Tag Archives: idfa

Interview with Zaradasht Ahmed, dir. Nowhere to Hide

Interview by Zaradasht Ahmed, director Nowhere to Hide IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary, to Dimitra Kouzi.

How did you get involved with this story?
Zaradasht Ahmed: The idea started in Afghanistan, back in 2008. The mainstream media was not telling the whole truth about the American and Coalition invasion of Afghanistan and its fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban, so together with Dr. Husum (a human rights activist and war surgeon), we worked to recruit local medics and journalists to document first-hand information from areas where most of the media did not have access. We initially wanted to make a film on this “new war”. We called the project “the new war machine”. We focused on exploring the type of war: what it is; is it different; is it between countries (a frontal war); or is it transborder warfare without fronts. Two years later, in 2010, we moved the concept to Iraq. I was sure that this “new war” would emerge in cities there. That was our main intention. We started with that idea, but gradually we ended up with a character-based, very intense film about Nori. In this case, it was the situation that drove me to change the direction of the film, and not the other way round.

How did you meet Nori?
Nori was one of the twelve medics we trained in Iraq. He singled himself out by being very interested in documenting and filming in the areas called “no-go zones”; places organisations, doctors and journalists do not have access to. He did not know much about filming to start with, but he was interested, and he had the will. That is how it started. Nori comes from one of these “no-go zones” – a town called Jalawla, in Diayala Province in central Iraq.

Your origin is Kurdish and you live in Norway. How did you get there?
We eventually moved our “base” to Sulaymaniyah in Northern Iraq, where I originally come from. Diyala Province is three and a half hours from where I lived, and it is my mother’s home town. The medical organisation led by Dr. Husum and the local Kurdish doctor, Dr. Modhafar, was based in Sulaymaniyah, so it was natural that we ended up there. In addition, Sulaymaniyah is a safe base to work from.

You don’t live in Sulaymaniyah anymore. How many years have you been living in Norway?
I have lived in Norway for 22 years.

Do you feel privileged because of that, or do you feel in as if you are still in exile? What is your relation to your home country?
After getting Norwegian citizenship I can move freely, and that makes me feel privileged. I have been living in exile since the early 1990s, soon to be 26 years now, so it is difficult to compare my situation to Nori’s. Nori has been forced to leave his home and has been placed in an IDP camp (a camp for Internally Displaced People), and it is important not to mix the terms “Internally Displaced People” with “people in exile”. I chose to leave because of the political situation in my country; Nori was forced. Therefore, my interest in following Nori’s story is not due to our similarities, to be honest. My other film, Fata Morgana, was about exile and the desire to seek a better life elsewhere.

You worked on this film for five long years.
I like long-term documentaries. I like to spend years on my films, on my subjects, on my characters because I believe that film is storytelling. It is also about some unique moments that we call the moments of truth. These moments won’t happen unless you spend a lot of time with your characters, you have to get behind many layers to reach the heart of what the feeling is; and the truth is often found under all these layers.

How much is your original footage in the film, and how much is Nori’s footage? When it comes to the footage, the entire shooting of the film has been a complicated process spanning over five years. We started with collecting material from several sources. Following the dramaturgy of the film, you could break it up simply like this: The first act is shot mainly by me, but when Nori starts to be trapped in Jalawla, he is on his own, and the first-hand accounts from the fall of the town, the collapse of the hospital through the fleeing all the way to the IDP camp was shot by Nori. Towards the end of the film, the scenes of returning to the hospital and the entire final act are mainly shot by me again.

How much material did you have? 300–400 hours.

How did you manage to make this storyline emerge out of all this material?
It is really difficult to answer that question. It is the result of team work. By being open to the changes, allowing me to go further, to focus more on Nori and his personal point of view. We went from a story with questions such as: “Is it possible to live in a war without fronts, without a visible army of only faceless solders?” to a personal story of one man and his family trying to survive a highly brutal warfare, told in a dramatic film. That was a major change for us. One of the toughest challenges making the film was not the material itself, but the need to pursue that material further, because once you start following a character you have to put all your effort into him, and you need to build the scenes that will enable you to create that storyline. In the middle of this process, Nori’s town became a living hell; suddenly ISIS came and the hospital was being bombed, he was targeted and had to flee with his family. At this point we could not leave him there, we had to keep following. I found myself sitting for days and nights in Iraq because I had no access into the area, as it was controlled by ISIS. So I was calling, directing, helping, cheering him up and constantly talking to him, because he felt really down during that phase.

To read the complete interview in PDF format click HERE

From Siberia with love

Olga Delane, Interview to Dimitra Kouzi About her documentary Siberian LOVE official idfa selection 2016

What does a woman need to be happy and fulfilled? After 20 years of living in Berlin, the film director Olga goes back to her roots in a small Siberian village, where she is confronted with traditional views of relationships, life and love.

Dimitra Kouzi: Olga, where are you from?
Olga Delane: People consider me a Russian in Germany and a German in Russia. My great great grandmother’s name was Wilhelmine; she moved from Germany to Russia 200 years ago. The fact is that I am a German-Russian who moved back to Germany 20 years ago. I grew up under the Soviet culture, so I am a ‘Soviet’, too, even though the USSR is no longer. I was lucky to move to Germany with my parents when I was only 16 years old. Ultimately, I can feel at home everywhere. This is a great privilege.

What is your film about?
On the one hand, it is an opportunity for viewers to discover a place such as Siberia, which for most people is a remote, extreme and exotic place. How do people live in Siberia? You can experience that in the film. Viewers can feel very close to the people who live there. Get to know them. On the other hand, this is a film about relationships – human relationships between men and women, family relationships. This is the basic storyline for the film. I live in a country (Germany) in which there are many opportunities in all aspects of life. As a free person, I am tempted to try them all, to experience, to evolve. On the other hand, the pace of life prevents us from experiencing all that we want, and to evolve as human beings, to taste this life and learn from our choices. In this incredible and inexhaustible freedom, there is less and less room for family, relationships, children. We are a generation that cannot develop relationships.

How did you find the village?
A few years ago, in 2009, my father took me to the village and introduced me to relatives and friends. It is a Cossack village; once there lived 700 families, now there are only 50, mainly working on land and animal-farming. It’s a small scale. Here, people can dream that they will win one million, but they cannot ‘conceive’ a sum of one billion. When I first visited, word got around that I was an American journalist. If you carry a camera, you are a journalist for them.

Would you ‘survive’ in that village?
I haven’t tried. I know I need to be in constant motion: do projects, have plans; I have to do something all the time. I guess I would be very anxious, sooner or later, or even aggressive. I have the feeling that people there do not develop. Everything stays the same. Undoubtedly, when you arrive at a place like that, a village where time has stopped, devoid of big-city ‘temptations’, there is no pressure to have a ‘career; there is no advertising, no internet – there is no telephone line sometimes. You are then forced to deal with the inhabitants of this place, and with your own, Western lifestyle.

olga-schonWhat about the women?
The basis of a woman’s life in the village is caring, working and children. She is safe. We in our world are far away from that. We have much higher expectations, but in the meantime we lost track in dealing with this freedom.

What was your biggest challenge (technically and/or emotionally)?My first shock was when one of my leading characters refused to be in the film. A German woman who got married to a Siberian hunter. I had to travel two days by train and two days by boat to reach her. I lived in her village (population 57) for two weeks because there was no boat for me to leave. On the other hand, this enabled me to work very well. One month after filming, she decided she did not wish to participate in the film and prohibited me from using the material.
What was even harder was when, one night before leaving for Siberia, something happened to our cameraman and he had to cancel his trip. We only had 10 hours to find a replacement. It could not be someone from Germany, as we would have to get them a visa, and we could not afford new extra-expensive tickets to Siberia. A thriller. In the end, we found a solution. We found a young talented and motivated cameraman in Siberia who, in addition, had his own equipment. There were emotional difficulties, too. When one of my leading characters died.

Did this experience change you?
Yes, for me my protagonists are a symbol of endurance and strength. Despite their hard life they manage not to complain, but go through life as it comes. When I have problems, I immediately think of them and calm down. And what was for me only a suspicion before filming, that we need to keep our egos outside of a relationship, was confirmed. Yet, this is a huge process of working with ourselves.

Take us into your editing room. What decisions did you have to make while editing the film?
First of all, to decide to start editing! I have not been to film school. And I had only one prior experience. But for that previous film there were no financiers who had requirements. We just did what we liked. For Siberian Love, everybody had expectations already about where the story should go. And we had tons of material after four years of shooting. We had filmed using three different cameras in different qualities, and we had six families as protagonists. My editor, Phillip Gromov, with his passion, helped me a lot to manage all this enormous work. It is not important what you prefer, but how you will make a good film.

Click to Watch the trailer 

 

Sigrid Dyekjær gives Greek Producers practical tips!

Sigrid Dyekjær is one of the most experienced producers in Denmark when it comes to national documentary production and international cooperation. In financing, producing and creative consulting Dyekjær has an extraordinary ability to knock in doors and break down boundaries in the film-industry.
sigrid3

Young Greek producers are struggling. Could you give them some practical tips?

Go international. Always think of how you can bring your film up for an international audience, how you can finance it internationally, and how you can move your film language in a direction where it is understandable, and emotional engaging to an international audience. In Denmark we accepted a long time ago, that nobody speaks danish in the world. We only have 5 million people in our country. If we should live by making films, we simply had to get our films out to the world. Nothing is happening in Denmark, we have the most boring, safe country in the world. But we were all brought up with Hans Christian Andersen, and the way he tells a story. So telling a story, no-matter weather it is from Denmark or where ever it is, can be done in a way, where other people, from other countries can understand it. To us it is not so important whether it is a good story, but it is important HOW you tell the story. Hans Christian Andersen is running in our blood, no doubt about that, his trademark was how the story was told, what was the outer story, the story your thought you were listening to, but underneath that, there was more to it, a deeper lawyer that went right into your bones and reminded you of something in your own life. I am sure the Greeks can do this; I am sure they can tell Greek stories in an international way. And there is so much more money to get hold of internationally than in Greece.

What makes for a good story? Sigrid Dyekjær knows the secrets

Sigrid Dyekjaer
Photo credit: Marcin Kułakowski, PISF

Sigrid Dyekjær is one of the most experienced producers in Denmark when it comes to national documentary production and international cooperation. In financing, producing and creative consulting Dyekjær has an extraordinary ability to knock in doors and break down boundaries in the film-industry. Her latest documentary FREE THE MIND has so far sold 13.000 tickets in Danish cinemas and proved that there is indeed an audience for feature length documentaries.
Besides her work at Danish Documentary Sigrid teaches at the National Film School of Denmark, as well as doing master classes and lectures at film schools around the world, eg. her lecture ‘Bridging the Gab’ on documentary filmmaking and international pitching-sessions.

Sigrid is educated in dramaturgy from the University in Aarhus, and has been a part-owner of the production company Tju –Bang Film before she became part-owner of Danish Documentary Production.

What makes for a good story?

In my world there is no great story, there are only great Directors!

What is the connecting line between The monastery, Mechanical Love, The Good Life, Ai Weiwei, and all the other successful docs you have produced? (Ballroom Dancer…)

They all have really great directors. They are great storytellers, they invest themselves. and have a vision. The films are not perfect films, but they are personal films. I feel there is a director behind them, with a clear vision of what they want to tell, and they take care of telling it in an entertaining way, emotional way, so I get engaged as an audience.

onlineandupintheair
You tell stories on the ground, on line and up in the air. You obviously are a hard-worker. How do you manage your work and private life?

I guess there never is a real answer to this, but my best answer is, I meditate, I do yoga 2-3 times a week – that helps me. AND I LOVE MY WORK.

Slots and strands in television are shrinking; the young audience does not watch TV anymore. Productions receive less and less funding. Yet, thousands of documentaries are produced every year and are screened in hundreds of festivals. Where can all this go? What is the future of docs?

I think we are in a time of change. Where a film previously was produced and distributed liniear, we now have the film in the center, circulated by a lot of possibilities around us. It forces us to think differently about our film, to be with our film in the center of it all, and look at all the possibilities we have around us. It has never been more fun to distribute your film, there are so many possibilities, ways of doing it, so much audience around the world you can get in contact with. Now you just have to learn tools, ways, social traffic in order to get in contact with them, but boy it is so much more fun! As long as we make great films, there is always an audience for them, you just have to find it.

Did you see any good films lately?
Tons – the new selection of films we will work with at this years Dok Incubator where I teach. Just wait until autumn, you will see 8 new wonderful films coming out of this program.

Stay on the blog ! there is more coming…

Talking about successful producing with Sigrid Dyekjær

May I introduce you (if you do not know her already) to the Queen of Danish documentary film, Sigrid Dyekjær, who runs Danish Documentary Production. I have always wanted to interview her, to try to discover why her wand is magic!

sigrid2
You are regarded as the queen of production! What makes you and your team so successful?

Ha ha ha… I never said I was the queen of Danish documentary film; thank god there are a lot of queens in my country doing this. But I think what is special about us, is we never sacrifice the film in order to deliver. We rather want to spend 1-2 more years in developing the film, if we feel it is not there yet or even produce it for 2-3 years more, if it is not at the level where we feel we can get it, than finish it. It is a priveledge, but we will do it. We don´t think of ourselves in this, we only think about our film, and our audience. we don´t want to disappoint them.

Denmark is a small country with a big film industry ­­- why is that?
We have quite good State funding. They have decided, even in financial crises, that giving money to culture and films is good; it makes people happy to see good films, and they get inspired, it gives a better mood and wellbeing to the people. The state has decided that you should be able to watch danish films in both cinema and on TV, so they have even given TV money to spent on films – only.
We also have a very professional industry now in Denmark, due to more money, a better film school.

Stay tunded! The article is going to be continued…

IDFA WorldView Summer School 2013

IDFA is looking for emerging documentary film talent!

From July 1 through July 6 2013, IDFA organizes the sixth edition of the Summer School: a tailor-made training program for emerging filmmakers, taking place in Amsterdam and aimed at strengthening the narrative structure of documentary projects. Around sixteen projects from all over the world will be selected for the Summer School 2013. The deadline for submission is April 1, 2013.

The IDFA WorldView Summer School is open to:
• Directors making their first or second feature documentary
• Ten projects in the script development phase and six projects in the rough-cut phase
• Creative documentary projects

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

Filmmakers who are selected have the opportunity to bring a sparring partner: a creative producer, a co-scriptwriter, or an editor in the case of participation in Editing Consultancy. If a project is selected, a project fee of €750 (excluding VAT) is due.
Participants will be coached by eight international documentary experts. In previous years experts like Carmen Cobos (Producer, the Netherlands), Kate Townsend (Executive Producer BBC Storyville, UK), Sabine Bubeck-Paaz (Commissioning Editor ZDF, Germany), Debra Zimmerman (Distributor Women Make Movies, USA), Erez Laufer (Editor, Israel), Peter Wintonick (Producer/ Director, Canada), Audrius Stonys (Director, Lithuania) and Janus Metz (Director, Denmark) were tutors at the Summer School.

For information about the IDFA WorldView Summer School and how to apply, see www.idfa.nl/summerschool

Greek productions at idfa (Amsterdam)

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the greatest European documentary festival,idfa, is taking place until November 25 2012 in Amsterdam.
Follow the proceedings at idfa’s well-laid-out website.
To premiere and compete in Amsterdam is Dimitris Athiridis’ film One step ahead on Yannis Boutaris, mayor of Thessaloniki. In Greece, the film will be screened in the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in March. It will also be aired during the ARTE special day-long feature on Greece, in May 2013.
Also participating in the EBU pitching: Agora (Εxandas), The New Plastic Road (Myrto Papadopoulos and Angelos Tsaoussis) and Little Land (Nikos Dayandas, Anemon Productions-Rea Apostolides). Based on my idea and research, Little Land is taking place on the island of Icaria. It will be aired as part of the day-long television tribute to Greece by ARTE in May 2013. Also in idfa’s main pitch on Monday November 19 2012 in Amsterdam, the Greek-produced and -directed documentary Kismet (Nina-Maria Paschalidou, Anemon Productions-Rea Apostolides) on Turkish TV soap-operas.

http://www.google.gr/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDUQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.idfa.nl%2Findustry%2Ftags%2Fproject.aspx%3Fid%3Db9a824a0-de9b-4c8e-a86a-6f9e0f454409&ei=TQrJUJr3Ised0QXh4ICIDw&usg=AFQjCNGkuIaIaRr3DKCGG7Xhu7MLkHbwSg&sig2=SynFUKHsZqHLYOigJj0hXg&bvm=bv.1355272958,d.d2k