Ukraine and Russia High on the Agenda at Copenhagen International Doc Fest

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The Copenhagen Intl. Documentary Film Festival (CPH:DOX) has announced its full program, which includes some 200 new films and a whopping 76 world premieres.

A dozen documentaries are competing for the top prize in the main Dox:Award competition, a quarter of which were shot in Russia and Ukraine – a testimony to the organizers’ desire for the festival to reflect the times in which we live.

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“A documentary film festival is not only a celebration of cinema, it is also an opportunity to critically reflect on reality, to engage in democratic dialogue and to discuss how our views of the world have consequences,” artistic director Niklas Engstrøm says. “Right now, our thoughts are first and foremost with the people in Ukraine, a sovereign European state unlawfully invaded by an autocratic regime. In Kyiv, the great festival Docudays UA was supposed to happen around the same time as CPH:DOX. That is no longer possible.”

Among the films competing for the main award is Daniel Roher’s Sundance sensation “Navalny,” a fly-on-the-wall documentary thriller about the life of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in the aftermath of an attempt on his life.

“Hide and Seek” - Credit: Courtesy of CPH:DOX
“Hide and Seek” - Credit: Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Screening out of competition are critically acclaimed Sundance winner “A House Made of Splinters,” by Danish filmmaker Simon Lereng Wilmont, about an orphanage in the eastern part of Ukraine, and a last-minute addition to the lineup, “Novorossiya,” by Luca Gennari and Enrico Parenti, which will have its world premiere at the festival.

In addition to the Dox:Award, the festival’s other international competitions are the New:Vision Award for experimental and artists’ films, the F:ACT Award for films spanning investigative journalism and documentary, the Nordic:Dox Award for Nordic documentaries and the Next:Wave Award for emerging filmmakers and artists.

The program reflects strict gender parity with 50% of the films directed or co-directed by female directors. The selection includes films by established, award-winning directors as well as new voices across the five competitions.

These include debut features “Under the Sky Shelter” by Chile’s Diego Acosta, described by programmer Mads Mikkelsen as “a mesmerizingly beautiful black-and-white 16mm film set in the Chilean mountains with dreamy flashes of color and no dialogue,” and “Hide and Seek,” a fast-paced film from Naples about a family across three generations struggling to break from the cycle of crime – “easily one of the most exciting films this year,” according to Mikkelsen.

“Under the Sky” - Credit: Courtesy of CPH:DOX
“Under the Sky” - Credit: Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Organized along three major themes – art, science and society – the works will be screened in some 15 venues across Copenhagen including the legendary Bremen Teater – formerly used as a cinema for erotic films by Danish tycoon Simon Spies – as well as three new venues, each with a dedicated pop-up cinema for screenings, debates, talks, concerts, performances and other special events.

Industry events will take place from March 28 through to April 1 under the banner “Business as Unusual.” The flagship financing and co-production event CPH:FORUM runs March 28-31, and organizers are expecting most attendees to turn up in person for the event.

While they are delighted that CPH:DOX is back on as a physical event after two online editions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers insist it remains fully hybrid, offering online access to accredited attendees who cannot make it to the Danish capital.

Travelers should be able to enter Denmark without any restrictions by the time the festival opens on March 23, after it became the first European country to lift all of its COVID-19 restrictions on Feb. 1, including digital COVID-19 passports at indoor venues and face masks in public settings.

CPH:DOX runs in Copenhagen from March 23 through April 3.

See the full list of competition titles below.

“They Made Us the Night” - Credit: Courtesy of CPH:DOX
“They Made Us the Night” - Credit: Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

“The Eclipse,” Nataša Urban (Norway, World Premiere)
With the solar eclipse in 1999 as her mirror image, an exiled film artist turns her analogue film camera on her family in ex-Yugoslavia to map how a dark past remains embedded in the present.

“The Fall,” Andreas Koefoed (Denmark, World Premiere)
A 10-year-old girl miraculously survives a fall from the fifth floor. Six years later, she is looking to escape the trauma. A subtle, sensitive coming-of-age film about a very unusual young woman.

“Fire of Love,” Sara Dosa (Canada/U.S., International Premiere)
A unique, poetic and visually stunning adventure film about a French scientist couple, based entirely on their own footage from travels in search of erupting volcanoes in the 1970s and 80s.

“Girl Gang,” Susanne Regina Meures (Switzerland, World Premiere)
A contemporary fairy tale about a 14-year-old influencer and her biggest fan. But life as a social media star has a shadow side that the adrenaline, fame and free sneakers can’t make up for.

“Hide and Seek,” Victoria Fiore (U.K./Italy, International Premiere)
Four furious years in one of Naples’ toughest neighborhoods, where all three generations of a single family live on the edge of the law. Can the family’s youngest son break the dark legacy?

“Holidays,” Antoine Cattin (Switzerland, World Premiere)
Russia’s record-high number of holidays are celebrated at an upbeat balalaika pace and with black hum-our in a lively mosaic of impressions from life in the vast, inscrutable country in the East.

“Into the Ice,” Lars Ostenfeld (Denmark/Germany, World Premiere)
A grand, cinematic adventure on the Greenland ice sheet with three leading scientists in search of what the ice can tell us about our climate, our past and possible future.

“Midwives,” Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing (Myanmar, European Premiere)
A tale of the complicated relationship between Rohingya and Buddhists in Myanmar, told over five years through the eyes of two midwives from either side of the divide.

“Navalny,” Daniel Roher (U.S., International Premiere)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is both detective and supposed murder victim in a brave docu-thriller about the assassination attempt on his life. Timely, urgent, nerve-wrecking.

“Outside,” Olha Zhurba (Ukraine/Denmark/Netherlands, World Premiere)
As a 13-year-old boy, he became the poster boy of the Ukrainian revolution. Now Roma is back on the streets with nothing in his pocket but a lighter and a knife as a new conflict looms.

“They Made Us the Night,” José Antonio Hernández Martínez (Mexico, International Premiere)
Supernatural visions and indigenous folk myths intrude in an unpredictable and dreamlike Mexican film about a family living in the shadow of the apocalypse. A living, organic work.

“Under the Sky Shelter,” Diego Acosta (Chile, International Premiere)
Chilean debut in sparkling, analogue black and white. A lone shepherd crosses rivers, forests and cliffs with thousands of sheep. As he loses himself in the mountains, dreams appear like ghosts.

“Parkland of Decay and Fantasy,” Chenliang Zhu (China, World Premiere)
Technology and spirituality are parallel forces in an abandoned and possibly haunted Chinese amusement park taken over by outsider artists.

“Stinking Dawn,” Liam Gillick & Gelitin (Austria/U.K., World Premiere)
A social experiment-turned-musical performed by Liam Gillick and the radical performance art group Gelitin at Kunsthalle Wien.

“What About China?,” Trinh Minh-ha (U.S./China, World Premiere)
Based on footage shot by the artist in China in 1993 and 1994, Trinh’s essay reflects on the rich history of Chinese thought – and of cinema itself.

“The Worm,” Ed Atkins (Denmark, U.S., Germany, International Premiere)
Ed Atkins presents a telephone call with his mother. She is heard but not seen, while Atkins is rendered, by way of performance-capture technology, as a digital avatar.

“Everything But the World,” Lauren Boyle/DIS Magazine (U.S., World Premiere)
A non-linear, natural history documentary about us — homo sapiens.

“Abyss,” Jeppe Lange & Google’s Image Recognition AI (Denmark, World Premiere)
A mind-bending video work created as a chain of 10,000 still images found through Google’s reverse image search.

“Mangrove School,” Filipa César & Sónia Vaz Borges (Portugal/Germany/France, International Premiere)
During Guinea-Bissau’s struggle for independence from Portugal in 1965, education became a means of anti-colonial resistance. The history of a movement, narrated as a documentary fable.

“Congress of Idling Persons,” Bassem Saad (Lebanon, European Premiere)
Five interlocutors examine a cartography of protest, crisis, humanitarian and mutual aid, migrant labor, and Palestinian outsider status.

“We Knew How Beautiful They Were, These Islands,” Younes Ben Slimane (Tunisia, World Premiere)
A somber and enigmatic work that explores the inner life of people and objects, as a single figure roams a burial ground in a twilight zone between reality and dream.

“Echodrom,” Gudrun Krebitz (Austria, World Premiere)
Dark, dreamy and delirious mixed-media work contained within the frame of a partly animated film, guided by the words and voices of its invisible participants.

“Dear Darkness,” Antoinette Zwirchmayr (Austria, International Premiere)
A mesmerizingly beautiful 16mm work centering around three women and former best friends who meet again after 20 years.

“Constant,” Beny Wagner/Sasha Litvintseva (Germany/U.K., World Premiere)
A hallucinatory journey through the social and political histories of measurement. From early modern European land enclosures to the current frontier of Big Science.

“Nicolae,” Mihai Grecu (Romania, European Premiere)
Former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu reappears as a hologram in a small village in a dryly witty intervention that blurs the boundaries between past and present.

“Honeycomb Image/Archive Cladding,” Tinne Zenner/Eva La Cour (Denmark, World Premiere)
A montage of text, image and sound that explores the intertwined histories of an administrative building in Copenhagen with a marble mine in Greenland.

“Through a Shimmering Prism, We Made a Way,” Rhea Storr (Bahamas/U.K., World Premiere)
Three sisters move through public/political space – a square, bridge, garden and hill – in this exploration of Black diaspora.

“When There Is No More Music to Write, and other Roman Stories,” Eric Baudelaire (France, International Premiere)
With the work of improvisational composer Alvin Curran as a guiding principle, Baudelaire creates a triptych that investigates the parallels between artistic theory and political practice.

“Black Mambas,” Lena Karbe, (Germany/France, World Premiere)
For the South African women of the Black Mambas, the fight against poachers is also a fight for women’s liberation and empowerment.

“The Deal,” Chiara Sambuchi (Germany, World Premiere)
Investigative documentary about how the arms of the Nigerian mafia reach far into Europe and use religious pressure to keep trafficked women in prostitution.

“Rules of War,” Guido Hendrikx (Netherlands, World Premiere)
A Red Cross delegate and a group of hardcore South Sudanese soldiers clash in their views of war and conflict. From the mind behind the CPH:DOX hit “A Man and a Camera.”

“The Territory,” Alex Pritz (Denmark/U.S./Brazil, International Premiere)
A network of government-backed farmers is eating into indigenous territory in the Brazilian rainforest, but a local activist and his team are fighting back with a video camera as a weapon.

“This Stolen Country of Mine,” Marc Wiese (Ecuador/Germany, World Premiere)
Chinese mining in Ecuador’s mountains sets the stage for an epic battle between eco-guerrillas and a corrupt government in an intensely dramatic feature.

“TikTok, Boom,” Shalini Kantayya (U.S., International Premiere)
There’s more than dollars and yen at stake as data flows from TikTok back to Chinese server parks. A critical but tech-positive film about the invisible influence of social media.

“The Chocolate War,” Miki Mistrati (Denmark, World Premiere)
One man’s fight against an industry of cocoa producers that ruthlessly exploits child labor in Ivory Coast plantations. Investigative guerrilla journalism meets intense courtroom drama.

“A French Revolution,” Emmanuel Gras (France, International Premiere)
A modern protest movement seen from the inside in a timely film with an eminent eye for detail that observes the methods, aims and inner contradictions of the French Yellow Vests.

“A Taste of Whale,” Vincent Kelner (France, World Premiere)
Faroese whalers have hunted pilot whales for centuries, but today international activists are condemning old traditions. A sober look at the dilemmas of a seemingly two-sided conflict.

“To the End,” Rachel Lears (U.S., International Premiere)
A shared dream of passing a New Green Deal leads three young female activists into the center of power, where cynicism and demands for change collide.

“Electric Malady,” Marie Lidén (U.K., World Premiere)
Allergic to electronics and isolated in the Swedish wilderness in a homemade turtle shell of thick blankets. Meet 40-year-old William, whose mysterious condition is not recognized by the world.

“The Happy Worker,” John Webster (Finland, World Premiere)
Stressed? Burnt out? You’re not alone! With black humor and biting irony, we get the incredible story of how modern working life became its own worst enemy – and how to change it.

“Mr. Graversen,” Michael Graversen (Denmark, World Premiere)
After years of substance abuse, Michael’s father returns to his life, but an old family trauma continues to haunt the Graversen family.

“TSUMU – Where Do You Go With Your Dreams?,” Kasper Kiertzner (Denmark/Sweden, World Premiere)
Lars, Eino and Thomas are fighting for a better future for themselves and their friends in Tasiilaq in eastern Greenland. A youth film about hope, dreams and the right to be yourself.

“All That Remains to be Seen,” Julie Bezerra Madsen (Denmark/Finland, World Premiere)
What would you like to see if you couldn’t see any more? A blind mother and her seven-year-old son teach each other how to navigate the world as his vision slowly fades and a new life awaits.

“Behind the Swedish Model,” Viktor Nordenskiöld (Sweden, International Premiere)
Behind the scenes of the first corona wave in Sweden, where state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell went solo on a global scale – and became an involuntary public figure overnight.

“Daughters,” Jenifer Malmqvist (Sweden/Denmark, World Premiere)
A sensitive and poignant film about three young girls’ grieving process after their mother’s suicide, told over a period of 10 years.

“Just Animals,” Saila Kivelä/Vesa Kuosmanen (Finland, International Premiere)
Adrenaline-fueled activist animal welfare film told in the first person, about becoming politically aware – and about how your own idealism can turn against you when the world won’t listen.

“Karaoke Paradise,” Einari Paakkanen (Finland, International Premiere)
A heartwarming Finnish feel-good film about how karaoke culture has taken hold where you least expected it: in our notoriously introverted sister country in the cold north.

“The Last Human,” Ivalo Frank (Denmark/Greenland, World Premiere)
Life on Earth begins and ends with Greenland. Researcher Minik Rosing’s landmark discovery of the first life contrasts with the melting ice masses in Ivalo Frank’s tribute to her homeland.

“Light upon Light,” Christian Suhr (Egypt/Denmark, World Premiere)
A philosophical journey from Cairo, along the Nile and into the desert in search for what light means as a political and religious concept in post-revolutionary Egypt.

“No Place Like Home,” Emilie Beck (Norway, World Premiere)
A young woman confronts her own story as an adopted child from Sri Lanka. Her quest turns into a hunt for the truth in a morass of forged documents, corruption and family trauma.

“Kash Kash – Without Feathers We Can’t Live,” Lea Najjar (Germany/Lebanon/Qatar, World Premiere)
A vital, cinematic snapshot of Lebanon and its chaotic state, where the flat rooftops high above the city streets become a hopeful haven for people practicing a ritualistic pigeon sport.

“Moosa Lane,” Anita Hopland (Pakistan/Denmark/Norway, World Premiere)
A personal family epic, where Danish-Pakistani director Anita Mathal Hopland looks back at the history of her two families over 15 years in Karachi and Copenhagen.

“No Place for You in Our Town,” Nikolay Stefanov (Bulgaria, World Premiere)
The hard life of hardcore football hooligans in a dilapidated mining town where operations have long since shut down and the future looks bleak. But is there a way out of the fanaticism?

“Nothing Compares,” Kathryn Ferguson (U.K./Ireland, European Premiere)
“I didn’t want to be a pop star, I just wanted to scream.” Iconic singer Sinéad O’Connor’s artistic breakthrough in the ’90s has political resonance today as much as ever.

“The Pawnshop,” Łukasz Kowalski (Poland, World Premiere)
A couple of resourceful misfits runs the biggest pawnshop in Poland. When their finances collapse and love begins to falter, they set out to fight the hardest battle of their lives.

“Riotsville, USA,” Sierra Pettengill (U.S., International Premiere)
A movie set built by the U.S. military in the 1960s is the object of study in an archival-based, modern essay about the history of racism and rebellion in America.

“We Met in Virtual Reality,” Joe Hunting (U.K., European Premiere)
Entirely shot in the hallucinatory virtual world of VRChat during the first lockdown, this visually singular but deeply human film explores the intersection between technology and emotions.

“An Eternity of You and Me,” Sanne This (Denmark, World Premiere)
A touching and humorous tale of gender roles and two people’s struggle to fulfill their dream of having a child – with the director herself in the female lead.

“Sami’s Odysseys,” Robin Dimet (France/Ethiopia, World Premiere)
In Ethiopia’s labyrinthine capital, a recluse sits translating Greek and Roman myths on an ancient laptop as cosmic chaos presses in on him.

“Sportcast 2,” Sara Sjölin (Sweden/Denmark, World Premiere)
A comedy-drama film where artist Sara Sjölin is using a football game as a backdrop to tell the story of her former relationship with an “emotional colonizer.”

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