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Focus on Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film

The 54th International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film began this Monday with a festive opening. In the sold-out CineStar movie theater State Minister of Culture Bernd Neumann, Saxon’s State Minister of Culture Prof. Sabine Schorlemer and festival director Claas Danielsen welcomed 750 guests from all over the world and made clear media-related and political demands in their speeches.

From the very beginning Bernd Neumann emphasized the importance of the genre. “Documentary film is the most emotional and most intese medium for communicating information about incidents, people and societal themes."

In terms of media politics he made the clear statement: “Documentary film is for me just as important as feature film, which is why we support both genres adequately.” This is emphasized by the third nomination for the category “Best Documentary Film” at the Deutscher Filmpreis, which comes with an endowment of 100,000 euros.

The State Minister of Culture appealed to public broadcast stations. “I expect that public television institutions will make the financial resources available for the artistic documentary films co-produced by them and thus fulfil their special cultural role. It is not at all acceptable that documentary films are given the worst broadcasting slots, sometimes at midnight, or are limited to specialized channels.” Neumann’s words aroused applause from the audience on several occasions.

Festival director Claas Danielsen held a very personal speech, in which he addressed the need to overcome fears and the turmoil that they bring with them – in both the political world and in the documentary film industry. Politically he was referring to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. As part of the Focus on the Arab World in DOK Leipzig’s International Programme films from both countries can be seen that have just been completed. Danielsen compared the Arab Spring of 2011 with the fall of 1989 in East Germany, and commented that in the films he felt “the same energy as in Leipzig in 1989.”

Danielsen connected the theme of freedom in North Africa with Iran, where several oppositional filmmakers were recently arrested. The festival director phrased his demand directly: “In the name of DOK Leipzig I demand that the Iranian government release all filmmakers and critics of the regime.”

As far as the situation with documentary film in Germany, the festival director took a firm stance: “We need more support for all those films that don’t fit in to the standard funding profile, that are radical, uncomfortable, innovative, unconventional and unpredictable, that take on subjects that are no longer addressed in rate-dominated television.” Claas Danielsen called for the creation of a DOK Fond, which would promote innovative documentary and animated film projects. “With its diverse international partnerships DOK Leipzig is an ideal location for a DOK Fond to operate,” the festival director said.

Leipzig is the oldest documentary film festival in the world, the second largest in Europe and has established itself as an international meeting point for the entire industry.

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