Times are changing in a bad direction, explains Leena Pasanen, the incumbent DOK Leipzig festival director, to ModernTimes.online. She is not referring to the festival, but the current political and cultural climate.

What Pasanen means, is the way our times are headed in a populist direction, with, sadly, increased polarization and confrontation – instead of dignity and tolerance. Therefore, she encourages the filmmakers participating in this year’s festival to make disobedience into a positive – a virtue.  In her festival catalogue prologue, she calls for people to celebrate disobedience in all its forms – both for brave artists to break rules and for civilians to challenge norms. Why? Because, according to Pasanen, to prevent situations from going from bad to worse – and to create a better future.

Lest we forget which city we are in, she reminds us. Leipzig boasts long traditions for protest and civil engagement. Likewise, Pasanen herself has a long record of working for movies that matter in the documentary community. Some years ago, I remember joining her week-long story-developing workshop in Budapest. She has also past experience as commissioning editor; she was the director of the European Documentary Network, and was last year appointed head of DOK Leipzig.


DOK Leipzig. When asked about her initial experiences in heading up such a huge festival, she admits that she last year was too unfamiliar with the common difficulties in administrating a festival of this size. But is now, as she says, playing to her strengths, maybe coupled with a Finnish bluntness, by making quick decisions and delegating lots. This, she states, is unfamiliar and perhaps surprising to the Germans. But, this is vital in order to organise screenings of 300 selected films, split into several different programs, plus there is also the arrangements of DOK Talks, seminars etc. Her budget is two million Euro. This includes covering the trips for the filmmakers who participate in the competition. In a response to my question,  she explains that they try to provide financial support for other filmmakers’ trips as and when they are able to.

Animation. Interestingly, the festival regularly features a program on animated films. DOK Leipzig does not separate out animation into an independent program, instead, according to Pasanen, they consider it part of the documentary field.

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