State of Affairs? New Short Film Award and Must-See Teen Dox


If eighteen is considered the coming of age, nineteen is then serious decision-making time. And speaking about the 19-year-old called ZagrebDox, one of the important decisions is the brand-new award, Small Stamp, for the best short documentary film.

The new award doesn’t entail a new programme section, but rather that international and regional entries compete for it. The films and filmmakers running for the Small Stamp for documentaries shorter than 40 minutes will be known after the announcement of the international and regional competition in ten days’ time, but what we already know is the traditional State of Affairs section entries. The programme again features documentaries tackling dominant topics and tendencies in the contemporary world. They include nine titles of different themes, sharing one common denominator: unravelling modern everyday life.

Innocence by Guy Davidi, one of this year’s Oscar nominees, premiered at Venice Film festival, and through a narration based on soldiers’ personal diaries it focuses on the issues of militarisation and its influence on the lives of young Israelis forced to military conscription. Wars are, unfortunately, our reality, and another documentary refers to this difficult topic. The German film When Spring Came to Bucha by Mila Teshaieva and Marcus Lenz speaks about life in the small town which last year became the symbol of Russian war crimes. Mark Cousins, a good acquaintance of the ZagrebDox audience, in his documentary The March on Rome warns us about how war ‘evaporates’ from collective conscience too fast. With his portrayal of the rise and fall of fascism in Italy, the director contextualises history through the present time, holding a mirror to the political landscape of the lurking extreme right and manipulated media. The March on Rome won the Audience Award at São Paulo International Film Festival and it was selected for Giornate degli Autori at Venice Film Festival. Marek Kozakiewicz’s Silent Love focuses on quite different preoccupations. It is a tender story of courage, persistent and ease of true love which doesn’t budge in the face of a conservative and xenophobic environment. The film allured the audience at the most prestigious world festivals (IDFA, Leipzig, Visions du Réel, Hot Docs), and it is yet another former participant at ZagrebDox Pro!

Is there a person who hasn’t at least once come across the name of the biggest commercial archive in the world – Getty Images? Richard Misek’s A History of the World According to Getty Images is a carefully crafted journey across some of the most significant moments of historical changes captured on camera and a passionate comment on the impact of commercial archives to what we see. Ruthless Times – Songs of Care, a German dark humour documentary by Susanne Helke, investigates the state of the Finnish public care system, where efficiency and profit have become the most important values. Through songs, the film gives a voice to those who dare not speak out of fear of losing their job. What can’t be spoken about should be sung about! The singing Finns are this year’s ZagrebDox leitmotif!

This year ZagrebDox is again dedicating a part of its programme to young audiences, convinced that documentaries are what can spark an interest in them and, even more importantly, make them think and re-examine issues. Teen Dox 2023 features seven titles competing for the sympathies of the jury, this year consisting of Zagreb’s First Private High School students. The Canadian documentary Oasis by Justine Martin is a touching story about twins Raphaël and Rémi who, early in their teens, realise that their closeness slowly but steadily falls apart. Another documentary hails from Canada: Bloom by Fanie Pelletier, which delves into the world of today’s teenagers through moments in life of three groups of girls, a lonely generation obsessed with self-image and the need for acknowledgment. Girl Gang (dok. fest. Munich – Audience Award, CPH:DOX, Docs Against Gravity…), a Swiss documentary film by Susanne Regina Meures, explores the modern-day phenomenon of influencing by portraying the 14-year-old Leonie, a ‘successful’ teenfluencer living on the outskirts of Berlina.

An emotional portrayal of 16-year-old Ukrainian refugees Andrey and Lisa is depicted in the film Away by Ruslan Fedotow, while the Austrian documentary of the pseudo-Marxist collective Total Refusal Hardly Working (Locarno: Best Director, Young Jury Award; Austrian Animation Festival: ASIFA Award and Audience Award) casts a new, original light on the characters behind the video games they exist in: the so-called NPCs. Laura Sisteró’s Tolyatti Adrift is a story about the teenage movement Boyevaya Klassika based on the idea of revamping old cars (the unbreakable Lada!) from the local factory in Tolyatti, a former symbol of socialist pride, today a town with no future. The film was screened at a series of prestigious festivals and has won awards in Valencia, Krakow and Budapest, among others. Another documentary from the Teen Dox section focuses on ‘octane love’. Jess Kohl’s A Mouthful of Petrol explores a deep family connection thanks to which a shared passion becomes a catalyst of parenting lessons.