REPORT: Czech Docs 2016
by Vladan Petkovic
The fifth East Doc Platform (7-12 March) in Prague was the setting for an event entitled Czech Docs, at which five Czech documentary films in advanced stages of production were presented to potential co-producers, sales agents and festival representatives. Moderated by Simone Baumann of Germany's Saxonia Entertainment, the event was organised by the Institute of Documentary Film in cooperation with the Czech Audiovisual Producers' Association (APA) and the Czech Film Center.
Cineuropa profiles these five projects:
While Ryšavý's last two films Bear Islands and On the Water were screened at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, he is best known in the Czech Republic for his two-volume book Journeys to Siberia. The film Blind Gulliver uses footage shot across Russia, Ukraine and Prague. And it is in Prague that we see Ryšavý go to an optician to have his sight checked and corrected, to ensure that he can continue his career as a film director in faraway destinations. The eye examination is frequently interrupted with various inserts of footage he filmed when and wherever he found himself with a camera. In juxtaposition to the “rational” part of the film, Ryšavý presents a mystical card reading offered by the Russian "wizard" Alexandr Ukin.
Buffalo is a Czech man, blind from birth and who is currently losing his hearing. Fascinated by Native Americans, he has always wanted to meet with them in person and connect with them. He meets the love of his life, Zuzana, who helps him get to the States and meet Navajo chieftain Black Horse. He agrees to perform a healing ritual, which could improve Buffalo’s hearing.
This is Jurda's first feature-length film, and Procházka is known for last year's film Koudelka Shooting Holy Land.
Normal Autistic Man
Director: Miroslav Janek
Producer: Jan Macola (Mimesis Film)
Co-producer: Alena Müllerova (Czech Television)
Distributor: Pilot Film (Czech Republic)
Janek is the most internationally acclaimed of these five filmmakers, probably best known for his 2008 film Citizen Havel. Macola was at the Berlinale this year with the fiction film We Are Never Alone.
The official synopsis reads: "The term autism can be interpreted as a different way of thinking that should be recognised and respected as a social category (neurodiversity). Therefore, the right question is 'What is different about him?' and not 'What is wrong with him?' The film does not perceive autism as a diagnosis but as a mysterious way of thinking that might bring a certain message to the majority of society or it might attract its attention to the so-called normal conditions people are living in."
The footage that the team showed at the Prague event introduced us to several young characters, and also included some poetic and metaphoric scenes that are clearly set up, but which are, just as clearly, not intended to be factual material.
Nothing Like Before
Director: Lukáš Kokeš
Producers: Tomáš Hrubý, Pavla Janoušková Kubečková (nutprodukce)
Co-producer: Tereza Polachová (HBO Europe)
Status: In production
Kokeš, who is best known as one of co-directors of Gottland, which won the Silver Eye Award at Jihlava in 2014, and Hrubý, who co-produced Gottland but who may have found more fame with the animated short Pandas, presented the project as a condemnation of the terrible education system in the Czech Republic, especially when it comes to high schools. It also seems to be the liveliest and most engaging of the five projects presented.
They follow three youngsters, all attending the same school on the Czech-German border. Renata is using her looks and men's interest to escape everyday reality, dreaming her showbiz dream as a DJ and singer. Peter has stopped taking hard drugs in a gesture of solidarity to his unexpectedly pregnant girlfriend, and Anna leaves home amidst a refugee crisis to gain experience as a chambermaid in a resort on the island of Rhodes.
Through the Forest (Slovakia/Czech Republic)
Director: Robert Kirchoff
Producer: Barbara Janišová Feglová (Hitchhiker Cinema, SK)
Co-producers: Martina Šantavá (Czech Television), Robert Kirchoff (Atelier.doc, SK), Soňa Komová (RTVS, SK)
Distributors: Association of Slovak Film Clubs (SK), Artcam (CZ)
The director of last year's Jihlava title Steam on the River, and 2013's Normalization, Kirchoff brought the most serious topic and the most ambitious production of the five projects to the event. Through the Forest is about European Roma who survived the Holocaust. It follows several characters in France, Germany, Croatia and the Czech Republic. Most of them are the survivors of concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Jasenovac. The team says they paid attention to their social and familial ties as much as they did to their physical surroundings. The only archive footage is from news broadcasts, and there is no voice-over nor commentary and no photographs in the film.