One of the highlights of this year’s Jihlava festival of documentary films was the Czech premiere of Kings of Šumava, which combines real interviews with animation to tell the gripping story of Josef Hasil. A native of the mountain range, Hasil was a border guard turned cross-border agent whose derring-do in smuggling defectors across the Iron Curtain led Czechoslovakia’s secret police to list him as the “king of Šumava” in their files.
The 23rd edition of the annual Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival gets underway on Thursday evening. Over the course of the next five days, the festival will showcase a total of 277 films, including a section dedicated to the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. I spoke to Marek Hovorka, the festival’s director, and asked to tell me more about the opening film, a tribute to the great Czech cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera:
One of the Czech Republic’s most-highly respected film festivals – the
Summer Film School in Uherské Hradiště – wraps up on Saturday with the
screening of a documentary film by Olga Sommerová about the Czech singer
songwriter Jiří Suchý, founder of the legendary Semafor theatre.
The 45th edition of the festival featured over 200 films, as well as concerts, debates, shows and debates. Among the notable guests this year were Czech director Hynek Bočan, Polish filmmakers Lech Majewski and Wojciech Smarzowski, and the Slovak actor Milan Lasica.
In the early days of space travel, years before the Apollo 11 mission, an Austrian journalist walked into a travel office in Vienna asking to reserve a flight to the Moon. Pan American Airways took his reservation, launching what would years later become the carrier’s ‘First Moon Flights Club’. Among the nearly 100,000 people who joined it was the grandfather of Czech documentary film producer Veronika Janatková. Her directorial debut, ‘Ticket to the Moon’, offers a unique perspective on universal longings across the divide of the Iron Curtain,
“Love, tolerance and creative freedom aren’t just for fairytales”. That’s the central message of a new documentary called The Art of Dissent, which celebrates artistic engagement in Czechoslovakia before and after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion. Written, directed and filmed by the American intellectual historian James D Le Sueur, the film aims to debunk the myth that life behind the Churchillian ‘Iron Curtain’ was static and grey, and to inspire viewers through the messages of Václav Havel and fellow former dissidents.
Czech animated films collected three awards at this year’s International
Animated Film Festival in Annecy in France. Daria Kashcheeva’s Daughter,
a short puppet film about a complicated relationship between a daughter and
her father, was voted the best film in the Graduation Short Films in
Competition. The film, produced by FAMU, also won the Junior Jury Award in
the same category.
Another FAMU project, Martin Smatana’s The Kite, which premiered at Berlinale in the Generation Kplus section, won the Young Audience Award. The annual festival in Annecy was established in 1960. This year it was attended by around 11,000 film professionals.
Michael Havas grew up in New Zealand but came to communist Czechoslovakia – the country his parents had escaped from – to study film. He has made over 50 documentaries in a career that has seen him work with director Jan Švankmajer and many more noteworthy figures. Indeed, I first came across him in connection with a letter protesting Brexit that he wrote to the UK prime minister and circulated to friends, including Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin of Monty Python and musician Peter Gabriel. But when we met I first asked Michael Havas about his family
The film Heart of Stone has taken the Best Film prize at this year’s
edition of the One World festival of human rights documentaries in Prague.
The winning documentary is about an Afghan refugee in France. The Best
Director award went to Denmark’s Mads Brugger, maker of Cold Case
The festival’s prize for the best Czech film in competition went to The Good Death by Tomáš Krupa, which is about a woman who goes to Switzerland for assisted suicide.
A director who documented the last few years of Václav Havel’s life has
received more than twice the initial amount he sought through a Czech
crowdfunding site to begin work on editing his film.
Petr Jančárek, who worked with the late Czech president from 2009 to 2011, shot some 200 hours of material that will be edited for a feature-length documentary.
He had sought 400,000 crowns in public donations through the crowdfunding site HitHit but received more than 1 million crowns in the first 10 days. Jančárek will continue trying to raise money through crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo, his representative told ČTK.
Entitled “This is Havel, Can You Hear Me?”, the documentary is set to premiere in November 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia and the fall of Communism in Europe.
Jančárek is hoping to get the rights for songs by some of Havel’s favourite musicians, including the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and David Bowie, for a symbolic price.
The week-long East Doc Platform, billed as the largest co-production,
funding and distribution platform tailor-made for Central and East European
documentaries, begins on Saturday in Prague.
This year’s theme, “Eastern Logic”, refers what organisers say is the unique identity and style shared by countries of the former Eastern Bloc. It describes thinking that manifests itself in documentary films from the region, from a technical and thematic aspect.
East Doc Platform is organised by the Institute for Documentary Film and One World film festival.