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REPORT: East Doc Platform 2016

by Vladan Petkovic

The Institute of Documentary Film's East Doc Platform took place from 7-13 March in Prague, during the One World Festival; Cineuropa profiles the nine award winners that were presented at the ceremony on Saturday 12 March.

East Doc Platform Development Award:
When the War Comes (Czech Republic)
Director: Jan Gebert
Producers: Radovan Sibrt, Viktoria Hozzova (PINK)
Co-producer: Tereza Polachova (HBO Europe)
Status: In production 

The project follows Peter, a seemingly average Slovak teenager just out of high school, who is the leader of a paramilitary unit called 'Slovenski branci'. They meet in the hills and mountains, founding a make-believe totalitarian community training for the final clash of civilizations. The trailer presented by the team in Prague shows youngsters in uniforms bearing old Slovak and Nazi insignia, training for war with real weapons and lecturing to small group of people in a village.

Last week’s news from the Slovak elections, in which the neo-Nazi Marian Kotleba's People's Party, Our Slovakia, garnered 14 seats in the Parliament, certainly didn't hurt the project's chances in front of the expert jury.

Czech TV Post-Production Award:
Russian Viewfinders (France)
Director: Alexander Abaturov
Producer: Olivier Mille (Artline Films)
Executive producer: Katya Panova
Status: In development

Russian Viewfinders explores Russia through the lens of a new generation of documentary photographers. Free from censorship, they portray the contradictory mutations to which their country has been subjected. Russia's image is often reduced to the cliché of a post-industrial desert under the weight of history, populated by the poor and run by a corrupt government. Although this is a part of the current situation, the filmmakers intend to go beyond the commonplace representations of their country in order to grasp Russia's current reality in all its complexity.

HBO Co-Production Award:
Prisoners Without Prison (Albania)
Director: Verjana Abazaj
Producer: Artan Malaj (movi(e)on)
Executive producer: Parid Andoni (Filterfilm)
World sales: LOI Deckert Distribution (Germany)
Status: In development

Tackling the topic of blood feuds, still rampant in Albania in 21st century, the director follows a volunteer teacher named Liljana who defies local customs to bring education and food to those afflicted by them. According to the tradition known as Kanun Law, if a crime is committed, it doesn't matter if the killer is in prison or has left Albania: one of their relatives will pay with their own blood. They are only protected in their own houses, so they effectively end up as prisoners. Liljana goes to these houses to teach children and deliver food. Some of her students have been shot, while others are in prison for having killed in defense of family honour.

Golden Funnel Award:
For Mother's Sake? (Switzerland)
Directors: Nikola Ilic, Corina Schwingruber Ilic
Producer: Franziska Sonder (Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion AG)
Status: In development

Nikola Ilic's mother has learning disabilities and could never adequately take care of him, so his grandmother raised him while also taking care of his mother. Nikola moved to Switzerland ten years ago to marry Corina, and his grandmother died last year. Now he is left to take care of his mother. He tried moving her to Switzerland, but it didn't work out: she only speaks Serbian and has a love of stray dogs, neither of which is particularly helpful there. So she moved back to Serbia, and now Ilic splits his time between Lucerne and Belgrade, trying to keep up both with his family life and his mother. For Mother's Sake? is a personal documentary about this journey, but also includes some episodes that provide insight into the societies and cultures of both Serbia and Switzerland.

IDFA Forum Award:
Planeta Pietrila (Romania)
Director: Andrei Dascalescu
Producer: Anamaria Antoci (Filmlab)
Status: In production

Pietrila is a mining town in Romania, home to the deepest coal mine in Europe, which was closed down in 2015. The film shows a handful of miners still digging out the coal while bulldozers take down the buildings on the surface. But in this grim setting, peculiar sights can be seen: painted garage doors, a house with colourful comics on the walls, poetry, quotes, caricatures and activist messages on walls across the town. It is the work of Ion Barbu, a 61 year-old ex-miner turned activist and artist. While the authorities are demolishing the place, Barbu dreams of a cultural life. But his street art, creative protests, and absurd events fail in gaining support for the cause, always gathering the same group of local women who see him as a true messiah, while the rest of the community regards him as an eccentric, and the authorities see him as a pain in the ass…

Dascalescu won the IDFA First Appearance award and a special mention at Sarajevo for Constantin and Elena (2008). Antoci is better known for fiction films, including two by Adrian Sitaru: this year's Berlinale title Illegitimate and the upcoming The Fixer

DocsBarcelona Award:
Occupied Cinema (Serbia/Croatia)
Director: Senka Domanovic
Producer: Snezana Penev (This and That Productions, Serbia)
Co-producer: Sinisa Juricic (Nukleus Film, Croatia)
Status: In production 

Occupied Cinema is an inside look at an unusual form of civil protest that started as a guerilla takeover of the cinema Zvezda, one of the 14 cinemas formerly owned by the public company Beograd Film, privatised in 2007. They were sold to a shady businessman “for peanuts” and he basically destroyed them over the course of the next five years. In November 2014, a group of filmmakers and activists organised a forced entry into the cinema and held a premiere screening of Mina Djukic's The Disobedient. And then they stayed…indefinitely. The move gained attention – the cinema was visited by Alexis Tsipras at height of his campaigning, Alain Badiou chose it for his press conference at the time of Charlie Hebdo shootings, and Michel Gondry made a short animated film about it. But the occupiers very quickly split into two factions, which can be roughly described as "political" and "apolitical"… 

Both Penev and Juricic have so far made several successful films, and their most recent joint outing is Mirjana Karanovic's A Good Wife. Domanovic may be a debutant when it comes to feature length films, but is a true insider on this topic.

DOK Leipzig Co-Production Award:
Avtovaz (Czech Republic)
Director: Petr Horky
Producer: Martin Juza (Krutart Audiovisual Production)
Status: In development

The very effective logline for Avtovaz reads: “Avtovaz. A car factory with many employees, but zero workers”. The Russian car factory of the title is most well known as a manufacturer of Lada vehicles. But although it has continued to make cars after the breakdown of USSR, it hasn't made a profit in 20 years, losing billions of rubles. The government hired a Swedish expert, Bo Inge Andersson, who started off by firing 15,000 workers. Horky and Juza revealed at East Doc Forum that Andersson has recently been fired, which certainly adds to the potential of the project.

DOK Preview Award:
Over the Limit (Poland/Germany)
Director: Marta Prus
Producer: Maciej Kubicki (Telemark, Poland)
Co-producer: Hans Robert Eisenhauer (Ventana Films, Germany)
Status: In production

An intimate portrait of the great rhythmic gymnast, Margarita Mamun, the eldest member of the prestigious Russian National Team, the film follows her in a ground-breaking year in her life: from the 2015 World Championship to the 2016 Olympic Games. This is her final chance to compete at the Olympics, but her place on the team is threatened by two other excellent athletes.

Prus is a screenwriter and director who worked with MTV Poland and recently premiered Talk to Me, a mid-length documentary, at the Krakow Film Festival. She is also a former gymnast.

id w / interactive documentary workshop Award:
The Future of Forever
Director: Ana Brzezinska
Producer: Lukasz Borzecki
Status: In development

The winner of the award for a project with most transmedia potential, The Future of Forever takes the supposed apocalypse of 21 December 2012 as an ironic starting point for an international story about pioneers who have different plans for the human race. Their goal is to find the answer to the question, “How can mankind survive and develop?” Transhumanists who believe we should conquer death, space explorers hoping to invade Mars, and an outstanding group of geeks from the Sylicon Valley, who believe mind uploading will allow us to live forever. Transmedia platforms for the project include an interactive website, games, mobile apps, and a webseries. 


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