Category Archives: Interviews

Interview with Diego Mas Trelles, Programmer at DocumentaMadrid Film Festival

What is a festival programmer’s favourite festival? How are films selected? How can we train the audience? And what do they like in Madrid which he finds in the North? I met Diego Trelles at the DocumentaMadrid and we talked about programming and Spanish Docs.

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DocumentaMadrid HQ at the Matadero

Diego Mas Trelles likes character driven films, compelling films, not only one style, or ways of storytelling.

"Sometimes a film gets you hooked from the first minutes, but it is not necessary. I look at the film and I have to like it for myself.  It must awaken something in me.I first have to like the film and then I have to see if the audience in Madrid will also like it.

The subject is perhaps interesting, it can be what drives you, what gets you into the story, but it can also be the main character, a boy or a girl, or even the animation, or an interview, I am not against talking heads. I remember a film by Gianfranco Rosi, EL Sicario, it’s a 90-min.-long interview with a hitman for the drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. His head is covered with a black cloth, and we can only see his body and the sketches he is making. He only speaks, and it’s incredible! You are hooked just by the narration."

Previous to his work as a programmer at Documentamadrid, he was programmer at the Sevilla European Film Festival, where he programmed European docs for five years. “I always try to be aware of what the audience likes. That is why I think we do not need international premieres in Madrid, or to follow other festivals' paths. Sometimes it counts if you know the film director or he has won in other festivals but this does not always work.” Some of the films - even those that have won in big festivals, we feel obliged to show them because otherwise nobody will show them, neither tv nor the cinemas, and we think that the Spanish audience should have the possibility to see those films.”

“I am not talking about the audience that is aware. But the audience can understand a good film. For example when they showed The act of killing, I remember that some people in the industry disliked the film - because they were troubled, they felt that it raised moral issues. I like this film, not only because of the subject; I remember when we showed Joshua [Oppenheimer’s] other film, The look of silence, it was late at night and the Q&A lasted another one and a half hour. Although the film was screened late at night and there was no more metro or bus, nobody left the theater – the audience was mesmerised by the director’s personality.”

Diego Mas Trelles travels to all the festivals and  he sees over 1400 films per year. Which are his favourite festivals? “A festival I like to attend is the Berlinale – it’s a big city, it’s not classified like Cannes. I also like <a href="http://nordiskpanorama.com/sv/publik/“>Nordisk Panorama – it’s a good showcase for watching Nordic films and to meet producers and directors from the region. Of course I like idfa.”

He does not think that there is a trend in documentary making. What happens is that the life of a doc is getting shorter. “The media climax is shorter, and the glow of a doc is shorter. I see more and more cinematic docs where even the credits are well crafted and conceived. There is a deeper interaction with fiction! Sometimes you may be annoyed because you do not know if you see a staged scene.” In this year's DocumentaMadrid, a lot of the films were made by women. And the winning film, Sonita, is a film about a girl rapper from Afghanistan and her path to find herself, made by a woman director, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami (trailer).

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Sonita
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The director of Sonita, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami

Is women’s gaze a trend?  “I hope so, because it’s half of the humanity. We must follow the Nordic model, the way they promote, finance, show the films. I am a fan of the work they do, of the  Nordic style. For example, take the film Those who jump, produced by the Danish Producer Heidi Elise Christensen, who also produced (Final Cut for Real).

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The producer, Heidi Elise Christensen

One of the co-directors, Moritz Siebert, is from Chile but he lives in Denmark (the other two are Estephan Wagner & Abou Sidibé).

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The Directors Moritz Siebert, Abou Sidibé & Estephan Wagner (on the right)

The film is a very international story, and it has a very strong Spanish angle in talking about a very important topic: the refugee issue. (In northern Morocco lies the Spanish enclave of Melilla: Europe on African land. On the mountain above live over a thousand hopeful African migrants, watching the land border, a fence system separating Morocco and Spain.) Diego is asking a rhetoric question: “Why can’t Spanish people make this film?” According to him, we should “ask the Spanish government!”

“I have produced fiction films and directed docs. I worked for ARTE and then as a channel delegate. I also used to work for the Spanish television, presenting and directing a program with feature docs. It was on every Friday night and had good ratings. The programme was cut off in order to have an excuse so as not to do co-productions. By cutting it off the TV station could say, “We can’t co-produce because we do not have a slot for the films”!

Next edition of DocumentaMadrid in May 2017.

PREMIERE IN KRAKOW

His new film SEXO, MARACAS Y CHIHUAHUAS (SEX, MARACAS & CHIHUAHUAS) is a music documentary about Xavier Cugat, an artist and adventurer, the musician responsible for Latino rhythms conquering the US and the one who discovered Rita Hayworth. The film is in competition at Krakow, where it is screened on 31 May. Watch an interview in which he speaks about his film.

About “becoming” and failure, Interview Sara Broos, Part 3

Who do you want to be?
I’m often surprised when I find out things about myself I didn’t know. I don’t think we have one true self but many different faces. Rilke writes about that in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge: how we consist of so many different layers and faces. We walk around with them and put them on ­– sometimes one face gets worn out, or becomes thin like paper.

I have spent so many years of my life trying to be someone else and looking for something else, with a restlessness that in some ways is positive, because it’s about being curious, longing to explore, to move on. But there is also another side to it, when you’re always on the run, feeling independent and free, without anything keeping you. Loneliness can be brutal sometimes. I don’t have the same restlessness anymore. My mother talks about that in the film, that she no longer yearns for somewhere else, not in the same way as before, when she always carried a diffuse longing for elsewhere.

I appreciate to be in one place for a longer time; at the same time, I have a nomadic mind so I can get up and leave any minute. And I still love that feeling of being on the road, on my way, playing good music, watching the landscape changing, being in transit. Or just waiting for the plane at the airport, or arriving to a new place where I’ve never been before and don’t know what to expect.
I now spend more time in the countryside in Sweden, where I have an old house. I also live part-time in Berlin. These two places are very good for me because I feel so much at home and alive. There is no pretence. It just is what it is, natural, beautiful and raw. There’s a title of a book by Robert Frank: ‘Hold Still – Keep Going’. I very much believe in that. To not rush, but to be present. I think that’s the most important thing for a filmmaker or an artist. I work in a very intuitive way. I always have my camera with me.

Failure: How do you feel about it?
When I grew up, I felt like my whole life was a failure compared to others. My parents were artists, our home was chaotic and unconventional. We lived in the countryside in Sweden, our neighbours were farmers. My friends’ parents had normal jobs. I was ashamed and wanted to be like everybody else. In the film, there is a passage with a little girl with a cute dress, Sophia. We were best friends. I adored her. She was so pretty, their home picture-perfect. I felt like a failure compared to her. But underneath the surface things weren’t that perfect. And she dreamt of my life.

Now when I look back I am happy that it was not all perfect and that I have the experience of what it means not to fit in. I had to find my own way. Feeling that I was not in the right place made me curious to explore other worlds. I started travelling at an early age and went alone on trains in Eastern Europe for the first time when I was 15. I was very shy and had an old Hi 8 camera that I used to film everything I saw, people I met – a way to communicate and get in touch with people. I was so full of questions about love, the feeling of home, and I ended up filming very personal conversations with people I met on trains and in places in Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, all around Europe. I am now using that archive material for my new film, Notes On A Journey. Feeling different or feeling like a failure can also be a driving force for you to search for others who share your experience. I felt much more at home in Bosnia than I did in my own small village in the countryside.

There was a period in my teens when I revolted against the chaos that was around me, growing up in an artist family and a messy home, and with parents who were different. Everything had to be perfect. I loved writing, but suddenly it was related to prestige. I wrote chronicles for a daily newspaper, a full-page article every Saturday. I won many prestigious literary prizes. I was the youngest ever to receive a journalist prize at the age of 18. I was offered a book contract. I did everything right. I was successful from the outside. Yet, inside I was torn apart and very unhappy. It was all just a shell. The more successful I became the more distant from myself. Finally, I didn’t know what I wanted anymore, and all the passion was gone. When you are afraid of failure, you stick to the well-known, which I believe is the greatest threat to creativity.

I don’t care so much anymore about being loved by everyone; I am interested in the notion of failure, what that means. Also, the complementary idea: success, what that means. Of course, I want to always do the best I can, and I want people to like what I do. But who decides what is a failure? To write one great script, maybe you have to write ten bad ones before you get there. When I showed the first versions of my film to my mentor, Stefan Jarl, it was ‘a failure’ and I knew it, but it was part of the process. I believe that we need to defuse the fear of failure.

What do you want people to think and feel as they are leaving the theatre?
After a screening at Gothenburg Film Festival, a woman came up to me and hugged me, saying, ‘Thank you for making this film! The first thing I will do when I go home is call my daughter. We never really talk.’

The end (or just the beginning?)

Meet us in Krakow! In competition at Krakow Film Festival

1 June 19.30 Malopolski Ogród Sztuki  (MOS 1)

3 June 14.30 Malopolski Ogród Sztuki  (MOS 1)

Reflections

a feature-length documentary by Sara Broos

80 min./Documentary/Sweden/2016

Also available in the online library

Website & Trailer

broosfilm.com

Women’s Gaze: Director Sara Broos, on looking in the Mirror

What do you see when you look in the mirror?
Sometimes when I look at myself I almost get a surreal feeling, as if it’s somebody else, but still someone I recognize. Isn’t it strange that your eyes can see everything except themselves? I don’t judge myself as much anymore in the way I did when I was younger. I could be very hard on myself and never think that I was good enough, or see any beauty in myself. I think the eyes reveal so much, not only what they look like but also what they see and where they look. I remember when I was a child observing my mother before the mirror, how I could feel her judgement over herself.

Sara_Karin_Profile

How do you feel about getting older?
I feel OK with getting older, only there is still so much I want to do and the older I become the more aware I am that time is limited. It’s so easy to long for youth, yet I wouldn’t like to be 20 again. I think what’s most important is not to turn bitter, to grow old with dignity and to accept the changes. I read about a woman who was afraid of getting wrinkles so she decided never to smile. But the lines in your face reveal what kind of life you lived. There is nothing more beautiful than a face that is full of life, and I believe that the strive for perfectionism, or for being beautiful will only have the opposite effect.
My mother says in the film that she was afraid of aging, that she thought that after 40 life was over. She was, and still is, beautiful but when she was young her beauty was also something she could hide behind. She lived in a myth, took different names for each new man she met. When she met my father and they got married she had to reveal her real name. She had called herself Melinda, from a song by Bob Dylan. Some people become younger the older the get, in their minds. My Dutch grandmother, Bep, with her thick, curly white hair, was much more strict and conservative when she was young. When she was over 90, she made her debut as an actress in a Chekhov play. She was playful and curious, and became freer and freer in her mind the older she got. More and more beautiful, too, I believe. I feel in many ways all the more connected with the child within me the older I get. And then it’s easy to say that age is just a number. It is, yet it’s also a hard fact. I remember when I listened to Agnes Varda giving a lecture in Gothenburg, how fascinated I was just looking at her face and how it was shifting from a little girl to a young woman, and to an old woman.

Do you believe in love?
Love is probably the only thing I really believe in. Without love, without interaction with others, we are nobody. We reflect ourselves in the other, and when I see beauty in someone, hopefully that person will feel beautiful. There is a line in a song by Blonde Redhead: ‘If you start doubting me then I start to doubt myself’. We are so dependent on each other we come to live through each other. I think we affect each other very much, and small actions can have a profound influence. Just the way we see each other. The energy we spread around us. A smile from a stranger in the crowd. That is also love. Love exists in so many different forms. We all want to be loved for who we are. That is something we share. Probably that’s why love is a never-ending theme in so many films and songs.

In my film For You Naked two people fall in love without speaking each other’s language. They have to find other ways to get to know each other. I think it’s interesting because it’s easy to tell the same story about yourself. How do you present yourself to the other when you want to put yourself in a good light? Language can also be a protection where you just repeat the same story over and over again.

Freedom seems to play a key role in your life. When do you feel free?
My mother says in the film: ‘If freedom is not feeling ashamed of yourself, then I am far from being free.’ I really think that freedom and shame are related. If you feel ashamed of yourself, of your body, of who you are, then you are not really free.

I feel free when I am surrounded by good energy in people and places. Places where there is air to breathe and things are not totally defined or formed. I am very sensitive to atmospheres and sounds. Freedom doesn’t mean leaving everything behind and taking off, but being in tune with yourself and the choices you make. At the same time, there is so much that we can never control, and in that sense we are not really free. I recently watched a great documentary, A Hard Loving Woman, at Tribeca Film Festival, which screened in the same programme as my short film Homeland. It is about Juliette Lewis and how she left Hollywood and started a rock band. She talks about beauty and how she never could adapt to the beauty ideal. When she goes on stage, she wants to be without makeup and just full of raw energy. It’s very empowering to see a woman who just doesn’t care at all, who doesn’t need to please others. I think that is the opposite of feeling shame. A little child doesn’t feel shame. There is a scene in the film where my sister’s daughter, Alma, aged four, sits in front of the mirror and puts on lipstick. She is playing; it’s a game. But it is also scary, how a four-year-old girl already knows women’s ‘codes’, the way she paints her nails, the way she moves. She knows exactly how to do it, imitating what she’s seen.

read more ...

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)

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

Why diversity?

After ‘Why democracy’ and ‘Why poverty’, I think that it would only be natural for a series titled ‘Why diversity?’ to be made by the EBU, examining diversity in Europe, especially in the Media. I talked about diversity programming with Erik Hogenboom, chief editor at the Diversity Department of the Dutch public broadcaster NTR, who coordinates weekly TV programmes with a focus on diversity. He is also the executive producer of the international coproduction City Folk by the EBU-Intercultural Diversity Group, featuring portraits of ordinary people of different ethnic backgrounds and as such reflecting the intercultural melting pots of the big cities around the world. He was also Coordinator of the Jury Group for the Prix Europa TV IRIS category.

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Patience, Patience You'll Go To Paradise! by Hadja Lahbib (Belgium, 2014, 85 min.)

‘How do European societies cope with growing ethnic and religious diversity?
How will Fortress Europe tackle the increasing flow of desperate refugees? How do we deal with a growing Muslim population in a basically profane society? As a consequence, there is an increasing responsibility of (public) broadcasters, filmmakers and reporters to deal with diversity issues in their stories.’
What are diversity programmes? What does a diversity chief editor do?
Diversity programmes are programmes that somehow tackle issues related to cultural diversity in European societies. Diversity is of course a rather broad definition: it concerns gender, dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. In TV IRIS we focus on the dimension of race and ethnicity. So, diversity programmes in this dimension are about all issues related to the fact that European societies are becoming more and more multicultural/diverse. Concrete issues are:  migration issues; refugees; illegality; fortress Europe; history of migration; position of minorities; ethnic conflicts; racism/anti-racism; position of Roma people; Islam in Europe; second and third generation of migrants; integration of minorities; regional minorities; coexistence and/or clashes of religions, etc. Programmes that mainly focus on such themes can be defined as ‘diversity programmes’.
A ‘diversity chief editor’ task is to commission these kind of programmes and bring them on TV (or radio and Internet of course). To find new, interesting and relevant subjects related to diversity and find programme-makers to make these programmes, judge them and finally schedule them on TV, or any other medium.

Another task can be to try to make the personnel of media institutions more diverse, by hiring and/or employing journalists, technical staff, producers, etc. of a different ethnic/cultural background.

Another task can be to organise special events to stimulate diversity (in programming and personnel) in the media (e.g. the Innoversity Show that we are currently organising for April 2016).

Why do we need diversity programmes in public broadcasters in 2015?
The increasing diversity in Europe creates frictions, tensions, conflicts (racism, discrimination, resistance against mosques, unemployment in young people of a different ethnic background). Diversity programmes can contribute to knowledge and insight about different values and cultures and may encourage tolerance and understanding. So, as long as diversity is not yet an accepted value, special diversity programmes are important to promote the benefits of diversity.

What are the opportunities for diversity programme funding? Are there special budgets for that? Which broadcasters commission diversity programmes?
At NTR we have had (for the past 20 years) a special budget for diversity (and time slots on day time in the weekend). After 1 January 2016, we lose this special budget and will have to fight for money for each new projects. Some broadcasters in Europe have special diversity departments and budgets, e.g. HRT-Croatia, WDR-Germany, the BBC.

Where should producers look for money?
Difficult question. It depends very much on the local/national situation. In the Netherlands, freelance producers can apply for money to special funds, e.g. to produce an expensive documentary or series. But these are mostly general media funds, not special ones for diversity.

How was the experience of this year’s Prix Europa? Can you tell us something about the winning film?
I think we had a great TV IRIS this year. A large Jury group and a mosaic of interesting diversity programmes. In general, it is quite amazing that TV IRIS has been running successfully for so many years, with constant input of entries from all over Europe.
The film “Patience Patience, you’ll go to Paradise” is a really great winner. The situation of older migrant women is an important diversity theme, and this film is great because of its humoristic tone. It shows that people can free themselves of restraints even when they are older. It also provides insight into the world and thoughts of elderly migrant women.

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

Art in Greece amid the Crisis

THE REVIEW by Villa Mediterranée
THE REVIEW by Villa Mediterranée (International Centre for Dialogue and Discussion in the Mediterranean)

Here is an excerpt from the article I wrote for THE REVIEW of Villa Mediterranée, translated into English by Dimitris Saltabassis.

In a perceptive overview of the Greek cultural scene, Dimitra Kouzi talks about the current mix of gloom and hope in a country in a state of deep economic crisis.
Beyond the news and headlines, art reflects the political, economic and everyday-life changes. Hasn't art in Greece been always in crisis? What's the difference now? "Art is inconsequential without our insistence. It seems that there is a need for it; this explains its survival," says artist Alexandros Mistriotis.

Artists work in a stifling atmosphere. "Everybody works more or less for free, yet there is great solidarity for everything," Art Historian Denys Zacharopoulos, Director of the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, adds.
There is such proliferation of art events that one is hard-pressed for choice. And that means new venues. In addition to the expansion and renovation of the National Gallery in Athens, currently in progress, and the establishment of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in the former Fix brewery, after many years of temporary housing, there are currently in operation about ten new independent art venues in Athens, often under the aegis of the municipality. Run by people who have studied abroad and have an international network of contacts, they provide the infrastructure for an independent art scene to flourish, hosting work by young artists in a variety of genres (theatre, music, visual arts, architecture, graphic and fashion design, workshops). Housed in a historical building, the former headquarters of the extremely popular magazine Romanzo in a central Athens area more reminiscent of a ghetto in recent times, the BIOS – Romanzo creative hotbed provides office space for creative young people and start-ups focusing on technology, art and culture, while also hosting exhibitions, concerts, performances, collective actions, workshops and seminars. The BIOS team managed to turn over the image and population makeup of the whole area. "All young people find it hard to turn their ideas into practice in today's circumstances. Perhaps people think more in terms of cooperation now; a feeling of collectivity may have become more developed. The need to participate in the commons is more intensely and consciously felt."

Amidst the crisis, Rosie Diamantaki decided to establish an experimental art venue – Anamesa Art Space. She enables budding artists to take their first steps, irrespective of the commercial appeal of what they do. She also supports upcoming musicians and showcases projects that combine music and the visual arts. "There is a new generation of artists in all genres who make a new proposition in Greece. In the visual arts, there are young artists' teams which join larger groups or run their own spaces, working on projects featuring public interaction with a view to increasing the participation of art in a public dialogue, rather than being galleries in the strict sense, such as Arbit City Group, or 3137." She points out that, "Even Art Athina, the largest foire in Greece has introduced Platform Project, an initiative for young artists."

....  If you want to read the complete article (in French or English) you can order a copy of the the magazine or contact me.

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Illustration: Yorgos Lanthimos The Uncrowned King by Jefferson Paganel

THE REVIEW

Halfway between a book and a magazine, the Villa Méditerranée’s The Review is, in its own way, an invitation to a new space to discover and examine the current issues of the Mediterranean world. In addition to the Villa’s missions, the Review seeks to bring together different interpretations of today’s most critical issues. This second issue questions the sustainability of a mobile world, public space, memory and conflicts, youth and identity issues, as well as the challenges facing tourism. It is available in English and in French.

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