Czech Joy 2018: Social awareness is still a constant in Czech documentaries

21. 10. 2018

Author: Martin Svoboda

The festival at Jihlava will, as usual, attempt to introduce the current local environment of documentary cinema as alive and vibrant. Czech Joy, the main national competition, is likely to be seen as the most prestigious showdown of local production which proves the variability of Czech documentaries.

One of the most optimistic findings of this year is the number of projects that stepped over the border and chose topics out of the Czech space. One of the most anticipated films is Illusion by newcomer Kateřina Turečková. She found her material after studying abroad in Hungary. In her film, she investigates living in the proto-dictatorship of Viktor Orbán. She leans on the strong Czech tradition of documentaries opened for activism in the name of democracy and social values. However, she also manages to find an original point of view, for her film will be stylized as a computer game.

Also, Tomáš Elšík and his crew went abroad to make Central Bus Station, a film where the once-greatest building of its kind is the hero. The once luxurious structure is a dark spot of Tel Aviv and home of many unwanted silhouettes today. A great symbol for yet another social commentary.

Vote for Kibera by Martin Páv will also include social aspects. The filmmaker prepared a spotlight for Nairobi photographer, Don. In this film, he is able to bring viewers to a place they would never want to go. However, he will not approach the slum as a living hell, for he wishes to show the joy and happiness people are still able to feel there.

And lastly, The End of Light by Aleš Suk also takes place abroad and delve into politics. In a unique style, this film will show protests against unpopular political entities and preparations for a surreal theater play. The truth of documentary and fiction will mix and the movie will offer a real “Lynchian” atmosphere. It is beneficial to see experiments of this kind. Additionally, having four movies placed on the other side of the national border is alone a great result.

An appeal of strong local issues still keeps many “at home“, which is also important. Passengers by Jana Boršková will follow four young people freshly out of a children's home. Six years of observation will show if these children are capable of starting a full life in Czech society. In this way, the film follows after Nothing Like Before and Bye Bye Children's Home — projects with similar subjects from the recent years. It seems that young filmmakers, some of them just out of school themselves, are highly concern about life of their less privileged fellow citizens at some point of similar age but so different status.

Solos for Members of Parliament by Tereza Bernátová will give some screen time to important politicians, for it is crucial for filmmakers to provide everyone with the same conditions to express their ideas. It is a simple concept, but with potential for an important film.

Enclosed World by Karel Žalud with its impressive four-hour length (it is edited from a TV miniseries) will follow criminals that just entered the jail for the first time.

One of most anticipated films is We Can Do Better. Robin Kvapil was a head of the campaign for the presidential candidate, Michal Horáček. As an aspiring filmmaker, he took a camera and made a documentary about it. He immediately brought up many ethical questions with this choice. He was the only filmmaker in the current history of the Czech Film Fund that was rejected for support especially due to his political affiliations. Kvapil has yet to prove to us that he is able to take a step back and make a real documentary, not a propaganda film. However, he and his producers deserve a chance after Kvapil's honest last film Everything's Gonna Be Fine.

There is also place for more a conservative form in Vratislav Effenberger or Black Shark Hunting, a biography of an icon of Czech surrealism, Vratislav Efferberger. The film should be even more interesting, for a member of surrealist group, David Jařab, took the director's wheel.

Feral of Jiří Holba will follow eccentric dissident and songwriter Charlie Soukup and Good Mr. Benda by Pavel Jurda will give a chance to shine light on an ordinary old man remembering his past with wit and nostalgia.

If it all seems to be too “normal” and “safe”, we will wrap up with an experiment by Petra Salaba, Attention Economy: 39 Minutes after the Presidential Election — ten minutes of pure cinematic experience. Instead of narration, we will be witnessing the study of a place of the important historical moment.

As we can see, Ji.hlava IDFF (Oct 25, 2018 – Oct 30, 2018) attempts to offer many alternatives and prove Czech documentary is richer than pessimists say. The empathy for social issues is found throughout almost every project, as usual, but otherwise the potential for diversity and originality seems to be here.

See the full programme of Ji.hlava IDFF at, and watch the programme films of the festival at the East Silver Market library.

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