62. Internationales Leipziger Festival für Dokumentar- und Animationsfilm
DOK Leipzig 28 October – 3 November 2019
62nd International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film
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Symposium as Part of DOK Leipzig 2019: Who Owns the Truth?

Two days of the festival dedicated to how documentaries engage with political opponents | First Special Programmes announced

During this year’s edition, DOK Leipzig aims to create even more room for debate. The festival is putting on a two-day symposium entitled Who Owns the Truth? to explore and discuss the different ways in which filmmakers engage with political opponents. The event is funded by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung).


Which political and aesthetic strategies can documentary filmmakers pursue when engaging with those diametrically opposed to their own worldview? Who makes the rules? And what separates a critical film from an affirmative one? These questions and similar ones are to be brought up by way of films, discussions and readings. Both film professionals and members of the public can take part in the discussions.  


“During the last few editions of the festival, there were heated debates about the ‘right’ approach for documentaries whose protagonists don’t share one’s own value system”, explains festival director Leena Pasanen. “These discussions were accompanied by the concern that filmmakers might be brought into direct association with their protagonists. What emerged is just how contested the truth really is. That’s why the title of the symposium will also be the motto of this year’s edition. We want to direct similar questions also at other films at the festival under the slogan ‘Who Owns the Truth?’ and discuss them in Q&As with the audience.”


Debating films represents the starting point for picking up on the same discussions in other contexts and taking them further. Programmer Ralph Eue, who initiated the symposium, adds, “We want to open up a space for productive ‘argument‘ and allow opinions to be exchanged. As a festival dedicated to artistic documentary, we am to be strong advocates for the versatility of documentary film and promote the art of looking at films in differentiated fashion.”   


The films of the symposium also make up one of this year’s Special Programmes. The remaining curated Special Programmes also shine a light on film history, examine the filmmaking of individual countries or are dedicated to the work of outstanding artists.

With this year’s Homage, DOK Leipzig is honouring the filmmaking work of Singapore-based director Tan Pin Pin. In her oeuvre, the artist has persistently set her sights on Singapore’s national identity – sometimes to the displeasure of the island nation. Her film “To Singapore, with Love” (2013), in which she calls on political exiles living abroad, is still not allowed to be screened in Singapore to this day. At international festivals such as the Berlinale, Busan or Rotterdam, however, her audiovisual essays such as “Invisible City” (2007) have been celebrated. Tan Pin Pin’s works operate at the intersection between video and art, film and photography.


One key part of the Special Programmes is the Retrospective. This year’s Retrospective examines the forty years from 1949 to 1989 during which two German states existed. “We are working on the assumption that using films to look back at those forty years of history makes an important contribution to better understanding the oft-difficult socio-political aftermath of 1989”, comments Eue, who has curated the Retrospective together with Olaf Möller before the backdrop of the anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution. Confrontations at a level of both content and aesthetics are intended to come to the fore in the programme, because, as Eue continues, “The provisional nature of West Germany could always be better understood through the prism of the provisional nature of East Germany and vice versa. Each wrestled with the political enemy in equal measure, with this existential opposition to be reflected upon in the programme.”

The period around 1989 also had far-reaching consequences for Croatia – this year’s Country Focus revolves around its incredibly vital documentary film scene. The programme picks up on the sheer breadth of current filmmaking from the country and offers Leipzig audiences a diversity of different aesthetic approaches, thematic entry points and production conditions. The traces left behind by the wars of the 1990s, the systemic shift from socialism to capitalism and the related frictions and contradictions in people’s everyday lives are equally apparent in many of the films.


The festival is also celebrating East Germany’s only essay filmmaker, Eduard Schreiber, in its DEFA Matinee, which has grown into a proud tradition. The director’s 80th birthday is the perfect occasion for honouring Schreiber, who was a regular guest at the Leipzig Festival between 1960 and 1980.


The Re-Visions Special Programme also turns its attention to the past. For two years now, DOK Leipzig has been taking an ongoing look back at its own history and showing films that left their mark on the festival. “The approach we follow here is that history always stretches forward into the present. This idea also plays a role in the curation of all the Special Programmes”, concludes Ralph Eue. 


This year, DOK Leipzig takes place from 28 October to 3 November. During the week of the festival, a total of over 300 films from across the world will once again be screened in the Official Selection and the Special Programmes.


DOK Leipzig thanks all the funding bodies and supporters of the Special Programmes:

the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany, the Saxon State Archive (Retrospective), Croatian Audiovisual Centre (Country Focus), the DEFA Foundation (DEFA Matinee).


The Special Programmes for animated film, the symposium programme and the films of the Special Programmes will be announced soon.

Festival impressions and logos can be found here: