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What I watched at CPH:DOX, part 1

CPH:DOX, also known as Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, has been up and running for a few days now. After the success of last year (for me), I was already to settle in with my popcorn on Thursday 22 April and start watching. You can find descriptions of all the films at cphdox.dk. This post is for my purely personal comments on the films I have seen. Ah, CPHDOX, I love you!

The Green Land

By the Greenlandic artist Ink Silis Høegh
This film was filled with extremely beautiful images from landscapes in Greenland. There are also elements of land art and happenings in it, but that simply isn’t me. I am glad I saw the beauty in this film, but I am simply not tuned into this type of art film.
Watched Thursday 22 April.

The Lost Sons

By Ursula Macfarlane
Based on a book, this film was a very bizarre story of a baby who was kidnapped from his mother’s arms just after he was born in 1964 and then reunited with his family about 2 years later. Later, as an adult, he wants to find out who he truly is because he wonders – is he really the kidnapped baby? There are some very wild twists in this movie. I would definitely recommend watching it. The now grown baby, Paul Fronczak, narrates his own story. The team behind “Three Identical Strangers” made this film (available on Netflix. If you liked that one, you should see this one.
Watched Thursday 22 April.

Children of the Enemy

By Gorki Glaser-Müller
This was my first movie of the day, started early in the morning, and it was hard. I had to stop it a few times just to breath – and because I sobbed loudly at one point. I sobbed many times throughout the movie, while a rage seethed inside. Rage at governments who don’t think they can just fetch children back to their home countries from awful conditions in refugee camps in Syria because it is the right thing to do. They have their excuses while the children languish and suffer. I would really like the Danish parliament to see this movie and see if it would persuade them to finally bring the Danish children in Syrian refugee camps back to Denmark to give them a chance at a decent life. A Swedish grandfather does what the government won’t do. He fights to get his 7 orphaned grandchildren out of the Al Hol camp in Syria and bring them back to Sweden. Their parents were involved in ISIS, and both of them are now dead. The children are malnourished and at an extra risk being on their own in the camp. I stopped the film at one point to write to the Minister for Immigration and Integratin, Mattias Tesfaye, and the Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, to ask them to just bring the Danish children in Al Hol back to Denmark now with their mothers. Very, very moving documentary. I would encourage everyone to see it.
Watched Friday 23 April.

Sisters with Transistors

By Lisa Rovner
This is the story of the lesser known or unknown women who composed or worked with electronic music from the 1930s on. They have a website at sisterswithtransistors.com. I am not keen on listening to electronic music for its own sake, but the story of these women was utterly fascinating. I admired their passion and their feminism. I was delighted to learn about Della Derbyshire who is the composer behind the Doctor Who theme, and Bebe Barron, who composed the music for the movie “The Forbidden Planet” together with her husband, Louis Barron. I was surprised Else Marie Pade was not included, but maybe she is considered more famous and not so unknown. The curiosity and DIY attitude (often driven by need when the industry excluded or ignored women) was fascinating and inspiring. The story was narrated by Laurie Anderson, so that was a huge draw for me, too. The Guardian wrote a review about the documentary.
Watched Friday 23 April.

Sasquatch

By Joshua Rofé
This is a three-part documentary where “gonzo-journalist” David Holthouse seeks to find out what actually happened in 1993 in Mendocino County, California. He overheard a very odd conversation and wondered whether he had truly just heard that the mysterious Sasquatch had killed three people. As the film unfolds, you realise this movie is really about the monsters that live among us and not mythological creatures. It is really hard to say more without spoiling the enjoyment of the story. Sometimes, the journey is just as important as the conclusion…
Watched Friday 23 April.

Banksy

By Aurélia Rouvier & Seamus Haley
Banksy is a mysterious person who fascinates. I enjoy his art, so of course I had to see this. It is interesting to think about why he is important and why his anonymity is important. I agree with the idea that his art is for the people and should be available to all people. I did not like rich people coming in and buying buildings on which he had created art just so they could cut out the art and ship it off to an art show or wherever. I also found myself wondering whether Banksy has become part of the world which he has been mocking/satirising/pointing a finger at…
Watched Friday 23 April.

American Utopia

By Spike Lee
Joy, joy, joy. I was dancing in my chair throughout this movie. This looked like an amazing concert. I loved David Byrne’s commentary between songs, and I am impressed by all his energy at the age of 67. The orchestra was an absolute delight. It is clear that there was space for all of them to perform, so I could really enjoy every single one of them. The orchestra was a unified whole, but they were all individuals. David Byrne gave them all room to shine so it was clearly a collective project even though his name is the famous one. That, and his wanting to perform Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout” because “he still need to change”, was so good to see. I could definitely watch this again when I need a bit of pep in my day!
Watched Saturday 24 April.

Oh, It Hertz

By Gunnar Hall Jensen
I was drawn in by the description of a conspiracy story about Nazi manipulation of sound. It sound like pure tinfoil hat territory, and I was curious. The story of moving the standard frequency of the tone A from 432 Hertz to 440 Hertz opens the movie, but then I feel we go off into other territory. I don’t feel the storyline is that tight, if it is indeed supposed to be driven by the conspiracy theory. However, we are told some fascinating personal stories about sound, so I was fine with the anecdotal feeling I got. I really enjoyed meeting Dame Evelyn Glennie whose biography I have on my bookshelf (unread), but who I find to be an amazing woman. She gave a brilliant explanation of how she hears (she has been deaf since she was 12) and how we should hear.
Watched Saturday 24 April.

Misha and the Wolves

By Sam Hobkinson
When something is unbelievable and amazing, maybe it is unbelievable for a reason? I don’t remember ever hearing about this in the news so the entire story was news to me, and I settled in for some entertainment. The unfolding of the story was something. You do realise both from the blurb and from the way the story is built up, that something will be revealed, so the reveal is not a complete surprise. It is difficult to say much more. The question is what stories do we want to tell and what stories do we want to hear…
Watched Saturday 24 April.

Enemies of the State

By Sonia Kennebeck
This blew my mind. I am not sure who or what to believe. Who is manipulating who? Who is telling the truth? Who has turned lies into truth? Does anyone know what is true any more?
Watched Saturday 24 April.

Min bror, Mit hjem

By Kathrine Ravn Kruse
This was such a moving and tense documentary about a young refugee’s long journey to asylum in Denmark. The stress and anxiety that refugees are under is so obvious in this film. It is completely understandable, and the woman they call mom obviously got that. If only the government of Denmark “got it”, too, and didn’t drag out the paperwork for months and years so that the waiting refugees go down with stress. It is inhumane and unbearable to watch. I was on the edge of my seat, and that is actually not a good thing. These stories should not be nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat stories. They should be compassionate, understanding, and tolerant. This is another must-see for a lot of politicians. Please see this movie. Make time for it. It is important.
Watched Saturday 24 April.

United States vs Reality Winner

by Sonia Kennebeck
I was outraged by the political manipulation revealed in this movie. Reality Leigh Winner did leak a document, but it was not a document that threatened the defences of the United States as the use of the espionage act would imply. If it had, it would be something about the military movement, which logically is a thing involving defence. This was about the threat of election of election fraud. Someone outside the US was fiddling with the US election process. That is a clear violation of democracy, and she should be lauded for revealing it. If she is charged and punished as severely as she has been, I can personally only interpret this as a cover-up by politicians, which is, in my book, a crime, plain and simple. I also watched the Q&A with the director afterward, too, which is a nice bonus from the festival. As Edward Snowden says at the end of the film, the US should have been ashamed about this situation and not bragging about what they did to Reality Leigh Winner. The FBI interrogation at the beginning of the film that did not include a reading her rights also shocked me. That also seems like a massive violation of her own rights. My mind also boggled when somewhere early on, someone implied that at age 25, she would be too immature to make a decision about leaking a document, as in “who does she think she is, the young whippersnapper”, yet she was entrusted with all that top-secret information in her ordinary job that was literally life-and-death information. That was such a glaring contradiction in my mind! I did also think about whether her skin colour saved her from further “problems” with the FBI and the police. I shudder to think of that. Despite my boiling blood, this was a brilliant documentary by the same director who did “Enemies of the State”.
Watched Sunday 25 April.

Writing with Fire

by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh
I am so glad I now know about Khabar Lahariya (in Hindi), a hyperlocal news site from Uttar Pradesh, run by some very strong Dalit, tribal, and Muslim women journalists. Big ups to the directors for making a “lean machine” to make the documentary so as not detract from the journalists, which could have changed the direction entirely, if the people interviewed realised that a documentary was being made. There were cases where a single woman journalist faced a crowd of mansplaining chauvinistic men, asking questions about some issue. Due to the discretion of the film crew, we could see their sexism in all its glory. It was also beautiful to see Meera’s guidance and leadership to help Shyamkali’s journalistic skills during the movie. Meera Devi, Suneeta Prajapati, and Shyamkali Devi, you and your colleagues are amazing. All the power to you! I also thought about the need for electricity and power banks to power up all those mobile phones, and my accessibility-and-usability heart was in awe of their resilience to cope with all the technology barriers they found (while flipping a mental bird to all the developers and designers who think everyone has unlimited resources).
Watched Sunday 25 April.

Room Without a View

By Roser Corella
Last year at CPH:DOX, I saw Overseas by Sung-A Yoon, and this documentary continues the same horrible story about modern-day slavery, this time in Beirut. Here, the loophole for this exploitation is the Kafala system. A lot came out about the Kafala system after the tragic explosion in August 2020 in Beirut. If you haven’t see “Overseas” (which you should see), see “Room Without a View” at CPH:DOX.
Watched Sunday 25 April.

2 Comments

  1. Chris
    Chris 12 May 2021

    Hi. Saw a few of these during cph:dox. Enjoyed the twists in Lost Sons and Room without a View sure was emotionally impactful. I predict in a couple of years there will be a doc about Qatar and the boycott controversy of the World Cup. Thanks for putting Else Marie Pade on my radar! Will you be posting a part 2? If has any interest, my reviews from the festival can be located here: https://letterboxd.com/mas365/tag/cph:dox-2021/reviews/

    • Mardahl
      Mardahl 16 May 2021

      Thanks for sharing the link to your reviews. I will skim those laters. As you can see from my reply to you, I am a bit slow in following up here! I am not knowledgeable about electronic music at all, but I do know that Else Marie Pade is definitely a Big Name in that area. As you have discovered, there is a part 2, and I just posted the third and final post. Thank you for following along!

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