The juries have voted and the winners of the six international competitions at CPH:DOX have been chosen. The main prize Dox:Award goes to the documentary ‘The Eclipse’ by Nataša Urban.
Dox:Award is sponsored by DR
On 11 August 1999, most of Europe was engrossed in the total solar eclipse, which momentarily enveloped the Earth in darkness. But in Serbia, people were busy barricading themselves in their homes and shelters for fear of the dark. Filmmaker Nataša Urban returns to the eclipse as motif and metaphor in her paradoxically evocative and thoughtful film about her own upbringing during the war in the former Yugoslavia, to which she travels back in ‘The Eclipse’ to collect stories and anecdotes from her family and acquaintances. A cotton curtain in the wind on a spring day, a lush forest floor. The war is far away – or is it? Shot on analogue 16mm film with an artist’s eye for how traces of the past remain deposited in the present – both physically and mentally – Urban creates a rich, existential work of imagery with a quiet, philosophical weight that is rare and precious. As when her father wanders the lush landscapes while you hear him reading from his journals about the wanderings he took while the war was still going on.
“Why cinema? The DOX:AWARD goes to a film that affirms a vocation for the moving image in a time of global crisis. The director dares to look in the mirror of a troubled present and reckon with the ghosts of a bloody past, arguing that historical amnesia is a burden carried across generations.
At a time when an insistence on the individual is common – and often an alibi for self-indulgence – this film affirms the undeniably collective stakes of the personal. Grappling with the history of the family and the traumas of the nation, it questions what it means to belong to either, and what kind of responsibility that sense of belonging entails.
And these questions are not just relegated to the content of the film: its daring, experimental form gives stunning texture to the existential wounds of war, and treats cinematic form as a kind of politics itself, where every aesthetic decision is also an ideological gesture.
We were stirred by the film’s rage, moved by its tender beauty, and roused by the ugliness it courageously makes its subject. As our present of war and violence threatens to one day become yesterday’s news, this film tells us in unambiguous terms: do not look away; do not forget.
By this jury’s unanimous decision, the DOX:AWARD goes to… The Eclipse by Nataša Urban.”
Since the 1980s, film artist and theorist Trinh Minh-ha has made one of the most advanced attempts in film history to give the fundamental conditions of the medium a (self-)critical form. In her new work, she returns to material – film and photography – she shot in southern and eastern China in the early 1990s, in an essayistic reflection on the rich and complex history of the country (and of the film medium). At its heart is the ancient Chinese principle of harmony as the basis of nature and existence. Trinh’s thought-provoking montage of image, sound and text deconstructs the authority traditionally assumed by all three. At the same time, the rural China we encounter in ‘What about China?’ is already a bygone world whose inhabitants and spaces are encapsulated in analogue film and video with an awareness and sensuality that testifies to the fundamentally ethical dimension of Trinh’s personal poetics.
“For a film that is so timely – it is shot through with a timelessness fashioned not just through the structure of looking back 30 years, but through a lucidity that assumes a contemporaneity without insistence. A question answered with a question by the filmmaker’s grandmother to a censor circles around a central point: who gets to measure and how do we sing our way out of their cages.How many people live here? To which her grandmother answers; When? The New:Vision Award goes to ‘What about China?’”
From Brooklyn to Beirut, and taking in the Arab Spring, the Black Lives Matter uprising in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and the catastrophic explosion in the Lebanese capital, ‘Congress of Idling Persons’ charts protest and solidarity movements across our own times. Bassem Saad has invited five artists, musicians and intellectuals to contribute to his ‘congress’, which is, however, somewhat less formal and academic than usual. Even the act of speaking is a performative medium in Saad’s symposium, which through text montages, images and conversations – and with Beirut’s beloved cabaret as one of its stages – asks how we can engage with each other’s struggles.
“A film that invites us, through a diversity of voices, on a journey – a complex process of engagement – that talks as much to what has been as to what is to come, we give a special mention to “Congress of Idling Persons.”
F.act Award is sponsored by IMS and the Danish Union of Journalists
With military training and a willpower as tough as ivory, a group of women from the communities around Kruger National Park have formed South Africa’s most effective defence against poachers. They call themselves the Black Mambas, and in a cinematic report we join them on the job in the vast national park, where they patrol to protect the area’s rhinos and other endangered animals. But at a time when violence against women is on the rise, the Black Mamba’s sisterhood is also about something more. These tough women not only teach us how to catch a poacher, but also their thoughts on life and the future. For many of the women, it is also a way out of poverty and unemployment, a break with the role of housewife and a new identity. The group’s male mentor – a piping gavflab with a no bullshit attitude to things – gives them resistance (and vice versa), but ultimately shares a refreshingly practical attitude to the work of building a better future for both animals and people on the African continent.
“A seemingly simple story that quietly reveals its complex layers, ‘Black Mambas’ touches upon a multitude of themes, acknowledging but also defying stereotypes. In an ideologically charged landscape we get to experience the struggles and empowerment of young women against the persisting power structures, within the frame of race, family dynamics and the tight grip of colonialism that refuses to let go.
With brilliant cinematography and an intimate eye for nuance we get to experience what sacrifices it takes for a woman to feed a family– we partake in the dream of becoming a decolonized body. The F:ACT Award goes to ‘Black Mambas’ by Lena Karbe.”
Here is a film that can really get your blood boiling. In the Brazilian rainforest, a battle is being waged between the last of the indigenous Uru-eu-wau-wau tribe and the farmers who – with President Bolsonaro at their backs – are slowly eating into their otherwise protected territory. But young activist and leader Bitate has no intention of giving up without a fight. Together with his mentor, Neidinha, he is mobilising an army of self-taught journalists to patrol the jungle and catch the land grabbers in action. With a video camera as their only weapon against the chainsaws, Bitate and his men risk their lives to stop the clearing of the forest before it’s too late. ‘The Territory’ is a highly dramatic documentary in which the battle between right and wrong runs the gamut of emotions, but above all it is a furious and phenomenally compelling tale of courage and resistance.
“The jury decided to award a special mention to a film that delivers an urgent and important message in a manner that works both as an accomplished cinematic work, but also as a call to action. This gripping documentary thriller touches upon a subject of the utmost importance for the future of us all. It showcases how the moving image and documentary filmmaking can be a powerful tool and an agent of change both for the audience, but most importantly for the real people in this story. The F:ACT Special mention goes to ‘The Territory’ by Alex Pritz.”
Our most basic understanding of the origins of life was recently turned upside down when Greenlandic scientist Minik Rosing discovered the first traces of life on Earth in a small fjord near Isua. His discovery predated all previous traces of life by over 300 million years. Life began in Greenland. But at the same time, its melting ice masses are accelerating day by day, and scientists around the world agree that it could drown our entire civilisation if it is allowed to continue. The end of life will also start from Greenland. Director Ivalo Frank’s new film is a tribute to her vast, scenic country, caught between two extremes: the beginning and the end of life on Earth as we know it. Between the dizzying concept of deep time and the acceleration of modernity, Frank’s film anchors itself in its own moment through the encounter with a group of children from the village of Kangaatsiaq who fall in love, form friendships and struggle with loss and longing.
“The Nordic Dox Award goes to a singular film that dares to assemble a multitude of styles into a collage of image and thought. Stories of the earth and of its people, of beginnings and ends. A film that is both a sensitive tribute to a land and opens itself up to the vast questions of life itself. To a director with a clear vision and sense of poetry. The Nordic:Dox Award goes to ‘The Last Human’ by Ivalo Frank.”
The three 19-year-old friends Lars, Eino and Thomas grew up together in Tasiilaq, the largest town in eastern Greenland. Now the three young men face a dilemma: should they stay or should they go? If they stay, they will have to give up many of the dreams they carry. And if they leave home in Tasiilaq and move out, it will have major consequences for their friends and family who remain behind. But Lars, Eino and Thomas are not the only ones who have to make this difficult decision. Many of Greenland’s young people find themselves in the midst of a turbulent period marked by a break between old traditions and the new opportunities that the internet in particular has brought. ‘Tsumu – Where Do You Go With Your Dreams?’ is partly shot by the young people themselves on their own smartphones, and in a powerful collage of individual expressions it sweeps aside old notions of gender and identity with a confident bang.
“To a film that gives the power of storytelling to its protagonists: dedicated friends, teenagers with dreams who carry the weight of growing up in a place where their generation is thought to be lost. To a film, partially shot by its main characters, that makes space for individual expression as they find themselves in a transition from old traditions to a new, digital future. To voices from a remote society fighting to overcome the vicious circle that is laid out for them. A special mention goes to ‘Tsumu – Where Do You Go With Your Dreams?’”
Under the golden sun of Beirut, men stand on rooftops and shoot oranges at the sky. They do this to scare their pigeons, make them fly further, and make them stronger. They play the game Kash Hamam, where you have to lure the other players’ pigeons into your own pigeon loft. If you succeed, there’s Kash. And then you cut the feathers off the pigeon. Or feed it to the cats. Lea Najjar’s cinematic debut is a vital portrait of her hometown Beirut. A city hit by a corrupt elite, popular protests and one of the biggest explosions of the 21st century. But also a city where its hard-pressed citizens come together and form communities despite the chaos. On the flat rooftops high above the labyrinthine streets, we meet three men who have bonded over their love of pigeons – and a girl who dreams of entering the masculine game, Kash Hamam. A vivid, impressionistic snapshot from an already eminent director.
“From a tiny anecdote this film expands its cinematic universe and unveils the disillusionment of an entire city – an entire country. From the opening scene’s claustrophobic setting, to the final wide eye of an artificial pigeon, witnessing the place it took flight from. We, the jury, wish to give this year’s Next:Wave Award to a piece of delicate yet vigorous cinema: ‘Kash Kash – Without Feathers We Can’t Live’”
Moosa Lane is the name of the street in the Pakistani capital Karachi where one half of Anita Hopland’s family lives. The other half lives in Denmark. In her first solo film as a director, Hopland returns to material she has shot over a period of 14 years in her two home countries to understand her origins and herself. The cultural contrasts between the house in Karachi, where 25 family members live under one roof, and the everyday reality of Copenhagen in a Danish welfare state are stark. But in her reflective meditation on mental and geographical distances, and on what binds us together despite our differences, she builds a bridge across time and place. In Pakistan, her cousin’s daughter Saima becomes an anchor and focal point until the day she is to be married off. Time passes, the two families change, and so does Hopland herself. ‘Moosa Lane’ is a personal family story in a wide format, where all emotions are allowed to colour the canvas along the way.
“This film is a feeling rather than just a place. An in between place one can never fully contain nor grasp. We fade in and out of time through the director’s delicate yet conflicted gaze on a family history that drifts inside her memory. She searches for traces that make her belong, that point her out into a direction of home. A space that is neither there nor here, a space that rather than being a curse, it becomes a way of being able to understand and translate two realities that exist very far apart from one another. For such virtues we wish to give Next:Wave’s honorable mention to ‘Moosa Lane’.”
Politiken:DOX Award is sponsored by Politiken Fonden
In a large ramshackle house near the front line in war-torn eastern Ukraine, a group of Ukrainian women run an orphanage. Here, children whose homes have been shattered by poverty, violence and alcohol can stay safely for up to nine months until a decision is made on whether to return them home, foster them or move them to another orphanage. But when one child checks out of the orphanage, a new one always checks in, missing her parents – like Kolia, who smokes cigarettes on the sly, steals and draws tattoos on his arms, but also looks after her younger siblings and collapses crying into her drunk mother’s arms in Simon Lereng Wilmont’s award-winning film.
“The winner of this year’s Politiken:Dox is a film that enters into the most present conflict of today’s news, but it was made by a director who traveled to Ukraine long before the rest of the world found it interesting to really bother. While this is not a film about the present war or even the present conflict, it brings testimony about the people who live in Ukraine, dealing with the hardships of life while the war dogs are barking in the distance. The director shows a rare eye for the lives of the children living in an orphanage in the war-torn eastern part of Ukraine and offers an insight into the difficulties in helping them. But the story is told in a subtle way with beautiful imagery that does not impose or explain, but just tries to lend a voice and offer a splinter of hope. The award goes to: ‘A House Made of Splinters’ by Simon Lereng Wilmont”.
As Michael unannounced travel to his childhood home, he is met by a new version of his father. Free form years of substance abuse, Svend-Aage is now full of life and more energetic than ever – contrary to the absent father Michael experienced through his childhood. He’s eager to talk about his glorious days as a clothing salesman and is determined to win back the love of his wife. But throughout the years, she has found comfort in her dog Lexus, and finds it hard to let her husband back into her life – despite of Svend-Aages numerous awkward attempts. As their home is put up for sale and a whole lifetime of memories are packed into boxes, the contours of a family trauma scratch the surface. As a 4-year-old, Michael was diagnosed with cancer and five years followed with chemotherapy, frequent isolation and the fear of dying. It changed the Graversens familiy pattern forever, but with the move, Svend-Aage seizes the chance to deal with his breach of trust and a new chance in life.
“‘Mr. Graversen’ is a film about the director himself and his parents. Most films in this genre struggle to become relevant to other people than those involved. Or in their strive to reach an audience, they fall into pits of anger og exploitation. This is a film full of love, of mature insight and forgiveness. It might be a film so Danish, in its aesthetic maybe even so Jysk, that it might struggle to find an international audience at an international festival, but let it be known that it found an audience here among critics at Politiken.”
A tumultuous family drama unfolds as Gara (59) and Nada (13) defend their land set to become a military polygon, revealing layers of complexity that bond mother and daughter. The story of violence against women echoes in the violence against nature.
“We were impressed by this project which brings us to a place we didn’t know existed, a place of striking beauty and importance to humanity. A story of the human being in a David against Goliath battle, urgently reminding us not to lose our way in the fog of war.”
In collaboration with DR 3 (the Danish Broadcasting Cooperation) and Filmworkshop / Copenhagen, CPH:DOX has also handed out the DR Talent Award, which goes to a young talent who is in the process of developing a documentary. The price includes DKK 25,000, professional advice from DR as well as guidance and access to professional equipment at Filmworkshop / Copenhagen. This year, the award went to the project ‘The Killjoy Manifest’ by director Minna Katz.