CPH:DOX: «Our festival keeps a sense of being that kind of girl in class, asking the questions that provoke the teacher,» – Niklas Engstrøm, Head of Program Department at CPH:DOX
Bianca-Olivia Nita
Bianca is a freelance journalist and documentary critic. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: March 19, 2019

– Speaking about the 2019 festival, can you tell us what the themes are of the 2019 edition?

One is what I would call the «new feminist wave», which we didn’t curate but surfaced through films that approach different but connected subjects. An example is Searching Eva (2019, Pia Hellenthal), about a young diva – a model, poet, feminist, bisexual, addict and also a sex worker. A different example is The Edge of Democracy (2019, Petra Costa), covering the last 30 years of political changes in Brazil. It is a film with a broad view but also a feminist angle on how the coup was very much against a female president. And there are also films about women entering areas formerly known as «male territory», like Khartoum Offside (2019, Marwa Zein), made by a Sudanese filmmaker.

– Another important theme this year is Europe. As Brexit is going ahead and in two months we have European elections, we are going through a time where we have to discuss what the whole concept of being European is and how it relates to the idea of democracy.

– Can you provide some insight into the selection process of CPH:DOX?

The female presence at CPH:DOX has always been strong, but after the 50/50 Manifesto, this year we looked at the numbers: 45 per cent of the 66 films in competition are made directly by female filmmakers. Of course gender is not a criteria in itself, but it is an overall criteria of diversity. We also look for diversity in perspective, for originality and for quality of course. Eventually, the guiding tool is our sense of what the profile of CPH:DOX is – a mix of a young feeling with an urban feeling, and even though some of us who started the festival are now 50, we keep a sense of being that kind of girl in class, asking the questions that provoke the teacher.

– Do you have a documentary that was seminal to your interest in the genre?

– I had a big seminal experience in the beginnings of CPH:DOX. I was 23 in 2003 and I was doing my civil service at the Danish Film Institute, where I met Tine Fischer. She asked me if I wanted to start a documentary festival with her. I was very interested in cinema, but in fact I didn’t know much about documentaries. I always saw cinema as fiction, and so a whole new world opened up for me, one I didn’t know existed. It was amazing because suddenly I could see that the cinematic …


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