Alberi – An interview with Michelangelo Frammartino, and Andrea Cleopatria

© Michelangelo Frammartino

© Michelangelo Frammartino

In occasion of “Alberi” projection in Milan, we met Michelangelo Frammartino to talk about his last work, which comes as installation at Cinema Manzoni in Milan. After the debut at New York PS1 Museum and the presentation at Copenhagen film festival CPH:DOX we spoke with Frammartino about his movie-installation, about Romiti, woody cults, and his own idea of cinema with the support of Andrea Cleopatria, emergent Milanese filmmaker who is working out his first full-long movie.

“Alberi” is a short movie which lasts 28 minutes, shot in digital, a dialogue-free portrait of a pagan, carnevalesque ritual with dark roots in a medieval fertility cult, ( Editor’s Note: the ritual takes place in the Italian town of Satriarno, where men dress up in branches and leaves, and in a re-enactment of the ancient ritual are turned into “romiti”: ghostlike, wandering trees in a symbiotic encounter between men and nature) . In Frammartino’s work we can see the city inhabitants meeting in the morning to go to the forest, wear some leaves and ivy, and then coming back to the little town in a slow motion parade like a walking forest. (Editor’s Note: Vivo Film/Essential Filmproduktion, Italy, 2013, 33m. “Alberi” was produced by Marta Donzelli, Gregorio Paonessa, Philippe Bober).

Luca Castiglioni: We just left Cinema Manzoni, where we watched “Alberi” on poufs: a good sensation.

Michelangelo Frammartino: Have you chosen the poufs? A nice diving eh! It has been a precise proposal to present it in that location, after the experience of Copenhagen, where the film has been presented in a gallery (Editor’s Note: “Alberi” was presented at Den Frie Center of Contemporary Art).

L: Tell me about Copenhagen and your participation at CPH:DOX festival, how did you change the “Alberi” staging?

© Michelangelo Frammartino

© Michelangelo Frammartino

M: I took part to the festival two years ago and I created a good feeling with the whole environment and Tine Fischer, festival director. Moreover, I presented “Alberi” two years ago as a “work in progress project”, as the festival has a part in which you can meet partners and stakeholders to present them the ideas you would like to create; that was just the beginning. Once completed “Alberi”, Tine asked us to present it at CPH:DOX, where, after the presentation on a round stage at PS1, we screened it in an octagonal space inside a XIX century wooden gallery.

L: Love at first sight?

M: We liked a lot performing “Alberi” in the wood, even if, obviously, we had some trouble and imperfections, but also a lot of interesting and enchanting moments. I would not do it again, but this is its origin.

L: And in Milan?

M: Here my ambition was to think about the limit between cinema and other visual devices: a cinematographic work, but nor video art nor installation. We called it cine-installation, for its strong debt with cinema, even if, in comparison with that, it doesn’t deal with it in a direct way: it is not a movie, but it is quite close to cinema. We projected it inside Cinema Manzoni, leaving the audience free to choose their place inside the room and decide to watch it sitting as if it were a movie, or laying down on the poufs below the screen.

© Michelangelo Frammartino

© Michelangelo Frammartino

L: We were discussing about how huge was the projection looking up to it from the poufs, was this your aim?

M: When we performed it at MoMA, people felt the same way. We have never seen, while working, such huge images for such long periods of work, with the possibility to touch it too. It makes you feel tiny in comparison with something fading away, now the pictures are step by step smaller. Giving this feeling of greatness means giving to the cinema a sacred dimension, as a cathedral. Cinema is a rite, “Alberi” is a rite too and it was necessary this physical dimension of feeling oneself small, a sacred respect.

Andrea Cleopatria: I thought about that while watching your long-full movie “Le Quattro Volte”, I caught your interest to work with the ancient, as a sacred term, which can not reach our memory, but with a characterized and current cinematographic language, close to the doc-movie languages. There is an important gap between what you tell and the way you do it.

M: It is true, I am working with a situation which brings us back, and going back is in my opinion a very interesting point because it concerns our origins.

A: Yeah, in “Le Quattro Volte”, there is an ancient tradition, but it is still present nowadays, it supports itself; while in “Alberi”, you talk about a myth or something more ancient, we are not even sure about its origin.

© Michelangelo Frammartino

© Michelangelo Frammartino

M: You are right, it is obvious that working on regression is a contemporary action. If you are insecure, you work on construction processes, you feel stronger in spite of the unpredictable; when you get your calm you are able to de-construct. It’s a conflict, I agree with you, working with the present to face the past, but the present itself is a composure that allows you to look back.

A: Using a current language, it is not classic direction, during some scene it reminded me certain camera movements of Reygadas or Alonso works.

M: At the beginning, the wood scene, “Los muertos” of Lisandro Alonso or that of sunrise in Stellet licht” of Carlos Reygadas: these are two masters, very important for me, are recognized landmarks, you know their work and looking at them you can find lot of references, even Béla Tarr for the duration. I watched “Los Muertos” 10 times!

A: Moreover, watching “Stellet licht” the landmark is direct, it talks about a person who doesn’t exist anymore and who speaks a disappeared language; it links the people with the idea of being humans, and being humans in relationship with nature.

M: The interesting thing when I worked out “Le Quattro Volte”, was to work in territories which reverse the hierarchies, when you see that people worship a tree and they drag it by arms to the town: you do not realize completely where you are. Nature becomes the main character and mankind disappears. It’s a linguistic overturn because the visual language is focused on human presence. In Lucania, plants are protagonists. These woody cults have been a revolution: in a movie, Robert De Niro, stands in front of the tree, also for a fee question, here it is the opposite, the tree is primary. These could seem banalities, but the cinema is so anthropocentric that this awareness is unbalancing and expands the production and creation times.

© Michelangelo Frammartino

© Michelangelo Frammartino

A: I understand, furthermore this result creates an incredible visual power: when you focus on a tree, that tree turn itself into something sacred, and it needs to be properly focused on.

M: The casting for the shepherd in “Le Quattro Volte” has been done with three people, the one of the tree with 300 different trees. You can work on the shepherd, but not on the tree, you have to respect inhuman times.

L: In “Le Quattro Volte”, you filmed the real tree ceremony, while in “Alberi” everything is mise-en-scene, which is the reason of this choice?

M: There is a difference, in “Le Quattro Volte”, I could not direct the process, I only tried to follow it in the better way I could. On the other hand, the Romiti cult in “Alberi” was weakening, almost disappeared. Nobody performed it anymore, the only way to film it was to create the mise-en-scene. In this way I would have given force to the ritual, it was a way to refresh the tradition; it would have created this oniric situation for the inhabitants of this village which well fitted the oniric dimension of the Romiti, being these very strong in their mind but not in the reality. Now it has almost become a renovation and a rite, and the funny thing is that now they keep alive this tradition even in a no-carnival context. The forest which goes to the square, almost a performance action. Usually the image comes after the event, here it seems to come first. I do not deserve it, I feel it as the fulfillment of something that was expected.

Michelangelo Frammartino, (b.1967, Milan) Lives and works in Milan, he is a director and writer, known for “Le Quattro Volte” (2010), displayed at Cannes Quinzaine, “Il Dono” (2003) and “Scappa Valentina”(2001).

Andrea Cleopatria, (b.1987, Milan), Lives and works in Milan, he is actually closing his first full-long movie.

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Mother Earth – Alpi

 

Being born in Turin, the alpine landscape has been a constant presence in my horizon. Ever since I was little I travelled all over the Alps, Italian and French, the discovery of nature. Rocks and meadows, springs and rivers, but also cows and sheep, snow and ski, are just some of the essential elements in my growth, visual souvenirs that I found again as stills from Alpi. A place is a state of mind, it is said, but in the case of the Alps, the opposite is the case: here, the state of mind is the place, independent of national and geographic circumstances. Armin Linke’s film is the result of seven years of research with the Alps as a focal point of global transformations, of modernity and its illusions. That is why the film starts with a crew from India, showing how they use the landscape of the Alps in relation to their own identity, a kind of reverse exoticism, perhaps unnecessary.

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

But the topic of non-places, especially in French Alps, of mountains largely built of barracks, and then been abandoned because of seasonal tourism, is something I have been introduced to by Mario Matto, professor of Economics and Tourism Policies at Università degli Studi di Torino. The revitalization and development of the tourism sector being essential, to ensure a stable employment base for the population that still lives in the mountains. Also proposed by Reinhold Messner who writes in Geo December 2006 under the title “Farewell to the Alps”: “What the culture of the city has resulted in the mountains is an irresponsible, uncivilized, mass tourism of robbery. Cement has filled the valleys and peaks of cable cars and lifts. A savage and brutal assault is giving the last shot alpine habitat. I’m not against tourism, but you have to control it, bring it back to the rules, get used to a slower pace”. In a nutshell, we face a lack of the famous term of professor Matto, sustainable tourism, in respect of local traditions and culture.

Courtesy of Frankfurter Kunstverein

Courtesy of Frankfurter Kunstverein

As Armin Linke, who directed the research together with Renato Rinaldi and Piero Zanini, says: “The film works like a spaceship that transports viewers from one place to another, between seven countries and five different languages, but without telling them. Basically it’s a kind of space machine, and you never declare to the audience that you are transporting them to another place. So it always questions more than it explains. I see this as a game with the viewer”. The scenes are not only shifting from place to place, but from question to question, from theme to theme. So we find Pastore Giordano the 75-year-old sheppard who decided to live alone instead of going for job at the factory in the valley, the police trainings at Académie de Police in St. Maurice, Switzerland; an Olympic touch at the Bergisel Ski Jump Tower in Innsbruck, Austria. A fragment of the No Tav protest in Val di Susa, Italy. For all the people that are born, raised or who just spent  some moments of their life in the Alps, these issues are glimpses of life events, personal experiences and vicissitudes that have marked and still mark the contemporary alpine culture.

Alpi was produced by Studio Armin Linke, Germany, 2011, 62m.

Cph:Dox & Vdrome

Working Title: “A Retrospective Curated by XXXXXXXXX”

Photo Anders Sune Berg

Photo Anders Sune Berg

Yesterday Kunsthal Charlottenborg opened the doors of the exhibition Working Title: “A Retrospective Curated by XXXXXXXXX” featuring the Danish artist group Superflex. The group, which has existed since 1993, consists of Bjørnstjerne Reuter Christiansen (b. 1969), Jakob Fenger (b. 1968) and Rasmus Nielsen (b. 1969). Eight international curators have been invited to offer each their perspective on a Superflex exhibition, creating a retrospective view of a twenty years long, ongoing artistic career. After passing through the Free Beer party, with people drinking and talking in front of a huge wall saying Social Pudding, we entered into the “national” room: there, a massive orange panel is welcoming foreigners saying “Foreigners, please don’t leave us alone with the Danes!”, an institutional version of the smaller free posters that were distributed in front of of a burning Danish flag in led lights and that are also pasted on the window of their studio in Blågårdsgade.

Photo Anders Sune Berg

Photo Anders Sune Berg

The invited curators are Yuko Hasegawa (JP), Eungie Joo (US), Toke Lykkeberg (DK), Daniel McClean and Lisa Rosendahl (UK/SE), Adriano Pedrosa (BR), Agustin Perez Rubio (ES), Hilde Teerlinck (NL) and Rirkrit Tiravanija (TH). All of Superflex’s works having been made available for the curators, they thus had more than 400 works to choose from. Therefore the exhibition Working Title: “A Retrospective Curated by XXXXXXXXX” consists of eight individual exhibitions gathered in the host institution Kunsthal Charlottenborg. In the second main room the discussion is shifted to copyright. “I copy therefore I am” is the very visible statement ad the end of 10 lines of identical chairs which borders have been cut. In the same room there is also a table with transparent bags containing what I suppose to be the ingredients of Free Beer, advertised as “Free as in free speech”, and in fact we had to pay for that. There were also several tables to make a Copylight lamp, people can go through the entire process: choose the design to be copied, print the design, build the structure with wood pieces, add wires and bulbs. And I can’t forget to mention the video Flooded McDonald, with floating clowns and underwater trash.

Photo Anders Sune Berg

Photo Anders Sune Berg

Superflex has exhibited in leading international museums and galleries, including Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk; Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt; Kunsthalle Basel, Basel; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and MoMA, New York, and have participated in a large number of biennials all over the world. In Denmark, Superflex are known for works such as the biogas project Supergas (1996), the poster project Foreigners, please don’t leave us alone with the Danes (2002), Free Beer (2004) and most recently Superkilen (2011) – a permanent park in outer Nørrebro in Copenhagen, developed with BIG Bjarke Ingels Group.

Photo credit: Anders Sune Berg

Photo credit: Anders Sune Berg

Accompanying the exhibition there is a catalogue encompassing all Superflex’s projects and works over the years which will be published in January. Guaranà Power is the theme of one of the last rooms we visited. After that, we arrived to the one you see above, with logos, Pantone reproductions to make Superflex colors and various pictures of the group some years ago. There is much more to see at this exhibition in Charlottenborg, and seminars with the participation of Superflex and the curators will be held soon.

Courtesy of Charlottenborg

Courtesy of Kunsthal Charlottenborg

Kunsthal Charlottenborg

UNDER CONTROL:OUT OF CONTROL:LOSS OF CONTROL With Mads Mikkelsen and Niklas Engstrøm – CPH:DOX Part 2

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Everything is Under Control is this year theme for the Documentary Film Festival CPH:DOX, it is a very general concept to be analyzed, what did you have in mind when you chose the title and is it related to any specific issue?

Mads Mikkelsen: Everything is Under Control is the concept that covers several sections of the festival. The idea behind that concept is that Control is a taboo in non-fiction filmmaking, at least in a traditional form, where documentary thought to be something that is spontaneous, improvised, with a polite distance to the events that the filmmakers are observing and chasing after. A part of the profile of CPH:DOX is that we have been trying to extend documentary screenings to include and integrate other art forms and narratives, stylistic devices, and this concept is a sort of elaboration of that mission of the festival. The idea behind the selected films for that program, was that we would have curate a section which covers four series: the two guest curated programs by AiWeiwei and The Yes Men, a section on China, and then a series called Everything is Under Control, and that is where the concept comes from.

The section Everything is Under Control, really takes that concept and pushes it towards its limits, wherever they are, so it is a section about form, in a sense, where there are films that are make to look like documentaries but are not, films such as Propaganda (Editor’s Note: directed by Slavko Martinov, New Zeland, 2012, 95m.) and Computer Chess (Editor’s Note: directed by Andrew Bujalski, US, 2012, 92m.), where real people are performing their own identities, like in The Machine which Make Everything Disappear (Editor’s Note: directed by Tinatin Gurchiani, original title Manqana, Romelic Kvelafers Gaaqrobs, Georgia/Germany, 2012, 101m.) and in The Dirties (Editor’s Note: directed by Matt Johnson, US, 2013, 83m.). But it is also a section that looks at how Control is managed not only in within the films, but also in the reality that they reflect.

All the films in that section are very different but the one thing that they share is that they are not self contained films, they are also very much intervening with the surrounding reality, and at some point there has also been a lost of control, and the film Propaganda illustrates that. Propaganda was made to looks like a North Korean film, punching western values and American consumer culture, so it’s like 1h30 of something that really looks like a North Korean propaganda film, but that was made in New Zeland. When the film was released it was released as if it was a real North Korean propaganda film, and it backfired because everybody thought it was for real. An actor in the film who is South Korean living in New Zeland, pretended to be a north Korean professor in the film, and everybody in this community in New Zeland thought he was a spy, so they totally excluded him from his South Korean community, he had to move to another school, and then they had to relaunch the campaign for the film to trying to convince everybody that that it was fake, and they sort of lost the control over the film.

Another film that is also interesting to talk about here is Charlie Victor Romeo (Editor’s Note: in European première, directed by Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels and Karyn Michelson, US, 2013, 80m.) is an American film that is actually based on a stage play, it is reenacting tape recording from black boxes, based on six recordings, where there is some sort of problem in emergency landings, and is shooted in 3D. Again it’s a controversial film in that sense, a lot of the films in that section are intervening with reality, instead of simply portraying it, at the same time it is also illustrating in many ways the need for Control, which is also something we wanted to explore with the section, the way that contemporary society, at least in western world, is obsessed with control and safety.

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Having Ai Weiwei as curator naturally goes with a section about China, about control systems and about propaganda at large. How did the collaboration start with Ai Weiwei and how was to have him as a curator?

Niklas Engstrøm: Every winter after the festival, we start the discussions on who should be the guest curator, and this year we had already discussed about having a focus on China, because it will be the 25th anniversary of Chinese documentary, and the situation of Chinese documentary films is really bad at the moment, right now the government and authorities at large are really breaking down all possibilities for Chinese documentaries, they are closing down festivals and so on. So I was planning to go to China to meet Chinese documentaries filmmakers and in this discussion it was very obvious that Ai Weiwei will pop-up.

I should also say that one of the inspirations for all of this came from our knowledge of the new Danish documentary film made by Andreas Johnsen called The Fake Case (Editor’s Note: directed by Andreas Johnsen, Denmark, 2013, 89m.) it is a portrait of Ai Weiwei, it is an observational film about Ai Weiwei, that takes off the American film Never Sorry where it ended. So we had already selected this film as opening film, and with that in mind it was clear to us that there were so many reasons to approach Ai Weiwei.

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

I went to Beijing and talked to the documentaries filmmakers and the director of The Fake Case, Andreas Johnsen, helped me to get in touch with Ai Weiwei and I met with him and had a very interesting conversation about the topic of Control, of having Everything Under Control and again having nothing under control. I approached him in Beijing this spring asking him if he wanted to curate the program, and told him that we had this idea of an overall concept of the festival, and we thought that he would be an amazing curator for this program because exactly of what he is doing: he is so reflective, he is producing documentaries, and he is really an activist, and he is working in an environment that is extremely controlled at least with government that really tries to have Everything Under Control.

His selection of films is very much dealing with power structures and also with the potential of crashing these power structures. Olympia (Editor’s Note: directed by Leni Riefenstahl, Germany, 1938, 239 m.) for instance, is part of that, and it also refers to his own encounter with the Olympic committee in Beijing, he designed the bigger stadium, and afterwards, in 2008, he really started criticizing the Chinese government. I think it has been a wonderful collaboration, extremely elegant, and he also kept the deadlines, which is really hard working with guest curators. It is always a risk to work with guest curators because is not under control!

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Is there a country or geographical area where the documentaries production is out of control? 

Niklas Engstrøm: The Philippines is a good example and China is a very good example, because, and that’s what Ai Weiwei says in the video where he presents his program, “In the information age nothing is under control”, and China is a paradox because it is one of the countries which try the most to have Everything Under Control, but the country is so extremely big and so extremely complex that is impossible to control the films been made, so the story of Chinese documentaries is extremely interesting and so closely related to the technical development of the small digital cameras. Suddenly people, especially artists, they can take their small cameras, go out and film the reality that they see, and it is a very different reality than both the one that is presented by Beijing and authorities, and also than the reality presented by western media. It’s really a row, harsh, out of control reality. So in that sense the Chinese and the Scandinavian documentaries are completely opposite. It is really interesting for us also to show this films in Denmark because those documentaries are so raw and ugly in a sense, people are not used to that here, and to get that shock treatment that was really something we wanted to do.

Mads Mikkelsen: The contemporary Chinese film scene is also an example of how the images production is a political act, the films are raw and not about aesthetics, they are not about creating perfect rounded silken worlds. While in the North films are well rounded, the Chinese films are about documenting, registering, keeping evidence even get the testimonies, for all these reasons the making of images and the recording of sound is really a political action, which is very different from the situation here. A political film here presents an argument, with a visual evidence, there is rhetoric to that, where for instance the film Stay Home! by AiWeiwei (Editor’s Note: presented in world première, directed by AiWeiwei, China 2013, 77m), is an on the spot documentary.

Niklas Engstrøm: Stay Home!, presented in world première here, by AiWeiwei, is really not a beautiful film, but it has a beauty in that combination of image and action, that is precise, so in that sense is something where the reality and the image just blur and combine together, it is something that is worth fighting for.

Mads Mikkelsen: It’s also interesting that the films by AiWeiwei remind us the consensus of what is a good film in Europe and in the North: it is a norm, it is not an objective given, that a good film presents emotionally engaging stories, that is wrote in an artistically and aesthetic pleasing form. A film can be brutal and “ugly”, and still be an amazing film. And that said that film it’s also very emotionally involving.

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

 CPH:DOX

Annette Messager – Mes transports

Mes transports, 2012-2013. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman gallery.

Mes transports, 2012-2013. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman gallery.

Marian Goodman Gallery presents an exhibition of new works by Annette Messager on view at the Paris Gallery from 13th November to 21st December 2013. Mes transports (My Transports) (2012-2013) signals the departure of a journey that will lead the visitor to the Continents noirs (Black Continents) (2010-2012) in the lower gallery. The exhibition is composed of twenty-one elements. Sculptures made from various combinations of body parts, geometrical forms, animals and various objects are wrapped in black mat foil. These elements are displayed on wooden trolleys cushioned by folded removal blankets. These transports are in essence as real as they are metaphorical: showing the transportation of goods, of love, of blood, and joy etc…

La colonne du petit chien, 2000-2012. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman gallery.

La colonne du petit chien, 2000-2012. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman gallery.

“They are protected by blankets used by transporters to soften their journey. Some of them are playful, some sinister but together they create a dark humor. Even as separate interties, isolated on their own transports, there is a dialogue between the works. Human body parts, animals, and grotesque characters regress to their own childhood” explains Annette Messager. Scattered and static on the gallery floor these islands are in a latent state of mobility allowing various scenarios to arise: “They are all waiting. Have they just arrived? Are they about to leave? (…) Will they be dispersed?”, such are the questions that the artist asks without giving any answer, and explains: “I’m working like a sleep walker; sometimes I feel like a receiver, I’m receiving things, messages (I am a messenger…) and things happen”.

Icone, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman gallery.

Icone, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman gallery.

We find, once again, this islets idea and equivocal mobility in the Continents noirs, presented in the lower space. These fragments, which move in various geometrical forms are erratic, stuck together and evoke the fantastical cities inspired by Jonathan Swift in his Gulliver’s Travels. These continents don’t drift, they are turned upside down, they may fall. Static above our heads, also covered with mat aluminium foil, their black shadows dance on the wall to the rhythm of the pendular motion of the lights which illuminate the room. With humor and derision both works explore some of the paradoxes and tensions of our contemporary world. Opening her work to a multitude of readings, Annette Messager concludes without concluding: “(…) I like various and multiple interpretations, that I have myself, and of course those of others….!”. In the showroom are some smaller new works: Pulsions, an installation of about forty ink drawings, Icone, the word written with wire and net, Le Tutu échelevé with a fan and La Colonne du petit chien.

Installation view, Mes transports. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman gallery.

Installation view, Mes transports. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman gallery.

Annette Messager is an important and influential figure on the French and international art scene. She represented France at the 51st Venice Biennial and was awarded the Golden Lion for her project. Her work has been exhibited worldwide in the most prestigious museums: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Monterrey, Mexico (2010), Multimedia Complex of Actual Arts, Moscow (2010), Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2008), Pompidou Centre, Paris (2007), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2004), Museo Reina Sofia (1999), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Chicago Insti- tute of Art et Museum of Modern Art in New York (1995). The artist is currently preparing a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, which will open summer 2014.

Annette Messager

Galerie Marian Goodman

INTERVENTION : THOUGHT PROVOCATION With Mads Mikkelsen and Niklas Engstrøm – CPH:DOX Part 1

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

NEW:VISION AWARD is a quite important part of the Documentary Film Festival CPH:DOX sustaining contemporary artistic production. But some of the documentaries are quite shocking and controversial. Talking about Untilled for instance, by Pierre Huyghe, there have been a lot of criticisms about the use of the greyhound dog with a pink leg, and about his health at large. How do you react to this and where is the limit between challenge and provocation?

Mads Mikkelsen: The arts in general have the autonomy to challenge notions of what is politically and ethically right or wrong. Political correctness is useful as a standard for any exchange of ideas, of informations and of communications. I haven’t heard of this specific criticism, of Pierre Huyghe’s Untilled (Editor’s Note: presented in world première, directed by Pierre Huyghe, France, 2013, 15m.) and the very skinny dog, and of course there are limits to how far you can take things and and still call it art. But imits are not fixed, and I obviously don’t think that Pierre Huyghe is overstepping any limit, but of course is something that we think about, because so many of this films are intervening in reality. We didn’t want to be controversial for the sake of controversy but controversial for the sake of the so called Thought Provoking.

The films that have an interventionist strategy or that are based on an interventionist premise, are something that we are going to see much more in the coming years, it is a tendency that is coming, is starting in these years, maybe it is a sort of counter reaction to the tendency towards Observationalism and what is called Slow Cinema, James Benning (Editor’s Note: Stemple Pass was presented at CPH:DOX, US, 2012, 121m.) is an excellent film maker and we are still screening his films, we have been following that tendency very closely, great work has been made. But we also see how that specific mode of filmmaking, the static observing long takes of the flat surface of the hearth, that sort of mustism has come to an end, or at least is changing into something new, and what we see now is a new movement, or a new body of work, which is based on intervention.

I would suggest the film The Reunion by Swedish artist Anna Odell (Editor’s Note: directed by Anna Odell, original title Återträffen, Sweden, 2013, 82m.) to that group of films. Her work is also based on simply interacting with the situations that she is depicting, she is a sort of agent provocateur, she goes into situations, interacts with it and then she documents the outcome, which is an approach that compares almost to a scientific approach, like the definition of experiment: you have a given, you have a frame, you have a method, you have a strategy, but the outcome is out of control, you don’t know what is going to happen, and I think that that practice is something that is coming now and I think this year selection of CPH:DOX reflects it and I am very happy about that.

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Special Screenings section is including films presented by various cultural institutions. How did you ended up choosing them and did you have any special partnership with cultural institutions?

Mads Mikkelsen: Our mission at the festival is to present works by visual artists, in NEW:VISION award, from the art world, from galleries and biennales and so on. It is something we have been doing for years, and is very unusual in that context, but it is a major part of what we do. We are not only screening those films but also to trying to build a platform between the world of cinema and the world of art where professionals and artists can exchange ideas and contacts, and where the actual production of new works is also facilitated through CPH:FORUM (Editor’s Note: CPH:FORUM is the international financing and co-production event, dedicated to supporting creative, visual and auteur-driven films). Special Screenings section presents films that we wanted to highlight, and not only films, because Alberi by Michelangelo Frammartino (Editor’s Note: presented in European première, directed by Michelangelo Frammartino, Italy, 2013, 33m.), for instance, is an installation. While the Dazed and Confused program is a compilation program of young visual artists, they are launching a new video platform, and we are one of the creative partners for that, and we invited them to launch the new site and celebrate it with an evening of screenings.

Niklas Engstrøm: The term describing the kind of films we have been striving to promote as a festival is “Hybrid”. Alberi by Michelangelo Frammartino (Editor’s Note: presented in European première, directed by Michelangelo Frammartino, Italy, 2013, 33m.) is and installation by a filmmaker that made a hybrid film three years ago, Le Quattro Volte, which ended up winning the main award at CPH:DOX, and afterwards we had a beautiful video sent by Michelangelo Frammartino where he said that he was “Surprised to win the award at Copenhagen documentary festival, because he didn’t know that his film was a documentary”! We are serving this hybrid area, whether it is hybrids of fiction and documentary or hybrids of art and cinema, or hybrids of cinema and the real world, and that includes the whole trans-media projects that are evolving now in the documentary cinema, and that has so much great potential. For us it is really a core value to transgress borders in all these areas.

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Courtesy of CPH:DOX

Everything is Under Control is this year theme for the Documentary Film Festival CPH:DOX and it sounds like a very Nordic state of mind. Are the films in the NORDIC:DOX AWARDS related to this concept, or should we just define the section as a fresh presentation of Nordic producers?

Niklas Engstrøm: The films in the competitions haven’t been selected with that concept in mind, but Everything is Under Control concept is related to the Nordic state of mind and to the Nordic way of producing films in at least two ways, it is actually one thing we also really wanted to work with and work against for years. The way that Nordic films are produced is very much under control, they are produced by a system that works really smoothly and, in Denmark, Sweden and Norway as well, we have this amazing support systems for films through the film institutes, the television stations, so it is really made it possible for Scandinavian documentaries filmmakers to go out into the world with this very well produced films, and win awards at many different festivals, and that’s why Danish documentaries have been so successful. But the other side of that coin is that in our minds, they really go in the same direction, in this very controlled direction and you get some films that are smooth, that are nice and well produced, and in lot of ways they are very good films.

But we would like to see films that are out of control in Scandinavia, and you don’t see too many of them so we have been working for years trying to inspire Scandinavian filmmakers to get out of control, to go out into the world, throw security nets and just make films. It is the first time that we have used an overall theme, it’s more common in the art world, and art biennals, but in film festivals is not really something common, but we were discussing this in spring and it was such a great concept that we tried to make it the idea behind the whole festival. It is also important for us not to just stay inside the form and the aesthetics of the films, but also to say that when you talk about aesthetics and form the discussion would most definitely have a relation to reality, so to distinguish these two elements is just too easy, it’s a working definition, it has its limits.

In 2009, we started a program called DOX:LAB, where the concept is to try to make people loose control: we selected ten filmmakers from Europe, ten filmmakers from the rest of the world, then we paired them, and of course, just the notion of making a film with another person, is interesting because is experimental. As film director you are used to have the control and decide, and suddenly you have to share responsibilities with someone else and, beyond that, when you ask a Danish filmmaker, who is used to make films in the way that I just described, then you suddenly pair him with a filmmaker from the Philippines, who is used to go out into the street and filming anything, there is this clash which is really inspiring. That has really been something we have been thinking about for a long time, control is good but loss of control is better.

CPH:DOX