Every(?) blog-writer's self-portrait

You know the feeling... if you've ever written anything you thought was good... and then read it!


CPH:DOX 2014 Closing Award Ceremony will not be reviewed…

… because this year I wasn’t invited. I really should stop bashing their opening venue, and if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all… and all that... you know… (I hear the ceremony was tasteful, though).

I did go to the after-party upon receiving a mail in the afternoon from the organizers about some wrongly announced times, so at that point I knew when NOT to go for drinks at the French embassy and the awards show at Hotel d’Angleterre.

But why do I care? I care because I want CPH:DOX to also be my festival. I care about the genre which I work with practically everyday year round and I want the festival to be something that I look forward to, even though I don’t have a film shown or a project being pitched.

Yes, I do already look forward to it and I do watch a great deal of films (and review a couple at www.filmkommentaren.dk), but I kind of miss that the festival embraces the local professional community a bit more. Not because we are professionals, but because we love docs. Of course we all have a free will, but it’s a bit too easy not getting involved if you are a Copenhagen-based filmmaker with no invitations or direct involvement of the festival.

And for god’s sake, let’s not make it too posh. Don’t get me wrong, I love being on the right side of a red, velvet rope with a glass of champagne, but has the whole thing – and probably myself too - become a bit too self-absorbed and elitist? I mean, d’Angleterre? And now you can get selected to become a Kickstarter-project. Am I the only one who finds that a bit ironic that crowdfunding projects now has another keyhole to pass? (I haven’t looked into this a lot, so please excuse me if I have misunderstood something re. this initiative)

Anywho, the festival does an enormous job, I enjoy most of it (and subsequently am a bit under the weather now), and the audience seem to like it. Well, that’s another matter: From what I hear, the audience-numbers at regular showings of films also shown at the festival are a bit discouraging. Everything has to be an event nowadays. Clearly, the good folks at CPH:DOX know that, and I don’t (among other things).

So keep up the good work.

PS. Personally, I prefer festivals with no awards at all, but why isn’t there a Danish competition anymore?


CPH:DOX 2014 Opening will not be reviewed...

... because it was once again held at DR Koncerthuset which is quite unsuited for film screenings for a large part of the audience. The sound was horrendous and cut into the small fragile bones of my ears and other body parts; at least heard from my section of the concert hall.

Main characer of "1989", Németh Miklós. A good guy (much better than the host).

And even though the discussion afterwards was on an interesting topic (that of the film), there was not one word (maybe one) about the film itself. The curse of documentary filmmaking: The subject matter often overshadows the film as art form (hence point 2 here).

But maybe a documentary film festival should not be doing that on their opening night? Well, what the hell, they have a lot to think about and a lot of ideas to consider, so schwam darüber.

And since I am still trying to get a ticket for the international guest's dinner party in Tivoli on Wednesday, I better shut up.

See you at the festival venues.

Previous years:
CPH:DOX 2012 Opening Complaints
CPH:DOX 2013 Opening


Moore and Berlinger

Michael Moore's 5th rule of documentary film making says: "The Left is boring [... ],  we've lost our sense of humor and we need to be less boring. We used to be funny. The Left was funny in the 60s, and then we got really too damn serious. I don't think it did us any good."

As you can see it's hardly a rule - more a statement - but that's ok.

Another renowned documentary film maker, Joe Berlinger, replies (in one phrasing): "Not every filmmaker can or wants to be funny, and not every subject lends itself to humor".

Who is right? If you've been here before you know my stand; that it is probably better to fight adversary to humor than making a non-humorus film - even on a very important topic.

But how can you treat a serious problem with un-seriousness? Well, it's up to every film maker, of course, but I think it's really the other way around: Taking a humorous, satrical look at ANYTHING only shows the utmost respect for the people (even victims) involved. And if you feel otherwise, if you get offended, if you feel that the humourus approach is despicable - who is the one having the real problems? You or the funny guy?

I mean, I don't get offended when someone makes a serious documentary (hey, I even produce them), but I do raise my eyebrow in disbelief if someone get's offended by a humorous (or even entertaining) approach in another documentary.

PS. "Rape in the military ("Invisible War"), for example, is not fertile ground for humor", says Berlinger. Hmm, I feel that treating this extremely serious matter with a satirical view on the macho culture in the military could be a fertile way to go... it will take some work and thinking, but nevertheless...

PPS. By the way, I'm not opposed to Berlinger in any (other) way. Wrote a rather favorable review of one of his films at www.filmkommentaren.dk


Are melodies and stories related?

Thoughts during the opening concert with Aaron Parks at Copenhagen Jazz Festival, July 2014.

Over the years I have been frustrated with and curious about myself regarding many things, but I’ve wondered why it is that I more and more tend to favour music with a strong melodic approach and at the same time have become less and less interested in films (and literature) with a strong emphasis on plot and story. Does that make me an inconsistent person or – more likely - a complex and highly interesting individual?

Or is rather because melody and plot are not that related at all? More second cousins than brother and sister? On the surface you would think that the arrangement of notes and/or words in a logically progressing way would be sort of in the same family, but if you think deeper, maybe not. A melody can be entertaining and have surprises built in, but it doesn’t have to end a specific place. Well, it sort of does, but not in the way a plot needs to be structured. Maybe it’s because music really IS math with emotions whilst words are farther away from arithmetic and shouldn’t be treated as such. Like when you calculate at what page or after how many minutes a certain event of the plot should take place. I mean, a turning point measured out to be after for instance 24 minutes in a film doesn’t make sense if those 24 minutes feels like 45, does it? On the other hand is structure in film not a bad thing… but I guess what I mean is, that what the plot brings to a film is not the same thing the melody brings to a piece of music.

Like these guys on stage: they start a tune with a terrific melodic theme but soon something else takes over, rhythmic or harmonic or improvisational ideas and changes, and only once in a while does the melody step up again and remind us what started this thing. Jazz have these possibilities.

A film cannot start a story and abandon it… or rather: I would like to see more films do just that… as long as something else steps in and takes its place. The melody can carry through and soar over a jazz tune, but the plot and the story are way too often too important for the progression of the film to be interesting…

And on this happy note I will go out and enjoy some more jazz in the Copenhagen summer – as should you. Stop and say hello if you see me: I’m the one with a beer in my hand, wearing short trousers grossly inappropriate for my age. I should be the only one...


Four reasons as to why making documentaries is such a pain in the ass.

1. You need to do research
For some reason, people seem to expect that especially documentaries need to be journalistically researched. No harm in that – more knowledge will not hurt you – but there IS a risk of reality ruling over fantasy and no real film needs that. (Besides, it sounds like a lot of work).

2. You need to convince other people about the importance of your project.
That goes for every film, of course, but in the documentary world the topic itself must be of interest to the commissioning editors. Well, no harm in that, but like a fiction film is not the same as its script, so is a documentary film so much more (or should be) than its topic.

3. You cannot make a living of making documentaries.
That’s okay; my wife has a real job. So no real harm in that for me - as long as no one files for divorce.

4. You cannot make fun of anything.
Use of humor equals insincerity and shallowness and is neither artistically nor journalistically viable. That’s just the way it is and always has been with people of the right and true faith (be it a religion or a specific school of filmmaking). No harm in that… oops… well, maybe just a bit, because lack of humor, satire or self-irony in my mind equals a risk of one-sided depictions of reality, self-righteousness and even propaganda. Docs should be multi-facetted, ambiguous and thought-provoking, and deliberate use of humor is a wonderful tool for just that (Did I say “tool”? I meant “fool”).

So all in all, I can live with up to three out of the four truisms above. Guess which one I cannot accept.


Humor in Docs 4

So I did it again: while writing an application for a grant from The Danish Arts Foundation (Statens Kunstfond) where I had to explain what I intend to use the grant for, I failed to be honest to myself. The grants from the foundation are not for specific projects, but they can support your artistic work and ideas in general. I have applied for a grant – and failed - for the last ten years, so that's rather embarrassing. But I don't mind being just that.

This year, I decided to emphasize my efforts on making films where humor and the film's representation of reality are interwoven according to my ideas of DOComedy. But after submitting, I realized that I had send a boring and maybe even self-righteous application. As I wrote in a previous blog, one tends to approach authorities with a frown all over one’s face in order to appear as a serious contender.

Why is that? Well, when you bring up comedy people have a tendency to either think of something stupid - like one of Three Stooges getting his fingers repeatedly stuck in a door, or something lame - like the run-of-the-mill stand-up comedian talking about getting his balls stuck in his zipper. Only rarely do people immediately think of clever and witty representations of humor dealing with essential issues even though there is plenty to think of: Jacques Tati, Marx Brothers, Stephen Fry, Hasse&Tage, Monty Python, Dario Fo, Dave Allen, Buster Keaton, “Dr. Strangelove”, “Manhattan” or “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller. The last one I read between and during calls at my old student job as a phone attendant at a newspaper. To the dismay of my co-workers and boss and to the callers’ mild wondering, I couldn’t stop reading and laughing out loudly. And yes, you do remember it wrong, if you don’t think “Catch 22” is (also) a hilariously funny book.

Okay, I’m not saying that I’m half as amusing as any of these pillars, but what I AM saying is that I have learned as much (if not more) about life or certain facts of mankind from those mentioned above than from any well-meaning and serious (if not frowning) approach in any book, film or documentary. Yes, there ARE funny and clever documentaries – but they are often regarded of having a smell of being too “American” or “entertaining” or something.

I strongly believe that I can make a thought-provoking AND funny film about surveillance and inter-human distrust (a sequel to this film) or the national health system (here's a moodboard), which accidently are two of the DOComedies I am working on. As a matter of fact, as I wrote in the same old blog as mentioned above, there seem to be some proof that the remedy of humor can enhance critical out-of-the-box-thinking.

Back to my application. I should of course have made a funny essay instead of having my application meet the demands mentioned on the website of the foundation. I guess I was afraid of my own prejudice of people’s prejudice towards humor, so I ended up writing that I want to be funny and thought-provoking and may have been momentarily in the past; not that I am just that…

But on the other hand: I kind of like the idea that I’ll BE funny - IF they give me some money.

And now if you’ll excuse me: I got my one remaining ball stuck in my zipper, darn it. And no!, don’t smack the door, my hand is still on the doorframe…

APPENDIX, May 2nd 2014: Sure enough I didn't get the grant, so now I'm (in alphabetical order) angry, bitter, disillusioned, jealous, mad and sad. But that goes with the territory. Now I will either go vacuum the flat or open a shiraz from Coppola's Diamond Collection. What will it be?

Previous posts:
Humor and Docs 1
Humor and Docs 2
Humor and Docs 3