Film Archive

A Folk Troupe

Documentary Film
China
2013
62 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Gang Zhao, Cherelle Zheng
Gang Zhao
Qian Ge, Deng Gang
Luo Quan
Lin Yan
Liu Jian
It’s not exactly a life of ease for the travelling showmen. A theatre company of eleven move into a provisional domicile in a garage-like hall right next to a large construction site on the outskirts of Chengdu, a business centre in the southwest of China. Here a special tradition of the Beijing Opera, the Sichuan Opera, has developed over the years. The actors perform a different play every day. From childhood on, they have learned the secrets of the artfully stilted songs and the sophisticated choreographies of changing the elaborate masks for the three- to four-hour performances. Century-old tales are repeated again and again. But life on the road is far from romantic. They are stuck in Chengdu because they have no money for travelling on; bureaucrats are unwilling to issue permissions, the company is caught in internal disputes, and the mood is tense. The audience on their simple wooden chairs are worn-down figures whose furrowed faces indicate a life of deprivation. The contrast to the colourful productions on stage, whose titles, like “In the Land of Plenty”, hold magnificent promises, couldn’t be bigger. The audience may just about be able to afford this kind of travelling opera, but it’s an unmistakeable swan song. Another piece of cultural history about to get lost …

Cornelia Klauß



Prize of the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique 2013

Die Trasse

Documentary Film
Czech Republic,
Germany,
Russia
2013
121 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Natalia Manskaya, Filip Remunda, Vít Klusák, Simone Baumann
Vitaly Mansky
Alexandra Ivanova
Pavel Mendel-Ponamarev
Vitaly Mansky
Dmitry Nazarov
It was – as the “IG Erdgastrasse” (IG Natural Gas Pipeline) claims on a website still designed in the German-Soviet friendship style – the “construction of the century”. It started with the ground-breaking ceremony on 6 June 1966 in near-arctic West Siberia, took on real transcontinental form in the pre-Perestroika years (to Reagan’s horror) and today supplies, among other things, the raw material for one of the major ritual events in Western Europe: the Rheingas-fuelled Rose Monday Parade in Cologne. The “Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod Pipeline” stretches from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug to the Gulf of Biscay, as unnoticeable as everything else to do with our energy supply. But in terms of geo-politics, -ecologics and -economics, it’s a massive goldmine – with quite noticeable consequences (dependencies, blind faith in technology, environmental damage).
Vitaly Mansky, who last travelled through Cuba in “Motherland or Death”, now explores our own unfamiliar home along this subterranean trail. The politically obstinate documentary maestro is interested in the lives of those who live near and above the pipeline, though not necessarily off it (no money, no gas): indigenous ice fishers, Orthodox Church processions, Putin-supporting tuba players, Gorbachev-critical veterans, angry Roma, cursing Polish men and Virgin Mary-adoring Polish women. He flirts with stereotypes while adroitly avoiding them. Big screen cinema, visually powerful and with great sound design.

Barbara Wurm



MDR Film Prize 2013

DNA Dreams

Documentary Film
Netherlands
2012
54 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Brigit Dopheide
Bregtje van der Haak
Jean Counet, Hai Hong, Maarten Kramer
Patrick Minks, Maasja Ooms
Joris van Ballegoijen, Sander den Broeder
They are young and highly motivated, have studied abroad and speak fluent English. The employees of the Chinese BGI Ark Biotechnology company study the relation between the human DNA code and IQ. Between their cell-like workplaces and sterile labs, dreaming is still allowed because this is where our future is shaped. Which baby would you like? On the backdrop of China’s one-child policy it’s only natural that it should be perfect. So one day we will be able to assemble our ideal child by character, intelligence and looks, like in a department store. Of course, genes that guarantee a long life are particularly valued.
This company, which accepts only the blood samples of the very best, sees itself as a saviour of humanity in the vein of Noah’s Ark. Director Bregtje van der Haak was given generous access to the company premises where the young scientists talk freely about their visions. You can literally sense their excitement at “playing God”. But what if the results of their research are translated into a Western business model? As the director includes apparently peripheral details into her visual world, she manages to open a space for reflection that brings home the contemporaneity and monstrosity of these horror scenarios.

Cornelia Klauß

Hilton! – Here For Life

Documentary Film
Finland
2013
75 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Markku Tuurna
Virpi Suutari
Matti Pentikäinen, Arto Tuunela
Heikki Färm
Jussi Rautaniemi
Virpi Suutari
The future? A bullet in the head. At least that’s what it feels like when you’re stranded at the “Hilton” council estate, a derelict new development in Helsinki. The people who live here aren’t 30 yet but have seen everything. They feel anger and a sadness that refuses to come out as grief but must be vented. By hitting one’s head against a wooden beam again and again. By hurting oneself or simply stopping to go out and getting used to it. People here sleep with a knife under their pillow because they have never learnt anything else, and tear up bills because it doesn’t make a difference anyway.
Virpi Suutari, emerging from the magic school of Finnish documentary cinema, doesn’t see welfare cases but individuals: Janne, Toni, Mira, Pete, and Make. While their stories, which almost inevitable lead downwards, are told, they begin to shine. The visuals are rough, nothing polished, the montage as impulsive as the protagonists’ emotions or the flash-like mobile phone images they shot themselves. Not a whiff of social romanticism, and yet the camera finds moments of purity, restfulness and warmth, a community that redefines the middle-class idea of the family. A child is born. It’s mostly owing to the power of Suutari’s narrative that this story ends in hope.

Grit Lemke



Prize of the Trade Union ver.di 2013

In Sarmatien

Documentary Film
Germany
2013
120 minutes
subtitles: 
English
German

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Volker Koepp
Volker Koepp
Rainer Böhm
Thomas Plenert
Beatrice Babin
Thomas Huber
There are two contrasting ways to describe Sarmatia: as a region on the edge of the known world – that’s how the old Greeks saw it –, or as the part of Europe where the once carefully measured geographical centre of the continent is. However, you will probably look in vain for Sarmatia in your school atlas, it doesn’t exist as an administrative unit, and Google Maps won’t help either. Yet Sarmatia is not a chimera.
Volker Koepp travelled there for his new film, generously allowing us to share his impressions and encounters in a both unknown and nearby region between Lithuania and Belarus, the Ukraine and Poland, which borders on the Baltic in the North and the Black Sea in the South. This historic landscape has long made frequent appearances in his work, at least since 1972, when he made “Grüße aus Sarmatien für den Dichter Johannes Bobrowski” (Greetings from Sarmatia for the Poet Johannes Bobrowski”). Like Bobrowski, Volker Koepp recognises it as “that dreamland where all nations and religious would find their place if history had not ploughed it all up over and over again”. The rifts left by all this, especially in the people who live there, and how these people still manage to shine from inside, is beautifully depicted here.

Ralph Eue

Joanna

Documentary Film
Poland
2013
45 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Adam Ślesicki
Aneta Kopacz
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
Łukasz Żal
Aneta Kopacz, Paweł Laskowski, Rafał Samborski
Aneta Kopacz, Tomasz Średniawa
Michał Kawiak
Joanna’s hand lovingly strokes her son’s back. They are lying in the grass, listening to the meadow dwellers and the sounds of nature. Jaś says he has a “divine time” with his mom, and Joanna, too, loves to spend time with her boy. But this time is limited. Joanna says she is not afraid of dying, but of leaving behind her little family.
Aneta Kopacz’s narrative is remarkably subtle, preserving the tender moments of the remaining days in expressive images. Through its searching vision, which always finds closeness from the distance, its suggestive associations, over which the voices of memory are superimposed and which dissolve time, the film makes the interior state of the young woman visible. What remains are moments of great emotional power and at last a plea: to do everything with love and devotion. Then you could leave something unique to the people you love. Like Joanna did.

Claudia Lehmann



Prize of the Youth Jury 2013

Just the Right Amount of Violence

Documentary Film
Denmark
2013
80 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Jon Bang Carlsen, Helle Ulsteen
Jon Bang Carlsen
Nathan Larson
Jon Bang Carlsen
Rikke Selin, Morten Giese, Hilda Rasula
Jon Bang Carlsen
Jess Wolfsberg
This could be Hollywood: two cops storm a house at dawn, drag a teenager out of his bedroom, pack him into their car, and drive off with him through the endless American landscape. An attempted escape, a chase, and the drive ends in a reform camp for unruly children in the middle of the desert. – This is Hollywood. At the foot of the mountain that bears the famous letters, Jon Bang Carlsen, known for his constant exploration of documentary reality and its constructedness, sets out in search of a dream that is ceaselessly being generated here: the happy family. Laughing children and caring parents – an image we all carry in our hearts and chase after eternally.
It’s the search for his own lost father that he condenses into a great essay about love, responsibility, and morals in this film. The statements of a young man who went through the merciless “intervention”, reports of officers of the “intervention team”, and personal reflections are counteracted by images of the clean suburban middle-class America. This is about a view of the world: if you don’t obey the “laws” (whose?) you will be punished – whether children by their parents or other nations by Uncle Sam. The dream of a perfect world that can be created this way is nothing but a fiction – which is why Carlsen goes far beyond the boundaries of the documentary once more.

Grit Lemke

Normalization

Documentary Film
Czech Republic,
Slovakia
2013
100 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Robert Kirchhoff, coproducer: Hypermarket Film, CzechTV
Robert Kirchhoff
Peter Zagar
Ján Meliš
Jana Vlčková, Adam Brothánek
Jozef Giertli Danglár
Robert Kirchhoff
Václav Flegl, Michal Gábor
Only a moment ago, 19-year-old medical student Ludmilla Cervanova had smiled into the camera. Her body was found in a river in a small Slovak town in 1976. Seven men were responsible for the horrifying rape and death of the girl. Fortunately, the perpetrators were apprehended and condemned. But though Ludmilla was drowned alive, oddly enough no signs of violence could be found on the body. Though the murderers have been in prison for years, not one of them can remember the terrible crime. Though a number of witnesses confirmed the innocence of the condemned men, none of them was heard in court. Robert Kirchhoff lets these people talk; many others fall silent when faced with his questions about plausible facts. He delves deeply into a case that has remained an unsolved puzzle in Slovak history until today. He reconstructs a “map of events” and paints a picture that shows power, its abuse, manipulation, the perfidiousness of intelligence services and the political machinations of a country. “Normalization” demonstrates in the best sense what film is capable of. And the truth is still concealed behind the innocent smile of a 19-year-old girl.

Claudia Lehmann



Awarded with a Honorary Mention in the International Competition Documentary Film and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury 2013

Optical Axis

Documentary Film
Russia
2013
90 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Marina Razbezhkina
Marina Razbezhkina
Denis Klebleev, Irina Uralskaya
Yury Geddert
Marina Razbezhkina
Yury Geddert
To understand how post-Soviet society works it is usually juxtaposed with Soviet society – or at least the idea of the latter that survived in our minds. Marina Razbezhkina, uncontested master of the documentary, takes a different path. She skips the mystified Soviet age to confront various social groups of the present age (they used to be called “classes”) with their historic counterparts in the shape of life-sized photos, moving from the bottom to the top of the professional resp. income scale, from homeless persons to strippers, factory workers, craftsmen, doctors, Old Believers through to those who visit a national bank: jewellers, contractors, investors, and coin collectors. The locations today and in the past – almost precisely 100 years ago – are the same: Nizhniy Novgorod and its surroundings. The photo journalist Maxim Dmitriev – the Russian August Sander – “was in love with reality”, the end credits quote respectfully. So is Razbezhkina. How fortunate for a country that has otherwise lost most of its sharp lenses and readjusted its optical axes. A model film to boot: for all those who always wanted to know how to take the precise measurements of a section of society without recourse to clumsy conceptual bridges but with brains, heart and skill.

Barbara Wurm

Stop the Pounding Heart

Documentary Film
Belgium,
Italy,
USA
2013
100 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Roberto Minervini
Roberto Minervini
Diego Romero Suarez-Llanos
Marie-Hélène Dozo
Fireworks burst into the sky above Texas – perceived light years away from the idyllic town where 14-year-old Sara is growing up as the oldest daughter of a large family of goat farmers. She takes tender care of the animals and the manufacture of various dairy products; helps raise her siblings who are home-schooled like her – according to a strict interpretation of the bible. Nearby, cowboys from the neighbourhood organise rodeos, showing us an America we have long believed forgotten. Sara’s inner conflict between her subtle attraction to the young bull-rider Colby and her future as a devout wife emerges almost imperceptibly.
The great lucidity of the narrative culminates as a child slips out of the mother’s womb in front of Sara’ eyes, confronting her directly with her destiny. The camera “breathes” incredibly close to the protagonists, capturing that inner turmoil in tender pastels. It makes the heart pound so hard that Sara’s mother can only pray for it to finally stop going crazy.

Claudia Lehmann



Golden Dove International Competition Documentary Film 2013

Super Women

Documentary Film
Israel
2013
79 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Yael Kipper
Yael Kipper, Ronen Zaretzky
Eyal Shechter, Menny Barzilay
Avigail Sperber
Tor Ben Mayor
Eyal Shechter, Menny Barzilay
Avigail Sperber
Trolleys rattle, the cash till beeps and the loudspeakers ceaselessly advertise special offers. In acoustic terms alone the things the cashiers of a supermarket in Tel Aviv are forced to endure are an imposition. If you do this job, underpaid and right at the bottom of the social scale, you don’t have much to lose – at least that’s what the boss thinks. He constantly plagues the shift supervisor with suggestions and orders on how to cut more wages, save more staff, promote competitiveness, or make working hours more flexible. While one feels how the noose around the women’s necks – most of them Russian immigrants and single mothers or 55 plus – is tightening …
By precise observation and structuring, Yael Kipper and Ronen Zaretzky manage to achieve a social study of great clarity and emotion. Moments of intimacy and closeness when the women talk about their problems in the breakfast room or smoke a cigarette by the delivery entrance alternate with the monotony of a thoroughly automated working world. In which the women, who were once Julia, Maya, Nella, Ella, and Levana, are reduced to cheap human resources. The film gives them back their dignity, not just by showing their world as what it is (too): great cinema. The fairy tale- (and fiction-)like ending explains “Super Women” of the title, compared to whom the hero with the “S” on his chest is a pale little manikin.

Grit Lemke



Honorary Mention in the International Competition Documentary Film 2013