Saeed Taji Farouky: A Thousand Fires

Let me start with a quote from a mail sent to me by good friend, excellent French producer Estelle Robin You, who has been working with the director for years to make this film meet the audience:

”A Thousand Fires” tells the story of two loving parents, working hard in the hand-drilled oil fields of central Myanmar, to give their son a better future. It is a story of the human scale of the oil industry and the marks it leaves on the body and soul. It is a story of transformation, reincarnation and generational clashes.»

Written in November 2020. In late August the film wins an important award at the festival in Locarno and the jury motivates:

“We are honoured to bestow the first award in the memory of the late Marco Zucchi. A Thousand Fires presents, through compelling audio-visual language, a poor and dignified life that is tied to the soil. Saeed Taji Farouky combines ethnographic observation with cinematographic language of pure physicality: close-ups of the hard working bodies and nearly abstract images of the natural elements: fire, smoke, oil, dirt. We enter the spiritual life of the protagonists through the associative editing, evocative sounds and expressive landscapes. A touching portrait of a family struggling and hoping for a better life so far away from the Western audience brings us closer to humanity. 

The film is right now in competition at the FIPADOC 2022 in Biarritz that starts tomorrow and runs until January 26. The international competition that includes ”A Thousand Fires” is very strong with the new films by Pawel Lozinski (Balcony Movie), Helena Trestikova’s sequel to the films about René, Danish Camilla Nielsson’s ”President”, Sergei Loznitza’s ”Babi Yar”, Andreas Koefoed´s ”The Lost Leonardo” that premieres in Denmark next week and another gem that has Estelle Robin You as producer, ”The Last Shelter” by Ousmane Zoromé Samassékou. Mentioning the 6 films of the 11 selected that I have seen.

If you are in Biarritz, go and watch “A Thousand Fires” that takes place far away from the West, as the jury states above – yet, the family is like any other family: Mum says to Dad that he again has forgotten to put his sandals on when he is going out; could have been my wife and I in our small garden house. And their care for the son, who moves to the city to become a football player, see how difficult it is for mum and dad to cut the strings to him – the grandparent’s love to their baby grandchild. Does it ring a bell. We all live on the same planet, but gosh how different the living conditions are. To be remembered as is the director’s amazingly beautiful images that correspond to his love to the family.

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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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