Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 8 sees the launch of the 28th edition of DOK.fest Munich, the second largest doc event in Germany. Running through Wednesday, May 15, the festival includes over a hundred titles, many vying for the more than 35,000 Euros in cash and in-kind prizes, ranging for jury awards for best international, German language, and emerging country films to best Bavarian, student, and music docs. The programming reflects a balance between higher-profile selections that have emerged elsewhere on the festival circuit to a healthy assortment of new or more obscure titles, including an intriguing mix of local productions, as well as a retrospective of Werner Herzog’s work. While I’m not attending, the following section overview represents some of the feature docs I’d check out:
The ten films in DOK.international compete for the fest’s largest prize, 10,000 Euros, and include the event’s opening film, Nishtha Jain’s GULABI GANG, about the pink sari-clad Indian women who fight to empower women; Kamar Ahmad Simon’s ARE YOU LISTENING! (pictured), exploring the impact of climate change on a Bangladeshi couple whose village was destroyed; Kaoru Ikeya’s ROOTS, following a Japanese man’s efforts to rebuild his house after the tsunami; and Sylvain L’Espérance’s STANDING ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, on the plight of African migrants stranded in Mali on their way to Europe.
New this year is a competition for German language films featured in the DOK.deutsch section, and coming with a 5,000 Euro award. Also featuring ten titles, this section includes: Klaus Stanjek’s SOUNDS FROM THE FOG (pictured), an investigation into the story of the filmmaker’s uncle, sent to a Nazi concentration camp because of his homosexuality; Moritz Siebert’s HARVEST HAND, offering a view of a small German village through the perspective of an outsider, temporary Indian priest; Wolfram Huke’s LOVE ALIEN, in which the filmmaker explores why he’s never had a romantic relationship; Paul-Julien Robert’s MY MOTHERS, MY FATHERS AND ME, the filmmaker’s personal quest to find his biological father, part of the commune in which he was born; and Biene Pilavci’s DANCING ALONE, in which the filmmaker attempts to come to terms with a history of familial violence.
DOK.horizonte’s ten titles represent developing or emerging countries, from Cambodia to Haiti, Indonesia to Mali, with a cash prize of 3,000 Euros in the offering. Some of the lesser known films here are: Andrey Samoute Diarra’s SAND FISHERS (pictured), about the new practice of selling sand from the Niger River to be used in construction, since climate change has adversely affected fish and water resources; Sourav Sarangi’s CHAR… THE NO-MAN’S ISLAND, following the efforts of a teenage boy to provide for his family on a makeshift island between India and Bangladesh; Dwi Sujanti Nugraheni’s DENOK & GARENG, a look at a poor Indonesian couple’s struggles to barely subsist; and Zhu Yu’s Hot Docs winner CLOUDY MOUNTAINS, an observational study of asbestos mine workers in remote western China.
Over twenty films make up DOK.panorama, a non-competitive international showcase which includes several familiar titles from IDFA, Berlin, SXSW, and elsewhere. A few less traveled entries include: Dirk Schäfer’s A SORT OF LOVE, about a Kurd living in between two cultures, forced into an early marriage; Anne Thoma’s MILES & WAR (pictured), a behind-the-scenes look at mediators and peace negotiators; and Stefanie Brockhaus and Andy Wolff’s THE CAPTAIN AND HIS PIRATE, on the relationship between a Somali pirate and the captain of the ship he held captive for four months.
DOK.München offers a special spotlight on Quebecois cinema this year in the DOK.guest section. Among the selections here are: Nicolas Renaud’s recent Hot Docs winner, BRAVE NEW RIVER (pictured), exploring the impact of a hydroelectric project on the Cree Nation; Simon Plouffe’s OTHERS’ GOLD, the chronicle of the near-devastation of a town due to greedy mining practices; and Brigitte Poupart’s OVER MY DEAD BODY, a profile of a dancer with life-threatening cystic fibrosis.
Münchener Premieren presents the work of eight local filmmakers, including: Harald Rumpf’s SUMMER, WINTER, SUMMER – A COUNTRY DOCTOR IN LOWER BAVARIA, a portrait of a village doctor and his patients; STILL, a portrait of a woman over a decade as she decides if she can take over her family’s farm; Klaus Dexel’s SILENCED: THE WRITER GEORGI MARKOV AND THE UMBRELLA MURDER, an investigation into an unsolved Cold War murder; Jonas Gernstl’s GUERILLA KÖCHE (pictured), following two chefs on a culinary odyssey through Asia; Isa Willinger’s AWAY FROM ALL SUNS!, a consideration of Russian socialist housing and those who still live in them today.
Munich’s DOK.special is a catch-all for more than a dozen non-competitive one-offs, largely German and Austrian productions, including: Julia Driesen’s EIN DEUTSCHES DRAMA: CHRISTIANE F UND DIE KINDER VOM BAHNHOF ZOO, a revisitation of a celebrated story about heroin addicted teens, 25 years later; Emanuel Rotstein’s THE ELEVENTH DAY – THE SURVIVORS OF MUNICH 1972, offering first-hand accounts from Israeli athletes who survived the terrorist attack on the 1972 Olympics; Magnús Vidar Sigurdsson’s THE LAST DAYS OF THE ARCTIC (pictured), a profile of photographer RAX’s apocalyptic work in Iceland and Greenland; and Nitzan Gilady’s FAMILY TIME, following the filmmaker and his family on a bonding trip to the Grand Canyon;
The festival also offers sections on family-friendly, sports, and music docs – the latter features open air screenings, but otherwise nothing new that caught my eye. DOK.sport includes one unfamiliar title that suggests more than the average sports doc: Sandra Kaudelka’s I WILL NOT LOSE, a profile of former GDR athletes as they adjusted to life after reunification.
Student filmmaking is the focus of filmschool.forum, including shorts and longer works. Among the features here are Laura Morcillo’s THE DAY WHEN THE FOOLS ARE GONE, a portrait of a shepherd facing the encroachment of modernity; and Lin Sternal’s TERRASSENTAGE (pictured), offering the perspectives of a number of older German women gossiping and passing the time together on their terraces.