Category Archives: Doc-making

EXOTICA, EROTICA, Etc. on DocStories

The film by Evangelia Kranioti was selected at the 56th Berlinale Forum, and Evangelia won  the Best Emerging International Filmmaker award at Hot Docs.  Next week Evangelia's film will be the opening film at the Syros International Film Festival (Greece) and will then travel to Karlovy Vary. The director was my guest at Hellenic Radio 3 (ERA 3)'s show DocStories on documentaries and storytelling last summer.  

It took Evangelia Kranioti nine years to complete the film research and shooting. She became a sailor herself,  travelling to 20 countries, from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, venturing into the Atlantic, the Magellan Straight and the Pacific, from Panama to the Baltic, all the way to the North Pole. The material – 450 hours of video footage! – was edited by Giorgos Lambrinos.

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"Exotica, Erotica, Etc. navigates centuries-old trade routes and speaks to the universal orientation towards exploration, expression and affection. But above all, it is a love note to the forgotten, hidden and ignored men and women whose long sojourns, dangerous travels and bouts of loneliness are paradoxically essential for societies to function. Exotica, Erotica, Etc. is a documentary conceived as an endless journey, an ongoing dialogue between man and woman, nature and the world. The film's non-linear narrative embraces the rhythm of merchant ships in perpetual motion and unfolds like a landscape, an archipelago : a retired woman of the night reflects on encounters with past lovers long gone, perhaps lost at sea. We listen to her as she longs for one to return and fulfill the final romantic chapter of her life. The voice of an old captain coming from faraway –the solitude of the ocean or the hotel room of an unknown port– becomes an echo to her monologue. Both characters are real and their personal narratives, kept intact, eventually weave a dense discussion on longing, memory and loss."

Watch the trailer.

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Evangelia Kranioti with Dimitra Kouzi at ERT 3rd Radio Programme's show DocStories on documentaries and storytelling

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The Longest Run in Leipzig in Competition 2015!

The Longest Run is one of those films that can't wait until funding is found before shooting. You either do it now or not at all. And Marianna Oikonomou (Food for Love) did. It is an important story unfolding in a juvenile prison in the city of Volos, in Greece, where the director enjoyed access – which is not a common occurrence at all. The film was already presented at the 10th International Dok Leipzig Co-Production Meeting in October 2014.

Here is an interview that the director, Marianna Oikonomou, gave me at the 17th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in the aftermath of receiving the award for best Doc in Progress in March 2015.

The story follows two teenagers, a Syrian from Kobani and a Yazidi from Northern Iraq, who spend their long days in a juvenile prison in Greece, accused of smuggling illegal immigrants, while their parents experience  the war in their home countries. The Longest Run  follows their lives  before, during,  and after their court case and exposes the  tragic  phenomenon of professional smugglers forcing  underage illegal immigrants to transport  people across the border from Turkey to Greece,  thus making them smugglers themselves. This means that innocent young boys can serve sentences up to 25 years in a foreign country while their parents are equally ‘confined’ in their war-stricken countries.

The Longest Run documentary photo
Jasim in his cell in the Greek prison

The project garnered the top prize in Docs in Progress, receiving 17.000 euro in editing and post-production funding, but still needs a distributor, pre-sales, and more funding.

Here is a 7-minute demo of this interesting film:  (password:32015)

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Alsaleh & Jasim in Prison

Prix Europa 2014 starts now!

Once again it's time for this year's Prix Europa in Berlin!  Although I'm personally involved in the festival since 2011, I can't help but recommend it as a showcase for Europe’s best television, radio and online productions.

A total of 13 PRIX EUROPA Trophies will be awarded. This year's competition includes 210 entries handpicked from more than 650 projects by 294 organizations from 35 countries.

Media professionals from all over the continent flock to Berlin in October 18-24 to watch the films, listen to radio projects, surf through websites and vigorously debate the nominated productions. There are no juries like in other festivals. The juries in Prix Europa categories are the nominees themselves! Starting Monday October 20 2014 they will watch all the nominated projects in their respective categories; every afternoon they will discuss and vote, and on Friday the winners will be announced.

Listen to an interview with the directors of the fantastic Meet the Fokkens, TV Documentary 2012 winners.

The festival is open to visitors. If you are involved in the media business, a director, producer in TV or Radio, a journalist, or a student, it's totally worth it to visit Berlin's Haus des Rundfunks, next to the broadcasting headquarters of the Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg. It is a great opportunity for networking and inspiration! Check out this year's exciting entries in the programme.

PRIX EUROPA is organized by a coalition of 28 major European broadcasters and institutions, including the European Broadcasting Union.

How about a look back at the 2013 winners to relieve the tension?

See you at RBB in Berlin!

Balkan Documentary Center Module Prizren

If you are located in the Balkans or have a project related to the area and you want to develop your film with the best assistance and care, here is where you should apply. The first session was in Sofia Bulgaria in May and the second starts 21/8 in Prizren.
Luigi Pepe (Executive Producer) and the Director and Editor Silvia Poeta from Italy working in one by one meetings with the Bulgarian director Ilian Metev (Sofia's Last Ambulance, a feature-length observational documentary film co-production of Germany, Bulgaria, and Croatia) in Sofia in May 2014

EDN (European Documentary Network) Director Paul Pauwels and the Producer and CEO of the BDC Martichka Bozhilova


The BDC Team !






The Serbian Director Boris Mitic about financing documentaries and C.E.archetypes !


BDC Discoveries 2014 is a project development workshop, aimed at uniting professionals with documentary projects with an international potential. Module Prizren is focused on training sessions related to packaging the projects for the international market. A final pitch in front of a jury consisting of experts will give the participants feedback about their work and the much needed experience.
Place: DokuKino Conference Room
Open to participants only
Date: 20 – 24 August

Here is the Program for Prizren

How to co-produce with Denmark

The Danish Film Institute (DFI) has minor-coproduction schemes for feature fiction and animation films with three deadlines a year, and for short and documentary films with two deadlines a year. DFI may support 6-9 minor co-productions in feature films and 4-6 minors in short and documentary films a year.Read more:
The person you have to contact is Noemi Ferrer Schwenk. She coordinates the Danish Film Institute’s work with international co-productions and is one of the key figures in the Film Institute’s overall international activities.

Noemi Ferrer Schwenk
Phone +45 5096 7411

The workshop for docs in a rough cut stage! DOK Incubator

Let's get personal was the motto of this year's DOK INCUBATOR at the Leipziger Pfefermühle. And the presentation was full with people who came to see the nine selected documentaries. A fine initiate witch started by Andrea Prenghyova, the creator of the DOK.Incubator in collaboration with DOK Leipzig three years ago..

Dok Incubator is a course that runs for three weeks, during half a year, where you apply with a rough cut.

dok01_color_0_2502c317b1d5fc They work with the teams of director, editor and Producer, with their films, to improve their film and work with the producers and teams to learn how to do international financing and distribution. They also work with the films to make them more international as well. Director and editor has cooperation with big european editors to improve the films. The course is held in different European cities. It is a media supported program like EAVE, but just for documentaries in post production.

Sigrid Dyekjær is one of the central teachers

On Tuesday at DOK Leipzig...

Claas Danielsen, the DOK Leipzig Director, together with Andrea Prenghyova – creator of the DOK.Incubator, journalist, film maker, documentary film producer and founder of Institute of Documentary Prague, and Ilo von Seckendorff.

One of the good Greek docs in Thessaloniki 2014

In times of recession three Greeks try to take their destiny in their own hands.
Could this crisis be our chance to re-invent ourselves and our society?
This is the theme of the feature length documentary "Gr. work in progress" (the title is indeed not so good - but the film is!) by Elena Zervopoulou which made its premier at the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival in March. Elena Zervopoulou the film director who also did the production is a ethnopsychologist and holds a master in documentary making from the University in Paris.
In her film she succeed to make 3 strong portraits of Greeks who took their destiny in their own hands! This is what she was thinking about her film in December 2012... "The financial crisis strikes Greece and spreads out worldwide. We are loosing our financial security and our living standard, but how much of our values, our humanity and our decency is going down with the rest? Could this be our chance to re-invent ourselves and our society?"

The three protagonists together reflect the current potential for transformation in Greece. Positive change dynamics move from the bottom up. We follow the single individual (Giorgos) who finds the strength to overcome his difficulties and rebuild his life. The film examinee Grigoris’ family as it retightens its bonds and seeks a better quality of life. Finally, the journey takes us to the activist volunteer group behind the “potato movement” (Ilias) as their activities impact the society as a whole by challenging the commercial foods supply chain and practicing solidarity and direct democracy.

Watch the trailer:

Something Better to Come, by Hanna Polak produced by Sigrid Dyekjær

Danish Documentary is one of the world’s leading production companies when it comes to producing creative documentary films for the big screen and television.

The company is founded and co-owned by four celebrated Danish documentary directors, Phie Ambo, Pernille Rose Grønkjær, Eva Mulvad and Mikala Krogh, together with internationally acclaimed film producer Sigrid Dyekjær. What is Sigrid working on now?

I am working on a fantastic story, very unique, by Oscar nominated polish director Hanna Polak, Yula´s Dream, that we are editing right now. Hanna has followed a girl for 14 years on a garbage dump outside of Moscow. from she is 10 until she is 24 and actually gets away and moves to Moscow. Really a wonderful project and Hanna is a wonderful director. And the finished film was also wonderful - and won idfa in 2014!
I have just closed a 40 min film Eva Mulvad has made for Danish national tv The Castle I hope to launch it internationally on a festival in 2014. A funny, strange film about living in a castle in Denmark, exclusively, with other elderly people, where you have gardeners, cooks, maides, and servants, and you live in furniture from 1700 century. Here they have their own special elderly home, and in order to get in, you have to live up to certain rules. Not written rules, no the unwritten rules from the upper class. It has been a really fun film to produce. And we are finishing a film by Mikala Krogh about the biggest tabloid magazine in Denmark, where she has followed them for two years in the crises of the newspaper degrading and the net paper being the only thing young people wants to read, but nobody earns money on it, not even the tabloid magazines.

An interview with Alexandros Papanikolaou & Emily Giannoukou about their film Hope on the Line

How did you approach your main character?

Hope on the line is an observational documentary without commentary. The content approach is direct and tells the story from the inside. We had exclusive access to Alexis Tsipras’s daily schedule.

The main aim of this documentary is to remain close to the character at all times. We tried, and believe we managed, to quickly gain his trust in order to create an honest and fair portrait. We wanted to have a successful portrait of his personality, so we initially tried to make ourselves “invisible” to the campaign team. Alexis Tsipras and his officials were not at all distrustful and did not hesitate to open their doors and let us into the core of the party.

We followed him throughout the campaign, right up until the final results. We have tried to reveal his personality by following him closely, listening to his speeches, meeting his friends, relatives and colleagues, but also by filming him in contact with voters. Each day we added more brushstrokes to his portrait in a bid to understand his goals and motivations.

By observing only one candidate in these elections and then his rise to the position of main opposition leader, we tried, with the aid of several events that occurred during shooting, to highlight the current state of democracy in Greece and feel the pulse of Greek society.


How did you manage to get behind the surface of the public person?

This was the challenging part because from the beginning it was clear with Alexis that we could do this documentary by filming him at work only. He didn't want us to film him with his family and we respected that. Accepting to do this documentary was tricky for him too. So we tried to film him as if we filmed any other person at work and focused on Tsipras the political person. We also asked him unconventional questins, more about his personal beliefs or about his past, rather than on current political issues.


Are you satisfied with the way Alexis Tsipras is portrayed in the media (Greek and international)? Would you want to change that?

To be satisfied or not with the image of Alexis Tsipras in the media is not a question that we really ask ourselves - that is how the world functions. We are more interested in how the political system functions in our society. We are not image makers and we don't aim to change the course of things. We did this documentary because we wanted answers to our questions, even if in the end new questions come along. We think that the political situation in Greece makes the whole political picture even more dramatic. This makes sense because the situation is very tense, with big changes, scandals and injustice. Public opinion, the media and other countries are sceptical about all Greek politicians, not only Alexis Tsipras, and this is reflected in his image in the media.

What is he really like?

He is really friendly as a person. Also, without knowing us at all, he accepted our proposition to do this documentary and kept his word that he wouldn't interfere in the final cut, and that he would give us access to his office. He seems confident and calm, and is not afraid of his image, even when most of the media are punching him.

On the other hand, we won't make any comment on the politician, that's for the documentary audience to decide.

What was the challenge for you telling this story?

The challenge was that this doc is a portrait, but it's also the portrait of a politician. When you make a portrait of someone, you need to be fair with what you see and with the person that accepted you to film them. You need also to get closer to this person, and try to understand their way of thinking, even when you don't always agree. Then, when you do a documentary involving current affairs and politics, it gets tricky to balance the proximity you have with the person you film and the observational part filming the politician.

What was also challenging was to show the general feeling of a complicated period for Greece from the perspective of the offices of a political party during an election campaign.

How did you approach co-directing the film?

We are used to working together for years now; our experiences are common experiences. When we start a new project, with new challenges, we try to remember our past experiences and to go on. We discuss a lot about what we can expect. As independent directors and producers, we work together all along a project, from early writing until the end of post-production.

How did you work visually?

The conditions were not ideal because we had to work as a very small team. It was challenging to try to be creative at all times in these conditions. We tried to do nice outdoor images and close portraits in indoor scenes.

Could you give us some details about the production?

We started the production on our own. Then we did a rough cut with the help of our editor, Angelos Angelidis, who was selected with it at Berlinale's Talent Campus. We were thrilled! Angelos is a great editor, calm and wise. His mentor at Berlinale was touched by the work Angelos did on our doc. Then we found a co-producer, Ilias Bovalis, at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. He was very exited about our project and for that we thank him because we needed the support. It's always nice to find people who believe in your project and that can help you to continue to work on it. Finally we got the support of the French script fund SCAM.


The film premiers at the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival "Images of the 21st Century", Tonia Marketaki Cinema Theatre, 16/03/2014 at 20.00 and 18/03/2014 at 22.30.


Production: Persona Production (France)

Co-Production : Elibo Productions (Greece)

Script, Direction and Production:

Alexandros Papanikolaou & Emily Giannoukou

Co-Producer: Ilias Bovalis

Editing: Aggelos Aggelidakis

Camera: Alexandros Papanikolaou

Sound: Stavros Avramidis

Research: Makis Malafekas


IDFA is looking for emerging documentary film talent!

IDFAcademy Summer School 2014

From June 30 through July 5 2014, IDFA organizes the seventh edition of the Summer School: a tailor-made training program for emerging filmmakers, taking place in Amsterdam and aimed at strengthening the narrative structure of documentary projects. Around sixteen projects from all over the world will be selected for the Summer School 2014. The deadline for submission is April 1, 2014.

IDFAcademy Summer School offers the opportunity to meet and work with highly esteemed filmmakers and film professionals who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with emerging film talent. The Summer School combines individual coaching with group sessions and an inspiring cultural program in a relaxed atmosphere. It offers two types of training possibilities: Script Development and Editing Consultancy.

Participants will be coached by eight international documentary experts. In previous years experts like Gianfranco Rosi (Director, Italy), Audrius Stonys (Director, Lithuania), Emma Davie (director, Scotland), Kate Townsend (Executive Producer BBC Storyville, UK), Sabine Bubeck-Paaz (Commissioning Editor ZDF, Germany), Debra Zimmerman (Distributor Women Make Movies, USA), Jesper Osmund (Editor, Denmark) and Peter Wintonick (Producer/ Director, Canada) were tutors at the Summer School.

Filmmakers who are selected have the opportunity to bring a sparring partner: a creative producer, a co-scriptwriter, or an editor in the case of participation in Editing Consultancy. If a project is selected, a participation fee for two persons of a total of €1000,- (excluding VAT) or in case of one person for a total of €750,- (excluding VAT) is due. This fee does not cover travel, accommodation or food expenses. There is a scholarship available per project (accommodation) for international participants.

For more information IDFAcademy Summer School how to apply, see