A Look Inside DAFilms: Part 4

Despite the holiday season, we keep bringing you new documentaries that can travel with you anywhere you go. Each week, acquisitions manager Diana Tabakov selects them carefully for you, searching for them on the websites of festival catalogues and in dark video libraries. Learn more about her job!

Despite the holiday season, we keep bringing you new documentaries that can travel with you anywhere you go. Each week, acquisitions manager Diana Tabakov selects them carefully for you, searching for them on the websites of festival catalogues and in dark video libraries. What are her favourite documentaries and what brought her to documentary film? Read more in our fourth team interview.

In 2015, the DAFilms.com portal celebrates its first big anniversary. We are ten years old, which is a ripe old age in the online world, and so we give presents both to ourselves and to you; we get the joy of growing along with our film catalogue while you get a series of interviews introducing the members of our team. Five questions, five team members; and, in case of acquisitions manager Diana Tabakov, five years of working for DAFilms.com.

What was your journey to DAFilms.com and documentary film?

To me, these are two completely different questions. I got to documentary film already around the age of 15 when I started making my first amateur documentary films, primarily (surprise, surprise) portraits of leftist bands. After studying philosophy and sociology, I got back to documentary film during my studies in London. What has always fascinated me most about documentary filmmaking is the stage when “reality” is transformed into film language; into a form chosen by the filmmaker to create a work of art; which, however, always retains a certain ethical responsibility to the represented phenomenon.

I came to DAFilms.com five years ago from the Institute of Documentary Film where I had gained excellent experience in working with film professionals throughout Europe; then already I was very much interested in the ways of alternative distribution. Five years ago, I found the legal distribution of creative films online a great opportunity to support these generally marginalized films and filmmakers (thus actually getting back to the age of 15) and I believe that it has been proved by now.

What is the exact nature of your position – Acquisitions Manager?

My job consists primarily in selecting the film programme for the portal. As our viewers know, the programme is based on curated weekly events introducing the recently acquired films. I am searching for films, selecting them and negotiating possible cooperations with international institutions and festivals so we can promote the films on our platform together. However, the programme selection of a legal online portal depends primarily on the accessibility of film rights; the rightsholders are often afraid to put interesting films online too early (although they may already be online illegally), they may not have covered the music or archive rights, or the films may have exclusive rights in many countries which makes the seemingly barrier-free internet copy the borders of national states. As a result, when dealing with the acquisition of new films, I have to consider the accessibility of the film in various countries and see how that affects their promotion.

What do you consider to be the most interesting part of your work for DAFilms.com?

What is most interesting about our work is that we are living at a time of a huge change of the film industry that is most impacted by the internet and spreading films online. The transformation of the media is a natural part of their development, however, the spreading of films that switch from analogue to digital form changes the entire previous practice. Film is no more a film but a file (“Films have become files”), as Bordwell put it. In our part of the world, this change has been most visible between 2010 and 2012; in the following years, the ways of alternative distribution started developing.

Working with creative festival documentaries is naturally very specific and the case of our portal, which focuses primarily on these demanding films and their international presentation, has a specific position in the debate on the online film “business”. In the offline world, we differentiate between the multiplex and the arthouse cinema, which have almost become symbolical antipoles; in the online world, there is a need to filter the content as well. This is how I perceive the position of DAFilms.com; as an online arthouse cinema for documentaries. That, I believe, is the most interesting aspect of my work; the concrete films we work with.

What was your greatest experience in the world of online distribution and DAFilms.com?

I remember that at the early stage of my work in the team, in 2011, my greatest experience was to join many established film professionals in a debate on the future of film distribution and the role of VOD. It was exciting to take part in international debates and in the search for new ways. Currently, I am getting back to the most essential thing – the films themselves. To me, the greatest experience is to be in touch with the brilliant films presented by Doc Alliance festivals as well as other festivals, such as Rotterdam and Locarno, communicating with the directors and meeting them in person. What has recently impressed itself on my memory was an encounter with Victor Kossakovsky who accepted our invitation to Prague and whose master class we now have online. I love the way his viewers remove their blinkers for a moment and learn to “look”.

What are the 3 films the viewers should not miss in our catalogue in your opinion?

That’s really hard, for I would love our viewers to buy our subscription for 4 Euro and give a chance to all of the films in our catalogue. If they are not sure which of the 1 000 films to watch, they can go to our “Recommended” section where we update a narrow list of the best films.

I would also like to point out the films that will surprise you by how absorbing they are despite being completely minimalistic; for instance the film Tishe by the above mentioned director Kossakovsky who simply shot a film from his window. Firstly, it is fascinating how the film proves the talent of the documentarist – the talent of the “art of seeing”, and secondly, how such a seemingly small thing can relate to the big things. For instance, one can use the behaviour of passers-by to present the Russian mentality. El Sicario by Gianfranco Rosi, too, is an interesting film; this time, its minimalistic aspect consists in the fact that it focuses on a single person in a hotel room; besides, the person’s head is covered by a cloth the whole time. However, the protagonist is a wanted mafia member specializing in kidnapping, murder and torture. Sergei Loznitsa is another director to employ a minimalistic approach, yet each scene of his film Maidan captures life as it really is.

Thank you for the answer, Diana. It is always the pleasure to collaborate with you!

Andrea of the Doc Alliance Films´ team


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Doc Alliance Members

Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.