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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Czech Republic / Slovakia / France

Violette Deffontaines travels from Czechoslovakia to the heart of anti-colonial Africa in Beyond a Knit Cap

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- The documentary delves into the surprising connections between a traditional Czech hat, the global anti-colonial movement and intertwining cultures in the globalised world

Violette Deffontaines travels from Czechoslovakia to the heart of anti-colonial Africa in Beyond a Knit Cap
Beyond a Knit Cap by Violette Deffontaines

Sorbonne and FAMU graduate Violette Deffontaines is working on her feature-length documentary debut, Beyond a Knit Cap. The film revolves around the traditional Czech hat, known as the zmijovka in the Czech Republic and the budajka in Slovakia, which has unexpectedly become a symbol of the anti-colonial movement in Africa and the global fight against racial oppression. Deffontaines seeks to uncover the multifaceted story of the hat, which has become an attribute of Czech working-class folks in the countryside, while in Slovakia, it is associated with the leader of the November Revolution, political dissident Ján Budaj, who wore it while working as a manual labourer.

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Young Amílcar Cabral, who subsequently became a legendary Guinean leader of the anti-colonial movement, received some hats from Prague as part of a number of wartime gifts in the 1960s, during its anti-colonialist liberation struggle. The donation transformed this headwear from a humble accessory into a symbol of defiance against colonialism. The hat’s popularity surged in Africa, leading to increasing demand for this distinctive Czech product across the continent. Deffontaines’ documentary weaves together various threads, exploring both the rise of the anti-colonial movement in Africa and the history of the budajka in the Czechoslovak territory. She will use innovative storytelling, and animations will also be integrated, adding a touch of aesthetic flair.

“As I investigate to understand its travels, I come to understand that its appropriations in the second half of the 20th century tell the story of different political struggles for independence. From the Czech Republic to Guinea-Bissau, with stops in Turkey and Senegal, the cap leads me on an unexpected journey between freedom-fighting communities. I am starting to question the power of its meshes,” revealed the director.

As fashion, geopolitics and daily life converge, the documentary promises to unravel unexpected connections, offering a fresh perspective on our interconnected world by following a host of people and motifs from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France and various African countries. Rosalie Lust is tapped as the cinematographer. The premiere is preliminarily set for October 2025.

Beyond a Knit Cap is being produced by D1film (Czech Republic), VIRUSfilm (Slovakia) and L’Echangeur (France). The project has been supported by the Czech Film Fund and the Slovak Audiovisual Fund.

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