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Danish Docs At Sundance

Danish Docs At Sundance

The Danish Broadcasting Corporation has FIVE docs here in Sundance.  Although documentary filmmakers are finding the European TV stations’ funds are diminishing and are increasingly looking to foundations and corporations for financing (see Screen International article), in Denmark, funding for Danish docs is up to 50%.  Their docs are meeting with artistic and popular success which is matched by political support, both in production and in distribution.  Production funding from the Danish Film Institute is approximately 6.2 million Euros.  Primetime public TV share of docs has gone up from 2% to 25% over the last years. 98% of the public has access to the films via local libraries, streaming service, and school children and their teachers can watch the films in the classroom via a school subscription.  Don’t we only wish we could boast a fraction of this?  

The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program is doing what it can and provides year-round support to nonfiction filmmakers worldwide. The program advances innovative nonfiction storytelling about a broad range of contemporary social issues, and promotes the exhibition of documentary films to audiences. Through the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Documentary Edit and Story Laboratory, Composers + Documentary Laboratory, Creative Producing Lab, as well as the Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance Creative Producing Summit and a variety of partnerships and international initiatives, the program provides a unique, global resource for contemporary independent documentary film.  At Sundance they are working closely with 

The Skoll Foundation which drives large scale change by investing in, connecting and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them solve the world’s most pressing problems. It has given almost $300M since 1999, including awards to 91 entrepreneurs in 74 organizations on five continents. The aim? Identify those already bringing positive change around the world and help them extend their reach, tell their stories, and maximize their impact. Jeff Skoll created the Skoll Foundation to help create a sustainable world of peace and prosperity. It has been led by CEO Sally Osberg since 2001 and its Skoll World Forum is the premier conference on social entrepreneurship.

To return to the Danes and their take on the world, this Sundance, the Danish have the comic, journalistically improper (and possibly explosive in its repercussions which might hinder its U.S. distribution) doc The Ambassador which uncovers the rampant exploitation of Africa by everyone from Europeans and North Americans to Indians, Russians and Chinese and the post civil war, massacre-ridden and general post-colonial corruption of Africa itself.  

They also have 1/2 Revolution which shows the opposite view of Egypt (and the corollary Arab Spring revolutions) of the people finally rising up against exploitive “leaders”.

Putin’s Kiss shows 19-year old Marsha, a spokesperson in the government friendly and strongly nationalistic Russian youth organization, Nashi. The movement aims to protect Russia against its ‘enemies’. Marsha was seduced by the high energy of the movement by the age of 15 and has got a lot of benefits in return for her loyalty. But when she starts seeing a group of critical journalists, amonth them the well-known blogger, Oleg Kashin, who compares Nashi with ‘Hitlerjugend’. Marsha begins by defending her movement, but starts to recognize how harassment and dirty provocations against the Russian opposition by ‘unknown perpetrators’ is going on around her. When Oleg is getting seriously beaten up and nearly dies, Marsha has to take a stand for or against Nashi.

China Heavyweight takes place in central China and is a metaphor for the choices that the lucky few (in this case poor rural teenagers who have been turned into Western-style boxing champions and are now graduating) to fight for the collective good as amateur boxers or for themselves and their own professional gain as professionals.

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