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The festival of Leipzig for Documentaries

There are documentaries and documentaries! The festival of Leipzig was an example that today, more than ever; the interest of the public in documentaries is growing. In Germany, as in the rest of Europe, more than 10 documentaries are being shown this year in ordinary cinemas.. The festival illustrated this interest very well. The public was young and the cinemas were (over) crowded. In one of the workshops it was stated that these documentaries are a response to the mainstream productions seen in most commercial and even non-commercial TV channels. A part of the audience still wants to see well crafted documentaries based on in-depth research.. This year the festival had a new young director Claas Danielsen who,with his young members of the selection committee, had seen more then 2000 programmes, which were submitted to the festival. Some fifteen percent of them, from 64 different countries came to the screen. As in most festivals, the films were presented in different competitive and non-competitive sections.

The international competition was more focused on, shall we say, a kind of higher quality human-interest and post-modern (without much context) production, which was also reflected in the awards. The ecumenical and Fipresci, ecumenical and a Silveren Dove award went to Am Seidene Faden, (The Stroke) by the German Katharina Peters. A young couple is faced with adramatic situation when the husband, a musician, has a stroke. His wife, a filmmaker, records the events that follow, with the severe and almost unexpected healing of the man. The official jury was touched by And Thereafter by the Korean director Hosup Lee, who worked five years ago with the Korean broadcaster KPD, in Seoul. He follows the life and suffering of a Korean woman, who went as a war bride to the USA. After 40 years she is still an alien in her environment. She has an unhappy marriage and household. The only thing which keepsher going, is cultivating red peppers! For this moving film the director got also a Silver Dove (ex-aequo with The Stroke). The golden Dove went with its 10.000 euro to Touch the Sound by Thomas Riedelsheimer. Altough the film Across the border counted 131 minutes it became the Golden Dove for the best Shortfilm. Across the Border is composed by five short films from five new European Union member states (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia). The film is without any doubt a successful example of a European co-production. It combines serious with less serious stories, but it reveals an interesting inside in the differences between the way people of these new countries look to the new definition of "borders" in Europe. Azbuka na nadezdata (Alphabet of Hope) by the bulgarian Stefan Komandarev was an important compliment to Across the Border ! The bulgarian film focuses on the mountainous borderlands between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. This territory has been practically deserted since the Bulgarian government attempted to impose a program of radical Christianization here in the 1980s, a program that went so far as to force Turks to change their names into bulgarian ones. The Turks left the country and those Bulgarians who remained have difficulties to survive. The victims are the remaining Bulgarian children. As they are to few, they have problems to find a school! In the same way the documentary Invisible -Illegal in Europa by Andreas Voigt the topic of "borders" is omnipresent. He became the European Docuzone award which means that next year his film will be seen similtaneasly in more than 200 cinemas. Berlin and Beirut, two cities marked by "borders" were the maintheme in Berlin Beirut by the young director Myrna Maakaron. Her film go the Discovery Channel Filmawared and will be seen on that channel in the near future.

Outside the international competition there were a number of films about religion. In Jerusalem min Elskede (Jerusalem My Love) a young man, Jeppe Ronde, is on a search to find "God". He goes to Jerusalem and he meets different "Prophets" who introduce him into the world of their religion and try to convince him of the truth of their religious beliefs The effect of their openness and spiritual power is, not only for the young man but also for the audience, a deep and at the same time undogmatic experience. Jeppe Ronde won with this film the Talent Dove. Die Blutritter (Riders of the Precious Blood) portraits a two-day event, in the small Swabian town of Weingarten with its cheerful, baroque and sensual character, venerating the relic of the preciousblood, which according tothe legend must have been the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. It has been a tradition since 1094 and attracts thousands of spectators and pilgrims.

The social and critical dimension of documentaries was to be found in films such as Nodongjada Anida (We are Workers, or Not) by the Korean, Mi-Re Kim, and The Corporation by Mark Achbar. Both films, shown outside the competition, analysed how big international companies constantly violate human and social rights. These business corporations are today's dominant non-democratic institutions with only one guideline, "how to make money" by using power. One of the conclusions is that only democracy and constantcritical scrutiny by civil society can restrain their greed. Another was that films which undertake this kind of analysis, important information for democracy, are not seen in the mainstream media because these arealso controlled by international corporations! Members of the Ecumenical Jury hope that in the future these productions will also find their place in the competitivesections of the festival! Finally, Peace One Day , by the British director Jeremy Gilley, was an impressive document because it shows the determination of Gilley to persuade the global community to declare September 21st an annual international Day of Peace (www.peaceoneday.org).

Guido Convents

Secretary of the Brussels Section of the APPCB (Association Professionnelle de la Presse Cinématogaphique Belge) membre of FIPRESCI.

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