Mig og Naser

Cathrine Asmussen er et af de mest oplagte talenter i nyere dansk dokumentar. Hun har altid noget på hjertet, noget hun vil fortælle om, hun har et synspunkt og de film, hun står bag er simpelthen bare godt lavet. De rækker ud efter et stort tv-publikum og bør blive efterspurgte i DFI’s distribution.

Det er igen på Nørrebro, det foregår, ligesom i 2002, hvor Cathrine Asmussen havde fat i den enlige ældre tyrkiske kvinde, som skal klare hverdagen langt væk fra Anatolien. Instruktøren viste med denne film (“En mors historie”), hvor fint hun kan vinde sine karakterers tillid og komme respektfuldt og kærligt ind på livet af dem. Det gør hun så sandelig også med somaliske Amina, som er et livstykke ud over det sædvanlige, vild med Naser Khader, hvis Demokratiske Muslimers bestyrelse hun bliver valgt ind i, fuldt udrustet med det høje humør og varme engagement, som hun også demonstrerer for fuld knald på det plejehjem, hun arbejder.

Filmen følger Amina over en periode frem til hun melder sig ud af Demokratiske Muslimer fordi Khader på foreningens vegne giver en pris til en ægyptisk korankritiker. Men hun finder en ny sag at engagere sig i. Hun er simpelthen bare skøn, morsom og charmerende – og det er hun, fordi instruktøren har den fine dokumentariske fornemmelse for at skildre almindelige menneskers ualmindelighed, at få det bedste frem i folk, få dem til at formulere sig ligefremt og direkte, og få dem til at vise følelser uden at det virker fremprovokeret.

Det er først og fremmmest et portræt – men at det så også er nok en film om muslimer i Danmark, om en kvinde som klarer sig på grund af sin energi og vilje, i et område af København, hvor der med mellemrum er ballade i gaderne, gør den jo ikke mindre aktuel og vedkommende. Sådan ser verden ud netop nu for en aktiv muslimsk kvinde på Nørrebro i København.

… og så gemmer vi diskussionen om TV2’s indgreb i filmen til et indlæg i en en af de nærmeste dage.



Documentary on Vaclav Havel

Yesterday in Prague, I attended a sneak preview of a still unfinished documentary on Vaclav Havel. The version (for cinemas and festivals) I saw was 150 minutes, for me it could easily have been longer, simply because the company of Havel is such a joy! 

I was told that a 6 hour long (6 x 1 hour) TV version has been made as well to be screened on the private channel NOVA, and not on public Czech tv, that did not want to take part which of course is no less than a scandal.

The film is wonderful being the result of 12 years of shooting by Pavel Koutecky who died last year in a tragic accident. The film has been completed by Mira Janek, and covers sequences from the life of Havel when president until the moment, he steps down and leaves the castle in Prague. Private life and official life. Havel in a lot of situations with his advisors, Havel constantly versus the other Vaclav (Klaus) and Havel with his first wife Olga, who dies in 1996. And Havel with Dagmar, Dasa, who is his life’s companion now. A film full of humour about a gentle man, who – as he says himself – is unwilling to conform to the stereotypes. A man who listens and thinks before he talks. A man who appears to have some drops of vanity when it comes to shirts and ties, and who is absolutely unpractical and who could not live without a woman at his side.

Apart from the joyful meeting with a man of great modest charisma, the film gives you an inside to important moments in Czech politics when EU is to be the reality for the former communist country.

This is not a review, just a first advertising: Watch out for “Citizen Havel” that will be a success all over the world when it comes out next year.

Zelig Film School Bolzano

I have just finished three days of teaching at Zelig, the documentary film school in Bolzano in the region of Alto Adige in the North of Italy. There are not many European film schools that specialise in documentaries, and as far as I know this is the only one, that does only documentaries… for 3 years a group of young people (between 20 and 30) are going to learn about, watch, make documentaries. Sounds great, and is great.

I have been teaching in Bolzano twice before and this time I have the privilege to follow the students for all 3 years. They started their study monday and I had the next 3 days of general intro to the documentary of today. I showed clips and discussed and circled around keywords to what a documentary actually is. We still run a round with the John Grierson definition from 1936 (“the creative treatment of actuality”), it is no longer relevant, or is it? Anyhow, go to http://www.zeligfilm.it/ and learn more about this excellent place, which is also behind the MEDIA programme training programe Esodoc.

Michael Moore: Sicko

Midt i utrygheden: Ser det sådan ud det sundhedsvæsen, vi er ved at udvikle her hos os? Som dette i USA, hvor enhver er sig selv nærmest. Midt i denne serie skræmmende cases, som rulles op, er jeg mærkeligt tryg. Jeg er tryg ved denne stemme, som beretter, jeg er tryg ved denne filmkonstruktion, som så kompetent lover mig, at intet dramaturgisk uheld vil indtræffe.

Tryg ved æstetikken. Tryg ved stemmen, der langt inde i filmen bliver til denne sikre mand, som uden det er en anmasselse fylder billedet og dominerer scenerne og med sin udstråling får alt det bedste ud af hver eneste medvirkende, så de ikke overlades til egne kræfter, men låner hans styrke, bliver stærke og bemærkelsesværdigt ens, hvorefter de i en scene som nøglescenen i Formans ”Gøgereden” samles i en yacht og fyldt af den store mands mod forlader deres USA og dets kyniske hospitaler og læger for i varmt lavt sollys over et venligt hav at sejle mod fjendeland, mod Cuba med dets kompetente og solidariske sundhedsvæsen, som vil modtage dem og behandle dem. Gratis og som en selvfølge. Michael Moore har skabt et stort, sentimentalt digt om solidaritet og venlighed over for egoisme og kynisme.

Michael Moore: “Sicko”, USA, 2007, 113 min. http://www.michaelmoore.com

Grand, Randers og en række andre biografer landet over.

Pernille Rose Grønkjær: The Monastery

On September 21st the awarded Danish documentary masterpiece – after having toured the world – premieres in Danish cinemas. From the DFI magazine FILM (53, November 2006) we bring this extract of an article, written by blog owner Allan Berg Nielsen:


“Mr. Vig, Matushka brought an icon for you…”
“This is an icon for you. It’s our present for you. To start a monastery here.”
“I like that. I like that one. I like that one very’ much. Oh, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful.”
“You can kiss it.”
“Oh, thank you very much…”
Amvrosya, a nun, and Matushka, her superior, have arrived at Jørgen Laursen Vig’s castle and he reverently admires the icon they have brought him as a gift from their monastery in . He makes the sign of the cross, he praises the beauty of the artwork, he is sincerely pleased. But he does not kiss the icon. He does not submit to its holiness. He wants to transform his castle into a Russian-Orthodox monastery with Amvrosya’s help, but he balks at making the final commitment.
Later in the film, when several nuns have moved in, a procession is organized. Reluctantly, he joins in. He sees that the whole castle has been redone and incorporated into the holiness he invited in but whose consequences he had not quite foreseen. They fix up the room he set aside for a chapel prior to their arrival, but now Vig says it has to be a temporary arrangement. No, Amvrosya explains, once the chapel has been consecrated it can no longer be changed.
Vig has come a long way toward holiness in the three renunciations of the monastic vow. For 86 years he has lived in chastity, he clearly leads a humble life of poverty in the ramshackle castle. But he cannot submit to obedience; devotion is his trouble.

Grønkjær’s film is about this holiness.


The Danish landscape around the castle is beautiful and the camerawork eloquently describes this beauty. Beautiful, too, is the Russian art that, first in the single icon given to Vig, then in volume, gradually fills the chapel with fragrant, coloursaturated imagery captured by the camera in long, caring shots. The iconostasis, a sacred backdrop for immersion in the readings, is depicted against the seasonal changes of the landscape as Vig continues his free life. Both are depictions of beauty, the Russian art in the chapel against the Danish countryside outside in the gardens and the fields. Nature and culture, the prayer hours and the seasons, winter scenery and the iconostasis, the nun’s kitchen and Vig’s library. The secular and the sacred. Grønkjær’s film details two different kinds of beauty. Like Vig, it cannot choose one over the other, depicting them side by side, closely cut’ together.


Sexuality is for making babies, Vig says. For a few weeks, a few times in a lifetime. Yes, he had a love once a very long time ago, but since then that side of life has been covered by other passions, studies, books and travel, a series of projects, culminating in the foundation of the monastery. Love – he doesn’t know much about it. Sure, he has had the feeling, he has loved.

The film is not content to leave it at that, however. The nature of love is multi-faceted and inclusive. Vig does not elude it in the long run. A warm relationship evolves between him and Amvrosya. He falls asleep during prayer. With the book in his lap. The book he has begged so to get, the book he labours at harder than any physical thing in the house is his entrance to the world. Now he has fallen asleep and gently she walks over and turns the page to the current place in the prayer. He wakes up and sees that he is keeping up. It is a gentleness that does not call attention to itself. With caring and respectful resolve, she serves him his meals at a table in the kitchen. He maintains his status and dignity. He is worth loving.

The third actor in the film, the filmmaker with her camera, becomes entangled in a relationship of complex fascinations. The camera gazes at the old man with increasing tenderness and, for his part, he draws the filmmaker into all his deliberations, talking to the camera as if that were the most natural thing in the world. In their long conversations, the small instrument is a prosthesis for memory that, in eagerness and engrossment, is more easily overlooked than a pad on a stenographer’s knee, the black octave of note-taking.

Grønkjær’s film charts the manifold nature of love.


Grønkjær shot all the footage herself from the first time she met Vig in 2000. For a while, she lived in a trailer at Hesbjerg, tracking the changing light and endlessly shifting colours of the landscape as a backdrop for the old man’s daily life and all his scattered attempts at maintaining his property, which had long since gone to seed. She had a camera on permanent loan from Zentropa Real, while tenaciously, though unsuccessfully, seeking funds for her film. She did not have a lot of footage to show yet. Consultants and editors told her no. Apart from the essential equipment deal, she had no backing. Still, there was a freedom in this phase. She could spontaneously pursue any inclination. Her shooting schedule had no limits. Five years passed this way, as she slowly accumulated footage. Like Vig, she was working on a project most would have abandoned. Vig understood her. He had been working even longer on his own project.


The presentation of the icon at the nuns’ first visit is a key scene. Another comes later on. Vig is in front of the greenhouse, hoeing. From behind the camera, the filmmaker asks him:

“Why is it so interesting to have a monastery here?”
Vig answers: “It is an old ambition of mine to leave a legacy. That’s a banal thing, of course. One would like to do something that persists – it is an ambition.”
“I don’t get it,” the filmmaker challenges.
“I don’t get it,” she repeats.
“You don’t get it?”
He looks up from what he is doing.
“You don’t want to make a film that becomes part of history, a documentary?”
“Um, yes,” she admits.
“You want to make something of quality. There you go.” And he continues his gardening. “There you go,” he repeats and crouches to deal with a weed.

Suvi Andrea Helminen: På vej til Paradis

Det kunne ikke være bedre! Bedste sendetid til en af de bedste danske film lige nu. Suvi Andrea Helminens “På vej til Paradis”. Den havde premiere 15. juni, vandt sin kategori på festivalen i Odense i august. Men den er ikke nær så omtalt denne tid som en række langt mindre interessante danske film. Sært. Vi kunne imidlertid se den for nylig på DR2 i timen omkring klokken ni om aftenen.

En formel analyse af filmens manuskript, instruktion, fotografering, klip, musik, arkivbrug, setdesign og lyddesign ville uden tvivl forklare, hvorfor den film er fremragende. Det arbejde har juryen i Odense udført. Og den nåede sin konklusion: dette er vinderen i år!

Jeg så den helt naivt og umiddelbart og mere og mere henført: jamen det er jo filmen om det hele! Alt det vigtige i livet, det almindelige liv. Om det mandlige og om det kvindelige. Om den lange kærlighed og om skønheden i den og omkring den. Om den nødvendige lethed ved livsfølelsens højder og ved dens mørke dybder, om selve livskunsten, som den er kaldt, den kunnen.

Og filmen berører finere end noget samtidigt intimiteten, også den kropslige. Jeg følger dens motiv, den nøgne fod hele vejen. Afgørende er her og overalt i filmens konstruktion neddæmpetheden, for med den er filmen for alvor indtrængende. Afgørende er også langsomheden, for på grund af den findes præcisionen. Også i talen om døden (som hører sammen med kærligheden og skønheden), talen er almindelig og usentimental. Både i den mandlige og i den kvindelige vinkel i dette konstante dobbeltblik.

Vigtige er de store greb i fortællingen. For eksempel: han rejser til Brasilien uden hende. De er unge elskende og hun skal følge efter. Måske. Fortællingen løser stedets udfordring ægte sentimentalt, men ikke overfladisk. Den gør det autentisk og virkeligt. Og for eksempel: hun får omkring en fødsel mens de bor i Indien en voldsom depression. Må sendes hjem alene. Han og børnene bliver. Historien fortælles med en mængde detaljer, alle så relevante, at jeg forstår, dette er det virkeligt udsatte liv. Her i kvindens voice over er den nødvendige følelse hverken overfladisk eller overdrevet. Den er næsten klinisk præcis og derfor for alvor gribende.

Suvi Andrea Helminens film handler om intet mindre end livets mening for sådan nogen som os..

Filmen distribueres af Det Danske Filminstitut og kan lånes på biblioteket, hvis det har købt adgang til www.filmstriben.dk


Se engang på Poul Rudes kommentar til “DR kultur – bredt eller smalt”. Bortset fra den fornærmende bemærkning om at DK4 er tv-kulturens campinghabit – som en kolonihaveejer som jeg naturligvis føler mig ramt af – har han fat i, hvad TV OGSÅ kan og bør være: god og gedigen oplysning som vi kan blive klogere på! Godt gået!

Sight & Sound on Documentaries

The good old, well esteemed English film magazine Sight & Sound has just published its September issue with a special focus on documentaries, titled “The Power of Documentary”. I did not buy it yet but will do so from reading what the issue includes on


The excellent critic Mark Cousins has chosen “10 film that shook the world” to be shown at the BFI Southbank in London. This is what he writes:

“I allowed myself to be vague about what a film is (there are made-for-TV pieces in the selection), but was determined not to commit the sin of Anglocentrism. So from China we’ll show Heshang – The River Elegy (Jun Xia, 1988); from Japan Minamata: The Victims and Their World (Tsuchimoto Noriaki, 1972); from the US Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore, 2002) and The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988); from Britain Death of a Nation – The Timor Conspiracy (John Pilger and David Munro, 1994), BBC News Ethiopia Report (Michael Buerk and Mohammed Amin, 1984) and McLibel (Franny Armstrong, 2005); from Germany Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, 1936); from France The Sorrow and the Pity (Marcel Ophuls, 1970);and from Iran For Freedom (Hussein Torabi, 1980).”

Did you see them all?

Did he forget some obvious films?

Claudio Magris

There he was. Italian writer, professor, translator etc., Claudio Magris from Trieste. In Copenhagen to present his new book that comes out September 20 in a Danish translation: “I blinde”, original title: “Alla Cieca”. A gentle, smiling and passionate man who talked to us for 2 hours about his new book and his way of working.

What has that to do with film? Nothing… but for a documentarian it was an enormous inspiration to hear Magris tell about his way of working and his way of talking about reality.

“I am obsessed with exactitude”, he said and explained that he does a huge amount of research before he starts writing a book. His interest in history, and especially in the history of the so-called Mitteleurope, is well known for all who has read his “Danube”. This part of the world, or maybe a bit further to the South to ex-Yugoslavia is very present in the new book. The horrors of the 20th century is what occupies the writer more and more. he said.

“Human reality is more original than invention”, Magris said, and explained that when he writes, he tries to write linear but always ends up with a mosaic of what he called “objective reality”, into which he introduces one or more imaginary characters.

“I am constantly building up a structure through contrasts”, he said, and I was thinking about documentary dramaturgical principles of contrast and drama.

Back to the exactitudes… and the research that Magris does to be – my words – precise, exact, objective, true. To be in control, and from there let the story unfold. The same kind of obsession that Luchino Visconti had when he made “Death in Venice” and “The Leopard” where the scenography had to be exact. 

Magris books has these many layers that make them fascinating to read. About “the unbelievable originality of reality”. Isn’t that what all documentary people are searching to capture? Why not do like Magris – mix the essay, the fiction and the non-fiction?

PS. Hello, Italian production companies… we still miss a film about this big European writer! Make it, please.

PPS. For TV. The reason why I put this in the section of TV.

BBC dokumentar: 11. september 2001

Joh, jeg blev da siddende det meste af tiden i aftes og så den lange film fra BBC med den imponerende rekonstruktion af begivenheder inde i de to tårne disse to morgentimer den dag. Som DR2 bragte. Men jeg havde hele tiden lyst til at gå, til at slukke. Og hvordan kan det nu være?

Jeg tror det er fordi, jeg har set det hele før. Siddet på første række, som det så smagfuldt og tydeligt står i DR2 pressemeddelelsen, på sofarække til reportagerne igen og igen, set flyet ramme, set tårnene brænde og kollapse, men de rekonstruerede scener inde i tårnet har jeg også set før, stikflammen op gennem skakten, den lille gruppe overlevende som ledet af en beslutsom mand finder vej ud gennem en labyrint af klaustrofobiske korridorer. Set det i katastrofefilm efter katastrofefilm fra “Det tårnhøje Helvede” til “Titanic”.

Filmens minutiøse research og uendeligt omfattende rekonstruktion fører for mig at se ikke nogen steder hen. Ikke til nogen egentlig analyse politisk, kriminalteknisk eller psykologisk. Slet ikke psykologisk, personerne bliver aldrig tydelige, de medvirkende vidner heller ikke, iscenesættelsen er så manifest, at den fører til interferens mellem skuespillere og vidner, replikker og statements bliver til sentimentale postulater og jeg lærer ikke noget. Filmen er naturligvis dygtigt lavet, men den er ikke klog, detaljerig, men ikke skarp.

Dens tab af autenticitet både som drama og som dokument skyldes, er jeg sikker på, at den som fortællegreb vælger den alt for velkendte og sædvanetyngede genre, katastrofefilmen. Og den genres konventioner erobrer og kvæler stoffets ægthed, dybde og alvor, og den 11. september 2001 bliver til sentimental underholdning.