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The 19th dokumentarfilmwoche Hamburg April Opening Ceremony...Again
by Marinell Haegelin

For the first time since 2019, the 19th dokumentarfilmwoche Hamburg began April 20, 2022, in its pre-COVID-19 time slot. Last year it more or less maintained its customary programming, albeit in September and under the umbrella of Filmfest Hamburg, while in October 2020 there was a short notice, short-version festival. Imagine then, everyone’s anticipatory headiness ambling into Metropolis cinema on that brisk Wednesday evening.

The Opening Ceremony’s two presenters’ rather rambling introduction was perfunctory. Referencing Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, they added that numerous films had war-related topics, and one had been removed. Vietnamese filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha’s twice-postponed retrospective of work was finally screened. Also, the hotel featured in the festival’s nostalgic B/W trailer is presently home to Ukraine refugees, and dokumentarfilmwoche's adherence to screening a wide-range of thought-provoking and provocative documentaries was as solid as ever.

DIE KARTE DER SCHÖNHEIT (THE MAP OF BEAUTY) by Marco Kugel is compelling and entertaining, substantial, enlightening, and balanced. The theme, unbeknownst to most, impacts all. Scientist Michael Roth was, per the German statute that “The beauty of landscape has to be preserved,” tasked with drawing up a new map of Germany’s most and least beautiful areas. In the Lower Rhine, Ms. Köser rails against an enormous hall scheduled for a pastorally large field, and Mr. Lutz argues against wind turbines on Black Forest Mountain tops while cows languidly pass along the fog-covered peak. In Bonn, Ulrike Platz works at the federal agency in charge of land development and explains how respect for land often comes up in conversations. Also, that developing ideas for (still) undeveloped land are as different as people are; a town mayor refers to the tug-of-war between its citizens and officials, and Ute Brodowy laments forests being bulldozed for more expressways. Silvio Hildebrandt, with a M.Sc. in Regional Development and Nature Conservation, unfalteringly photographs numerous areas. A list of priority characteristics is prepared; the haupt concern is not to overstress any one area. Production values are first-rate, with Erik Mischijew’s impressive sound design and Bastian Epple’s music.

During Q&A afterward, the long-winded presenter expounded on her impressions to Marco Kugel (writer-director, director of photography), Hauke Kleinschmidt (editor), Bastian Epple (music), and Nico Hain (producer, production manager, colorist, VFX [who finally got on stage when the presenter copped on]). Takeaways were: The project began seven years ago; objectivity was paramount; people seem unsure how to categorize the film; maybe it’s up to citizens to change their definition of aesthetics (re environmental sustainability), and it’s not an easy film to sell. Quite clearly though, this audience was sold.