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JIHLAVA 2020

REPORT: Czech Joy in the Spotlight@Ji.hlava 2020

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- The industry panel showcased recent domestic documentary works that were premiered during this year's Ji.hlava IDFF

REPORT: Czech Joy in the Spotlight@Ji.hlava 2020

Czech documentary films were introduced by their directors during the Czech Joy in the Spotlight industry panel, which rounded up recent domestic works that enjoyed their local premiere during this year’s edition of the Ji.hlava IDFF. The presentation was organised by the Ji.hlava IDFF and the Czech Film Fund, in partnership with Czech Centres. Here is an overview of the films in question.

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Athanor – The Alchemical Furnace [+see also:
trailer
interview: Adam Oľha
film profile
]
– Adam Oľha and Jan Daňhel
Slovakian documentarian Adam Oľha, one of the two directors of Athanor – The Alchemical Furnace, introduced the project during the panel. “The story is very simple: after the last movie by Jan Švankmajer, Insect [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jan Švankmajer
film profile
]
, which we were part of – I was doing the documentary part, and Jan Daňhel was doing the editing – we were following the whole process of the movie, and we thought it could be the beginning of a new documentary,” said Oľha. The director added that Athanor - The Alchemical Furnace ended up being not solely about the making of Insect, but also about what happened after the project, as well as summing up what Jan Švankmajer and his producer Jaromír Kallista have been up to over the last decade. Oľha noted that it is not a regular portrait-based documentary, but rather “a parasite movie” revealing various processes. It thus lays bare “the process of thinking and of working [of Jan Švankmajer]”, offering an overview of the complex personality of the helmer, Jaromír Kallista and Švankmajer’s late wife, Eva Švankmajerová.

White on White by Viera Čákanyová

White on White [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
- Viera Čákanyová
Slovakian director Viera Čákanyová unveiled her latest work, White on White, as a world premiere in the main competition at the Ji.hlava IDFF. The film was finished just a few days prior to the premiere, and it managed to net the main prize (see the news). Čákanyová revealed that White on White was shot during the work on her feature-length debut, FREM [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Viera Čakányová
film profile
]
, which premiered at Ji.hlava last year. A crew of three people was shooting “the experimental sci-fi film” FREM in very rough conditions at the Polish Antarctic Station. “The whole time, I was trying to imagine the inside of a brain made of artificial intelligence, and I put a lot of effort into creating the character,” said the director, adding that it was a very intense period for her, considering the landscape and the weather. She revealed that she began making a video diary out of an inner need. “At some point, I realised I was making this other film and that I was the main character in it,” she revealed about the origins of White on White.

Once Upon a Time in Poland [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
- Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda
Producer Alžběta Šerclová (of Vernes) and producer-director Filip Remunda (of Hypermarket Film) presented the comedy road-movie documentary Once Upon a Time in Poland by the established filmmaking team of Filip Remunda and Vít Klusák, who caused quite a stir with their feature debut, Czech Dream. The story originally followed a film crew searching for God in Poland, but as the situation changed in the country, so too did the film’s narrative. “Our movie turned from God to also encompass civil rights, democracy and how the Catholic Church is limiting the rights of people, their thinking and their freedom of speech,” said producer Šerclová. “Just imagine that in 21st-century Poland, there is still no real visible division between the Church and the state, as it is in other European countries,” said one of the directors, Remunda, to illustrate why the film veered away from God to examine the current political situation in Poland and how the Church has been instrumental in creating it. Once Upon a Time in Poland is now starting its festival run, while Remunda added that they are looking for other festivals and partners that would like to showcase the film in theatres or online.

Traces of a Landscape by Petr Záruba

Traces of a Landscape [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
- Petr Záruba
Director Petr Záruba presented his latest work, a documentary portrait of Czech painter Jan Jedlička, who emigrated to Switzerland after the Soviet occupation in 1968. Záruba explained that Jedlička lost not only his home country when he emigrated, but his artistic language as well. After ten years of searching, Jedlička found a specific landscape in Tuscany, and for more than 40 years, he has tried to express this landscape through different mediums – paintings, photographs and experimental films. “In our movie, we try to find the same approach to how to present his work and this specific landscape,” said the director. Traces of a Landscape was world-premiered at this edition of Visions du Réel, and the film had its Czech premiere at Ji.hlava.

Miri Fajta [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Lauri Randla
film profile
]
- Petr Kačírek and Martin Chlup
Miri Fajta is the new film by Petr Kačírek and Martin Chlup, which was finished just a few weeks before the premiere, as producer Jan Hubáček revealed. Hubáček noted that the film is set in “the Bronx of Brno”, an area they have been observing for several years. Kačírek said the film’s protagonist, Robin Stria, approached them in order to create the first Roma sitcom in the Czech Republic. Miri Fajta, which in the Romani language means “My Family”, was supposed to be the title of the sitcom. “Against the backdrop of Robin’s painful efforts to create original Romani theatre and film, we also tried to examine what it actually means to be Romani in the Czech Republic,” explained co-director Martin Chlup. Chlup added that the movie’s topic is the search for identity – “the Roma identity in today’s Czech Republic, but also for one’s personal and family identity because Robin and other members of the Miri Fajta team are adopted,” specified the co-director.

A New Shift by Jindřich Andrš

A New Shift [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
- Jindřich Andrš
Young Czech director Jindřich Andrš introduced his feature-length debut, the Ji.hlava opener A New Shift, which managed to scoop awards at both the Czech gathering (see the news) and DOK Leipzig (see the news) in the meantime. Andrš followed a middle-aged former miner as he retrained for a new career as a coder. “To learn how to code is not such a difficult task for him, but much more difficult is the challenge of being accepted by the labour market and succeeding as a computer programmer, because nobody can understand that a miner can make such a huge shift in his career,” said the director, who followed the protagonist for two years. However, the film is not a celebration of the main character’s success story, because “we are also asking what Tomas has lost”, noted Andrš.

Personal Life of a Hole - Ondřej Vavrečka
The most unconventional presentation came courtesy of filmmaker and artist Ondřej Vavrečka, who, after asking what the world is, started crooning: “When I was small, I thought the world is something, now I see the world is nothing, the world is nothing substantial.” Playing on the words “whole” and “hole”, he continued: “I think, and the film shows it, that the world is nothing substantial, and it does not have any strong points… It is something with holes, with some kind of void in places.” The director concluded, “Without the participation of our (w)holes which are in our hearts, and in our bodies as well – because the body is full of holes, too – we don’t see the personal life of the (w)hole which is ourselves and the world itself.” Personal Life of a Hole is a philosophical essay shot on 16 mm and is a follow-up to Vavrečka’s De Potentia Dei, a film essay that won the Award for Best Czech Experimental Documentary at the Ji.hlava IDFF in 2016.

Pripyat Piano - Eliška Cílková
“Our initial idea was to capture all of the beautiful sounds,” said Eliška Cílková, the director of the short film Pripyat Piano, about the team’s intention to shoot in the titular city, deserted after the Chernobyl disaster. “So we started by shooting pianos because they are heavy to move and too heavy to steal, and they maintain their sound even if they remain in a radioactive place,” explained Cílková, adding that they met the head of the Pripyat firefighters, who took them to his apartment, played the piano and told them about the songs he composed with other Chernobyl firemen in order to overcome the tragedy. After the encounter, the director decided to meet with other former inhabitants of Pripyat (and visit their flats), who told them about the poetry, songs and music they created in the wake of the nuclear disaster.

Wolves at the Borders by Martin Páv

Wolves at the Borders [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
- Martin Páv
Wolves at the Borders is a film about the ambivalent relationship between humans and nature. It tells the story of the crisis in Czech society which was caused by the return of wolves to our landscape,” director Martin Páv said as he introduced the film. He stated that he was observing the conflict between people welcoming the reintroduction of wolves into the region on one hand, and those who perceive the animal as a regular threat to safety and property on the other hand. The conflict is becoming politicised and is escalating, having now reached the government level, the director explained. His social documentary uses wolves as a metaphor for anything new that people are confronted with and which they are unable to deal with. “It is primarily a film about us, about humans, our fear of the unknown, and the anger and frustration growing in our society,” concluded the director. Páv noted that a national premiere of his feature is still possible in all countries with the exception of France, Germany, Serbia, Estonia and Romania.

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