Ulla Jacobsen 1967-2013

We knew it was serious. Ulla wrote it herself in personal facebook messages. Always in her modest, gentle way, returning the question about her health to ”but how are you” and ”how is the documentary world out there?”. A world she took active part in for more than a decade. In her kind, unselfish and competent manner.

And then came the message about her death, Saturday February 9th in Copenhagen. 45 years old…

After Ulla left DOX and EDN in 2009 to go freelance, I had only written contact with her. The following edited article was written, when she left DOX in 2009. This was and is what I recall from our working years together. I am sure many other documentary people have the same kind of memories. Let me start in Syria:

March 2009. A hotel lobby in Damascus. A group of women from the Middle East are sitting at their computers. They are journalists. They are chain smokers. They are concentrated, a bit stressed. They have a deadline for delivering texts to the daily news bulletin of the DoxBox international documentary festival, being held for the second year. A calm, Nordic looking woman goes from one to to the other. She gives advice with a smile on her face. She is the one in charge, the chief editor radiating expertise and kindness. Her name is Ulla Jacobsen. She is the natural choice for this difficult task of encouraging young journalists to express opinions and write good reports…

Ulla, editor in chief of DOX from March 1998 until early 2009, would never have accepted an intro like this. ”I am not important”, she would have said. Personal gonzo-style journalism was never something given priority by her in running a magazine, whose reputation she built up until it became the international cultural documentary magazine, where you’re always sure to find reliable information about what is going on worlwide – with the creative documentary.

DOX’s connection to EDN was clear from the outset: DOX should remain independent and never become an internal, extended EDN-newsletter. The editor should be given free reign and thus Ulla was in charge. On the other hand, the fact of having Ulla in the EDN office was an obvious advantage for both parties. Ulla often found her stories through EDN’s network of filmmakers, and EDN profited from her knowledge. She was simply part of the gang of the early days of EDN, did a lot of work for the organisation (selecting projects for workshops, giving lectures and presentations, serving on juries etc.) and her personal qualifications contributed strongly to the fine working atmosphere both in Skindergade and after moving into facilities at the Danish Film Institute. I couldn’t begin to count the times when I, as director of EDN, went to Ulla for an opinion that I knew would be based on positive analysis and common sense.

After DOX Ulla went freelance. This is how she presented herself: I make short web-videos for organisations and company websites. My film ”The Plastic Battle” for Friends of the Earth (UK) has been watched by a quarter of million people on the internet. I write feature articles about climate change, social issues and film/media.”

A true documentarian has passed away.

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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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