in 46th International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film

by Maria Malatynska

The International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated film becomes a bigger event. The amount of guests and films increases considerably. Because of this I’ve chosen to watch documentary films because of my function (FIPRESCI) and my taste for this kind of film.

Organisers divided invited films into special groups. The Competition has become smaller but it was enriched by other reviews for example “New Documents”, “Aspects of Africa”, “Stalin’s Wake”, “First Work”, “New Documents from Poland”, and “Homage to Peter Schamoni”, which is linked with new German Cinema from the 60’s (those from Oberhausen Manifest).

The most interesting was an old film presentations in the cycle entitled “Glance/Seeing through”. There were Soviet films with many interesting vanguard experiences, some films forbidden in Russia in the age of communism, there were some classical movies for example those of Dziga Viertov’s and Estera Szub’s. In this cycle there were films about prisoners and labour camps. Also some films (Russian and German) were about the Second World War: a Soviet movie about German soldiers in Stalingrad and a German one about the Leningrad blockade.

This year’s festival left an impression with its large interest of the Soviet and Russian tradition and directors. Out of sixteen competitive films, four of them were Russian and one came from Byelorussia.

Watching these films raises a question: are there any changes in these kind of films? For me the most interesting was to analyse the film’s form. In this case I paid attention to four films: 1. Czech Martin Sulik’s movie “The Key for Determining Dwarfs or the Last Journey of Lemuel Gulliver” showed a portrait of Pavel Juracek, the famous scriptwriter and director using his diary, tapes from some politics events (Prague 1968), and his pronouncements. 2. A German students’ film “The Progress of Happiness” by Chris Wright and Stefan Kolbe which showed a Post-industrial town somewhere in old-time DDR. It was made from amateur videos of some workers. 3. A very good Swedish film “Hugo and Rosa” by Bengt Jagerskog was a surprise. The famous Polish director Kazimierz Karabasz has spent 10 years observing his ninety-years-old (later hundred-years-old) sibling. It’s a very beautiful portrait of life, family and death. 4. Russian “Landscape” made by Sergiej Loznica. He made his film having his camera on the move continually. We see a small town “at the end of the world” and many people waiting at the bus stop. Conversation is reduced to single words. It’s a very interesting new technique of making movies.

This year’s festival – well organised – showed how great is an interest in documentary films. A large variety of forms and film genres were presented to Leipzig’s delight. I hope documentary film will last forever despite the fact of new techniques and the changes of our view of the world.