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.
The case of a man who made a Seig Heil gesture at a Prague political
gathering organised by Tomio Okamura’s Freedom and Direct Democracy party
is to be considered by the state attorney’s office after being handed
over by the police. Officers said that while looking at footage of the
incident they had also found evidence of a woman wearing a swastika and are
also investigating that matter.
The event in question was a rally on Wenceslas Sq. at which far-right leaders such as Marine Le Pen of France and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders appeared alongside Mr. Okamura to protest at what they dubbed the “dictate” of the European Union.
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
Six people were detained and two police officers injured in clashes between
ultra-right supporters and their opponents in Brno on Wednesday evening.
Around one hundred people joined the ultra-right march through the city centre while hundreds of opponents en route attempted to disrupt the rally. Hundreds of officers were out in force to keep them apart.
When they met head on the police ordered the far-right gathering to disperse. Their opponents then marched to the city centre to celebrate their victory.
Police are gearing up for demonstrations of ultra-right groups and anarchists in the Moravian metropolis of Brno. Hundreds of officers and anti-conflict police are out in the streets to prevent skirmishes and maintain law and order. Citizens have been advised to keep out of the city centre in the evening hours.