Jury Statement DMZDocs

For four days in Sept, Anke Leweke, film critic and Berlinale programmer, Korean director Lee Seong-gyou and I watched 13 documentaries which made it to the DMZDoc’s International Competition section as jury members. It was super intense marathon viewing session and this was followed by a long session to decide on the winners. As a filmmaker myself, I felt very inspired by what I saw.

Our deepest congratulations to all the filmmakers. It was a privilege to witness the effort that went into the films. Here is our statement.

“First of all we would like to thank you all directors that have presented us with your visions. It is clear to us that the 9/11 and the clash of Civilisations that it represents had a huge impact on the world. 5 of the 13 films had that as the main theme or at least the underlying theme. The other strong theme is the abject poverty in some parts of the world. In any case, more and more people are left out of the world, either on their own accord or because of the system. The best documentaries try to understand the problems and effects in an even-handed way.
We had to decide between films that had strong persuasive political agendas and films that were less politically ambitious but had very strong personal, even singular points of view. In this day and age, is one kind of film more important than others? There are no clear cut answers. So we had to grapple with the role of documentary films, indeed, all filmmaking today.

So for the Special Jury Prize, we would like to give it to Bombay Beach by Alma Har’el. It is easy to make a film about poverty but difficult to do it well because such films usually focus on the poor conditions only, with not enough on the complicity of the director to make and perpetuate such poverty through their films.

Bombay Beach is on the surface about the very poor who live in an isolated place in the middle of the desert in USA. The director in the middle of cinema verite sequences intersperses moments with dance sequences performed by the protagonists themselves that felt true to their lives. This device cleverly shedslight on the performative aspects of documentary and the unspoken collaboration every director needs between herself and the protagonists to make the films.
The White Goose Award goes to The Tiniest Place by Tatiana Huezo. How do you make a film about all the pain and death in war without showing pictures of the war, without talking heads, showing only beautiful tropical scenery, and simple day to day life of villagers in a small village in El Salvador? But we can listen to the thoughts of the villages who have survived the war through their voiceovers. Many are still struggling with the memories and living with the death of their loved ones. So a third film starts to exist in your mind.

But mainly we see that life has also gone on. Calves are born, chicks are hatched, children are born. And so a village is reborn out of ashes, put so simply and lyrically.”