DOK Leipzig 2010

Window on the World

Festival director Claas Danielsen was able to welcome the master director Patricio Guzman from Chile to the opening of the 53rd International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film (18.-24.10.2010) with his astounding essay from the Atacama Desert, Nostalgia de la luz (Nostalgia For The Light), which was enthusiastically received by the audience. The history of his homeland is close to the heart of Guzman who was born in Santiago de Chile in 1941. The salt desert of Atacama is the location for an impressive modern observatory which can pick up signals from outer space that have perhaps been travelling for thousands of years through the universe. The Atacama Desert is also the place where relatives of people, who were tortured and murdered by Pinochet’s thugs, search with their bare hands for the remains of their dead. The breathtaking exploration of the vast universe and the search in the desert sand for the remains of the dead, who should still be with us, are presented by Guzman as an »eternal quest«. He takes us to the observatory where scientists from all over the world are researching distant galaxies and accompanies a former prisoner as he looks for the remains of barracks from one of Pinochet’s death camps. A great moment in cinematic art. Nostalgia For The Light – with camerawork by Katell Dijan – was presented with the European Film Academy Documentary  2010 – Prix ARTE in Tallinn last December

The animation programme in Leipzig is a festival within a festival. It was  a kind of »break« for me from the powerful documentaries which address political issues and problems of our age. DOK 53 opened with such a film from Italy – Big Bang Big Boom by Andrea Martignoni (animation, screenplay, cinematography, editing), entertaining and highly imaginative. Meanwhile, the band Calaveras, whose enthusiasm was a delight to behold, provided a live accompaniment to an image film on DOK Leipzig.

Of course, there were speeches: Leipzig’s Lord Mayor Burkhard Jung will continue supporting the festival and Saxony’s Culture Minister Sabine Freifrau von Schorlemer »conjured up the power of documentary images«. Both of them are sure to be pleased that festival director Danielsen was able to post an attendance record – 35,000 admissions  – for the 53rd edition of DOK Leipzig. All the new elements which have enriched the festival in recent years – such as cross media, crowdfunding, and social media marketing – were avidly followed. And I have always thought that there was a particularly nice atmosphere for the events in the Polish Institute. A list of the prize-winners can be found at I was very pleased that the award for Best Documentary in the German Competition went to How To Make a Book With Steidl by Gereon Wetzel and Jörg Adolph, a wonderful film on the ethics of work. And another wonderful thing was that Leipzig had A Tribute to Klaus Wildenhahn.

(With kind permission by KINO – German Film & International Reports.