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Saturday, 21 May 2016

DOKer II Day One and Two and Further Recommendations

A clip from the opening film Ruch and Norie.

The 2nd DOKer International Film Festival has got off to an excellent start with some excellent films. The opening film at the festival took place at one of Moscow's largest cinema's 'October' on the central Noviy Arbat street. That an independent festival of documentary cinema can open at Moscow's major cinema and call almost entirely fill its main screen (something that only the main Moscow International Film Festival is able to do) is a sign of genuine hope for the future of documentary in Russia indicating a real thirst for reality in a world that seems to be becoming ever more phantasmagorical.

Day One and Day Two saw some very powerful films being shown. The opening film was a hymn to cross-cultural communication in the guise of a story of friendship between a young Japanese anthropologist and an elderly Latvian grandmother from a small ethnic community and entitled Ruch and Norie. Very strong visually and able to transmit deep transmit human emotions in such a way that palpably moved the audience to this unforced story of a very unlikely friendship.

Day Two had some gems too. One was David Bernet's Democracy with an in-depth and behind the scenes look at the European parliament and the battles and pressure on a German Green politician by big business. Day Two was also the long-awaited Russian film by the Rastorguev film Norilsk: A First Person Account which I'll be reviewing soon.

   The New Zealand film The Ground We Won a cinema verite film by Cristopher Pryor and Miriam Smith on the bawdy world of a rugby team of New Zealander farmers. There were interesting shorts such as the film Guillo - a tale of freedom and loneliness.

Today has some excellent films too. Starting with a film about Trieste that sismograph of Europe. Perhaps the film that I'm most waiting for having lived in the city for two years. A tale of immigration unlike others in which the immigrants and the city of reflect each other as in a poem by Umberto Saba that great cantor of this atypical Italian city. The gaze of the city from a filmmaker from Marseilles, Jean Boiron Lajous, and his documentary subjects has also had some very positive reviews from the Italian press.

A clip from the film Terra di Nessuno on Trieste

The theme emigration is also touched on in the next film today entitled Sixty Spanish Cigarettes, a minimalist metaphor for Spain's bleak and growingly desperate socioeconomic in which emigration is one of the only ways out. This is the first time it will be shown outside of Mediterranean film festivals.

The third film in the main competition is Lenin Park, once again a Spanish-language film, this time from Cuba. A documentary by Carlos Mignon and Itziar Leemans. Taking its name from a Havana amusement park where the Kessel Brothers share their last memory. A film elegy on the death of a mother, on the difficulty of life without her and once again a film on emigration.

Today's films also include four shorts and three films from the Let IT Dok! competition. The only IT documentary competition in the world- an area that DOKer has marked out completely for itself.

Tomorrow's film from the Let IT Dok! competition Capital C is said to be one of the most awaited films of the festival. A crowdfunded film on the crowdfunding and shot in 24 countries, the film has already been making waves throughout the world.

 Two more films deal with an African subject matter (or rather Euro-African links). Both Warriors and Leaving Africa promise to be of interest:

 On Monday the Let IT Dok! competition has another very strong contender in the guise of a film narrated by Tilda Swinton explaining how the mania for new technology is as old as the hills:

A glowing four star review in the Guardian reveals details as to why this may be one of the films to look out for at this festival and a film that most determinedly references early Soviet cinema.

An Pakistani film shown at IDFA A Walnut Tree and an Iranian film Wedding shown at Leipzig also are likely to surprise and delight audiences.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

International Documentary Showcased in Moscow: Year 2 of the Doker International Film Festival.

The Second Edition of the DOKer International Documentary Film Festival will be opening in a couple of days time and will last from May 19th to May 24th. It has already established a reputation as the only genuinely international festival of documentary film in Russia. Unlike festivals such as Art Doc Fest it doesn't concentrate its gaze on Russian documentaries, or films with Russian subject matter or in the Russian language. And unlike Perm's Flahertiana festival it does not devote itself to a niche of purely observational documentaries. Instead it tries and succeeds in its goal of bringing high-class art documentaries from every continent to Moscow thus contributing to that much needed dialogue with the international documentary community. A brief look at the upcoming programme of the festival shows how the DOKer team have rapidly earned their reputation of being the main forum where international documentaries can be seen and discussed in Russia. This year at just its second edition, 1,700 films from 97 countries have been submitted. Many of the films have been specially invited to the DOKer festival after their world premieres at such prestigious world film festivals such as the Berlinale and Locarno and at the highly regarded documentary film festivals such as Canada's Hot Docs and Amsterdam's IDFA.

This year as well as the main competition programme showcasing some very fine feature length films from New Zealand to Peru and the shorts programme (hosting those new filmmakers who may well go on to become the next generation of leading documentary filmmakers), there is a new competition programme featuring a rather unique genre of documentaries that has, it seems, no other major festival platform in the world. This is the "Let IT Dok" programme of documentaries on Information Technology.

All selected films will have their Russian premiere at this festival. The festival itself sprung up as a result of an extraordinarily heroic experiment by a small team of documentary filmmakers who, since 2011, have been bringing documentary film to many towns and cities across Russia (and not just to its capital). The DOKer Project doesn't limit itself to films showings but also organizes discussions with the team behind the film, master classes, closed screenings before world premieres and often assists and supports the local theatrical releases of Russian films. On top of the festival screenings the team have organised over 350 screenings of documentary films to an audience of over 30,000. Sometimes these screenings have paved the way to participation in various important film festivals.

All this hard work has paid off with the formation of this festival, now in its second edition after an extremely successful first run.

Four Russian films will be introduced at the festival. In the main competition programme, Maria Murashova will present her Collectors of Sea Grass whose first screening took place at the Dvizhenie Film Festival in Omsk where it won the first prize in the Documentary Competition. There are two short films by Vladimir Golovnev (Two Childhoods) and Yulia Panasenko (Intro- the second film of a dilogy, the first of which won various important national film awards). In the "Let IT Dok" section, a well-known web documentary interactive project is taking part created by the large team of documentalists under the direction of Alexander Rastorguev and Alexei Pivovarov with their film project "Norilsk In the First Person"

Mike Lerner, a jury member who will be giving a Master Class at the Festival

The three juries who will judge the films are made up of some very fine professionals in their field. Mike Lerner, the British producer and director who was nominated for an Oscar for his film Hell and Back Again. Lerner is also the holder of six Sundance Festival awards and two Emmy's. His work has also touched Russian subject matters such as Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. As has the work of Pirjo Honkasalo whose 2004 portrait of Chechnya in her film Three Rooms of Melancholia won many international film awards including three special awards at the Venice Film festival in 2004. It created a stunning portrait of the tragic affect of the Chechen conflict on children in Russia and Chechnya prompting the New York Times critic to call it "one of the saddest films ever made". There are jurists from Italy- Giovanni Robbiano, a scriptwriter, member of the European Film Academy, who works at Praguee's prestigious FAMU and Sara Fgaier, perhaps Italy's most outstanding film editor who has worked with Pietro Marcello on his extraordinary films as well as with Gianfranco Rosi- the documentary filmmaker who regularly receives main prizes at the most highly regarded film festivals in the world with his fascinating documentaries which leave the feature films far behind in the consideration of juries. As well as working on The Silence of Peleshian, Sara Fgaier has worked on the extraordinary film The Train to Moscow: A Journey to Utopia using found video footage about Italian Communists who travelled to the 1957 World Youth Festival in Moscow and who discovered a world not altogether matching their utopian imagination. Russian jury members include the film director Alyona Polunina whose glimpse of an extraordinary middle aged Moscovite Varya who set off on a voyage through Ukraine meeting what should have been her 'enemies' lit up the audience at least year's festival with an tempestuous discussion. The film was then to find itself in censorship problems with the Minister of Culture refusing it a license. One of Russia's most interesting critics (not just of film) and journalists Mikhail Rathaus will also serve in a jury as will Georgiy Molodtsov one of the real 'movers and shakers' in Russian documentary film and a curator of the superb documentary programme of the Moscow International Film Festival.

Sara Fgaier, one of Italy's best film editors who has worked with Gianfranco Rosi and Pietro Marcello.

The opening film of the festival to be shown on May 19th will be the Latvian film Ruch and Norie - an splendid film on cross-cultural communication which talks of the encounter of two exotic worlds: that of a young Japanese anthropologist and a grey-haired granny Ruch from a small ethnic community in Latvia. The director Inara Kolmane won many national awards for her film and has become a real star in Latvia cinema. The closing and awards ceremony will take place on the 24th May. These will both take place at the Cinema October on the Noviy Arbat.