The film nominees for Dox:Award 2018 are…

12 films have been nominated in CPH:DOX’s main competition Dox:Award 2018, the festival’s bid for this year’s best international documentary film.

The nominated films consist of eight World Premieres and four International Premieres. They are characterised by a strong, personal expression, by their cinematic qualities and expand the way that contemporary documentary relates to reality.

The winners of Dox:Award will be announced on Friday, the 23rd of March, during CPH:DOX’s award ceremony at Kunsthal Charlottenborg. The winner will receive 5.000€. Find tickets, screening times and more information here

Last Year in Utopia

Katharina Knust & Jana Magdalena Keuchel, World Premiere, (Germany)

Bertolt Brecht meets Big Brother in the reconstruction of the reality TV show that collapsed. Stylish, enigmatic and with German humour.

The participants of a reality TV show, which collapsed mid-production, meet again in the forest where they lived together one year ago, and where they were meant to develop a utopian society, in a social experiment in front of rolling cameras. Everything went wrong. But what happened only becomes evident as the film’s reconstruction unfolds like a Chinese box. The reunion is mysterious, elegant and very funny, and recreated in a playful way – Bertolt Brecht meets Big Brother. And the relationship between participant and spectator is turned on its head by actors with white makeup, who in the minimalist setting recreate the utopian collapse while the show’s former participants look on as their audience, giving them the chance to experience the traumatic experiment from a distance. Jana Magdalena Keuchel and Katharina Knust’s film charts the territory between documentary filmmaking and conceptual art in a way that questions both genres. And they know the usual outcome of utopian promises of social revolutions. A confident and clear-sighted film that invites you right inside the experiment.

Becoming Animal

Emma Davie & Peter Mettler, World Premiere (Switzerland and UK)

A visionary field trip to Wyoming’s wild and vast nature becomes a philosophical reevaluation of our relationship with the world that surrounds us.

By examining the relationship between man and the other species we share the planet with, we have opened up new ways to understand our place in the world. ‘Becoming Animal’ is an attempt to give some of these new ways of thinking a cinematic form. An essay based on a ‘field trip’ to Wyoming’s wild nature, in the company of the bio-philosopher David Abram and the two visionary filmmakers Emma Davie and Peter Mettler. And with an abundance of bison, moose and birds. Both form and thought are unchained in a film that ends up moving (far) beyond man’s self-centred view of nature, and into a state of almost psychedelic receptiveness. As Mettler asks: are language and modern technology a barrier or an open door between us and the world that surrounds us? And what about the film medium itself? Throughout his many years as a filmmaker, Mettler has dealt with abstract phenomena such as northern lights, ecstasy and time itself, and with Davie and Abram as travelling companions, ‘Becoming Animal’ (which is named after Abram’s landmark book) is a film that makes you see things with slightly different eyes.

América

Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside, International Premiere (United States)

A charming, Mexican adventure about three mismatched brothers and their 93-year-old grandmother in a film about family ties, which will evoke both laughter and tears.

Three adolescent Mexican brothers are reunited after their 93-year-old grandmother América one night falls out of bed. Now, they are suddenly in charge of looking after her, as their father is in prison due to an obscure charge of neglecting her. This turns into an adventure for all of them, and you have to be made of stone to not be carried away by it. The three mismatched brothers are free, restless souls with a penchant for green tobacco, yoga and meditation. But the conflicts are festering under the laid-back and poetic lifestyle. Will their responsibility for América bring them together? And did América maybe even fall out of bed on purpose to bring together the family? The young directing duo Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside master the hardest art form of them all: to make it all look so easy. And together, they have with the most sensitive and natural ease created a both funny and poignant film about brotherhood and about those damn family ties. Bathed in dusty, sunny images and with an irresistible, ageing matriarch in the lead role.

Lost Warrior

Nasib Farah & Søren Steen Jespersen, World Premiere  (Denmark, Somalia, Kenya & United Kingdom)

From radicalised Islamist to stateless family father. A young, Somalian man’s dark past casts shadows on the love he has finally found.

Mohammed was just three years old when he was sent away from Somalia without his parents to a better life in England. As a teenager in London he got involved in crime and ended up in prison, where he became radicalised. As a 19-year-old he was extradited to Somalia, where he landed straight in the arms of the terrorist organisation Al-Shabab. But when Mohammed finds out that Al-Shabab is not a liberation movement, but kills innocent people, he decides to flee to Mogadishu. Here, he meets Fathi, who was born in London, but sent to Somalia to be ‘reeducated’. They get married, and when Fathi returns home to London she is pregnant with their child. ‘Lost Warrior’ follows the young couple’s attempt to be united as a family and to create a future for themselves and their son, Yassir. But Fathi and Mohammed are not just caught in the global politics of the day, in which Mohammed in practice has no citizenship. They are also caught in their own culture, where the demands to maintain traditional and religious patterns is not at all consistent with being a young person in a modern world.

Central Airport

Karim Aïnouz, International Premiere (Germany, France & Brazil)

Exquisitely observed film from a modern Babylon – a closed-down airport in Berlin, which today is home to migrants such as 18-year-old Ibrahim.

Tempelhof was a cornerstone of Hitler’s plans. Today, the runways around the closed airport in Berlin are a park, with city gardens that bustle with life. But since 2015, the airport has also been a temporary home for over 3000 asylum seekers. One of them is 18-year-old Ibrahim, and his life in a German limbo is the focus of Karim Aïnouz’s richly detailed and omnipresent film from a human state of emergency in a Babylonian microcosm. There is hope, warmth and humour in Aïnouz’s superbly observed film, which with an almost architectural eye for both the big picture and the smallest details takes stock of the European refugee crisis. And which will hopefully leave its own impression on our collective understanding of it. While Ibrahim and his friends struggle to learn German, the employees of the enormous Tempelhof complex work to accommodate the new arrivals and to prepare the residents for what awaits – no matter if they are granted a residence permit or not. A big film with both a heart and a confident eye.

Welcome to Sodom

Christian Krönes & Florian Weigensamer, World Premiere  (Austria)

A dark and sensuous film from a landfill in Ghana, where electronic waste from the West is being recycled. An unforgettable experience, told by the workers themselves.

The demand for the latest electronic accessories in Europe is exploding. Manufacturers regularly report record sales. Mobile phones, LCD TVs, notebooks and the likes become useless and “out” relatively soon after their release. Hundreds of thousands of these end up in Ghana where children and adolescents dismantle them in toxic smoke. A “clean” business for some, a poisonous routine for others.
Agbogbloshie is proven to be one of most poisonous places. It is the largest electronic waste dump in the world. Every year about 250.000 tons of sorted out computers, TV`s, printers, smartphones and other devices from a far away electrified and digitalized world end up here. Shipped to Ghana illegally.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

RaMell Ross, International Premiere (United States)

The Sundance hit from the heart of black America, where a photographic mosaic of impressions merge to become an artistic and politically innovative work.

A film is more than the sum of its images. The entirety of impressions, which constitute a film in our minds, are something else and more than the film itself. An idea which the Sundance success ‘Hale County This Morning, This Evening’ invites us to experience in a free-form, impressionistic and at times almost surreal montage of cinematic snapshots from Hale County, Alabama. But also in a brilliantly edited, up-to-date report from the heart of black America, which through its images tells of racism in the USA and about black self-perception right here, right now. It is not just about what we see, but also how. RaMell Ross has a photographer’s sharp eye for the beauty and significance of fleeting moments, but also for organising his images into a larger movement of forms and critical experiences. An artistically eminent and politically urgent intervention at the very right time – and with a cast of protagonists whose company we feel lucky to be in.

The Raft

Marcus Lindeen, World Premiere, (Sweden, Denmark, United States & Germany)

Three months without privacy on a raft. The story of the strangest social experiment of all times – told by those who took part in it.

In 1973, five men and six women sailed across the Atlantic on a raft. A social experiment and a scientific study of violence, aggression, sex and group behaviour, conducted by a radical Mexican anthropologist. Everything was filmed and documented in a diary. But theory is one thing, the other things is practice. And without wanting to reveal too much, the experiment didn’t exactly go as planned. Over 40 years later, the Swedish director Marcus Lindeen brings the crew together again for the first time since the experiment, on a faithful copy of the raft in a film studio, to look back at the three intense months they spent together, isolated and without privacy, on ‘The Sex Raft’, as the press called it. An experiment that in many ways encapsulates the boundless 1970s, and which produced a strange wealth of analogue ‘big data’ about human relations in the shape of Super 8 footage, statistics and diaries from the journey. Lindeen’s film about the Acali experiment is a both dramatic and psychologically insightful work, which brings a sensational, but almost unknown story into the present age without losing sight of the nuances of the fatal adventure.

Bisbee ‘17

Robert Greene, International Premiere (United States)

A whole town confronts its own, dark past in a meta-Western and an epic roleplay, based on the most violent episode in the post-civil war history of the United States.

Bisbee, Arizona. Formerly a wild west mining town, and a home for hippies, artists and eccentrics since the 1970s. But also a town with a dark past, which casts long shadows. 100 years ago, 1200 immigrant workers were forcefully driven away from the city by their colleagues, friends and family members to a certain death in the red desert sand. On the 100th anniversary, the city’s inhabitants finally confront the ghosts of the past: they stage an epic reenactment with themselves in all roles on both sides of the conflict. A role-play and social experiment, structured in six chapters as a grandiose meta-Western by the American filmmaker Robert Greene, who in a number of films has examined the relationship between identity, performance and the state of reality in today’s documentary filmmaking. And who with ‘Bisbee’ 17′ has made his most ambitious and radical work to date: a historical magnum opus with hundreds of participants, who all have their own demons to confront.
The film’s international premiere is presented in collaboration with the film festival Visions du Réel, which this year presents a retrospective of Greene’s work.

Extinction

Salomé Lamas, World Premiere (Portugal)

A sombre and hypnotic essay film from the fluent borders of the former Soviet Union, by Portuguese artist Salomé Lamas.

The question concerning the borders of the territories of what was once the USSR has proved to be a potential time bomb. ‘Extinction’ is a dark meditation on national identity on an undercurrent of conflict. Kolya is a young from Moldova with a declared loyalty towards Transnistria – a country that remains unrecognized by the international community and does not officially exist, and which remains rooted in the communist ideology. Salomé Lamas’ hypnotic, black-and-white film follows Kolya in to the melancholic and shadowy zone between borders and the monuments of the past – and between reality and dream. A film with an intensity like a piece of symphonic drone metal.

The Great Game

Andreas Dalsgaard, World Premiere (Denmark)

Family chronicle and epic adventure in one. Three generations of fathers and sons set off on an adventure to explore their shared past.

Michael and his father, the former Lord Chamberlain Søren Haslund-Christensen, are in the attic to find hidden treasures from the past. Michael’s grandfather Henning was a famous explorer and collector of cultural heritage from Mongolian tribes, and Michael has heard rumours that Henning lived a double life as a British agent and arms smuggler. Now he wants to find out if this is true. He would also like to spend some time with his father, as Søren’s health is in decline and time is running out. He has lured his father to join him on an adventure – like they have been through so many times in their life before – on a journey in his grandfather’s footsteps. A journey which goes back in time to a story about love and loss, and to a spectacular espionage plot in the time around the Second World War, which involved both his grandfather Henning and the fight of powerful empires for global dominance. ‘The Great Game’ is a family chronicle, an epic work and not least a film about fathers and sons in a family that is more adventurous than usual.

Giants and the Morning After

Alexander Rynéus, Malla Grapengiesser & Per Bifrost, World Premiere, (Sweden & Finland)  

Welcome to the Swedish Twin Peaks. An atmospheric and understatedly funny film from fringe Sweden, where giants and trolls lurk in the deep forests.

At the beginning of time, giants created the mountains and deep forests that surround the small town of Ydre – the Swedish answer to Twin Peaks. Ydre is surrounded by lakes, fog and towering spruce trees, it is Sweden’s smallest municipality, and has a population of just a few thousand, which is carefully looked after by the friendly and idealistic mayor. Depopulation and the many problems of the great outside world are becoming a threat, so he is ready with gifts and big smiles every time a child is born and he can note that Ydre has a new inhabitant. In the meantime, youths and elderly people are working and living their lives. The distance between country and city may be getting bigger, but the EU-regulated milk prices and the refugee crisis still make it all the way to the fringes, where a busload of African immigrants are welcomed by the ageing mayor with the same warmth as a newborn baby. Creation myths, fables and everyday realism are mixed with understated comedy in an atmospheric and almost miraculously ubiquitous fresco of a film. Evocative and elegant.