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24th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

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Katyusha: Rocket Launchers, Folk Songs, and Ethnographic Refrains

Katyusha: Rocket Launchers, Folk Songs, and Ethnographic Refrains

director: Kandis Friesen
original title: Katyusha
country: Canada
year: 2016
running time: 38 min.

synopsis

What is the effect of an overheard melody, especially when it sounds almost painfully familiar? In a house full of personal photographs and to the sound of a barrel-organ melody, the film’s director explores the history of her family, which was forced to flee from the Soviet Union before the Second World War. This experimental anthropological film is a mediation on the shared experience of song and the phenomenon of memories associated with popular melodies. As if fired from the eponymous rocket launcher, the artificial folk song Katyusha soared through civilizational skies to become the soundtrack of more than a few human tragedies.

“Conflating years of research, archival digging, and excerpts from familial, institutional, and other collections, Katyusha is an experimental documentary that ruminates on the circulation and constructions of cultural memory and national(ist) narratives.” 

biography

Artist and filmmaker Kandis Friesen (1978) lives in Montreal. Her projects often combine numerous forms of art, usually with a focus on audiovisual recordings of public or personal memories. As with Katyusha (2015), she often works with collage and reconfiguration. Most of her audiovisual works have the nature of a video installation that could be shown in a gallery just as well as in a movie theater.

more about film

director: Kandis Friesen
producer: Kandis Friesen
script: Kandis Friesen
photography: Kandis Friesen
editing: Kandis Friesen
music: Kandis Friesen
sound: Kandis Friesen

other films in the section

Vacancy
The camera observes an American motel along the main highway – just the way many of us imagine the United States. We follow four people inside the room at night, where they have been living in a kind of private purgatory for several years. Their sins are drugs, crime, and bad decisions. The slow flow of scenes and the occasionally blurred image create an atmosphere of being out of time and out of place – which probably just where these four people, incapable of breaking free from the vicious circle of apathy, feel themselves to be. The four documentary portraits combine to form a picture of the depressing life of people nurturing a tiny flame of hope. „,I have been to hell and / back. / And let me / tell you / It was / wonderful‘ (from Louise Bourgeois work)“ A. Kandy Longuet

Vacancy

Alexandra Kandy Longuet
Belgium / 2018 / 80 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
The Lust for Power
In recent Slovak history, there’s hardly a more significant figure than Vladimír Mečiar. Director Tereza Nvotová approaches him from several different directions. One is an interview that she conducted with him directly, another is his narrative monologue that presents Slovak history against the backdrop of his own family history, and finally through archival images of Mečiar’s public appearances in the media. Her film, accompanied by aerial images of the Slovak landscape as it appears today, poses the question of what Mečiar meant for the her generation, for society at the time, and for Slovakia in general. “When I was 10-years-old, we´d make believe that we were E. T., Winnetou or Mečiar. Now I want to find out who he really was and what he has done to us and to our country because now I see the same story playing out all over the world.“ T. NvotováThe film is being screened in cooperation with the Representation of the European Commission in the Czech Republic.

The Lust for Power

Tereza Nvotova
Slovakia, Czech Republic / 2017 / 89 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
The Deathless Woman
The far right is on the rise again. Racial intolerance is spreading through real and virtual spaces. Which is why a woman buried alive in the Polish forests during World War II comes back to life to commemorate the history of violence against the Roma. Her “avatar” becomes a young researcher visiting locations in Poland and Hungary where Roma have lost their lives both in the distant and recent past. Thanks to the authentic testimonies and staged passages that blur the line between mystery novel and dreamlike horror, buried secrets come to light serving as both a warning and a reminder. “An uncanny series of events led me to a Polish forest. Later I found out this place was the forgotten grave of the Deathless Woman. Looking back now, I realize she'd been there all along, guiding me.” R. Mortimer
personal program

The Deathless Woman

Roz Mortimer
United Kingdom / 2019 / 88 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
Until Porn Do Us Part
Eulália, a religious and conservative sixty-something woman, must come to terms with a difficult period in her life. Her son has emigrated to Germany, where is a gay porn star. Eulália spends ever more time on Facebook scanning his profile and writing long, mostly unread messages. This dramatically structured observational documentary touches on a number of contemporary issues, including the crisis of the traditional family, how social networks are changing interpersonal relationships, and society’s views of homosexuality and pornography. An unobtrusive look at the LGBT community, humility, and the strength of motherly love."God heard my prayers / He gave me a lovely son / I'll never trade him for anything / Not even for the biggest treasures / Even if I have to spend / My whole life suffering..." J. Pelicano

Until Porn Do Us Part

Jorge Pelicano
Portugal / 2018 / 90 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Notes from Unknown Maladies
A minimalist observational portrait of 94-year-old Concepcion presents the life of a person suffering with mental illness for fifty years. After a nervous breakdown, the filmmaker’s grandmother decided to isolate from the rest of the world and deal with the disease itself. In her solitude she is haunted with random memories, hallucinations, and gradually begins to face loss of memory and intellect. A black-and-white film steeped in a melancholic mood sensitively captures the themes of old age, disease and human loneliness. The slow pace and limited dialogue helps the viewer to transcend the world of a suffering single woman in a discreet and highly suggestive manner. "Dear Grandma, If you will see me lost in the unknown one day, please remind me about the suffering and memory of our nation. Only history and truth can save my fragile heart." L. P. Dela Cruz

Notes from Unknown Maladies

Liryc Dela Cruz
Philippines / 2017 / 62 min.
section: Opus Bonum
European Premiere
We Make Couples
A multi-layered reflection intertwining types of domestic skirmishes with the ones we have within society. It relies on a number of central themes, such as the depictions of faces, touches, projection, or exploding light. It formulates arguments about production (relationships), forms of resistance (against restrictions), systems for organizing the way we see things (ourselves and each other), about ways we project (ourselves to others), about personal and industrial relationships, expressions of beauty (and politics) in an age when “intensity is more important than endurance”. Using montage and rhythmically brilliant collage essays, the filmmaker combines found and his own materials.“The cure for loneliness is solitude.” (Marianne Moore)

We Make Couples

Mike Hoolboom
Canada / 2016 / 57 min.
section: Opus Bonum
Czech Premiere
A Volatile Tale
The unexpected birth of young birds frames this daily observation of a bird colony from the window of a flat in Rome. A poetic juxtaposition of human and bird life, of the search for god and a yearning for perfection, plays out on a minimalist stage of a few slanting rooftops. The footage of urban gulls, taken with a shaky handheld camera and intercut with shots of nuns from the neighbouring monastery, are mixed with poems, excerpts from novels and classical music. Only now and then – in a reflection in a window or from a seemingly banal conversation – do we learn anything about the people behind the camera.„Is life linear? Why should narration be. Our attentive eyes excite our thoughts. Let's follow them. A Volatile Tale proceeds through associations describing not the existing but the experience." C. Vestroni

A Volatile Tale

Carla Vestroni
Italy / 2017 / 44 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
I Crossed the Hallway
A personal probe deep into the memories of a death. During the night, the director lost his father at his family home. He crossed the hallway, entered his parents’ bedroom, and his mother said, “Your father is dying.” The shock of this trauma plunges El-Amine into a state of absolute apathy. He wanders blankly through the house as memories of times spent together come back to life. Painful moments alternate with stylized commentary by relatives about the events of that night. The feeling of loss is projected onto many minor details in the film. The cacophonous musical soundtrack is as deafening as grief. Once again, film becomes a tool for coming to terms with death. “Time is no more than a constant renewal in I Crossed the Hallway. The film is a long road, a long corridor, which gives ways to either reality or dreams or souvenirs.” R. El-Amine

I Crossed the Hallway

Rabih El-Amine
Lebanon / 2017 / 38 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
The Nature of Things
This documentary essay explores the inner world of Angelo Santagostino, a man suffering from ALS, which has left him unable to perform the most basic functions or to communicate without the help of a special computer. The illness has permanently imprisoned him in a wheelchair, but he has maintained a rich inner life. The film conveys Angelo’s dreams, memories, and fantasies in scenes that evoke unfettered movement beyond normal horizons, whether it’s travelling through the universe, swimming underwater, or riding rides at a theme park. The symbolic contrast between his immobile body and his boundless spirit creates a portrait of a person who has maintained admirable dignity in the face of death.„Angelo has been the longest and shortest journey of my life, for sure the most beautiful.” 

The Nature of Things

Laura Viezzoli
Italy / 2016 / 68 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
Flesh Memory
Finley Blake supports herself by performing live online erotic webcam shows. Because of this, her young son was taken from her and she is desperately trying to get him back. She is 33 years old and alone, with only her cat and the rats that inhabit her house in Austin, Texas. The film captures several ordinary days of her life – days in which she is so terribly alone yet still surrounded by people. She lives her life through computer monitors, isolated from the outside world. Although this is an observational documentary, its composition, often alternating image sizes, helps make the film’s pace even more dynamic. "Title came first. I was showering when I decided I would, one day, make a movie called Flesh Memory, about eroticism and the Internet. Then I met Finley. And everything suddenly made sense. Best ideas always pop up in the shower, don’t they?" J. Goldberg

Flesh Memory

Jacky Goldberg
France / 2018 / 60 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
Aftermath
A heterogeneous tetralogy of personal profiles brings together four individuals from different corners of the world of art – pianist and entertainer Fats Waller, painter Jackson Pollock, photographer Janieta Eyre, and painter Frida Kahlo. The ambient collage of turbulent social conditions is infused with intimate moments of artistic immersion. Hypnotic images vibrate with a captivating approach to the subjects’ individual lives. Hoolboom combines documentary footage and re-enactments with experimental collage. Sped-up footage, weightlessly floating cameras, VR, found footage, the patina of 16mm films – all of them tools for redefining the genre of cinematic portrait.„The movie poses this question: how to survive in the aftermath, of the state, of the state of your family, of your body. Artist examples are offered. Perhaps only in the act of doubling, in a crowd scene, can I find this thing I call myself.“ M. Hoolboom

Aftermath

Mike Hoolboom
Canada / 2018 / 75 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Ministerstvo kultury
Fond kinematografie
Evropská unie
Město Jihlava
Kraj Vysočina
Česká televize
Český rozhlas
Aktuálně.cz
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