50th Leipzig International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film

Germany, October 29 - November 4 2007

The jury

Gabriele Barrera (Italy), Marcin Gizycki (Poland), Julia Teichmann (Germany)

Awarded films

The International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, is one of the oldest film festivals in Germany. It includes, amongst others, a new competition for young talent, an extensive retrospective reflecting critically on its eventful history as the GDR’s unique A-list festival — and, of course, the International Competition for Documentary Films on which the FIPRESCI jury focused.

This year’s international documentary competition consisted of 22 films, mixing shorts with mid- and feature-length films. According to its early history, Leipzig seems to be trying to achieve a balance between “journalism [politics respectively] and poetry” in its selection, quoting Barbara Wurm’s article on the Dziga Vertov retrospective in the festival of 1960, published in the anniversary book “Images of a Divided World”.

The films in competition, though varying in quality, showed a broad range of documentary approaches — from the digital diary in a hotel room in Jerusalem (John Smith’s remarkable Short Dirty Pictures) to Jean Paul, a terrifying “snuff” movie by Francesco Uboldi, where the subject finds the filmmaker rather than the other way around, to Barbet Schroeder’s monumental documentary Terror’s Advocate, which reveals a global conspiracy through the enigmatic figure of the lawyer Jacques Vergès.

With Behave (Juízo), by director Maria Augusta Ramos, the FIPRESCI jury actually chose a winner that accomplished the aforementioned fusion of politics and poetry, insofar as the film portrays a judicial system in all its weaknesses, expressing the consequences of the courts’ decisions in a strong, fresh and absolutely appropriate cinematic language.

The Leipzig festival is very ambitious, reflecting the city’s status as one of the most relevant and rapidly flourishing artistic communities in eastern Germany. Eager to expand his operation, festival director Claas Danielsen made a point of asking the city in his opening speech to increase the festival’s funding for future editions. (Julia Teichmann)