Through the Unknown (Verso l’ignoto)
Federico Santini, director
The message of this film is: showing respect for the mountain, for your friends and for life. The filmmaker’s prime goal is not the summit, rather the route there – and the protagonist of the film certainly hasn’t chosen the easiest one. His determination to scale the peak is at least as strong as that of the mountain’s to throw him off. In all candour, we witness the way in which the climber tackles the obstacles that are thrown in his path: an emotional exchange of words with his climbing companion; the fear; the force; the resignation and the pride when they reach the highest possible point on the route; and the euphoria experienced when a higher point is reached in a second attempt on the mountain. It helps us to identify more deeply with the climber.
The director/cameraman’s work in this documentary is outstanding, producing a balanced montage, incorporating exhilarating and often intimate and dispiriting scenes which keep viewers on the edge of their seats as they are swept up the flanks of the Naga Parbat. Portrayals of the planning, the comings and goings at base camp, and the ascent of the mountain alternate with gripping flashbacks in which we get penetrating glimpses into the soul of a tormented climber. The film shows both the danger and the beauty of climbing in the high mountains, firing the enthusiasm of the viewer, without losing sight of reality.
The director gives viewers the chance to experience this madness for themselves, practically stepping into the head and the heart of Nardi, the main character. It’s as if the documentary is in two parts. After climbing the Mummery route, the climber joins an assault on the summit by a Spanish climber. At this point, the film seems to change into a traditional account of an expedition. That is, until the climber arrives in the Death Zone. Euphoria, drama and a perceptible matter-of-factness and resignation alternate in swift succession. It’s an overwhelmingly breathtaking film and an absolute must-see.
The jury unanimously voted THROUGH THE UNKNOWN, by director FEDERICO SANTINI as winner of the Crossborder DMFF Award 2017.
Rolf Steinmann, director
A fierce blizzard rages across the empty plains of the Arctic tundra. The scene is so desolate and hostile, it can’t possibly support any life. But then a mysterious creature looms into view, like a statue. What follows is a spectacular documentary about an animal whose habitat is being squeezed on all sides. To the north, there is nothing and the south is too warm. This animal is faced with extinction, so it is especially astonishing that the director has managed to capture these powerful beasts on film.
The director/cameraman is certainly no ‘newcomer’ in the true sense of the word, but this is his first production of his own making. This documentary shows that a short film can lead to impressive results. However, the jury is not entirely convinced by the choice of voice-over, as a result of which the powerful visuals get snowed under, both literally and metaphorically, by the underlying story. Nevertheless, the film bodes a bright future for Steinmann as a filmmaker.
The jury would like to stimulate this ambition by making the award of De Spiegel Best Newcomers Prize for this fascinating film. IN BETWEEN by ROLF STEINMANN
Lloyd Belcher, director
Hong Kong 2016
Who would have thought that running up and down a mountain every day to fetch water, to make hay, feed livestock or to go to school would lay the foundations for something much bigger for a small girl from Nepal? This film is all about such a girl. She is a girl with a natural, happy-go-lucky demeanour, but against that, she is supremely fit and has an iron will and resilience that would be the envy of many.
Filmed in traditional documentary style, a whole raft of present-day themes are dealt with, such as the urge to win, how to cope with failure and, above all, not leaving your roots behind. Whilst the film positively bristles with political engagement, for example, by explicitly championing women’s rights, it is primarily a feel-good movie.
The winner of the Jury Award is a moving documentary with some wonderful action shots and awe-inspiring panoramas. It’s impossible not to be moved by the scene in which the main character admires, describes and cleans her newly acquired trophy. The jury has fallen in love with this Nepalese girl, her talent, her enthusiasm and her determination. We hope that we hear a lot more about her in the future.
The winner of the Parkstad Limburg Jury Award, by an overwhelmingly unanimous vote is MIRA by LLOYD BELCHER.
Face to Face
Bertrand Delapierre, director
There must have been thousands of films made about the North Face of the Eiger, but – according to the jury – none have brought the mountain so closely and so alluringly into the picture as this. The positioning of a climbing aid, a crampon stabbing the ice, a carabiner dangling in the air – all in close-up: it’s as if you are with the climbers on the face.
In Face to Face, Delapierre takes us up the Eiger, as well as to Grindelwald, the village at the foot of the mountain. Although it seems to have been a good choice to make, there are shortcomings in its execution. This is partly due to the background music during the climbing scenes. Likewise, some of the shots taken in the village are disappointing, given their alienation from the main subject of the film. All in all though, it’s an enthralling film, in which the interviews are sometimes superfluous.
The jury awards a special commendation to Face to Face for the compelling way in which the climb is captured in film.
The jury of the DMFF Awards 2017 : Susanne Opstal, filmmaker (Nowhere Place); Chilo Oostelgetel, filmmaker; and Edmond Öfner, mountaineer and cameraman.
K2 – Touching the sky
According to the director, the past and the future simply don’t exist in a climber’s mind. The focus is on the moment, the route, the struggle against the elements and human willpower.
K2 is the second highest mountain in the world and is one of the most demanding in terms of climbing, giving rise to many fatalities. In this film, director Eliza Kubarska, an experienced climber herself, returns to K2 with a number of grown-up children of mountaineers killed on its slopes. It is a quest to rediscover that all-decisive moment in the past, the human psyche and the ‘guilty landscape’ that was the one their parents last saw. The film is a succession of haunting images, depicting the last vestiges of climbs – with or without human debris – improvised memorial tablets set in a rock face, the sadness and the helplessness.
Through intelligent editing, an impassive interview technique and a compelling soundtrack, Kubarska manages to bring together the lives of the children and their deceased parents. The film is also a product of its own complex dilemma: how responsible is it for a passionate mountaineer to harbour a desire to have children whilst at the same time knowing that climbing certain mountains is akin to Russian roulette? Kubarska succeeds in revealing the pain and loss of the surviving dependants in a dispassionate, but nevertheless deeply human way. She engages the viewer in the fundamental issues of sacrifice, love and the heart-rending choice between following an all-embracing passion and being there for someone else.
Miejsce (The Place)
A cinematographic tour de force filmed at a single location high in the Tatra mountains. The film chronicles the everyday comings and goings of staff who man a weather station that has been taking meteorological readings since 1938. Every now and again, the camera goes outside, depicting the cycle of day and night, the changing shifts and the immovable ice.
Director Julia Poplowska’s film is more like a work of art than a documentary. It is a powerful mini-film full of ingenious camera shots, an imposing soundtrack and a poetic potency which appeals to much more than the everyday reality of the weather station. The subtle tension and the occasional alien element (such as the Japanese hiker who suddenly appears on the doorstep) and questions regarding time and space give this documentary the feel of a hair-raising sci-fi adventure.
First Ascent – Kunyang Chhish East
Shunning all pretentious heroics, three men conquer the 7,400-metre high eastern summit of Kunyang Chhish, in Pakistan’s Karakoram range. Away from the swarms of climbers and tourists otherwise intent on scaling the more famous eight-thousanders, these men vanquish a hitherto unclimbed summit.
Plagued by bad weather and the fact that one of the climbers almost severed his thumb before their departure, the images we see are unadulterated and without over-dramatisation.
As they make their way to the summit, their filming is cool and composed: obstacles and dangers are overcome with the necessary inventiveness. Directed by Matteo Vettorel, a fascinating story unfolds, partly in the form of flashbacks. The images of the landscape are simply unforgettable. The film highlights their deadpan humour and contextualised emotions during the endless waiting as well as several ludicrously improbable bivouac locations. The makers of the film have succeeded in telling a compelling but credible story, to which climbers and non-climbers alike can relate.
(both in the category Best Newcomer)
An intriguing family story about the mountaineer-parents of Lorenzo, whose father was killed in an accident in the Mont Blanc massif in 1938. After the death of his mother, Lorenzo stumbles across some unique documents which recount his parents’ passion for mountaineering. The suitcase contains diaries, photographs and films, exceptional on account of the writing and cinematographic talent shown by both of them.
The extraordinary pictures from the 1930s and the voice-over that reads the text from their diaries are so enchanting that director Gigi Giustiniani conveys their content in a concentrated, unadulterated manner. The film has been put together out of a love for the mountains and for each other: the camera roves only over the photo albums and the haunting 16 mm films of the mother, Nini Pietrasanta.
An unembellished documentary about the son of Alison Hargreaves, who was killed in 1995 whilst descending K2. For years, Tom Ballard, whose – seemingly indifferent – passion for climbing was inherited from his mother, treks around the Alps with his father, camping in the winter in a broken-down bus. He cobbles together an absurd plan to climb the six major north faces of the Alps in a single winter.
Tom is a determined, but somewhat dour man of 26 who shows little sign of euphoria after his heroic deeds. It is refreshing to see the effort that goes into his quest for survival, not only physical but financial too. It is a constant struggle to gain media attention and sponsorship: a sad reality which the genre of mountain films rarely addresses.
The look on the faces of his father and people around him speak volumes.
It is shocking and stark portrait: nothing is presented in a more positive light than it actually is. A young man who climbs because it’s part of his DNA, something which he can do nothing about and which, in turn, he has next to nothing to say about. The viewer, in addition to enjoying the low-budget film quality, may read what he or she wants into the psychology of it all.
The jury of the DMFF Awards 2016 consists of: Jean Bernard Koeman (B), artist, exhibition organiser and scenographer; Rob Delsing (NL), lecturer in multimedia storytelling at the Maastricht Academy of Media Design and Technology, Faculty of Arts; and Peter Daalder (NL), film connoisseur and editor-in-chief at Hoogtelijn.
Crossborder DMFF Award 2017
Title: Through the unknown (Verso l’ignoto)
Director: Federico Santini
De Spiegel Best Newcomer Award 2017
Title: In between
Director: Rolf Steinmann
Parkstad Limburg Jury Award 2017
Director: Lloyd Belcher
Crossborder DMFF Award 2016
Title: K2 – Touching the sky
Director: Eliza Kubarska
De Spiegel Best Newcomer Award 2016
Director: Julia Poplowska
Parkstad Limburg Jury Award 2016
Title: First Ascent – Kunyang Chhish East
Director: Matteo Vettorel,
DMFF Award 2015
Titel: Hemelbestormers/ Killerslope
Director: Geertjan Lassche
DMFF Best Newcomer Award 2015
Director: Karlijn Milder
DMFF Parkstad Limburg Award 2015
Titel: Live for Passion
Director: Pavol Barabáš
DMFF Award 2014
Director: Ride Greener
DMFF Best Newcomers Award 2014
Director: Franz Walter
DMFF Spiegel Award 2014
Titel: Kurt und der Sessellift
Director: Thaïs Odermat