MERRY XMAS, YIWU

a Mladen Kovacevic & HOROPTER PRODUCTION (SB), project (90’/52’) – June 2018

SYNOPSIS & SUBJECT

In China, where most of the products shaping our global civilization are produced, Christmas is made in Yiwu, where 600 factories collectively deliver more than 60% all the world’s christmas decorations, thousands of kilometers from where western children imagine busy merry elves in cabins covered with snow. The christmas merchandise is distributed to thousands of wholesale shops within Yiwu’s colossal International Trade Market, until it is loaded to containers heading overseas. This film is a unique access portrait of Yiwu and its workers.

Yiwu is a wealthy modern city with cosmopolitan urbane lifestyle rarely seen in China: bosses driving Maseratis and Rolls Royces, and workers from all over China, who rather miss their factories when they go home for holidays.

These factories are surrogate households where best friends hang out, where couples meet, families form and children grow up - all trapped in the parallel Christmas universe where it isn’t celebrated by any. The workers from Yiwu have unusually large salaries, several times higher than in most of China. They live in dormitories for free, air-conditioning and three meals included. Yiwu is the ultimate globalization success story, a fairy-tale for grownups.

„Merry Christmas, Yiwu” is an observational documentary with a geopolitical twist, and the alluring visual aesthetic that enhances the irony of modern China – the unexpected place where even Christmas is made.

 

SETTING

In the production halls psychedelically coated in red, gold, or silver, or those that resemble indoor forests of pine trees, or glitter with baubles and tinsel like in an old Sci-Fi B-movies, the disciplined Chinese workers make decorations with surreal craftsmanship. Shiny Christmas balls with elaborate patterns. Santa Clauses in every imaginable incarnation, Snowmen, Christmas trees. Tinsels, stockings, snowflakes. Every possible kind of Christmas lights, accompanied with high-pitched festive melodies. And contrary to popular belief – it is all hand-made.

Yiwu is the place where modern China seems most puzzling. After flourishing with trade and crafts since the 18th century, Yiwu was systematically suppressed by the communist regime as the embodiment of free market and capitalism, only to explode to today’s 600 Christmas factories and the largest wholesale market in the world that has the incredible 75,000 shops under one roof, manufacturing year-round to satisfy the Western ravenous consumerism that peaks at Christmas and New Year’s.

clips:  vimeo.com/219865086; vimeo.com/220828272 ; vimeo.com//220942896 ; vimeo.com//220944841 ;

psw: Yiwu1, Yiwu2, Yiwu3, Yiwu4

TREATMENT

Striking wide shots of the modern city, shiny skyscrapers, most expensive cars. At the plant, workers are in a merry mood, they are setting off for an abundant lunch provided in carton boxes. It is 30 degrees, fans are buzzing thoughtout this strange universe of multicolored dyes, flickering lights, and plastic fumes. We are in the real Santa’s workshop. It offers a unique insight into controversies of modern China – rapidly developing, vibrant and harsh.

Pregnant Zhilan comes to the door and calls her husband Hao – his face is sweaty while he is dipping metal wire into the bucket of boiling liquid and bending it into beautifully curved reindeer antlers. She asks him to join for lunch. Sitong turns off his machine and goes to the water taps outside the factory hall. He washes away colorants from his sweaty body. He is telling his coworkers that he is looking for roommates. He decided to stay at Yiwu for good.

The intimate stories and micro-developments of characters support the central storyline of Ms. Zhu, all revolving around the Christmas production. Ms. Zhu’s grandparents started one of the first factories for Christmas decorations in Yiwu. Few years ago, she left her gynecologist career to return to her family roots – she opened a wholesale shop at the vast Yiwu International Trade Center. She just gave birth to her second child, the controversial one-child policy being over. Seizing the opportunities provided by China’s unofficial embracement of capitalism, Ms. Zhu is busy building a new factory together with her husband Mr. Lin, also a doctor who gave up his career to join the Christmas business. The couple are mostly concerned about their kids – she wants to raise them herself, and argues that Chinese grandparents are notorious for spoiling grandkids, while he fears that babysitters are too cold and indifferent.

While „Merry Christmas, Yiwu”’s original feature lenght  will be a poetic observational documentary with alluring visual esthetic, the Televison hour will center more on the surprisingly entertaining story of this strange place where Christmas is made, and will be aimed at televison audience, with adapted narrative tools. 

 

PRODUCTION TEAM

Director / Mladen Kovacevic, After years of studying fiction film directing in Belgrade, London, and Cape Town, Mladen Kovačević has wholeheartedly dedicated himself to documentaries. In just few years, he made several commissioned and thematic documentaries, and his debut documentary feature, the offbeat but highly acclaimed “Unplugged” (Visions du Réel 2013; Hot Docs, CPH:DOX, DOK Leipzig, in total 80 festivals), and was followed by “Wall of Death, and All That”, praised internationally as well.

Production house / Horopter, Based in Belgrade, Sebia, was founded by filmmaker Mladen Kovacevic, at first for his own film’s production, then dedicated to international co-productions, aiming at quality, viable feature and documentary films for the global marketplace. Horopter produced the thematic documentary DUMBFOUNDED HOG, commissioned documentary LIVING OUT OF SIGHT, and PENNY IS NOT PETTY!, and is currently in production of BEGINNINGS, an ambitious art house feature documentary shot all around the world, from South Pacific, to Himalayas, to Mediterranean, and North Europe. 

GAME OF TRUTH

a Fabienne Lips-Dumas & Domino Production (BE), project (90’/52’) – December 2018

SYNOPSIS & SUBJECT

 

Jan Hendeberg’s son William is suffering from an illness steeped in controversy: electrosensitivity. For more than 5 years, he has been living in confined isolation and under a radiation-shielding blanket. His health has badly deteriorated and he has lost the will to live. Jan fights tirelessly to find a cure for his son.

 

Director Marie Lidén, grew up with a mother suffering from a then unknown illness - electrosensitivity. Today, in a technologically advanced world, medical professionals still fail to diagnose it and treat it. Many people who claim this condition are forced to live isolated, removed from modern technology. Using her own story as a thread, her family having had to adapt their lives in order to ease her mother‘s suffering, the director explores William’s isolated world and his father’s commitment to help him.

 

In 2006, William was a typical, energetic, highly socialized, happy 31 year old. When a hearing loop system was installed at his workplace, he and three co-workers became severely affected by electrosensitivity. Eight years later, he is forced to isolate in a cottage set in a pine forest, an hour’s drive from his family home. 

There has always been mixed scientific opinion about the effects of electromagnetic fields upon humans and the natural world. As 3G, 4G and WiFi signals grow year on year, and as evidence of their potential ill-effects builds, this discussion becomes ever more necessary. Few, if any projects, have taken an independent view upon this issue, nor provided an experience which is effective, understandable and personally engaging.

 

Electrosensitivity has become one of the serious health concerns of the 21st century, whith an enourmous potential impact onto law suits of its causes and on social security if recognized as a handicap.

 

TREATMENT

 

Unique to this subject matter and defying filmmaking are the physical limitations to filming electrosensitivity sufferers. The intimate style of the project is the result of cinematographer Michael Sherrington’s textured imagery along with composer John Lemke’s unconventional electronic soundscapes which together draw us deeply into the story. Classic cinematic conventions will be applied with hand-cranked 16mm footage and sound recording with non-transmitting microphones which allow to create a distinctive ‘look’ while not causing William harm. 

 

Specialists Interviews are minimal, with most of the story revealed through live scenes, observing our main characters’ circumstances and challenges. While the inherent drama surrounding our subjects’ situation can be scientific, the focus remains on the emotional and personal. The intention will be not only to plumb the depths of this illness but also the mystery of human nature in relation to pain and isolation. To paint a nuanced portrait of a complex and compelling situation while exploring more wide-ranging questions about our society and this invisible illness. 

 

The 52 min. version will, however, priviledge information over cinematic time, on a factual society and current  angle. However, the quality filmaking will enhance the more classic narrative of this TV hour.

 

OFF GRID involves a CROSSMEDIA project, an interactive experience online, about electromagnetic fields in our daily lifes, featuring a personnalized electrosensitivity and radiation test, as well as  Generative Artwork. The Test offers the user a unique opportunity to not only measure... but to see, hear, and interact with their very own electro-magnetic fields; generated by their location, wifi networks and devices. The project will be browser based, accessible upon: computers, tablets, or smart phones. The Crossmedia involves also a series of short Webdocs.

 

 

PRODUCTION TEAM

 

Director / Fabienne Lips-Thomas is an experienced director of Theatrical and TV Documentaries, based in USA, who cooperated with numerous television channels as ARTE, France Televison, Radio Canada,  Canal +, as recently with the acclaimed « Winds of chemical war»), which she has directed with the support of Domino Production.

 

Production house / Domino Production is a production company created by Sergio Ghizzardi  focusing on documentaries. Our objective is to produce documentary films, reports and television programs that wake up of the viewers to the social realities – political, economic and/or cultural – of our contemporary times.  For us, it is essential to reach a broad audience in a positive manner by putting into perspective the work of those in charge of building our society.  Domino Production has during all these years coproduced or collaborated with various television in the world such as RTBF, VRT, ARTE, TV5, RTE, ERT, Star TV, YLE, SVT, ORF, RTP, Phoenix TV, LCP, EST TV, PBS Taiwan. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELECTRIC MALADY

a Maria Liden & Aconite Production (SC), Agent Double (BE) project (90’/52’) – December 2018

SYNOPSIS & SUBJECT

Director Marie Lidén grew up with a mother who suffered from an illness that the world did not aknowledge- Electrosensitivity. Years later, in a technologically advanced and wireless world, Marie gives a poignant account of the lives of two electrosensitives: William, a 40 year old swedish man and Tyler, a 12 year old canadian boy. Using Marie’s own family story as a thread, the film explores William and Tyler’s isolated worlds and their families’ unrelenting commitment to help their children, while unveiling a condition which impairs many and suffers reluctant recognition by authorities, when Smart cities and connected environments prove to be the future of mankind.

Medical professionals worldwide still fail to diagnose ES. Those suffering it are forced to retreat from society and live an isolated life, removed from modern technology. There has always been mixed scientific opinion about the effects of electromagnetic fields on people. ES is although a widespread condition with a rapidly increasing rate. In 2004 the World Health Organisation estimated it as 3% of world population. Just one year later, with a massive proliferation of wireless technology, the significantly higher rate of an average 10% was surveyed, one third of those having symptoms so severe they can’t function in a modern world.

In 2006, William was a typical, energetic 31-year-old living with his girlfriend in Mora, Sweden. After a hearing loop system was installed at his job in a library, he became severely affected by electrosensitivity as three of his colleagues. 10 years after, he can’t use a telephone, computer or any other electrical device. He lives in a electricity-free cottage in the woods, where he sits alone under protective blankets, as a cartoon ghost.

Jan and Kärstin, his parents, step back in time when visiting him, hand-pumping water, bringing him food and supporting him in his claustrophobic world. Frustrated with orthodox medicine, they reached out to scientists and health professionals soon revealing high levels of copper and lead in his blood. They are now investing in flushing out the heavy metals that have built up in his body. An inspiring family, their humour, resilience and strength of character are remarkable.

Deep into the forest in the Highlands of Vancouver Island, Canada, lies the Hoffman family’s house surrounded by giant Douglas Fir trees. Single mum Lori lives here with her mother Janis and two kids Tyler and Julianna - Tyler is electrosensitive. He plays videogames online and watches Netflix on his iPad like any other kid, but his household is absolutely hard-wired. When exposed to wireless radiation such as mobile phones and Wifi, Tyler experiences severe headaches, vomiting, extreme fatigue, insomnia and night terrors. Tyler is privately tutored at home. This is paid for by the Canadian education authorities, as the school refused to ban wifi. 

TREATMENT

Marie gives a poignant, first-hand account of the personal impact of living with a condition that meant her family having to adapt their lives in order to ease her mother‘s suffering, at first being a child, thinking her mother turned into a vampire with her spending days in a dark room avaoiding daylight … She today feels compelled to explores and expose nowaday’s William and Tyler’s realities : More than anything they want to be understood and to be believed. 

The aim of our film is not to prove whether electrosensitivity is a real condition or not but to tell William and Tyler’s stories with truth, with humour, with compassion and with dignity and to allow our audience to decide for themselves, and reflect on what this reality means to us, to our children, to our future, on what it feels like when you are not believed, on what would you do if this happened to you?  Where is the line between a physiological and a mental illness?

Unique to this subject matter and very exciting to Marie as a filmmaker are the physical limitations to filming electrosensitivity sufferers. We are applying classic cinematic conventions with hand-cranked 16mm footage and sound recording with non-transmitting microphones which allows us to create a distinctive ‘look’ as well as get close to our characters without causing them harm.

Interviews are minimal, with most of the story revealed through scenes, observing our main characters’ circumstances and challenges. While the inherent drama surrounding our subject’s situations can be scientific, the focus remains on the emotional and personal.

Archive clips from William’s own private video diaries and family home movies, along with newspaper articles and old TV news footage, provide a window into his past, and his family’s journey with his condition.

The actual legal developments of Tyler’s case, as being aknowledged as impaired by wifi electromagnetic field has follow up for the whole community of ES cases around the world, towards the World Health Organization.

The 52 min. version will, however, priviledge information over cinematic time, on a factual society and current  angle. However, the quality filmaking will enhance the more classic narrative of this TV hour.

 

ELECTRIC MALADY involves the CROSSMEDIA project INVISIBLE FIELDS, an interactive experience online, about electromagnetic fields in our daily lifes, featuring a personnalized electrosensitivity and radiation test, as well as  Generative Artwork. The Test offers the user a unique opportunity to not only measure... but to see, hear, and interact with their very own electro-magnetic fields; generated by their location, wifi networks and devices. The project will be browser based, accessible upon: computers, tablets, or smart phones. The Crossmedia involves also a series of short Webdocs.

 

PRODUCTION TEAM

Director / Maria Liden is a Swedish born animator and filmmaker based in Glasgow. After graduating from Edinburgh College of Art in 2011 with a degree in animation, Marie is now focused on documentaries, animations and sound design. In the past 3 years, she has built a strong portfolio, working on over 10 independent and broadcast commissions – ranging from a BAFTA nominated animation, a Channel 4 First Cut documentary, to editing ‘Barefoot in Business’, a documentary commissioned by Al-Jazeera English.

Production house / Aconite Productions, Producer Aimara Reques is an award-winning Producer with over 20 years experience in the film industry in the UK. She is a winner of two BAFTA Scotland Awards, a Fox Searchlight Award; an Amnesty International Media Award and has produced work for Channel 4; BBC; Scottish Television and Border Television. She is also developing three other international co- productions to include “AQUARELA” by renowned Russian director Victor Kossakovsky.   

WATCH TEASER https://vimeo.com/122326390    password: Electric2015

THE FIGHT FOR EUROPE

a Hannes Schuler & Heide Film (DE), Synergia (CZ), Agent Double (BE) project (90’/2X48-52’) – October 2018

SYNOPSIS & SUBJECT

 

Europe is in the midst of crises: the Euro-crisis, the Ukraine crisis, the refugee crisis, Brexit… Only twice in history have such challenges been overcome by diplomatic activity: At the Vienna Congress in 1815 and with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which forged the legislation for an international peace settlement in Europe. A revision of this peace settlement can deliver a valuable lesson for today’s crisis management.

Münster and Osnabrück were the first Pan European peace negotiations; Swedes, Frenchmen, Habsburgs, Prussians, Poles and Bohemians were seated at the same table trying to align their national interests, and resurrect a Europe devastated by the Thirty Years’ War.

The dramatic documentary is told from the POV of a fictitious horseback messenger, and depicts the negotiations of the powerful main players on and behind the scenes at Münster and Osnabrück. These deliberations form the dramatic framework for the film. We follow the messenger through the eventful days in Westphalia and are immersed into his backstory, which depicts important events of the Thirty Years’ War and a world of violent and ruthless power games to secure the dominion over Europe.

TREATMENT

 

The challenge of this dramatic documentary is creating a modern narrative of suspense when depicting this historic event. The scripted scenes are commented upon and contextualised by historical experts. To appeal to a younger audience, we will work with young experts who add their own questions to the narrative: these are no woolly academics.

For the re-enactments we will enter into the world of CGI, allowing for endless visual possibilities. The production style will be unique as we place real actors into a CGI world, the synthesis of both elements creating the edgy visual effect also employed in graphic novels. The strong emotions of real life characters being placed into a digital world of endless dramatic possibility gives us new access to the historical documentary format.

 

 

PRODUCTION TEAM

 

DIRECTOR- Hannes Schuler is director and scriptwriter for documentaries. He has many years experience and directed elaborate re-enactments, such as for the ZDF series Metropolis – Die Macht der Städte, or the German/French/Australian co-production Darwin’s Lost Paradise and the documentary drama Keeping it in the Family Royal (ZDF/arte). His documentary, Living in the Ghetto won the Bavarian Film Award. He has extensive experience with computer animation and compositing, this skilll was put to use in the two-part documentary drama Conquest of the Globe. For ARD he recently completed the film Herbs, Crucifixes and Quacksalvers (“Kräuter, Kruzifixe und Quacksalber”), the documentary accompaniment to the premier of the feature Medicus.

 

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Holger Preusse has overseen many current affairs features, documentations and documentaries as producer. Including Für mich gab’s nur noch Fassbinder – Die glücklichen Opfer des Rainer Werner F. (ZDF/ARTE, 88min, 2000) by Rosa von Praunheim and Kinshasa Symphony (WDR/RBB, 94min, 2010) by Claus Wischmann and Martin Baer. For the latter he was nominated for the German Film Award LOLA. He always returns to historical and contemporary themes, such as Keeping it in the Family Royal – the House of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha (ZDF/ARTE, 75min, 2013), or as creative producer for the German/Israel/Canada co-production Hannah Arendt ((WDR/ARTE, 90min, 2015).

 

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY - Reiner Bauer has been working as cameraman in Hamburg since 1994. He has collaborated on many international documentaries for ARD, ZDF, ARTE and SPIEGEL TV. His camera work captivates with its strong and intense image play. Perfect framing, speed and aplomb, as well as extensive experience with the possibilities offered by the modern HD camera distinguish his work. He is one of the most sought after cameramen on the German documentary market. He also has longstanding experience with re-enactments scripted scenes and documentary dramas.

 

WATCH TEASER : https://vimeo.com/218263670

STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENTS

a Wolfgang Reinke documentary project, ZUSAMMEN Filmproduktion (90’/52’) – October 2016

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 SYNOPSIS

Greece is back in the news with its pivotal position towards the migrants flow, while its debt comes on the news table again. For 6 years, the Greek Health Care Service has been in a state of collapse due to the government`s structural adjustment policy requested by the European Union`s austerity package. 40 % of the Greek population have no health insurance and no access to public health services. In about 40 self-organised “Solidarity Clinics“ throughout Greece, volunteers fight for lifes, for even less lucky syrian citizens alike. Solidarity is essential.

Five days a week about 90 Health Service workers, doctors, neighbours, unemployed people, pensioners and former patients, run a Solidarity Clinic in Korydallos, a neighbourhood in Piraeus, Greece. They offer free medical treatment to anyone without health insurance, regardless of their social status or origin. Their action wouldn’t be possible without the support of donors from several european countries.

The Korydallos Clinic was presumed to be a temporary measure and would close as soon as a Public Health Service for all was restored.  Their great hope of Syriza’s government putting an end to the social catastrophe has been increasingly frustrated. The volunteers now realise that there is no alternative but to carry on with their engagement. Although enduring the worsening of their own living conditions, their solidarity is even growing with an unbowed joie de vivre. Right now, every day they provide basic support for thousands of refugees arriving at the Piraeus port.

The film portrays three people who are part of the Clinic's collective. The film tells the poetic, honest and important story of an absolute strength of solidarity in a European dimension.

 TREATMENT

In the style of direct cinema, the camera observes the everyday events in the clinic. We meet doctors and patients, who share their reasons for being there. However three people from the Clinic's organizing staff are the focus of the story and lead us through the film. They allow us into their private lives, which can't be strictly separated from their solidarity activities.

The story is structured into four main chapters: winter, summer, autumn 2015 and spring 2016 : the most important political events between January 2015 and March 2016 mark the pivotal points of the film’s plot: the first snap elections in January 2015, the referendum in July and the new bailout programme passed by the Greek parliament 10 days later, the second snap elections in September 2015, the increasing number of refugees arriving at Piraeus port in November on their way north, and a more and more critical situation down at the port in early 2016, when thousands of refugees have found shelter in the port facilities as the European borders were closed.

The camera films dynamically action scenes with changing angles, allowing a vivid shots and countershots editing. Otherwise the camera movements are minimal. The camera remains where their life happens most of the time: in the neighbourhood of Korydallos, where the clinic is located, or in Nikaia, where Fotis, Elena and Vasiliki live.

There are no talking heads to the exception of rare short interviews which happen randomly, in the course of action, interviews are mostly recorded only as sound files. Music is only used if recorded during the filming process and situations.

PRODUCTION TEAM

Director / Wolfgang Reinke, born in 1974, is an independent and self-taught documentary director living in Berlin. After working as a freelance author of satires and reportage photographer he had decided to start film-making. He's been realizing documentaries of all length, both for TV (NDR, ZDF - Das Kleine Fernsehspiel) and cinema, since 2000; amongst them four feature length films and a number of shorts. In 2008 he was awarded for the best montage of a documentary at the Cologne Montage Festival FIlm+.

Production house / ZUSAMMEN Filmproduktion, means TOGETHER. ZUSAMMEN Film Production was founded in 2012 in answer to the difficult situation for documentary film makers in Germany. ZUSAMMEN gives us the tools for independence and a stage for cooperation inside of a growing network of professionals, most of them friends. Since 2012 we've finished 2 short documentaries - "Victory Day" and "The Song of the Germans". "Structural Adjustments" is our first feature length documentary, another feature length documentary, "House of Peace" and the feature comedy "Aurora Borealis" are being developed. 

WATCH EDITED SEQUENCES https://vimeo.com/167079147 ;  vimeo.com/167079148 ;  vimeo.com/167079149

Password : solidarity