11th Feb 2012
I'm writing this for those of you who might want, someday, to take part in the Berlinale Talent Campus. As one young film maker said, "There is life before the Talent Campus and there is life after the Talent Campus." And, looking back on it, he did have a point. It is a game-changer.
10th Feb 2012
I wake up in a small hostel room, having left Tali's flat in East Berlin. I am nearer the centre now, near Hauptbahnhof. Happily the hostel changed my booking from a 6-bed dorm to a 2-bed room, and my room-mate, the morning light reveals, is none other than Tamara Scherbak, an experimental film-maker from Canada who I already know from the talent campus at Reykjavik. More importantly, as anyone who has shared a room in a hostel will attest to, she does not snore violently.
I have one more day of freedom before the Talent Campus starts and have been warned that, once it starts, there is barely any time to watch films let alone explore. So I bolt out of the hostel early to make the most of things. It is slightly warmer: all omens are good.Read more
One day from the Berlinale now and the sadism in the air has condensed into snow.
People walk around pretending its ok – but I know better.
Here's three of them as seen from the window of ex-ECA classmate and Bridging the Gap film-maker, Tali. Notice how these three lunatics have left their houses to promenade through the polar-powder, jauntilly and purposefully and, in some cases, pouting to whistle bravely like nothings wrong at all. Unfortunately the man with the hat on the corner had been in mid-stride for 3 hours. That's where bravado gets you.Read more
Having finished my copy of Stasiland I now feel ready for a stay with my ex-ECA film making buddies Tali and Johanna in East Berlin. I am hugely excited about the Berlinale Talent Campus. Guest speakers include Kossakovsky, Juliette Binoche, Herzog and Mike Leigh. And the company of 300 other 'New Talents', from all walks of the film making. For what it's worth, I'll also be spilling the beans on new films at the Berlinale.
7th Feb 2012
On arrival in Berlin the moisture in my nose freezes on the short one minute walk to the airport station. An odd sensation, like having badly mixed concrete in the nostrils.
It is -18 degrees. Some say -22. The numbing cold rises rapidly up from feet to stomach. It is too cold to remove my hands from their pockets to hold the map I should be following. Better lost and moving than still and searching. My mind jumps to the lesson of Oates, the bloke who travelled with legendary 'Scott of the Antarctic'. Childhood stories say he insisted on letting the cold kill him whilst walking into the Wilderess, rather than dying standing still. Now I understand. I understand Oates. While there is movement there is hope.Read more
Wild at Heart – An Experiment in Courage was an intriguing title for a novel industry event hosted by DokLeipzig this year. The intention with this invite-only event was to inject new life into industry conversations, which as festival events go, often end up in panels where we exchange information, but less frequently meaningful conversations of what actually underpins our passion for documentary, and reasons for doing what we’re doing.
The morning consisted of three rounds of 30mins, spread over 10 tables of 8, with a table host each, and three questions designed to get deeper into the heart of courage within documentary. We were told to write on the table cloths. Ilo von Seckendorff, one of the organisers, told me that it took a long time to find the right questions for this event. There were no right or wrong answers expected of us (although it was easy to fall into that mode of thinking), and participants were supposed to drop their roles as commissioners, producers, filmmakers etc and just be present as a person, contributing from the heart.Read more
For its 6th edition Dockanema decided to celebrate Ruy Guerra. At the Brazilian Cultural Centre he decided to talk about the 3 moments of his life: poet, photographer, actor, scriptwriter, editor, but above all film director, born in 1931 in the city now known as Maputo. In his youth in Maputo, he was active against Portuguese colonization and racism, which of course got him into trouble with the authorities. His father worried for his safety and decided to send him abroad.Read more
Some of you may have heard of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique but I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t. It is a large country in the south of Africa, with a very long coast on the Indian Ocean and sharing borders with South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania. Not only do they share borders but also a history of wars and colonialism. Except that Mozambique was the only territory in that part of Africa colonized by Portugal, which meant independence only came once Portugal got rid of its own fascist government in 1975.
Then came the golden era of Mozambique's left wing liberator, Samora Machel. Again, many people wouldn’t even know his name, but he was a bigger version of Mandela, with as much of a passion for his people as he had for life. Less than 10 years later – at a time when Aparteid in South Africa was at its most threatening, and in retaliation of Mozambique’s offering political refuge to South African militants – his presidential plane crashed ‘by accident’, leaving Mozambique a helpless widow.
This is a long introduction to talk about Dockanema, Mozambique’s annual documentary festival, but Mozambique has always had a special place in the history of cinema.Read more
In the last two weekends I've been fortunate to travel South and North to attend two small festivals. They offer different kinds of opportunities to big industry events, and the ripples of a visit can last much longer in some instances.
At the end of August I attended Rome's Gender Docufilm Festival, situated in the 10th annual Gay Village, a beer and event garden which pops up each summer between June and September, with disco nights, film screenings and other cultural events on two stages. As president of the Di'Gay project Imma Battaglia said when she welcomed us with a buffet dinner: "We love putting Gay Village in the park to remind people of how important it is to look after the environment. It's about going beyond LGBT issues - if we don't care for the trees, we'll be nowhere politically!" For me the idea of celebrating open hearted diversity, a stone throw (or shall we say an apple's throw) from The Vatican is at once amusing and very progressive. I found a place full of history, looking to the future.Read more
To get back to Kosovo this year I flew to Tirana, Albania, which has a brand new airport. I'm told it's at least a 2.5 hours drive to Prizren “if the traffic is good”, on a newly built motorway which winds through the mountains for a journey that used to take up to 8 hours. I'm assured the driver “used to race rally” and relax into my seat. Never mind the Italian car which later blocks us from over-taking by hogging the line, at 160kph, and the 10cm which separate the bumpers of our cars. I ask the driver if he's seen Senna, the documentary – as if that might alleviate my sweaty palms, or distract him from pursuing the chase. (He hadn't.)Read more
My last evening on June 10, 2011 at Sheffield International Documentary Festival was a real treat when the noisy party was interrupted and brought to a whispering silence when Roger Graeff announced the arrival of the veteran documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Helped to the stage by festival director Heather Croall (someone should create an award for most energetic festival director), he walks shakily to the microphone in his crumpled black shirt, and wearing odd socks, one grey, one green, to a standing ovation by the crowd.Read more