The premiere of Vit Klusák’s award-nominated portrayal of a neo-Nazi living in the Czech Republic is one of the most anticipated highlights at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. “Democracy doesn’t exist; only capitalism. It’s only ‘isms’ and you have to choose your one.”
For 36-year-old Dalibor, a resident of Moravian town Prostějov, that choice is Nazism. Standing in his living room, its walls awash with Nazi flags and a copy of Mein Kampf casually tossed on the coffee table, he stands stern and shaven-headed; the embodiment of neo-Nazism. He talks candidly about the racial scourge that plagues Czech society, makes videos with his mother pretending to beat up “gypsies” and – along with his mum’s racist boyfriend – discusses the possibility of harming his Romany factory co-worker.
And yet beneath Dalibor’s menacing visage and anti-Romany rhetoric lies a man who is far more complex. He is an artist, a thinker, a performer and also someone who is very sensitive towards women. Tracing large pictures of Hitler as well as that of female genitalia, Dalibor’s world is an intriguing melee of the artistic, the vulgar and the Right-wing. He is an enigma, someone who is searching for his own voice and expression, simultaneously exploring the possibility of radical outlets while also attempting to experience real love.
The film’s director Vit Klusák, along with producer Filip Remunda, is known for his fascinating and provocative pieces – such as the world-acclaimed Czech Dream (2004). The White World According to Daliborek has been selected for the Documentary competition at this year’s International Film Festival Karlovy Vary and ahead of the its world premiere at the festival, we asked him how the whole Daliborek project came together.
What made you choose Dalibor’s story and how did you find him?
Initially I invented Dalibor and only after did I find him. I was asked in an interview whether I put characters from my films into the polar categories of positive and negative in advance and then adjusted the filming accordingly. I answered that I would find this dishonest, and that I would be bored with such a priori biased way of sifting characters. And as an example, I stated that if by chance I ever happened to be making a portrait of a neo-Nazi, I’d far rather the character was ambivalent and multi-layered. I would, for example, like it if it was a tender Nazi, who writes poems… And then I discovered Dalibor on YouTube. I came upon a video there, in which he was showing off his new expandable stun gun bottom, which had just arrived from the e-shop. At first he wasn’t able to get it to expand, and then it wouldn’t fold back. It seemed like a perfect parody, but alarming at the same time. I wrote to Dalibor that I make documentaries and that I would like to get to know him. He replied that he was afraid I was a cop and he blocked me. So I set off to Prostějov, a town of 55 000 inhabitants, and after 8 hours of unbelievable twists and turns, I was standing in front of his house. After two hours of conversation, he conceded he might be interested in shooting.
What were the biggest challenges when presenting Dalibor’s story to the audience?
The most difficult thing during the filming was to maintain a balance between critical distance and empathy. Although I don’t suppose there is a need to emphasize that I obviously don’t associate myself with the Nazi ideology, I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to make an activist condemnation, a documentary execution of a Nazi. It is more valuable to try to understand these forgotten, excluded from society, unhappy, lost people disconnected from information about the real world. I don’t believe people are born hateful.
Dalibor is quite the performer – do you think you managed to capture the real Dalibor?
Yes, I think I did. Every time I had the impression that he was pretending something, that he stopped being himself, I pointed it out to him. Unless you are an actor, you are not able to keep “the mask” for too long anyway.
Do you think Dalibor’s views represent the views of majority of the Czech population?
I am afraid it is the case, also because his classmates, as well as his colleagues, his girlfriend, his mother and her new partner agree with him. Dalibor is not alone having these opinions and that is maybe even more alarming than his holocaust-denying statements.
Do you feel that Dalibor is capable of committing racial physical violence?
He is too timid and candid for that. He wouldn’t do it; I am convinced of it. You see, we conducted a kind of experiment: whilst shooting one scene – which isn’t in the final film - we planted two stuntmen in a bar dressed as Nazis, who were instructed to provoke a fight with Dalibor. Even thought they almost beat him up, he didn’t do anything. We didn’t include the scene in the film, because it would have damaged its authenticity. There were no planted characters in any of the scenes eventually used in the film. Dalibor is being controlled by his fear, not by aggression.
Why did you decide to intervene when he was berating the Holocaust survivor?
Because it was unbearable. The observational method had reached its limits. I was not able to stand behind the camera and watch Dalibor ironizing Mrs Liskova, who had survived Auschwitz only by accident. Her dad perished in the death march.
Were there any other moments when you got involved?
In the very end, when I address Dalibor’s mum, asking her why she is hiding something. But I would rather not reveal what it is about.
And finally, would you say the film is more about racism or relationships?
Your question holds the answer. It is about dysfunctional relationships – among family, friends, at the workplace, as well as about the intimate ones, which create frustration and by adding fear to it, you will get an explosive mixture of hatred. Then there is just a step left towards racism, because for that hate you have to find the addressee.
The White World According to Daliborek is produced by Hypermarket Film.