For four days in September, together with Anke Leweke, film critic and Berlinale Programmer, Lee Seong-gyou, Korean director, we watched 13 feature documentaries that were chosen for the DMZDocs International Competition as part of the Jury. It was exhausting to watch so earnestly and intently but ultimately gratifying to witness the effort put in by the filmmakers. We deliberated hard and long and arrived at the final decision with difficulty. Here is the citation for the winners we wrote collectively that gives you a sense of the tensions in the meeting room that day. Here it is
“First of all we would like to thank you all directors that have presented us with your visions. It is clear to us that the 9/11 or the clash of Civilisations that underpins this event has a huge impact on the world. 5 of the 13 films had that as the main theme or at least the underlying theme. The other strong theme is he abject poverty in some parts of the world happening for all kinds of reasons. In anycase, more and more people are left out of the world, either on their own accord or because of the system. The best documentaries try to understand the problems and effects in an even-handed and creative way.
We had to decide between films that had strong persuasive political agendas and films that were less politically ambitious but had very strong personal, even singular points of view. In this day and age, is one kind of film more important than others? There are no clear cut answers. So we had to grapple with the role of documentary films, indeed, all filmmaking today.
So for the Special Jury Prize. We would like to give it to Bombay Beach by Alma Har’el. It is easy to make a film about poverty but difficult to do it well because such films usually focus on the poor conditions only, with not enough on the complicity of the director to make and perpertuate such poverty through their films
Bombay Beach is on the surface about the a very poor community who live in an isolated place in the middle of the desert in USA. The director in the middle of cinema verite sequences intersperses these moments with dance sequences performed by the protagonists themselves that felt true to their lives. This device, which is woven in seamlessly cleverly sheds light on the performative aspects of cinema and the unspoken collaboration every director needs between herself and the protagonists to make the documentaries.
The White Goose Award goes to The Tiniest Place by Tatiana Huezo
How do you make a film about all the pain and death in war without showing pictures of the war, without talking heads, showing only beautiful tropical scenery, and simple day to day life of villagers in a small village in El Salvador? But we can listen to the thoughts of the villages who have survived the war through their voiceovers. Many are still struggling with the memories and living with the death of their loved ones. So a third film starts to exist in your mind. But mainly we see that life has also gone on. Calfs are born, chickens are hatched, children are born. And so a village is reborn out of ashes, put so simply and lyrically.
Our sincere congratulations to the winners.
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