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Columns / Sheffield International Documentary Festival

by Jaap Mees

The 9th Documentary Festival took place at the end of October, 2002, in Sheffield, where more than 70 films were screened. Here is a bird’s eye view of seminars, workshops and docs:

One of the better sessions was Show Me The Euros! A forum with Agnieszka Moody from Media Desk UK and other speakers. She said that well developed films with strong ideas and an international audience will be made eventually. 70% of applications are now successful at Media Desk UK.

According to Scottish filmmaker Emma Davie however, it was still easier to get projects off the ground in Europe. Also on the panel was eloquent filmmaker Luke Holland, whose last moving film More than a Life, on his brother dying from a rare bone marrow cancer, was recently shown in the BBC’s Storyville slot. He gave some useful tips:   “ follow your own ideas, people are commissioned not films and work with good people, but not too many.” Lars von Trier (Dogma), likes giving tips too, in the form of 9 rules to make documentaries less manipulative and not just journalistic. He invented the name Dogumentary for this, including a two minute right to reply by the subject!

One of the best documentaries I saw was Stand van de Zon (Eye of the Day) by Dutch filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich, who is the only one of his family not born in Indonesia. The film portrays an Indonesian family, against the backdrop of protest marches after the resignation of President Suharto. Beautifully, quietly photographed shots of nature: mesmerising shots of the catching of a snake, grasshoppers, huge butterflies, heavy rain fall, a group of marching ducks and a real insight and feel for the hardship and poetics of daily life. Eye of the Day is the first part of a trilogy. Highly recommended!