Concerned film-makers / producers / distributors / institutions of nearly 15
films have confirmed the participation of their films!
(Pending a few nuts & bolts like shipping, copies, etc.)
Do tease your mind a bit with the following overview of films.
Of course, you can go directly to the Synopses. Click here.
The themes will carry you into myriad worlds: the meaning of sauna, the life of a coal miner, insomnia, ethics of war images on screen, when floods kill people, an island where people live without electricity or water, a treasure of Dostoevskyian culture in exile, exploitative gold mining, a view on abortion, childhood, building a vanquished village, modern day workplaces, Down's syndrome, a view on being deaf & dumb, a woman's search for identity in an ipod world, a personal past-and-modern story of Israel, immigration and broken dreams, food and war, coming to terms with suicide, arson as terror without killing a human, space and society in a desert.
The films will come from diverse countries like Finland, Sweden, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Egypt, Palestine, France, UK, India, New Zealand, USA, Czech Republic, Russia, Mexico, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Spain, Austria, Slovakia, among others.
Many of these are award winning films and have been carefully chosen by the DOK Leipzig team to offer the festival visitors a wide viewing experience.
The choice represents various genres like the Creative Documentary, Classic, Observational, Cinema Verité, Animated Doc, Current Affairs, Investigative, Re-enacted Documentary and Epic Essay.
In five intensive days of viewing, it brings you a world of Humour, Society, Family, Religion, Art, Philosophy, History, Politics, Social Issues, Climate Change, Democracy, Culture, Music, Literature, War, Violence.
So, stay updated with the website and sign up for this unique opportunity to view some of the best international documentaries from DOK Leipzig brought to you by FORMEDIA.
SYNOPSES OF FILMS
Steam of Life (Miesten vuoro)
Director: Joonas Berghäll
Producer: Joonas Berghäll, Oktober Oy
Finland/Sweden 2010, 81 min
DOK Leipzig Silver Dove 2010
When you hear that in Finland pouring water on the hot rocks of a sauna is called "löyli", which also translates as 'scorching breath', you feel more and more certain that there must be something about this country! In "Steam of Life", contemporaries from all walks of life in very diverse saunas tell deeply moving stories of love and hate, birth and death, loneliness and hope. The heat opens pores and hearts, souls and bodies go soft, and even tears blend very well into already sweaty faces. Directors Mika Hotakainen and Joonas Berghäll invite us to attend the ceremony of physical and spiritual cleansing. The result is pure catharsis, on screen and in the auditorium. Interspersed between the scenes, episodes and stories are contemplative images of a comforting nature. A film that switches effortlessly between elegy and bittersweet comedy, getting more intense until a finale that couldn't possibly be topped.
A Piece of Summer (Kawalek lata)
Director : Marta Minorowicz
Producer : Liwia Madzik, Polish Filmmakers Association Munk Studio
Poland 2010, 24 min
DOK Leipzig Golden Dove for the best Short Documentary 2010
The old man, his grandson and the forest. A sensualist pastoral scene from the area over the hills – fairytale country. The old man is a charcoal burner, a bulky figure marked by a strenuous profession, but almost always cheerful and caring through and through. The boy is probably spending the last summer of his childhood there. They don't have much to talk about, but why talk when the forest with its incredibly rich tapestry of sounds is omnipresent. At some point a few words are spoken after all: the boy climbed a tree, assisted by his grandfather. The old man asks, "What do you see from up there?" The boy, "The same as from down there. Just from above." "But can you see the sunrise better?" "Yes." These holidays must be paradise for the boy. But it is a paradise without a perspective, expulsion guaranteed, for which sensible young man would want to be a charcoal burner today? The old man and his grandson don't talk about this, but they know. For now they enjoy the glittering lake, washing themselves in the brook with the fish that may bite. Or maybe not. Carpe diem.
Director : Jacqueline Zünd
Producer : Patrick M. Müller, Docmine
Switzerland/Germany 2010, 77 min
DOK Leipzig Honorary Mention 2010
Anyone who believes that the same night awaits us all is wrong. Because for those who can't sleep, the night is one thing above all: a surplus of time, which must be filled and somehow passed. This is the subject of "Goodnight Nobody", which follows four people from four continents who share their insomniac fate. To sleep always means to forget and hope for the new day, too. This does not apply to the protagonists of Jacqueline Zünd's film. Their thoughts are never at rest; their senses are overwrought while at the same time they keep dissolving in a never ending waking dream. There is no tomorrow for them, only a vague now that must be borne. The visual border between reality and fantasy begins to melt, too, as do the borders between the different continents, until a new, hypnotic space emerges – the undiscovered country of insomnia, filled by loneliness, wandering ghosts, restlessness, boredom and lots of artificial light. It may take away the horror of darkness, but can never quite vanquish it. This beautifully photographed film would be painfully melancholic if it wasn't for Jérémie from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, the night watchman of the municipal open air theatre. He cut out an eye – the one he can never close – from a magazine and pasted it to the wall of his office. A cheerful symbol of his love of the night.
(DOK Leipzig catalogue, Matthias Heeder)
Gaza on Air (Gaza crève l'écran)
Director : Samir Abdallah
Egypt/Palestine/France, 2010, 90 min
DOK Leipzig Honorary Mention 2010
You don't want to see this: fleeing people looking for relatives in the middle of a bomb attack, dying people everywhere, intestines and brains pouring from their bodies, corpses mutilated or burned beyond recognition, the doctors' struggle for the life of a child, the child's wide and astonished eyes the moment the bullet hit its mark – it was a surprise attack. And you don't want to hear it: the howling sirens, the bomb blasts and again and again the desperate scream: "Allahu akbar!"
Can one show this? May one? What do the images do with us? Do they numb our feelings or shake them up? Humans have thought about the issue of the representation of horrors ever since they started to produce art. When Israel opened war on Gaza on 27 December 2008 and did not permit foreign media to film on location, Palestinian cameramen and journalists had to deal with it directly. Samir Abdallah shows us their material and asks them, in a deliberately matter-of-fact setting – crime does not tolerate ornaments – how one can bring oneself to film this, at which moment the camera must be put aside, what the images did with them and what their relationship to the real pain and death is.
This turns "Gaza on Air" into a harsh reflection on war and the documentary genre; down to the question why Gaza wasn't "on air", at least not in the Western media, as the nightmare that it was. And whether the world might not be different if we saw what we don't want – or are not supposed to? – see.
Flood of Memory (Baad ki raat)
Director : Anitha Balachandran
Producer/Contact : Jane Colling, Royal College of Art - Animation Department,
UK/India, 2008, 11 min
In August 2006, the monsoon hit the Indian province of Rajasthan like a flood. It rained without a break for 25 days. The people of the village of Dhonda fled to a nearby hill, but the water caught up with them. "Flood of Memory" by the Indian book illustrator and animation film director, Anitha Balachandran, tells the story of the Teenalal family in a mixture of real and animated film. All materials are dyed brown – as brown as the flood that killed countless people.
There Once Was an Island
Director : Briar March
Producer : Lyn Collie, On the Level Productions
New Zealand/USA, 2010, 80 min
Filmpreis "Leipziger Ring" for the best documentary on the subject of democracy 2010
Climate change: No car has ever driven around on the island of Nukutoa, whose 400 inhabitants live off nature without electricity or money. But the 500 metre long Pacific atoll is sinking under rapidly rising sea levels and the saltwater destroys the taro harvest.
For three years, the film accompanies Satty and Telo, two fishermen who, along with their families and their whole community, face a difficult decision: should they accept the government's offer to resettle them on the mainland and live safe from the waters, but in poverty and dependent on social welfare? Or should they stick to their own economy, Polynesian culture and tradition and stay? Which of the prophets speaking at the village debates should they listen to? One of those prophets is Endar, who already lives on the mainland and sees civilisation as a chance for education and self-realisation.
They soon realise that they can expect nothing from the government. The islanders start to organise themselves and invite scientists to the island, who predict that it could be saved – if only there was enough money. But like the islanders and the film crew, they are surprised by a flood of unprecedented proportions that leaves them next to no time for reflection ...
As full of suspense as a thriller, with breathtaking images, but still a tragedy – though with a vestige of hope, which grows when people put their faith in the community and not into politics.
All That Glitters (Mlceti zlato)
Director/Producer : Tomás Kudrna, Armada Films
Czech Republic 2010, 99 min
Healthy Workplaces Film Award, MDR Award for the best Eastern European Documentary 2010
Work, Caucasian Region
In the mountains of Kirgizia, Czech filmmaker Tomás Kudrna comes across a huge mine where the workers excavate their country's gold to boost the profits of a Canadian corporation. He smells "a good subject about Westerners exploiting a poor, post-Soviet country". Naturally, the corporation is suspicious about his plans and mobilises model workers and projects: happy farmers with sponsored machinery, new schools and hospitals. At the same time, Kudrna comes across a serious hushed up accident involving highly toxic cyanide which is used on a huge scale. An abundance of Soviet pioneer and military folklore plays its own part in shaping the project as expected.
But in the course of a process accompanied by Kudrna's self-mocking commentary, the image turns from black and white to many shades of grey. Kudrna finds an impoverished country where Kumtor is the only ray of hope. Nobody else here has a job. The principle by which donations are distributed, though – divide and rule – is dubious, yet the locals, from the small farmer to the president of the country, seem ready to submit to it. Freedom of opinion or resistance are foreign words. When Kudrna asks three girls whether they live in a socialist, capitalist or democratic country, they can't decide. It's easy to see why.
I Will Forget This Day (Ja zabudu etot den')
Director : Alina Rudnickaja
Russia 2011, 25 min
MDR Award for the best Eastern European Documentary 2011
The camera remains fixed on the women's faces to give us an idea what they are thinking. They can still change their minds in this waiting room before they enter the operating room for their "procedure". But the truth is that the die has long been cast – against a child, because their financial situation simply does not allow it or because the father doesn't want it. In Russia, where abortion used to be just another form of contraception, the women's motives may have changed, but statistically there are still a lot who take this step. Alina Rudnickaja, one of the most interesting and successful documentary filmmakers from St. Petersburg, enters this essentially taboo place. She describes what is happening in serial form, gives a rhythm to the waiting, the getting up, the closing doors, the transport on a gurney. And yet the precision of her framing, every calculated pan and the severe black and white allow us to perceive the women as individuals. In the same way she banned all colour from the images, Rudnickaja also muffled all sounds. In this cold silence the women seem even more isolated. It's the director's brilliant use of her visual tools which makes the subject appear less like "women's business" and more like an existential decision about life and death.
(DOK Leipzig catalogue, Cornelia Klauß)
Argentinian Lesson (Argentynska lekcja)
Director : Wojciech Staron
Producer : Malgorzata Staron Staron Film
Poland, 2010, 56 min
DOK Leipzig Silver Dove 2010
A perplexing film. How can the two child protagonists be so unimpressed by the presence of the camera? And how come the camera is always there when events coalesce into dramatic highlights worthy of a feature film? The answer is easy: the cameraman and director is the boy's father. And he makes no bones about the fact that he employs feature film elements to uncover a core of truth that would otherwise remain hidden.
Wojciech Staron, the cameraman of last year's Golden Dove winner "Vodka Factory", presents his new directorial work as a sequel to "The Siberian Lesson" from 1998. This time his wife finds herself in Argentina as a teacher of Polish. But the main protagonist, from whose point of view the story is told, is eight-year-old Janek, who goes through a classic coming-of-age story when he befriends eleven-year-old Marcia, who bravely copes with social Problems.
Janek's father stays behind the camera, without voice over and seemingly invisible, which enables him to get incredibly intimate access to his small protagonists' great dramas.
The Tiniest Place (El lugar más pequeno)
Director : Tatiana Huezo
Producer : Liliana Pardo Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica
Mexico, 2011, 104 min
DOK Leipzig Golden Dove 2011
Their faces say it all. A series of photograph-like portraits opens this quiet film which nonetheless has an immense power. When the inhabitants of the village of Cinquera open up in front of the camera they reveal scarred souls and an unshakeable dignity.
During the civil war in El Salvador, which shook the country from 1979 to 1992, Cinquera was levelled to the ground because the village was believed to be a stronghold of the guerrillas who fought against the military regime. But the survivors returned. They cleared away debris, bones and skulls and began to build a new life out of nothing.
For her debut film, the Mexican-Salvadorian director Tatiana Huezo went back to her own roots to portray her grandmother's birthplace. In breathtaking images by cinematographer Ernesto Pardo and a separate soundtrack of interviews Huezo talks about village life and coping with trauma in the midst of a forest where the voices of the dead can still be heard.
(DOK Leipzig catalogue, Jörn Seidel)
Director : Katharina Pethke
Germany 2011, 62 min
DOK Leipzig Golden Dove for the best German Documentary 2011
Louisa teaches us that hearing is much more than just the acoustic perception of sounds and language. She is 23 when tests show a total failure of her hearing organs. For her this is not a disaster but rather an occasion to take a decision. Modern medicine could restore her hearing by means of an operation. But Louisa is averse to what is celebrated as progress. Does she want this operation with all its risks? Wouldn't it be just another act of assimilation?
Filmmaker Katharina Pethke makes us experience the wealth of our sensual perceptions. You can experience music physically in the vibration of space, understand by reading lips and talk by using sign language. Images and sounds are uncoupled in a way that is neither artificially nor obtrusively coy. Silence reigns where it's too loud and sounds that are usually drowned in noise are uncovered. After all, Louisa's deafness doesn't mean that she is mute, on the contrary: the young woman with the wild hair is an extremely talkative and moreover stubborn person. A person who communicates differently to the majority also thinks outside of conventions. Louisa's wilful insistence that it's not her that must change but the world is impressive. A clever idea in view of the state of our planet.
Book of Miri
Director : Katrine Philp
Producer : Rasmus Abrahamsen, The National Film School of Denmark
Denmark 2009, 28 min
Miri is 33. She was born in Korea, was adopted and went to Sweden at the age of three. She lives alone with her two cats in a Swedish town and works as a librarian. Her life does not seem very exciting, but her style of dress more than makes up for this. She combines off-the-rack pieces with vintage chic. Colourful, whacky, feminine, extravagant. She writes daily blogs, takes pictures of herself and the things around her and uploads them on the Internet. The black cat, the cup with the teabag, the white cat, her latest handbag and, again and again, herself in a new outfit. She shares her thoughts, the everyday incidents of her life with friends in the virtual world. Miri calls herself a loner, says she likes to be alone and needs solitude. But we also see a young woman wanting to be noticed, celebrating her individuality and looking for her true self.
"Book of Miri" reflects the mood of the iPod lifestyle generation – somewhere between Wallpaper and H&M – with their strong need to share their lives with the world. A film about the search for identity, self-exposure and the dreams of a blogger.
The Woman with the 5 Elephants (Die Frau mit den 5 Elefanten)
Director : Vadim Jendreyko
Producer : Thomas Tielsch, Filmtank GmbH
Germany, Switzerland 2009, 93 min
DEFA-Sponsoring Prize for an outstanding German documentary film 2009
Swetlana Geier is the most brilliant translator of Russian literature into German. She has just finished the work of a lifetime: a new translation of all five great novels by Dostoyevskiy, the so-called five elephants.
Born in the Ukraine in 1923, she was 15 when she witnessed her father's arrest in one of Stalin's political cleansings, saw him return suffering from the consequences of heavy maltreatment 18 months later and die shortly afterwards. She lost her best friend at the age of 18, when SS commands executed 30,000 Jews in Kiev. In 1943, she and her mother were taken to an "Eastern Workers" camp in Dortmund.
She experienced the horrors of two dictatorships, but always encountered people with moral courage, too. When she was interrogated about the German officers who helped her and her mother survive when they left the Ukraine, Swetlana Geier answered with a lightness and clarity that seemed no less precise than the German sentences she constructed to approximate Dostoyevskiy's Russian.
Director Vadim Jendreyko accompanies the 85-year-old Swetlana Geier on her first journey back to the places of her childhood in the Ukraine after the war. "The Woman with the 5 Elephants" interweaves Swetlana Geier's life story and her literary oeuvre, tracing the secret of this indefatigable mediator between the languages.
The Ulysses (Los Ulises)
Director : Agatha Maciaszek, Alberto García Ortiz
Producer : Carlos Esbert Artika Films
Spain 2011, 83 min
Ulysses's odyssey was the punishment of a fairly angry ancient God, hero or not. But what crimes did the 57 men from the Indian subcontinent commit to deserve being washed up by the waves of global migration on the beaches of North Africa? Now they sit in the forests of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, waiting for something to happen. For someone in the administration to have pity on them and issue papers that will allow them to work, to earn money. It's been 18 months now. "The Ulysses" talks about waiting and about lost time and broken hopes. The director links the stranded men with their families at home via video messages. When the relatives gather in front of the monitors to listen to their sons' words, the whole extent of the misunderstanding whose victims they are becomes clear. Which is why their message is: do not emigrate, at least not illegally. Learn. Do not believe in the false promises. There's nothing more to say, for who among those left behind could understand the tension, the fear, the recurring sparks of hope, the setbacks that the men suffer. A happy ending was waiting for our classical hero at the end of his odyssey. One cannot help thinking that the men stranded at Ceuta were lost from the start.
Inbetweener (Dagar emellan)
Director : Erik Bäfving
Producer : Lina Bertilsson
Sweden 2011, 14 min
Sometimes it takes very little to tell a great story. Erik Bäfving (Golden Dove 2002 with "Boogie Woogie Daddy") needs no more than a small selection of family photos and teenager's drawings for the visual level of "Inbetweener", his unobtrusive narrator's voice, some illustrating sounds and Gustav Wall's low-key music for the sound level. But the precision with which Bäfving employs them and the story he tells are both gripping and touching, distressing and encouraging. Erik Bäfving was 15 years old when his greatest fear became reality and his father committed suicide. What was left was the memory of a loving man whose depression had driven him deeper and deeper into isolation. His death was no surprise to the boy and left him more or less unaffected. The trauma, however, burrowed deep into his soul and left the legacy of a heavy burden on him for years. Until the moment when he came to terms with the past. Until he produced this film which closes with a light shining at the end of the tunnel.
16. Work Hard, Play Hard
Director : Carmen Losmann
Producer : Erik Winker HUPE Film
Germany 2011, 90 min
Healthy Workplaces Film Award, FIPRESCI Award 2011
Work : people who are no more than human capital behind shining panels where no personal coffee cup (please go to the Coffee Point for this) is left (the non-territorial workplace). Futuristic buildings in which nothing is meant to look like work and where human resources deliver task-oriented performances at meeting points, after having been informed by the management of their daily key performance indicators, adjusted to their skill set and the team code (previously: roll call). "I agree with you completely", says the manager trained in product stewardship commitment and discipline to the employee whose core data and talent assessment – evaluated in an assessment centre where he was screened and x-rayed down to his central cortex – are stored as charts in the company's intranet (previously: state security service).
It may sound like a dark science fiction vision, but it's social reality. Carmen Losman competently illustrates a rather abstract subject with precisely chosen camera positions, in settings that look as cool and contrived as the world they describe, with a soundtrack where the permanent management speak is rarely interrupted by Industrial Electronic Sounds or occasionally turned off. You leave this film frozen to the core. But if joy had been the subject, the film would not have gotten more than a measly three on the management assessment scale.
17. Tying Your Own Shoes
Director : Shira Avni
Producer : Michael Fukushima, National Film Board of Canada
Canada 2009, 16 min
DOK Leipzig Golden Dove for the best Short Documentary 2009
They have Down's syndrome and have often known what it is like to be put down and excluded as mentally disabled. But having Down's syndrome can also be an advantage, because it means you are a good painter! As 22-year-old Katherine confidently and defiantly asserts in Shira Avni's film. "Tying Your Own Shoes" sketches the portraits of four young people aged between 20 and 30 who were born with this chromosome defect. Some from sheltered backgrounds, some from Croatia where they experienced the war. Just a few biographical fragments. But most of all, we see all four of them reveal their inner worlds by painting. Art has become their second language and often gains them a lot more recognition. In a playful montage which blends documentary narrative and animation, the film shows their potential, how imaginatively and attentively they reflect their environment. The people who were just sitting at the table suddenly turn into paintings, speech balloons drift by, drawings and paintings tumble onto the paper where they suddenly start to move – and tend to get lost in cat's heaven.
"Down's syndrome is being myself and try to fit in", Matthew summarizes and focuses on his painting again.
18. Cooking History
Director : Peter Kerekes
Producer : Ralph Wieser, Mischief Films
Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic 2009, 88 min
FIPRESCI Award 2009
In "Cooking History", 13 European military chefs season the great dish of 20th century history – whose (main) ingredient is war – with seemingly harmless stories. The gruesome subject of this film emerges slowly: 6 wars, 10 recipes and 60,325,061 victims of war.
Peter Kerekes presents his historic heroes and their stories with the proper dose of irony: philosophising about the meaning of recipes and the question whether preparing a dish intuitively does not constitute a first and fatal step towards the dissolution of military order as a whole; or fleeing through a field of corn while the filmmaker has no qualms – at all! – about making the pursuing tank part of the scene; or on the beach while the tide is rising, where a former submarine chef, armed with a gas burner, demonstrates how he breaded cutlets for his comrades for the last time.
Cooking and acts of war have a lot in common, says Kerekes: strategy, timing, a feeling for the proper ratio of basic materials and, last but not least, the tactics of seasoning. Preparing food for an army is a metaphor for battle.
(DOK Leipzig catalogue, Ralph Eue)
19. If a Tree Falls : A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Director : Marshal Curry, Sam Cullman
Producer : Marshall Curry Productions
USA 2011, 85 min
The FBI called them the "largest domestic terrorist threat in the history of the U.S.". They were hunted by an enormous contingent of investigators and police and finally charged with terrorism – with the full power of the post 9/11 laws. But the members of the Earth Liberation Front didn't kill a single human being. They used industrial sabotage, usually arson, to harm companies which destroy living creatures and nature in general: a ski resort, a slaughterhouse, a timber company. But when it comes to property, the system has no sense of humour. When Daniel McGowan, one of the ELF masterminds, was arrested in December 2005, it soon became clear that a precedent was to be created to prevent the spread of what he formulates in the film: "What if I burn things that piss me off?" (An irresistible concept, as the events of the summer of 2011 showed.)
Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman use intimate talks with McGowan and his fellow campaigners, interviews with his persecutors and spectacular archive footage to demonstrate graphically that well-adjusted middle-class kids like McGowan were radicalised and criminalised only by the harshness and brutality of the system. Because this gripping story of the rise and fall of the ELF leaves us asking ourselves who the real "eco-terrorists" are: those who destroy the earth or those who do something about it?