As technological developments made this division impractical, however, the IDFA changed its competition categories, starting in 2001, to feature length and short docs – with sixty minutes as the dividing line.In the second year of this division, ULLA JACOBSEN followed the Silver Wolf competition to see what the shorter form could offer.

Sitting through the Silver Wolf competition at the IDFA was not a pleasant, leisurely activity as the documentaries were constantly confronting the viewers with the harsh realities in the world of 2002: like corruption, abuse of power, deadly violence, world conflict areas, the subjugation of women and loneliness. In addition, most of them were powerful and shocking – and merciless.

At the Silver Wolf competition, another line could be drawn in terms of storytelling. Approximately half the films were one television hour (50-60 min.) in length, and the other half were shorter. Whereas the TV-hour docs were definitely high quality and more cinematic than the average doc we see on TV, the shorter part comprised more experimental, playful and stylistic films.

Short Form with a Stylistic Concept

Sonia Goldenberg (Peru) has taken a sarcastic approach to the corruption scandal in Peru that led to the fall of president Fujimori. As the head of the secret service, Montesinos recorded his own briberies with a concealed camera over a long period of time, and the discovery of these recordings generated the scandal. In Eye Spy (35 min.), Goldenberg blends excerpts from the video tapes, showing briberies and undercover agreements, with news footage and children accusing the president of stealing their money. This is commented on by a sugary, but very sarcastic, second-person voiceover addressing the corrupt men as they carry out their affairs. The film is organised in chapters with individual titles to make the film a metaphor of the scandal: it presents it as an absurd, distasteful piece of fiction. Very effective.

The Norwegian My Body (26 min.) by Margreth Olin (see DOX#44) also explores a stylistic concept. It is told in a light and humorous tone, but manages to communicate a very personal trauma for the filmmaker and elevates her trauma into a general problem shared by women. Bravely she tells how she grew to be ashamed of various parts of her body due to the comments she received during her life from other women. This inflicted physical and mental pain on her, and only when she finally gave birth to two children did she actually come to terms with her body. With her personal voiceover as the guiding principle, the film is told through pictures of her body, showing her at various consultations and situations, and stylistically re-enacted dream sequences or montages that add comic relief to a film that reveals the self-subjugation of modern liberated women – without indulging in self-pity.

Village B. (33 min.) by Filip Remunda (Czech Republic) plays with the narration by letting the main character appear to direct the film. It portrays a small Czech town that has a premiere league football team – but not much else, and disillusion makes people long for the communist era. The film’s voiceover of the main character, a school teacher and amateur filmmaker, tells how he think a film about the village should be made, which is quite formal. The camera obeys him and uses some of his footage too, but by adding its own commentary in the style of filming and editing, the direction is retained by the filmmakers in a less formal and light tone.

In the The Ukrainian Cleaning Woman (Poland, 20 min.), Pawel Lozinski builds up his story very simply: he sympathetically portrays a lonely woman longing for her family and daughter she had to leave behind in Ukraine when she left to work in Poland for economic reasons. He simply films his own cleaning assistant while she cleans his house and cooks and gets her to talk about her life and about love. Even though she opens her heart to Lozinski, her face constantly reveals that deep down inside she is profoundly sad. A simple format that does a fine job of telling the story of many emigrants today.

Life as It Is (Russia, 20 min.) by Marina Razbezhkina is a poetic tale with no straight storyline or narration. It is about a lonely woman farmer who longs for someone to love. Filmed in black and white, we follow fragments of her everyday work in rain, wind and darkness and her leisure activities, which consist of singing along with romantic schmaltz from the radio, reading personal ads and magazine horoscopes. Her real contact with the outside world consists of tractors passing by on their way to another town, but she never takes a ride, until the end of the film, which suggests that she might be taking a new path, as she has finally taken a ride with a tractor. Though nothing is revealed. In nothing but pictures and sound with a soundtrack that adds an atmosphere alternating between loneliness and joy, the film drags you into her inner dream world as a contrast to her drab everyday life.

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