From 19 to 21 June, the Odesa Green Theatre will host the DOCU/HIT – a festival project by Docudays UA. Its aim is to present and show documentary films, which overseas audience has appreciated, in Ukrainian regions. All three films are favorites at different international film festivals.
Bobbi Jene (2017) by Elvira Lind
– You haven’t noticed my work for 13 years.
– You have been watching all these photos, videos, but…
– But I haven’t seen your personality, yes.
Bobbi Jene – is a documentary film not so much about a stage, as about a personality, about obsession with creative life, depicted with non-transparent simplicity.
Here she is. We see her at the beginning – Bobby Jene in an Elvira Lind film. She is naked. She is working on her choreography, not paying attention to cameras. It is an important metaphor, which is revealed at the very beginning, it is a special symbol of an intimate frankness. This film is not about dancing. It is a special (or even private) essay on art, human ambitious, distance in relationships, it is, finally, a fight for own will.
This fight is a stock theme of the film. It is not a narrative film, although, without a doubt, there is a narration and it is evident. The narration is the spine, which is gradually wrapped with a heroine’s voice, her worries, decisions, changes, frankness and sincerity with herself.
Although it is a documentary film, you don’t feel as a viewer. You are just a person, to whom another person has decided to reveal the truth, to lead by the hand. No, you don’t change or decide anything. But you are here, you become a part of an intimate story, which is strong inside and outside. Is a narration so important when you are talked to sincerely?
Last Men in Aleppo (2017) by Feras Fayyad
– Abu Amar, are you leaving Aleppo?
– Where’re you going?
– To the cemetery
– How many casualties are there today?
– I’ve found three… Were lying near each other. Relatives.
The film by the Syrian director Feras Fayyad shows the hell of Aleppo being bombarding. A viewer delves into it from the first scene. There are main characters: Khaled, Subhi and Mahmoud are anxiously looking at the sky, planes are approaching, they can hear their roar, it gets louder and louder. We see people’s faces, their looks at the sky.
Last Men in Aleppo – is a direct film, it is a on-the-spot reportage. The film tells the story of a feat of Syrian volunteers from The White Helmets organization, in the second biggest Syrian city – Aleppo. Every day, risking their lives, they take people out of destroyed bombarded buildings, they help to the wounded and retrieve bodies of the deceased.
“A handheld camera is breathing in time with volunteers’ breaths. It records their emotions, it moves as they move: there is a real danger and death in front of the camera; the war as it is – in the raw; there are no sentimentality or pathos – people just do their job, despite the danger. It is an ode to braveness and heroism of regular people for the sake of future, if not theirs, then of their children.
Last Men in Aleppo is a very important and essential film. Yes, it is hard to watch it; it will leave many questions, there will be tears, and the heart will beat faster every time. This film is a bright example of direct films, it is hundred-minute reportage from the centre of the war, a story about life in the hell, where there are no appropriate medicine and accommodation, where friends meeting at streets can be shot, where schools and hospitals turned into piles of stones long time ago. Despite all this, The Last Men in Aleppo is an ode to humanity.
The film was shooting in the first half of 2017 in a collaboration with Sten Yohanessen and the Aleppo media centre. Before shooting the film, Feras Fayyad was watching the work of The White Helmets for almost two years. It should be mentioned that the organization consists of more than 3 thousand volunteers who work in the districts of Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Homs, Damaskus and Darayya. From 2014 to 2018, they have helped to more than 114 thousand of civils. In this period, 204 volunteers of the organization have died during rescuing missions. The documentary film Last Men in Aleppo tells about life of three founders of the organization – Khaled, Subhi and Mahmoud.
The film received the main Jury Award at the Sundance Festival in 2017. It was also distinguished at the Documentary Film Festival in Jihlava and the DocsBarcelona. It was nominated for Documentary Feature for Oscars 2018.
The Distant Barking of Dogs (2017) by Simon Lereng Wilmont
– I am stronger, I am an adult…
– I am also strong, and I am also an adult… – a 11-year boy Oleh says to his grandma Oleksandra when he can’t chop up a firewood. They live between two fires at the scene of fighting in Donbass, namely in the village of Hnutove of the Donetsk region. However, the place doesn’t influence the narration (it could be any village or town within the boundary line). There is only war, which roars every day with bangs and guns, and spurts of fire interfere with an accident silence.
They go to a cemetery to visit their dead relatives. A mother’s grave. Oleh speaks with her very quietly and then asks his grandma whether his mom has heard his words. Grandma answers, “Yes, she has. She’s smiling. She is here.” They can’t leave the village, so they just watch others leave Hnutove, Oleh sees his friends off.
According to the director, Simon Lereng Willmont, he came to Donbass only with the idea and found heroes already there. He was watching life of local children, speaking to them in schools. When he met Oleh and his grandma, at once he realized that found heroes for his future film. “I wanted to make a story about peoples’ life, about how difficult children’s life at war can be, about how their values change in critical situations,” the director says.
In fact, it is a film-observation. Through Oleh’s story, the film creators try to show what it means for children to grow up at action areas.
Unlike the Last Men in Aleppo film, The Distant Barking of Dogs film tells its story slowly, virtually meditatively. We don’t feel the presence of a camera – it stays aside and records a reserved and fragile micro world of the child.
And when Oleh asks his grandma:
– Are you afraid?
– Yes! It is scary…
They hide in a basement. They can hear bangs outside.
The Distant Barking of Dogs – is a film-metaphor, where the barking is a symbol of a danger, which is always present in the village.
The film is made in collaboration with Denmark, Switzerland and Finland. It was being shot for three years, from 2015 to 2017.
The film has such awards as The Best First Appearance at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam in 2017, Golden Alexander Award (Best Documentary) at the festival in Thessaloniki, FIRPRESCI award from the Hellenic Parliament (Human Values Award) in 2018.
By Valerii Puzik, Dmytro Zhuravel