Viktor Kossakovsky at IDFA

The IDFAAcademy for young filmmakers from all over the world started yesterday. Joyful Meike Statema is the head of this important section of the Documentary Paradise that IDFA was called in the KLM flight magazine I had in my hands during the turbulent journey down from Copenhagen thursday morning.

The turbulence continued… After video introductions of the participants – full of fun – Viktor Kossakovsky and Tom Fassaert were introduced under the headline ”Master and Talent”. It became one of the most memorable sessions I have experienced. It was emotional and informational at the same time – to bring forward two words that Kossakovsky used on a stage that he conquered totally.

The original idea, I think, was that the two of them should have a conversation about filmmaking, the experienced Kossakovsky and the young Tom Fassaert, whose ”A Family Affair” was the opening film of the festival’s 28th edition.

It did not work out like that. Fassaert wanted to show his appreciation of Kossakovsky by showing a long clip from ”Belovs”. He did and it made Kossakovsky burst into tears, kneel in front of the screen, ”I am sorry I shot this”, ”this is a typical Russian person”, he was inconsolable, had to leave the room, came back, left again, came back and stayed.

Stayed, yes, I dare say, to tear apart completely the film of the talent. He

asked for a screening of two times five minutes – without sound – from ”A Family Affair”… What do you think, he asked Fassaert, is that a good cut, is that a good shot, why did you not get up a bit earlier in the morning to catch the right light, so on so forth. ”There’s no form”, ”where is your talent”, the rhytm of your film is like ”a limping chicken”, ”you don’t know how to distinguish emotion and information”, ”composition of the image, it is not there”.

OMG – Tom Fassaert took it well, I think – but ”you could have warned me in beforehand” – and Kossakovsky gave him the following home work: 1.Go and watch Rembrandt. 2.Watch contemporary art. 3.Read big books.

”You can continue to be a filmmaker if you in the next film are able to surprise yourself and me”. And to the audience: ”If you watch two films by me, which are just good, then I will quit making films”.

”There must be an aesthetical reason, if you don’t have that, don’t make the film”.

Viktor Kossakovsky is a gift to the documentary community, always inspiring, not afraid to express his emotions. An entertainer as well. All right, he ”killed” the young director but he will survive and without having seen the whole ”A family affair”, but only clips, Kossakovsky was right in his objections. What a show, thank you IDFA!    

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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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