a message from the then England coach, Italian Fabio Capello, who gives him the advice to return to Europe to play for AC Milan, to be fit for the National team again. He obeys. And gets a couple of matches to end with 115 for England.

I know that this text is focused on football leaving the tabloid stuff to the side – but it has to be said that the series deals massively with the constant hysterical British media pressure on the couple and Victoria Beckham makes an honest contribution to that story, on how she reacted when her husband followed his instinct and ambition to play more, win more, and go for a photo shoot with Beyoncé and Penelope Lopez the same day, where she was about to give birth to one more child! Now the series shows the still beautiful man in his late forties going to his beehives, play ball with one of the three boys, clean the kitchen, cook, show his wardrobe. A very well organized man. And a very well organized series that avoids any conflictual themes, sympathy all over. Fair enough. A must, at least for football lovers.