Scandinavian Freedom Comes at a High Price

Representatives of Danish and Swedish public television Danmarks Radio and Axel Arnö and their their approach to international documentary production

Illustration: Michaela Kukovičová

Two prominent representatives of Danish and Swedish public television made an appearance on the first December Friday on Czech Television to provide Czech filmmakers insight into their approach to international documentary production. Danish TV station, Danmarks Radio, was represented by Kim Christiansen, and the Swedish Sveriges Television was introduced by Axel Arnö, a former journalist. Although they have been collaborating for several years, their attitude towards leveraging the potential of international collaboration is somewhat different.

Arnö sees the main benefit of international collaboration and co-production mainly in the enrichment of the local TV market. He commented on today’s structure of the needs of the Swedish TV audience: “Since our audience embraces all generations, we have to find a balance between successful Swedish production targeting the generation of our parents, and successful films on the international or global scene for people in their twenties and thirties.” There are less and less young people and we have to find out how to encourage their interest in TV production – and one possibility is high quality international production.

For Kim Christiansen, the term international collaboration implicates the possibility of producing films of better quality, its benchmark often being viewing rates. “Thanks to our collaboration, we can produce works that will have higher international viewer rating which will open doors to more attractive and popular TV channels. Subsequently, we can become entitled to more programme slots on Swedish channels and everyone will be much happier,” he explained. He strived to draft a proposal of how to remedy the previous regime of the dwindling DVD market that hinders TV premieres. Who will watch a TV premiere of a film about the Paris terrorist attacks in 2020? “Documentary film should be presented to those for whom it has been intended,” concluded Christiansen.

But what did these two Scandinavian TV professionals agree on? The importance of creative freedom. Nobody should be forced to make films on predefined “national” topics. “We make films which we believe will make it in the ever smaller world. We can hardly co-produce a Finnish film about a naked man in a sauna philosophically contemplating on his life,” explained Christiansen. However, such freedom comes at a high price. There is no space for creative documentary production. “We need directors to collaborate with us as dramaturges and producers. We need to become partners,” added Arnö saying that most of TV documentaries are not made by film school graduates, but journalists and anthropologists because on the basis of their professional experience they are able to keep their audience in mind and to find the essence of the analysed issue.

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21. 12. 2015

from current issue:

New releaseShooting About KunderaDocumentarian Miloslav Šmídmajer describes the process of making a documentary about Milan Kundera with the working title “Milan Kundera: From the Joke to Insignificance.” Miloslav ŠmídmajerThemeNest in the bedroomPeter Hames, well-known British film historian and author of the book The Czechoslovak New Wave sent his remembrance to Karel Vachek to our magazine.Peter HamesThemeNever stop laughingPaolo Benzi, the Italian film producer and founder of the independent film production company Okta Film, describes for dok.revue how he met famous Czech documentary filmmaker Karel Vachek, who passed away last year. Paolo Benzi is also the main tutor of the Emerging producers in Ji.hlava IDFF.Paolo BenziThemeBehold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightenedIn this English issue of dok.revue we have collected some remembrances to Karel Vachek, the respected Czech documentarist who died in December 2020 at the age of 80. One of the contributors is Olaf Möller, a well-known film theorist and critic collaborating with many renowned film magazines (Film Comment or Sight & Sound), film museums and festivals (e.g. Il Cinema Ritrovato or International Film Festival Rotterdam).Olaf MöllerThemeEvery human being should get to wear comfy shoesThe Czech documentarist Karel Vachek was a chairperson of the jury at Yamagata international documentary film festival (YIDFF) in 2009. The board member of YIDFF and the former director of this festival, Asako Fujioka, has a remembrance of him smoking his pipe and going to the mountains with Japanese poet and filmmaker Yoshimasu Gozo to recite poetry to the skies.Asako FujiokaThemeLike the dog on the beach...American film historian Alice Lovejoy writes her remembrance of Karel Vachek, the remarkable Czech documentarist to whom we dedicate this English issue of dok.revue.Alice LovejoyInterviewThe times of lifelong careers are overAn interview with documentarian Jindřich Andrš, whose film A New Shift won the Czech competition section Czech Joy at Ji.hlava IDFF2020.Vojtěch KočárníkInterviewGoing to the Polish Turf with Our Own TeamInterview with documentary filmmakers Filip Remunda and Vít Klusák about their latest joint film project Once Upon a Time in Poland that shows how religion and faith are misused in contemporary Poland for mass manipulation and political purposes. The film‘s Czech premiere was held as part of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival 2020.Kamila BoháčkováIntroductionDok.revue 1.21This issue is dedicated to the doyen of Czech documentary filmmaking Karel VachekKamila Boháčková