The International Competition at DOK Leipzig has a great deal to offer: great names, great subjects, great movies. The twelve competition entries, among them five directed by women and including twelve participating production countries and six international or world premieres, penetrate deeply into present-day and human conflicts, though they equally surprise with their humour and a healthy portion of heart. Moreover, the competition offers a juxtaposition of newcomers, along with well-known names such as renowned Swiss-German director Heidi Specogna, famed French actor and director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi or Mia Halme from Finland, as well as former Dove winners including Sergei Loznitsa, Serhiy Bukovsky, Vitaly Mansky and Miroslav Janek.
Cahier Africain (2016); Director: Heidi Specogna
Painful yet irreplaceable through the in-depth look they take behind the headlines are the works that head for international crisis hotspots. In the Danish entry entitled “The War Show”, Obaidah Zytoon and Andreas Dalsgaard accompany a circle of friends in Syria from the first onsets of revolution all the way to the agony of a horrible war whose course has never been seen this way before. The harrowing tale of three Yazidi girls, sexually assaulted by ISIS and driven out of their home country, and the attemps to cope with the trauma is told in “A157” by Iranian director Behrouz Nooranipour. In contrast, Heidi Specogna channels the focus on a smouldering crisis that threatens to vanish from our awareness: Set in scenes of sorrowful beauty, “Cahier Africain” heads out to the Central African Republic on an odyssee between the fronts of Muslim and Christian rebels. In “Rodnye (Close Relations)”, Vitaly Mansky portrays the Russian-Ukrainian conflict as an excruciating rift splitting his own family in his most personal film up to now. How the horror of the past becomes an event of the present is, in turn, explored by Sergei Loznitsa in “Austerlitz”, in which he observes visitors to a concentration camp with their selfie sticks: an eery scenery set in black & white tableaux.
The Leading Role (2016); Director: Serhiy Bukovsky
A legend in his Croatian homeland, author Pero Kvesić is confronted with the terror of his own skulking death – and uses his mastery of the humour so typical of Balkan countries to transform it into a midnight-black comedy with a happy end: “Dum Spiro Spero”. New looks at ageing are a recurring subject at this year’s festival edition: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Yann Coridian let the elderly Blanche live out the last great love of her life in dreamlike dance scenes via the intervention of choreographer Thierry Thieû Niang in “A Young Girl in Her Nineties”. And in “The Leading Role”, Serhiy Bukovsky uses a scenographic dialogue with his mother, a former Soviet film star, to ask who or what plays the leading role in our lives and where the (self-)staging ends.
Another grand theme in this year’s programme is the inner world of autistic children and adolescents. Whereas Miroslav Janek’s “Normal Autistic Film” almost physically transmits the exuberant fantasy and energy of his protagonists, in her first film entitled “Communion” the young Polish director Anna Zamecka stages a coming-of-age drama displaying utopian charisma with a fiction-like dramatisation.
Every Other Couple (2016); Director: Mia Halme
An equally universal drama, the separation of couples and the breakup of families, is approached by Mia Halme in a lyrically dense meshwork composed of recollections and scenes between trauma and coping.
The same two factors could also headline the story of Icare alias Courgette, who has to fight his way to a new future in a children’s home after his mother’s death. What sets Claude Barras’ “My Life as a Courgette” apart from the other films is simply the fact that it is an animated film. And in the process the competition at DOK Leipzig opens itself up to new target groups as well: great cinematic art for a wide audience.