Sophia Tzavella: Paradise Hotel

It seems to be in the middle of nowhere, and isolated it is, what was meant to be (25 years ago) a place to live, in noble decency, planned to house the Romas by the socialist government. Today block 20 is a pigpen with no water and often no electricity, with garbage all over, people throwing their swill from the balconies, and doing shit anywhere, rats all over. Disgusting living conditions.

The director has chosen a complicated, yet interesting structure. Upfront and towards the last part of the film, she goes with hardcore social documentation: Inside and outside the appartments, talking faces, stories about the unbelievable poverty and why they choose to stay here (what could the alternative be?). In some cases she goes close, in others she stays with a distance. There is a dynamic pace in the narrative, no sentimentalism, this is how it is, carried by a strong musical score. In between there are some staged sequences, for instance with an albino, whose enigmatic silent role in the film I never really understood.

… and then documentation is taken over by Fellini! A marriage is going to be, and colourful and entertaining it becomes with the young couple’s appartment being painted, everyone getting dressed up, music, dance, food, happiness, and a sign saying ”Paradise Hotel”. The director makes a point, dreams of a better world with her protagonists for whom you can only have empathy.

The market is full of films about romas and the living conditions, this is one of the better ones.

Bulgaria, 2010, 54 mins., HBO Central Europe & Agitprop

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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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