NISIMAZINE Sunday 23 November 2008
from Pressure Cooker, Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker 2008 ÂŠ Participant Media
A Magazine Published By Nisi Masa, European Network Of Young CinemA
Food for Thought Kim Longinotto Hair India
Sunday 23 November 2008/# 4 A magazine published by the NISI MASA and MeccaPANZA associations in cooperation with IDFA - International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and with the support of the ‘Youth in Action’ programme of the EU and SNS Reaal Fonds
aving been at IDFA for the last couple of days brings a question to my mind: Why do I watch documentaries? To learn easily about certain subjects, explore different forms of reality, or get one step closer to the truth? Documentaries...The visual history of humanity. They teach me what ideas and faith mean to people in different times and spaces, and witness how politics manipulate faith and abuses people’s consciences. As the festival continues, the films gain different meanings; they become tools to understand life. We realize how people can think and live differently over time, and how to find new keys to open doors through different stories. There are political statements in some documentaries; filmmakers get disturbed by an issue and believe that it has to be known more by people in order for things to change, so they tell us a story to open up a new window into our way of thinking. Other documentaries show us what it’s like to be from another country, they take us to places that we may not have a chance to go to physically. They fly us from an Indian neighbourhood to a city park in Boston. One minute we can feel a person’s sorrow, the next we can analyze the challenges of poverty. To learn, get inspired or simply for enjoyment, I love documentaries! It is cold outside in Amsterdam, but inside there’s a vast and deep world waiting to be discovered.
EDITORIAL STAFF Director of Publication Matthieu Darras Editor-in-Chief Jude Lister Itxaso Elosua Ramírez Editorial Secretary Maartje Alders Layout Maartje Alders, Nina Henke Contributors to this issue Alberto Angelini Anamaria Chioveanu, Nina Henke Evrim Kaya, Rares Kövesdi Lura Limani, Arturo Mestanza Selma Sevkli, Anna Weitz Coordinators Nina Henke, Ilona Mulder Alex Tirajoh, Tania Ramón Casas MeccaPANZA Bestevaerstraat 198-4 1055 TS Amsterdam +358 41 5251131 firstname.lastname@example.org www.meccapanza.eu
NISI MASA 10 rue de l’Echiquier, 75010, Paris, France. + 33 (0)6 32 61 70 26 email@example.com
PHOTO BY Rares, Kövesdi
P I C T U R E O F T H E D AY
Nisimazine Amsterdam ~ 23. 11. 2008 # 4
Film of the day Hair India
© B&B Film
Raffaele Brunetti, Marco Leopardi (Italy, 2008)
y hair grows. Your hair grows. It’s a biological automatism; we don’t need to water our scalp. But we’re living in a world in which everything has a price, and therefore - as a good - we can sell and buy hair, too; they will grow back, so there’s no problem. In essence, the body is not on the market (at least not the legal one), but its renewable prolongations, well... why not?
Hair India is a fascinating (although very critical) journey into this weird lizard-tail-like marketing process. We follow the product’s movements and transformations from the very beginning - a devout and poor Hindu family, offering hair in a temple as a
present for the divinity - to the final destination - a wealthy and glamorous journalist, buying expensive extensions to enlarge her “crowning glory” for a big party. As a matter of fact, both the starting and ending point of the trade-chain are located in the Indian peninsula: a clever narrative choice, surely the best way to show the parallel, almost opposite lives of the (unknowing) producers and the (unaware) consumers brushing up against one another – just as suburban slums and skyscrapers usually do in the socalled “third world”, while someone is earning money in the background.
The middle link of the production is actually Europe: here the hair (collected from the temple and exported in huge stocks by local dealers) is polished, refined, divided into colours and shades, ready to be shipped off elsewhere. This transition area is very important, as it appears to be not only at the core of this topic, but of our entire consumer society. Discretionary money is often used to buy materialized desires, so if you’re able to create new needs and obtain cheap raw materials by means of exploitation, you’ll be a rich man. Of course this is just one of the million strange stories that come out of rampant globalization, but it’s so paradoxical that it will be hard to forget, thus becoming a provocation to rethink the whole system. It’s interesting to note that one of Raffaele Brunetti’s previous documentaries was also focused on an inanimate object: Mitumba (2005) tells the story of a used t-shirt travelling from Germany to Africa, where whitepeople’s second-hand clothes account for 90% of the market. Maybe he wants to point out how in the “empire of things” the main characters could sometimes hide a precious voice, a voice that is far louder than the price tag. Alberto Angelini
Laura Longsworth (USA, 2008)
uckey tells the story of the love and hatred between a father and son, which survives all circumstances. Tom Luckey, an artist who designs gigantic climbable sculptures for children, had an accident which damaged his spinal cord and turned him into a quadriplegic who can only move his head. At 65 years old, he has a project to finish and some years to live still ahead of him. His son Spencer, an architect, is probably the only person who can help Tom finish his design. When he steps in, it doesn’t take long to realize that their relationship won’t be different from that of any father and son: full of competition, anger, patience and love all mixed together - no matter the handicap. Laura Longsworth tells their story from many angles: the tension between Spencer and his stepmother Ettie, and her struggle as a young wife who has to sacrifice a lot, Spencer’s difficulties in coming to terms with his new life, and Tom’s acceptance and inner
© Green Room Productions
turmoil as the true victim of the story. Yet Longsworth keeps
her distance from any possible drama, in a sense binding her audience to this smooth surface. As a result, it is hard to like or dislike the film. One thing the family is aware of though is that they are lucky people, as their name already hints. Evrim Kaya
Nisimazine Amsterdam ~ 23. 11. 2008 # 4
Young Visions IDFAcademy: Secrets of Pitching photo by Rares Kövesdi
Those who have tried to get financing for a project know how hard it is to convince a broadcaster to believe in it; most of the time they don’t even bother to try envisaging the film. Some very simple advice from our speakers gave pointers on how to improve these results.
Firstly, you might think that you should present yourself to your interviewer as having full knowledge of the topic, and if possible bombard him with facts and statistics. Forget it! Basically, just tell your story in the most passionate way you can. It may seem overly romantic in a business situation, which is focused on money and profit, but underneath, the person in front of you is still human: he or she has a heart and needs a good motivation.
he auditorium was crowded with eager open-eared people. At the centre of their attention was the meeting they were there for, called The Secrets of Pitching / Who is Who in Documentary Land? Presented by Barbara Truyen, Commissioning Editor for the VPRO’s slot in Holland Doc, it welcomed two more special guests: Rudy Butignol, Creative Head of Documentaries, from Canada, and Steven Seidenburg, a British Producer.
Secondly, know where you’re stepping in. Don’t go offering something that might not interest them. And how could you know this? Research! Research a lot! Read about the Commissioning Editor you’re offering the project to, get to know his or her tastes, the kinds of projects this individual has worked on, the profile of the TV networks they used to work with. Gather this information, have a good story prepared and the chances of having your project screened in front of a big audience increases greatly. So, let’s start working! Arturo Mestanza
Yo u c a n r e a d a l l t h e N i s i m a z i n e I D FA i s s u e s o n l i n e a t :
Nisimazine Amsterdam ~ 23. 11. 2008 # 4
hile there are a few funds that support documentary filmmaking, the Jan Vrijman Fund is focused on the financing of documentaries in developing countries. What are the reasons behind this specialization? Financing independent film, more specifically documentaries, is difficult, but in politically unstable countries with economic problems there is no local funding at all. The West dominates both the media and documentary production. We believe it’s important that people, wherever they live, should have the possibility to represent themselves and tell their stories.
Photo by Anamaria Chioveanu
Isabel Arrate Fernandez: Coordinator of the Jan Vrijman Fund
What kind of progress have you noticed in the countries of the films that you have supported? It depends on the country and its specific circumstances. For instance, Ecuador is a country in which we supported a documentary film festival for a few years and invited the organization to IDFA. There was no local film fund, there were no laws to support or stimulate culture. But a very strong organization, Cinememoria, organized this festival. Now, Ecuador has a film law and they are working on a local fund thanks to the lobbying of local filmmakers. The same in Chile, where we also supported many projects. The filmmakers there are more organized; they participate in international co-production forums. Once again quite a group is coming to IDFA, some even to the FORUM.
In your tenth year your financial support has quadrupled in comparison to when you started. Do you have any concrete plans for the Fund in the future?
This year 22 films financed by the Fund are screened during IDFA. What are your expectations?
For which of these 22 films do you have the highest expectations?
This year’s selection is very strong, so we do expect a lot from these films. We try to help as much as possible to get the films out, by placing them in Docs for Sale and also facilitating that they participate in Docs online. And of course the publicity at IDFA and on the website.
I am very happy, not only for the 6 films that are in competition but also because in general we’ve got very good films. There is one film I have a special thing for: The Red Mosque. The film deals with the siege of the Red Mosque in 2007 in Pakistan. The whole process of supporting this project, waiting for it to be finished, getting the film, and inviting the filmmaker has been so amazing and weird. The film was being shot at the same time as we were reading about the situation in Pakistan. Our contact with the filmmaker was an inside view on “normal” daily life in a country where bombs exploded 50 metres from your house. Getting the film out of the country was impossible for months. Every time the filmmaker finally thought that all was settled, something would stir up. I think his courage and determination to make this film are admirable.
Many of the films you supported have been great successes in festivals. Is there a fear that the films get screened based on their “exotic” quality? International festivals have shown films from the “South” even before the Jan Vrijman Fund. What we’ve done is that we’ve increased the amount of films being made in these countries and created the possibility for a true international selection in festivals. I think the curiosity for a good film and good stories will always prevail while making the selection for a festival. Nobody likes to watch bad films. In other words, I believe that the films we’ve supported are selected because of their quality and not their exotic character.
The budget in 2008 was € 650.000. We hope to continue on this level next year. We plan to continue supporting documentary in developing countries, but also want to increase the chances for filmmakers to access the doc market before their films are finished. After several try-outs, in the last year we found a good way for this by making it possible for 7 JVF projects to participate in the IDFA Summer School. 2 of these are now premiering at the festival.
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Nisimazine Amsterdam ~ 23. 11. 2008 # 4
from Le Sang des bêtes, Georges Franju 1949
Food for Thought
ood, in all its forms and aspects, is a subject we can find appearing more and more often in films. There has been a whole wave of food-related documentaries in the past few years, and in this IDFA edition alone there are at least half a dozen of them. Although very different, they all concentrate on the relationship between humans and food, mostly in an ecological-economical or socio-cultural way. Compared to the wave of documentaries around 2005 (Mondovino, We feed the world, Darwins Nightmare) which focused on the origins of food, one can get the impression in this festival that already three years later, filmmakers are more into our attitudes towards it: especially what kinds of food we like and how important the joy of eating is to us. My City, Pizza by Ala Mohseni is about the world standardisation of tastes. Apparently, in the Iranian capital of Tehran, pizza restaurants are beginning to provide stiff competition for the traditional kebab houses, particularly amongst young people. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, in Montreal, Canada, young people are preoccupied with an entirely different issue. Surfing the Waste: A Musical Documentary About Dumpster Diving by Paul Aflalo, Sandra Lombardi and Tomoe Yoshihara, follows a group of friends who get their food out of dumpsters and try to confront the rising throw-away consumer mentality. This mentality is starkly represented in one of the first scenes of Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Our Daily Bread, which shows trailers carrying tons of bread from the previous day to the rubbish dump. The film is known for its complete absence of commentary to accompany images which are often difficult to digest: Geyrhalter presents the mass production of vegetables, but also of livestock. The viewer can easily get the impression that the cows and chickens are as treated with the same detachment as tomatoes. One can understand why Geyrhalter chose Le Sang des Bêtes (1949) by Georges Franju as part of his Top 10 IDFA selection. Franju was one of the first to show images of sliced-up animals, which was even more shocking because he represented them in a very neutral way. Whilst Franju shows the butchers whistling and singing, half a century later in Geyrhalter’s documentary we only hear the sounds of machinery. The slaughtering process has become faster and less personal, though the basic cruelty of the act remains.
While these last films focus primarily on food itself and not on personal portraits of the people shown, two other films at IDFA do exactly the opposite. Pressure Cooker by Mark Becker and Jennifer Grausman is a film which presents the American Dream in a heart-warming, positive way. Wilma Stephenson is the teacher of a culinary arts class at Frankford High School in a difficult neighbourhood in Philadelphia. During preparation for the finals of the top national culinary schools, she teaches Erica, Tyree and Fatoumata not only the basics of cooking, but also about life and success. These students have to prepare the same meal again and again: the ingredients for big chefs are much more exclusive. The Chicken, the Fish and the King Crab by José Luis Lopez-Linares focuses on the “Bocuse d’Or”, a top competition for the best chefs in the world that takes place in Lyon, France. That year, the chefs had to cook meals around the French “Bress” chicken, halibut and the king crab. Both the students and the chefs are pressed for time, but their ambitions are different. As our attitudes towards food are often used as a kind of societal barometer, one can get the impression at this festival that today’s spectator – now that he is enlightened about the food production processes – is more interested in the cultural and social factors involved in the way we eat.
im Longinotto is the kind of filmmaker who seems to prefer the word ‘we’ to ‘I’. Her latest film Rough Aunties is one of sixteen films competing for the VPRO Joris Ivens Award, and present in Amsterdam are - apart from herself - no less than five of the film’s subjects. “I’m really excited because Jackie, Sdudla, Mildred, Eureka and Thuli are all coming to the premiere. I felt very close to them when we were making the film and I’ve really missed them!” she enthused, one week before the festival. Embracing the moments when the people she is filming find strength to speak up or go through a process by having her there as a witness, Longinotto goes far beyond the ‘fly on the wall’ concept that she’s often connected with. “I love the complexity in doing a film together with the filmed and that my presence influences. But I also love when they forget about me”, she explains in the Swedish publication Filmkonst #100 (2006), which was entirely dedicated to her and her work. She doesn’t make interviews or set things up, but it occasionally happens that her films include interview-like situations, or even sequences where the filmed talk directly to her: “If the people I’m filming speak directly to me in the natural course of events, it may feel good to have this in the film. I suppose I want the audience to feel that they are here where I am, seeing things through my eyes.” Longinotto stays by the vulnerable, the abused and the overlooked, but it’s not sentimentality that she brings to the screen. Most of all, her camera focuses on the heroes and heroines of today’s society – usually women and children who take up the fight against injustice and indifference. In spite of her films sometimes becoming close co-operations, she tries to be clear about her role as a filmmaker. She carries her camera from the first encounter: “It’s not the camera people are scared of, it’s the people behind the cameras”. And what some filmmakers would have missed by not asking questions Longinotto gains in seeing and never switching off – neither the camera,
© Sheffield Docfest
nor her interest in seemingly hopeless subject matters. In Rough Aunties Longinotto follows the tireless work of the South African association ‘Bobbi Bear’, which fights to bring child rapists to justice. Other recent works include last year’s critically acclaimed Hold me tight, let me go (2007) about a boarding school of traumatized children, and Sisters in Law (2005), on female judges in Cameroon – the latter won the ‘Prix Art et Essai’ at the Cannes film festival. A few years earlier she made Runaway (2001) about a shelter for runaway girls in Tehran, followed by The Day I’ll Never Forget (2002) on the subject of female genital mutilation, which she mentions as one of the most difficult: “It took me over 10 years to get the courage to make it”, she admits. The Day I’ll Never Forget made someone faint at IDFA in 2002. It includes a scene in which a woman is being circumcised. During the shooting of Rough Aunties one of the sons of a Bobbi Bear worker drowned and Longinotto and her sound recordist arrived just after it had happened. Despite the sound recordist saying they should stop, she kept filming because: “Turning my camera off wouldn’t help”. The 56-year-old Londoner might sound like a natural-born documentarist, but her childhood was pervaded by conservative values. Between the ages of eleven and sixteen she was sent to a boarding school for girls, with the main aim of educating her for marriage. Ironically enough, this experience eventually kicked off her film career, as during her studies at the British National School for Film and Television she returned to the school and made her debut Pride of Place (1978). Although Longinotto’s lens never shies away from unpleasant reality, today her work is primarily driven by a wish to depict the life and work of people she admires. As for the upcoming screening of Rough Aunties, she concludes: “I hope that it is ultimately an uplifting experience.”