Ljubljana's Cankarjev Dom documentary film festival

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The Cankarjev dom cultural centre in Ljubljana hosts an international documentary film festival every year in March. This year it is the eighth in a row and the organizers are showcasing different approaches and trends of contemporary documentary production.

Jelka Stergel is the Film Programme director of Cankarjev dom. She is responsible for the selection of all documentaries screened at the festival. The opening of this year's festival started with a highlight - the screening of the Oscar winning documentary 'Emperor's journey'. This year, the choice is big with stories from entirely different environments as well as various historical and political contexts.

"We had two main criteria - one is the subject matter and the other is the author's formal approach - how the films were made, how they work aesthetically. Depending on that we have established several sections."

Jelka Stergel explains how the 8th international documentary festival is divided into four sections:

"One is topical, the protection of nature, and social and political documentary. Then another section is made up of films that are reporting on the creation of works in different fields of art, from dance to music and TV, and of course the alpine and adventure film section is very popular. But we have to stress the tribute that puts into focus Joze Pogacnik, a well known Slovene Film director with his short documentary films."

Traditionally, the topical section covers issues of contemporary society, problems of the globalised world and hunt for profit. The setting for the Swedish film 'Three rooms of Melancholia' is the Chechen war showing how the inability of the two conflicting sides are reflected in children and the way they grow up. The film Grizzly man explores the life and death of amateur grizzly bear expert Timothy Tradwell. Current labour struggles in North Carolina and the relationship between Balkan nations are other topics dealt with in the documentaries. However, the only competitive category of the festival is the section of alpine and adventure films in which 12 films from various countries were depicted. They speak of surviving in the mountains, the questions of guilt and the mysteries of Bhutan.

The film makers are mostly from Europe but also from Bhutan, the United States and Brazil. This year's program in this section is the most varied so far. The organizing team of the festival is very proud that they succeeded in attracting four full-length films, which is a rarity even at festivals that are bigger than this one. Documentary films rarely find their way to the cinemas and last year the Ljubljana Festival was visited by around 2600 viewers.

Is there enough public interest for documentary films?

"I am rather optimistic regarding this matter, because the size of the audience is growing. We started with a few hundred and now there are a few thousand people visiting this event, which takes place in March every year. We present 35 short and full length films. It is not such a small number for this kind of film, for this genre that is meant to be more for television or DVDs rather than cinema release."