Film Archive

International Programme 2014
A Goat For a Vote Jeroen van Velzen

Student elections in rural Kenya. What do the candidates stand for? Who cares? It’s about prestige, and “little somethings” they distribute to the electorate. A basic course in democracy.

A Goat For a Vote

Documentary Film
Kenya,
Netherlands
2013
52 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Hasse van Nunen, Maarten van der Ven
Jeroen van Velzen
Alex Boon
Stef Tijdink
Daan Wijdeveld
Jeroen van Velzen
Robil Rahantoeknam
Let’s look at how democratic processes are practiced at a student election in rural Kenya: What exactly does the student representative do? Who cares. The point is the office, the prestige, the start of individual careers. The candidates: Magdalena, who traditionally has a tough stand as the only female candidate. Harry, who is dirt poor. To finance his campaign he sells fish and coconuts on the market. Said the charmer, who wants to be an army general. He is already a strategist: a photo call with the deputy who is made to stand a step behind him, putting up posters, asking relatives for money. And then this seductive smile! They all know that the only way to win is through campaign gifts. Or let’s call them by their real name, like Magdalena’s grandmother: bribes. So they distribute candy and “little somethings”. Harry even manages to wheedle a goat out of his relatives. Meat for all! Only Magdalena talks about content – which is why she will lose …
What does this teach us? School as a social microcosm teaches what promises to be successful. If the way there is through corruption, that’s a daily experience in many countries. What did they say at the beginning of the film? “The best way to understand our society is to look at one’s children”. In this sense: A vote for a goat!
Matthias Heeder
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

International Programme 2014
Amerykanka. All included Viktar Korzoun

Prison life in the dreaded KGB headquarters of Minsk, told by dissident poet Alyaksandr Fyaduta in front of an animated, cartoon-like prison backdrop. A bitter satire à la Erofeyev.

2013

Amerykanka. All included

Animadoc
Belarus
2013
52 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Kasia Kamockaja
Viktar Korzoun
Natalia Shyrko, Eugene Yellow
Viktar Tumar
Viktar Korzoun, Anatoly Todorsky
Alexander Fyaduta, Viktar Korzoun
Taras Senchuk
The “Amerykanka” is the headquarters and notorious torture centre of the KGB in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe. Immediately following a protest against the results of the presidential elections of 19 December, 2010, a number of opposition members were arrested, among them Alyaksandr Fyaduta. He was detained at the “Amerykanka” over a period of three months, 50 days of which he spent in solitary confinement. During that time he wrote “American Poems”, the book on which this courageous and formally unusual film by Viktar Korzun is based. It revolves around Alyaksandr Fyaduta: his arrest, interrogations, humiliations, life in prison, though he appears not in a traditional interview setting but as an active agent in front of and in animated prison scenery. The real live image of the “slightly overweight protagonist with glasses”, as Fyaduta self-deprecatingly describes himself, constantly changes into his animated alter ego and vice versa. The way this artistic device, born out of the lack of a real location, is realised reveals a strong taste for playfulness and creates a surprisingly ironic distance both to the events and the state of the country. And perhaps mockery is the only possible attitude left in the face of a government that arrests people, as recently happened, merely for clapping their hands silently and in public.
Matthias Heeder

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

From My Syrian Room

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

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

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

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

German Competition 2014
No Land's Song Ayat Najafi

Composer Sara wants to organise a concert of female singers in Tehran – in a country where female solo voices are banned. A political thriller and a musical journey.

No Land's Song

Documentary Film
France,
Germany
2014
90 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Gunter Hanfgarn, Rouven Rech, Teresa Renn, Anne Grange
Ayat Najafi
Koohyar Kalari, Sarah Blum
Julia Wiedwald, Schokofeh Kamiz
Ayat Najafi
Sasan Nakhai, Dana Farzanehpour, Julien Brossier
“The female voice is fading away.” Iranian composer Sara Najafi’s statement must be taken literally, for the Islamic revolution of 1979 banned female singers from appearing in public in Iran. They are not allowed to perform solo any more, unless to an exclusively female audience. Recordings of former female icons can only be bought on the black market. What a grievous loss. But Sara is determined to refresh the cultural memory by roaming Teheran in the footsteps of famous singers of the 1920s and 60s and is about to revive the female voices in the present: she courageously plans an evening of Iranian and French soloists to rebuild shattered cultural bridges.
A concert that’s not allowed to take place. For two and a half years, director Ayat Najafi, who lives in Berlin today and shows a flair for the right scene, follows the preparations between Teheran and Paris that are always touch and go. What’s still possible, what goes too far? Sara’s regular audiences at the Ministry of Culture shed light on the interior logic and arbitrariness of the system, though they can only be heard (always to a black screen). Can intercultural solidarity and the revolutionary power of music accomplish anything here? A political thriller and at the same time a musical journey, this film never loses sight of its real centre: the female voice.

Lars Meyer



Prize of the Youth Jury 2014

International Programme 2014
Our Terrible Country Mohammad Ali Atassi, Ziad Homsi

Syria: A young photographer accompanies a well-known dissident on his flight from the fighting, the ISIS and into exile. Rough and direct – reflections in a hail of bullets.

Our Terrible Country

Documentary Film
Syria
2014
85 minutes
subtitles: 
English
French

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Christin Luettich
Mohammad Ali Atassi, Ziad Homsi
Ziad Homsi, Saeed Al-Batal
Marwan Ziadeh
Mohammad Ali Atassi
Nadim Mishlawi
Act 1: Ziad Homsi, 24, photographer and freedom fighter, meets the intellectual and “doctor of the revolution”, Yassin al-Haj Saleh, in Ghouta, the first city liberated in the Syrian civil war. However far-fetched the idea might seem on the backdrop of ongoing fighting in the streets and the complete destruction of the city, Homsi begins to shoot a portrait of the famous dissident. At first insecure about how to deal with the other, an increasingly close relationship develops between the two.
Act 2: ar-Raqqa. Saleh’s hometown is conquered by ISIS terrorists, his brother arrested and detained. He has no choice – he must go back. Homsi accompanies him. After an exhausting 20-day journey through (still) liberated territory, they reach the town, only to hide from the ISIS fanatics there who hunt down everyone who’s intelligent, educated and an independent thinker. They don’t find the brother.
Act 3: forced exile. Saleh flees from the growing ISIS terror to Istanbul, where he also sees his young friend Homsi again – a meeting of two generations united by their revolution with all its hopes, disappointments and setbacks. The idea that was worth fighting and dying for is gone. What’s left is the hope of returning one day. To do what?
Matthias Heeder
International Programme 2014
The Term Pavel Kostomarov, Aleksandr Rastorguev, Aleksej Pivovarov

An insider’s look at the leaders of the anti-Putin opposition. From the far left to the far right, intellectuals, celebrities and politicians. A record of churning chaos – up close and breathless.

The Term

Documentary Film
Estonia,
Russia
2014
87 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Pavel Kostomarov, Aleksandr Rastorguev, Aleksej Pivovarov
Pavel Kostomarov, Aleksandr Rastorguev, Aleksej Pivovarov
This is THE film about the opposition against Putin’s Russia. One of its directors, Pavel Kostomarov, was searched during production, many of the protagonists were taken in investigative custody, and some were condemned. The dozens of cameras that contributed to the online clip project initiated in mid-May 2012 on which this film is based are in place when almost all the leaders of the protests against the government are arrested. Only Mr. Belov, the White one, gets away with inciting the Nazi mob to chant “Long live Anders Breivik”. There is Kseniya Sobchak, a politician’s daughter, former godchild of Putin, talk show host and much more, who despite her glamour is a capable representative of the moderate liberal intelligentsia. There is Aleksej Naval’nyj, who has collected countless supporters despite his massive tendency towards the extreme right. There is Sergej Udal’cov, the left wing extremist front man. Or Petr Verzilov, the husband of Pussy Riot’s Nadya and now Madonna’s and Yoko Ono’s “best friend”.
They all accepted a “term” with their appearance. But there is also a “term” that began when Putin became president again – the vital one, as it turns out, with regard to the rise and decline of civic resistance against the autocracy. While the Tsar, to the applause of “maîtres” like Depardieu, sings about his “thrill on Blueberry Hill” …
Barbara Wurm
International Programme 2014
Varya Aliona Polunina

A Moscow woman with health sandals and Aldi shopping bags explores the Ukraine war: on the Maidan, in Odessa and among the right-wing sector. The naive heroine comes very close to the truth.

Varya

Documentary Film
Russia
2014
46 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Nastya Velskaya
Aliona Polunina
Dmitry Rakov
Aliona Polunina
Aliona Polunina
Interims, uncertainties, illustrated by the great search engine powers: for Yandex, the Crimea is Russian territory, for Google it is Ukrainian. And the realm of Facebook is only a keystroke away, not to be underestimated as a platform for ideological positioning. When Aliona Polunina tries to shoot a film about the Russian-Ukrainian war she meets Varya, a simple Moscow mathematics teacher with frizzy grey hair, naive eyes, health sandals, plastic bags and a notebook. Varya is strange, but a heroine: she canvasses her Facebook contacts in the country that became the declared enemy of her government overnight. Varya goes Ukraine to explore a whole spectrum of political and national euphoria there (be it militant or pacifist, idiosyncratic or collective), which she emphatically tries to understand and communicate to her Russian fellow campaigners in defiance of the delusions propagated by the mass media.
It’s that simple step of turning addresses in a virtual social network into real contacts that enables Polunina and us, via the documentary camera, to regain access to a public that is threatening to sink under the military and media war – by regulated exclusion or an overkill of unregulated self delusion. Varya fights against both wars. Courageous.
Barbara Wurm

Victory Day

Documentary Film
Russia
2013
29 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Sergey Vinokurov, Alina Rudnitskaya
Alina Rudnitskaya
Fedor Bakulin
Alina Rudnitskaya
Sergey Vinokurov
Alexsey Antonov
“Only in Russia is it possible for the president to declare the year in which he files for divorce the ‘Year of the Family’.” While the sea of flags of the victory parade in the streets of St. Petersburg below illustrates how much Russian nationalist, communist and orthodox positions have merged in this country of ideological extremes, lesbian and gay couples stay at home on their sofas. Behind closed windows and out of reach of the new public who are to be kept pure of all “perverts”. They talk about how they met and how their parents and environment deal with their coming out. A talk show is being broadcast on television, an upright citizen thinks that the anti homosexual law passed in June 2013 is too harmless: “This type should be forbidden to donate blood or sperm and if they have a car crash their hearts should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuited for the prolongation of any kind of life.” The applause lasts several minutes.
The nice thing about this film is the normality of these loves and lovers, the obviousness of their views and attitudes. And yet – certainly at the end, in the brilliant final montage – a layer of desperation has settled on their intelligent faces. After the Jews and queers, one of them says, all that’s missing is a law against witches. Welcome to the Middle Ages, welcome to Russia today.
Barbara Wurm

Waves

Documentary Film
Egypt
2013
71 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

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