Film Archive

CITIZENFOUR

Documentary Film
Germany,
USA
2014
114 minutes
subtitles: 
German

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Dirk Wilutzky, Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy
Laura Poitras
Laura Poitras, Kirsten Johnson, Katy Scoggin, Trevor Paglen
Mathilde Bonnefoy
In the last instalment of her post 9/11 “New American Century” trilogy, multiple award-winning director Laura Poitras shows how America’s so called “war on terror” is directed against the country’s own citizens, against everybody. It’s about surveillance – on the political, philosophical and psychological level. It’s about madness.
In January 2013, Poitras, who had already done some research on the subject and organised artistic interventions, was contacted by the then completely unknown Edward Snowden. In June, together with Guardian writer Glenn Greenwald, she published his material, followed by interviews with Snowden.
Poitras is interested in the point of intersection between politics and art. She designed “CITIZENFOUR” as a triptych of paranoia: from the pseudo-democratic statements of American politicians to the first whistleblowers, from panoramic shots of gigantic intelligence service headquarters to the claustrophobically small hotel room in Hong Kong where Snowden was waiting for the moment of exposure. Shooting continued almost until the film was released, depicting what Snowden set in motion.
Poitras’s artistic objective is to establish an emotional connection between us and the knowledge which is available and precisely not secret. “CITIZENFOUR” makes us experience almost physically what an authoritarian surveillance state is and that we are right in the middle of one, too. Not a pleasant feeling.

Grit Lemke



Film Prize "Leipziger Ring" 2014

Devil's Rope

Documentary Film
Belgium
2014
88 minutes
subtitles: 
French

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Marc-Antoine Roudil
Sophie Bruneau
Fiona Braillon, Rémon Fromont
Philippe Boucq
Félix Blume
As in her previous film, “Trees”, Sophie Bruneau needs only one object to describe a whole world. In this case it’s barbed wire that tells a parallel history of the settlement of America. What started out as a useful tool to fence in animals leads to the staking of claims and the large-scale privatisation of land and ultimately to the sealing of the Mexican border against economic refugees. The former myth of the Wild West and the still popular phrase “God’s own Country” are taken ad absurdum in the face of the forest of private property signs and the gating frenzy. After all, individualisation and industrialisation come at a price. The land has long ceased to be a landscape and turned into mere arable territory. These facts are not devoid of a certain humour, which Sophie Bruneau brings out calmly in “Devil's Rope”. With gusto and a few surprising twists she depicts the origin and rich variety of this simple wire in grand tableaux. The references implied in the images to the original American movie genre, the Western, add to our enjoyment.
Cornelia Klauß

Im Keller

Documentary Film
Austria
2014
85 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Ulrich Seidl
Ulrich Seidl
Martin Gschlacht
Christoph Brunner
Ulrich Seidl, Veronika Franz
Ekkehart Baumung
This is a film about people and basements and about what people are up to in their basements. It’s about brass bands and opera arias, about expensive fixtures and cheap off-colour jokes. About dust and cleanliness, sexuality and trigger-happiness, fitness and fascism, whippings and dolls.
“In Austria”, Ulrich Seidl says, “the basement is a place of leisure and privacy. Many Austrians spend more time in the basement of their detached home than in the living room, which is often purely representational. It’s in the basement where they pursue their real needs, their hobbies, passions and obsessions.”
The traditional reflexes of agreement and disagreement won’t get you far in this film, which stages the most diverse basement moments with confident restraint and arranges them in masterly and grotesque tableaus.
Let no one believe that the grotesque is a minor genre! Among the arts, it is probably what the basement of a house is in architecture. In his writings, the great Russian cultural philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin wove the most beautiful garlands to the grotesque, including this passage: “Classical realism represents reality as it should be according to the norms of cultural order; grotesque realism shows reality as it exists in spite of this order.”
Ralph Eue

Killing Time

Documentary Film
Netherlands
2013
54 minutes
subtitles: 
No

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Eric Velthuis
Jaap van Hoewijk
Adri Schrover, Stef Tijdink
Jos Driessen
Jaap van Hoewijk
Diego van Uden & Benny Jansen
The ministers come at 12.45 p.m.; at 1.30 p.m. the telephone lines are opened for a last phone call. While workers are cordoning off the media zone in front of the state prison and setting up a platform and lectern, television teams are starting to arrive and the protesters’ faction moves into place. Meanwhile, the perpetrator’s relatives are waiting for the act of pardon at the Hospitality Centre. Two minutes left. At 6 p.m. sharp on 12 June 2013, Elroy Chester is given the deadly injection and the execution follows its familiar routine. Business as usual in Huntsville, Texas.
Jaap van Hoewijk records the sober minutes of an act that is institutionalised and rationalised down to the minutest detail, which even the unctuous terminology of redemption used by the Christian contingent can’t conceal. Just as businesslike he lists the facts of the crime, opening up the whole dimension named in the chapters of his film – in a not coincidental evocation of Dostoyevsky –: crime and punishment.
The images make your blood curdle. How one party accepts apparently without emotion to be the criminal and assumes the role even in grief. How they wait for the death sentence in a rocking chair. How the others, who are really victims, pose for the winners’ photo. And how one comes to understand that this is the real crime.
Grit Lemke

Maidan

Documentary Film
Netherlands,
Ukraine
2014
128 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Sergei Loznitsa, Maria Choustova-Baker
Sergei Loznitsa
Sergei Loznitsa, Serhiy Stefan Stetsenko, Mykhailo Yelchev
Danielius Kokanauskis, Sergei Loznitsa
Vladimir Golovnitski
They sing the national anthem, together and with pathos, alone and accompanied by a guitar. They sing (an allusion to their unpopular President Yanukovych) “Vitya, ciao, Vitya, ciao, Vitya, ciao ciao ciao!”, Christmas carols and Ukrainian folk songs, they versify, rhyme, mock, revolt, celebrate. They rest, take care of each other, warm, cook and feed each other. They stick together and feel free. A new time has come. They can feel it.
Putting current political events in documentary form rarely succeeds. Sergei Loznitsa’s film “Maidan” is all the more impressive since it was completed a few months after the decisive events in Kiev. His long, calm and uncommented shots gradually coalesce into a narrative and something much bigger: the chronicle of a revolutionary national awakening, and, on another, higher level, the universal image of a people’s rebellion. The presence of the rostrum announces itself only on the soundtrack, likewise the bangs of smoke bombs and snipers later. Chants turn into battle cries, enthusiasm and esprit turn into fighting, heaviness, grief and ultimately mourning.
Today, as another few months have passed, one wishes that time had come to a standstill with the end of this film.

Barbara Wurm



Honorary Mention in the International Competition Documentary Film 2014

Rules of the Game

Documentary Film
France
2014
106 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Muriel Meynard, Patrick Sobelman
Claudine Bories, Patrice Chagnard
Patrice Chagnard
Stéphanie Goldschmidt
Claudine Bories, Patrice Chagnard
Benjamin van de Vielle
There’s a rumour that the employment market is looking for bold individualists. Within limits, of course. The reality is: if it doesn’t fit, it’s made to fit – or rejected.
Lolita does not smile readily. Kevin doesn’t know how to sell himself. Hamid can’t abide bosses. They are twenty. They have no qualifications. They are looking for work and will be trained by a consulting agency over six months to learn the behaviour and forms of expression today’s employment market demands.
The consultants’ motives are more than honest: to enable young people to lead a decent life in the existing system. The kids see a new and strange world open up before their eyes. Both sides practice the best intentions, but now and then there are still glitches and sometimes there’s even the risk of a crash.
We’ve seen films about the admission process of acting schools (“Addicted to Acting”, et al.). But such situations, though exciting, are child’s play compared to the roles Lolita, Kevin and Hamid must learn to play if they want a part in the performance that is called “living (and surviving) in capitalism today”.

Ralph Eue



Golden Dove in the International Competition Documentary Film 2014

Spartacus & Cassandra

Documentary Film
France
2014
81 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Samuel Luret, Gérard Lacroix, Gérard Pont
Ioanis Nuguet
Aurélie Ménétrieux, Milk Coffee & Sugar
Ioanis Nuguet
Ioanis Nuguet, Anne Lorrière
Ioanis Nuguet
Maissoun Zeineddine, Marie Clotilde Chery, Jean-François Briand, Alexandre Gallerand, Marc Nouyrigat
One thing in life should be understood: that a child should be able to rely on his or her parents and grow up sheltered. That he or she should have a home. 13-year-old Spartacus and his 10-year-old sister Cassandra don’t even have a roof over their heads when the Roma family’s dwelling in the French town of Saint-Denis burns down. While the state helps them find refuge with the young trapeze artist Camille, their parents continue on a downward spiral. One side offers security, education and a childhood off the streets. On the other, a vicious circle of poverty, alcohol, self-pity and lethargy awaits them. Spartacus and Cassandra have to choose. It’s more than the old question of whether it’s possible to rise above difficult circumstances. How can children let go of their parents?
In shimmering, dreamlike images and an impressionist montage, Ioanis Nuguet shows the children poised between a family background they can’t shake off and a future that’s not easy to attain. A Caucasian chalk circle at whose end – as in Brecht’s play – something like hope is waiting. But also a bitter rap performed by Spartacus who makes it clear that this problem is not a personal one.

Grit Lemke



Prize of the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique 2014

Suddenly My Thoughts Halt

Documentary Film
Portugal
2014
114 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Renata Amaro, Rosa Silva
Jorge Pelicano
Frankie Chavez, Irene Orta Cintado
Jorge Pelicano
Jorge Pelicano, Pedro Mouzinho
Pedro Miguel Carvalho, Sara Godinho, Rui Pereira
Granted, celebrating a 131st anniversary may be a little weird, but it suits the setting. We are in a psychiatric hospital in Porto. The film first introduces some of the protagonists – already with stunning cinematography and an editing rhythm that from the first sequence seems entirely focused on the very idiosyncratic truth of this place. How can the thin line between mental normality and madness be described?
Jorge Pelicano uses an ingenious dramatic trick by introducing an actor. Directed by their therapist, the patients are rehearsing a 131st anniversary play. They are joined by Miguel, who plays the part of a 19th century schizophrenic Portuguese poet. More precisely: he plays a hallucinating horse. In fact, he moves into the hospital for two weeks, shares a room and meals, rehearsals and therapy sessions. And he attacks. Observes. Creates situations. Improvises. Inside-outside communication. Madness-normality. Soon we see him galloping through the grounds as he rehearses the hallucinating horse. The longer we follow him and the delightful residents of the hospital, the more we realise: the transition is blurred. And that is testimony to the outstanding narrative quality of this extraordinary film.
Matthias Heeder

The Shelter

Documentary Film
Switzerland
2014
101 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Fernand Melgar
Fernand Melgar
Fernand Melgar
Karine Sudan
Elise Shubs
Every winter evening tumultuous scenes take place in front of the bunker: the employees of the municipal doss house may let in precisely 50 homeless people – the number is raised only in exceptional cases. A crucial test for both sides, for those who were rejected will find hardly any spots in the spanking clean Swiss city of Lausanne where they can spend the night without trouble with the police and protected from the cold.
Fernand Melgar reports a new kind of poverty that hits not only Romanian Roma families, but also the former middle classes and African migrants from the crisis-shaken parts of Europe. And he relates how the rich part of Europe deals with it. He keeps filming the routines in the shelter and offices over the course of a season. He follows those who were rejected into the night and stays with them as they – in our midst, but practically invisible – pass their days in the streets and public institutions. He watches them keep up appearances while their lives collapse. But he also shows how social workers daily try to fight the misery and only manage to administer it, while their humanity quite often brings them into conflict with their regulations or their boss.
By highlighting all sides, Melgar delivers more than a social study. It’s the nightmarish analysis of a system that can’t be repaired by merciful donations.
Grit Lemke

The Stone River

Documentary Film
France,
Italy
2013
88 minutes
subtitles: 
No

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Giovanni Donfrancesco, Estelle Fialon
Giovanni Donfrancesco
Piero Bongiorno, Olivier Touche
Giovanni Donfrancesco
Giovanni Donfrancesco, Thomas Glaser, Pauline Dairou, Muriel Breton
Federico Cavicchioli
History is what happened in the past, they say. It can be portrayed as a longitudinal or latitudinal section. Some imagine it longish, others like a pile. Italian director Giovanni Donfrancesco sees history as a branching network of living veins that reach into the present. One of these veins links Carrara in the Apuan Alps to the American city of Barre. In the early 20th century, many impoverished Italian marble cutters and sculptors moved across the Atlantic to the granite quarries of Vermont where they hoped to find a better life. But you don’t get old when you work in a quarry. Within a short time many work migrants died of silicosis, also known as black lung. During the 1930s depression, writers interviewed the Barre stone cutters to integrate their oral testimony in the great project of the Roosevelt administration to draw a picture of America in the era of the Great Depression. Donfrancesco’s project has the same titanic dimensions: he combines narratives of Barre’s former inhabitants, spoken in the voices of its present residents, in a powerful succession of images and sounds that becomes a veritable fresco of multilayered individual and social realities – somewhere between deprivation and pride, personal tragedy and utopian hopes.
Ralph Eue

Toto and His Sisters

Documentary Film
Romania
2014
93 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Bianca Oana, Valeriu Nicolae, Catalin Mitulescu, Marcian Lazar, Hanka Kastelicova, Carmen Harabagiu, Antony Root
Alexander Nanau
Alexander Nanau
Alexander Nanau, George Cragg, Mircea Olteanu
Alexander Nanau
Matthias Lempert, Florian Ardelean
The faces of the three siblings living in a run-down flat in Bucharest’s Roma ghetto are serious. Their mother is in prison for drug dealing. Their father has vanished. The uncle who is supposed to take care of the children has turned the flat into a meeting point for the neighbourhood junkies, getting his niece hooked in the process. If you expect a Roma, poverty, horror portrait now, hold your horses. Alexander Nanau, Emmy winner in 2010, is interested in a much deeper question: how do you escape from a life predetermined by social marginalisation?
Toto, at 10 the youngest child of this torn family, finds refuge in a youth centre, spending more and more time in this place where a whole new world is opening up for him. A world that welcomes and supports him and shows him a way out of this nightmare through education. For a brief moment things seem to take a turn for the better for the kids. But then their living conditions strike back.
Nanau has found a quiet, bright hero in Toto and an increasingly confident young woman who demands responsibility in his sister Andrea. Both embody a chance to cheat their predetermined fate. This makes “Toto and His Sisters”, however bleak it may be at times, a surprisingly hopeful film.

Matthias Heeder



Awarded with a Honorary Mention in the International Competition Documentary Film, the Prize of the Trade Union ver.di and the Ecumenical Jury Award 2014