My first foray of the new year outside my new hometown of Berlin (two-year artist visa, bay-bee!) will be to the spot where I've "wintered" for the past two years, to attend the excellent documentary film fest there. 2011 marks the 10th year of this fest, and will also mark a changing of the guard for the festival's artistic director, as Erkko Lyytinen steps down. The best part of any fest, besides seeing many fabulous films, is getting to see wonderful friends I don't get to see too often, and meeting today's most talented nonfiction filmmakers. Helsinki also offers some of the most luxurious cinemas and coziest places to eat and drink, and, of course, there is the sauna, plenty of nice vodka and running naked in the snow--in that order. (Photo courtesy Mike Palmieri, Uunisaari, January 2010.)
This year's program, January 25th to 30th, is especially expansive due to this important anniversary and an extensive list of international guests, as well as the superstars of Finnish cinema, will be on hand to celebrate.
This iteration of the festival will concentrate on stories of "single human destinies and current social
phenomena." There will be a special program featuring the experimental documentary work of in cooperation with the Finnish National Audiovisual Archive and the French Cultural Centre of Finland. The Fusion Doc selection contains eight fantastic films that combine both fictional and documentary storytelling. Irish filmmaker, Ken Wardrop, maker of His & Hers, and Italian director, Pietro Marcello, maker of the exquisite La bocca del lupo / Mouth of the Wolf, are part of this program. I am looking forward to seeing the delightful Mr. Wardrop again, and meeting Mr. Marcello whose film sent me over the moon. This year's guest of honor is , director of thirty films. Jarl will have a retrospective, including his "mods trilody," which deals with the subculture in Stockholm and their stylish (and violent) rebellion against the petty bourgeoisie. And Helena Trestikova from Czech Republic, whose latest film, Katka, will be screened at the festival, will be there, as well, and I am thrilled to report that I will have the privilege of interviewing this incredible filmmaker, so look for that soon. (Still from Science Is Fiction, Jean Painlevé, this year's film for the annual silent movie concert.)
Djo Tunda Wa Munga, the producer of the film Congo in Four Acts: After the Mine and the director of State of Mind, will be there. Every year, DocPoint picks a "theme country" to visit through a distinctively-curated film program. This year, there is an extensive look at the Democratic Republic of Congo which examines the present situation of the former Belgian colony featuring filmmakers that come from both Congo and its ex-colonialist countries of Belgium and the Netherlands. German director Martin Baer, director of Kinshasa Symphony, will also attend the fest. Other international guests include Alexander Nanau, the Romanian director of the beautiful, Emmy Award-winning film, The World According to Ion B., and Polish director, Jerzy Sladkowski of Vodka Factory, winner of the Golden Dove for Best Documentary at last year's DOK-Leipzig. (Still from Life of the Watermen, Ernest Genval, 1938.)
DocPoint will also, of course, be celebrating their own native constellation of award-winning films and filmmakers, showing classics, as well as introducing new voices and exciting collaborations. One of the new Finnish films is Mantas Kvedaravicius’s début, Barzakh, produced by Aki Kaurismäki. The film is about a Chechen city where a man disappears after the war. As daily life goes by, those in search of him are drawn into a world where encounters with diviners and legal advisors, torturers and the tortured, secret prisons and mythical lakes, become commonplace. When the disappeared return in dreams, it is said they come from "Barzakh," a land between the living and the dead. (Still from the film, pictured.)
To read about other films and special programs, visit the fest's website. Koskenkorva!