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25th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

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White on White
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White on White
White on White
White on White
White on White
White on White

White on White

director: Viera Čákanyová
original title: Biela na bielej
country: Slovakia, Czech Republic
year: 2020
running time: 74 min.

synopsis

White on White is director Viera Čákanyová’s video diary that she kept while staying at the Polish Antarctic station, where in 2017 she shot the film FREM (2019), whose main character was an artificial neural network. During her stay, the author chats with various artificial intelligences, leading conversations that touch on the nature of film, art, and the meaning of life while also revealing a way of thinking that’s free from humanity and from an emotionality that forces deep introspection. Footage from her routine, everyday life at the station contrasts with lyrical images of the immaculate Antarctic nature, which the author complements with her own commentary and thoughts provoked by the loneliness of the ice-covered landscape.

 

„How can you think something fundamentally inhuman? I'm making a film about artificial intelligence, but it's getting harder, more absurd. The Antarctic landscape works like a drug. Am I walking in the white darkness, looking for a sense of relief? I am matter with consciousness, far from thermodynamic equilibrium. That’s is the only thing I can report on.“ V. Čákanyová

Q&A with the director Viera Čákanyová:

biography

Slovak director Viera Čákanyová (1980) studied screenwriting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava and documentary filmmaking at FAMU, where she was awarded for her student films at the FAMUFEST festival. In addition to her own work, she also devotes her time to dramaturgy and collaborates on film projects with television stations and non-profit organisations.

more about film

director: Viera Čákanyová
producer: Viera Čákanyová
script: Viera Čákanyová
photography: Viera Čákanyová, Tomáš Klein, Dominik Jursa
sound: Viera Čákanyová

other films in the section

Good Mr. Benda
A sensitive portrait of grandfather Miroslav Benda, a tried and true Sokol member and an ordinary man with extraordinary vigor and ideals, revealing a story of human resilience and optimism through nostalgia and situational comedy. The film is a kind of observational documentary - it includes family videos and archival film material. We’re drawn into the microcosm of the village of Křenovice u Slavkova by two Japanese women who have decided to visit Benda, thanks to his long friendship with a university professor from Tokyo. Together with Benda, the audience travels to the only Japanese gas station in Europe, to Prague’s Strahov Stadium, and to New York to visit American Sokol members. “Old Mr. Benda fascinates me with his ability to elevate banality to a feast; he is like a Zen master who was asked about the meaning of life and said: ‘When you want to eat, eat; when you want to sleep, sleep.’” P. Jurda

Good Mr. Benda

Pavel Jurda
Czech Republic / 2018 / 76 min.
section: Czech Joy
World Premiere
Dark Matter
A film with almost no words, about things that people do not usually talk about. Army testing has turned an Italian army firing range into a dangerous place for people and all nearby living beings. Not coincidentally, it is a place reminiscent of the Zone in Stalker – a place that arouses curiosity precisely through its forced negation of life. Dark matter is a hypothetical form of matter that does not interact with light. It neither emits nor absorbs light. Dark matter has no radiation and no shadow. And yet, scientists are convinced that it exists.

Dark Matter

Martina Parenti, Massimo D'Anolfi
Italy / 2013 / 77 min.
section: Opus Bonum
East European Premiere
De Sancto Ambrosio
The opening ten-minute sequence of the film raises a question whether something is about to happen or not. Nothing much is going to happen, though. Workers are working at a building site, kids are playing, tourists are sightseeing, a wedding and a funeral are in progress, followed by images of empty streets and perspectives of building rooftops – in brief, a microcosm. The film shows the town from a totally different perspective, laying out fragments of life of seemingly totally uninteresting people who simply go about their existence. The camera is set in motion without the passersby even noticing since it has been put in a strategic elevated spot. The whole movie consists purely of bird’s-eye view shots."I always had a fascination to go up the building's rooftops to contemplate the city. Spending one year on a medieval bell tower was like being in a time machine which made time into something tangible." A. Di Bias

De Sancto Ambrosio

Antonio Di Biase
Italy / 2018 / 50 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Tears of Steel: Vladimír Stehlík Meets Lubomír Krystlík
The privatization and bankruptcy of the famous Poldi Kladno steel mill in the 1990s long left its mark on Czech society and the media. The FAMU graduate film returns to the affair many years later from the point of view of its main actors: Poldi Kladno’s CEO Vladimír Stehlík and his personal advisor Lubomír Krystlík. By juxtaposing their remarks with archival television videos, the film provides a humorous look at the ups and downs of two men who contributed extensively to building capitalism in post-1989 Bohemia and who are now learning the art of aging on their meager pensions. DETAIL:“You have to turn it into a show. Otherwise nobody will find it interesting. Also, there is no point in returning to the past. Document it and enough.” “And how should we turn it into a show?” “For instance by taking a picture of Stehlík’s teeth.”

Tears of Steel: Vladimír Stehlík Meets Lubomír Krystlík

Tomáš Potočný
Czech Republic / 2015 / 52 min.
section: Czech Joy
World Premiere
Show!
A surprisingly intimate portrait of how the dream of running one’s own business can take on monstrous contours. Managed by the father of one of the singers, over the course of five years the girl band 5Angels had reached the gates of pop fame. But it is a path paved not only with the songs of Michal David, but also with the dogged determination of a man who loses any notion of where his role as manager ends and his role as parent begins. An emotionally moved Karel Gott, five angelic girls, and one overly involved father, thanks to whom the behind-the-scenes pre-Christmas atmosphere melts away just as rapidly as the fat should disappear from the belly. “A singer can’t be a lard bucket!”

Show!

Bohdan Bláhovec
Czech Republic / 2013 / 69 min.
section: Czech Joy
World Premiere
The Wall
The Stalin Cult is once again gaining in strength in Russia. Every December 21st, the former Communist leader’s admirers gather to honor him on Red Square, at the site of his grave in the Kremlin Wall. In this observational documentary, the Russian director introduces the principle of “walking heads” – the majority of the footage consists of long takes showing the faces of the people waiting in line to place flowers and pay homage in front of a bust of Stalin. Accompanied by the sound of shuffling feet, a representative sample of various human types parades in front of our eyes, their faces reflecting almost a sacred reverence for a man who was responsible for the murder of several millions of their fellow citizens."Imagine thousands of Jews praying to Hitler’s grave. Impossible? How people can worship the one who annihilated them? In modern Russia we can witness a similar paradox." D. Bogolubov

The Wall

Dmitry Bogolubov
Russia / 2017 / 43 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
The Sound is Innocent
In this documentary essay, the director personally presents the history of electronic and experimental music from the pre-war years to the present day. The film takes place in an almost dream-like space-time that serves both as a recording studio and as a museum of technological artifacts, which allow the filmmaker to take playful grasp of the concept of talking heads. The sonically and visually layered excursion to the beginnings of the efforts to liberate and conceptualize sound is also a debate about the forms, possibilities, and perspectives of the acoustic relations to the world, in which the voices of the past constantly overlap with the sounds of the future. „Music documentaries usually tend to build a monument to a composer, band or subculture… My aim was to treat this topic in an essay-like style, using all available means that film as an audiovisual medium offers.” J. Ožvold

The Sound is Innocent

Johana Ožvold
Czech Republic, France, Slovakia / 2019 / 68 min.
section: Czech Joy
Czech Premiere
Memories from Gehenna
Grande-Synthe is a suburb of the French port town of Dunkerque. In 2002, its residents were shocked by a racially motivated murder committed by a longtime resident looking to release his inner frustrations through ethnic violence. More than 10 years after the tragic events, the filmmakers have come to record how this place has changed. Their various stops in this agglomeration retrace the murderer’s journey as he drove around town looking for his future victim. Recited excerpts from his interrogation mix with current reflections by local residents and a piano soundtrack to give the film a sense of desolation.DETAIL:“When I was 16, I wanted to die too. I also wanted to shoot myself because a girl dumped me. But my dog would have been alone. I’m sure people will say it’s my fault. It’s always like that.”

Memories from Gehenna

Jenkoe Thomas
France / 2015 / 56 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
Fortress
This Czech documentary presents a visit to the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (a.k.a. Trans-Dniestr) as a trip to a museum of communist totalitarianism. The country, whose independence has been recognized by only a few other states, remains an isolated multi-ethnic enclave held together by an authoritarian regime. In a country where you are only allowed to film out the window of a train, the locals are afraid of being denounced but are glad to live in a comfortable refuge from the hectic modern world, and songs on television celebrate the president.  

Fortress

Lukáš Kokeš, Klára Tasovská
Czech Republic / 2012 / 70 min.
section: Czech Joy
World Premiere
One Night Stand
The film is based on the filmmakers’ real encounter with an unknown European one night in a bar in Beirut in 2017. It was a man on the road to join the Kurdish militia fighting in the war against the Islamic state on the territory of Syria. The conversation was secretly recorded on a cellphone and serves as the script for animated modeled situations and reconstructions of that night. In addition to a fascinating probe into the thinking of a man who is willing to sacrifice his life for the struggle for  freedom, the film is also a formal polemic on the apparent authenticity of the documentary and the possibilities of representation of reality by means of simulations and modeled situations. “War today is a constant state of preparation for absolute destruction beyond the frontline. We no longer have the means of recognising it, nor distinguishing between a soldier and a citizen.” M. Lotfy, N. Abed     

One Night Stand

Noor Abed, Mark Lotfy
Palestine, Egypt / 2019 / 24 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Sólo
Martín Perano is a young Argentinean piano virtuoso and composer whose life has been turned upside-down by mental illness. He spent the past few years in the largest psychiatric hospital in South America, El Borda in Buenos Aires. After his release he returned to the nearly empty house of his parents, where his biggest concern was to learn to live without walls and to go back to the piano, which he played every day in the institute. The director patiently observes Martín’s return; in interviews with his loved ones, he learns more about Martín’s past, lyrically approaching the inner workings of a person obsessed with creation, capable of taking strength from their own hypersensitivity. “The other patients sat in respectful silence listening to this curious sonata of fingers rapping the table. After a few minutes, Martín finished playing. Strong emotions could be read in the eyes of his audience, as though they had been listening to real music.” A. Benki

Sólo

Artemio Benki
Czech Republic, France, Argentina, Austria / 2019 / 84 min.
section: Czech Joy
Czech Premiere
Chasing after the Wind
In recent years, the Getsemaní neighborhood in the Colombian town of Cartagena has evolved from a dangerous and crime-filled area to an attractive tourist center. The film nevertheless attempts to capture the neighborhood’s old spirit, as embodied by the 60-something Gustav, whom the camera follows on his nighttime wandering through the town and his occasional musings (sometimes drug-influenced) on God, death, drugs, and the natural order. For the most part, the camera keeps close to Gustav’s body, following him through long shots while exploring the play of the nighttime lights on his skin.DETAIL:“Religion for me... the best exercise it has. But the best thing religion has to offer for me is confession. By doing this they can clean up their rubble. One of the things that make people feel most relieved is when they throw out their rubble.”

Chasing after the Wind

Juan Camilo Olmos Feris
Colombia / 2014 / 61 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
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