Category Archives: Festivals

Interview with the director Sara Broos, Reflections

‘I am interested in the cracks, the things in between, the gap, or the abyss. I am always curious about the human mind. Something I believe all my work has in common is the personal approach. I have to be moved by something deeply.’

Sara Broos

Did you really get closer to your mother by making Reflections?

I think we can never really understand each other, or ourselves, fully, but all we can do is try. And I think it’s an act of love to say: ‘I want to spend time with you and get to know you better.’ And we are sometimes so busy with other things and postpone what is the most important: our loved ones. It’s easy to take each other for granted, or to see your parents as just your parents and forget that they are so much more. When my grandparents died I regretted that I didn’t spend more time with them, that I didn’t ask more questions.
My mentor and friend Stefan Jarl used to tell me: ‘Never eat the heart’. It sounds quite brutal, but with that he means that you should keep some things sacred. There are some rooms you should never enter, secrets that are not supposed to be revealed.
It takes a lot of effort to really get to know someone, because we are constantly changing and the mind is so complex and full of contradictions. As soon you think you have defined something, it has already transformed into something else. In the film there is a line: ‘I try to hold on to something, but everything is in constant change.’ I’m in the forest, looking up at a tree. The tree has been there for maybe 100 years, like a witness to everything around. I used to think that trees have eyes, that they see us.
People are different, some people talk a lot without really saying anything. Some people say a lot without using that many words. My grandfather never told my father that he loved him. Not because he didn’t love him, but he didn’t know how to say that simple sentence. When he was close to his death, he hugged my father and said to him: ‘You know, my son, I know you know.’ He had tears in his eyes. He was not a man of many words, but the love he felt was strong. My mother never really talked that much about herself, or about her sorrows and experiences. I also became like that; I kept things inside, focused more on others, and became a good listener. I am interested in this gap, how you can feel so close and have a symbiotic relationship, like I have with my mother, and at the same time feel a big distance. She knows me so well, and she can sense immediately when something is wrong, or when I feel sad, in a way that no-one else can. I think this has to do with the fact that we have very similar experiences from really dark times and self-destructive behaviour.

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How did you approach such a personal family story and emotionally cope with exposing yourself so much?

It’s about having access to the emotions and then being able to step outside, to see yourself from a distance. When you make a self-portrait, or an autobiographical film, you are both the subject and the object at the same time. I can choose what I want to reveal, and the greatest challenge is to dare to be completely honest and truthful. That is painful because it is so much easier to just portray yourself in a positive way. But then you would only stay on the surface of things.

Fear is my driving force.

Fear means challenge and change. You know that you will be transformed. When I’m thinking of an idea and my heart beats hard I know I’m on the right track and should just follow that feeling. In making this film I wanted to find out what happens when you decide to take a relationship one level deeper, with someone that is already very close to you. There are no major conflicts between me and my mother. I don’t accuse her of anything. But we have such different ways of seeing things depending on our experience. We remember things differently.
Sometimes a scent or an incident can trigger a memory and completely change the mindset. We live with so many different layers and parallel worlds in our minds – reality, illusions, dreams, all existing at the same time. A friend of mine lost his brother on a sunny day in the month of May. When the sun shines in the spring he is longing for the rain.
My mother found a dead foul in the grass one morning, killed by the electric fence. She completely lost her mind. It reminded her of something that had happened 20 years earlier that she had never really talked about, when she lost a child that was strangled by the umbilical cord.

I believe everything you never deal with, or try to keep hidden deep inside, will come back to you.

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In what way(s) did you change after completing Reflections?
It is a very important film to me and probably the most personal film I will ever make. Making this film just makes me believe even more in the personal, that the more courage you have and the deeper you dare to go the greater chance that you will make something that others can relate to. Because we are so much the same deep inside; we share the same longing to be loved for who we are. Making this film has given me more courage to believe in my own vision and my ideas and to experiment more. To not make compromises, to listen to others, but also to trust in my intuition.

In competition at Krakow Film Festival

1 June 19.30 Malopolski Ogród Sztuki  (MOS 1)

3 June 14.30 Malopolski Ogród Sztuki  (MOS 1)

Also available in the online library

Official Website & Trailer: Broosfilm.com

Read more here… (soon)

Reflections by Sara Broos, in competition in Krakow

The director Sara Broos takes her mother, Karin Broos, a famous Swedish painter, on a seaside birthday trip, to Latvia, hoping to close the silent gap between them.  Out of this experience came an intimate and poetic film exploring the innermost recesses of the human mind and the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship.  A cinematic catharsis through evocations of daily life, dreams, archival material, diary notes, the mother’s paintings and captivating footage. A glimpse into the unconventional world of an artistic family in the countryside of Nordic Europe, set to a soundtrack that draws you into the story.
1st June 19.30  Małopolski Ogród Sztuki (MOS 1) and 3rd June 14.30  Małopolski Ogród Sztuki (MOS 1) in Krakow, at the Krakow Film Festival.

Watch the trailer.

Documentamadrid 2016

Nanfu Wang’s film Hooligan Sparrow, which premiered at Sundance, Les Sauteurs, (Those who Jump) from the Berlinale,  Sonita from idfa, The Babushkas of Chernobyl, and A Good American from CPH:DOX.

A boutique selection of international shorts, such as A Man Returned by Mahdi Fleifel and Yo no Soy de Aquí by Maite Alberti, as well as Giedre Zickyte, which premiered and was awarded at Nyon.

A panorama of Spanish short and feature-length documentaries.  

This is the paradise of every documentary lover. A great selection of 80 films produced this season across the globe. Finally, a great opportunity to watch good films! Not to mention the location: the  Matadero.

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Read more about the guests and watch the directors talk.

Bugs for dinner?

 

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Hmm, I was thinking, “What to cook for dinner?" Then I received Salma Abdalla’s email: Bugs? Ben and Josh, the two young chefs from the Nordic Foodlab founded by NOMA's Rene Retzepi, investigate the eats and tastes of insects around the world – said to be the future of food. First, I will see the film, which premiered 16/4/1016 at Tribeca! Then I will taste and come back to you. In the meantime, I can tell you that the first reviews say that its the best food film since Food Inc!

Directed by Andreas Johnsen (Ai Wei Wei – The Fake Case), produced by Sigrid Jonsson Dyekjær (recently awarded Best Danish producer and the Producer´s Guild Award).

Have a bite! and watch the trailer:

 

Interview with Marianna Economou (The Longest Run)

The Greek feature-length documentary The Longest Run [Ο πιο μακρύς δρόμος] by Marianna Economou, on two underage irregular migrants detained as smugglers of irregular migrants in the prison of Volos, premieres in Greece at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival Images of the World on Wednesday 16 March at 20.30 at the Olympion Theatre and on 18 March 2016 at 13.30 at the Stavros Tornes Theatre, Warehouse 1, Port. Dimitra Kouzi spoke with the documentary’s director, Marianna Economou.

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Director Marianna Economou

The film began about two years ago, when Marianna came across the book At school I forget the prison by Prof. Kostas Magos, which features accounts by underage migrant prisoners from the storytelling workshop run by Prof. Kostas Magos at the Volos prison. “This book shocked me,” says Marianna Economou. “At the same time, it filled me with questions. How can it be possible for these kids, who are struggling to flee from their predicament in their countries of origin, to find themselves in prison, to be tried by a foreign court in a language they do not understand, and many of them to end up serving extremely long sentences of up to 25 years?”

The professor was the first person she met at the prison. “If you manage to get a filming permit, I’m in for the documentary,” this extraordinary teacher told her. Next stop was the prison director’s office. Marianna needed his permission, as well as permission from the Ministry of Justice, before she could film inside the prison. The Director was positive from the outset, since the film would publicise juvenile prisoners’ training. It took six long months to get the coveted filming permit from the Ministry – an authorisation that had never before or since been given, and this was only made possible by circumstances and people. There was “an extraordinary woman at the Ministry, Eftychia Katsigaraki, says the director, who had been involved with the issue of children’s victimization by irregular migrant traffickers; another contributing factor was that prisons were packed full of child migrants and refugees. The issue had begun to attract European attention; it had been brought up in Brussels.”

YET, HOW DO THESE CHILDREN GET IMPLICATED AND END UP IN PRISON?

“The borders have become harder to cross, especially in Evros because of the fence. Traffickers are organised in a pyramid: the head trafficker at the top and the local ones below. The last smuggler, the one to bring them into Greece, does not want to risk further. He is well aware that if he is caught, he faces prison for life. So what does he do? He brings the people to the border, finds an easy victim – a child or a minor – and blackmails them in different ways. He will say, ‘If you don’t get them across and come back to get the rest of them, we will go to your village and kill your mother.’ Or, ‘Do you see that woman and her child? I will drown them if you don’t go.’ That’s the kind of blackmailing techniques that they use. And of course the other thing they often use is to say, ‘If you take people across, you will not have to pay for your own passage.’ And so they convince these minors, who are in effect caught doing this job and are arrested by the Greek authorities. The Greek law is very strict: for each person trafficked, you get 10 years in prison.”

“I started filming during classes. That’s when I started to identify the most interesting stories and the children that were able to bear the weight of this film.” Jasim was the youngest; he was 17. He was totally lost and scared, unable to grasp what had happened and how he had found himself spending four months in prison waiting for trial. “He was just an inexperienced child,” remembers Marianna Economou. “He came from a small village in northern Iraq and found himself in Greece, a country that he did not even know existed; he thought he was going straight to Germany to his brother. Alsaleh from Syria had already been in prison for 14 months waiting for trial. He spoke Greek well, so he helped Jasim with the language. They also shared the same cell and became friends during their months in prison.”

VOICES ON THE OTHER END OF THE LINE, FROM ANOTHER WORLD

The film begins with children waiting in line to phone their parents. For Marianna Economou, this was the most shocking of all the scenes in prison. “I saw how anxiously they waited for their turn to phone and struggle to get through to Iraq or Syria. In the beginning, I did not understand a word; I only watched their eyes and expressions, and when I asked, they replied, ‘Our parents are in terrible condition. They are worse off than we are. They are in a war.’ It was the time when Kobani was being bombed, while Isis was beheading the Yazidis in northern Iraq, the ethnic group from which Jasim comes. His whole family had to flee into the mountains. I decided that these phone calls were decisive when I heard their parents’ voices on the other end of the line, from another world, speaking with such intensity, such despair, telling them about the war and at the same time asking them, ‘ Are you all right, my child? I love you! I cannot live when you are so far away from me. Take care of yourself!’ It was always a mother talking to her child. These kids have left a family behind; they are not just ‘irregular migrants’; they all had a mom and a dad who cared for them, who loved them. They could be our own children.”

The film achieved something unprecedented: it received a filming permit for the trial of one of the two characters before the court of Komotini, in northern Greece. “The legal and judicial framework for these minors in the courts of Greece is a huge issue. Very few children have legal representation. The court appoints a lawyer five minutes before the trial begins. Good interpreters are scarce,” says the director. “I felt that there is a serious human-rights issue. Social workers are doing their best to support these kids at prison, but it all stops there.”

The film began, like most films in Greece, with two funding applications: one to the state broadcaster, ERT, and one to the Greek Film Centre (EKK). Shortly after, ERT was closed down. When filming was completed, all you could do was to get in touch with foreign channels, funds, etc. As always, however, they came up against the question: “What funding have you already received from your own country, Greece?” Then came the first prize at Docs in Progress at the Thessaloniki Festival and participation in the co-production meetings of Dok Leipzig Festival, where the prevailing response was: “Go ahead; keep us informed, and we will see.” What tipped the scale was the fact that the refugee emergency had broken out and the issue was already in the news. Thus, the film had to come out and the story of these children ought to be heard. They went into editing, using their own funds, in order to submit the film to Leipzig. The film was indeed accepted by DOK Leipzig and premiered on 27 October 2015 in the International Competition for Long Documentary and Animated Film. It won two awards – the PRIZE OF THE UNITED SERVICES TRADE UNION VER.DI and the INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION LONG HONORARY MENTION.

The Longest Run has officially participated in the festivals:

DOCPOINT (Finland), TEMPO (Sweden), CROSSING EUROPE (Switzerland), ONE WORLD Prague (Czech Republic), and DOCSBARCELONA (Spain).

The film premieres in Greece at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival 2016, on 16 March 2016 at 20.30 at the Olympion Theatre and on 18 March 2016 at 13.30 at the Stavros Tornes Theatre, Warehouse 1, Port.

In Athens, the film will be screened by CineDoc on Friday 22 April at 20.30 at the French Institute (Institut français de Grèce à Athènes, Sina 31, Athens) and on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 April at Danaos Cinema.

“Leipzig was a revelation after all, adds Marianna Economou: It was a great vindication for us and, thanks mainly to the help of Sabine Lange and Madeleine Avramoussis, the film was acquired by ARTE and aired on 2 February 2016. Eventually, the Greek Film Centre also approved the proposal. This is not the way to do things, though. I hope this film opens up a path abroad for me. Yet, if the possibility for co-productions and international productions with ERT is not re-established, I don’ t know how things will be for documentaries in Greece.”

Film Synopsis

In the Volos prison for minors, Alsaleh from Syria and Jasim from Iraq are awaiting trial, facing heavy charges for irregular migrant trafficking. From inside the prison, they talk on the phone with their parents, who live under the terror of war and ISIS raids while struggling to save themselves. The Longest Run closely follows the story of the two friends in prison and in court, revealing how innocent underage refugees often fall victims of coercion by traffickers and serve heavy sentences in Greek prisons while traffickers continue to operate undisturbed. Alsaleh and Jasim know that if they are convicted, they face imprisonment for up to 25 years.

Trailer on Vimeo

Official Web Site

The Longest Run on Facebook

Interview translated into English by Dimitris Saltabassis

Winner at Prix Europa Iris!

Strong women and humour is the recipe for the winner in the 2015 IRIS Doc category (intercultural docs)

PATIENCE 1

And the winner is Patience, Patience You'll Go To Paradise! by
Hadja Lahbib (Belgium, 2014, 85 min.)
After watching the film we had a group discussion (as we always do every day after screenings at Prix Europa)
Here is an interesting insight about reactions to the film.
First of all, the women in the group reacted and said:

I loved it - I wanted to shout/clap my hands while watching it, a lot of humor, it's the first time I saw this kind of story.
The whole day I am about to cry, but this film! I enjoyed the power and the humour!
Women empowerment, multi-culture, diversity, all in! Bravo!
Everybody was laughing, it was a good-mood film!
Brilliant!
Thank you for all the mothers, a film with a lot of love!
This film was a brilliant film about diversity.
At first I will say something very unusual - it was not too long! (87 min.)
It showed us that nothing is impossible.
I hope the Swedish television shows it.
It was such a relief - that these women dare to open the door and go!
The story is universal; my mum could also identify, and she is Swedish.
These women do something for the youngsters.
This film made my day!
It's challenging to treat serious films with humour!
We loved it!
This film was so rich - had so many layers, it was light but talked about heavy things (topics). There are scenes you carry for a long time.
You took us to a place (these women's world) where we would never be able to go!
Great humour and power in the film.
I wanted to go deeper into the individual life of them and we stayed most of the time in their group.
That's what I liked: that everything came out of a group discussion. The scene with the scarf was very strong!
Congratulations!
This programme speaks to all the audiences. It was so authentic. And even disability was a part of the normal life. This is an extra point for the film.

And then Hadja Lahbib from Belgium (journalist, director, author, producer) responded to the comments. It was a very difficult film. It took three years of her life. In the beginning she produced it alone. She had a bigger group of women of different nationalities, and a lot of them stepped out, and then she made the film we saw.

"I had no support from the commissioners (they said the script is not good, they wanted women with veil etc.); only RTBF, the broadcaster where I work, was positive from the beginning."

RTBF-HADJA LAHBIB
Hadja Lahbib, not only a good documentary director but also a very successful journalist and anchorwoman in Belgium

About the film:
In the 1960s, thousands of North Africans came to work in Belgium. Among them were women who had left everything behind to follow their men to an unknown country. “Patience, patience—you’ll get to heaven” was what these women were repeatedly told to encourage them to put up with their lives without complaining. Fifty years on, some of them are savouring emancipation. They turn out to be incredibly fun, loving, and capable of uninhibited self-mockery. This film follows them as they make new discoveries, through the simplicity of their excursions, their warm femininity, and sense of humour.

Watch the trailer (in French)

Production / Diffusion : Les Passeurs de Lumière, Clair-Obscur Productions, RTBF Bruxelles, ARTE France

Prix Europa 2015

Prix Europa’s Online award screenings start today. The category is coordinated by Kare Vedding Poulsen from Denmark, cross-media manager at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation for the last ten years, and BBC’s Silvia Costeloe from the UK. Silvia spoke to me about the Online category at Prix Europa 2014. She also shared insights from her extensive experience in using new technologies efficiently to tell stories, which has always been at the heart of her job at BBC World News. Her main task is to harness Social media to improve journalism on Social platforms during news-gathering and on air.

Listen to the interview:

It’s quite common to visit a festival and nevertheless manage to watch one or two films only. A paradox? All those appointments and work don’t leave us much time for what is most fulfilling in our line of work: watching well-made documentary films.

That’s what’s so good about Prix Europa, which started yesterday at the Radio building in Berlin. During the course of one week, you can not only watch documentaries but also participate in the discussion at the end of each day of screening.

There are 23 entries in the TV Doc category, for instance. They were selected out of the 200 submitted from all over Europe. The jury are the filmmakers themselves, who must watch each day’s films and vote after a discussion at the end of the day and grade each film from 1 to 10, based on five criteria. The highest-rated film will earn the title of the Best Documentary of the Year at the end of the week and will receive 6,000 euro. And what’s most important – the judges are the strictest ones possible: fellow producers and channel CEs.

Everyone can attend as an observer, even if you don’t have a film of your own, and participate in the interesting debate every evening.

I am Cuba is being screened today.  Current Affairs Documentary category starts tomorrow (Tuesday), as well as the cross-media projects competing for the Online award. On Wednesday, it’s time for Iris, with films of intercultural interest. The Queen of Silence features among the competing films: Ten-year-old Denisa is an outcast in more ways than one. She is an illegal citizen, living in a gypsy camp in Poland, but most of all she does not speak, as no one has ever diagnosed her severe hearing disabilities. She lives in a world of her own, full of rhythm and dance, imitating the glamorous women from Bollywood DVDs she found in a nearby garbage bin. Dancing, she can be anyone she wants, even a queen; she can escape the harsh reality and express all that she cannot speak in words – joy, sadness and fear.

Veton Nurkollari, Artistic Director DokuFest Kosovo interviewed

On my way to Prizren to present a case study on Communication and Audience Engagement at the Balkan Documentary Centre workshop. Here is an interesting interview Veton Nurkollari, Artistic Director DokuFest, gave me in 2014.

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:

https://vimeo.com/121977493  (password:32015)

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Alsaleh & Jasim in Prison

Always Together at IDFA 2014 Competition for First Appearance

An interview with the Czech director Eva Tomanová, whose feature-length documentary Always Together, selected for IDFA 2014 Competition for First Appearance, premieres on November 20, 2014 in Amsterdam. Always Together is produced by Jiří Konečný (Endorfilm).

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This is your first film, and it is already feature-length and in competition at IDFA.

Why did you switch from journalism to filmmaking?

Interesting stories have accompanied my entire professional life. I love them. I collect them. It’s not a radical change – rather, it’s an evolutionary step.  It’s important to know how to tell the story; minutes don’t count so much. I ‘ve directed many TV projects, documentaries, reporting (comparable to 60 minutes) before.

Journalism is a way of life; to me it is above all about curiosity. I also think I have a nose for interesting topics; I need to look at a subject from many different angles. I know how to make people talk to me. The arts, also, have enriched my whole life – drawing, sculpture, photography.

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Director: Eva Tomanová

How did you meet this family?

Another family that I helped as a journalist at the time introduced me. The man was very suspicious about me in the beginning. I remember standing behind the fence, being interviewed by him – he did not even invite me in.

Then, some weeks later, he expressed a wish to meet me again. He needed some help with the social welfare office. They did not like it that his children did not go to school.

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How was your experience with the DOK.Incubator workshop?

DOK.Incubator was a great experience for me. I received very profound feedback from both sides, tutors and participants, which is always needed. The variety of nations and different points of view are another big advantage, and they all were so supportive. I believe it made me look differently at this and any other films that I might possibly make.
To be more specific, Sigrid Dyekjær gave me many dramaturgical ideas even before shooting. I met her through my work at the very first DOK.Incubator workshop. And the editor Per K. Kirkegaard (Armadillo) sort of reshaped my gaze and made it more relaxed, not so informative, and to let the characters speak for themselves.
Another important thing about this workshop is that you actually work with the whole team, the editor and the producer, and you develop the film together. Jiri has turned out to be a great help. Without him and without DOK.Incubator I would hardly have made it to IDFA.

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