Philipp Griess: Documentaries of today

Food for thought: This text is written by a student from the Zelig Film School for Documentary at the exam in June after one year of the three year long studies. Philipp Griess has chosen camera for his further studies.

I do not insist on a clear distinction between fiction and documentary. I do not believe in definitions of art. It helps maybe for analyzing, I don’t believe that it helps for doing films. For me Werner Herzog and his opinions in these discussions are a very important reference. I think the main point of (documentary) filmmaking is still to tell an interesting story, that someone else can identify with. So it is almost always about people, or the fate of someone. Films about people impress me, but in the end the story is bigger than just this one biography. It is what Herzog does in “Grizzly Man” or “White Diamond” and it is the story of the young Danish female pilot (“Smiling in a War Zone”) who flies to Kabul to teach a young girl flying. This is also the films of Michael Moore. And for sure “Darwin’s Nightmare”.

New documentary film is also the set up (dt: Inszenierung) of happenings (“Czech Dream” – great film), of situations (“MegaCities” – the beautiful sequence when the Mexican superman dictates a letter to the world, “The heritage of the world is the Abstruse”) and the creation of pictures like in “Black Sun”, “Working Mans Death”.

Film (like every art form) is very closely connected to the spirit of a time. So especially doc films should be open for graphics, drawings, sounds and music in every style, strange editing (“Ghosts of City Soleil”, “Mondovino”) and any other irritation – if it helps to tell what has to be told.

But the documentary film represents from my point of view still a way to tell things the public doesn’t know about – or does not want to know about. It has to be open for more journalistic/historical approaches (“Terrors Advocate” is a good example, or “The most secret place on earth” about the American hidden war in Cambodia).

June 2008 Still: It is what Herzog does in “White Diamond”..

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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