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JIHLAVA 2021

Review: Points for the President aka Attempt at Counterrevolution

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- Martin Kohout examines what’s left of the Velvet Revolution, ending up with a more universal tale than one would dare to expect

Review: Points for the President aka Attempt at Counterrevolution

World-premiering at the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival – in the Czech Joy section, ironically – Martin Kohout’s Points for the President aka Attempt at Counterrevolution doesn’t provide too many reasons to be overly joyful. Starting with some inspiring footage from 1989, when the Velvet Revolution changed his country forever, it dives right into the mayhem of the 2017 and 2018 elections: a time full of promises, complaints and loudly voiced frustrations.

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It’s almost deafening at times, the sheer number of voices that the director is listening to here, from prominent politicians to their voters, eager to believe what they are selling and just take that damn doughnut – literally. Kohout doesn’t really waste too much time explaining who’s who here, so the gallery of ever-changing faces can get confusing. But what he is recounting is a very familiar tale, especially in Europe right now. Which, after 30 years or so of democracy, is clearly experiencing its very own midlife crisis, with populist politicians serving as the equivalent of that ridiculously fast car bought to ease existential pain and appease a much younger girlfriend.

His method is messy, one could argue. Running from one political event to another, eavesdropping on informal chatter but also addressing many people head on, it’s as if Armando Iannucci had run out of budget but kept his ear for dialogue. Then again, the sense of maddening confusion is probably fitting – after all, that’s what most people seem to be experiencing anyway, and have been for a while, after the revolution told them they were free to go without stating where they should be heading.

It’s a sad conclusion coming from this film: democracy sounds great, but not everyone will be equipped to deal with it properly, soon enough dreaming of someone guiding them with a stern hand. Then again – although these events are not covered in the film – the tide might be turning again, with the Czech president currently hospitalised and prime minister Andrej Babiš fresh off a surprising defeat. Maybe the revolution is just something that goes around in circles.

There is some dark humour originating from the encounters captured by Kohout, as an impassioned cry for help as pensions fail to keep up with the actual cost of living suddenly turns into an angry rant about “messy Gypsies”. He isn’t one to point fingers, though, and after talking to former prime minister Petr Pithart, he seems to support his view that “people are not stupid; they are just disorientated”. Then again, confusion can be dangerous, too. At this point, everyone knows that only too well.

Points for the President aka Attempt at Counterrevolution was produced by Jakub Wagner for Czech outfit GPO Platform.

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