Yesterday we reported the films competing for the top prize at Denmark’s documentary film festival, CPH:DOX. More competitions and nominees have been announced, and here are all the Nordic documentaries that are included.
F:ACT Award 2017
The F:ACT Award is dedicated to films in the field between documentary filmmaking and investigative journalism. This year, 11 films are nominated in this prestigious competition, consisting of six World Premieres and five International Premieres.
Cause of Death: Unknown
Anniken Hoel (Norway)
When her older sister suddenly dies of cardiac arrest as a result of antipsychotic medication, Anniken Hoel embarks on an investigative detective mission that takes her right into the dark heart of parts of a pharmaceutical industry, where the manipulation of researchers, scientists and politicians is an everyday fact. And where dollars have more to say than the respect for human life. Hoel travels around the world to obtain testimony from experts, patients and (after many attempts) representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, and she presents her complex research in an impressively level-headed way. But behind her systematic stubbornness is a smouldering anger about the tragic fate of her sister and thousands of others. An anger you will soon end up sharing in this shocking but also deeply moving and phenomenally captivating journalistic film, which fights cynicism and greed to the hilt.
Dead Donkeys fear no Hyenas
Joakim Demmer, Sweden
Why does a famine-ravished country such as Ethiopia export tonnes of food to the West, when it can hardly feed its own population? And why does the World Bank spend billions of dollars on sustainable development aid, when millions of farmers are at the same time being deprived of the right to use their land? Hoping to achieve high export earnings and secure future prosperity, the Ethiopian government has decided to lease millions of hectares of land to foreign investors. Land that formerly belonged to the locals and local farmers, who now lose everything without any prospect of getting a share of the money the government earns. The harsh and unequal struggle for the green gold of the future – the planet’s farming lands – is fought between speculators and farmers on two different continents. Joakim Demmer sets out to uncover the widely sprawling battlefield where it’s at, and ‘Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas’ is investigative journalism that will make you jump up from your chair – and shout with anger. Demmer’s film is produced by the veteran director Fredrik Gertten (‘Bananas!’ and ‘Bikes vs. Cars’), and is sure to bring out the activist in all of us.
Lars Feldballe-Petersen, Denmark
Can one, as a war criminal, come to terms with the past, when one has committed what is possibly the worst of all crimes: torturing and executing innocent victims in the unholy name of war? This is a question that Esad Landzo has asked himself for years. But now he has arrived at a realisation. He has to meet the people he victimised during the civil war in former Yugoslavia almost 25 years ago. For it is only through reconciliation and forgiveness that Esad can set himself free. And, like he says when he sits with a picture of himself as an 18-year-old and can barely recognise himself: ‘I simply don’t know where all the evil came from.’ But can Esad Landzo be forgiven – and should he? ‘The Unforgiven’ confronts Esad with his victims and with himself as a young man in a dark, personal tale of evil, self-hatred and forgiveness. But the psychology of war is a bleak and inaccessible landscape that stretches far beyond Esad’s own, heartbreaking story.
Return of a President
Lotte Mik-Meyer, Denmark
In 2009, Madagascar’s president Marc Ravalomanana was deposed from power in a coup which replaced him with a young radio DJ and his private army, and which sent the population into abject poverty. From his exile in South Africa, Ravalomanana is now determined to regain power by peaceful means. But the road back to his native country and to democracy is a minefield of political intrigue and international economic interests. A hard path, which the Danish filmmaker Lotte Mik-Meyer has documented over the course of five years, with unique access to the diplomatic power play – and to Ravalomanana himself. For more than political ideals are at stake. The former colonial power France is just one of the countries that has socio-economic interests in the African island nation, and which secretly but actively supports the new regime. A film about the fragility of democracy and about a determined man’s mission to defend it.
The films in NEW: VISION are all world premieres. The films are particularly characterised by being of an international and experimental character, as are the heritages of their directors. Some are known for their work with documentary film, others for their work in the art world. The nominees therefore reflect themselves best what the NEW:VISION competition is about, that is the examination of the distinctive field located between film and art.
The Mærsk Opera
SUPERFLEX SUPERFLEX, Denmark
‘The Mærsk Opera’ is the story of the creation of the controversial Copenhagen Opera House. A work in three acts, which depicts the power relations of the day between individuals and society. The story begins in 2005, when the opera house is being built and the Carver is contacted by the Assistant, who desires to create ‘the most beautiful stone ever seen’. Apart from the musicians and singers, we are in the film presented with a range of protagonists, who all depict intrigue, conflict and power within Denmark’s recent history. With a twist that includes elements from documentary filmmaking, animation and aesthetic realism, the film’s diverse gallery of characters is brought into play: a lonely meteorite, a dog with a collar, a pair of gesticulating male hands, industrious ants, springboard divers and a sonically manipulated black liquid. The subtle symbolism of the film’s imagery and the classical, impasto opera together create a contrasting universe, which depicts the structures of capitalist society, and acts as a kind of multilayered catharsis – a film about an opera about a building. The film is an adaptation of SUPERFLEX’s opera of the same name, performed during Copenhagen Art Festival in 2012.
Maybe This Act, This Work, This Thing
Joachim Koester, Denmark, Belgium& United Kingdom
Two Vaudeville actresses work on a new play on a dark stage. Spurred by the cinematic apparatus – the cinema, the projector, movement, sound – the two dancers try to transform themselves through gestures into the rotating gear of a projector, spinning reels and quivering electricity. The two women whisper, dance, stamp and wind around the axes of their own bodies in their interpretation of cinematic mechanics. Joachim Koester’s enigmatic and dialogue-free work for two dancers, a dark stage and a camera conjures up a picture of the cinematic medium as a powerful revolutionary force, a product of the 20th century’s industrialisation of culture, the body and possibly art itself – a force which may be ebbing away, if we take the two dancers’ actions as a sign that the film medium itself is conscious of having to seduce a new audience before it’s too late. A work that is created as an installation and which takes on a whole new meaning by being experienced in the cinema.
Saodat Ismailova, Norway & Uzbekistan
Saodats Ismailova’s symbolic and suggestive film is a cinematic letter to an extinct race of tigers, and uses an almost hallucinatory force to conjure up a mythological, Central Asian world of yesterday. A majestic animal that speaks to us about the historical changes that led up to its own extinction as a result of modern industrialisation and fur hunting, but which lives on in the collective imagination of Turkestan as a sacred image of the soul. Ismailova’s elegiac but vitalistic work lets us sense historical and cultural changes through a hypnotic smokescreen of visions. The patinated archive footage of urban life in the region at the beginning of the 20th century, which emerges before us between pictures of today’s vast landscapes, is haunting in its modest intensity. ‘The Haunted’ is a work that consists of admonishing appearances, but is also an aural experience of a different (and more spiritual) world.
he Lost Dreams of Naoki Hayakawa
Ane Hjort Guttu & Daisuke Kosugi, Norway.
Naoki Hayakawi is an art director at an advertising agency in Tokyo – an environment where creativity and all-consuming work conditions become an alienating whole. Naoki lives off his imagination, which earns him enough to pay for Tokyo’s exorbitant rent. But as his (day)dreams become more and more vivid in the sterile office landscape full of post-it notes and PowerPoint presentations, an anarchistic and violent energy is released, which threatens to dissolve the borders between colourful dreams and grey reality in an absurd comic chaos in the middle of an environment of hierarchical control. Naoki himself is based on Daisuke Kosugi’s own dreams and experiences from an all too recognisable reality, where the creative class is a precariat dressed in attractive clothes. In cooperation with the Norwegian Ane Hjort Guttu, the two have made a subversive (and entertaining!) work, which in kinship with Michel Gondry re-conquers imagination like a modern human right. The film was commissioned by the Gwangju Biennale.
John Skoog, Sweden
The shadow of a tall and hunched man moves around a labyrinthine apartment full of bookcases, video tapes and plastic bags – like a modern Max Schreck who is restlessly looking for something that has been lost forever. The mystery and melancholy from Murnau’s vampire classic is preserved in John Skoog’s interpretation of ‘Nosferatu’, which is a (self-)portrait of the Swedish ‘outsider artist’ Richard Vogel, with whom Skoog has created his latest film work. A film that gives a new meaning and dignity to the concept of Scandinavian Expressionism by being filmed on an antiquated video format and copied from an antique video projector, whose three colours constantly threaten to dissolve the porous picture into a vacuum of abstraction. The recently deceased Vogel was a close friend of Skoog’s family, but lived a quiet life dedicated to accumulating hours of videotaped television shows and almost aggressively meaningless own projects, which in an almost lexical fashion document the welfare state’s invisible corners and waste products in countless works.