Film-makers in Russia and Syria struggle for freedom of expression

Dok Leipzig, a major documentary festival in the world,  presented a Russian film on the theme of freedom of expression.  Dr Grit Lemke, the festival’s Programme Leader, described how the restrictions on film makers in Europe can produce crazy results. For example, the Russia Documentary Festival was re-located to Riga in Latvia and some films from Kosovo could be shown only in Albania.

Dr Lemke introduced Victory Day by Alina Rudnitskaya. She pointed out that the theme of the film is homsexuality, and the restrictions on freedom of expression that exist in Russia for gay and lesbian couples.

She said ‚It was not exactly filmed in secret, but all the gay couples are shown at home, in their apartments, because they can speak freely there.

The film shows a Russian TV talk show host whipping up homophobia with his studio audience, and the tanks, missiles, flags and uniformed soldiers preparing for the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square.

It is a powerful juxtapositon.

As the bombs fall and the secret police have their spies everyhere, a Syrian woman named Suliema  risks her life to help political prisoners who are being tortured.  It’s a story too risky to tell on the TV news, so directorJalal Maghout created a cartoon, an animated documentary.

Viewers at the ECPMF 2015 conference reacted strongly to the film, introduced by Annegret Richter the Head of Animation at the Dok Leipzig annual film festival. She explained that the genre is often used in cases where it would be too difficult or even dangerous to film a documentary.

Annegret Richter says Maghout, now working in exile in Berlin, Germany, took care not to make Suleima too recognisable, because she is still in Syria and still active. Although it is a documentary – a true story – Maghout says It’s a portrait of a woman who acts as an example for the thousands of anonymous women that fight against dependency and injustice in Syria, besides having very special and unusual characteristics. Suleima has been shown at Dok Leipzig and entered for other international festivals.

The Dok Leipzig Festival becomes 2014 an Oscar Academy Qualifying Festivals in the „Documentary Short Subject“. This means that everyone who wins a Leipzig Golden Dove is automatically shortlisted for an Oscar.

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