Film Archive

Young Cinema Competition (until 2014) 2014
All Things Ablaze Oleksandr Techynskyi, Aleksey Solodunov, Dmitry Stoykov

The Maidan as a battlefield: protest turns into violence and loss of control – on both sides. A breathless, unstoppable movement, driven by the energy of the masses, towards the inferno.

All Things Ablaze

Documentary Film
Ukraine
2014
82 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Yulia Serdyukova
Oleksandr Techynskyi, Aleksey Solodunov, Dmitry Stoykov
Anton Baibakov
Oleksandr Techynskyi, Aleksey Solodunov, Dmitry Stoykov
Marina Maykovskaya, Aleksey Solodunov
Oleg Golovoshkin, Boris Peter
The Ukraine may be ablaze for a while yet and the symbol of the Maidan in Kiev – burning barrels and tyre barricades – may continue to be the visual and olfactory nexus of the revolutionary memory. Sooty faces, determined but tired, their heads bloody but hard. The many-voiced battle cry “Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes”, a strange common denominator shared by all the rebels, echoes across the square. What started with drums, bagpipes and European flags and turned seamlessly into bloody resistance against the truncheon battalions and violence on both sides sparked – which this collective project, expressive and informative despite its abstinence of commentary makes abundantly clear – an energy in the masses that was unpredictable and unstoppable.
There is a scene at the heart of the film whose length takes it to the limits of endurance but makes its symbolism almost palpable: protesters joyfully and forcefully demolish a huge bust of Lenin, taking victory photos (not quite sure about what precisely Lenin has to do with their hatred) while an old Soviet character hugs his beloved colossal stone fragment and refuses to let go until he almost collapses. The Maidan as a battlefield. Quelle horreur!

Barbara Wurm



MDR Film Prize 2014

Death of the Serpent God

Documentary Film
France
2014
91 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Xavier Pons
Damien Froidevaux
Ian Saboya
Damien Froidevaux
David Jungman
The back story sounds like a caustic fairytale but is a common practice in Europe. At the age of two, Koumba came to Paris from a Senegalese village with her parents. For 18 years, the French capital was all she knew until she ended up at a police station after a nocturnal fight and was deported within 48 hours.
She finds herself in the isolated village of her ancestors, among relatives she doesn’t know. The old legends in which snake kings rule the people’s fates are still alive here. The upheaval is a brutal shock. “White Koumba”, as she is called here – quite contemptuously – is now the mother of an illegitimate son and trapped. She reacts as she usually does: lashing out fearlessly and rebelliously, making demands and insulting her environment – including the filmmaker, whom she calls selfish. So at first the film is made against its protagonist’s desperate resistance. But Damien Froidevaux doesn’t give up, doesn’t abandon the rebellious girl. Over a period of five years he frequently returns from Paris to Senegal until he finally becomes part of a coping process. Koumba goes through a fascinating change of personality to become the heroine of her own odyssey, while always aware of the role of the camera.
Lars Meyer

Desert Haze

Documentary Film
Belgium
2014
109 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Frederik Nicolai, Eric Goossens, Frank van den Engel
Sofie Benoot
Nico Leunen
Sofie Benoot
Kwinten Van Laethem, Michel Schöpping
The conquest of the unknown is the core of the American origin myth. What better place than the Midwestern desert to question it? In a place where there seems to be nothing but sand and stones, Sofie Benoot finds many and varied traces of humans: abandoned mines, sacred mountains, prehistoric drawings, empty towns still waiting for the run of residents, melted plane parts, secret military zones and even remains of World War II internment camps and nuclear waste warning signs. Some traces, like those of uranium mining or nuclear tests, are invisible. Like a branch of tumbleweed Benoot covers hundreds of kilometres. She meets sad Indians, Country music-yodelling Japanese, astronauts practicing for the settlement of Mars and Mormons in costume and with horses and carts (and a portable chemical toilet, too) following the pioneers’ trail. The camera captures immense panoramas of expanse and emptiness and then examines the structures of bizarre stone, soil and cloud formations in the next moment.
Benoot uncovers the myth layer by layer. The archaeology of the American Dream becomes a deep look into the abysses of civilisation; the history of the conquest of the West turns out to be a history of suppression. As merciless as the desert itself. Death rides a horse – it’s nothing if not a western.
Grit Lemke

Die Menschenliebe

Documentary Film
Germany
2014
99 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Jasper Mielke, Martin Backhaus
Maximilian Haslberger
Sebastian Mez
Katharina Fiedler
Martin Backhaus
Maximilian Haslberger
Martin Backhaus, Jochen Jezussek
It happens in the background, quite casually: a woman in a wheelchair, a minor character, smiles and waves. Suddenly her wheelchair takes off and leaves the earth with her. Anyone who notices this must wonder what is still documentary content here. In fact, this film sends out a number of signals that it doesn’t want to draw a categorical line between documentary and fiction. Its deliberate haziness, which continually tests the audience’s perception, corresponds with its refusal to accept the categories of “healthy” and “handicapped”. After all, everybody wants to live sexuality and love equally – and this brings us to the subject. There is Joachim on the one hand, who lives alone, seems completely healthy and yet lives in a grey area between relative independence and patronisation, especially by his sister who dismisses his infatuation with a prostitute as an anomaly. The subjective camera forces us to take Joachim’s perspective, the uncomfortable perspective of a stalker. Sven on the other hand, the protagonist of the second chapter, is physically deformed and wheelchair bound but has a remarkably strong awareness of his needs, which he articulates frankly and satisfies with the help of male and female prostitutes. His longing for love, however, is not fulfilled. What would it take for that to happen? A film that keeps raising questions that only the viewer can answer.

Lars Meyer



Honorary Mention in the Young Cinema Competition 2014

Double Happiness

Documentary Film
Austria
2014
72 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Ella Raidel
Ella Raidel
Rudi Fischerlehner
Martin Putz
Karina Ressler
Wong Ka Ho
The Chinese believe that when two people get married their happiness is not shared but doubled. Cultures, too, can duplicate their happiness by copying each other. This concept has made China the land of master copyists. They don’t just copy paintings but whole towns including the surrounding scenery. Like Hallstatt in the Salzkammergut. The residents of this picturesque tourist village, who had imagined themselves unique, were forced to realise that they had been spied on and cloned. The hotel owner sees this as the realisation of a primal human fear, but as a good businesswoman she is also fascinated. So why not send the mayor and brass band to China to put the seal on this happiness?
Hallstatt becomes the starting point of a thought-provoking filmic journey of the mind that merges original and imitation, imagination and reality. Where are we when a pretty Chinese girl in a dirndl sings to the moon, “My affection is real”? In a capitalist’s wet dream, obviously. Because Hallstatt/China is a high end investment project and a side product of the massive construction boom. Where does that leave “us” and our culture, Chinese architects and urban planners ask. The film discovers a China full of self-doubts while its cleverly convoluted narrative structure refers back to “us” Europeans. Even the identity crisis has duplicated itself.
Lars Meyer

El Gort

Documentary Film
Tunisia,
United Arab Emirates
2013
87 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Hamza Ouni
Hamza Ouni
Mohamed Hakim Boujomaa, Hatem Nechi
Najwa Khechimi
Hassen Najar
This film vibrates with rage. Nothing was good, is good, will be good. This bitter truth surrounds the lives of Washwasha and Khairi like a wall. Both in their early 20s, dirt poor, no expectations of ever doing anything other than stacking, loading and unloading bales of hay for little money. Jobs? There are none in Tunisia. So they want to leave, go to Europe. But that, too, is only a dream.
“El Gort” traces the years from before the rebellion against Ben Ali to the first free elections, 2007 to 2012. But these events have no real meaning for the two of them. Washwasha was in prison during the revolution, Khairi went pillaging like most of the other residents of the city. Somehow the anger had to be vented. Nothing has changed except for the personnel, who cheat the poor exactly like the old regime. And the Islamic parties? F*** them!
The film translates this rage into a rough, immediate visual language that gives the narrative incredible momentum. Hard, rapid cuts, a restless, moving camera, no shot lingers over the beauty of the moment. Instead there’s a maximum of life which must be lived on and on. And that is the really amazing aspect of this first feature-length film by Hamza Ouni: its protagonists lucidly describe their situation without shirking responsibility for their actions.

Matthias Heeder



Talent Dove in the Young Cinema Competition 2014

Elephant's Dream

Documentary Film
Belgium
2014
74 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Bram Crols, Mark Daems, Marion Hansel, Kristof Bilsen, Mike Lerner
Kristof Bilsen
Jon Wygens
Kristof Bilsen
Eduardo Serrano
Yves De Mey
An old car without tyres, propped up in front of a rural train station near Kinshasa – that recalls Bertolt Brecht’s “Tyre Change”. But the tyre change here is neither imminent nor impatiently expected. The owner of the car, a station master, is thinking in the most leisurely way about how to use the car to earn a little income on the side. At last he consults his colleague, who is usually the preferred object of his reflections. His thoughts are heard from off the screen like a commentary. This scene is only one of the film’s many brilliantly achieved metaphors for the stagnation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Beside the half-abandoned station, the central post office and the only fire station of the capital (three state-owned enterprises) are places where people are waiting for a change that is always announced with great fanfare by the politicians.
A land in a Rip-van-Winkle-like sleep, plundered by Europe, crushed by wars, with no working infrastructure. The film concentrates on that lucid present state, the dream of modernisation, in which it discovers surreal aspects. Above all, it is guided by great empathy for the employees portrayed here. Among them is Henriette, who has great hopes for the new electronic money transfer at the post office, even though she senses that once again it will be more form than content.
Lars Meyer

From My Syrian Room

Documentary Film
France,
Germany,
Lebanon,
Syria
2014
70 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Nathalie Combe, Heino Deckert, Georges Schoucair, Myriam Sassine, Hazem Alhamwi
Hazem Alhamwi
Sivan
Hazem Alhamwi, Ghassan Katlabi
Florence Jacquet
Hazem Alhamwi
Nuzha Al Nazer, Frédéric Maury
A feeling of oppression creeps in. Hazem Alhamwi’s nib scratches over a black and white sketch worthy of Hieronymus Bosch. Apocalyptic motives and mordant satire are his speciality and were his salvation. In a country like Syria, where everything, even breathing – as someone bitterly comments – was controlled, havens were needed. Art that resigns itself to being non-public, can be one. This film was made when the protests following the Arab Spring raised hopes that something might change: saying out loud at last what was suppressed and would have lead to long prison sentences for decades. The director talks to friends and relatives to find causes and origins, beginning with childhood experiences of propaganda and personality cults, adaptation and fear. Today, when events happen so fast, we are in the age of fast media. Alhamwi’s nuanced tones, associative motives and trips into the visual worlds of childhood have a hard time keeping up in a present in which Syria is crushed between religious and ethnic interests as well as those of foreign countries. The voices from Alhamwi’s room are echoes of a time when people demanded democratisation and freedom. The film records those short moments when the opposition tried to form and articulate itself. The time allotted to the idealists was very short.
Cornelia Klauß

Jalanan

Documentary Film
Indonesia
2013
107 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Daniel Ziv
Daniel Ziv
Dadang SH Pranoto
Daniel Ziv
Ernest Hariyanto
Meita Eriska, Pahlevi Indra Santoso
Boni is standing in the super posh restroom of a super posh shopping mall. After arguing about rich and poor, he utters this unbeatable sentence: “Our shit mixes well. Only the people refuse to mix.” This spirit pervades the film of Canadian-born director Daniel Ziv, who has been documenting the subculture milieus of the restless metropolis of Jakarta for the past 15 years.
They are musicians in the busses of the city: Boni lives under a bridge near a sewer. It’s pure magic to hear him talk about how he, an illiterate, composes his pieces. Ho with his dreadlocks is a happy anarchist moving through the city, always on the run from the police. And then there is Titi, a mother of three who came to Jakarta in search of a better life and ended up married to a ne’er-do-well. She is now studying for her high school graduation which is to open the door to better jobs. Perhaps.
Shot in Cinema vérité style, without frills or false sentimentality, we get to meet more than three charismatic characters leading precarious lives. Ziv succeeds in painting the portrait of a metropolis whose residents are groaning under the impact of economic reforms. In this respect, there is nothing to add to the production notes: “Jalanan” is about Indonesia, street music, love, prison, sex, corruption, rice paddies and globalisation.
Matthias Heeder

National Diploma

Documentary Film
DR Congo,
France
2014
92 minutes
subtitles: 
English
French

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Marie Balducchi
Dieudo Hamadi
Dieudo Hamadi
Rodolphe Molla
Dieudo Hamadi
Dieudo Hamadi
“Lord, give me a diploma!” are the not so silent prayers of Congolese high school students just before their final exams. Instead of the Mercedes Benz of Janis Joplin’s American version a graduation diploma is considered to be the key to happiness. Getting it, however, is nothing short of a miracle, because the school system is part of the institutionalised corruption: if you can’t pay the “teachers’ fee”, you’re expelled.
A group of students in Kisangani, however, refuse to put up with this any longer – among them Joël, who can’t scrape the necessary money together even though he works hard every day carrying crates on the market. They take the initiative and move into an empty house to prepare for the exams, self-organised and with the aid of “little tricks”. They have two months left, two months in which they will live, discuss, pray and sing together.
Dieudo Hamadi manages to be always at the centre of things with his camera and to show the group’s dynamics from inside. His tale of the fragile democracy in the Congo is told not with resignation but with a touch of utopia that makes real democratic participation seem possible – and with an explosive finale. You’ve never seen a real graduation party until you’ve seen this film, though he doesn’t conceal either that the students don’t escape the logic of the system after all.
Lars Meyer

Waves

Documentary Film
Egypt
2013
71 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Ahmed Nour
Ahmed Nour
Markus Aust
Ahmed Fathy
Simon El Habre, Meriem Amrioui
Chadi Abo, Yasmin Finri
Ahmed Nour
Emile Aouad
Ahmed Nour’s first feature-length film is a melancholy and visually powerful investigation of the kidnapped 2011 revolution. What is left of the dreams so many died for? The rebellion began in Suez, his hometown, and he returns to Suez to come to his own personal conclusions about his Arab Spring. At the same time he describes the mental state of Egypt’s so-called “revolution generation”, who are tired and full of scepticism, facing an uncertain future.
The five chapters/waves, each in its own aesthetics – animation, archive and documentary material, sound – deal with stages in the life of the director resp. his town. The combination of personal memories and historical milestones not only serves to find personal certainty in times of doubt but also helps to recover the possibility of a better future from a disappointing present. Suez was a front-line town in the war against Israel, then an occupied town, then the “flame of the revolution” against the dictatorship. But what has changed for the people? Not much, if you believe the director. The infrastructure is crumbling, the drinking water is polluted, there are no jobs, rumours of foreign spies are making the rounds, and old alliances are falling apart. So who is the enemy today? To which his old mentor replies: “The enemy is within you.”
Matthias Heeder