Film Archive

German Competition 2013
Art War Marco Wilms

Art as a weapon! Graffiti on Cairo’s walls as a medium of rebellion, Egyptian underground artists as the chroniclers of events. A frenzied trip through colours and rhythms.

Art War

Documentary Film
Germany
2013
87 minutes
subtitles: 
German
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Marlen Burghardt, Marco Wilms
Marco Wilms
Ramy Essam, Bosaina and Wetrobots, Tonbüro Berlin
Marco Wilms, Abdelrhman Zin Eldin, Emanuele Ira, Bashir Mohamed Wagih, Ali Khaled
Stephan Talneau
Mohamed Khaled
Marco Wilms
Art is a weapon! This motto still holds true in Cairo. After 30 years of autocracy, President Mubarak was swept away by his people. Now the street belongs to them, the young rebels and artists. Graffiti sprayers and painters make the walls speak. They recount the days of fighting in blood-smeared portraits, the time of anarchy in wild collages, the attempts of liberation from a suppressed sexuality in obscene pictures. Walls become a chronicle of the rush of events; electro pop and rap supply a thrilling soundtrack. Euphoria is followed by overpainting and destruction. Snipers are at work, aiming at the protesters’ eyes. The revolution is no more romantic than this underground art, whose aim is to provoke and take risks, is accommodating.
In one episode, director Marco Wilms draws a line back to the historic murals of the age of the Pharaohs. In a country with a high illiteracy rate, such traditions become a tried and tested medium of revolt. In a wild tour de force through the past two years of permanent and radical upheavals, “Art War” shows the dangerous dance on the volcano as a trip driven forward by the colours and rhythms of the Egyptian painters and musicians.

Cornelia Klauß



Honorary Mention in the German Competition Documentary Film 2013

International Programme 2013
Cornered Dmytro Tiazhlov

The Ukrainian village of Panasivka has no public transport connection. A plucky citizen pits herself against the authorities ... An amusing lesson in democracy.

Cornered

Documentary Film
Ukraine
2012
25 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Ella Shtyka
Dmytro Tiazhlov
Dmytro Tiazhlov
Dmytro Tyazhlov
Karim Fadl Naser
Panasivka, Ukraine, has about 50 residents left, most of them old. There used to be a pig farm here, a post office, a bank, and a thrice-daily bus service to the city. If you want to go shopping today, you have to toil along the dusty dirt-road through the forest in one of the cars (always in need of repairs) – the road was never finished. But the ingenious citizen Zoya Ivanivna Shulha remembers a decree once passed by Father Yanukovich that promised all residents public transport connection, and a second that promised transparency in all administrative decisions. So they put their noses to the grindstone: letters are written, signatures of either incredulous or amused peasants are collected (“What for? It’s no use anyway.”), and from time to time shots of vodka are poured for the fatherland. Finally, even the president is addressed and a neat trick is played on the privatisation of the public sector.
We are reminded of Zoshchenko’s satires: “Aviation, it’s making progress.” Democracy, it’s making progress, too.

Grit Lemke

Crop

Documentary Film
Egypt
2013
47 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Johanna Domke
Johanna Domke, Marouan Omara
Melanie Brugger
Johanna Domke, Emad Maher
Johanna Domke, Marouan Omara
Bilgehan Özis
Everyone deserves their own image, that’s the gist of an old Egyptian pop song. In reality there used to be only one official image along the Nile for a long time: that of a strong and powerful Egypt, embodied by its rulers. The majority of the population had no place in it. The young revolution was a revolution of images, too: the people conquered the right to be represented with their digital cameras and mobile phones, and reached the world. But how representative are those new images, one wonders in view of the more than uncertain current situation. This film takes a step back to look behind the structures of the old power. Tableau-like shots on an insider’s tour of the apparatus of power: the oldest and most important national daily, Al-Ahram, in which official Egypt reproduced itself since Nasser’s day. Starting with the conference rooms under the roof down to the basement garages where the papers are bundled for delivery, we meet a multitude of employees doing their various jobs, while a narrator’s voice, an intersubjective surrogate of interviews with photo journalists, recites a first-hand account, as it were, of Egyptian media history. The strict division between the visual and audio levels makes us look more closely and raises questions: for whom will this apparatus work in the future?

Lars Meyer
International Programme 2013
Diary From the Revolution Nizam Najjar

A year among the Libyan rebels: skirmishes, provisional camp life, a charismatic patriarch. A rare insight into structures and the people behind them.

Diary From the Revolution

Documentary Film
Norway
2012
79 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Kristine Ann Skaret, Geir Bølstad
Nizam Najjar
John Birger Wormdahl, Bjarne Larsen
Khalifa Elfetory, Sadoon Alamlas, Blade Kushba
Torkel Gjørv
Nizam Najar
Bernt Syvertsen
The first image: a reminiscence of Western movies – the director Nizam Najjar in a dusty landscape. But he can’t keep up this kind of cool for long; in Tripoli he is not deceived by the paroxysms of joy. Parts of the country are still occupied by Gaddafi’s troops; the front lines in Libya are confusing. He has spent the last ten years in the safety of exile in Oslo. Now that his country is in upheaval, nothing will keep him there. “Armed” with his camera he joins the rebels at Misrata, not concealing his fear. He is allowed to live among the irregular troops lead by Haj Siddiq as “one of them” for more than a year. He records skirmishes, problems with arms supplies and the provisional camp life in a video diary. His observations of the Al Gabra Brigade themselves are equally enlightening. What is its structure, how do the characters change? Even though they might die as heroes, all these young rebels have plans for a life on earth. The call for a “martyr’s death” sounds more and more like a hollow phrase. The charismatic figure of Haj Siddiq is at the centre of the filmmaker’s focus. Like a patriarch the former developer has gathered his family and former employees around him and made them his loyal followers. His smug style of leadership already contains calculations for the assumption of power after victory.

Cornelia Klauß
International Programme 2013
Die Reise zum sichersten Ort der Erde Edgar Hagen

Around the world in search of a safe final storage site for nuclear waste. Scientists, politicians, lobbyists, and their opponents in a panopticon of madness.

Die Reise zum sichersten Ort der Erde

Documentary Film
Switzerland
2013
100 minutes
subtitles: 
German

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Hercli Bundi
Edgar Hagen
Tomek Kolczynski
Peter Indergand
Paul-Michael Sedlacek, Edgar Hagen
Bruno Conti
Edgar Hagen
Jean-Pierre Gerth
Whereas Edgar Hagen observed psychiatric patients in his last films, he now looks into the abysses of a mentally disturbed society. A society that believes in a technology which has increasingly proved to be uncontrollable and keeps promoting it against its better judgment. Because it supposedly exists, the safest place on earth, where deathly nuclear waste can be stored harmlessly for hundreds of thousands of years.
Playing dumb in the tradition of the medieval fool, Hagen asks to see this place. He travels around the world, from Switzerland to Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, China, Japan, the United States, Australia, and back. He crosses oceans and deserts, hikes through forests and moors, explores the interiors of mountains. The scenery grows more and more unreal, the Grail more and more distant. Hagen meets geologists and nuclear lobbyists, environmental activists, tribal leaders, and local politicians. Some of them convinced of the cause, others doubtful. There is a lot of talk about “proof” and “fundamental feasibility”. But he digs deeper, seemingly naive. This narrative attitude enables him to neatly expose all the justification strategies of the nuclear industry as constructs that have long ago ceased to be concerned with technical feasibility and deal only with selling the impossible. A film about madness.

Grit Lemke
International Programme 2013
Grasp the Nettle Dean Puckett

An activists’ camp on London’s Parliament Square, caught between political struggle, plodding grassroots democracy, dubious allies, and police violence. An insider’s perspective on “Occupy”.

Grasp the Nettle

Documentary Film
UK
2013
89 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Daniel Erlacher
Dean Puckett
Leo Leigh, Lee Bruce, Duncan Sangster
Dean Puckett
Paco Sweetman
Dean Puckett, Can Aniker
Jeet Thakrar
It’s always easy to make fun of green or protest movements if your own laziness keeps you from taking action against wrongs. That’s how the filmmaker Dean Puckett feels, too: seen from outside his own inertness is only bearable from a certain ironic distance. So he gives up his life, flat, and job to really learn how these groups work.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, a few people in London team up to do more than call for a different, more sustainable life in the streets. In peaceful collaboration with the local residents, they found a kind of ecological village on a piece of disused land in West London. It’s a utopia with homemade tents, vegetable plots, and evenings around the campfire. When they have to give way to the excavators that come to prepare the ground for new apartment blocks, this ragtag band of activists, dropouts tired of civilisation, homeless people, and lunatics moves to the city centre to raise their tents on Parliament Square. All of a sudden, they are faced not only with the challenge of getting their own chaos under control but also with the humourless authority of the state.
Puckett has made a nuanced portrait of social experiments in times of crises, when formerly safe structures erode and the need for more freedom erupts in urban spaces.

Lina Dinkla
International Programme 2013
My Stolen Revolution Nahid Persson Sarvestani

Women who were tortured in Iranian prisons after the Shah was overthrown meet again for the first time to break their silence. Liberation through the power of art.

My Stolen Revolution

Documentary Film
Norway,
Sweden
2013
75 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Nahid Persson Sarvestani
Nahid Persson Sarvestani
Adam Norden
Nicklas Karpaty, Makan
Emil Engerdahl, Nahid Persson Sarvestani
The archive material in the opening sequence evokes life in Iran in the 1970s. Many people managed to “lead a normal life”, while the oppositional groups still fought the Shah side by side. The Shah was thrown over, “but the Islamists were better organised than us”. Nahid Persson Sarvestani was a leftist activist at the time. She escaped brutal detention, which meant torture, rape and mass executions, only by great luck and her brother Rostam’s help. Rostam himself was killed.
A stubborn feeling of guilt makes Nahid Persson Sarvestani bring some of the few survivors of the former movement together many years later. The suggestive power of the objects and works of art created in and through prison and the five women’s harrowing memories of a regime that is still in power today are juxtaposed with a very personal approach and a discourse reflecting private thoughts and questions. More than that, the director manages to depict a profound feeling of fellowship by confronting us with the moving stories of strong personalities who shook off the chador not only symbolically.

Claudia Lehmann



Film Prize "Leipziger Ring" 2013

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

International Programme 2013
On the Art of War Luca Bellino, Silvia Luzi

The long struggle of a group of Italian workers for their factory: occupation, strike, and back-breaking civil war manoeuvres. A complex investigation between hot agitation and cold analysis.

On the Art of War

Documentary Film
Italy,
USA
2012
85 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Giovanni Pompili, Margherita Di Paola, Claudia Antonucci
Luca Bellino, Silvia Luzi
Nicolò Mulas
Vania Tegamelli, Giorgio Carella
Luca Bellino
Luca Bellino, Silvia Luzi
Paolo Benvenuti, Stefano Grosso, Marzia Cordò
On 31 May 2008, a quiet and sunny Sunday, the staff of a heavy metal assembly plant in Milan-Lambrate met for a picnic. They had hardly unwrapped their sandwiches when a short message from the then current owner, who had bought the plant only in 2006, reached them: “We have decided to cease all activity as of 31 May 2008.”
Luca Bellino’s and Silvia Luzi’s film sheds light on the 50 workers’ long struggle, which started with the occupation of the facility on the same day, led to continued production under a worker’s management and, after the factory was cleared by the police for the first time, resulted in an open-ended strike in front of the factory gates to prevent the secret removal of the machinery. Finally, on 2 August 2009, a large number of police attacked the strikers in a civil war-like operation, upon which five of them seized an industrial crane on the grounds and occupied it for several weeks. The activists’ determination triggered a broad wave of international support and attracted a lot of media attention, which finally contributed to a long-term resolution of this conflict. Bellino and Luzi manage to create a complex cinematic investigation of an intense, real-life example of anarcho-syndicalist theory and practice in Italy, supremely balanced between hot agitation and cold analysis.

Ralph Eue
International Programme 2013
The Lab Yotam Feldman

The Palestinian conflict as a field of experimentation for the Israeli arms industry. An investigation that comes alarmingly close to some of the leading minds and penetrates deeply into the logic behind it all.

The Lab

Documentary Film
Israel
2013
58 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Yoav Roeh, Serge Kestemont, Frank Eskenazi
Yotam Feldman
Guns that shoot around corners, so-called “cornershots”, are among the more profitable special developments of the Israeli arms industry. The army had already tested them in house-to-house fighting before they went on to become an international bestseller. A conspicuous number of former army employees enter the arms industry. They supply not only the tools of war, but the practical experience, too. War as a field of experimentation for the arms industry?
Israel is the fourth-largest arms exporter today. Director Yotam Feldman wants to find out whether the country’s wealth, however unevenly distributed it may be, exists in spite of or precisely because of military conflicts. So he talks to those who ought to know: the leading minds of a deathly industry. He is there when they receive diplomats from all over the world and visit arms fairs. When military philosophers think up the superstructure and the Brazilian police follow suit. “The Lab” is an investigative film in the best sense. As opposed to the likes of Michael Moore, Feldman does not play the provocateur. This seeming neutrality allows him to come really terrifyingly close to those dealers and their logic. This ought to be instructive for German citizens, too. After all, Germany ranks third among the global arms exporters.

Lars Meyer