Baltic Sea Forum For Documentaries – Film Programme 2019
Dir. Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska, Apolo Media, Trice Films, 85 min, 2019, North Macedonia
Distribution: NonStop Entertainment
Hatidze is over 50, and her daily life is very ascetic – she lives in a remote mountain hut without electricity and other benefits of civilization. One day, her peaceful existence is disrupted by a nomadic family who have also chosen to settle in the same village, one that most other inhabitants have long ago deserted. And this family, though bringing joy and laughter, intrude into Hatidze’s daily rhythm, threatening her bees – the woman’s only source of income. Honeyland is a poetic and meditative observation with picturesque scenes, a lush colour palette and expressive close-ups of characters documented by the filmmakers over the course of several years.
The makers of Honeyland first met Hatidze while gathering materials for a film about beekeeping and the meaning of bees within the ecosystem. They became interested in a beekeeping method that is still practiced in remote North-Macedonian regions. One of the principles of this method is honouring division – half the yield of honey to humans, the other half – to the bees.
ONE CHILD NATION (12+)
Dir. Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Chicago Media Project, 85 min, 2019, US
Instead of the “one-child policy” Chinese propaganda is now proclaiming a “two-child plan”. What is hiding behind this type of policy implementation machinery, and what is the effect of this enormous system on citizens’ lives? Under what circumstances have those generations grown up in – those without whose manufactured goods we could not imagine living, but about whom we know next to nothing? While examining the fates of her immediate family, director Nanfu Wang explores one of the most ghastly social experiments in human history. And the viewer is invited to take a direct look into what is perhaps the most refined modern-day propaganda regime.
The plan to curb population growth in China began in 1979, and the 37-year-long ban on having more than one child, according to Chinese government data, “saved” the nation from at least 400 million infants. From 2016 China has allowed two children. According to UN estimates China currently has a population of 1.4 billion – 19% of all world inhabitants.
Dir. Reetta Huhtanen, Zone 2 Pictures Oy, Clin d’oeil Films, Tondowski Films, 73 min, 2019, Finland
Six-year-old Aatos and his friend Amine live in Molenbeek, known to most of the world from the news as a hotbed for Islamic terrorism in the heart of Brussels. But for the film’s main characters, Molenbeek is their childhood world, full of new adventures, ethnic and religious belonging, and a place where their mother-tongue is no impediment to friendship. In mischievous playfulness, the Gods of Molenbeek follows the tandem of the boys and the day-to-day of their friends growing up in this multi-cultural environment. The film triggers an acute desire to take stock of the pre-conceived notions and prejudices through which we shape our communities within virtual and very real borders.
“I wanted to portray the viewpoint of the children – how they reflect what grown-ups believe, and how they shape their own view of the world. Grown-ups are secondary. Most of all I was interested in how open my main characters were towards the world – that attests to the fact that multiculturalism can exist without dividing it into opposing camps,” states director Reetta Huhtanen.
Dir. Heddy Honigmann, VOF Appel&Honigmann, 86 min, 2018, The Netherlands
Six sweet-natured service dogs look after the well-being of their owners with remarkable selflessness. True care and deep mutual trust – Buddy is a love-filled story about the close bond between humans and dogs, and how people with special needs can experience a fulfilling daily existence apart from the presence of other humans. The New York Times has called director Heddy Honigmann’s films delicious anti-depressants, full of simplicity, elegance, generous empathy and soulfulness. This film is no exception – it’s a moving ode to the mental strength of the film’s characters and their partners, the service dogs.
Among the service dogs in Latvia there is currently only one assistant-dog that is trained to help a person with mobility issues. This kind of dog plays a practical role in his owner’s daily life – picking up and delivering objects, switching on lights, opening or closing closets and other tasks.
Dir. Bernadett Tuza-Ritter, Éclipse Film, 89 min, 2017, Hungary/Germany
Hungarian woman Marish has been serving a family for more than ten years. Her work day is twenty hours long, she doesn’t receive compensation, and she isn’t allowed to leave the house without the owner’s permission. She has no passport, no bed and no life of her own anymore. Marish lives in perpetual fear, but slowly things are changing. The film’s director has been documenting Marish’s daily existence for almost two years, and her presence has allowed Marish to renew belief in the fact that she’s not alone, and that she has to act to regain her lost freedom. Marish is ready to escape.
Modern-day slavery is a fact that makes society uncomfortable and is often kept in silence. In Hungary there are currently some 22,000 women who are in a similar situation. In order to get the chance to film Marish, director Tuza-Ritter, in her debut film, paid Marish’s employer Eta one month’s dues.
FOR SAMA (16+)
Dir. Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts, Channel 4 News/ITN Productions, 95 min, 2019, UK/US
For Sama is a new mother’s love letter to her infant daughter – a personal and emotional missive from experiences in Aleppo, Syria. In 2011, the film’s director Waad al-Kateab is an emerging journalist who begins to film the increasing unrest. The camera becomes her ally, recording the siege on the city, and the selfless actions of her husband and many other Syrians who stayed in the besieged city and kept the hospital running in order to help the victims of the attacks. At the same time she is also a mother who has to face a decision – leave Syria to save her child’s life, or continue to fight for the freedom for which so much has already been sacrificed.
In 2019 the film received the Cannes Film Festival L’Œil d’or award for Best Documentary, as well as jury awards at other well-known festivals – Hot Docs (Canada) and SXSW (USA). For Sama has been highly rated not only by film professionals, but also the public – receiving audience awards in at least ten festivals in Europe, the USA and Asia.
Dir. Mads Brügger, Wingman Media, Pirava Film, Laika, Associated Directors, 128 min, 2019, Denmark/Norway/Sweden/Belgium
Distribution: DR Sales
In 1961, Dag Hammarskjöld, Swedish UN Secretary General, well-known opponent of colonialism and supporter of the self-determination African nations, died under mysterious circumstances in an airplane crash. More than half-a-century has passed, but the circumstances of the incident are still unclear. Director Mads Brügger transforms a seemingly non-topical historical event into a dramaturgically-polished thriller. After the film’s premiere at one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals – Sundance (USA) – viewers were upset at the notion of why this film’s red-letter missive isn’t on news screens everywhere and who might benefit from that?
Work on the film took many years. Director Mads Brügger and Swedish private investigator Göran Björkdahl immersed themselves in the archived documents and uncovered, possibly, a secret organization on the African continent, and, at the same time, the reason for the seemingly uncontrollable AIDS epidemic. One of witnesses interviewed in the film has currently moved to a location outside of his country of residence due to threats on his life.
Dir. Saskia Boddeke, Beeld, NTR, 68 min, 2017, The Netherlands
Sales: Wide House
Peter Greenaway’s name in the world of film and contemporary art has a recognised value. The Greenaway’s Alphabet is his partner’s, artist Saskia Boddeke’s, essay on creativity, film history, relationships, parents, children and everything else Peter calls life. Unexpectedly revealing are a father’s (Greenaway) talks with his teenage daughter, whose penetrating questions break down barriers and allow for a sense the human side of the art and the experiment. The Greenaway Alphabet – artistically formulated milestones in the director’s universe that bring us closer to his abundantly creative life and also his eccentric and dynamic personality.
Saskia Boddeke is a multimedia artist who stages operas, creates installations and other works of art using various types of mediums. She sometimes works under an alias – her alter ego, Rose Borchovski. The Greenaway Alphabet is her first feature documentary.