Piter – My love

I am leaving Saint Petersburg after a few days with a conference and a re-visit of the places, where I have been during the last 20 years… That explains the headline of this post.

Tomorrow – I am writing this in the Arlanda airport in Stockholm waiting for the plane to Copenhagen – the Forum in Amsterdam starts. I will not attend but I will be at IDFA to watch films and write about (some of) them and hug the new director Orwa Nyrabia, hoping that all goes well for him.

Back to the Forum, where I am sure that many of the broadcasters or

decision makers, as some of them would like to be called, will ask the filmmakers for strong characters and a strong story. That’s what I found yesterday at the Russian Museum, that hosts an exceptional exhibition of “Russian expressionism”. Look at the picture and you might be able to “read” a strong story and see strong characters. The author/painter/artist is Pavel Filonov, who made this masterpiece in 1912-1913, entitled “Feast of Kings”. There is much more – as there should be in documentaries as well – than one layer in this painting, move your fingers on the photo and get the details, it is multi-layered and it has a point of view. Amazing it is, in other ways. I learnt about Filonov many years ago through Russian filmmaker Sasha Krivonos, who made films about the Russian Avantgarde and Malevich and wanted to go for Filonov, but it did not happen.

Back to yesterday and the cultural day I had in Piter. As written it started in the Russian Museum from where my unique guide and dear friend for many years, Ludmila Nazaruk, took me to Marinsky Concert Hall for the Russian premiere of the Oratorio “Über Liebe und Hass” by Gubaidulina with the one and only Valery Gergiev as conductor (do you remember the film by Sonia Herman Dolz “The Master and his Pupils”?). The Concert Hall in itself is wonderful architecture and to sit twenty meters from Gergiev watching the hands and fingers of the master moving and making the orchestra, and the choir, and the four soloists work together was simply a feast. And afterwards the world famous conductor – and fervent Putin supporter – decaimed by himself on several occasions – stood there on stage welcoming the enormous applause letting the soloists getting their very well deserved part of it.

Putin… yes, he was on the agenda, of course he was, welcoming the participants to the Cultural Forum of the city, he was born and raised in, sending greetings to the film school because of its centenary celebration… and we talked about him. I saw him looking very tired at the top meeting in Paris. I think he is, maybe he wants to quit – as he said he would in Vitaly Manski’s “Putin’s Witnesses” in 2000, where he was happy to be in a democracy so he could be a citizen after the 4 years he was elected to serve. 18 years later… Compare Manski’s early Putin footage with Oliver Stone’s tv-programmes! Now he knows how to deal with the media!

At the last part of the cultural day, we stopped at the great Erarta Museum that was introduced to me by Ludmila Nazaruk and her husband Ilya, great guides for a museum that on this Saturday night was open until 10 pm and had long queues waiting to get in. Have to admit that at this point I was close to the suffering of the famous Stendhal syndrome: too much art, too many impressions, too much to digest. Fresh air please.

Which we got at the impressive New Holland, a place for Piter’s inhabitants to go to relax, to skate at this part of the year, walk around, sit on the benches and/or go to the many diverse restaurants that are to be found in the former naval prison that is now called “the bottle” We went to a Georgian restaurant and got what I have learned to appreciate during the visits to Tbilisi: the egg-plant rolls with walnut crème inside, khatchapuri and khinkali… and wine and chacha! The New Holland restoration is financed by Roman Abramovich – yes, the owner of the football club Chelsea.

And back to the hotel, Sokos, Finnish, with a wonderful framing of the windows, with a look at the Trinity church. Hope you will have all this at the Forum: Strong stories, strong characters, many layers, good framing, BEAUTY – as in Piter, Saint Petersburg, My Love.

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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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