Simon Popek

CD Film Programme Director

The Absurdities of Our World

Quite a few films portraying and analysing controversial political figures were made in 2018; both figures belonging to the past and the historical discourse and still extremely prominent names. Not wanting to be pigeonholed as an exclusively political festival, we have decided to save some of these profiles for another occasion, e.g. Steve Bannon (American Dharma) or Kurt Waldheim (The Waldheim Waltz), and focus instead on the perpetually relevant Eastern European map, which last year featured three exceptionally powerful documentaries on three crucial periods in Soviet or Russian history. The Trial by Sergei Loznitsa, a filmmaker who has become one of DFF’s permanent fixtures, documents Stalin’s ‘show’ proceedings from the early 1930s; Meeting Gorbachev by Werner Herzog, an auteur to whom we pay homage in the retrospective section, focuses on Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost (transparency) and the gradual disintegration of the Soviet empire, while Putin’s Witnesses by Vitaly Mansky bears witness to an era when Putin was not the Putin we know today, but a charming herald of new Russia whose media image won over the chronically mistrustful filmmaker at the turn of the century.
On the other hand, John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection – systematically, analytically and eruditely presenting the American tennis genius and his choleric intimidation of chair umpires, opponents and spectators in the stands – brilliantly shows that it is not only politicians who terrorise people. In a similar manner, Croatia’s recent history is dealt with systematically, analytically and eruditely in Viva Ludež, a movie offering a glimpse into the viewpoints of former legends of the Feral Tribune, a Split-based political satire newspaper. These Croatian writers would undoubtedly be intrigued to see the Slovenian-American Greetings from Free Forests, although Ian Soroka’s documentary adopts an entirely unideological approach to the densely forested landscape of Slovenia’s Kočevski rog, one of post-WWII sorest subjects and tendentiously addressed issues.
Movies dealing with the position of women are becoming more and more ostentatiously fanatic, with a few notable exceptions, e.g. A Woman Captured, an insight into the modern-day domestic slavery in Hungary, #Female Pleasure, a document of society’s hypocritical attitude towards women and their bodies, not to mention Djamilia, a lyrical ode to a woman in a male-dominated, chauvinist environment, based on the eponymous classical Kyrgyz novella by Chingiz Aitmatov.
And if all these complex subjects make you dizzy, why not see Postcards by Igor Bezinović? The protagonists of this intimate/epic hymn to rural life in Croatia, natives of southern Dalmatian villages and Istrian and Medimurje towns, speak about the absurdities of living in the country in strong local dialects.

Simon Popek

 

 


 

Nataša Posel

Director of Amnesty International Slovenia

In Anticipation of Celebrating Cinema – The Mirror of Our Society  

The partnership between Amnesty International Slovenia and the Documentary Film Festival is entering its second decade; our jury presented the Festival’s first Best Human Rights Award in 2009. The themes addressed in DFF’s competitive section over the past ten years mirror the major issues of the decade, so to speak. A closer look at the award-winning films reveals that they examined the consequences of poverty and (unwanted) migrations, the ongoing armed combats, girls’ rights, personal destinies caught in international conflict, radicalism, historical injustice and its effects on modern-day society…

This year’s selection of competitive films again deals with the biggest problems facing our world today, including the issue of women’s rights, which the #Me Too movement provided with fresh impetus, and racism that has proven to be challenging to eradicate.

In today’s world, driven by fast-paced communication, whether in words, images or pictures, the engagement of documentary filmmakers is especially relevant.

The image mirrored by their work is not always pleasing and is impossible to be perceived visually and ‘processed’ mentally in haste. This image is real, nevertheless. It requires effort: it both prompts serious reflection and evokes (strong) feelings. Documentary films examining our basic rights and freedoms ‘bring to life’ the information contained in the reports of human rights organizations like Amnesty.

If to Robert Altman filmmaking was “a chance to live many lifetimes”, documentary films addressing human rights could be deemed to deliver even more: they have the power to change, even save lives. Like all human rights defenders, documentaries dealing with these issues often disclose the things that violators would like to keep secret. When violations are exposed in countless possible ways – through research undertaken by human rights organizations, news reports, book publications... and, at the end of the day, through the lens of a movie camera – the struggle for their elimination can begin, increase momentum or sustain it.

This year’s Amnesty jury members belong to the diversified world of human rights defenders. Oksana Sarkisova is director of the Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in Budapest, journalist Kristina Božič’s articles clearly profile their author as a human rights defender, and through volunteer work the energetic Irena Butoln who has retired from active working life is changing things for the better in her local community.

The last piece in the puzzle is you, our dear lovers of documentary cinema. It is my wish that you might be encouraged by the films screened at the 2019 Documentary Film Festival to take action: one of the things you can do is sign the petition(s) on our website www.amnesty.si or subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest online and other human rights campaigns. Alternatively, you can make a contribution to support our fight for dignity and equality; this year we’ve begun work on human rights of older people.