European Film Awards Shortlist

COMMUNION

by Anna Zamecka
Otter Films - Wajda Studio | 72’ | Poland | 2016 | HD
When adults are ineffectual, children have to grow up quickly. Ola is 14 and she takes care of her dysfunctional father, autistic brother and a mother who lives separately; but most of all she tries to reunite the family.





European Film Awards Shortlist

La Chana

by Lucija Stojevic
Noon Films S.L., Bless Bless Productions
| 82’ & 55’ | Spain | 2016 | HD |
An intimate portrait of Gypsy flamenco dancer La Chana as she returns to the stage after a 23-year break and uncovers the secret why she disappeared at the peak of her career.

 
Geeta Gandbhir
Director/Producer Geeta Gandbhir has been nominated for three Emmy Awards and won two. As editor, her films have been nominated twice for the Academy Award, winning once, and have also won four Peabody Awards. Most recently, she co-directed the feature documentary "I Am Evidence" for HBO and a short film, "Love the Sinner." Both films premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.  Her feature documentary, "Prison Dogs," which she co-directed with Perri Peltz, premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, and a feature documentary she directed with Academy Award winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, "A Journey of A Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers,"  premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and will be broadcast on PBS in 2018. She is also currently co-directing and co-producing a "Conversation on Race" series with The New York Times Op-Docs, which won an Online Journalism Award for Online Commentary, an AFI Documentary Film Festival Audience Award for Best Short, and garnered a MacArthur Grant. She also co-directed and edited the film, "Remembering the Artist, Robert De Niro, Sr.," with Perri Peltz for HBO which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014.
 
Asad Faruqi
Director/Producer/Cinematographer Asad Faruqi is an Emmy Award nominated cinematographer, photographer and filmmaker. Over the past six years he has shot a number of award-winning films, including 2016’s Academy Award winning film, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,” and 2012’s Academy and Emmy Award winning film, “Saving Face.” Other notable works include Emmy and Alfred I Dupont Award winning, “Pakistan’s Taliban Generation,” “Song of Lahore,” “Peacekeepers: A Journey of a Thousand Miles,” and “Transgenders: Pakistan’s Open Secret.” Asad’s work has been featured on HBO, The New York Times, PBS, Channel 4, CBC, SBS, and Arte. This is his first time directing a feature film.
 

2017 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL | January 19 - 29
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

TOKYO IDOLS
THE GOOD POSTMAN

Interview with Lucija Stojevic by Dimitra Kouzi

She originally comes from Croatia, but moved to Austria when she was 6. While studying architecture in Edinburgh, she discovered she loved film more, so she moved to the Czech Republic to study film for one very intensive year. After that, she moved to Barcelona, Spain, and started to work for production companies and independently doing video journalism for newspapers like The Guardian. La Chana was the reason why she set up her own production company. She produced and directed this feature-length documentary against all the financial obstacles for a newcomer. Four years later, La Chana is premiering at Idfa Panorama and is also nominated for the best female-directed film. While this interview was taking place in her co-working space in Barcelona, her seven-month-old daughter was one floor above, playing in the baby facility provided by this co-working space.

Is it common in Spain to have a baby facility if you are a working woman?
No, it’s a completely new thing; we are pioneers and trying it out. It’s a colleague here; she just started it in September, and we were the first ones who signed up. I was like, “This is perfect” because, you know, she is depending on me, but I need to work, so it’s a good solution.

This is amazing. So how many babies do you have upstairs?
[laughing] There are only five babies at the moment.

Five? Only? (laughing)
Yeah, they are up there, playing, learning, enjoining it. They have an outside terrace – it’s really nice.

I think this is great. It already shows so much.
I think it’s important for women to find a way to combine different aspects they want to have in life. It’s not one thing or another; it’s possible to do both. My poor baby is seven months old and has been to five countries in seven months. It’s going to be her sixth country now.

Wow! So, you were pregnant while doing the film?
During the editing process, my belly was just growing. So, I was thinking, if she doesn't have a sense of rhythm, I will be surprised. She is getting so much flamenco, she’d better have a good sense of rhythm.

You delivered both a film and a baby.
It puts pressure on you, like you wouldn't believe, because you think you have this mental feeling that, ‘My life is going to be over when the baby arrives,’ but then of course it doesn’t happen that way – you incorporate it into your life and it’s possible to do both. We are lucky because my baby is pretty chilled; she’s not a high-maintenance, high-energy baby; she is more of a little intellectual just sitting there, analysing things for long periods of time,so she makes it easier. The feeling of your life being over is definitely not true – it’s just a new beginning.

Where does the quiet character of the baby come from?
I am pretty calm I think; I do have character, so if I get angry, I get angry (laughing), but generally I am pretty calm and I am good under stress.

Do you think your background in architecture influences this way of reacting and thinking? This structure you have, is it coming from there?
There are overlaps between film and architecture. For example, in the working process, in both film and architecture, you work on different aspects and still always have an overall picture the whole time, too. It’s also a echnical and creative mix, and I think there are a lot of crossovers, which is actually why I got into film. I did my final project on editing theory in film and architecture and was looking at how these two things can influence each other in the creative process, in the way you think about montage and architecture and construction, and the way you think about montage and constructing through sequences in storytelling. There is similarity. During that period, I became much more interested in film than architecture, so my boyfriend at the time told me, ‘You seem so much more into the film aspect, why don't you just go to film school?’ and I thought that actually was not such a bad idea.

You have a pretty colourful background.
I lived in Vienna for many years. We moved to Vienna when I was seven, and I graduated from high school in Vienna, and then I moved to Italy for a year and then I moved to Edinburgh, where I studied architecture and then to Prague and then back to Vienna and then to Barcelona, so it’s been quite a ride.

Why Barcelona, was it because of flamenco? No, even though I took classes in both Vienna and Prague and loved it. Maybe there was an aspect of that subconsciously. At the time, I got a place in a Master’s degree at the University here in Barcelona; in the end I decided not to go and do it, but to work in film production companies instead, which were producing documentary films because I felt a little bit that this is a more hands-on way of learning and building your network. I started doing a lot of video journalism during that time, as well, so I was producing entire short docs in different areas for newspapers, such as The Guardian, The New York Times, and I did that for a few years. Then, I started on this big project – La Chana.

How did you meet La Chana?
I met her through my teacher, Beatriz del Pozo. La Chana is her ‘maestro’. Beatriz always talks about La Chana, about her rhythms, about her beats, about how she had fallen into the shadows and she shouldn't have because she is an amazing, wonderful artist and does things nobody else had done. She put some videos on for me when I was at her house, of La Chana dancing and I was just dumbstruck. I think the one that really struck me was the one where La Chana was dancing in The Bobo [the Peter Sellers film], where she is nineteen years old and looks like she is forty – the passion and the pain and the suffering – she was like a sorceress! Beatriz suggested that we meet so we went to her home, and she prepared an amazing paella for us. She was very open with me from the beginning in terms of what happened to her, she just told me everything. There was so much story here, and this character was amazing. She could carry a film as an individual character – nothing else was necessary. I proposed we start working together, and the first thing she told me was, ‘OK, come to the party on Saturday. I am having my whole family here, but only you can come, you can’t bring any men with you, no camera guys, and if my family ask you, tell them that you are a student of mine.’ She was very careful, and what worried her the most was her own environment, and how they were going to react if they knew she was doing this film. But then, little by little, she became much more open about this. It does come across in the film that she has this worry about how others will think of things and that she was always between these two things, what do others think and what is my own soul telling me. Exactly, very much so. It has always been a struggle for her, this combination of ‘this is me, this is what I want, what I am feeling and this is what I am supposed to be doing. How did you deal with all these layers of her character, all these directions the film could take? There were many directions the film could have taken, as there were many elements to deal with: her art, the social circumstances, the abuse. But I think going into general topics would have been a mistake. So, it was very important that we just stick to the core, and let her lead it, and just look more how these different things influenced her, rather than what they are. And La Chana’s core is her dance, her art. That’s why there is a narrative told through the transformation of the way you perceive her dance in the film. When you watch the early part of the film and you discover who she was, you see her dancing and you think, ‘Wow, amazing dancer,’ but it’s only when you find out those different obstacles that she had, that her dances take on other meanings, other layers. You understand all that emotional charge then. That was very important to me, that we go to where her core is – her music, her rhythm, her dance – and to do that we should understand her pain and her suffering and her environment, and her tragedy, and stay close to that.

I could see the passion of La Chana but I could also feel your passion in doing this film. I am sure you had difficulties in many ways to make it. How did you balance these two roles – director and producer?
I think the way the documentary world is today, if I look at it from the producers’ perspective, most people would have just put this film into the drawer looking at it in terms of financing and what was possible to raise, unfortunately. That was one of my worries initially, because we started this film exactly when the crisis hit, so we had the problem that the arts were the first thing to get cut – production companies were closing left, right and centre. Everybody was telling me, ‘We love the film, we love the idea but we don't know if we are going to survive one more year, and it will be very difficult to get funding for your film.’ We had a lot of interest also at the international level, but this was complicated, because of the fact that it is character-driven, a human-interest story, but of a character who is not so well-known outside of Spain – I mean she is not so well known inside of Spain either, except to the older generation. Only Spanish is spoken, and it was very hard to find co-producers who could do anything. In the end, I established a production company in order to be able to produce it, and then we eventually started getting interest from a direct audience. We ended up raising a huge part, more than 50% of our budget, from individuals. Otherwise, it would have been impossible. It was funded by women mostly. Women wanted to watch this film.

How did you approach individual donors; what kind of campaign did you do?
We partnered with New York Women in Film and Television in the U.S. where we managed to attract tax-deductible donations. What about the Icelandic Film Centre? How did they get involved? At one point, we talked to potential US funders. In order to apply for some of their funds, we needed an American co-production company. We approached a company called Bless Bless Productions in New York, and they have offices in New York and in Reykjavik. They approached the Icelandic Film Centre and got funding for post-production.

You need inner strength to go into this process. What was your motivation, the inner strength that helped you when you were thinking that nothing would work out?
I am a stubborn person, like a bulldog. One thing that really had me was that I knew I had a good story in my hands. Nobody could tell me I didn’t have a good story in my hands. This story needed to be told. Also, you end up having a responsibility towards many different people throughout the process towards La Chana, first and foremost, towards the team, towards people who had already helped us get to a certain point. You come to a point of no return. One way or another we had to figure out a way to get to the end. I don't abandon things. It’s just not my style. It’s one of the characteristics that annoy me the most when people do abandon things.

In a film like La Chana it is important that you are a woman. Do you think that the fact that you were a woman filmmaker made her trust you and open up to tell her story? Was it important that you were a woman?
I think so. She grew up in such a macho society that I think there are certain things that she would certainly not share with a man. It made it easier for her to relate to me and open up to me. Initially, one of the things I was worried about is that I am a foreigner and I think that played as an advantage for me because, especially in the beginning, she didn't feel threatened by me. She thought ‘the girl with the funny accent’, you know (laughing). That, in some way, helped her to relax. You are not only stubborn, but very smart, too. I wanted to ask you a bit more about flamenco. Do you dance?
I am interested from an intellectual point of view but you can’t be shy and perform in flamenco. I absolutely adore it and I loved learning it, but I wouldn't describe myself as a flamenco dancer. In order to be really good, you need to be really raw and really let everything come out; show everything that you are. In flamenco for it to work you have to let all that fall, and I am too private of a person to do that.

In the film, you talk about the aging process, the loss of acceptance, but also the reinvention. You manage to do this very smoothly. I wanted to hear more about that coming from you, what are your thoughts about aging and reinvention?
What La Chana shows us in a very nice way is that you have to accept the passing of time and that you can do something with it; you don’t have to just sit there and do nothing anymore. She demonstrates it so beautifully, that you can’t let your passions die even if you are physically getting older. You have to find a way to change them into a format that you can still enjoy.

Through the film, you helped her do this also, to go back.
We kind of inspired her to go back on stage, which she loves; she loves the attention, she loves the audience, but she also loves being filmed. She is living with memories but quite isolated. Now, I think we won’t be able to stop her anymore (laughing) – she wants to go everywhere and is going to be the great diva again, and she will do anything.

What was her reaction when she saw the film?
She always said she prayed for us (the film team), but when I showed her the film in January she told me she stopped praying for me. Over a nine-month period. Why? She hated it; she had a really hard time with it, which was normal. I mean, I was expecting her to react, but she reacted very strongly. It might sound sadistic and horrible, but i thought, ‘OK, this is a good sign’. Because if she loved it from the beginning, it means we didn’t really go under the surface. It had to affect her; it wouldn't be normal if it didn’t affect her because it’s her life. There is a psychological process she never went through. It was extremely difficult, and she was very angry at me, but by the time we showed her a final version, after many months had passed, she had had time to process it and now stands behind it.

What about the editing?
I think the selection process wasn't so difficult. It wasn't like one of those films where you have hundreds of hours of footage that you must sit through. After each shooting, it was kind of like, ‘OK, these were the gems.’ The hard bit was how to pull all of this together. How to structure the material. Did your participation in Docu Rough Cut Boutique workshop help you in this? Absolutely. It was amazing – both European training initiatives, EsoDoc more for development and Rough-cut Boutique more for postproduction. They were absolutely amazing. We were so alone in this project producing it, these workshops gave us some anchors – so a huge, huge thank you to both EsoDoc and Docu Rough Cut Boutique; they made a huge difference for us.

Dimitra Kouzi, Journalist & Audience Developer



La Chana’s story highlights a number of topics that have both current relevance and universal appeal. As La Chana nears the end of her physical capability to dance, La Chana needs to re-define herself. On her journey, she brings her audience close and challenges them to reflect on specific topics: aging, the imminent loss of something that defines you and that you love, acceptance and re-invention.

Meanwhile, the story of La Chana’s past highlights topics that have an important social relevance today. La Chana is giving us rare, intimate access to her Gitano world and how she lives and experiences it as a woman. Through her deeply personal story, we gain an idea of the role and treatment of Gypsy women in Spanish Gitano culture and what implications it has for a woman to suffer domestic abuse in a marginalized society.

In the film, we approach the topic of abuse very carefully, making sure that we don’t point fingers, make generalizations or put our protagonist in a risky situation. Our approach is to stay very close to La Chana’s individual, personal and emotional experience of domestic violence- her loneliness, helplessness, isolation and the feeling that she was stuck in a vicious circle where her own community was both her only support and her ‘prison warden’ that kept her locked inside a violent reality.

I believe that it’s very important to tell stories of women’s lives from all walks of life, and in this documentary, we have an amazing story of survival and empowerment through pure art and strength of character. For a change, it’s a story about a Gypsy woman, who through her own tragedy gives hope and encouragement to young women, globally, as well as in the Gitano and Roma communities, to fight for their dreams whatever they might be. My mission is not only to tell a unique story with universal appeal, but also to make sure we bring it to the audiences who will get most out of it. After all, empowerment through stories is the power of documentaries.

Girl bands and pop music permeate Japanese life. Tokyo Idols gets at the heart of a cultural phenomenon driven by an obsession with young female sexuality and internet popularity. Meet Ri Ri: a bona fide Tokyo Idol who takes us on her journey toward fame. Now meet her “brothers”: a group of adult male superfans who devote their lives to following her—in the virtual world and in real life. Once considered to be on the fringes of society, the brothers who gave up salaried jobs to pursue an interest in female idol culture have since become mainstream via the internet, illuminating the growing disconnect between men and women in hypermodern societies. With her provocative look into the Japanese pop music industry and its focus on traditional beauty ideals, filmmaker Kyoko Miyake confronts the nature of gender power dynamics at work. As the female idols become younger and younger, Miyake offers a critique on the veil of internet fame and the new terms of engagement that are playing out IRL around the globe.



On the eastern edge of Bulgaria, bordering Turkey, amid wizened orchards and an ancient patchwork of farmlands, sits a poor and sleepy hamlet that time seems to have forgotten. Despite the sparse population of silver-haired citizens wistful for the brighter days of communism, democracy is in full force as the village prepares in earnest for its mayoral election. Meanwhile, an endless train of Syrian refugees bound for Europe silently traipses through the rural terrain, visible through the binoculars of one gentle and taciturn candidate, the postman. Told through indelible, lush images, this quietly cinematic film exposes seismic divisions regarding immigration and what it means to be European in an age of global displacement and shifting political systems. With dry humor and remarkable sensitivity toward its beguiling ensemble of characters, Tonislav Hristov’s documentary plays like a scripted narrative, with the postman as the film’s grounding hero—a man who sees encroaching darkness not in the desperate exiles filing across his land, but in his own increasingly closed-off and distrustful town.


IDFA Film Review: ‘The Grown-Ups’

Guy Lodge, Film Critic @guylodge

The Grown-Ups, directed by Maite AlberdiCOURTESY: MICROMUNDO PRODUCCIONES
NOVEMBER 22, 2016 | 06:26AM PT

Maite Alberdi's sensitive, good-humored study of Down's Syndrome adults expresses anger against the system with a light touch.

Film title translations may vary considerably from region to region, but rarely do they contradict each other entirely. Branded “The Grown-Ups” for the international festival circuit, Chilean documentarian Maite Alberdi’s third feature goes by “Los niños” (“The Children”) on its home turf. Either way, the title is laced with irony, since this gently stirring, empathetic study of middle-aged students at a school for Down’s Syndrome children shows them to be stuck in a tragic state of limbo: Mature enough to want the pressures and privileges of independent adulthood, yet emotionally and financially ill-equipped to pursue them alone, they’re ultimately failed by a system that treats them as homogeneously disabled. Though Alberdi’s short, audience-friendly film offers plenty of sweetness and light observational humor, the sad anger of its message still burns through; international distribution, particularly on VOD platforms, is quite feasible.

“Who are we? Conscious adults,” the film’s four principal subjects recite as a constant mantra at the group therapy sessions arranged for them by the school — a statement of defiance that, however kindly encouraged by their supervisors, only they appear to fully believe. Aided by the clean, no-nonsense clarity of Menno Boerema and Juan Eduardo Murillo’s editing, “The Grown-Ups” works swiftly to differentiate between the strong individuals in this quartet, who spend most of their time training and working in the school’s catering department — yet not toward any identified qualification or reward.

The most immediately charismatic of the four is Anita, a bright, self-confident woman yearning to begin a new life free of her parents’ constant, unyielding guardianship and the numbing routine of the kitchen — strictures which, however well-intended, are beginning to have an effect more oppressive than protective. Her exasperation is emboldened into vocal self-assertion by an increasingly tender romance with the gentlemanly Andres, a fellow Down’s Syndrome classmate who appears to understand her emotional needs better than her elders; together, they dream of marrying and raising a family. (Through adoption, Anita is quick to clarify, explaining that she is past menopause; that she recognizes such practicalities amid otherwise far-fetched idealism is illustrative of her unusual, intermediate stage of personal development.) Together, the two plan their wedding with poignant excitement, even going so far as to shop for rings, with a critical legal cloud hanging over them: In Chile, adults are forbidden from marrying if they are judged to have the mental maturity of a minor.

Who gets to make that call, and by what criteria, is the question Alberdi invites audiences to consider, or reconsider: The longer we spend in the company of these people, the clearer it seems that they should be treated on a case-by-case basis. Anita and Andres, for example, are more high-functioning and less outwardly child-like than Rita, an endearingly exuberant but fragile 45-year-old with a limited mastery of physical boundaries and a penchant for Barbie dolls. At more or less the opposite end of the spectrum is the sensible, studious Ricardo, voted the group’s class president, who holds a part-time job as a carer at an old-age home and is eager to save money for a self-sufficient future. The disparity between his needs in the latter department and his pocket-money income, once revealed, is heartbreaking; among other matters, the film tacitly calls for employment reform for those with learning difficulties.

As the dominant arc of Andres and Anita’s relationship hits complications beyond their control, “The Grown-Ups” veers into outright tear-jerker territory, though not at the expense of its emotional authenticity. Several intimate or wholly joyous set-pieces — the chaste lovers’ first bedroom encounter, for example, or a surprise birthday-cake dance routine — both brighten the tone and, more crucially, give the subjects added nuance and definition. They are finally treated as equal, many-shaded personalities, not just passive, victimized case studies. Pablo Valdes’s airy, unobstrusive lensing often counters their darker mood swings with the pastel party-balloon shades that dominate their environment, visually emphasizing a world that tries to mollify their anger. Perhaps Miguel Miranda and Jose Miguel Tabar’s perkily whimsical score was similarly intended, yet it’s the film’s chief misstep, with tip-toeing piano strains that risk infantilizing these grown-ups along with everyone else around them.

IDFA Film Review: 'The Grown-Ups'
Reviewed at IDFA (competing), Nov. 21, 2016. Running time: 82 MIN. (Original title: "Los niños")
Production
(Documentary — Chile-The Netherlands-France) A Micromundo production in coproduction with Volya Films, Mandra Films.
(International sales: CAT&Docs, Paris.)
Produced by Maite Alberdi, Denis Vaslin. Executive producers, Fleur Knopperts, Clara Taricco, Sebastian Brahm.
Crew
Directed, written by Maite Alberdi. Camera (color), Pablo Valdes. Editors, Menno Boerema, Juan Eduardo Murillo.
With
Ana Maria Rodriguez, Ricardo Urzua, Andres Martinez, Rita Guzman, Daniel Mehech, Rodrigo Carrasco. (Spanish dialogue)

'The Grown-Ups': IDFA Review 21 November, 2016 | By Fionnuala Halligan, Chief Film Critic

Dir. Maite Alberdi. Chile/The Netherlands/France, 2016, 80 mins.

The Grown-Ups is entitled Los Ninos (The Kids) in Spanish-language markets, including its native Chile, reflecting the situation in which its subjects find themselves mired. Maite Alberdi has spent much time with the long-term students at a school for people with Down’s Syndrome. Lifelong friends, they’re reaching the age of fifty with varying degrees of frustration: why can’t they enjoy the freedom of grown-ups when society still insists on treating them like the kids?

The school prepares its students for an adult life which it is becoming increasingly clear they will never properly lead Once Alberdi hands over her picture to the main characters and dispenses with an insistently whimsical score, The Grown-Ups becomes a fascinating parade of strong characters – feisty Anita, entrepreneurial Ricardo, suave Andres, and Rita, “smarter than your average bear” - each confronting a series of touching challenges as Alberdi looks at lives lived under never-ending restraint.

When these adults start to outlive their parents – a common occurance, as the risk of Down’s Syndrome increases with maternal age – they are forced to rely on siblings and more distant relatives for support (if any remain). It’s a situation dealt with fictionally in the UK this year with My Feral Heart, and The Grown-Ups is a lighter look at similar issues, but no less memorable for its subtle sensitivity. Destined for TV and festival play through Cat&Docs, The Grown-Ups could find its way into small theatrical release in its co-production territories of Chile, the Netherlands and France.

Anita is the star of this film; she’s a strong-minded woman who is desperate to take her place in the world, whether it be as class president (she runs against Ricardo), or marrying man-about-town Andres, who confesses to being a reformed womaniser. Anita is bored with the school, fed up of making the same cakes in its bakery for the last forty-odd years (“it’s stupid”), and chafes at the restraints placed upon her by the centre’s kind but unseen orderlies. One of the film’s best scenes is when she acts upon her boyfriend’s cake-related fantasy; one of the more poignant is when he tries to buy her an engagement ring. And in the middle of Alberdi’s nicely-constructed narrative, her father dies.

Everyone in this film is allowed their own, strong, personality; Rita just wants to sneak chocolate into her apron and get a Barbie doll for her birthday. Ricardo wants to save money and works at two jobs, for which he is poorly paid. “What scares me most,” he says, “is that life is so short and complex.”

All the while, the school prepares its students for an adult life it is becoming increasingly clear they will never properly lead. Alberdi tells a story about people who are approaching old age while still unable to make any progress - even the low level of their pay stacks the cards against them having a say in their own destiny. Still, though, The Grown-Ups is as generally cheerful as its endearing stars, Alberdi delivering a bright film which is full of colour, judiciously edited to make its points with a light touch.

Production companies: Micromundo Producciones, Volya Films, Mandra Films
International sales: Cat&Docs, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Producers: Maire Alberdi, Denis Vaslin, Fleur Knoepperts, Sebastian Brahm
Cinematography: Pablo Valdes
Editors: Juan Eduardo Marillo, Menno Boerema
Music: Miguel Miranda, Jose Miguel Tabar
IDFA Film Review: ‘How to Meet a Mermaid’
Guy Lodge, Film Critic @guylodge

'How to Meet a Mermaid' Review:COURTESY OF DOC&CATS
NOVEMBER 19, 2016 | 06:11AM PT

Dutch docmaker Coco Schrijber's unusual, highly personal film negotiates her own family tragedy with a mix of investigative and poetic techniques.

There’s something in the water — no threat so tangible as a shark or a stingray, but a seductive, insidious pull into the blue — in “How to Meet a Mermaid,” and the more writer-director Coco Schrijber attempts to identify it, the more tauntingly it floats away from us. A distinctly personal expression of mourning that shifts, by turns, into a more esoteric rumination on man’s ever-uneasy relationship to the ocean, this visually and sonically imposing essay pic is most effective (and affecting) when it concentrates on Schrijber’s first-hand investigation into the unexplained maritime disappearance of her older brother. Attempts later in the film to weave his tragic story with two unrelated tales of the sea’s secrets are less immediately involving, though the whole is elegantly enigmatic enough to snag the attention of further doc-fest programmers and perhaps some boutique-label buyers.

“I would prefer breathing to not breathing,” a quote attributed to William Faulkner, appears on screen near the beginning of “How to Meet a Mermaid.” It’s the first in a varied, oblique range of cultural reference points, from Virginia Woolf to “Pippi Longstocking” to archive recordings of John F. Kennedy, that Schrijber — a longtime documentary experimentalist who won several international festival gongs for her homelessness-themed 2004 short “Mooie wereld” — uses to articulate her own curious, conflicted emotional state. Faulkner’s words may offer no middle ground between life and death, yet Schrijber’s absent brother Lex appears to occupy, for her at least, a kind of spiritual limbo: Years after vanishing underwater on a Red Sea diving expedition with friends, his body remains undiscovered. Speaking with Lex’s cohorts and his psychiatrist, Schrijber expresses her conviction that he committed suicide, yet closure eludes her: “Why can’t we believe in the decisions our loved ones make?” she asks, perhaps more of herself than anyone.

In puzzling out how the waters claimed his life and retained the evidence, Schrijber finds a kindred tragedy of sorts in another, equally mysterious empty space: of Rebecca Coriam, the young British crew member of a vast Disney cruise liner whose unexplained disappearance from the ship off the coast of Mexico made headlines in 2011. It’s a case still under shrouded inquiry, and where the helmer takes a kind of passively poetic approach to processing her brother’s death, the film’s manner here shifts markedly to one of anxious, untrusting investigation, as possibilities extending to murder and cover-up are broached. Additionally, the film here supplies speculative, from-the-beyond narration from “Rebecca” herself — a creative leap that won’t sit well with all viewers, though whether Schrijber is exploiting her story or channeling her own grief through it is a matter of interesting debate.

A shorter, intermediate segment of the film, bridging the uncertain fates of Lex and Rebecca with the testimony of Miguel, a young Mexican surfer preparing for his own oceanic odyssey, is the film’s most sketchily developed and thematically opaque, though its more hopeful tenor provides welcome tonal contrast.

Which is not to say that “How to Meet a Mermaid” is by and large a downbeat or severe film. There’s much melancholic whimsy here, while the filmmaker’s consistent fascination with the physical and symbolic properties of the ocean producers some moments of actual cinematic rapture: Lars Skree’s serenely composed, crystalline widescreen lensing regards the water with suitable awe, with aerial shots of whirling turquoise currents, or slow-motion profiles of cresting waves, that wouldn’t be out of place in a David Attenborough spectacle. (Or, for that matter, a latter-day Terrence Malick one.) Composer Mark Lizier, meanwhile, may earn MVP status on the pic with a lushly thrumming, sometimes brittly tingling score that gives suitably siren-like voice to the sea itself. A singular, perhaps intentionally frustrating cri de coeur, “How to Meet a Mermaid” may find its maker wrestling with bitterly mixed emotions about the life aquatic, but casual disdain is never remotely on the cards.

IDFA Film Review: 'How to Meet a Mermaid'
Reviewed online, London, Nov. 18, 2016. (In IDFA — competing.) Running time: 94 MIN.
Production (Documentary — The Netherlands-Belgium-Denmark)
A Zeppers Film production in co-production with VPro & DRK, Off Word, House of Real.
(International sales: Cat&Docs, Paris.)
Produced by Frank van den Engel. Executive producer, Judith Vreriks.
Crew
Directed, written by Coco Schrijber.
Camera (color, widescreen), Lars Skree. Editor, Gys Zevenbergen.
Pawel Lozinski - director   Paweł Łoziński

Director, scriptwriter and producer of documentary and fiction films born in 1965 in Warsaw. He earned his degree from the Film Directing Department of Łódź Film School.

His documentary films include Birthplace (1992), The Way It Is (1999), Sisters (1999), Between the Doors (2004), Wygnańcy (2005), Kitty, Kitty (2008), Chemo (2009) Father and Son (2013), Werka (2014). .

He has won prestigious awards at festivals in Bornholm, Paris, Leipzig and Krakow.

About the film

The film displays the mechanism psychotherapy relies upon. Five meetings that the characters have with Professor Bogdan de Barbaro, an eminent psychotherapist from Kraków, is a journey through a minefield full of dangerous feelings. The two women, led by the therapist, learn to disarm their feelings step by step. Words turn out to be the key to building a good relationship. They allow them to get accustomed with the reality of emotions – when what one feels is named, it’s easier to control it, understand it and try to confront it with what others feel.

In a country where psychotherapy is treated with distrust or ironic distance, and people struggling with mental issues are stigmatized in the media and political speeches, Łoziński’s film is truly a breath of fresh air. It’s worth seeing to understand that psychotherapists are not charlatans or showmen commenting on other people’s life in TV shows, but also people who, like professor de Barbaro, are full of attention and wisdom. And to see how universal human feelings – longing and pain – are.
Bartosz Staszczyszyn, translation: Natalia Sajewicz, June 2016. Culture.pl
 

Guido Hendrikx

Director’s Statement

“I tried to look down on the Earth from above. Contemplatively, and far removed from moral judgements. It started in May 2013, with a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa. There, I met some of the migrants who have landed up there, their hopeful dreams for the future seeming to clash with a Europe that has little to offer them. I was struck by the power relations: how those with happiness treat the desire for happiness in others.

The contours for this film that formed them have changed little since. I wanted to make the power relationship I observed from a distance (and then later, during the research phase, up close) not so much visible, as feelable. For me, film is war with the viewer. Once I had become aware of the moral implications, I obsessively forced myself to depict reality as accurately as possible. Perhaps this is why it became an absurd film..

There were many exceptional moments during the shooting period. When, after a long conversation with a man from Mali, I asked him how he saw Europe: after a brief hesitation he replied, ‘I can only really say something about myself.’ He refused to give an opinion on Europe. Looking at the film now – it is a snapshot – what I see is the desire for happiness of these others getting dashed against waves of European self-satisfaction and self-interest.”.

Guido Hendrikx, Amsterdam, October 2016


Director's statement

Life of Pi, All is Lost, Dead Calm, Cast Away; all are stunning films, each with the sea as their subject. Nonetheless, they all deal with 'the will to survive', as emphasized in their trailers.HOW TO MEET A MERMAID, by contrast, deals with 'the will to die', which exists alongside the former and triumphs over it on occasion. Just as with survival, this will to perish requires its own share of courage and strength of will. My protagonists have made their choice; for Lex and Rebecca, grim determination takes them past death's doorstep, whereas Miguel rushes headlong into a desperate adventure, as thousands upon thousands of illegal immigrants are doing at this very moment.

"To me, all human behavior is unpredictable, and considering man's frailty in the ramshackle universe he functions in, it's all irrational. It couldn't be very rational because this universe is not a very rational one, it seems to me" - William Faulkner, Nobel-prize winning American writer. HOW TO MEET A MERMAID, we hear the echo of Faulkner's words, leaning over a lectern back in 1958. Having decided to put aside his beloved bourbon for a minute, he treats his audience to dissemination on our human struggle through a crackling microphone. I am a great fan of Faulkner, and the fifty-year old recordings I've uncovered provide the motivations of Lex, Rebecca, and Miguel with a sense of perspective. The Faulkner quote stated above has served as the foundation for this film. In HOW TO MEET A MERMAID, we are hurled down onto earth by the universe, as portrayed in the stunning opening shots of the film: at times, in a paradise we no longer recognise as such; sometimes, in hell, and then there are times when there is nothing to it but to figure it out for yourself. Lex, Rebecca, and Miguel all reside in their respective paradises that have become a hell to them. Loneliness amidst thousands of fellow human beings (Rebecca on her Disney cruise), alone among friends (Lex at the diving resort) or Miguel (teaching surfing classes to tourists who are blissfully unaware of the fact that he uses his surfboard for purposes other than fun: an escape from destitute poverty and a gateway to that other paradise, America, his way barred by a fence.)

It appears as if I have produced a trilogy on the human struggle, without ever realising that the subject harbors my deepest fascination: how do we keep going? In retrospect, this trilogy started out with First Kill (2001): am I personally capable of killing a human being? Bloody Mondays & Strawberry Pies (2008) addresses the question of how to live without getting killed either by your job or by boredom. And now, HOW TO MEET A MERMAID, on the battle to remain alive.

With HOW TO MEET A MERMAID I stand up for the glorious beauty of our existence. This is a film about courage, doubt, difficult decisions, the lure of the sea, and the splendor of life in its occasional ineptitude at dissuading us from acts of recklessness. In the closing shot of the film, a footprint set in the concrete of a sun-drenched sidewalk, I join Faulkner by sharing in his vision: "I have great faith in man.”



'Elephant's Dream' Is a Necessary Addition to the Pantheon of Documentaries About the Congo



As documentary subjects go, the Congo has long been a country ripe with compelling material. Colonization, civil war, genocide, an ongoing fight for oil and environmental conservation (most recently explored in the Oscar-nominated “Virunga”) have all created the basis for hundreds upon hundreds of harrowing true stories. These stories are captivating and important, yes, but they also operate by depicting a reality where life in the Congo is fraught with the constant threat of violence and destruction.

“Elephant’s Dream” directed by British-Belgian filmmaker Kristof Bilsen, seeks to reconcile this heightened reality with the everyday realities of living and surviving in the Congo.  The film alludes to the fog of destruction subtly, but it doesn’t dwell on the physical violence and instability of the Congo’s past. This is demonstrated early on, as we watch postal worker Henriette on her daily bus ride to work in the busy, perpetually congested streets of Kinshasa. As she rides, looking out the window at one of the city’s infamously bad traffic jams, a hip hop song plays in the background, the rapper singing in French: “You suddenly left Kinshasa and your loved-ones/They chased our tribes as they once chased Christians/Now your son is considered a murderer but a genius/Aged 13 he finds peace in his M16.”

But, instead of following that often explored narrative, this documentary follows the lives of three workers in three different areas of the public sector: the Post Office, the Railway Station, and the lone, woefully ill-equipped fire station in Kinshasa. Documenting their daily lives and daily dramas, the film probes the realities of working in a country with crumbling infrastructure and a constant lack of resources.

Perhaps to offset the bleakness Bilsen chooses a dreamy, deeply cinematic style in filming the three subjects, framing them in symmetrical, artfully composed tableaus. Henriette, the postal worker, is introduced peering blankly through the cloudy glass at her work counter, the green in her ankara dress enhanced against the faded, peeling pastel walls of the postal office. Visually, it’s all incredibly beautiful to look at, though at times an overly romanticized approach.

Luckily, whenever the film tends to drift into these waters, its once again anchored by the very subjects it follows. Henriette, railway workers Simon and Nzai, and the stoic firefighter featured on the doc’s evocative poster are, rightfully so, the heartbeat of this film, rather than visual props. Their internal monologues are played constantly throughout the narrative via voice overs, telling stories of their past and voicing frustrations about their present realities - lack of wages, outdated practices, lack of government support.

What’s important to point out, and what ultimately makes this documentary work, is that it isn’t a wholly bleak portrait. It’s aesthetic beauty does much to elevate its subjects, but so does the exploration of solutions to the many problems that the subjects face, solutions that hinge of the three workers on empowering themselves by taking matters into their own hands. In the pantheon of documentaries about the Congo, “Elephant’s Dream” is an imperfect but incredibly necessary addition.

By Zeba Blay | Shadow and Act
Zeba Blay is a Ghanaian-born film and culture writer based in New York. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, Africa Style Daily, and Slant Magazine. She runs a personal movie blog, Film Memory, and co-hosts the podcast Two Brown Girls. Follow her on Twitter @zblay.




Laura Poitras is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, and artist. Her films have premiered at festivals worldwide and, along with her journalism, have received multiple honors including a Peabody Award, as well as Academy Award® and Emmy nominations.

My Country, My Country(2006) focused on the Iraq War was nominated for an Academy Award, an Independent Spirit Award, and an Emmy Award. The Oath(2010), about Guantánamo, won the Sundance Cinematography Award, Edinburgh Film Festival Documentary Jury Award, and a Gotham Award for Best Documentary. These two films comprise the first two parts of her post-9/11 America trilogy, of which CITIZENFOUR is the final part.

Poitras has taught filmmaking at Duke and Yale Universities. Her work was selected for the 2012 Whitney Biennial and she will have her first solo museum exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 2016. She is the recipient of a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship and was also a 2007 Guggenheim and a 2010 USA Rockefeller fellow.

Poitras’ NSA reporting, based on documents from Edward Snowden, contributed to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service awarded to The Guardian and Washington Post. This reporting was also honored with a George Polk Award, the International Reporters & Editors (IRE) Medal, and the Ridenhour prize. In 2014, she also received the International Documentary Association Courage Under Fire award.

Along with Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, she is co-founder of The Intercept news site.

Poitras currently lives in Berlin.

Jocelyn Ford
Jocelyn Ford

- Director's Statement

I have devoted my professional life to being a foreign correspondent because I sincerely believe a better-informed world community is m

ore likely to make better decisions. The evening I stooped to talk to Zanta as she sold trinkets on a pedestrian overpass I was pondering how little I knew of her world.  I had  talked with Tibetan Lamas and educated Tibetans. I was familiar with views of overseas Tibetans, but I knew almost nothing about the lives of  Tibetans with little formal education, nor of Tibetans who were migrating to China’s developed cities. What was Zanta’s experience? What was she thinking?

That evening I had no idea I would become so deeply involved in Zanta’s life, and that our unlikely encounter would be the genesis for a film. This documentary is a dramatic personal story of a mother, in the face of adversity, seeking to do her best for her child. It also tells of the discrimination  faced by families in Zanta’s community with no able-bodied men-folk, and the trials and occasional acts of preferential treatment extended to Tibetans who seek a better living in Han Chinese cities.

Through this story, I hope to make a small contribution to a discussion that may lead to a better-informed world and more enlightened policies, as well as provide food for thought to anyone who has ever reached out to, or is contemplating assisting someone less fortunate.

- Director's Bio

Beijing-based radio correspondent and filmmaker Jocelyn Ford has been a pioneer in giving a voice to marginalized groups and pushing for media freedom in East Asia for three decades.

She served for over ten years as Tokyo and Beijing bureau chief for U.S public radio’s premier national business show, Marketplace, and her reporting has been heard on a wide range of U.S. programs, including Radio Lab, The World, On the Media and Studio 360.

 But her favorite way to glean insights into a country is to work for local media.

In Tokyo, as the first foreigner in the prime minister’s press corps for Japan’s Kyodo News, she persistently challenged unspoken taboos. Her reporting on the WWII “comfort women” was a catalyst for the Japanese government to acknowledge a role in WWII forced prostitution.

In 2001 Jocelyn broke through barriers to become the first foreigner to co-produce and co-host China Radio International’s first live drive-time news show. There she got an inside view of China’s state-run media, and experienced a self-criticism session following her failure to heed state censors while reporting on 9/11.

Jocelyn has chaired the Foreign Correspondent Club of China’s media freedom committee and was a key strategist in the lobbying effort to reduce government controls on foreign media.

Her professional honors include an Overseas Press Club, a National Press Club award and a Jefferson Fellowship from the Hawaii-based East West Center. “Nowhere To Call Home” is her first feature-length documentary.


FIGARO
Men and war l'impossible réinsertion des soldats revenus du front/">

LA CROIX
"Un choc (...) D'une grande rigueur, frappant et émouvant sans être sensationnaliste ni voyeur."

L'HUMANITÉ
"Ce documentaire sur des combattants américains dont la guerre a brisé le psychisme est une arme de paix."

TÉLÉRAMA
"Sobre et bouleversant, ce film dit la nécessité vitale de la parole, mais aussi de l'urgence à entendre. En creux, il est question de notre responsabilité à tous : rester sourd aux cris de ces soldats cassés, c'est accepter de vivre à côté de grenades dégoupillées."

NOUVEL OBS
"Jamais encore le cinéma n’avait approché d’aussi près la réalité du stress post-traumatique, n’avait filmé avec une telle attention les anciens combattants aux prises avec leurs démons et leur culpabilité."

LE MONDE
Laurent Bécue-Renard nous cueille dès l'ouverture d'"Of Men and War"

LES INROCKS
"Le film de Bécue-Renard est ample et beau parce qu’il s’attache avec patience à la bouleversante figure de l’homme blessé, sans jamais forcer la main."

LE POINT
"Rarement on avait avec autant d'attention, de rigueur montré en acte ce ressenti de l'homme à fleur de peau qui tente de recoller les morceaux. Chaque scène est un suspense. Un happening, dans les mots, les silences, les corps."

LA VIE
"Un documentaire exceptionnel, qui jusqu’au bout refuse l’émotion facile, se tient du côté de l’écoute et non du jugement"

LE MONDE
"Une acuité et une proximité remarquables (...) une clarté psychologique saisissante"

À VOIR À LIRE
"Une odyssée humaine périlleuse, filmée avec justesse et empathie (...) une œuvre d’une force bouleversante"



Fernand Melgar is born in 1961 in Tangier into a family of Spanish anarchist exiles. He was clandestinely snuck into Switzerland by his parents in 1963 when they entered as seasonal workers.

In the early 80s he and his friends founded Le Cabaret Orwell, a mecca of underground culture in western Switzerland, followed by the internationally famous rock venue La Dolce Vita.

Following a screening of experimental films, he turned himself into a self-taught independent film director and producer. He created experimental films and iconoclastic television segments in 1983. In 1985 he joined the production company Climage, with whom he has stayed a faithful collaborator, and has produced over twenty well-regarded documentaries on the subjects of immigration and identity.

In 2008 his documentary La Forteresse won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival as well as many other international awards. His film Vol spécial, shot in 2011 in an administrative detention center, received more than thirty international awards, including the Swiss Film Award and the Prix Europa.

In his 2013 follow-up Le monde est comme ça, Fernand Melgar tells the story of some of Vol spécial’s protagonists after their expulsion from Switzerland.

Bio and selected filmography - Director and DOP

Gunhild Westhagen Magnor studied film at Surrey Institute of Art and Design. Her most recent documentary series before she started working on The Optimists were both nominated for Best Documentary Series in Norway 2011; Karanba (NRK, YLE) and Thaifjord 2 (TV Norge). Previous works includes numerous audience favorites, like the doc series Thaifjord 1 (Winner of the TV Award Gullruten 2008, TV Norge/SVT), and her single docs Rabbit King (2007 NRK/Krakow Int. Film Festival), Wings under Water (2005 NRK), Norwegian Wood (TV2) and The Day of The Dead, (Rain Dance International Film festival, 2001).

As DOP she has also shot the theatrical doc The Truth Hunter (2006, dir. Erlend Moe), and was nominated for Best Cinematography for Songs from the Street (NRK 2010, Audience Award, Norwegian Doc Festival/ Krakow Int. Film Festival).

Anders Riis-Hansen is an experienced filmmaker with over 15 documentaries to his name. His latest documentary “The Invisible Cell” from 2009 sold 85.000 cinema tickets.

Among other titles are, “The Vanguard of Democracy” from 2004, together with Anders Østergaard and “The Boys from Vollsmose” a feature length documentary (winner of Best Documentary of the year at the national TV-festival) and a series (Winner of Best Series of the year at the national TV-festival).

Anders Riis-Hansen was a commissioning editor at DR1 from 2004-2011.

Filmography

2012 - 2014 - “Cirkusdynastiet” (The Circus Dynasty)

2007 - 2009 - “Blekingegadebanden” (The Invisible Cell)

2004 - “Diplomatiets fortrop” (The Vanguard of Democracy)

2003 - “Fakse Vandrerhjem” (Fakse Hostel)

2000 - 2002 - “Drengene fra Vollsmose” (The Boys from Vollsmose)

2000 - “Musik er liv” (Music is Life)

1999 - “Fødegangen” (The Maternity Ward)

1998 - “Høje Historier” (Tall Stories)


Antoine Boutet, writer & director
Antoine Boutet lives and works in Bordeaux (France), even though his recent projects have seen him spend months at a time in China or the remote corners of the Dordogne. The essential part of his work, primarily using techniques of photography, installation, video is based around urban mutations and its resonances on the population in which we the spectator are invited to (re)consider the political implications.

His video installations or interventions in the public space are occasions to collaborate with urbanists, researchers and the inhabitants. His previous works, in particular Le Plein Pays (2009), have been presented and received awards in international festivals.

Director statement

My documentary work is organised around the visible. The rhythm of the sequences, the shot composition,a minimum of spoken words, and an understanding through image more than explanation. This is what constitutes my visual writing style. Between what we see and how it is presented, I want this film to show quite naturally and clearly the reality of the transformations taking place.

My images refer to notions of infinity and detail, of emptiness and fullness; all characteristics of Chinese pictorial art representing Shanshui (mountain-water), that is, the landscape. The constraints of language and comprehension influence my way of filming; I concentrate on the landscape rather than people, on images rather than words. I favour showing that which, in the context of the surroundings, speaks for itself. This distanced approach presents itself naturally as a counterpoint to the enormity of the Water Transfer Project construction site.

The apparent simplicity of this allows me to describe the essence of a crisis situation; to show, without necessarily explaining. To limit the number of different shots in order to translate the amplitude of the project or the strength of an encounter. And to capture, without pathos, the reality of such an upheaval.

Peter Woditsch is an award winning German-Belgian film director who studied directing at the Brussels INSAS with postgraduates at Munich & Berlin Film Schools, Ebeltoft & FAMU/Prague.

He works in the fields of feature film directing (ex. the internationally released ”Hey Stranger”, “to be or not to be” a.o.). He made many documentaries in Prague, Taiwan, Russia a.o. And also works as an editor.

Latest worldwide released documentaries include:
“The Lost Secret of Catherine The Great” 52’ & 69’, a Sophimages- de Productie-Artisan Filme coproduction with VRT, RTBF, ORF, YLE, AVRO, TSR, ZDF/ARTE, WDR, Media VAF, NL filmfund.

“Secret Museums”, 53’ &74’, a Sophimages-Artisan Filme coproduction with VAF,VRT, RTBF, ORF, YLE, AVRO, TSR, ZDF/Arte, Media.

“In God’s Hand”, 56’ & 69’, A Sophimages –Artisan Filme-RTBF coproduction, with VAF, FFHSH, VRT.

Director: Phie Ambo

Educated at the National Film School of Denmark, documentary filmmaker Phie Ambo (born 1973) is one of the leading Danish film directors of her generation. Award winning for her feature length documentary films true to the tradition of poetic, personal and cinematic documentary filmmaking, Ambo deals with sensitive topics such as family relations, love, spiritualism, creative processes, artificial life and robots.

Phie Ambo has directed a number of award-winning films for the cinema, including major works such as Family (2001), Gambler (2005), and Mechanical Love (2007).

Her films travel the world and have been screened in cinemas as well as over 90 festivals and on television throughout the world. Ambo is mainly interested in big questions like ‘what makes us human as opposed to robots?’ (Mechanical Love).

Her intimate method of filming – one woman, one camera, no lightning – allows her to blend in with her surroundings, thus getting very close to her subjects without disturbing the natural pace of the situation.

As a result of this method, one of Ambo’s trademarks are intimate and universally human stories that get very close to their characters and allow them space to unfold.

FILMOGRAPHY

2012: FREE THE MIND. 80 min. Director. Selected for IDFA’s masters program 2012.

2010: THE HOME FRONT. 40 min. Director & cinematographer. Festivals: DocuWeek, New York 2011, San Francisco Int. Festival, IDFA.

2010: FEVER. 14 min. Director & cinematographer.

2007: MECHANICAL LOVE. 78 min. Director & cinematographer. Festivals: CPH:DOX, Doc Point, Helsinki, IDFA, HotDocs, Toronto, Silverdocs, Washington, Los Angeles FF, Munchen IFF, Nordic Panorama. Awards: Internet audience award, Planete Doc. Warsaw. Nominations: Cinema Eye Honor, New York & Gulddok, Copenhagen.

2005: GAMBLER. 80min. Director & cinematographer. Festivals: CPH:DOX, Gøteborg FF, Nordic Presentation, Rotterdam FF, Seattle IFF, Taiwan golden horse IFF.

2003: THE DIVER INSIDE ME. 28 min. Director & cinematographer. Festivals: Sheffield IDF, Norwegian DFF in Volda, Ankara IFF.

2002: GROWING UP IN A DAY. 28 min. Director & cinematographer. Festivals: IDFA, Sheffield IDF, Visions du Reel, Nyon. Awards: Kodak award for best photography on short film, Visions du Reel.

2001: FAMILY. 90 min. Director & cinematographer, co-directed by Sami Saif. Awards: IDFA 2001: Joris Ivens Award, München DFF 2002: Dokumentarfilmpreis Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Zanzibar IFF 2003: Best Documentary, American Film Institute 2003: Honorary Mention.


As a director John Pirozzi’s previous documentary film, SLEEPWALKING THROUGH THE MEKONG, chronicled the California based band Dengue Fever’s first trip to Cambodia. He has also directed music videos for Queens of the Stone Age, Calexico, Vic Chesnutt and Victoria Williams.

As cinematographer he has shot numerous documentaries including Xan Cassavetes critically acclaimed Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, Radio Unnameable, about free form radio pioneer Bob Fass and Bling: A Planet Rock which details the blood diamond trade in Sierra Leone through the eyes of Hip Hop artists.

He also shot the closing number of I’m Your Man which was a musical performance by Leonard Cohen and U2.

As 2nd unit DP and camera operator John has worked on film’s such as Matt Dillon’s City of Ghosts and Patti Smith’s Dream of Life.

He has done much 2nd unit work for the CBS show Person of Interest and is currently working on a new show for NBC titled Allegiance.

Sam Benstead is a director-producer who has filmed in over 20 countries, shooting documentaries for the BBC, Arte and National Geographic.
He began his career as an ideas man, pitching ideas for films to TV executives and becoming Head of Development for three major production companies in the UK.
Then he moved into making films. His first two documentaries both won major industry awards (Garden That Changed The World, National Guild Award for Cinematography; Spies Beneath Berlin, Golden Camera at US International Film Festival).

Coach Zoran and His African Tigers is his first feature documentary.

Alon Kol is an award-winning filmmaker who has worked in the film and television in both Canada and Israel. He has directed and edited documentaries for History Channel, National Geographic, Discovery, and Vision TV. Kol has also produced and directed his own short award-winning films, which have been shown on television and at numerous festivals.

His film, The Field , was winner of the Film Director Special Award at Cieszyn Film Festival 2006 in Poland, and his film, A Wish , was the winner of Best Actress Award at Q2FFF Film Festival 2007 in Toronto.

Transfixed is Kol’s independent documentary feature, which has been supported by Canada Council for the Arts, Toronto Art Council, Ontario Art Council, and the National Film Board.

Filmography

Director/Producer:
Holy Threads, (2008) A documentary episode 22 min, from Documentary series The Naked Archeologist, for Vision TV Canada, and History International channel US

A Wish (2007), fiction 7 min

The Field (2006), fiction, 24 min

Zone (2005), documentary, 17 min,

The Bridge (2004), fiction, 5 min

Come with me (2003), fiction, 10 min,


Nikita Tikhonov-Rau, Director, producer Member of Russian Documentary Guild, was born in 1980 in Moscow. Born in a family with Russian, German, Polish, Ukranian and Jewish roots, he always wanted to create films on international issues. In 2005 he graduated from Higher Courses of Directors and Screenwriters (Moscow, Russia).

Having worked for 7 years for major Russian TV-channels he created over 30 documentaries, mostly focused on ethical issues of science, art, religion, philosophy and politics. In 2011 with Olga Arlauskas he founded a production company Artvideo Studio Ltd., based in Moscow, Russia and Bilbao, Spain. The company specializes in current affairs and social issues films about Russia.

In 2012 he became the vice-president of The Russian Documentary Guild (www.rgdoc.ru), managing documentary film distribution and building The National DOK-club Network.

Selected filmography:

Children of the State (2014 )
Straightening Sigh (2014)
In the image and likeness (2013)
In Aut (2012)
The crowd power (2012)

The Labels (2011)
To cheat death (2011)
Lev Artsimovich. Prescentiment of the atom. (2009)

Rene Magritte. In search of the meaning of things. (2009)
Astrid Lindgren. A girl inside out. (2008)


 Sergey Lemeshev. The Idol (2007)
A few words about Charles Darwin... (2006)

Tchaikovsky House in Klin. (2005)


Olga Arlauskas, director, producer Member of the Russian Documentary Guild was born in Moscow in 1981.

In 1991 her family moved to Bilbao, Spain. In 2004 she successfully completed her studies at the Faculty of Audiovisual Communication at the University of the Basque Country. In 2004 she was given a grant from Basque government to study filmmaking and moved back to Russia. In 2006 she graduated as a documentary filmmaker from VKSR (Higher Courses for Scriptwriters and Directors).

Since then she’d been working for Channel One Russia, Channel Kultura, Russia Today (Spanish version) and made nearly 20 documentary films from intimate biopics to prime-time TV¬blockbusters.

In 2011 together with Nikita Tikhonov-Rau she founded a production company Artvideo Studio Ltd., based both in Russia and Spain and specializing in current affairs and social issues art¬journalism about Russia.

Selected filmography:

Children of the state (2014)
Straigthening Sigh (2014)
In the image and likeness (2013)
In Aut (2012)
Anatomy of a soul (2012)
The Labels (2011)
To cheat death (2011)
To be together (2009)


Thomas Wallner is a director, writer, producer and game designer working in feature film, television, games and interactive media. In addition to producing innovative cross-media properties for television, he has written and directed five award-winning feature documentaries that have been broadcast in more than 30 countries. Thomas is a recipient of numerous honors including two interactive Emmy Awards and three additional nominations, two Geminis, a Rose d’Or, SXSW Interactive Award, two Webbys and two CNMA’s.

Filmography:

2012 Gardenia – Before the Last Curtain Falls
Theatrical Feature Documentary, Writer/ Director

2011 The Guantanamo Trap
Theatrical Feature Documentary, Writer/ Director http://www.guantanamotrap.com

2008 Inside Hana’s Suitcase
Theatrical Feature Documentary, Writer

2006 Tropicana
Documentary, Writer/ Director

2005 Mozartballs
Documentary, Writer

2004 Beethoven’s Hair
Documentary, Writer

1996 Solidarity Song – The Hanns Eisler-Story
Feature documentary, Co-Director/ Co-Writer

1992 My War Years: Arnold Schoenberg
Documentary, Associate Director/ Co-Writer