In the 99th issue of DOX, readers can enjoy three films that were made through the DOX:LAB in Copenhagen. This 4-year-old program is a commissioned MEDIA-supported lab for directors, offered to a hand-picked selection of up-and-coming filmmakers. Its main directive is to bring together a team consisting of a filmmaker from Europe and one from a non-European country in order to foster long-term professional cross-cultural relationships in a highly collaborative way.
These days, the focus is still very much on burgeoning talent. However, founder and festival director of CPH:DOX and Director of the Lab, Tine Fischer and Program Manager, Patricia Drati Rønde, invite filmmakers with particularly strong international potential. This has already manifested nicely in highly experimental work that becomes award-winning, internationally recognized cinema. Case in point: In 2011, Accidentes Gloriosos, directed by Swede, Marcus Lindeen and Mauro Andrizzi from Argentina, won the prestigious Orizzonti Award at the 68th Venice International Film Festival for Best Mid-length Film.
Says Drati Rønde, “DOX:LAB was created in 2009 with the aim to stimulate a creative dialogue between filmmakers from very different backgrounds in terms of culture, film history, narrative traditions and production methods. With national cinematographies – if one can use such a term – it is often the case that they are very distinctive and the way of telling stories is easily recognizable. There is a particular way to tell a story in Scandinavia or in Latin America. By handpicking the filmmakers and matching them in teams where a European is matched with a non-European, the hope is that together they can develop a cinematic language that otherwise would not happen.”
Lindeen and Andrizzi shot their black-and-white film over three weeks in Buenos Aires; the narrative comprised of nine scenes that recount life-changing experiences of death and transformation. Here’s Andrizzi on the serendipitous way the two filmmakers, who had never met before, came up with their idea shortly after meeting in Copenhagen: “During our first days of working on the script, we watched a film that mentioned the concept of ‘the glorious accident,’ an accident that doesn’t only bring darkness and despair, but in mysterious ways changes people’s destinies. The idea of a glorious accident led to a discussion about storytelling, chance and dreaming of the unknown. After ten days of going through tons of old tabloid news clips, the basis of a film about darkness, the search for the ultimate orgasm, and bottomless holes emerged.”
I asked Lindeen about both the positive – and potentially negative – elements of a creative collaboration between two independent directors coming from vastly different storytelling traditions. With candor, he explains: “In the beginning I was so skeptical towards the whole idea. But it actually turned out to be one of the most fascinating projects I have done. I learned so much from working with Mauro; he changed the way I am approaching both storytelling and form now. I also learned to be less anxious in the idea process. Working together with someone else made me feel less pressured. I could let go and allow the film to be much less controlled and more intuitive. I’m convinced that Accidentes Gloriosos is a film that neither one of us would have made on his own.”
Finnish director Salla Sorri has similar sentiments regarding the mixed bag of positive and negative challenges, ultimately concluding that it was a rich experience to team with Paraguayan director Renate Costa for their poetic, intimate portrait of 84-year-old Don Alberto Bonnet, living alone in his forest aerie, reading books and searching deeply for spiritual sustenance in Resistente. “What came to my mind at times during my work with Renate was connected to this: I tried to define, what in my point of view, personality and intuition worth holding on to, and what parts to let go of, what parts to pay closer attention to, which to explore more with a push from her. I think in documentaries something similar also happens in the interaction between filmmaker and subject. . . . The good bits and bad bits seem to come as a package and that has very much to do with the difference of the other. But, I learned that in co-directing, respect is of the utmost importance; that it is something that does not often come by taking and doing things in any kind of literal way. I think this shows in our work.”
Invited filmmakers meet for the first time in Copenhagen at the festival in November where they start to work on project development. Consequently, they are then given nine months to produce their films, guided by an advisor, whom they also meet at the festival. To continue expanding internationally, and to continue to set up new platforms for creative and funding co-production, the Lab has entered into partnerships with entities such as the Buenos Aires Lab at BAFICI; the Hong Kong Asia Financing Forum at Hong Kong International Film Festival; and, Dubai Film Connection at Dubai International Film Festival. Last year, the Lab team also worked with the Danish, Swedish and Norwegian Film Institutes; the Estonian Film Foundation; Croatian Audiovisual Center; and, Screen Institute Beirut. Many more collaborations are planned for the coming years.
Through the Lab, Danish filmmaker, Jeppe Rønde, partnered with Malaysian director Ming Jin Woo to co-direct the haunting 20-minute Girl in the Water. Ming Jin Woo told me: “There were certainly challenging times as we come from different backgrounds, but filmmaking is an artistic endeavour and it always comes with challenges. In the end, we made a film that we were proud of, the one we set out to do.” Rønde concurs: “It was a fantastic journey. We might all be used to travelling to faraway countries to shoot a film. But not like this. You go away and share all you have with a like-minded director, and together, you try to find a path that works for both of you. Completely impossible at first – and quite challenging later in the process. But gradually you find a mutual understanding and a way to make it happen. And when it’s all done, you just want to go and do it again.”
© EDN/ModernTimes (previously published in DOX Magazine).