View from Holland
Astra Film 2004 presents the famous Dutch documentary tradition through a selection of three Joris Ivens films Komsomol, The Spanish Earth, A Tale Of the Wind as well as three contemporary documentaries, Magnitogorsk- Forging the New Man by Piter Jan Smit, Piter by Jessica Gorter and Frank Gorter, Dutch Light by . The Program offers a double view, one highlighting Iven's achievement and contribution to documentary cinema, and a second view focused on Eastern European realities as perceived and presented by Dutch filmmakers.
Joris Ivens (1898-1989) is widely considered as the foremost important pioneer in documentary filmmaking. This ' flying Dutchman' as he was nicknamed in the sixties, made over 80 films and worked in more than 20 countries around the Globe. One cannot grasp the essence of Iven's oeuvre within a few sentences, as it is as diverse as life itself. He started out with home movies in the nineteen tens and twenties, and became famous with his avant-garde short film The Bridge (1928), in which he studied the movements of a railroad bridge in Rotterdam. He filmed wars, cities, wind and water, and people. His films are among the most controversial documentaries of the twentieth century, while they are also considered to be the most poetic and beautiful ones. Watching his films in chronological is like viewing the twentieth century with all its contradictions, wars and beauty.
Pens o Gerojach (Komsomol) (1933) is dedicated to the young communists in Western Europe and shows the construction of a blast furnace in Magnitogorsk in the Ural Mountains as part of Stalin's First Five Year Plan. This film, a unique look into this country for western eyes in those days, is an ode to the young voluntary workers because of it's strong images and montage.
The Spanish Earth (1937) Ivens joined celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway to Spain, to film the Spanish Civil War. He ventured into the front war zone and on the line of fire. The goal of this film was to show the world what was going on there and to gain support and collect money for the Republican army, who was fighting Hitler and Franco. The film shows battle scenes and the lives of the soldiers and the civilians caught in this war. This is one of Iven's best known films and a great classic war documentary.
A Tale Of the Wind (1988), made with his wife Marceline Loridan -Ivens, can be considered as Iven's film testament. In the desert of China, Ivens, now an old man, is looking to achieve the impossible, that is to capture the wind. Ivens once again reinvent himself by mixing fiction and documentary. He looks back at the twentieth century and at his own life with a mild and multifaceted view. This open minded and intimate film shows Ivens as a mild and wise man, who does not cling to the dogmas or contradictions of the twentieth century, but is able to open to any possible truth. China and its religion, myths and people, sometimes opposed to western ideas forms the background of this film. The wind is presented as the grat force behind the changes in society and culture and the final sequence when Ivens confronts the wind is very moving. When the screen turns black one is left with the great sense of tranquillity and of respect of this unique film maker.
Dutch documentary about Russia
In 1933, as a young and enthusiat admirer of communism, Ivens made Pesn o Gerojach ( Komsomol), presenting in a propagandistic style the construction of the steel plant in Magnitogorsk. After sixty-four years, Pieter Jan Smit went back to the same location to unveil what Ivens's film had left out: a polluted industrial town and the true stories of its people, which flash back to Stalin's labour camps. The festival offers its visitors the rare privilege to see both films. Together they cover a period of seventy years in the history of Magnitogorsk, as an illustration of the rise and fall of communism in the Soviet Union.
Peter also brings about stories of the past and everyday realities, though in a different way. Shot in St. Petersburg, it explores the facts of transition in Russia from Western perspective.
Dutch Light concludes the special program, offering a view from Holland, more precisely about the light in Holland, whose radiance has created a unique visual culture in this country.
Magnitogorsk: Forging The New Man
Director: Piter Jan Smit
Country: The Netherlands
In the early thirties, the bare steppes of the Urals were transformed at breakneck speed into a blast-furnace complex, and a city was raised out of the ground - Magnitogorsk. Volunteers from Eastern and Western Europe were involved, but most of the work was done by forced labor. Magnitogorsk was the model project to demonstrate the energy of the first five-year plan of the Soviet economy. In 1932, Joris Ivens made a film about the building up of the Soviet Union. He chose Magnitogorsk as an example of how the new world and the new man were being forged. His film Song of the Heroes encapsulates the spirit of the prevailing ideology of the time. Five years after Ivens had completed his film, Viktor Kalnykov, the main character, a Labour Hero, was accused of contrarevolutionary activities and executed. Taking Ivens’ film as an inspiration, this documentary goes in search of the past and current life and ideals of the builders and residents of Magnitogorsk after more than seventy years.
Director: Pieter – Rim de Kroon
Country: The Netherlands
According to an ancient myth, the light in Holland is unique. Artists, who celebrated it in their work, discovered its special quality. Without it, Dutch art would not have been the same. German artist Joseph Beuys argues that the Dutch light lost its radiance around the middle of the 20th century. If this were true, it would mean the end of a unique visual culture. The film breaks new ground, examining the Dutch light phenomenon. Artists, art historians and scientists answer questions. Is the light in Holland really different from that in other parts of the world? What makes it so special? Has Dutch light really lost its radiance, as Beuys claims? Dutch Light is a visual experience. It is a film that makes you take your time and observe things closely. It draws the viewer into a hypnotic maelstrom of ideas, theories, colours, images, and landscapes. And light.
Director: Jessica Gorter, Frank Gorter
Country: The Netherlands
“Piter” is a nickname for Sankt Petersburg, a city as spectacular as the chronicle of its creation. The filmmakers explore the city following the every-day lives of seven St. Petersburg residents. Alexander Ivanov, once a senior party official, now runs a floristry empire. Anatoli, formerly an editor with a local newspaper, is unemployed and survives on charity and from collecting recyclable bottles. Elena Yakovlevna is a great Stalin fan. She is 87, and believes that life was much better under his regime. The people portrayed in the film are not connected directly, but they live in the same transitional milieu. They must now adapt and create new expectations of the future, fifteen years after Gorbachev’s Perestroika.