TALKING IT UP The flagship event of this year’s 25th Festival is tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) “First IDFA Congress” which promises to be a talking shop on the very grandest scale. Illustrious keynote speakers, panels, clips and plenty of surprise elements are all being thrown into the mix, Geoffrey Macnab reports.
Rwandan women featured in Lisa and Rob Fruchtman’s inspirational doc Sweet Dreams show off their drumming skills after the premiere in de Brakke Grond on Monday. Photo: Felix Kalkman
The Forum launches its first ever Work in Progress section on Wednesday, with rough-cut extracts of Lucy Walker’s untitled snowboarding documentary, Nancy Kates’ Regarding Susan Sontag and Yoruba Richen’s ITVS and Sundance Institute-backed The New Blacks among the works set to screen, Melanie Goodfellow reports. Walker’s film, about the tragic accidents of champion snowboarder Kevin Pearce and the late free-skier Sarah Burke on the same superpipe jumping ramp in Park City, Utah, is looking for another €179,000 in finance to complete its €750,000 budget. Slated for January 2013, the HBO-backed documentary produced by Walker and Julien Cautherley under the LA-based Kevin Rides Again banner is a strong contender for a Sundance slot. Roundtable pitches will also continue in the morning with the final projects including Claudia Lisboa’s Back to the Square, the tale of a young woman fighting tradition in post-revolutionary Egypt, and Academy Award nominee James Spione’s Silenced about three CIA whistleblowers. Spione’s Incident in New Baghdad was nominated for an Oscar in the Short Documentary category in 2012.
CONVERSATION STARTER Looking back at the first two days of the Forum, industry chief Adriek van Nieuwenhuijzen says: “It might not reflect the general mood in the market, but there has been a great atmosphere and some really good energy. People seemed to appreciate the great variety of projects and styles on offer here and the central pitches have been pretty lively with people really contributing and giving their thoughts. Of course there is less money around and it’s getting harder and harder to finance documentaries, which means producers are taking
DOCS FOR SALE TOP 10 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Wrong Time Wrong Place ............................... 63 Black Out ........................................................ 58 Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls ........................ 51 I Am Breathing................................................ 44 Bad Boy High Security Cell ............................. 37 Camera/Woman .............................................. 36 Sexy Baby ........................................................ 36 Bravehearts ...................................................... 34 Fallen City....................................................... 34 Poor Us – An Animated History of Poverty ..... 34
longer and longer to put projects together, but I think the Forum still helps make this happen in the long run by getting the conversation started”, she continues.
INTO THE DESERT Popular Central Pitches on Monday and Tuesday included Journey Story, Embracing the Dead, Cooper’s Challenge, The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka and Nanna Frank Moller’s Embracing the Dead, revolving around a Danish forensic expert who is called in to examine the bodies of Iraqis who were allegedly tortured while in the care of Danish soldiers. “This is definitely of interest to us”, says Nick Fraser of BBC Storyville. “It’s a great dense, psychological film turning the ordinary CSI film on its head.” “We have a president who says he wants to look forward not back and it’s interesting to see another country which was involved in some of these adventures abroad looking critically at its role through a very specific case”, says Simon Kilmurry, head of POV (point of view), the PBS documentary strand. Israeli Keren Shayo’s Journey Story, produced by Tel Aviv-based Osnat Trabelsi, also prompted a positive response. The film will seek to expose Bedouin-run smuggler transit camps in the heart of the Sinai Desert, where torture and murder are rife, through the disappearance of a 20-year Eritrean immigrant en route to Israel. Aside from financial backing from broadcasters, the production is also seeking an international crew to the camps in Sinai. “We have the permission to film and the access but as Israelis, and particularly at the moment, we cannot go into the Sinai”, Trabelsi explains.
PACKED OUT Van Nieuwenhuijzen also noted that the two roundtable sessions dedicated to Art and Culture and Crossmedia had been well-attended this year. Popular projects at the “packed out” crossmedia presentations included the ambitious 24 Hour Jerusalem Online multiscreen programme, re-uniting the producers of Gaza/Sderot and Game Plan, a quirky interactive doc in which the Finnish directors attempt to build a digital game with the help of Peter Vesterbacka of Helsinki-based Rovio Entertainment (creators of the billion download Angry Birds app).
“As with all things IDFA, it was Ally’s idea”, event coordinator Peter Wintonick says of the part festival director Ally Derks played in hatching the grand event (being held at the Compagnietheater). One of the event’s earliest supporters was the Dutch Cultural Media Fund, whose own travails have been the subject of heated debate throughout the festival (the Fund is threatened with closure by 2017). Given the agonizing that has been going on all week over the financing of Dutch docs in an increasingly hostile climate, the title of the Congress – Dutch Docs Conquer The World! – risks having an ironic undertow. Nonetheless, the tone at the Congress is expected to be defiant and celebratory of the strengths of the sector. “We are trying to not to talk about financing, but to bring the debate to other levels, about how smaller filmmaking nations – and the Dutch in particular – can optimize their presence in the international marketplace,” says Wintonick. The Congress promises to be a Janus-faced event, at the same time looking inward at the Dutch experience and outward at the international doc arena. BBC Storyville mandarin Nick Fraser will be giving a keynote speech on “Why Documentaries Matter.” (A subject he has previously tackled in typically lively fashion in a treatise he wrote for the Reuters Institute for the Study Of Journalism.) The IDFA Congress will also feature famous Dutch stand-up comedian Jan Jaap van der Wal. The late withdrawal of German director Tom Tykwer (reportedly suffering from a bout of pneumonia after a gruelling publicity tour for his magnum opus Cloud Atlas) has left a gap in the line-up. At the time of writing, his replacement hadn’t yet been confirmed. However, there are still plenty of opinionated and colourful speakers ready to hold forth. Among them, Karolina Lidin will be discussing the Scandinavian model for doc funding. (The Danes in particular are widely envied for their dynamic and transparent system.) Advertising guru Erik Kessels of KesselsKramer will be talking about branding and marketing. The day will be co-moderated by Jess Search, Executive Director of Britdoc. The talks and debates are all being recorded and will be posted in one form or another online. So, do Dutch docs have a future? The answer, the Congress is likely to conclude, is a resounding ‘Yes!’
AUDIENCE AWARD TOP 10 (AS ON 20/11/2012) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
In The Shadow Of The Sun............................ 9,4 Searching for Sugar Man ................................ 9,2 Bravehearts ..................................................... 9,0 The Sound of Belgium ................................... 9,0 Little World.................................................... 8,9 Rafea: Solar Mama ......................................... 8,9 I Am Breathing............................................... 8,9 Open Heart .................................................... 8,8 The Other Dream Team ................................. 8,7 Gulabi Gang................................................... 8,7 IDFA – 1
TANI CINE and CORAL CINE present
love still A film by Guzmán García
Sat 17/11 , 11:15 - Tuschinski 3 - industry Wed 21/11, 18:15 - Tuschinski 3 - tickets Thu 22/11, 22:15 - Munt 10 - tickets Sat 24/11, 10:00 - Tuschinski 4 - tickets Contact
Mercedes Sader - Executive Producer firstname.lastname@example.org Coral Cine email@example.com www.coralcine.com
November 21th at 18:15 in Munt 09 AVAILABLE TO SCREEN IN DOCS FOR SALE ONLINE CATALOGUE TIL 2014 ACQUISITION ENQUIRIES Michael Werner firstname.lastname@example.org ON SITE CONTACT Gernot Steinweg +49 228 180 88 584 email@example.com
TANI CINE and CORAL CINE present
love still A film by Guzmán García
Sat 17/11 , 11:15 - Tuschinski 3 - industry Wed 21/11, 18:15 - Tuschinski 3 - tickets Thu 22/11, 22:15 - Munt 10 - tickets Sat 24/11, 10:00 - Tuschinski 4 - tickets Contact
Mercedes Sader - Executive Producer firstname.lastname@example.org Coral Cine email@example.com www.coralcine.com
November 20th at 17:45 in Tuschinski 5 AVAILABLE TO SCREEN IN DOCS FOR SALE ONLINE CATALOGUE TIL 2014 ACQUISITION ENQUIRIES Michael Werner firstname.lastname@example.org ON SITE CONTACT Gernot Steinweg +49 228 180 88 584 email@example.com
Look Back at IDFA Producer Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich founded Scarabee Film Productions in 1989 (the year after IDFA was founded) and has been a festival regular for over two decades.
Iranian producer and sales agent Katayoun Shahabi is back at IDFA for the first time in two years with three new projects, including a hard-hitting documentary from Fima Emami looking at the impact of war on both Iranian and US Iraq veterans and their families.
After a two-year absence, Tehran-based Shahabi, of Sheherazad Media Int’l, returned to the market and festival circuit again at Cannes and has also recently opened a sister production arm in Paris. Emami’s The Pain We Share focuses on the impact of war on her own family in Iran and an American family living in Toronto, forced into self-imposed exile after the shell-shocked husband deserted the US army. “Fima’s family were forced to flee their home in the city of Khorramshahr, which was on the front line during the Iran-Iraq War. The film focuses in particular on her father, who has never recovered from his experiences”, comments Shahabi. “It then looks at a US film which has suffered due to war.” Emami, whose previous documentaries include The Absent Mr. or Mrs. B. and Moonlight on the Stage, has already shot part of the Iranian section of the film. Shahabi is now looking to secure finance for the Canadian shoot. To date, she has raised €80,000 from her own funds and €30,000 from Japanese broadcaster NHK. Other titles on Shahabi’s production slate include Azadeh Mousavi and Kourosh Ataei’s From Iran: A Separation, exploring what Asghar Fahardi’s Foreign Language Oscar victory for A Separation meant for ordinary Iranians. The win back in February was big news at home and abroad. Farhadi dedicated the award to the people of Iran, saying it made a welcome change for Iran to be under the spotlight for its “glorious culture”, rather than politics. “The directors will speak to people from all walks of life on their response to the win”, says Shahabi. “We have all the permissions to shoot. Now we’re looking for finance.” Shahabi is also trying to drum up finance for Local Kitchen, about a six women from traditional households who are transforming their lives through opening up a catering company. Director Loghman Khaledi’s previous documentaries
Photo: Bram Belloni
include Moving Up, which won the top prize in the First Film Competition at FIDMarseille in 2011, and his more recent Nessa which recently won an honourable mention at Hot Docs 2012, and Shahabi is selling here. “It’s an interesting film on a number of levels”, says Shahabi of Local Kitchen. “Not only does it show how Iran’s economic woes are transforming traditional Iranian society, encouraging women out to make some money for their families. It’s also a very inspirational film, showing women turning their lives around by working together.” Completed titles on Shahabi’s slate include Mina Keshavarz’s Unwelcome in Tehran, screening at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and Mehdi Bagheri’s Reluctant Bachelor. Melanie Goodfellow
Adding Polish The Poles arrive at IDFA 2012 with Bad Boy, High Security Cell in feature-length competition, Rogalik in Student Competition and a slew of films in Docs for Sale, Nick Cunningham reports. While the number of long docs out of Poland is low, investment from the Polish Film Institute within the doc genre is set at roughly €3 million per year, Krakow Film Foundation’s Katarzyna Wilk says, and has funded the development and production of 222 docs between 2006 and 2011. Financial support is also granted by TVP (Polish state television) and seven regional funds. Wilk oversees the Polish Docs programme that since 2007 has promoted documentaries at the world’s leading film festivals and events. “In this period, the total amount of awards presented to Polish documentarists reached 200, including such prestigious distinctions as an Oscar nomination for Rabbit a la Berlin by Bartek Konopka, a European Film Award for Poste Restante by Marcel Łoziński and IDFA Best Short Film for Six Weeks by Marcin Janos Krawczyk”, she comments. Wilk also stressed IDFA’s importance over the years to the Polish doc infrastructure. “IDFA is one of the first and major steps for the films, and for many Polish filmmakers a much dreamed-of step – the ideal beginning to their career or their film’s career.” The IDFA 2012 competition entry Bad Boy, High Security Cell is a co-production with France and is the last part of Janusz Mrozowski’s prison triptych. The Warsaw-based Wajda Studio is presenting two films in Docs for Sale, Radka Franczak’s Losing Sonia, and My House Without Me by Amsterdam-based Magdalena Szymkow. “I’m also very proud that every year we have a film in Student Competition (Rogalik is directed by Pawel Ziemilski from the Lodz Film School) because, in my opinion, we have the best film education in Poland”, she comments. Artur Liebhart of distribution house Against Gravity (that also organises the Planete Doc Film Festival) also underlined his com-
mitment to film education and explained how, in October 2012, his company helped launch a documentary faculty at Warsaw University for which 400 students have so far enrolled. In 2013, similar faculties will roll out in Poznan and Lublin. This compliments another initiative Liebhart launched in 2012 whereby weekly documentary educational modules, in the form of film screenings and expert lectures, are now installed in 25 schools across three Polish cities. September 2012 saw the launch of a doc strand entitled The Best of Planete Doc on TVP2, Poland’s second-largest TV channel. Against Gravity sells approximately 80 hour-long or featurelength films per year to 12 TV channels across Poland. Liebhart also confirmed that the Multikino multiplex chain will partner the Planete Doc festival in May 2013, and will extend the event to 15 other locations across Poland. In 2012, the festival ran in parallel locations within Warsaw and Wroclaw. “It will be a very big logistical operation but it shows how documentary film has leveraged in the last few years in Poland”, Liebhart explains. “This is the model of a 21st-century documentary festival which spreads out to many locations, getting the synergy of media at the time, getting more and more partners and celebrating on a truly nationwide scale.”
Bad Boy, High Security Cell
When did you first start coming to IDFA? I started to visit IDFA in 1991. What was the first film you produced to screen at IDFA? The first film screened at IDFA was Broken Silence (1995). What other films have you brought to the festival? Quite a few, including Yan Ting Yuen’s Chin. Ind. – Life behind the serving hatch (an IDFA workshop result); Promised Paradise (pitched at the Forum) and the trilogy directed by my brother Leonard Retel Helmrich: Eye of the Day (pitched at the Forum); Shape of the Moon (Feature-length award winner 2004) and Position Among the Stars (winner of the Feature-length award and the Dutch Doc prize 2010). What have been your favourite titles (you have watched) at the festival? Besides the trilogy by my brother Leonard, my favourite titles have been Het oog boven de put, Bowling for Colombine and 4 Elements. If IDFA were a wine, what would have been its vintage year for you? And why? It would be a Beaujolais, as every year is a surprise! What’s changed most in the doc industry over the past 25 years? It has changed too much to write it down in a few sentences. If I did , I would get emotional and cry. Which IDFA events over the past 25 years stand out most, and why? The masterclasses. They give an opportunity to listen to and learn from master filmmakers. And the IDFA workshops, because of the opportunity they give to new filmmakers. How many of Fred’s Bitter Balls have you eaten over the years? Not so many, but every year I always come along to say hello to my dearest friend Fred, with whom I share great memories of St Petersburg in 1992. Not only does Fred love to eat herring, but he is a real authority on this topic. We’ve shot a scene with Fred for our new documentary about the herring, Hollandse nieuwe. MB
Fast Women Debra Zimmerman of Women Make Movies made what she claims to be the fastest deal ever at Docs for Sale when she picked up Barbara Miller’s Forbidden Voices from Accent Film’s Carol Spycher last Sunday. The film, which had its international premiere that evening in Reflecting Images – Panorama, follows female bloggers in Cuba, Iran and China. “I bumped into Carol downstairs and she told me about her film. I watched it and two hours later we shook hands”, Zimmerman confirms. “It is a perfect film for Women Make Movies because it is about women, new media and human rights, and how women are bravely using the internet in the face of censorship and repressive regimes.” Zimmerman also says that Women Make Movies is one of 25 US charities in the running for a share of the $2 million American Giving Awards prize pot – depending on the level of support she and her colleagues can garner via Facebook. Women Make Movies competes in the Heroes and Leaders category and people can vote in the Chase Bank initiative 27 November to 4 December. The charity that receives the most Facebook clicks wins. “Please get clicking and spread the word!” Zimmerman says. NC IDFA – 3
Room with a view Late afternoon in Room 51 of the Hotel Carlton, and filmmakers Aliona van der Horst and Robert Oey are finishing work for the day. Geoffrey Macnab checks in.
This week, the two directors have been hard at work on a short film celebrating the power of Dutch docs. The two directors started the project as a quick-fire response to the shock recent announcement that the Dutch Cultural Media Fund is facing closure. “You could feel and sense in this whole community people reacting and getting angry or even saddened by the news”, Oey declares. Aliona van der Horst and Robert Oey Photo: Felix Kalkman IDFA Director Ally Derks provided the room. The camera was offered for free. “To do all this gave us quite a lot of energy,” says Oey. “You The directors then found their subjects at the festival. In recent could do all this was a very droopy face and say, ‘Oh, everything days, many prominent figures in international documenis going to change and I won’t be able to make the films I want tary have been passing in and out of Room 51 to share their thoughts on the power of the Dutch doc. Filmmakers Alain Ber- to make.’” Instead, he liner, Victor Kossakovsky, Jørgen Leth, Particpant Media’s Diane explains, they’ve concentrated on what makes Dutch docs special. The film, which has the working title Room 51, will Weyermann, sales guru Jan Rofekamp and various international be ready by the end of December. It will be distributed on festival directors have all been interviewed. websites and via newspapers. Dutch Film Fund Head Doreen “This is the moment to ask a very fundamental question – why Boonekamp is reported to be investigating the possibility of a documentary?” Van der Horst explains. The answers have been theatrical release. The aim is to convince “the general public and illuminating. For instance, Chinese delegates told the direcalso policy-makers” of the glories of Dutch docs, not simply to tors “a country without documentary is like a family without a preach to the converted. photo album.”
SEXY SALES Films Transit has a secured a six-figure US broadcast deal for An Affair of the Heart: Rick Springfield and His Fans, about the enduring popularity of the American pop idol. “I can’t reveal the buyer just yet but it’s a major US player”, says Films Transit chief Jan Rofekamp. “We’ve also just started rolling the film out theatrically in America, on a city by city basis.” Rofekamp says he has also sealed a US deal for Virgin Tales, the two-part exploration of the burgeoning evangelical Christian movement. The Montreal-based sales agent also reports strong interest for festival opener John Appel’s Wrong Time Wrong Place, the most viewed title at Docs for Sale as of Tuesday afternoon. Transit’s IDFA competition title Juliet Lamont’s Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls, about an Australian singer’s drive to set up a girl band in Myanmar, has also been racking up views and sales interest. Other popular Transit titles include Ronna Gradus and Jill Bauer’s Sexy Baby, exploring contemporary American society’s obsession with sex, which was the seventh viewed title at Docs for Sale to Tuesday afternoon. Melanie Goodfellow
Dedicated solely to current affairs and feature documentaries, and broadcasting to audiences in Russia, the CIS states and the Baltics, the channel acquired 850 hours of doc material this year and will acquire a further 400 hours over the next 12 months. “Everything we buy has to tell audiences what is going on in the world today”, general producer Vera Obolonkina says. 24_DOC output is currently divided into six strands, covering politics (POLIT_DOC), modern art, ecology, Russia, people and Russian-themed films by foreigners. “We will introduce more strands but these are the main emphasis at the moment”, Obolonkina comments. “Every week has a special subject that we discuss throughout the week – it could be based on the calendar, such as the US elections – so across the year we have
Dutch production outfit Screentime is sparking buyer interest with its new movie HIV HIV Hooray. The feature doc, directed by Peter Wingender, has already been pre-sold to Israeli broadcaster Yes. The film’s central character is Pauline, a woman who has led a rock ‘n’ roll life. At the age of 31, she discovered that she was HIV-positive. A life filled with parties, sex and drugs was over. She tries to rebuild her life. One of her dreams is to have a child, but this is not an option that can be easily achieved by someone in her condition. The film is supported by Dutch broadcaster VPRO. The film was produced by Screentime and by Pieter van Huystee Film. NPO is handling sales. HIV HIV Hooray will be ready in early 2013. Wingender is currently plotting a new feature doc about anarchic British band and art world pranksters, the KLF. He is also preparing a film about the place of the dream in modern Western life. This has the working title Check Point Dream Utopia and is being produced through Danielle Guirguis of Smarthouse Films. Dutch artist Dardara will feature in the doc. “It’s a surreal kind of project, but the question it is raising is very serious – what are people dreaming about nowadays”, Wingender comments. Geoffrey Macnab
Dogwoof ramps up Here at IDFA, Andy Whitaker, founder and chairman of the innovative UK doc distributor, has revealed the company’s plans to set up joint ventures with sister companies all over the world. “We are trying to find like-minded people to work with in different parts of the world – China, South America, Middle East and Dubai.” Partnerships being hatched include one with Ambulante in Mexico and one with Doc Aviv On The Road in Israel. “It’s offering our knowledge and experience”, the Dogwoof boss explains. The idea is that Dogwoof’s films will be made available to these partners. Meanwhile, Dogwoof will help the partners get their docs into Britain. Dogwoof currently releases approximately a film a month in UK cinemas. It also handles international sales on selected films, among them IDFA titles The House I Live In, Village at the End of the World and F*ck For Forest. The company is also set to explore the possibility of selling remake rights. “If you think how well documentary is doing, it’s an obvious extension”, Whitaker says. “Think of the franchise model for the studios which is inherently low risk. It is an adaptation of that model for independents. Take a known property, i.e. a documentary, and produce a fictionalized story. To me, the economics would seem quite clever for that.” At that stage Dogwoof doesn’t “tend to buy remake rights” but Whitaker has floated the possibility that could soon change. Geoffrey Macnab
Russian Content A year after its December 2011 launch, Russian payTV broadcaster 24_DOC is in Amsterdam looking to fill its 2013 schedules, Nick Cunningham reports.
52 special projects that consists of 4-6 films.” Obolonkina confirmed that she was looking to acquire 5-6 films at IDFA but of equal importance, she maintained, is meeting new companies with back catalogues she can study for content. “We invest not just money but a lot of time and human resources to promote documentary in Russia, which is a tricky task. Obviously, we have done quite well, and now people have started talking about our channels and about documentaries. But the task is not only ours, everyone has to consider this as an investment in the future of documentaries.” Obolonkina maintains it is possible to run a channel that will broadcast critical and at times highly polemical docs about Russia, citing as an example the upcoming December 6 screening of Winter, Go Away, a film that chronicles a winter of Russian protest. “I wouldn’t say it is easy but we are not a state channel, and we are not a free TV channel. We are a very small channel compared to the big international media channels and obviously we have a bit more freedom compared them.”
Photo: Bram Belloni
IDFA history IN BRIEF
Part IV: 2003 – 2007 The Middle East Conflict – marked by the Second Intifada, the Israeli siege of Bethlehem, the Battle of Jenin and the death of Yasser Arafat – continued to figure highly in the IDFA selection in the early part of this period. Talking about the Israeli docs present in 2003, such as Yoav Shamir’s Checkpoint, festival chief Ally Derks wrote: “They do not point to a road map, but to a nearly hopeless situation on road with no end.” Nine years later these words still ring true. From 2005, the festival also started to spotlight environmental issues with the first Green Screen Special Programme, looking at the consequences of globalisation through documentaries such as Nino Kirtadze’s The Pipeline Next Door and Taggart Siegel’s The Real Dirt on Farmer John. Festival innovations in this period included the launch of the IDFAcademy in 2003, with masterclasses by Jørgen Leth and Ulrich Seidl. In 2007, the festival marked its 20th anniversary. “IDFA has come a long way. It was born in the small ALFA cinema on Leidseplein square. We had an audience of a few thousand, watching less than a hundred films. By now, more than a million people have watched 3,000 IDFA films in theatres”, Derks reveals. MG
Here at IDFA, London-based sales outfit Taskovski Films has picked up two prominent Latin American titles, Mercedes Moncada’s Magic Words (to Break a Spell), in which the Nicaraguan director reminisces about her own past and the troubled history of her country, and Patricia Correa and Valentina Mac-Pherson’s The Women and the Passenger, a touching examination of chamber maids in a seedy sex hotel and their attitudes to love, screening in the midlength competition. IDFA – 5
Fire in the Belly New in the job and ready to make her mark, Marie Schmidt Olesen, Commissioning Editor at New Danish Screen, has set out her vision for the much praised talent development scheme run by the Danish Film Institute. Geoffrey Macnab reports.
“Fire in the belly” is what Olesen is looking for as she sifts through applications. “My mission statement is that I really would like people to really have an urge to do something”, Olesen states. “Obviously, the idea has to be good, but the reason for doing it has to be (just) as good.” Olesen won’t be looking to support those who “just want a career in media and film just for the sake of it… not that everybody needs fire in their belly, but it sometimes helps in order to succeed in a business that is absolutely cut-throat.” She is also looking for radicalism and innovation rather than filmmakers hoping to “survive on past glories and formats and ways of doing things. It’s all about experimenting and doing things in different ways.” Speaking at IDFA, the new Commissioning Editor has also confirmed that documentaries remain a key priority. “A bit of a pile!” Olesen jokes of the projects she is currently wading through. New Danish Screen was set up in 2003 with the express intention of nurturing new talents while giving established names the chance to experiment and re-invent their careers in new fields. Backed by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation DR, TV2 and the Danish Film Institute (DFI), New Danish Screen has a war chest of around €15 million for the 2011-2014 period. Thanks to a revision of its rules, New Danish Screen is now in the position to fully finance projects it backs. Notable successes it has backed include Pernille Fischer Christensen’s Berlinale prize winner, A Soap. “Before, it was perceived to be a good idea to have a little bit of producer investment.”
Marie Schmidt Olesen
Olesen arrives at the helm of New Danish Screen having spent over a decade as a producer in Glasgow. As Producer/MD at Autonomi Ltd, co-founder and director at Diversity Films, she oversaw such movies as Come Closer (2011) by Peter Mackie Burns and the forthcoming Minefield, a film on “war, football and friendship” directed by Doug Aubrey. She has some sharp words
The civil war in Syria is giving rise to a new underground film genre as pro-rebel directors struggle to capture the conflict and get their works out of the country, Mohamad Soueid of the Al Arabiya news channel told an industry talk devoted to Arab documentaries earlier this week. The panel, entitled 1001 Arabian Docs, kicked off with a screening of Tournesol, a Syrian resistance film set against the backdrop of the rebel stronghold of Homs, shot by an unidentified female director in 2011. Al Arabiya has aired the short several times in recent months. “A new art form is developing as people attempt to capture the revolution under very difficult circumstances… these underground works by directors who hide their identity out of necessity have a new architecture and revolutionary form”, said Soueid, head of documentary at Dubai-based Al Arabiya. Soueid said that he had an initial meeting with the filmmaker in Beirut prior to the shoot and had continued to monitor the project via Skype and rough-cuts uploaded to Vimeo. The final cut was smuggled out of Syria on a USB stick. “Getting these works out of Syria is an emotional process… they are smuggled on USB sticks and passed hand-to-hand along a chain of friends and acquaintances – that’s how we got Tournesol. The process of passing the work from one person to another can be very emotional – it’s such a responsibility to be entrusted with the works. One day, when we write about the Syrian revolution it will be known as the USB revolution and the heroes of the
conflict will be the USB traffickers”, he continued. Soueid was joined on stage by Ahmed Mahfouz, head of Al Jazeera’s Arab-language documentary channel. Both commissioners also talked more generally about their documentary requirements. “When Al Jazeera launched the documentary channel in 2007, most the programmes were acquisitions”, said Mahfouz. “We started commissioning our own content in 2008, producing 22-hours of content. Today, we commission 250 hours of content a year, produced by some 200 filmmakers and production houses.” “Our aim is to tell the stories behind the news linked to events are relevant to our audience”, said Mahfouz. “At the time of the 2009 Gaza War, for example, we commissioned a series of films by filmmakers based inside the strip.” In terms of buying or co-producing international films, both said they had limited space for non-Arab titles unless these were about topics of interest to an Arab-language audience. Mahfouz said recent films by non-Arab directors to have made it onto the channel included George Sluizer’s 2010 Homeland, in which the Dutch director revisited two Palestinian families he followed over a 10-year period, from 1974 to 1983. Melanie Goodfellow
Chris Keulemans (Artistic Director of Amsterdam’s Tolhuistuin cultural centre), Ahmed Mahfouz and Mohamad Soueid at the 1001 Arabian Docs industry talk on Sunday. Photo: Nadine Maas
Photo: Nadine Maas
about the funding situation for docs within Scotland. “The funding climate in Scotland is non-existent”, she suggests. “There is no integrity within the commissioning body… I felt I had been allowed to go as far as I could in Scotland as a producer.” Denmark, she argues, is in far ruder health. “Films, especially documentaries, are of a really high standard. There is more than a buzz!”
For I Know My Weakness When filmmaker John Dentino gave five dollars to a homeless alcoholic, he didn’t know he was about to embark upon an odyssey into her family’s painful past, writes Nick Cunningham. Patty Looper may be the main subject of For I Know My Weakness, screening in Reflecting Images – Panorama, but the director, himself a reformed alcoholic, plays as key a role on screen as the story unfolds. After his initial act of charity, Dentino agreed to help Looper find the children she had abandoned 25 years before; but for the next three years, he is made to assume the role of priest and confidant to a cast of family members heavily burdened by their memories. “It never occurred to me that it might not be a good idea, to play God and give Patty her wish”, Dentino explains. “The film is about what happens to her after she meets the children, but also what happens to me when I get in way over my head in terms of the social work involved. I am a filmmaker who is obsessional and I wanted to get to the root causes and find out what happened in the past with all these people, but I found out a little bit more than I expected to.” What he uncovers is a horrific tale of abuse, but accounts of it are blurred and at times rescinded by key personnel. Patty is interminably drunk and unreliable as a witness, while her son Darrell eventually assumes a stonewalling stance. “Those details are buried and gone”, he tells his increasingly distraught sister Dee Ann. Dentino realises Patty is coming to rely too much upon the attention she receives from the camera, but his immediate on-screen rejoinder is telling. “Increasingly I felt I was exploiting her as the raw material for a story that was more about me”, he narrates. “And I had a very real growing feeling that I’d go to hell for it. But I couldn’t stop now.” “In the vastly dysfunctional labyrinth this family has created for itself, all I can really say is that it is a mystery, and a film about mistakes. And as a filmmaker who inserts himself into the story, I make as many mistakes as the subjects do.” Reflecting Images: Panorama For I Know My Weakness – John Dentino Fri 23/11, 15:30, Munt 10
IDFA – 7
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The Netherlands Film Festival presents:
Holland Film Meeting The annual get-together of Dutch and foreign film professionals September 26th - 30th 2013, Utrecht Netherlands Production Platform / NFF International Screenings Workshops & panels / Cinema Militans Lecture Binger-Screen International Interview / Digital Film Library
For more information please contact: • Holland Film Meeting +31 30 230 38 00 firstname.lastname@example.org • Signe Zeilich-Jensen Head of Industry Holland Film Meeting +31 6 129 904 56 Signe@filmfestival.nl
• Willemien van Aalst Festival Director Netherlands Film Festival +31 6 542 078 90 Willemien@filmfestival.nl www.filmfestival.nl/en
ANKTHANK YOU IDFA YOU IDFA ANK THANK YOUSUPPORTING IDFA YOU IDFA R SUPPORTING FOR RCUMENTARIES SUPPORTING FOR SUPPORTING DOCUMENTARIES CUMENTARIES DOCUMENTARIES D BRINGING AND BRINGING D BRINGING AND BRINGING TOGETHER. US TOGETHER. TOGETHER. US TOGETHER.
evision andRTS Radio – Swiss Television and Radio d / GaspardIrène Lamunière Challand / Miruna / Gaspard Coca-Cozma Lamunière / Miruna Coca-Cozma
– Swiss Television and Radio evision andRTS Radio d / GaspardIrène Lamunière Challand / Miruna / Gaspard Coca-Cozma Lamunière / Miruna Coca-Cozma
Binger Filmlab EYE International MEDIA Desk Nederland City of Utrecht Screen International FPN
Brazilian director Petra Costa’s Elena (an international premiere in the First Appearance competition) is an elegiac affair, writes Geoffrey Macnab. In the doc, the filmmaker summons up the image and memory of her sister Elena, who died in tragic circumstances when Petra was only seven. Petra was a theatre student, aged 19, when she stumbled on Elena’s diaries. “I had the strange and uncanny sensation of reading my own words”, she recalls of diary entries that revealed the same passions, anxieties and insecurities she was then feeling as a young woman on the verge of adulthood. “Seeing that was almost like finding a double. My story had already been lived. It’s the sense of Vertigo or The Double Life of Veronique – living the past of somebody who already lived.” Elena had set off as a young woman to make her name as an actress in New York. She was bright, beautiful and seemingly set for stardom. However, she was also fragile and soon lost her way in the big, bad city. In the documentary, Costa retraces her sister’s steps, visiting New York. The storytelling style is poetic and impressionistic. The director’s mournful, inquisitive voice features on the screenplay. “The subject was not at all taboo for us”, Costa says of her sister’s untimely death and how the family reacted to it. Her mother had often warned Petra not to live in New York, a place she regarded as jinxed for her family. However, she welcomed the idea of the documentary. Slowly, her fear that Petra would follow in Elena’s steps began to dissipate. “She saw that I was someone else.” The doc features some very intimate material. Alongside the home movie footage and audio recordings, there are the brutally matter-of-fact documents from the New York coroners detailing the circumstances of Elena’s death. On a more upbeat note, we also see footage of one of Elena’s auditions. She comes across on camera as charismatic and very charming. Through Elena’s contact book, the director tracked down a friend who had kept the audition tape for 20 years. “It was
Former 100-metre world record holder Ben Johnson is very happy with 9.79*, Daniel Gordon’s feature doc about the 100 metre final at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. “It’s a great documentary”, he enthuses.
Photo: Bram Belloni
very shocking to see that material. It’s the last images we have of her and she is so lively”, Costa says. “That was one month before her death.” Elena (sold by Wide House) was rapturously received when it was screened at the Brasilia Festival. Among its most fervent admirers are Walter Salles and Fernando Meirelles, two of the titans of contemporary Brazilian cinema. As Meirelles commented, “Elena is a rare cinematic experience. That is due to both the depth with which it engages the emotional relationships among the three characters and the poetic delicacy of its textures, sound and text… it’s like a string that unravels before us and suddenly we’re trapped in a knot with no way out.” IDFA Competition for First Appearance Elena – Petra Costa Thu 22/11, 17:15, Tuschinski 5; Fri 23/11, 19:15, Tuschinski 5
The King – Jari Litmanen Like the beautiful game itself, Arto Koskinen’s The King – Jari Litmanen (screening at IDFA in Reflecting Images – Panorama) is something of an affair of two halves, Mark Baker writes.
The first half of the film deals with the meteoric rise of talented Finnish footballer Jari Litmanen, culminating in his golden period with Dutch club Ajax in the mid-1990s, which included the crowning glory of any club footballer’s career – winning the Champions’ League (in 1995). In the film, extensive tributes are paid by fans, fellow players, trainers, friends and family to Litmanen, his prodigious talent and generous personality. In the second half of the film, however, things become more complicated for him, as injuries, managerial prejudice and football politics all take their inevitable toll. High-profile transfers to Barcelona and Liverpool resulted in a lot of time spent sitting on the substitutes’ bench and a growing, if undeserved, reputation as an injury prone ‘man of glass’. Litmanen remains stoical throughout, however, as we see in the wealth of archive footage and the many new interviews included in the film. Eventually returning to his roots in the Finnish league, he continued to play into his late 30s (also for the Finnish national team). Speaking from a bus on his way home from IDFA, director Arto Koskinen is enthusiastic about the film’s premiere. “It was my
first time at IDFA, so it was a new experience for me”, he says. “Of course, a lot of people came to see Jari [who was present at the extended Q&A following the premiere on Sunday], but listening to audience, they were reacting in the right places.” “It was very easy to work with Jari”, the director recollects. “He was very supportive right from the beginning. We shot for two years and so had plenty of time to get to know one another.” “Jari has a very unique character as a football player, but also as a personality”, Koskinen says. “He’s obviously an exceptional talent, but he is also incredibly funny and emotional. But he hides this behind this calm surface. In the film, we were looking for those moments when he could no longer hold this surface, and the emotion breaks through. And we found them. There are not many professional football players around I think who are capable of that level of emotionality and sensitivity.” A philosophical side to this complex personality was also revealed at Sunday’s Q&A, where Litmanen told IDFA Special reporter and Amsterdam Geuzenmiddenmeer Ladies 2 striker Nicole Santé: “Football is like a microcosm of life; it has all the highs and lows, all the successes and disappointments. It just all happens a bit quicker.”
Johnson was stripped of his gold medal and became Public Enemy No. 1 in the athletics world after failing a drugs test in Seoul. Nonetheless, passing through IDFA this week, Johnson was in defiant mood. “I don’t care. It was my job to win. I did it but things happen… I deal with the problem and I move on”, the sprinter states of what is now regarded as one of the most notorious events in athletics history. When Gordon first approached him to appear in the doc, Johnson warned him, “look, it’s going to be very hard to get all the guys to agree if you approach it on a drugs level.” The athlete was quickly reassured that the director wasn’t going to demonize him or the other competitors (nearly all of whom also failed drugs tests at one stage or other in their careers). Johnson makes it very clear that he regards top level athletics as a commercial activity. Yes, this was a sport but it was hugely lucrative to the organisers and media alike. His job was to win – and that’s what he did. For director Gordon, wrangling the eight world class sprinters was the foremost challenge. He knew that if seven agreed and he was one short, the doc simply wouldn’t work. Financiers were sceptical the film would come off. Nonetheless, he refused to compromise. “I said it’s about all eight. It’s not about Ben. It’s not about Carl [Lewis]. It’s about all eight of them. One by one, they came on board.” Johnson clearly believes that the film tells his side of the story. The other athletes feel exactly the same way, even if their versions of what happened that fateful day are very different. Ask Gordon which runner he believes and he deftly parries the question. “My intention was to tell it from all their perspectives. They all have their own truths. They all have their own version of things and feelings on who was doing what and who was clean and who wasn’t clean.” Many of the athletes say that the beauty of running was that “it was you in your lane.” They couldn’t nudge opponents out of the way or block them or put them off. They won or lost because of their own performances. This was the ultimate individual sport. Running fastest was all that mattered. At the same time, the runners had vast entourages of trainers and doctors who’d use fair means and foul to make them faster. One point the doc underlines, even as it reveals the ruthlessness and cynicism with which Olympic glory was pursued, is that these men enjoyed each other’s company. There was camaraderie as well as rivalry between them. “That surprised me”, the director admits. “They are so selfish by very nature. You can’t be at that level without being selfish. It really surprised me how much they got on and how much fun they had!” Geoffrey Macnab Reflecting Images – Panorama 9.79* – Daniel Gordon Sun 25/11, 14:45, Munt 10
Reflecting Images – Panorama The King – Jari Litmanen – Arto Koskinen Sat 24/11, 20:30, Tuschinski 1; Sun 25-11, 16:00, Tuschinski 5
IDFA – 9