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CPH:DOX 2024 CPH:DOX Industry

REPORT: CPH:FORUM 2024

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- We profile the most intriguing projects presented across the CPH:FORUM, CHANGE and WIP sections at this year’s edition of the Danish industry event

REPORT: CPH:FORUM 2024
Podium (You Have Three Minutes) by Rachel Leah Jones

The pitching market of CPH:DOX, the CPH:FORUM, held its 16th edition this year. The pitching sessions showcased 32 projects across the CHANGE, WIP and the main FORUM sections, taking place in Stærekassen over four days. Here, we profile the most interesting European projects, and you can read in detail about the winners of the two Eurimages awards, Timestamp (click here) and Garden Alchemy (click here), in our interviews with the filmmakers.

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CPH:FORUM

UniFrance Doc Award
Podium (You Have Three Minutes)Rachel Leah Jones (Israel/Canada/Switzerland/France)
Production: Home Made Docs, Close Up Films, Filmoption International, Temps Noir
The Advocate [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rachel Leah Jones, Lea Tsemel
film profile
]
team, consisting of director-producer Rachel Leah Jones and producer-cinematographer Philippe Bellaïche, return with another political, and probably no less fiery, story about the Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset. Assembled as a collection of three-minute speeches carefully curated from tens of thousands, the documentary shows how these lawmakers — which include poets, playwrights, philosophers, doctors, lawyers, educators and feminist activists, and account for only 10% of the Knesset, even though Palestinians account for 20% of Israel’s population — fight to exercise their right to speak and assert their right to exist. The film is in production and is expected to be finished in August 2025. Already supported by France Télévisions and Radio Télévision Suisse, it was boarded by Dutch broadcaster VPRO after the pitch at CPH:FORUM.

Children of Honey by Jigar Ganatra

Rise and Shine Award
Children of HoneyJigar Ganatra (Tanzania/UK)
Production: Storyboard Studios
Tanzanian director Jigar Ganatra, known for creating eco-philosophical documentaries, joins forces with UK producer Natalie Humphreys, who used to head Factual at the BBC, for Children of Honey. It is a story of the ancient hunter-gatherer Hadzabe tribe, following and co-created with the community. It is told through the eyes of the next generation, who are trying to balance their indigenous upbringing with the accelerating pressures of the modern world and climate change. With 90% of their land now gone, three youngsters are taking up cameras and generously inviting us into their rarely seen culture, which is on the brink of disappearing. Through a collaborative approach, the film promises a fresh and impactful perspective in order to immerse the viewer in an uncontrived human-nature relationship. The project is in development, expected to be released in 2025/26, has support from Documentary Campus and the BBC, and has just been shortlisted for The Whickers Award.

Karsai vs Hungary - Marcell Gerő (Hungary/France)
Production: Campfilm Production, Films de Force Majeure
Two documentary powerhouses, Sára László, of Hungary’s Campfilm (Her Mothers [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Asia Dér, Sári Haragonics
film profile
]
, Return to Epipo [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), and Jean-Laurent Csinidis, of France’s Films de Force Majeure (The Flats [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, Little Palestine: Diary of a Siege [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), join forces for Cain’s Children [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
director Marcell Gerő’s second feature-length documentary, Karsai vs Hungary. It is a story of constitutional lawyer Dániel Karsai, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2022 at the age of 45. Knowing what is coming for him, and that his friends and relatives could be punished with several years in prison should they help him pass away with dignity, he launches a case against Hungary at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The film is in development, so far with private investment from the production companies, and bearing in mind the topic, it is unlikely to expect to get funding at home, which is one of the reasons we are highlighting it in this report. The release is expected in 2026.

The Invisible World by Talal Derki

The Invisible World – Talal Derki (Germany)
Production: Jouzour Film Production, Basis Berlin Filmproduktion
Syria’s Talal Derki, the director of Of Fathers and Sons [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 and Return to Homs [+see also:
trailer
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]
, and producer of Hollywoodgate [+see also:
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trailer
film profile
]
 and Under the Sky of Damascus [+see also:
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film profile
]
, returns with a project that departs from his direct involvement in urgent political issues, but retains his participation in his films. In The Invisible World, he embarks on a spiritual exploration from the Western Sahara, through Mongolia's plains and mountains, to the Amazon rainforests, delving into profound inquiries about the existence of invisible consciousness among people. Derki narrates three stories recounting the experiences of shamans and the healing of patients. He will immerse himself in the rituals to create a nuanced understanding. In addition to Heba Khaled and Charlotte Reekers from Jouzour Production, the project is being co-produced by Ansgar Frerich and Uschi Feldges, of Basis Berlin Filmproduktion. It is in development and is expected to be released in May 2026, with a running time of 120 minutes. 

Showtime in HelsinkiArthur Franck (Finland/Sweden)
Production: Polygraf, Story AB
Rogue Reporters and The Hypnotist [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
director Arthur Franck tackles perhaps the most important and simultaneously the most forgotten event of the Cold War: the Helsinki Accords from 1975. Through ample archive footage, Showtime in Helsinki deconstructs the anatomy of an often-misunderstood diplomatic process, and reveals how it came to impact the world in a decisive way. Featuring Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger, Leonid Brezhnev, Harold Wilson, Erich Honecker, Valery Giscard D'Estaing, Olof Palme and Josip Broz Tito, the film utilises declassified transcripts, reimagined through AI voice-simulation technology. Judging by the trailer shown at CPH:FORUM, Franck approaches the story with a flair for playful cynicism. Produced by Sandra Enkvist, of Helsinki-based Polygraf, the project is in development and is expected to be released in March 2025. It is being supported by the Finnish Film Foundation, AVEK and YLE.

Whispers in May by Dongnan Chen

Whispers in MayDongnan Chen (China/Netherlands)
Production: Tail Bite Tail Films, Muyi Film
Chinese-Dutch producer Jia Zhao, known for award-winning films such as A Marble Travelogue [+see also:
film review
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]
and Kabul, City in the Wind [+see also:
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film profile
]
, teams up with Chinese director Dongnan Chen, whose shorts were nominated for an Emmy and competed at IDFA while her first feature-length documentary, Singing in the Wilderness, screened at Rotterdam. In Whispers in May, 14-year-old Qinghua gets her first period, and in her Yi ethnic minority’s tradition, this demands a special skirt for her menarche ceremony, which could be an introduction to an arranged marriage. But as her parents live in faraway towns, Qinghua hides it from them and instead embarks with two friends on a journey to find the skirt. Made in close collaboration with the protagonists, and relying on spontaneity and improvisation, the project is in production and should be ready by January 2025. Field of Vision confirmed its support for the project during the pitching at CPH:FORUM, and it has secured support from the IDFA Bertha Fund, DMZ, FreshPitch, Xining First Documentary Lab, Tokyo Docs and CCDF.

OrienteJuan Alvaro Hein (Denmark/Argentina)
Production: Good Company Pictures, Cactus Cine LLC
Danish producer Sidsel Lønvig Siersted (Apolonia, Apolonia [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Lea Glob
film profile
]
) from Good Company Pictures goes to Argentina with visual artist and filmmaker Juan Alvaro Hein as he explores his own hybrid origin through Oriente, a western documentary about fatherhood and identity, experienced through three Danish-Argentinian gauchos. In the heart of the Argentinean Pampas, on the outskirts of the titular town, lies a ranch run by Gustavo Hastrup, a devoted gaucho struggling to preserve a fading way of life. With his three sons opting for different futures, Gustavo faces the challenge of securing the ranch's survival. His youngest, Leandro, will stay for one last task of herding 30 horses to another ranch in order to finish a sale and save the family business. They are joined by Pitu, a young rural worker who is about to become a father, and they embark on a three-day journey, confronting the harsh realities of the Pampas and the looming threat of a resurgent horse virus. Through the intertwined fates of the three men, Oriente celebrates the enduring spirit of tradition and resilience, and the universal quests for love and belonging. The project is in development, with funding from the DFI, and should be finished by March 2025.

CHANGE

CHANGE, CPH:DOX’s development co-production training programme organised in collaboration with International Media Support and EAVE, features documentary projects from the European Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Many of these are delicate and thus confidential; Cineuropa profiles the two most interesting ones out of the eight presented this year.

Language X by Tanya Haurylchyk

Language X - Tanya Haurylchyk (Poland/Germany)
It is hardly a surprise to find a nominally Polish production in this section: producer Katerina Barushka is part of the new Belarusian, Warsaw-based company Skaryna Foundation. She teams up with Tanya Haurylchyk, whose credits as a cinematographer include Aliaksei Paluyan’s Courage [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Aliaksei Paluyan and Jörn M…
film profile
]
and the 2019 IDFA title Aswang [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Alyx Ayn G Arumpac, for her first feature-length documentary as a director, Language X, about the fight for the preservation of the Belarusian language. The story focuses on schoolgirl Yalinka, who, for nine years, has been the only student in Belarusian class in the country where Lukashenko has actively been pushing for everything Russian. Her parents had to fight for her constitutional right to pick her native language over Russian, and after the 2020 uprising, they flee to Poland, following the criminal prosecution of Yalinka’s father. So far, this exciting project only has the company’s own investment. It is planned to have a 52- and an 80-minute version, expected to be ready in March 2026.

Sacred SongsNona Giunashvili (Georgia)
Production: 17/07
The first feature-length documentary by Georgian director Nona Giunashvili tells the story of four Muslim women singers in the Pankisi Valley, which is populated by ethnic Chechens and has gained a reputation as a hotbed of radical Islam. With 30 years’ experience on international stages, the women bridge the gap between the mosque and the public stage. But when the youngest of them decides to put on a hijab and leave the group, her mother emerges as the central figure, embodying the struggle for their unique cultural identity. Produced by Mariam Bitsadze (The Feast), of 17/07, the project is in development with funding from the Georgian National Film Center and is expected to be released in February 2026.

CPH:WIP

The eighth edition of CPH:WIP, showcasing documentary works in progress, presented six projects near completion. We profile the two most interesting European ones.

Burnt EarthJohn Webster (Finland/Sweden/Denmark)
Production: Yellow Film & TV Ltd, We Have A Plan, Angel Films
After exploring labour issues in The Happy Worker, John Webster trains his lens on climate change or, more precisely, a group of Finnish firefighters who are preparing for the worst, as models predict that wildfires that are increasingly engulfing Europe every summer are coming to the far north, too. Burnt Earth follows 49 men and one woman as they travel to Portugal to learn from the continent’s most experienced firefighters, culminating in a month-long field operation. It is a character-driven story about ordinary, relatable people, and judging by the trailer, the language barrier between the two groups will actually help them grow closer, in addition to giving a humorous aspect to the film. With support from the Finnish Film Foundation and AVEK, as well as the national broadcasters of Finland, Sweden and Iceland, the film should be ready for release in January 2025.

North South Man Woman by Morten Traavik and Mary Sun Kim

North South Man WomanMorten Traavik, Mary Sun Kim (Norway/Latvia/South Korea)
Production: Studio Kozlovski, VFS Films, Mirror & Story
Following Liberation Day [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, Morten Traavik remains on the Korean peninsula with the story of businesswoman Han Yujin's marriage agency, which matches women defectors from her native North Korea with South Korean men, challenging perceptions of both groups in the process. Co-directed with researcher Mary Sun Kim, North South Man Woman explores how Yujin is navigating an intricate and highly sensitive environment of social conventions, cultural differences and geopolitical tensions, often remaining a confidante, therapist and cultural translator to her successfully matched couples. Supported by Eurimages, the Nordisk Film & TV Fund, the Norwegian Film Institute, Fritt Ord, FFLB, the National Film Centre of Latvia and the Seoul Film Commission, the film will be ready for release in January 2025.

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