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24th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

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A Volatile Tale
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A Volatile Tale
A Volatile Tale
A Volatile Tale
A Volatile Tale

A Volatile Tale

director: Carla Vestroni
original title: Una storia volatile
country: Italy
year: 2017
running time: 44 min.

synopsis

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

biography

Carla Vestroni (1942) teaches courses on Italian cinema for foreign students at Gonzaga University in Florence and at the British Council in Bologna. She is also a regular contributor to Cinema Sessanta magazine. Besides writing on film theory, she has also created several experimental video documentaries, such as The Sorting Game (2007), In The Bench (2008) and A Life Away, which have been showing at numerous European film festivals.

more about film

director: Carla Vestroni
producer: Sophie Chiarello, Carla Vestroni
photography: Carla Vestroni
editing: Carla Vestroni
music: Pino Censi
sound: Paolo de Laurentiis

other films in the section

Talks with TGM
Another contribution to the specific subgenre of animated history by the scriptwriter Pavel Kosatík. On 26 September 1928, Karel Čapek and President Masaryk meet in the gardens of Topolčianky castle to decide about the fate of their joint literary work. Their fiction film dialogue is based on quotes from a future book and their mutual correspondence, considerably freeing the original format of literary conversation from binding conventions. Čapek and Masaryk reproach and offend each other, but they also ask key personal questions and questions about the social functions of a writer and politician respectively.“It’s a film about two extraordinary men; it’s about the fact that emotions can be sometimes more powerful than ideas even in such exceptional people.” J. Červenka

Talks with TGM

Jakub Červenka
Czech Republic, Slovakia / 2018 / 80 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Things
In this crystalline ambient minimalist film, scenes of an unmade bed slowly alternate with windshield wipers in the rain and a glass of water with sunlight streaming through it. The camera gently touches objects and phenomena of everyday reality. The images are not accompanied by commentary – only in places can we hear the recorded “voice” of things and their surroundings. The viewer’s attention is unavoidably drawn to the texture of image and sound. Shapes, colours, light, background noise, and tones of the environment are fundamental elements that build the atmosphere of the moments from which the film is woven.

Things

Thomas A. Østbye
Norway / 2015 / 48 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 Sound of Old Rooms
Calcutta, 2011. A birthday party. Amidst the restless mood of the family celebration, we are thrown back to the student years of the ambitious and promising communist poet Sarthak. As a young idealist and bon vivant, he works to refine his empathy for the social problems of his nation, his altruistic concern for living beings, and his revolutionary consciousness. The past is woven together from memories, dilemmas, and basic human fears, concerns and joys. The echoes of old rooms resonate with a revolutionary ethos, artistic elitism, and the inability to take care of oneself.  

The Sound of Old Rooms

Sandeep Ray
India, South Korea, United States / 2011 / 74 min.
section: Opus Bonum
European Premiere
Ming of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys in the Air
Despite the outrage and indignation of his fellow New Yorkers, Antoine Yates and his animal friends – a 250-kilo Bengal tiger and a two-meter-long alligator – spent several years living together in his Harlem flat. Warnell’s investigative film essay on the relationship between humanity and animality takes Yates’s statements from the time when the public learned of his cohabiting with dangerous animals, and juxtaposes them with poetic footage of the predators moving freely around his flat. The director is less interested in the sensational case from 2003 than in exploring more universal and intimate aspects of people’s communication with animals, and their behavior in a domesticated setting.DETAIL:“People really don’t understand, like, when they took him away is, like is almost, like, taken a part of me away. It’s like cut to a piece your soul. Part of me is just gone.”

Ming of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys in the Air

Phillip Warnell
United Kingdom, United States, Belgium / 2014 / 71 min.
section: Opus Bonum
East European Premiere
Appunti del passaggio
The 1960s saw a large wave of immigration from Italy to Switzerland, which was infamously accompanied by hurdles thrown up against this new workforce. Meditative static images reveal the places, the landscape, and the border between the countries that are a part of this story. Photographs and an intermezzo consisting of the reading of poems inspired by the diaspora add an emotional element. The notes of a young woman read as voiceover give the documentary a multilayered narrative that tells the story of the collective memory of a group of economic migrants and their working conditions, exploitation, and loss of dignity. “By critically examining the merging of political power and cinema, as well as various ‘aesthetics of reality’, the project proposes a convergence of past and present to question history through (hi)stories of migration, architecture and cinema.”

Appunti del passaggio

Maria Iorio, Raphaël Cuomo
Italy, Switzerland / 2016 / 43 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
A Distant Echo
What can the landscape tell us about ancient history and how it is shaped? George Clark’s film essay explores this question through seemingly motionless images of the California desert accompanied by a minimalist chorale. This chosen form emphasizes the at first glance subtle shifts in the nature of the landscape, which becomes a stage for negotiations between an Egyptian archeologist and the members of a native tribe regarding the ancient graves hidden beneath the sand. The result is a multilayered tale that uncovers traces of the past, the ecology of the landscape, and cinematic history in locations that were once used to film Hollywood epics. “Existing in the resonance between ecological, cinematic and sonic domains, A Distant Echo explores the mythical continuity of sand as site for history, transformation and preservation. The things we cherish must sometimes be buried.”

A Distant Echo

George Clark
United Kingdom, United States / 2016 / 82 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World 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
Metaphysics and Democracy
On average, our eyes remained fixed on an advertisement for six seconds. Advertisements are probably the most common ideological channel that we encounter in visible form. Director Luis Ortiz has based his documentary film on this contrast à la thèse. The visual aspect of the film is made up of 57 one-minute static views of advertising. The soundtrack features texts that challenge the existence of ideology as such (the Borges story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius) and draws attention to the fact that we often confuse it with ontology (the critics of neoliberalism, such as Ignacio Ramonet and Noam Chomsky).“In times of political extremism I find it necessary to ask which mechanisms undermine democracy in the so called modern societies, then new progressive answers are needed to confront the simplistic discourses from the right.” 

Metaphysics and Democracy

Luis Ortiz
Germany, Colombia / 2016 / 59 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Missing
Once we begin to consider certain people, items, or memories as our own, we lay ourselves open to the threat that we’ll lose them. Once the loss actually occurs, our mental image of the lost thing doesn’t disappear – on the contrary – it intensifies. This documentary, inspired by the stories of missing people in Iranian newspapers, searches for people who have disappeared for various reasons, but their tracks still resonate. A wide spectrum of archival materials offers a variety of answers to the question of how the absent can remain present, while live images of grieving loved ones then act as an appeal to all those who would brush off this painful ambivalence. „It could be so simple at times. We just leave home and forget to return. Or don’t want to return. Or cannot return...” F. Sharifi

Missing

Farahnaz Sharifi
Iran / 2017 / 60 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Letters to Max
Maxim Gvinjia, the former minister of foreign affairs of the breakaway republic of Abkhazia – whose independence from Georgia has been recognized by only a few countries – is a friend of director Eric Baudelaire, who has been writing him from France since 2012. In the film, these letters are presented in text form and Gvinjia’s telephone replies are read in voiceovers. Gvinjia’s personal stories and his reflections upon his nation and its history are accompanied by footage of daily life in Abkhazia, for the most part short and simple snapshots taken by a professional hand-held camera, with no apparent connection to the letters’ contents.DETAIL:“The first letter that I received. It’s real letter, it’s wrapped in paper. ‘Dear Max, Are you there? Eric.’ Honestly, I am somewhere. I’m here, I’m in Abkhazia, in my office. It’s a sunny day. It’s eve of independence day.”

Letters to Max

Eric Baudelaire
France / 2014 / 103 min.
section: Opus Bonum
East European Premiere
The Beijing Ants
In 2013, Beijing became the city with the most expensive rents in the world. The rising prices also affected the film’s director, Ryuji Otsuka, his wife and their small child. With the help of a handheld video camera and casual and hidden cameras, he has created a personal diary that begins at the moment when he must search for a new flat after his rent was suddenly and significantly raised. From this has emerged an immediate, spontaneous testimony about everyday situations that can change easily into acute conflicts – not only due to financial pressure, but also because of the ruthless approach of landlords and indifferent police. DETAIL:“We’ll handle things according to the contract. Spoken words have no clout, only black on white counts. You say it was promised, I disagree, where’s the proof? Show us a written document.”

The Beijing Ants

Ryuji Otsuka
China / 2014 / 88 min.
section: Opus Bonum
European Premiere
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