25th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival
Me and the Cult Leader - A Modern Report on the Banality of Evil
On March 20, 1995, members of the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo religious cult released deadly sarin gas in five Tokyo subway stations. Twelve people died. Among the hundreds of others who suffered long-term complications was the film's director Atsushi Sakahara. After more than twenty years, he decided to find out who was behind the attacks. He managed to convince a man who is still associated with the active movement to appear in a film. Through inconsequential conversation, the filmmaker slowly gains his trust so that he can confront him about the trauma that he has caused him. An intimate debate about the banality and inconspicuousness of evil shows how long the road to truth and redemption can be.
“I promised my high school classmate that I would become a respected director. But he committed suicide, and I blamed myself for not being able to stop him. For the next thirty years, I tried to keep my promise. After the sarin attack, my determination grew even stronger.” A. Sakahara
Q&A with the director Atsushi Sakahara:
Q&A with the director Atsushi Sakahara:
biographyJapanese director, writer, and businessman Atsushi Sakahara (1966) joined an advertising agency after studying economics at Kyoto University. He then earned a master's degree from the University of California. He is the producer of the Cannes award-winning short film Bean Cake (2001) and the author of several bestselling books. He began working on his feature-length debut, Me and the Cult Leader, in 2015.
more about film
|cast:||Hiroshi Araki, Takeshi Sakahara|
|photography:||Tatsuya Yamada, Masato Takashima|
other films in the section
An ageing beekeeper in the rural Macedonian mountains strives to maintain the tradition of honest, environmentally friendly beekeeping. Her quiet everyday life – caring for the colony and selling honey in a nearby town, the untiring care of her mother, living off their farm without electricity – is interrupted by the arrival of nomadic beekeepers, who perceive nature primarily as an opportunity for profit, a way to break free from their poverty. The filmmakers spent three years with the heroine of the film, shooting over four hundred hours of material which became the basis of this melancholy environmental appeal, lyrically depicting the immaculate beauty of nature.
Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska
Macedonia / 2019 / 85 min.
Though China doesn't celebrate Christmas, it’s exactly where the magic of Christmas comes from. Yiwu City District is home to more than 600 factories that make glittering bulbs, flashing snowmen, and other festive decorations. People from all over the country flock to Yiwu to land a good-paying job, and they leave their families, college, and cultural traditions behind just so they can buy the latest iPhone with the money they earn. The film explores their typical day on the job and private lives with a pinch of laconic humour. And with the help of perceptive observation, the many paradoxes of a globalised world and a modernising communist China are brought to the fore. “I wanted it to be a photogenic and illustrative story that could be told in an observational and organic way without too much manipulation of the narrative, but also an emotionally relevant story for the Western world.” M. Kovačević
Merry Christmas, Yiwu
Sweden, Serbia, France, Germany, Belgium, Qatar / 2020 / 94 min.
A sensitive portrait of Daniel Spoerri that takes viewers not only to the workroom of this versatile artist, but also to his childhood spent in Romania where his father fell victim to the Jewish pogrom. In addition to Spoerri himself, his assemblages speak to them, breathing new life into various objects. They enhance the theme of rebirth around which the director constructed her own personal, fine-tuned film. - Daniel Spoerri (1930) is a Swiss visual artist and writer born in Romania. He is famous for his snare-pictures (tableau pièges), in which he places groups of objects found in chance positions onto a plane surface so that the resulting object can be hung up like a painting.
This Movie is a Gift
Austria / 2019 / 72 min.
East European Premiere
An archival memento of the horrors of war in the 20th century that delves into philosophical reflections on the nature of evil and the meaning of suffering. Raw images of prisoners in concentration and labor camps and victims of nuclear attacks are a chronicle of global human tragedy. The sensory and emotional experience is multiplied by a vertically divided image, which triples each shot. The dramatic content and Pahn’s stylistic quirkiness, however, are not an outright attempt to rattle the viewers’ cages. His philosophical essay, dedicated to documentary filmmaker and concentration camp survivor Marceline Loridan-Ivens, fights back against the contagion of oblivion that is spreading through the current infinitely changing and accelerated audiovisual landscape. “Big media changes images every ten seconds. The next day, no one cares what happened yesterday. No one thinks about the consequences of what happened in the past.” R. Panh
France, Cambodia / 2020 / 88 min.
East European Premiere
In 1930, Andrei Platonov completed his novel entitled The Foundation Pit, which explored the living dystopia of the Soviet regime as it began to lose meaning for the country’s people. Just as the workers in prose begin to question the world around them and cease to understand the meaning of their work, which eats away at their physical and mental wellbeing, many Russians today are expressing feelings of disillusionment with the current regime through posts uploaded on YouTube. When all official channels of communication are under the watchful eye of government authorities, the litany directed towards President Vladimir Putin can only be posted on the internet. And together they consist of a remarkable, found-footage fresco of the lives of the citizens of modern-day Russia, often living in poverty and helpless on the back of official propaganda. “It's hard to tell the exact amount of footage, but it's around 80-90 hours of live recordings. Some videos lasted less than a minute, others went up to 10-20 minutes. In the end there were thousands of messages.” A. GryazevQ&A with the director of The Foundation Pit Andrey Gryazev:
The Foundation Pit
Russia / 2020 / 71 min.
The body as a material sculpting object and abstract unity of functions. The body as a part of early traumas, ideological rejection, political censorship, persistence and ephemerality. The body as a concept of organization of extensive natural communities. The body as an empty shrine for further artistic use. This audiovisual essay in letters by Iranian filmmaker and British sculptor is a dreamful, intimate dialogue, discourse on the country’s fate following the Islamic revolution, on family and a desire to perfect the female body devastated by malignant disease. A film conversation on the artistic reflection of beauty, memory, experience, fulfilment and inception of new life.
A Moon for My Father
Douglas White, Mania Akbari
United Kingdom, Iran / 2019 / 73 min.
Deep inside the wild nature of Corsica, a woman leads her lonesome life, with menacing forebodings of the future passing through her dreams. She keeps entering the forest, hunting after wildlife and in the eyes of her dead pray, she can see faces of people doomed to pass away soon. The locals think about her as an insane beldam, turning away from her except for a shepherd who had already found out for himself that her gift of telling fortunes is real. A dark film filled with mysterious atmosphere lets the audience into the world of island legends, folk tales and rural superstitions. The film also makes observations on the everyday work of shepherds in the open nature, meanwhile involuntarily contemplating topics posed beyond the horizons of human understanding.
L' ULTIMU SOGNU
France / 2019 / 33 min.
For four years, the director has been meeting up with students of a film club at Dora Maar high school in the ethnically colourful city of Saint Denis near Paris, observing how the protagonists and filmmakers-to-be were growing up, looking for their roots and identity, finding a common form of their film in making that had supposed to be really about anything in the beginning. Through showing everyday banalities, the participants were learning to work with the language of film, constantly coming back with reflections on changing formats and contents of their intended work that was meant to become a metaphor of their own place in the world.
Un film dramatique
France / 2019 / 114 min.
Central European Premiere
A grandmother, a granddaughter and a dog. A path leading up to dying. Several timeless moments from the life of a sick woman enriched by the presence of a filmmaker granddaughter who captures the transient quality of life events and the gentleness of giving farewells through film. Behind closed doors, simple conversations, routine actions (a dinner) and handing over of experience (gutting the pig’s head) unwind. The acuteness of fleeting moments is augmented by the dog’s view. The projection of final moments in life captured by the eyes of the camera that of a devoted pet. An intimate balance of losses in one’s life laid out on a ground plan of a family tri-portrait.
The Dog's Eye
France, Belgium / 2019 / 37 min.
Art experimentation, image deconstruction, observation process. For over half a century now, the pioneers of video art Woody and Steina Vasulka have been exploring human memory, media memory and memory of art as an institution. A taste of life-long cohabitation of this partner and creative couple presents a personal story of a journey along places marked by their common fate: Brno, Prague, Reykjavik, New York and Buffalo. The odyssey of artistic fame of the living legends is put in contrast with their fragile social world and uncertain life perspectives. The heritage of video art is structured according to the texture of media of individual eras of film (35mm, video and hard disk). Fifty years of avant-garde saved on an external disk.
The Vasulka Effect
Czech Republic, Iceland, Sweden / 2019 / 87 min.
Mikel, director of the film, along with the protagonist Mathias, are childhood friends, nevertheless due to the time that has elapsed, the former finds that he knows hardly anything about the latter. The mad circumstances leading up to a fatal twist in their lives makes them shoot a documentary reconstruction about the process that turns into a very personal portrayal of a man who was made to live a double life against his will, the border between each one of them being as thin as a line drawn between victim and perpetrator in a ruthless criminal underworld. More than to the criminal plot though, attention is turned to stubborn attempts of a person dragged down by a spiral of serious problems while being able to wear a mask of seemingly happy and steady life.
Mikel Cee Karlsson
Sweden, Finland / 2019 / 99 min.
East European Premiere
The Argentine Ministry of Justice encouraged research resulting in a thousand-page report on crimes against humanity committed during the military dictatorship in 1976–1983. The generally not very well-known content of the report can be heard from the mouth of the director who reads it in his car parked in front of twenty-five, mostly still functioning companies that used to denounce trade unionists and left-wing workers in exchange for their own profit. Illustratively brings evidence of thousands of missing people, hundreds of murders and countless cases of torture caused and links between dictatorship and capitalism. „The ruling paradigm in Argentine justice focused within the State itself, and not outside of it.“ J. Perel
Argentina / 2020 / 68 min.