51st Leipzig International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film

Germany, October 27 - November 2 2008

The jury

Jean-Max Méjean (France), Kay Hoffmann (), Adina Emilia Bradeanu (Romania)

Awarded films

DOK Leipzig: 51st International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film. Having celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, the veteran DOK Leipzig — the biggest German documentary festival and the oldest event dedicated to the genre worldwide — marked its 51st edition with a vintage-style trailer which referenced its past and present through a hybrid mix of doc and animation while playing with celluloid materiality and acoustic ‘imperfection’.

Smoothly run and well-attended by a doc-literate audience, DOK Leipzig has four competitive categories for its coveted Golden and Silver Doves, and offers a number of prizes ranging up to around 55.000 Euros. This year the International Documentary Competition offered an uncompromising selection — particularly in the feature-length section — which featured arresting pieces bordering on the essayistic such as The Beaches of Agnès (Les plages d’Agnès, Agnés Varda, France) or Sleep Furiously (Gideon Koppel, France) alongside striking and provocative engagements with history and trauma, such as the charged road-documentary cum Holocaust private memorial Pizza in Auschwitz (Pizza Be Auschwitz, Moshe Zimerman, Israel) or the latest Brechtian gem from Avi Moghrabi, Z32. Against a selection which clearly bore the mark of the programmers’ taste for refined, layered and often astonishing documentary engagements, a clear asset (and also a political statement) was the inclusion in the International Competition of Femida (Themis as a Lady of Loose Morals, Belarus), Viktar Dashuk’s raw document of lawlessness and human rights abuses inflicted on Belarusian population by the Lukashenko regime — an otherwise uneven film which flashed across the programme deeming formal sophistication irrelevant in the face of political urgency.

Programming choices outside the competitions reflected the intention to look into the future of documentary and animation taken both separately and as a not-so-new hybrid form — the so-called ‘animadoc’ — which DOK Leipzig was the first to promote on the international festival circuit through a dedicated programme established thirteen years ago (see separate report).

Sidebars maintained a dialogue between the national and the international, and included a retrospective of films focusing on migration from and to Germany (‘Strange Home’) and a special programme on ‘Afghanistan — Inner Views’, with an attached panel discussion touching on producing films under a state of emergency. Adding to that was a both poignant and tongue-in-cheek mix-genre retrospective on ‘Smoking (NO) Smoking’, which placed the issue at the intersection of personal freedom with social responsibility. DOK Leipzig’s agenda as a supporter of German doc was proven by a straightforward panel discussion looking at the international performance of Germany’s recent doc output, and by a tribute to Winfried and Barbara Junge for their iconic longitudinal documentary Children of Golzow — a project spanning more than four decades and capturing both the history of the GDR and the reunification as backdrop to the individual lives of a cohort of individuals followed by the film-makers. Significantly maybe, this particular homage resonated with this year’s winner of DOK Leipzig’s prestigious Golden Dove: Helena Trestíková’s René (Czech Republic), itself a salient and compelling long-term observational project following an idiosyncratic juvenile delinquent into maturity. Taken together, The Children of Golzow and René reminded audiences that exceptionally committed documentary engagements can outlast political regimes. (Adina Bradeanu)

International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film: