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KARLOVY VARY 2024 Special Screenings

Klára Tasovská • Director of I’m Not Everything I Want to Be

“This film is Libuše Jarcovjáková’s biggest exhibition”

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- The forgotten Czech photographer finally gets her due – and tells her own story – in this intriguing documentary

Klára Tasovská  • Director of I’m Not Everything I Want to Be
Director Klára Tasovská (right) and photographer Libuše Jarcovjáková (© Film Servis Karlovy Vary)

It’s a story as old as time: an artist doesn’t get the recognition she rightfully deserves. Photographer Libuše Jarcovjáková used to document life in former Czechoslovakia, alongside her body and a certain LGBTQ+ club in Prague, too. She was always in search of something, mostly herself, and in I’m Not Everything I Want to Be [+see also:
film review
interview: Klára Tasovská
film profile
]
, directed by Klára Tasovská and selected for a Special Screening in Karlovy Vary after its world premiere in Berlinale’s Panorama, she finally seems at peace.

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Cineuropa: After watching the film, it feels like Libuše is still discovering herself. The title says it all: I’m Not Everything I Want to Be. Do you think she’s still searching?
Klára Tasovská: The main topic, in my mind, is Libuše looking for herself and for her place in the world. And for home, I guess. It was so universal – for me, and others, too. Here’s the thing: I didn’t want to just make a film about a photographer, even if she is the most interesting one. I also wanted to look at life and the things that are important to me. At first, we tried to cover her whole life, but it wasn’t possible. It would have made the film way too long. Then [Libuše] was invited to exhibit photos from this one particular period, and I decided to do the same.  

Her work is so contemporary. She used to take lots of selfies before it was even a thing.
I wanted her to guide us through the story – not just with her voice but with her presence in these photographs, too. She had thousands and thousands of self-portraits like these, and you really get to see her personality develop. You see her age. The film opens with her first self-portrait, because I decided to focus solely on her perspective. Now the audience can live with her for a while, look at things through her eyes. Why would I invite other people, or experts, to talk about her? That’s not important to me.

Libuše is an unpredictable protagonist. At one point, she leaves Japan and a very good life to become a maid. She says: “I was fine with it.” Did she think she wasn’t deserving of this film, like she wasn’t deserving of calling herself a photographer for a very long time?
I think she was happy about it. After her big exhibition in France, other people contacted her too, but she was worried, not least about “talking heads.” I’m sure those directors meant well, but they didn’t make her feel safe. Then we met and it just worked, because we’re very similar.

We tried to shoot some new footage at first, but it wasn’t good. Then the pandemic hit. She was scanning her negatives and we realised she already had all the material we needed: her archives, her diaries, and obviously all those photographs. It was difficult to explain it to the producers at first. They’d say: “You only want to use her photos?!” After all, she’s still alive and she has this vibrant, colourful personality. But it just felt right. When I told her my idea, she got it. She’d already been thinking about something similar all the way back in the 2000s, she wrote about making a slideshow in her diary. In a way, this film is her biggest exhibition yet. She thought that was really funny.

After a while, you forget they’re just photos. They feel alive.
I love Chris Marker’s La Jetée; I love old films made out of photos, like those by Radu Jude. I was so happy when I met my editor, Alexander Kashcheev. We set out to make sure the story had flow and felt more dynamic. We also decided to add contemporary music and to bring the story into the modern age.

Do you have any favourite photos by Libuše? I love the curious way in which she’s always observed her body, for example.
I love her self-portraits. You can find her whole life in there somewhere. I love what she was doing in Japan, how she’d portray the T-Club. This whole series is so dynamic. In Europe, she was probably the only photographer taking photos like that at that time. At least, I think that was the case.

You’re now travelling and presenting the film together. Do you see it as an ongoing collaboration? It’s not just the director and her subject – she’s much more involved.
She isn’t just the protagonist – in a way, she’s our cinematographer as well! Certain festivals started to invite us as a pair, because people love to talk to her and she’s so good at it. They’d organise exhibitions and people could go to the museum straight after the cinema. In autumn, there’ll be a huge exhibition in the National Gallery Prague and then the film will be released in local cinemas – it makes the whole experience even more multi-layered. We’re having an even better time now than when we were making the film.

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