29 June, 2010
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
This year's AFI-Discovery Channel Documentary Festival , the largest event of its kind in North America, boasted a strong showing of new European documentaries. The non-fiction tradition continues to expand with the arrival of new documentary voices from the "first world".
The Sterling World Competition section boasted strong films from Europe. THE ARRIVALS by French co-directors Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard examined the tensions in French society as more and more immigrants arrive to realize the "French dream" of a better life.
In the Swedish film FAMILIA, co-directed by Mikael Wistrom and Alberto Herskovitz, the emotional ups and downs of an impoverished Peruvian family becomes a universal story of overcoming diversity while trying to keep family ties strong and relevant. In the German/Israeli co-production A FILM UNFINISHED, a propaganda film shot by the Nazis in the squalid Warsaw ghetto of 1942 becomes a testament to man's inhumanity and the hardcore resilience of the human spirit.
INTO ETERNITY by Finnish director Michael Madsen extrapolates what life and society will be liked 1000 years from now while also telling a cautionary tale of how we dispose of radioactive waste that will stay be lethal when future generations uncover it. In the film REGRETTERS by Swedish documentarian Marcus Lindeen, two men share a remarkable camaraderie (they are biological men who consciously changed their gender and then reversed the process) in a highly theatrical portrait of human sexuality and the desire to feel whole.
In SPACE TOURISTS by Swiss director Christian Frei, the crumblng infrastructure of the fomer Soviet space program engenders a unique entrepenurial streak, as private citizens pay up to $20 million for a chance to live out their fantasies to be cosmonauts and orbit the earth. A second Swiss film also competed for honors this week. THE WOMAN WITH FIVE ELEPHANTS by Vadim Jendreyko , which won the top International Film prize at the event, is a portrait of an 85 year old Ukranian woman who has dedicated her life to literature, including the translation of the five novels of Dostoevsky (thus the reference to five elephants).
These films demonstrate the continued variety and excellence of European documentary filmmaking.