The Slovenia Times

Ljubljana Docu Film Fest, still topical and engaged


Ljubljana's Cankarjev Dom arts centre is hosting the 25th Documentary Film Festival between 10 and 17 March, bringing a series of topical, mostly foreign films, and discussions. The festival will pay tribute to Mako Sajko, the late Slovenian director who did pioneering work in environmental documentary.

Along with Sajko's seven shorts, a total of 21 feature-length documentaries will be screened, of which five will be in the running for the Amnesty International Slovenia Human Rights Film Award. Environmental topics will rank prominently.

Sajko's films are still very topical and influential, even though they were made half a century ago, the festival's programme director Simon Popek told reporters. Sajko (1927-2023) "addressed pressing issues in a humorous tone".

His short Strupi (Poisons), released in 1964, spotlit the negative impact of industrialisation on the environment and is considered a pioneering work in the field.

His 1967 film Samomorilci, Pozor! (Suicides Beware!) paved the way for the first youth suicide prevention programmes and helped reduce the number of suicides.

The latter film was banned by the then Yugoslav authorities and was the reason Sajko became a persona non grata in their eyes since it debunked the picture-perfect myth of happy socialist youth.

The Retrospective section will feature films by Austrian director Hubert Sauper: Darwin's Nightmare (2004), We Come As Friends (2014) and Epicentro (2020).

One of the films in the competition programme, Be My Voice by Swedish-Iranian director Nahid Persson, talks about the lives and rights of Iranian women, and sheds light on Persian culture.

French director Sebastien Lifshitz, who won the festival's main award two years ago, is coming back with Casa Susanna, a film about the life of the US transgender community in the 1950s and the 1960s.

Belgian director Simon Lereng Wilmont follows the story of children in a transitional home in east Ukraine as compassionate employees try to create a loving space for the children whose faith is being put on hold by decision-makers in A House Made of Splinters.

Serbian-born director Nataša Urban will take the audience to the times of Yugoslavia in The Eclipse, which she says is a "metaphor for the dissolution of Yugoslavia and Milošević's regime in Serbia".

Innocence by Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi portrays how the Israeli authorities indoctrinate and militarise young people from early childhood in what is a "convincing and clear-cut portrayal of a highly militarised society", Popek said.

Other programme sections bring topical and socially critical documentaries, intimate and global portrayals, as well as a section on myths, icons and the media.

The accompanying programme includes talks with guests and filmmakers. On the sidelines of the festival, Cankarjev Dom will put on display an exhibition about deforestation in Bolivia.


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