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#Oscars2018 Foreign-Language Film: Today, September 26, submission from Canada.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

30th European Film Awards - Documentary Selection


Yesterday the European Film Academy released the documentary selection for the current edition of the annual awards.

The selection has fifteen (15) documentaries recommended for a nomination with ten (10) being recommended by documentary festivals chosen in co-operation with the European Documentary Network (EDN), these festivals are:

-IDFA (Netherlands)
-CPH:DOX (Denmark)
-Visions du Réel (Switzerland)
-DokLeipzig (Germany)
-Docslisboa (Portugal)
-Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival (Greece)
-Jihlava (Czech Republic)
-Cinéma du Réel (France)
-Krakow Film Festival (Poland)
-Sheffield Doc/Fest (UK)

Based on their recommendations and the films individually submitted, the documentary committee, consisting of EFA Board Members Roberto Cicutto (Italy), Vanessa Henneman (Netherlands) and Marek Rozenbaum (Israel), commissioning editor Sari Volanen (YLE, Finland) and documentary expert Paul Pauwels (European Documentary Network, Belgium) decided on the EFA Documentary Selection.

The following is the EFA Documentary Selection 2017

Austerlitz, Sergei Loznitsa, Germany
Das grüne Gold (Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas), Joakim Demmer, Sweden, Germany and Finland
How To Meet A Mermaid, Coco Schrijber, Netherlands and Denmark
Hyvä postimies (The Good Postman), Tonislav Hristov, Finland and Bulgary
In Loco Parentis (School Life), Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane, Ireland and Spain
Komunia (Communion), Anna Zamecka, Poland
La Chana, Lucija Stojevic, Spain, Iceland and USA
Le vénérable W. (The Venerable W), Barbet Schroeder, France and Switzerland
Liberami (Libera Nos), Federica Di Giacomo, Italy and France
Nothingwood, Sonia Kronlund, France and Germany
Stranger in Paradise, Guido Hendrikx, Netherllands
Taste of Cement, Ziad Kalthoum, Germany, Lebanon, Syria, UAE, and Qatar
The War Show, Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon, Denmark, Syria and Finland
Ultra, Balázs Simonyi, Hungary and Greece
West of the Jordan River (Field Diary Revisited), Amos Gitaï, Israel and France



EFA Members will now vote for five documentary nominations which will be announced, along all other categories nominations, on November 5 at the Seville European Film Festival. Based on these nominations, the EFA Members will then elect the European Documentary 2017 which will be announced during the awards ceremony on 9 December in Berlin.

To check posters from the 15 docs in the selection go to my Pinterest here.

There are some documentaries that besides seeming interesting, come with great credentials as were premiered at Cannes and are directed by outstanding filmmakers; as an example of films quality, think about films by Sergei Loznitza, Amos Gitaï and Barbet Schroeder.  Also remarkable is finding female directors in the selection, even do proportion is always too-low.

Most festival documentaries were already known to me, but the greatest discovery is a doc that seems to have great visuals and a compelling (bit disturbing) story presented perhaps in the most easy-to-watch way -to ease subject matter sensibilities-.  Talking about How to Meet a Mermaid which has become must be seen for me.

Austerlitz by Sergei Loznitsa
Premiered at 2016 Venice Film fest.
Synopsis:There are places in Europe that have remained as painful memories of the past - factories where humans were turned into ash. These places are now memorial sites that are open to the public and receive thousands of tourists every year. The film's title refers to the eponymous novel written by W.G. Sebald, dedicated to the memory of Holocaust. This film is an observation of the visitors to a memorial site that has been founded on the territory of a former concentration camp. Why do they go there? What are they looking for?

Trailer



Das grüne Gold (Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas) by Joakim Demmer
Synopsis: Farmland - the new green gold. Hoping for export revenues, Ethiopia's government leases millions of hectares of farmland to foreign investors. But the dream of prosperity has a dark side where the World Bank plays a very questionable role... Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas investigates land grabbing and its impact on people's lives. Pursuing the truth, we meet investors, development bureaucrats, persecuted journalists, struggling environmentalists and evicted farmers deprived of their land.

Trailer



How To Meet A Mermaid by Coco Schrijber
Synopsis: Lex Schrijber went on a diving trip to Egypt in October 2000, but he never returned. His shoes, clothes and diver’s knife were found – stacked neatly – on a Red Sea beach. A diver never dives without his knife, and this fact alone was proof enough to filmmaker Coco Schrijber that her brother had made a fateful decision that day. Fifteen years later, she returns to the place where Lex was last seen, to find out why he disappeared and whether there were witnesses to his final hours. As in her previous work (including First Kill and Bloody Mondays & Strawberry Pies), Schrijber takes a multilayered, essay-like approach complemented by a lavish soundtrack, with the sea both alluring and repelling. Scenes of her search are juxtaposed with gorgeous seascapes that capture both the beauty and the destructive power of the ocean. She broadens the narrative from the personal perspective on Lex’s story by connecting it with the tales of Mexican surfer Miguel as he prepares his flight across the ocean, and the tragedy surrounding Rebecca, who disappeared from a cruise ship.

Trailer



Hyvä postimies (The Good Postman) by Tonislav Hristov
2017 Sundance films fest
Synopsis: In an almost deserted Bulgarian village on the border with Turkey, known for centuries as “The Great Gate,” there are only 38 voters left. Among the candidates running for mayor is Ivan the postman. He has come up with an unconventional and generous-minded plan to breathe new life into his village. Since the times of the Roman and Ottoman Empires, refugees have been entering Europe through this “gate.” So why not offer the passing Syrian refugees a home and a new beginning in the empty village? Ivan’s main rival is against the idea, and it’s not entirely clear what the incumbent mayor thinks. The film follows the three candidates’ campaigns as they attempt to appeal to their elderly electorate. In this tragicomic portrait of a sleepy village that suddenly finds itself at the center of current affairs, we see how the villagers’ fears and worries compete with their hope and compassion.

Trailer



In Loco Parentis (School Life) by Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane
Premiered at 2017 Sundance film fest.
Synopsis: A year in the life of two passionate and inspiring teachers (one of music, Latin and math, the other of literature) working at the only boarding school in Ireland for children ages 7 to 12. Headfort School, a huge building set in idyllic surroundings, is their life. John and Amanda Leyden met there in their twenties, married and have since lived their lives on the school grounds. The current headmaster, a passionate and progressive teacher himself, is a former student of John’s. In addition to teaching, John and Amanda serve as mentors, inspirations and surrogate parents for the children. Their workdays are long and they are both getting on in years, so the couple starts making cautious preparations for the end of their tenure at Headfort. But will they be able to live without the school? Filmmakers Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane follow the goings-on in the school in fly-on-the-wall style, to poignant, unpredictable and surprising effect.

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Komunia (Communion) by Anna Zamecka
Synopsis: When adults are ineffectual, children have to grow up quickly. Ola is 14 and she takes care of her dysfunctional father, autistic brother and a mother who lives separately; but most of all she tries to reunite the family. She lives in the hope of bringing her mother back home. Her 13 year old brother Nikodem’s Holy Communion is a pretext for the family to meet up. Ola is entirely responsible for preparing the perfect family celebration. "Communion" reveals the beauty of the rejected, the strength of the weak and the need for change when change seems impossible. This crash course in growing up teaches us that no failure is final. Especially when love is in question.

Trailer



La Chana by Lucija Stojevic
Synopsis: La Chana was one of the greatest stars in the flamenco world, captivating audiences worldwide with her innovative style and breathtaking use of rhythm in the 1960s and 1970s. Peter Sellers, with whom she features in The Bobo (1967), invited her to Hollywood. Instead, at the peak of her career, she disappeared from the scene.
LA CHANA brings us close to the heart and mid of La Chana, the self-taught Gypsy dancer, Antonia Santiago Amador, as she returns to the stage to give a final seated performance after a break of two decades. Along the way, La Chana reveals the secret behind her disappearance: for 18 years she was the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her first husband.
In this dramatic story about the process and power of creativity, about aging, perseverance and re-invention, La Chana crystallizes the inevitable clashes between her life’s extremes and contradictions; between the artist on stage and the woman behind the scenes.

Trailer



Le vénérable W. (The Venerable W) by Barbet Schroeder
Premiered at 2017 Cannes.
Synopsis: In Burma, the “Venerable Wirathu” is a highly respected and influential Buddhist monk. Meeting him amounts to traveling to the heart of everyday racism and observing how Islamophobia and hate speech lead to violence and destruction. Yet this is a country in which 90% of the population has adopted Buddhism as a faith: a religion based on a peaceful, tolerant and non-violent way of life.

Trailer



Liberami (Libera Nos) by Federica Di Giacomo
Premiered at 2016 Venice Film fest, winner of Orizzonti Best Film. (aka Deliver Us)
Synopsis: Every year, in Italy, in Europe and in the world, a higher and higher number of people affirms to feel possessed by Satan. The Catholic Church responds to this emergency training more and more exorcist priests. The veteran Father Cataldo is one of them. Gloria, Enrico, Anna and Giulia follow, Father Cataldo’s mass and look for a cure to their disease, for which they’re not able to find labels nor answers. To what extent is each of us, believer or not, ready to push himself to show other people a discomfort, an illness? And even it actually was Satan, what are we ready to suffer, to be “delivered from evil” here and now? LIBERA NOS is the story about the practice of exorcism and people’s issues of everyday life: the contrasts between ancient traditions and modern habits, between sacred and profane, meet in this astonishing documentary and reveal themselves disturbing and hilarious at the same time.

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Nothingwood by Sonia Kronlund
Premiered at 2017 Cannes Quinzaine.
Synopsis: A hundred kilometers from Kabul, Salim Shaheen, a famous Afghan actor, director, and producer, has come to screen some of his 110 films and shoot the 111th. This trip, on which he has brought along his troupe of actors, each more eccentric and uncontrollable than the next, offers an opportunity to get to know this cinephile, who produces an endless stream of Z-grade movies in a country that has been at war for more than 30 years.

Trailer



Stranger in Paradise by Guido Hendrikx
Synopsis: In a classroom newly arrived refugees learn a lesson about multifaceted Europe. Operating at the intersection of fiction and documentary, Stranger in Paradise reflects on the power relations between Europeans and refugees in a candid fashion.

"If Lars Von Trier were to make a documentary about the current immigration crisis in Europe, it might very well turn out like Stranger in Paradise, the debut feature by Guido Hendrikx." Variety

Trailer



Taste of Cement by Ziad Kalthoum
Synopsis: A portrait of workers in exile. An empathetic encounter with people who have lost their past and their future, locked in the recurring present. Ziad Kalthoum creates an essay documentary of Syrian construction workers building new skyscrapers in Beirut on the ruins caused by the Lebanese civil war. At the same time their own houses are being bombed in Syria. A Curfew prohibits them from leaving the construction site after work. Every night in their pit below the skyscraper the news from their homeland and the memories of the war chase them. Mute and imprisoned in the cement underground, they must endure until the new day arrives where the hammering and welding drowns out their nightmares.

Trailer



The War Show by Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon
Premiered at 2016 Venice Film fest, winner of Fedeora Award Best Film at Venice Days
Synopsis: In March 2011, radio host Obaidah Zytoon and friends join the street protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Knowing the Arab Spring will forever change their country, this group of artists and activists begin filming their lives and the events around them. But as the regime’s violent response spirals the country into a bloody civil war, their hopes for a better future will be tested by violence, imprisonment and death. A deeply personal road movie, The War Show captures the fate of Syria through the intimate lens of a small circle of friends.

Trailer



Ultra, Balázs Simonyi
Synopsis: Held since 1983, the Spartathlon is a 246-km ultramarathon race following the identical route taken by an Athenian messenger sent to Sparta in 490 BC during the first Greco-Persian Wars, just before the Battle of Marathon opposing Athens and the Persians. Per Herodotus’ version, he left at dawn and managed to arrive at his destination before nightfall the following day; but it was in vain, the Spartans having refused their help. It is this exploit that the “marathoners” are attempting to reproduce, as they set off at the end of summer each year from the foot of the Acropolis to reach Sparta in 36 hours, which means an average speed of 7 kmph. Balazs Simonyi followed four of them, men and women, including himself, as he too participates in the race. Although Ultra respects the chronology of the long-distance run, the camera ventures into its side-lines, and films the athletes’ friends and family for whom the experience is also intense. The Spartathlon consequently resembles an individual and/or family psychodrama, in which the fact of “surpassing oneself” means physically testing the absurdity of our human condition.

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West of the Jordan River (Field Diary Revisited), Amos Gitaï,
Premiered at 2017 Cannes.
Synopsis:Amos Gitai returns to the occupied territories for the first time since his documentary Journal de campagne (1982). Gitai travels through the West Bank, where he witnesses the efforts of Israeli and Palestinian citizens to attempt to overcome the consequences of an occupation that has lasted for fifty years.

Trailer



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