CPH:DOX reveals the nominees for the main competition DOX:AWARD!

The full line-up for CPH:DOX 2017 will be announced March 1.

13 films have been nominated in CPH:DOX’s main competition DOX:AWARD 2017, the festival’s bid for this year’s best international documentary film.
The nominated films consist of seven World Premieres, four International Premieres and two European Premieres. They are characterised by a strong, personal expression, by their cinematic qualities and expand the way that contemporary documentary relates to reality.

See all the competition nominees here

The winner of DOX:AWARD will be selected by a jury and announced during CPH:DOX’s award ceremony on Friday, March 24 at Kunsthal Charlottenborg. The winner will receive 5.000€.

The nominees are:

What Young Men Do  (Jon Haukeland. Norway). International Premiere.

Noah is 15 years old when he gets arrested for four cases of aggravated robbery. As punishment, the young lout is forced to move away from his mother and childhood friends in Oslo to his father in the somewhat less exciting suburb of Bærum. Bummer! ‘What Young Men Do’ is a youth film about a teenage boy’s first encounter with the system, and about having to fight with integration and identity, when all you want is to have a wild time. But this is where any similarity with classic youth-film-for-well-meaning-adults ends. ‘What Young Men Do’ is narrated by Noah himself, and convincingly balances social realism, immigrant crime story and absurd comedy – not least in the scenes where the young Noah is invited to an interview with an entire panel of social workers, educators and police officers, who all want to guide him safely towards adulthood. But who at the same time let him (and us) experience from the inside what it’s like to be weighed and measured by the rest of society, regardless of how you behave.

Stranger in Paradise (Guido Hendrikx. The Netherlands). International Premiere.

‘’Stranger in Paradise’ is a controversial role play in three acts about a controversial topic: the refugee crisis. The scene is a classroom, the students are real refugees hoping to get asylum. In the role of a teacher is an actor who alternates between right-wing conservative, humanist and genuine ‘realpolitik’ approaches to whether the new students in the class can expect to find a new home in our part of the world or not. However, the tight, theatrical setting can not control the unpredictable social experiment. Guido Hendrikx’s debut feature consistently but lucidly acts out his three scenarios as three variations of a political dilemma, which is in the process of splitting Europe apart. But also as three variations of how Europe quite specifically handles the many asylum-seeking migrants and refugees. A thoroughly (thought)provoking film that is guaranteed to cause much debate, and a new perspective on one of our times’ greatest crises.

Do Donkeys Act? (David Redmon, Ashley Sabin. United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, USA). World Premiere.

As a synonym for stupidity and as an object of derision, donkeys have toiled for human beings since the invention of work. But have we really just mirrored our own, worst sides in the stupid and noisy animals? ‘Do Donkeys Act’ makes an attempt to overcome man’s egocentric way of seeing the world and our fellow creatures. Willem Defoe’s pleasant voice accompanies the long poem, which makes up the film’s philosophical thought experiment. Is it possible to reach beyond the limits of language and arrive at a true recognition of our relationship with other species? And does a donkey ever stop staging its own donkeyness when faced with a camera? Ashley Sabin and David Redom move between anthropology, film and an artistic practice that revolves around the anthropocene and the relationship between man and animals. ‘Do Donkeys Act’ is the result of footage from a five-year long process. Listen, think and look at the animals as they look back at you. Everything will be a little different afterwards.

Craigslist Allstars (Samira Elagoz. Finland, The Netherlands). International Premiere.

The young Finnish performance artist Samira Elagoz posts an open casting call on Craigslist, a parallel digital universe, where everyone can live out their own idea of themselves. Every encounter is a social experiment, which Samira documents (and stages) on her own terms. A magician, a lonely plumber and a soft-core porn director are some of the characters that Samira meets on her journey from Amsterdam to Tokyo. And which are immortalised in chapters that alternate from observant social realism to a (very) direct interaction between Samira and her new friends, and from a minimalist concept to a maximalist sensory bombardment of neon lights and banging electronica. The internet is a social laboratory, and ‘Craigslist Allstars’ gives it a cinematic form, which is dictated by the experiment itself. And Samira Elagoz also manages to demonstrate that a camera, a good idea and a solid dose of fearlessness is all you need to create a contemporary take of a post-internet documentary, where intimacy and performance melt together into a wild and unruly hybrid.

Obscure (Soudade Kaadan. Syria, Lebanon). World Premiere.

War has many faces. But in a child’s face it shows its most brutal side. An entire generation of Syrian children have grown up in a reality that few of us understand, and they must now try to find space for childhood in the midst of all grief. Soudade Kaadan’s heartbreaking and solemn ‘Obscure’ brings us very close to Syrian Ahmad. He has lost his big brother to the war and now lives with the rest of his family in a Lebanses refugee camp. Half traumatised and half on the run from reality, Ahmed prefers to sleep and remain completely silent. He neither can nor wants to tell the adult doctors and psychologists around him who he is and where he comes from. ‘Obscure’ portrays an unbearable reality – but it is especially through the film’s caring and patient observation that we perceive what is possibly the only thing that can give hope to a boy like Ahmad: that he gets the time and space to once again rediscover the joys and safety of playing freely and being a child.

DRIB (Kristoffer Borgli. Norway). European Premiere.

A viral video of a young Norwegian man who provokes random people on the street to beat him up becomes the first domino to topple in an absurd media saga that sends him to L.A. as the star of a campaign for an energy drink. The advertising executives have dollar signs in their eyes: it is extreme, it is viral and it is everything that young people want! What he hasn’t told anyone is that his videos are fake. And so things go horribly wrong. The man is called Amir and he is an artist, ‘DRIB’ is a cover name for a real energy drink and the whole story is true. But there are many layers of reality in the Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli’s comical and upbeat reconstruction of the increasingly bizarre chain of events. For Amir may well be the joker in his own game, but he is finding it hard to keep his cool in Los Angeles’s self-promoting advertising reality. This year’s most ‘fresh’ film is also a critical course in media hype and in not believing everything you see.

The Third Option (Thomas Fürhapter. Austria). World Premiere.

New technology raises new ethical dilemmas. And one of the greatest dilemmas is brought to a head in the formally conscious Austrian film ‘The Third Opinion’ – which even allows itself to do so with an edge of bone-dry (self)irony. What do you do if your foetal scan reveals that your child does not live up to modern society’s expectations of normality? A painful question that more and more people have to ask themselves. But which also reflects back at the standards themselves. A woman and a man soberly introduce us to their own experiences from an invisible position outside the image’s sharply framed window on Western welfare reality. The perfectly composed images could be signed by Jacques Tati and Harun Farocki, but Thomas Fürhaupter is pursuing a different yet highly human mission in his impressive first film, which opens with the memorable line: “We screwed until we could screw no more, and in the autumn I became pregnant.”

The John Dalli Mystery (Jeppe Rønde. Denmark, Norway). World Premiere.

Eight years ago, Mads Brügger and Mikael Bertelsen tried to solve the murder of an EU official in 1993. A project that concluded in a dead end. Hoping to make good for their old defeat, the two journalists decide to investigate a complex case about the former EU Health Commissioner, John Dalli, who was fired under suspicion of being in the pocket of the tobacco industry. Brügger and Bertelsen travel to Malta to meet Dalli, who comes across as quite likeable. And it doesn’t take long before they uncover an extensive conspiracy against him, when Dalli is suddenly contacted by a secret source who claims to be in possession of documents and recordings that contain plans to kill him! The source agrees to send the explosive material to Malta, and the two Danish journalists convince Dalli to enter an agreement with the shady source. And from then on, ‘The John Dalli Mystery’ develops into a disturbing and dark-humoured detective film with far-reaching consequences and with threads running from Brussels to an island in the Caribbean.

Last Men in Aleppo (Feras Fayyad. Co-director Steen Johannessen. Denmark, Syria, Germany). European Premiere.

The opening film of this year’s CPH:DOX has already proven its worth and importance by winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in January this year. And the Danish-produced documentary also gets unusually close to the people who don’t run away, but come running, when the bombs explode in Syria’s ravaged city of Aleppo. The doctors from the Syrian aid organisation the White Helmets work their way through collapsed schools and homes to take care of both survivors and the dead. The film is an unforgettable portrait of the three reluctant heroes Khaled, Mahmoud and Subhi, who in spite of incomprehensible opposition insist on bringing those people to safety who can still be saved – and on clinging on to humanity in the form of impromptu football matches and fishing trips in the midst of the horrors of war. In spite of its harsh and merciless context, ‘Last Men in Aleppo’ is first and foremost a tribute to human courage and compassion.

City of Ghosts (Matthew Heineman. USA). International Premiere.

None of the brave Syrian reporters in ‘City of Ghosts’ expected to use (and risk) their lives as journalists. But when ISIS moved into Raqqa in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, they had no other choice but to document the horrible abuse that ISIS inflicted on the population in a media war on Facebook, Twitter and via encrypted videos from the forefront of the ravaged country. Under the banner ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’ – and under constant death threats which were carried out several times – the group reports to a world that has long turned a blind eye on the civil war. A heroic effort, which means that the core of the group is forced to flee to Turkey and to Germany, from where they continue to gather news from the increasingly violent Raqqa. But Europe is not the refuge we’d like to think we are. Neo-fascist movements in Germany, murder on the streets of Turkey in open daylight and continued threats from ISIS sympathisers mean that the group has to continue living in hiding. But at the same time the world is beginning to listen to their reports. ‘City of Ghosts’ is an overwhelmingly strong film about journalistic activism when it really hits home, documented in action by Matthew Heineman (‘Cartel Land’).

City of Ghosts at Bremen

Rage (Dominique Lohlé & Guy-Marc Hinant. Belgium, France). World Premiere.

Techno culture and anarchism are two alternative social forms that have much in common in their radical re-evaluation of all social relations. An overlooked but obvious thought that ‘Rage’ takes to the extreme in a philosophical rave party, that gives enough time and space to both the theoreticians and musicians on the fringes of society – and takes them all equally seriously. Light sticks, drum machines and political utopias meet in a dark film that demonstrates that the revolutionary potential of a Roland TB-303 is not just a wild, abstract idea. It is a reality that invisible communities already live out in post-industrial factory ruins. And completely in tune with a techno tune’s architecture, which is made up of blocks of rhythms and soundscapes, Hinant and Lohlé have shaped their film into sequences, which build up from theory to practice – and from intellectual ideas to an explosion of light and sound. Guy-Marc Hinant is himself the co-founder of the record label Sub Rosa, which at the end of the 1980s released electronic music in its most advanced form.

…when you look away (Phie Ambo. Denmark). World Premiere.

How far does consciousness reach? And are we maybe connected with each other in ways that we never knew? It is not the first time that Phie Ambo embarks on dissecting the relationship between the physical limits and the metaphysical realm – but this time the film itself is part of that effort. Ambo uses her topic as a deliberate obstruction: she is not allowed to make contact with the participants – they either have to come to her by themselves or be referred to her by others. And the lines between the dots extend from Holger Bech Nielsen to a clairvoyant woman, and from quantum physics to a laboratory for vitalised water in Jutland. Questions lead to answers which lead to new questions – which lead to surprises that will astonish even the most hardboiled skeptics. Several of them even end up participating in Ambo’s consciousness experiment themselves. Coincidence or what? A thought-provoking film from the unknown borderland between science and alternative world views.

Gray House (Austin Lynch & Matthew Booth. USA). World Premiere.

Something is moving in the shadows in the dark and evocative ‘Gray House’, where raw and real scenes from life in the American working class play out in five settings, which could feature in a grim horror movie. The body’s structural qualities, the encounter with mysterious strangers, the fascination of empty spaces and the absurdity of work. Documentary filmmaking meets the visual arts in an evocative hybrid, which is more than just spiritually akin to Lynch senior, but which defines its very own, original territory of cinematic abstraction between dream and reality. ‘Gray House’ is an uncompromising work, which insists on the fundamentally enigmatic interplay between form and meaning, and on the dark space of the cinema as the ideal place to bring the two elements together, without losing sight of socially and politically charged realities.