Even though China does not cel­e­brate Christ­mas, there are over 600 Christ­mas-dec­o­ra­tion fac­to­ries in Yiwu, China. They are often run as a family busi­ness and man­u­fac­ture year round, employ­ing people from across the coun­try. This obser­va­tion­al doc­u­men­tary focus­es on sev­er­al of them, locat­ed in and around Yiwu. There are no high-tech machines, just people work­ing really hard putting glit­ter on baubles, pom poms on Christ­mas hats and assem­bling Father Christmases.
The camera trails the work­ers at the fac­to­ry and else­where – their con­ver­sa­tions, love issues, a game of pool, shop­ping and eating, and the calls home, far away from Yiwu’s pros­per­i­ty. People joke about child labour in China, com­plain about the heat, but basi­cal­ly every­one seems to accept this arti­fi­cial, sur­re­al soci­ety where your col­leagues are your new family and the fac­to­ry is home. A por­trait with­out voice-over of a place cre­at­ed where com­mu­nism and glob­al­ism inter­sect and trans­form one anoth­er. (IFFRot­ter­dam)

Best Doc­u­men­tary, Sara­je­vo Film Fes­ti­val 2020

Mladen Kovače­vić, born 1979. Ser­bian film­mak­er and founder of Horopter Film Pro­duc­tion. He stud­ied fic­tion film­mak­ing in London and Cape Town, but ded­i­cat­ed him­self to doc­u­men­taries in past years. His films UNPLUGGED (2013, about a musi­cal tra­di­tion of blow­ing on tree leaves) and WALL OF DEATH, AND ALL THAT (2016, about a nomadic fair­ground artist) were multi-award­ed in fes­ti­vals as Hot­Docs, CPH:DOX, FID­Mar­seille, DOK Leipzig. The essay­is­tic por­trait of a moun­taineer 4 YEARS IN 10 MINUTES (2018) received the Spe­cial Men­tion at Visions du Réel, Grand Prix at Bel­docs and was fea­tured at IDFA Best of Fests. Eurodoc alumni, his fourth film MERRY CHRISTMAS, YIWU was made in copro­duc­tion with ARTE and Doha Film Institute.

Direc­tor: Mladen Kovačević
Cin­e­matog­ra­phy: Marko Milovanović
Edit­ing: Jelena Maksimović
Com­pos­er: Olof Dreijer
Sound­de­sign: Patrik Strömdahl
Pro­duc­tion: Horopter Film Production
Dis­tri­b­u­tion: Deck­ert Dis­tri­b­u­tion, Hanne Bier­mann


A tiny café on the Trans-Saha­ran High­way, a counter, a table, win­dows, the open door. As if for a short per­for­mance, a wide vari­ety of trav­el­ers appear on this sparse stage, strangers and reg­u­lars, for a coffee on the side and some­times ambigu­ous con­ver­sa­tion. Only her cat keeps Malika, the oper­a­tor, con­stant com­pa­ny. Out­side, there is sand and heavy traf­fic thun­ders by; next door, a huge gas sta­tion is being built.
Actu­al­ly, the direc­tor wanted to make a road movie, but his film turned out to be the opposite.
With Malika, the world comes to a stand­still. She is the unshake­able rest­ing place where the guests from far away get strand­ed, rest for a moment, com­ment on every­day life, get into con­tem­pla­tion. Although cre­at­ed as a doc­u­men­tary, the chance encoun­ters seem staged. With the eye of the camera, we follow, spell­bound, a sus­pend­ed time between close­ness and strangeness.

Best emerg­ing direc­tor, Locarno Int. Film Fes­ti­val 2019 

Spe­cial jury mention, Mon­tréal Int. Doc­u­men­tary Fes­ti­val RIDM 2019 

Price of the city of Torino, Torino Film Fes­ti­val 2019 

Hassen Fer­hani, born 1986 in Algiers. Fer­hani became active in the cinema while still a teenag­er by work­ing with the ciné-club of the Alger­ian arts orga­ni­za­tion Asso­ci­a­tion Chrysalide. He worked as script trainee, assis­tant direc­tor and in 2008 he par­tic­i­pat­ed in work­shops at the FEMIS in Paris. His first short films LES BAIES D’ALGER (2006), AFRIC HOTEL (2011), TARZAN, DON QUICHOTTE ET NOUS (2013) were exhib­it­ed inter­na­tion­al­ly. His debut fea­ture film DANS MA TÊTE UN ROND-POINT (2015) has won acclaim at sev­er­al fes­ti­vals (Freiburg­er Film­fo­rum 2017).

Direc­tor, Cin­e­matog­ra­phy: Hassen Ferhani
Edit­ing: Nadia Ben Rachid, Hassen Fer­hani, Nina Khada, Stéphanie Sicard
Sound: Mohamed Ilyas Guetal
Sound­de­sign: Antoine Morin
With Malika, Chawki Amari, Samir Elhakim
Pro­duc­tion: Allers Retours Films
Dis­tri­b­u­tion: Pas­cale Ramon­da

Aisheen - Still alive in Gaza

A sit­u­a­tion report from the Gaza Strip in Feb­ru­ary 2009, just one month after the end of Israel’s mil­i­tary offen­sive. Destruc­tion every­where. The bombs did not even spare the theme park. The ghost train is out of order. But hasn’t Gaza itself become a ghost town? Yes and no. Amid ruins, grief and despair, there are people who refuse to give up. Calmly and unspec­tac­u­lar­ly, with­out analy­sis or agi­ta­tion, this film shows what it means to rebuild one’s life and daily common exis­tence in a destroyed region that is cut off by an ongo­ing block­ade. It trans­mits diverse impres­sions and voices from Gaza: chil­dren who have lost their rel­a­tives and young people who do not feel like taking a com­pul­so­ry vaca­tion, clowns who despite the nearby rocket fire still manage to make chil­dren laugh, and the polit­i­cal­ly­commit­ted Darg Team rap­pers whose music is polar­iz­ing. It not only shows places such as the border cross­ing into Egypt, the hos­pi­tal, the UN Food Dis­tri­b­u­tion Center, the smug­glers’ tun­nels and the refugee camps, but also the beach and the zoo. That’s where the skele­ton of a whale is being recon­struct­ed. A beau­ti­ful image, despite everything. 

City of the Sun

The title of this film seems to have an ironic under­tone, because the sun is no longer shin­ing on Chiatu­ra, a town in west­ern Geor­gia, where 50% of the world’s man­ganese was once mined. Today, it is a ghost town of derelict indus­tri­al plants and colos­sal con­crete struc­tures, while the ruins of wires and cable cars lead­ing nowhere hang above.
The towns­peo­ple do their best amidst the decay. A man dis­man­tles con­crete walls with a hammer to sell the iron gird­ers. When he’s not busy scav­eng­ing, Zurab is a ded­i­cat­ed music instruc­tor who tries to teach mildly inter­est­ed stu­dents and a lively women’s choir how to per­form the right notes. Two young female ath­letes train sto­ical­ly for the next Olympic Games, although they are mal­nour­ished. And while Archil still works in the mine, his true pas­sion is an ama­teur the­ater group.
The land­scape and build­ings where the townspeople’s lives play out seem like a huge stage set. With out­stand­ing camera work, CITY OF THE SUN man­ages to gen­er­ate some­thing valu­able in the con­trast between their lives and the archi­tec­tur­al ruins of a past era, while pre­sent­ing what humans are capa­ble of thanks to their robust­ness, calm­ness, and abil­i­ty to find happiness.

Rati Oneli geb. 1977 in Tiflis, Georgien. Er studierte dort Ori­en­tal­is­tik sowie Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions and Media in New York. Zurzeit ver­fol­gt er sein PhD in Philoso­phie an der Euro­pean Grad­u­ate School. Rati Oneli ist als Regis­seur, Pro­duzent und Editor tätig. Er pro­duziert zwei Kurz­filme von Dea Kulum­be­gashvili, die in Cannes gezeigt wurden (INVISIBLE SPACES, 2014; LETHE, 2016). MZIS QALAQI ist Onelis erster abend­fül­len­der Film. Kurz­filme: LEITMOTIF (2012), THEO (2011).

The Virgin, the Copts and Me

Namir’s mother is a Coptic Chris­t­ian. She is con­vinced that she can see an appari­tion of the Virgin Mary on a video tape orig­i­nat­ing from her home in Egypt. Her son, who has been raised in a sec­u­lar envi­ron­ment in France, decides to make a film about the phe­nom­e­non and trav­els to Egypt to visit his rel­a­tives. Hoping to under­stand the con­nec­tion between appear­ances of the Virgin to the Copt minor­i­ty and recent events in Egypt­ian his­to­ry he soon dis­cov­ers plenty of obsta­cles. First­ly there are his par­ents who inter­fere in the film and crit­i­cise his ideas; then there’s his French pro­duc­er who wants to change the film every few weeks and final­ly, the inhab­i­tants of his family’s Coptic vil­lage. Des­per­ate, Namir decides to create his own ver­sion of the Virgin Mary’s appear­ance. To realise his plan he will need to enlist the aid of the vil­lagers and his mother; the latter soon joins him in Egypt and proves to be remark­ably capable.

A humor­ous fic­tion­al doc­u­men­tary and family-drama-cum-cul­ture-clash about reli­gion in the dias­po­ra, the art of cinema and the bound­less cre­ativ­i­ty of the film­mak­ers. Making good use of his mother as the film’s won­der­ful main pro­tag­o­nist, this direc­to­r­i­al debut charm­ing­ly and wit­ti­ly expos­es the manip­u­la­tive aspects of doc­u­men­tary filmmaking.