Riga Diary 5

I attended the first handful of projects that were pitched at the Baltic Sea Forum. Before I had to leave back to Copenhagen. Again I heard a sentence that is often expressed at pitching sessions by the commissioning editors present. Those who represent US, the audience. Here it comes, this time passed to a Lithuanian project about the late writer Jurga Ivanauskaitė: The project is too artistic for me. Those were the words.

Too artistic for whom? For the commissioning editor and his/her personal taste or for the viewers? What a patronising attitude! And what is meant by “too artistic”? In this case the trailer that was shown included some reconstructions, some tableaux that should give us the audience some idea of a stylistical approach. Call it a personal handwriting. Nothing unusual, just a bit different from the mainstream but enough to scare some of the television people. Not all of them, fortunately, the representative from Estonian television liked the clip and dared to mention that the film could also be good for festivals.

Which pissed off the representatives from BBC and DR, who expressed their disrespect for “festival films”, i.e.for them are films for the happy few. Two comments to this: Well, this is just another confirmation that public television is run by the journalistic, mainstream approach, that programmes which are a bit different do not stand a chance. And that – with other words – you can forget all documentaries with artistic ambitions. Understandable it is that the audience feels that it is underestimated and choose to go to festivals instead. Which they do in big amounts, in full cinema halls that – added up – very often grap a bigger audience than the one that watches television.

Art and televison? Forget about it, except for some few exceptions.

Photo: Jurga Ivanauskaitė.

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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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