Film Archive

Beerland

Documentary Film
Germany
2011
85 minutes
subtitles: 
German

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Olaf Jacobs, Hoferichter & Jacobs GmbH
Matt Sweetwood
Eike Hosenfeld, Moritz Denis, Tim Stanzel
Thomas Lütz, Axel Schneppat
Stefan Buschner, Markus Stein
Makks Moond
Matt Sweetwood
Robert F. Kellner, Raimund von Scheibner
An American who after ten years still feels like a stranger in Germany wants to learn more about the Germans. Where would these people be more themselves than at the “Stammtisch”, the regulars’ table? And didn’t Tacitus already describe the Teutons’ drinking habits? So the stranger embarks on a journey to Beerland.
This framework is based on the American cultural anthropologists’ tried and proven concept of thick description: “reading” a culture like a text via a phenomenon or ritual. The self-made anthropologist Matt Sweetwood follows the concept in an experiment on himself as a kind of Michael Moore of applied beer research. This takes him from the Oktoberfest on mysterious “beer paths” to a Berlin corner pub and the Cologne Carnival, to the spectacle of a beer war, into a private brewery, to the coronation of a beer queen and at last even to a shooting club. He merrily travels the length and breadth of the Republic, German history and film genres from road movie to comedy, report and even animation. He encounters plenty of tradition, absurdity and mummery, occasionally even the proverbial ugly, stupid, roaring German full of xenophobia. But most of them are likeable fellows who will gladly explain the only true way of touching glasses to a stranger. A persistent folk culture and indeed something like a German identity emerge. Yes, there’s truth even in beer.
– Grit Lemke

Kern

Documentary Film
Austria
2012
98 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Ulrich Seidl, Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion
Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Harald Traindl
Birgit Bergmann, Nikolaus Eckhard
Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Kern is excessive in every respect and impressive not just because of his girth. A former Fassbinder actor, he is an aging diva, openly gay, an irritating and uncompromising character. His strong voice fills every room, even if it is only a modest modern flat in the Viennese suburbs. He is on stage everywhere, keeping the two directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala on a short leash. He never for a moment permits any illusion about who is directing this film. He turns the camera around and holds the mirror up to us. He is the finger in the wound, exposing our voyeurism and pleasure in the obscene. But Franz and Fiala bravely stand up to him and disarm him by revealing their strategies. This shadow-boxing produces an extraordinary and complex portrait. It’s true that we don’t learn much about Peter Kern the human being, but a lot about the artist he plays so consummately, a role by now inseparable from his self. One of the rare magic cinema moments comes when Kern snuggles up to the cameraman’s hand. One is reminded of “The Beauty and the Beast” – only who is who?

Cornelia Klauß



Talent Dove in the Young Cinema Competition 2012

Losing Sonia

Documentary Film
Poland
2012
50 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Katarzyna Slesicka, Sideways Film
Radka Franczak
Radka Franczak, Michael Ackerman, Ita Zbroniec-Zajt, Anna Wydra, Małgorzata Szyłak
Radka Franczak, Jarosław Kamiński
Radka Franczak
This film takes us along into the day-to-day life of Sister Christina, a young orthodox nun. She prays by candlelight, mows the lawn in front of the convent, or removes old screws from dismantled wooden windows. She paints icons, celebrates New Year’s Eve with her fellow nuns. In interviews she talks about her decision for God and her initial difficulties in the convent. When we accompany Christina – whose worldly name is Sonia – on a visit to her parents, we begin to have an idea what is haunting Sonia and her family: traumas from the Soviet age, war, camps, exile, socialist education.
The film enables us to understand why a young woman would choose the strict life of a convent, leave her family, and turn to God for refuge. Expanding the traditional biographical focus on one individual, the director shows how Soviet history has become deeply engrained in the lives of these people and left a heritage whose shadow looms even over subsequent generations. Sonia’s mother says that human instincts were broken by the authorities. She has even lost her daughter. But Sonia has found her way. In the final scene we see her as Sister Christina, happily ringing the bells of the church tower.
– Antje Stamer

Milana

Documentary Film
Russia
2011
58 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Yulia Mishkinene, Vita Aktiva
Madina Mustafina
Madina Mustafina
Madina Mustafina
Madina Mustafina
Milana is only seven. But like all so-called neglected children she acts more adult than she is. The camera follows her for one short, violent hour, a camera which sometimes, it must be said, isn’t mercilessly close to the action but mercilessly far away. Why don’t you drop this camera, one hears oneself scream, why don’t you take this child away from her violent parents, why do you allow the mother to play out her unbearable ritual of threat and punishment, why don’t you save Milana by taking her away from her alcoholic parents, who vegetate in the forest on the edge of town, and bringing her to a place where everything is better. Because this place of a right life doesn’t exist, Madina Mustafina would probably answer. Because I want to show you what it’s like. Because her emotionally incompetent parents’ punches are as much part of Milana’s life as the intuitive knowledge that things aren’t any better elsewhere. Things may be more stable at the core of what we usually call civilisation, but there is no space for a sense of real freedom either.
Anyway, this is hardcore social cinema of the internationally acclaimed Razbezkina-Ugarov school of Russian documentary film. Few have exposed a life already lost in childhood as ruthlessly as the winner of Artdocfest 2011. Definitely a painful film.
– Barbara Wurm

Mother's Day

Documentary Film
Germany
2012
80 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Gunter Hanfgarn, Hanfgarn & Ufer Filmproduktion
Bin Chuen Choi
Bin Chuen Choi, Thomas Ladenburger
Bin Chuen Choi, Thomas Ladenburger
Paul Leyton
Bin Chuen Choi
Bin Chuen Choi, Thomas Ladenburger
Sometimes art grows out of very simple things. Like Bin Chuen Choi’s introductory statement: “Everyone has a mother.” What does it imply, apart from a biological fact? What does it mean to have been abandoned by your mother as a young boy like the Chinese-born filmmaker who lives in Germany? When there is just a gap where love and comfort should be? He sets out to fill this gap. His relatives in Hong Kong are helpful, but don’t understand: why look for someone you might as well have declared dead? Approaching his goal via friends of the family, colleagues of his mother’s, a famous writer, and chance acquaintances, he is confronted with various concepts of parenthood and love or family he must measure against his own ideas of being a father. Is the love for a child a universal constant, independent of culture, society and biography? When the pivotal meeting finally takes place, it turns out that the gap isn’t filled so easily and that this is where the real questions start.
How to narrate the invisible? Bin Chuen Choi works with animations that never function as surrogates of non-existing documentary material but whose surreal, ambivalent imagery takes us deep into the world of the imagination, even the unconscious – the place where the child in us is looking for the mother.
– Grit Lemke

Pablo's Winter

Documentary Film
UK
2012
76 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Juan Alberto Navazo
Julian Schwanitz
Nick Gibbon
A “story of nicotine and mercury” is what Chico Pereira calls this film in which he portrays the end of a working life and a region. For 2000 years, mercury was mined underground in the Spanish city of Almadén, the director’s hometown. Then, in 2011, a EU-wide ban on the resource marked the end of a proud culture of miners. The pensioner and chain smoker Pablo was one of them. Now he spends his days watching television, grumbling to his wife and producing billows of smoke. What’s left when the jobs are gone, the doctor forbids one to smoke on top of that and one has no idea what to make of the lifetime gained? When all that’s left in the end is a name in a yellowing file and a notebook full of memories of heroic labour disputes, fretwork classes in the pensioners’ club or a dance on Valentine’s Day just won’t do the trick. Carefully framed and arranged like a feature film and yet deeply authentic, the black and white scenes (camera: Julian Schwanitz, Golden Dove Short Film 2011), tell the story of a new beginning in the midst of decline with some cautious humour. There is an element of utopia in the old man’s almost fairytale-like encounter with the boy Jaime. At the end the miners’ choir appeals to their patron saint, Barbara. But she is no longer responsible for Almadén. Only Pablo is left to hold the fort – and smoke.

Grit Lemke



Awarded with a Honorary Mention in the Young Cinema Competition and the Healthy Workplaces Film Award 2012

The Land Beneath the Fog

Documentary Film
Germany,
Indonesia
2011
105 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Shalahuddin Siregar, STUDIOKECIL
Shalahuddin Siregar
Shalahuddin Siregar
Shalahuddin Siregar, Fajar Kurniawan
Tommy Fahrizal
Land behind the fog, what an enchanting title. But be careful. It’s actually a pretty trap set by the filmmaker, because the life of the farmers of Genikan, a remote village somewhere in the mountains of Central Java in Indonesia, is no fairytale. Even if everything can be grown here and the people could live well. But the rainy season lasts longer every time. The dry season was far too early this year and too hot. There’s something going on with the seasons that the farmers can’t understand. The Indonesian filmmaker Shalahuddin Sireggar observed several families in Genikan over a period of two years and in the process came across the consequences of climate change. Unspectacular, observant and with a great sense of a narrative rhythm that corresponds to the old-fashioned sense of time of this place, Shalahuddin Siregar portrays a community that threatens to fall apart because of inexplicable weather phenomena. Whole harvests are lost. It’s true that the people are traditionally willing to help each other, but what if more and more of them earn less and less? The children are the first to suffer the consequences: since there is no more money for school fees, they are sent to Islam schools. These may be worse than public schools but they are cheaper. To learn what? Or perhaps go straight to the mines? The land behind the fog is gradually unveiled through the young filmmaker’s observations and we discover a site of the global crisis. We know about this place but prefer to leave it where it always was – behind a dense wall of media fog, waste recycling and biofuel. If only we had the courage to look more closely.
– Matthias Heeder

Tzvetanka

Documentary Film
Bulgaria,
Sweden
2012
69 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Mårten Nilsson, GNUFILM; Martichka Bozhilova, AGITPROP
Youlian Tabakov
Rikard Borggård
Adam Nilsson
Nina Altaparmakova, Adam Nilsson,Youlian Tabakov, Johan Söderberg
Youlian Tabakov
In his opulent, playful and sometimes serene debut film Youlian Tabakov tells the chequered life story of a Bulgarian woman who survived three political regimes: monarchy, socialism and the present day. The director profits from having studied costume and design, which inspired him to interweave the documentary material with animated and staged sequences to produce a stream of imaginative and surprising images.
His grandmother, Tzvetanka Gosheva, was born in 1926 to a rich merchant’s family, which enabled her to attend a privileged school in Sofia. But this bourgeois background became her downfall after the war. Her parents were imprisoned as enemies of the party; her father would never recover from this. By sheer luck she managed to get permission to go to university. She became a doctor, though she suffered a lot of humiliation and obstruction in her work. Nonetheless she remained in the country even though she would have had opportunities to go abroad. Illness changes people, she says. Ironically, her last working day was 10 November 1989; the day Todor Zhivkov was overthrown. What follows is called democracy. Tzvetanka’s eye for politics remains sharp even though she is slowly going blind. To her the new system is corrupt. She originally wanted to become an actress: in this film the diminutive woman delivers a great performance.
– Cornelia Klauß

Ub Lama

Documentary Film
Lithuania,
Mongolia,
UK
2011
52 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Arunas Matelis, Lukas Trimonis
Egle Vertelyte
Titas Petrikis
Gerelsukh Otgon, Egle Vertelyte
Francesca Scalisi
Egle Vertelyte
Vytis Puronas
A boy like many others of his age: Galaa (12) is a smart, pudgy little rascal who’s not overly fond of school. He prefers to hang out with his little brother (6), listen to hip hop music, watch wrestling on television or eat junk food and play at online dating. The latter is only a fantasy, though, for Galaa lives with his mother and little brother in a yurt settlement on the edge of Ulan Bator (without a computer, of course). For the family – his father died in an accident a few years ago – every new day is a balancing act of survival, for what they earn as ambulant petty traders on the market is barely enough to buy food. So enrolling the boy in a Buddhist monastery school is less a matter of vocation than of existential self-defence. It would be a relief for the family if he was accepted and Galaa himself would be offered a real future perspective. The boy soon realises that this thing would not be bad for him at all and acquires a taste for the whole ceremonial order of Buddhist monasticism with its drums, prayer mills, colourful clothes and bags. A charmingly light and fascinatingly profound documentary coming-of-age story deftly balanced between materialism and spiritualism and – last but not least –fuelled by a heart-rending sense of humour.
– Ralph Eue

White Men

Documentary Film
Italy
2011
65 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Enrico Giovannone, Babydocfilm
Alessandro Baltera, Matteo Tortone
Rodolfo Mongitore
Matteo Tortone
Alessandro Baltera, Enrico Giovannone
Alessandro Baltera, Matteo Tortone
Nicolò Angelino
The white citizens of Tanzania are the rich settlers. The “white men”, the albinos, however, the white ones among the black ones, are considered underprivileged and leprous. And not only that: especially in the region around Lake Victoria superstition has it that anyone who owns a part of their body will suddenly become rich. So they live like fair game, constantly in danger of being attacked, mutilated or hacked to pieces. The film manages to make this permanent feeling of exposure palpable by following the protagonists on long walks through streets lined with shabby cabins. What is garbage here, what is furniture? They seem defenceless, forced to run this gauntlet every day while people are calling from all sides: Hey, white man. The two Italian directors Baltera and Tortone portray four of them, show how they organise their survival, how they fight back. The rapper Dixon, for example, takes the offensive: as Mr. White he angrily cries out his lyrics at the local Kiss Club. Or Alfred Kapole, president of the local Albino Center, who collects all the horrible news from the region, usually unable to help. The idea of shooting the film in black and white is almost mandatory as a format if you want to take the albinos’ perspective. Those who are different face difficulties all across the globe, but here, where the perpetrators have practically nothing to fear, the albinos live in dread.
– Cornelia Klauß