IDFA Forum 2007 – 2

3 project presentations were quite nicely done in terms of verbal and visual pitch – and yes, I am biased, I know the people, I hoped the best for them, but I am also sure that many other will agree that these filmmakers did their job

– Dragan and Jovana Nikolic from Serbia performed very well. Due to their nice, warm clip and their personality many tv stations applauded the “Caviar Connection” story with the two original fishermen who fight to get the sturgeons that one day end up as expensive caviar somewhere in the world. The first one to praise them was Nick Fraser from BBC Storyville and others joined him

– Hypermarket Film from Czech Republic, represented by Filip Remunda (“Czech Dream”) and director Marko Skop (“Other World”) satirisized over the EU with their presentation “Osadné – Brussels – Osadné”, including a great clip about the small Slovak village and its delegates and their expectations to the EU in Brussels

– and “The two Last Tightrope Dancers” by Armenian Inna H. and Vardan H. exemplified that if you have strong enough characters, if you demonstrate passion and charm, if you know how to answer questions then you can win the hearts of broadcasters, who still believe in the cross-bordering potential of good documentary stories like did Vera Bonnier from SVT and other competent people in the small room, where the Armenians performed.

IDFA Forum 2007

I was at the IDFA Forum as an observer. Documentary film and tv projects were presented (pitched) to a panel of so called commissioning editors. The pitching time was 15 minutes, 50% to those pitching, 50% to those responding. It was the 15th time that this event was organised.

The venue was new, and there was a new format for the pitching. Some projects, most of them, were pitched in the big auditorium, some in a smaller room with a round-table discussion to follow the pitchings that always consist of a verbal presentation and a visual (= a clip/trailer/demo/pilot).

Also new was that it was possible to enter projects that did NOT have 25% of the financing in place. And projects that were at the rough cut stage.

3 days from morning till night – and what did the observer get out of it:

Originality and creativity come primarily from the new EU countries and the countries outside the EU.

The market in general asks for mainstream formatted documentaries.

The broadcasters (= the commissioning editors) around the table do in general NOT take any chances, they want to play safe, and pitched projects that do not include humour and are just a bit complicated – they meet hesitation and “I want to hear much more”.

Many of the experienced producers pitching are surprisingly weak in their presentations.

Many of the experienced commissioning editors are surprisingly weak in their responses to the filmmakers.

Most of the people around the table can only go for pre-buys and not for coproductions.

Maybe this should be reflected in the set-up of the Forum?

Conclusion: On one side there are so many talented people who want to make documentaries and the interest in documentaries have never been so big as now. Festivals are growing like mushrooms. On the other side – the role of television as the innovator of the documentary genre internationally is minimal both financially and creatively.

Without public funding, where would the creative documentaries in Europe stand today?

For more information

Kossakovski at the Forum at IDFA

On the second day of the pitching at the Forum at IDFA Viktor Kossakovski, one of the few stars of the international documentary scene gave the following remark after his pitch:

You know what, I remember when it started many years ago and I had a pitch. It was quite a different situation. Ten years ago the crucial person in the cinema business was the filmmaker. And commissioning editors were people who wanted to support good filmmakers, but still the filmmaker was the person who created the film… and now we have a strange situation. The filmmaker is like nobody and the commissioning editor is like a Tsar. And they decide what film I will make, what kind of film, how I must do it. They even want me to sign a contract [to say] they have the final cut. I wish to Ally, to Adriek and all the team not to forget the idea of Forum – not to support the television industry but to support the creative person who knows how to move cinema forward… They [commissioning editors] have to know that if we continue this way, then we will not have filmmakers any more. (Viktor Kossakowski, filmmaker, Russia)

Quote taken from

Jon Bang Carlsen Før gæsterne kommer

Det var pokkers! Et af dansk dokumentarfilms absolutte mesterstykker bliver genudsendt i morgen tirsdag på DR2. Det drejer sig om Jon Bang Carlsens “Før gæstertne kommer”, en film som med succes er gået verden over for sin fine og varme og sjove beskrivelse af de to gamle damer, der gør et lille pensionat på Fanø klar til det store rykind, det vil sige det beherskede antal først og fremmest tyskere, der år efter år finder vej til den stille idyl.

Værelserne støves af, lamperne checkes, alt skal bringes i orden, det er dansk hygge i yderste potens, som den kunne folde sig ud for 20 år siden – eller rettere sagt som den fremragende dokumentarist Jon Bang Carlsen så den og beskrev den ved hjælp af sin såkaldte “iscenesatte dokumentariske” metode.

En kort film med et langt liv. Vi kipper med flaget for DR2 og deres temaaftener, bliv ved, der er masser af guld at tage af!

IDFA Congratulations

The 20’th edition of the IDFA festival started yesterday and goes on until the 2nd of December. Fantastic, and what a contribution to the success of the genre, Ally Derks and her committed team has performed during these 20 years. Thank you! You may always discuss the selection of films, the demand for exclusivity for the films to be screened, if there are too many films and too many people, if the definition of the genre is too broad. BUT it is THE festival for the documentaries and it has set the standards for many others, as well as institutionalized initiatives like the Forum, the Jan Vrijman Fund, the Academy etc.

The following text is taken from their new site:

Every year, IDFA presents the best documentaries, selected from a huge field. This selection is made on the basis of clear criteria. In short, IDFA looks for documentaries that are interesting from a stylistic point of view, or are particularly innovative, relevant to social issues and successfully manage to communicate with their audiences.

IDFA has always focused on creative documentaries. This means that IDFA chooses films that have been painstakingly designed and that express the personal vision of the maker. The creative documentary is an art form. The documentary-maker is therefore an artist – not a journalist. Where the journalist attempts with his or her reports to present reality as objectively as possible, the artist follows his or her own idea. The laws of journalism therefore do not apply to the creative documentary; the documentary has its own quality criteria. Like reportage, documentaries provide insights into the world around us; but they are also characterised primarily by artistic qualities: innovation, originality, professional skill, expressiveness and cultural/historical value.

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam is the largest documentary festival in the world. Every year since 1988, more than 250 international documentaries are screened for a huge number of film lovers and professionals. The festival is an exciting meeting place for directors, producers, buyers, financiers and audiences alike.

If you dont go there, follow the festival on the site which has trailers, reports from seminars etc.

Football England-Croatia

It had all that a documentary should have. Conflict, drama, magical moments, excellent observational camera work! The starting point was made clear from the very start: The Croats did not have to win, the English had to win or make a draw. Both teams had their supporters surrounding the pitch, in different colours, with different songs – most of them were English as the action took place at the Wembley in London, the most famous location for a drama to take place.

In the first part of this live documentary where all was taken in one shot, to be repeated from different angles, the Croats showed their technical skills and fighter instinct. Twice the anti-hero, the goalkeeper of the English were passed. The first time he kneeled down to grab the ball but it slipped and the crowd, as a Greek choir, expressed their anger with him as the ball rolled into the net. Close up on his face: Pain. Close-up on the faces of the coach and the substitutes on the bench – more than pain, more than irritation, would this end up as farewell to the qualification, a tragedy.

In the second part of the drama, the English casted a man, who has often been the main character, the leader of the gang and who now has his home in Hollywood and takes part in the fictious glamour life: David Beckham. Who was welcomed by the supporters, who had forgotten all the trouble he had given them earlier in his career. He made a difference and suddenly it was equal, enough for the English to qualify. Wild handheld close ups of a hugging crowd when the man, tall as a lighthouse, Crouch is his name, let the ball go from his chest down to his right foot and behind the Croat goalkeeper.

Equal… but not enough drama, something had to be done dramaturgically. The Croat coach, known for his many years in England, had changed his dress from sporty casual to a nice black suit. From fighting image to strategical thinking. He chooses to send in a bald guy like Beckham but much younger and with more dynamite in his boots. In a beautiful move he sends the ball behind the tragic hero in the English goal.

Its over, there is winner and a loser, the English coach is the first to leave. His face is caught by the camera, he has no future, we know it, he knows it. Beckham is already in his thoughts back in Hollywood, John Terry and Mickey Rooney, both unable to play look like someones who could commit murder…

5 pens, could have been 6 if not for the commentators on Danish TV2 Sport, who spoke about the match with a kliché filled language as they were communicating to imbeciles.

Hospitalsbørn af Lars Bo Kimergård

Instruktøren har skrællet alt det overflødige væk. Ingen hospitalsgange eller -bygninger. Der gives ingen konkrete oplysninger om, hvad de medvirkende egentlig har fejlet, det får vi først at vide til slut. Alt er fokuseret på at skabe én lang fortælling om, hvad det betød at være på hospital som barn. Fortalt af en håndfuld medvirkende, som fortæller godt og direkte til kameraet på en sort baggrund. Intet må forstyrre fortællingen om lidelsen og smerten, som den voksne husker den.

Til dette konsekvente valg af stil kan der indvendes om ordene ikke ligeså godt kunne have været skrevet ned i en bog eller være bragt som en radiomontage. Måske, men jeg ville alligevel ikke have undværet ansigterne, de langsomme næsten umærkelige indzoomninger og de herlige pauser, som fortællingen har. Der er en monotoni over det hele, hvorfor slutningens bevægende kapitel med den voksne Mortens tilbageskuen på at kunne bevæge sig virker så stærkt, som den gør.

Det er ikke en film, der siger noget nyt om at være hospitalsbarn. Det er en film, som fortæller, hvad vi har hørt før – på en ny måde.


DR1 Dokumentaren – Bag valget

Jeg har tidligere på denne plads reklameret for den gratis nyhedstjeneste, som DR Dokumentar tilbyder sine seere. Her orienteres om de dokumentarer, som sendes og jeg vil gerne gentage at DR sender mange gode dokumentarer, specielt på DR2, danske og særligt udenlandske.

Nu er jeg i tvivl om redaktionen af denne tjeneste. I morges modtog jeg en mail, som gjorde opmærksom på en dokumentar, som skulle komme samme aften, “Bag valget” hed den og den skulle følge fire politikere i valgkampens sidste to uger: Pia Kjærsgaard, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Anders Fogh Rasmussen og Jørgen Poulsen.

Så jeg sad der og konstaterede nok en gang, at der er gået inflation i begrebet dokumentar, som engang betød en fortolkning af virkeligheden, en fortælling i billeder, en observation filtreret gennem et temperament.

Hvad vi fik var en gang hurtigt sammenflikket dit og dat, forsynet gudhjælpemig med to splitscreen indklippede eksperter, der fortalte at her gik det galt for den og godt for den. Garneret med lidt spænding til sidst om hvor vidt Jørgen Poulsen kom i Folketinget eller ej. Det mente han selv var lidt ligegyldigt og det var det helt oplagt.

En lille pen gives for én scene, der holdes i mere end få sekunder: Pia Kjærsgaard og Naser Khader, der venter på at skulle ind til en duel og ikke vil tale med hinanden. Det var sjovt, det var et kameras observation, en holdning, hvorefter der med svirpelyd bliver klippet til næste interviewscene.

Det er forhåbentlig sidste gang nedennævnte laver et sådant hastigt makværk af ren overflade.

Tilrettelægger: Søren Slumstrup Larsen – DR Dokumentar Århus

cph:dox 9-17/11 Mechanical Love

Phie Ambo is one of the most obvious talents in new Danish documentary film. She showed great observational skills in her last film “Gambler” about the filmmaker Nikolaj Refn Winding (the “Pusher” trilogy), skills she is also using in her “Mechanical Love”, which is primarily about the robot research and fabrication done in Japan.

Stylistically, however, the film is completely different. Ambo has decided to use static panoramic totals, that enables her to stay “cool” when it comes to the Japanese researcher(s), and that makes it easy for her to swift from Japan to Germany, to the old lady that loves her robot baby seal as was it a living pet.

It seems like Ambo has decided not to fall into the trap of an easy condemnation of the robot making as “inhuman” and dangerous for our future. Her withdrawn position makes her open to hear and watch what the researchers are actually able to do. This makes the Japanese part of the film exciting. And scary, of course, when we see the daughter of the researcher look at a geminoid of her father, not wanting to touch it. The mother, on the contrary, has no problem in wiping away the left chocolate from her geminoid husband’s lips. The researcher is the one that carries the film with his philosophical reflective remarks to the director. A clever, yet also obsessed man… who has made copies of his daughter and wife. They can move their heads and their bodies, next step: can they have feelings? Like the baby seal that makes the every day of frau Körner in Germany endurable.