Tag Archives: Documentary

Lie to Me Interview with Bår Tyrmi and Dag Mykland

by Dimitra Kouzi

Bår Tyrmi, director and co-editor, ‘Lie to me’

Dag Mykland, producer and co-director, ‘Lie to me’

Dimitra Kouzi: What initially drew you to the story of the OneCoin scam?
Dag Mykland (D): It’s actually quite a story. I remember the date well. It was 6 June 2020, and I was walking to the office, when I got a phone call from an unknown number. I picked up, and this guy just told me: ’My name is Bjørn Bjercke. I’ve sent you two messages on LinkedIn. Google me, and I’ll call you back in 20 minutes.’ I remember thinking: ‘Who the hell is this?’

Bår Tyrmi (B): Yes, I remember you phoned me just after that. We both googled and decided this was extremely interesting.

D: That phone call sent us straight down the OneCoin rabbit hole! 

Bjørn Bjercke is a central character. How did you gain his trust and convince him to participate in the documentary?

B: We had previously made two other feature docs on blockchain technology: 'The Bitcoin Experiment' in 2015 and 'The Code of Trust' in 2019. They both screened on the national broadcaster NRK, and Bjørn had watched them. He liked our approach to the technology and how we  made documentaries. He basically chose us to make the film about his story.

D: It was how we portrayed and explained crypto technology that caught his attention. I guess making hundreds of movies for educational purposes back in the day really paid off.

'Lie to Me' follows Bjørn Bjercke for over three years. What were the biggest challenges in capturing his journey in terms of your or other people’s safety? Did you as filmmakers ever feel unsafe or under threat?

D: Bjørn has received serious threats to himself and his family, and is still living at a secret address. This meant we could never disclose the real locations when filming, and we had to keep the shooting dates and places secret.

B: I remember meeting Jamie Bartlett with Bjørn in London. He is the journalist behind the award-winning BBC podcast 'The Missing Cryptoqueen,' and has been researching the OneCoin case for years. He had his doubts whether Bjørn was exaggerating the security issues. But after Jamie started receiving threats himself, he told us he was so happy to be protected by the BBC. That made him think how brave Bjørn was to stand up to these people.

D: We have not received threats. But when we went to the Stockholm event in 2022 and confronted the OneCoin leaders, they were quite angry with us for spreading 'lies.' But it’s really Bjørn, Jonatan, Duncan, Layla, Daniel, and Amjad who have been the brave ones. And for us as documentarists, such discoveries are golden!

How did you distinguish the truth from all those lies while doing the research? 

D: That is really difficult because the information about OneCoin comes from so many different sources: social media, blogs, online newspapers, court documents, emails, chat groups… There are so many stakeholders. Some want to clear their name, some want their money back, some want to keep on scamming, some want to bring criminals to justice. They all have their own side to the story.

B: You have to double-check the information.  When the same facts appear in different places, different sources and stakeholders, you can kind of conclude that they are true. It’s very time-consuming, and you can never be one hundred per cent sure that what you’ve found is true. You have to go for what is plausible and most likely to be true.

D: I remember us saying, 'It’s hard to spot a scam in a room full of liars.' That was our working motto while researching this story. But after working on it for more than three years, we have formed quite a good picture of what really happened.

The film explores the psychology behind the scam. Can you elaborate on the specific techniques used by OneCoin to manipulate investors?

D: The people behind OneCoin were very clever; you have to give it to them. It was the first scam that really combined crypto with multi-level marketing. At a scale never seen before. Erica says in our film, 'Not only are you gonna get rich, but if you get your friend to invest, you'll get loads more money, and if you get other people to invest, you'll get lots more money.' It really hit people in a psychological weak spot. That, combined with the insecurity and hype around Bitcoin’s  investment potential – it really hit hard.

B: The combination of social psychology with branding, group and cult mentality, and prospects of getting rich quick was brilliant. If you just add a bit of scarcity or exclusivity to it, it creates a massive FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s all very emotional; it gets you hooked. And that cocktail spread like wildfire.

In terms of storytelling, can you elaborate on the specific techniques used to build the story? 
B: A challenge with ‘Lie to Me’ was that it is a complex, multi-character story. It stretches over a period of eight years, and the starting point of the film is in the middle of that timeline. But to fully understand who these people are and the plot, we take leaps forward and backward in time… We worked a lot with the narrative structure, when to provide and when to withhold information. Our editor, Jo Eldøen, has really done a fantastic job structuring the film.

We wanted to keep our audience in suspense throughout the 90 minutes, and make them feel the same way as we did while we worked with the film. When we thought we knew where the story was going, a new surprise would pop up out of nowhere. It is a real rollercoaster!

That emotionality was one of the things we tried to bring to the film through the use of archive footage and graphics.

D: It’s been a thrilling ride for sure. We also worked with the scriptwriter Siw Rajendram Eliassen as a consultant for the narrative. She really helped us figure out the main sentences of what we were looking into. That helped us when we had to make decisions on the fly.

B: I remember her saying, 'Somebody has to die in the fourth act.'

Does anyone die?

D: I guess you have to watch the film to find out.

The banker Duncan Arthur, a former OneCoin insider, is also featured. How did his perspective contribute to the film's narrative?


D: Duncan has been extremely important for the film. On one hand, he gave us a lot of inside information we could use to verify the actual story. He also made us realise that this story is kind of a tragedy for everybody involved, including the people behind it. Everybody loses on a scam like this.

On the other hand, his dubious persona impersonates the OneCoin scam, in a way. He’s selling, funny, open, and you kind of want to trust him – but can you?

The documentary highlights the international reach of the OneCoin scam. How did you approach filming across different countries?

B: The OneCoin scam is global, so we soon realised we would have to travel. We would research online, and reach out to people that had expressed interesting views in chat rooms or online publications. Sometimes it would take months to get a reply. A lot of people have been hesitant to participate. It is quite an undertaking to come forward in a case like this. It was also challenging because we never offered sign-off fees to participate in our film as many other production companies do. We wanted people to talk with us for the right reasons.

D: But when a person finally agreed, we would act fast to secure the shoot before they change their mind. This has been quite risky, economically, because we are a small production company on a low budget. Luckily most trips ended in solid stories and have ended up in the final edit.

'Lie to Me' is troubling because the scam persists despite being exposed. What do you hope viewers will learn from this aspect of the story?


B: Even if it can be shameful to realise that you have been scammed, it is never too late to pull out. Too many people continue just because they do not want to realise that they have been wrong.

D: It’s sad to hear and see all these people who have lost money but still have hope. I guess when you’re too far down a scam like this, it’s sometimes easier to accept another lie than to face the truth.

You mentioned the film utilises graphics and archive footage. Can you give some examples of how you chose them and how  these elements enhance the storytelling?

B: We wanted to reflect some of the tackiness and larger-than-life nature of the whole OneCoin environment in the visual style of the film. The OneCoin people live on lies, and that is reflected in how they present themselves. Gold, champagne, fast cars, Hollywood glam… but in a tacky way. This has inspired us in choosing the archive and the use of stock footage, and editing the sequences as compact film trailers.

D: Internally, we have referred to the archive sequences as 'film-poems.' We are not so concerned to illustrate exactly what the different persons in the film are talking about, but more about finding the feeling and deeper message in what they say.

The production spanned three and a half years. Were there any surprising discoveries or developments during filming? 

D: Too many! Basically we set out to make a retrospective film about a fake cryptocurrency already exposed as a scam, with the people behind it in jail or missing. Yet we ended up following an ongoing scam for more than three years… so the film was full of surprising discoveries for us. Even now, there’s new developments in the case against the leaders of OneCoin. This story never ceases to surprise us.

How did you work together as the  film’s two directors? 

B: Dag and I have been working together for almost 15 years, and for the last 10 years we have run the Hacienda production house together. In most productions, we cooperate on scriptwriting, production, directing, and editing. We have a saying that no ideas are too small, irrelevant, or crazy to be discussed.

Investigative documentaries are hard and expensive to make. What would make your work easier? 

D: We’re lucky to have a wide range of funding opportunities in Norway. But working with investigative documentaries, the lines between development stage and production are often blurry. It’s an ongoing process and story, and you never know what comes next – you simply have to be aware and throw yourself at what you believe is important to catch on camera. We all know shooting days are expensive, and I believe having access to more of the film’s total budget earlier in the process would make it easier and less financially risky for small production houses such as Hacienda. However, I must also give credit to some of the consultants at Norwegian Film institute and Sørnorsk Film Centre, who have been with us in every step. Especially how they are so open and helpful in creating the best story by adjusting budget, production plan, partnering in narrative and plot-talks along the way.

The documentary has already been acquired by TVE, NRK, SVT, and Al Jazeera. What is your vision for the film's future?

D: We hope the film can be screened in more festivals in North and South-America, Europe, and Asia. The topic is global, so I hope it would attract an audience that either wants to watch it or perhaps needs to watch it.

The ambition is that when financial opportunities like OneCoin or any other scheme come along, you’re able to see the red flags and keep away.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in making this documentary?

B: There are always many things that could have been done differently. We should have aimed for a higher budget to allow ourselves more time in post-production. And there were some leads and possible shoots that we had to cancel for financial or risk reasons… Looking back, it would have made the film even more global.

'Lie to Me' goes beyond simply exposing a scam. What is the larger message you want audiences to take away?

D: If something looks like a rat, walks like a rat, and smells like a rat… it is probably a rat.

B: There are a lot of people and organisations that want our attention, time, money, and endorsement. We all need to be aware of the red flags. If something looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Interview by ‘Silent Trees’ Director, Agnieszka Zwiefka, to Dimitra Kouzi

Dimitra Kouzi: You were impressively confident from the beginning about what you were doing, in a situation which was utterly chaotic. How was that? What drew you to Runa’s story?

Agnieszka Zwiefka: I try to follow impulses, instincts in my work. When I heard about the refugee crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, I had an impulse to just go there. I had no idea whom I would meet and what story I would find. We started to volunteer in a refugee camp. I remember when I saw Runa and her family for the first time. They had just arrived, and their mother was still alive, in a hospital. I felt this impulse yet again. To follow them, especially Runa as a teenage girl. I immediately understood that showing the refugee crisis through the eyes of the refugee children is the most powerful way to tell this story. After all, they are the ones affected the most by this humanitarian crisis. From the moment I met Runa I knew she should be the main protagonist. She had this unbelievable strength in her, this silent resilience. I think it was love at first sight. I believe that you need to fall in love at first sight with your protagonist.

Dimitra Kouzi: You left your hometown, your daughters, who are teenagers, and went far away to the border to help. Is this how you normally operate?

No, I’d say it was a state of emergency in a way. Me and my friends in Poland were shocked by what was going on at the border – the refugee crisis we knew from the Mediterranean suddenly was ‘next door’. But what was even more shocking was the reaction of the Polish government, which immediately restricted access to these people. Volunteers, medical aid, journalists, no one was allowed to enter, no one was allowed to help. And for me, that was so inhuman that I knew I had to do something about it. I guess deep inside I’m a punk. And whenever someone tells me not to go somewhere, it becomes very tempting to actually go there, to tell the untold stories. So that was the beginning.

DK: When you met the family, you immediately started filming. We all know how difficult it is to gain the trust of somebody we want as a protagonist. How did that work out, with the DOP, the camera?

AZ: I’m always very honest with my protagonists. I told the family I was not going to be there for a week, or two, or a month. It’s a long, long journey together. I used the help of an interpreter through the phone, so they were aware of what I was planning to do. But we were filming without the support of an interpreter, following our instincts. Later, when we translated the footage, we discovered that in most cases our instincts were correct. I also choose my crew very carefully. My DOP, Kacper Czubak, is a very kind and empathetic person. On an everyday basis, it was just me and him.

Establishing a bond with documentary characters usually takes a long time and requires patience, trust. I am always prepared for that. But in this case, it all happened very quickly. I guess being together with someone during the most traumatic events of their lives creates this bond very quickly. We were together with them at the very moment they learned about their mother’s death. We cried together. Of course, we didn’t film everything. We tried to carefully choose what to film and what not to film. And this is also one of the methods of working in such situations. But just being with them in this groundbreaking moment in their lives, created a much stronger and deeper bond.

DK: On one hand, you are empathetic and on the other hand you need to create scenes, to find these moments which will enable you to build the story. How do you deal with these issues and the ethical questions involved?

AZ: One issue was that we filmed in a language we didn’t speak. We didn’t have an interpreter on set because access to this refugee camp was restricted. But I think intuition helped us. There is an international language of emotions. In some of the scenes with Runa and her father, we didn’t know what was being said, but we could sense it was important. That was the biggest challenge. You need to develop another sense to pick up these elements. Baravan, Runa’s father, is an amazing protagonist because he is totally sincere. He never tries to pretend, to be someone else. He’s the first protagonist of any of my films that completely doesn’t have any mask on; he wears his heart on his sleeve. That also helped us to have a little light in the darkness we were filming in, because it was really filming in the darkness.

DK: What other challenges did you face during filming?

AZ: Filming the most emotionally difficult moments – especially the mother’s funeral. They actually asked us to film it. I was filming it myself and I remember I wasn’t even sure if the footage was in focus or not because my eyes were so full of tears. I didn’t know what to do, grab the kids and hug them, or film the scene, which was very important for the story. This kind of schizophrenia, I think, is embedded in every work of a documentary film director that touches upon tragedies, traumas, dramatic events, because we have to be at the same time a psychologist who knows how to approach people and open them up, a friend who is there to support, an ‘engineer’ who takes care of the film’s construction, and an artist who has a vision. A lot to handle.

DK: You must also be distanced, not emotionally involved.

AZ: But very often it’s the friend who wins. And that’s when we put the camera away. I always try to explain why we need to film some scenes. It got better with time because the kids started to understand first English, then Polish. Now we have a fluent communication. In fact, they watched the film last week.

DK: That’s also another crucial moment, when they watch the film.

AZ: It was an amazing evening for us because Runa was enchanted by the animations. And when she saw her drawings come alive, she had her mouth wide open and told me, ‘That’s exactly how it was in my head.’

DK: Nice! What is the message you hope the audience will get by watching ‘Silent Trees’?

AZ: I wanted to show the human face of the refugee crisis. Not numbers, not distant stories. Now the European Union is debating legalising pushbacks. That means that people will be sent through the freezing forests, through the Mediterranean, back to their home countries because some bureaucratic system decides so. I wanted to give voice to the people that very often don’t have a voice.

DK: How did you work with animators to balance and bring Runa’s feelings to life?

AZ: The reason we created these animated parts was to enable the audience to see the world through Runa’s eyes, to enter her mind and experience the world through her imagination. Of course, animations are not realistic; they give us the possibility of creating worlds that don’t exist. But we based them very strongly on Runa’s drawings. She had a sketchbook filled with disturbing images, such as trees swallowing people and spitting out bones, a girl sitting on the verge of an abyss. We wanted to bring these images to life. I knew that this world, the sub-world of the film, had to be black and white, harsh but sometimes also poetic. We were visually inspired by Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel ‘Persepolis,’ which also uses a young girl’s perspective. Our animation studio, Yellow Tapir, is one of the top studios in Poland. They were very engaged with the film because of its subject matter, as they were also shocked by the refugee crisis. They studied Runa’s drawings, and we slowly developed a style based on them.

The way we worked on combining the two layers of the film is that we first filmed all the documentary scenes and only then started to work on animation. We were looking for documentary scenes that could lead into the animated world, places where animations can add something, at the same time taking care of their rhythm.

DK: You often focus on girls and women, on the female perspective. Is it a statement you want to make by telling their stories?

AZ: I think women are still not portrayed in films enough, and if they are, they are often shown as victims only. One could argue that Runa is also a victim of circumstance, yet she’s so powerful and strong, being the leader of her family and taking care of her brothers and father. This is why I fell in love with her as a documentary character, because of this strength inside her. I want to tell stories about strong women. But there is also another topic I am a bit obsessed with: outsiders. Actually, all my films in one way or another showed people outside of the mainstream – whether it’s a gypsy community (‘The Queen of Silence,’ 2014), female fighters from Tamil Tigers, an organisation designated as terrorist (‘Scars,’ 2020), or an elderly DJ (‘Vika!,’ 2023). The elderly are often outsiders as well. And Runa, as a refugee, is an outsider in our society. I think this comes from the fact that I also used to be an outsider. I was a migrant child as well, I emigrated with my family to the USA. It wasn’t the same situation Runa faces, but I found myself in a completely different world with no familiar ground beneath me. I think I empathise with people who are in situations like that. I understand what it’s like to suddenly have your life as you know it radically end.

DK: You also tell stories about stateless nations.

AZ: Yes. Roma, Tamils, Kurds…  They are also outsiders wherever they go. The need for a home is something that is very much present in my films. I think home is a basic human need, and Runa is willing to sacrifice everything to build a home for her brothers.

DK: What other aspect binds your main characters together throughout your body of work in your perspective as an artist?

AZ: I look for protagonists who have light inside them, this kind of light that shines even in total darkness. But it’s always a subconscious choice. It’s not like I set out to do an anthology about specific groups or countries. I think it’s intuition, really.

DK: Do you plan to continue making documentaries, in addition to the fiction film you are currently preparing?

AZ: Honestly, I think this is my last documentary.

DK: You’re a successful documentary filmmaker with a unique style, and now you’re venturing into fiction. Why abandon documentaries?

AZ: Because it’s just too demanding psychologically. I find myself deeply affected by the stories and characters I follow. My filmmaking process involves staying connected, not disconnecting, from the world I portray even after the editing is finished. This constant exposure to trauma is psychologically draining. We, documentary film directors, while not experiencing the same level of trauma as the victims of the conflicts we cover, are still affected by it. When you accumulate this over years and years, at some point it becomes too much. This story with Runa nearly broke me, especially being with the children on the day their mother died.

DK: Why did they ask you to film the mother’s funeral?

AZ: Their future was quite uncertain, and films can sometimes change people’s lives for the better. I don’t believe that we can solve global problems and humanitarian crises. But we can help individuals. And they felt that bringing attention to their fate, their tragedy can help them be more secure in Poland.

DK: Do you always work with the same team – the same cinematographer, editor, and composer?

AZ: Choosing a team is crucial. It’s like a marriage, working with the same people for many years as we always do in observational feature-length documentaries. With Kacper Czubak, my DOP, it’s our second film together, and we already have some new plans. But I am also open to new collaborations – as in the case of our composer. We are very lucky to have Niklas Paschburg on board. He is a very well-known musician, a true star of the arthouse music scene.

DK: What creative choices did you make about the music?

AZ: We wanted it to be subtle, minimalistic, and to evoke emotions. Through simple sounds, we wanted to make our audience feel the pain or the joy our protagonists are experiencing. It was more about subtracting than adding.

DK: How is Runa today? How is she today, how are things with her family, her father, and brothers?

AZ: Most of the film was shot in 2022. The situation is basically the same as you see at the end of the film. They have received temporary asylum. Runa is still going to school. Now she speaks perfect Polish. She still wants to become a lawyer.

Time heals, so they are a bit better now, but still moments come when this forest just enters Runa’s head, and I can see her disconnecting from the world around her. It’s a trauma that will keep on hitting back for years, if not for ever.

The film ‘Silent Trees’ is having its World Premiere at CPH:DOX in March 2024 and the Polish Premiere at Krakow Film Festival in May 2024.

passage To Europe wins Special jury award for BEST documentary at los angeles greek film festival 2021

The film was also screened at the San Francisco Greek Film Festival on 16–24 April 2021. In San Francisco it won as BEST DOCUMENTARY the jury wrote about it: 'Passage to Europe' is an intimate portrait of Fotis Psycharis, whose passion for teaching is matched only by his compassion for his charismatic students. The filmmaker’s extraordinary access and skilled technique takes the viewer past the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding global refugees to open hearts and minds to the resilient children facing unimaginable hardship. https://grfilm.com/awards/

read more on how and why the film passage to Europe, 48', 2021, directed by Dimitra Kouzi was made after Good Morning Mr Fotis, 70', 2020 HERE

Art Crimes shoot in Greece

This is the protected Delphic Landscape and us (Jacob Stark, Stefano Strocci and Dimitra Kouzi) while the shooting for part of episode 3 of “Art Crimes”, a documentary series about some of the most spectacular art heists of the 20th century! The series is produced by Stefano Strocci (Unknown Media) in co-production with RBB/ARTE, SKY Arte and will feature dramatic reconstructions of thefts, with input from those involved: the investigators, prosecutors and some of the thieves themselves.

Episode 3 brings us to Greece and the city of Itea. This is the small Greek city (15 Klm from Delphi by the sea in Fokis) were the oil producer, Ephthimios Moscadescades lived. He and his brother requested the prestigious Renaissance paintings, including two Raphael artworks. The paintings were stolen by a group of Italian and Hungarian thieves from the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest in November 1983. After an anonymous phone-call the paintings were found in a suitcase in the garden of the Tripiti Monastery in Aigio.

We shoot (also with a super 8 camera) in Itea, the breathtaking area around it towards Aigio (on the Peloponnese) and then in Athens, where we interviewed the judge Leandros Rakintzis. Save the date the amazing series will be broadcasted in more than 15 channels across Europe in 2022.

https://variety.com/2019/tv/news/art-crimes-van-gogh-the-scream-picasso-documentary-arte-sky-1203410253/

Withered Flowers

Jahanbakhsh Nouraei is a renowned Iranian film critic and lawyer. He has written vastly on movies for many years. This is an English translation of his review of Radiography of a Family by is Firouzeh Khosrovani.

Two kinds of people use x-rays films: physicians, to diagnose distortions of the body —especially broken bones— and trouble- shooting locksmiths, to open closed doors. 

(They insert the x-rays film through the narrow opening that the naked eye may not see). 

Radiograph of a Family is Firouzeh Khosrovani's feature documentary that has both skills. It shows both that which is broken, and the opening of a door to the sad garden of memories. The break and the opening of the door are both symbols of a world wider than the family home and its four walls. 

The film goes from the particular to the universal and becomes the story of numerous other families. But the small and real world of the husband and wife of this family is drawn so softly and justly that similarities, and the visible and hidden looks at the tumultuous world outside the wall, fall into place naturally and without exaggeration. 

The woman and man's beliefs, attachments, and values slowly end up in opposition to one another. The beliefs of each one is not fake, but genuine. They emerge from within and inevitably drag the family into a war that, despite attachments, has no result other than the reversal of the man and woman's positions and their emotional separation. Both are flowers whose petals are scattered by opposing winds, in a marriage that began with love. 

The father has Western beliefs and behaviors. He is happy and filled with vigor. He has studied in Switzerland and become a physician there. The mother is religious, God-fearing, and worried about falling into sinful behavior. In between the two, their daughter is a neutral narrator who opens the faded notebook of days, and tells of the events and struggles, alongside mother's and father's voices.  

The father does not resist the course of events; as he loses everything that he loves, he slowly withdraws into himself and, with melancholy, prepares to leave a world that is no longer his. 

From the narrator's viewpoint, father and mother's union began with a visual attraction. The very first sentence we hear from her at the beginning of the film is "Mother married father's photograph." Father has taken one look at his future wife and mother has seen a photo of her future husband, they like each other and get married. But the photo portrait of the groom that takes the place of his warm body and breath at the wedding ceremony, bodes a cold future.

In this film, photographs are the instruments and links of a tense union between two different cultures and beliefs; the cracks in this union, brought about by a slow domestic rebellion, meanwhile find their wider reflection out on the streets that are brimming with revolt and social change. Home and outside the home are two parallel worlds that reflect each other like intertwined mirrors. The photos, aided by the spoken text and the simple, meaningful dialogues, communicate like the beads of a rosary, become memorable, advance the story, converse with the music, fall silent and finally collapse and surrender to being burned and torn to pieces. The broken-hearted father dies quietly in his sleep and the mother stays behind to move about in her wheeled walker, to seek refuge in her usual, old sacred ideal, and to have her life continue in this way. 

The walker as a real object acts as a cane for a weak human being; yet at the same time represents the paralysis of a rebellious soul, and speaks of the fate of a woman of traditional beliefs who was forced to go skiing in Swiss mountains, an act that damaged her body and soul — the damage that stays with her to the end, and is irreparable. This X-rays image aligns with father's profession, radiologist; and the real distortions of a wife's spinal column link symbolically to an intellectual and social current to which the mother takes part, finding broader meaning.

After her skiing accident mother said repeatedly that it was as though her back were split in two. Thus, she seeks peace of mind and the cure to a split identity in the therapeutic space of the Revolution. The ideals are expected to help her heal the spinal column of her oppressed soul, release her from the wounds of a foreign culture, and with God's help, to allow the withered flower to blossom again in the passion and zeal of revolutionary romanticism. 

The anti-tradition culture did not suppress her in Switzerland only. In the time that she was made to live in that country, where their daughter was conceived, the signs of Western culture began to influence and infiltrate her home land at great speed also. The land of her ancestors now looked like Geneva. 

Still, Fortune favors the mother, and her rebellious desire, after returning to Iran, finds a suitable outlet in the enthusiastic slogans of Dr. Ali Shariati, flag-bearer of anti-government religion. This revolt becomes more audacious daily, and a spring that had been pressured into coiling begins to expand. 

It does so within the family, it accelerates, the power equation collapses, and mother forces father — whom she often calls "monsieur" -- into sad retreat. The rearrangement of furniture according to mother's tastes causes father's decorations to fade, the balance of power is disturbed. Mother's progress is guaranteed just like the relentless victories of the trenches in battle scenes. The colors at home tend towards grey; a feeling of mourning and the absence of passion, delicacy, affection scatter over the home.  The re-arrangement of furniture causes destruction and renovation to intermingle, and recalls the verses of the poet M. Azad that: "From these rains – I know – this house will be ruined. Ruined." 

The climax of events occurs when the mother says good-bye to her unpleasant and "sinful" past in the effort to solidify her new position, and she tears up the photographs that, for her, represent giving in to sin and to foreign influences.  

Mother's act creates the impression that one of the aims and advantages of toppling values during revolutionary zeal is to deny the past and burn its signs, both in matrimonial life and in society. Here, the narrator's role becomes slowly more prominent and she does not remain silent faced with the ruin of the home and the removal of the past.  The narrator enters the scene and we witness her small hands connecting the fragmented pieces of the family's heritage and memories; if she cannot find a missing piece, she paints it in herself with the help of her imagination and her longings.  White and red and green, accompanied by engaging majestic music, take the place of the cold and empty area, and the space takes on a hopeful tone. It is as though the past of a family and a country whose to be recognized again wins over to be forgotten and thrown away. 

The form and narrative of the film do the same, by juxtaposing retrieved photos and faded old films, giving the past new life, making us look at it differently and ask where we stand. 

At the end of the film, which is a new beginning, the viewpoint changes and the camera looks from above, as though through the invisible eye of history, at the girl who lies in a white dress among an ocean of torn up photographs and is busy reconstructing and breathing new life into them. This delicate and effective scene can become a positive sign for a new generation, to bring one's home back to life; a home that, with all its joys and fleeting happy moments, in the end had nothing but bitterness and despair neither for itself nor for its wandering inhabitants. 

What more can a documentary be?

As the future fast approaches, Dimitra Kouzi, raises questions about how evolving technologies are impacting the way we produce and present information
published in Modern Times Review (the European Documentary Magazine) autumn issue 2018.


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

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)

Syria faces of War, an interview

Prix Europa 2014
"Our film was shoot from 2012 to August 2013. The situation is now much worse." Syria - Faces of War was chosen for its "serious, crucial and honest" view of real war. The film is based on the photographs of Finnish photographer Niklas Meltio, and is directed by Yle's Vesa Toijonen and Ari Lehikoinen (left).

This is the second year running that a Prix Europa award has gone to a Finnish production - last year the documentary The Punk Syndrome scooped the best TV documentary prize for its colorful portrayal of a rock band suffering from learning disabilities.

This year it was a Finnish documentary who has won the Prix Europa award for Best European TV current affairs programme in Berlin!

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Prix Europa 2014, at the Haus des Rundfunks

Syria - Faces of War was chosen for its "serious, crucial and honest" view of real war. The film is based on the photographs of Finnish photographer Niklas Meltio, and is directed by Yle's Vesa Toijonen and Ari Lehikoinen. Accepting his award, director Ari Lehikoinen dedicated the win to all the journalists killed during the Syrian conflict. And here is the interview with both the directors Vesa Toijonen and Ari Lehikoinen.

How would you describe the world that we live today to someone who does not know anything about it? 

The world is a mess. There are an awful lot of things going on that need understanding and explanation. Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.

What was your personal experience in Syria?
VESA:
It was not as bad as I expected - after following the media coverage. I compared the situation with my experience in Sarajevo during the war. In Aleppo there was electricity and running water even in the front line. We had tea and there was a possibility to use toilet before filming the fighters. In Sarajevo this was out of question!
There seemed to be food and medicine available - unlike, again. in Sarajevo. And of course Aleppo was not besieged like Sarajevo - nobody stopped us from driving into the city. No way in Sarajevo.
The city of Aleppo was destroyed but less than one could expect according to news reports. Buildings in the front lines, yes, but a couple of blocks behind the lines the life continued quite normally. But the life was not normal, that is sure.

ARI: Wars have to be portrayed authentically, although many seem to think it doesn’t really go with your morning coffee. Wars are often sugar-coated in the media. We try to avoid that. Our film was shoot from 2012 to August 2013. The situation is now much worse.

What were the difficulties that you have to overcome while shooting and editing the film? In Aleppo and in Syria we faced the normal difficulties: snipers, risk of shelling and air-bombing. We took a lot of time to avoid the troops that had started kidnapping visiting foreigners. Yet, we managed to have lunch in a same restaurant with al-Nusra fighters.
In the desert between Iraq and Syria the most difficult was to balance between the desperate refugees and your own feelings to help them. And yet you can not - we are there to film their escape, not to distribute water or food. Some people understand, not everyone.
When we start cut the film the editor said; “What a hell, so much stills, don’t you know that  we should make a movie!”

Did you try to make an objective film?
VESA:
We always do, but personally I learned a very important lesson in Sarajevo when I tried to explain the concept of objectivism in Western journalism. "So you mean that we should all be treated equally, also the sniper who is trying to kill me when I carry water buckets and can not escape", my landlady asked me one cold morning. We waited a "safe" moment to fill the water tanks in her apartment. Since that discussion I think that there is a difference between a sniper and a victim and objectivity is not always the main purpose.

ARI: There is such fine line between the objective documentary and biased one. It’s quite hard to find a documentary which I would consider to be truly objective, but I do think that it’s possible to objectively capture reality in some documentaries.
The only way to give face to this war, was to be on the ground with the men, women and children who are central to it.

Please describe your film in 2-3 lines.

It is a true story.
War is ugly. True faces of the war; raw, grotesque and full of tears and pain.

What can't we see in the film?
The most horrified pictures .

We were also very careful choosing images of patients in a psychiatric hospital in Aleppo. People were left alone in a makeshift hospital, without medication. We wanted to respect these people and left out most of the pictures.

What is your next film about?
ARI: My film is “Skeleton in the closet”. It’s totally different film than “Faces of war”. It’s one man’s story. We all have secrets: the ones we keep, and the ones that are kept from us.
VESA: One carries working title "Frozen war". It is about the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. the war has stopped - but only for a moment and there are speculations that Russian politicians would like to freeze the situation as it is now - to control it better.
People living in war torn villages do not care about speculations. They would like to get their houses warm before winter comes. Refugees would like to go back but they can not. They suffer between war and peace. We also show how a real "frozen war" looks like. Refugees in Nagorno-Karabakh have waited 20 years that one way or another the confict could be solved and they could return to their houses. But the houses do not exist any more. Only ruins are left. - so is this also the future for Ukraine?

It seams to me that a lot of people in Europe have forgotten or care less about what is still happening in Syria. Why?
We have a nice word for this: we "war-fatigue". We grow tired when there is no progress. Actually we all grow tired, not only journalists and our audiences, but politicians who try to find solutions, aid workers, even fighters become apathetic or desperate. And local people, both those who decided to stay and refugees in camps all over Middle East.

See the trailer here

Is this Greece’s next prime minister?

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Hope on the line (Greece, 2013, 73 min.), directed by Alexandros Papanikolaou & Emily Giannoukou, follows the leader of the Greek radical-left party Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, during the course of a year, from the campaign for the close-call June 2012 elections to the sudden shutdown of the Greek public broadcasting corporation (ERT) in June 2013. Shedding light on Tsipras' personality, political views and ambitions, the film includes insider's footage from the party, the views of militants and high-ranked members, and witnesses decision-making processes both in Greece and abroad. From the frontline man, Alexis Tsipras, up to the party's Political Bureau, strategy is being built, political lines evolve, another future for the nation is timidly being imagined. Within the political turmoil, Greek citizens seek answers to their fundamental and dramatic questioning. The very status of the country is at stake: its place in Europe, its future and destiny.

What is so fascinating about this story?


The economic crisis in Greece, as well as elsewhere in Southern Europe led public opinion to take an introverted turn and installed a sense of distrust toward traditional politicians. Thus, the center parties, as in most European countries, are struggling to stay in power, while extreme groupings and radical parties are rising in the polls. In Greece, where the crisis worsened dramatically in a very short period of time, and where democracy is expressed directly as a result of the country's electoral system, the fact that Syriza might take power becomes all the more significant. Syriza rose from 4.5% to 27% in less than three months, and became the second-largest party in Greece and the leading opposition party.



Alexis Tsipras has an intriguing personality. An ambiguous and lesser-known figure until recently, he now stands a great chance of becoming the next prime minister of Greece. He is fairly experienced despite his young age. Thus, he was able to change the political scene in the country and win the support of voters who have grown disenchanted with the old parties.



This film shows the transformation of Syriza during the month that preceded the election, also seeking to reveal the actual goings-on within the party in order to provide a better understanding of the way decisions are taken. During the last campaign, we saw the young and charismatic Alexis Tsipras emerge as a true threat to his opponents, even if he was narrowly defeated in the end because of the debate over the euro. He managed to change the way his party is perceived by centre-ground voters and got a spectacular number of votes.



Through this documentary, we focus on Alexis Tsipras' personality during a crucial historical moment. We also try to provide insight into the political views that emerge from discussions behind closed doors, inside the party, how these views evolve and how Tsipras presents these ideas to the public, as well as how he shapes public opinion and becomes a symbol of opposition to the memorandum. Our aim was to sketch the image of a political persona during this difficult political juncture in Greece at which society is trying to regain its bearings.

Read the complete interview with Alexandros Papanikolaou & Emily Giannoukou.

Watch the official trailer.