25th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival
The First Bridge
director: Laila Pakalnina
original title: Pirmais tilts
running time: 11 min.
“Krāslava Bridge is the first bridge over the river Daugava in the territory of Latvia — a gate for the Daugava river from Belarus to Latvia” says the opening title of the film in which a strategically built and historically significant construction holds a number of different meanings. An analytical documentary immortalised in a series of suggestive, black-and-white, static shots and sounds brings us closer to the life of the bridge in all its heaviness and lightness from various angles: through the eternally flowing river it arches over, we witness the endless movement of car traffic and pedestrians walking between two river banks as well as the call of the wild within close proximity to the manifestations of human civilisation, for which it serves as a symbolic backdrop.
"The special thing about the documentary is the fact that we shot it on the leftovers of a 21-year-old 35mm negative. And it really worked. It looks great.” L. Pakalniņa
biographyLaila Pakalnina (1962) is a graduate of the Moscow Film School VGIK and is among the most famous Latvian filmmakers. Her documentaries have won a number of international awards, including the Golden Bear in Berlin for the short film The Water (2006). The Jihlava Festival also presented her films The Chimney (2013), Short Film about Life (2014) and Dream (2016). In 2017, she was a juror of the Opus Bonum section.
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other films in the section
In eastern Nepal, the sacred mountain Janna looms at 7000m tall. The top of Janna is considered the seat of gods and demons. It is said that whoever tries to humble her will pay for it with his life. Under the mountain lies the village where Ngada Sherpa lives with his family. One of the most reliable mountain carriers in the area, he is struggling with poverty. Nevertheless, he is determined to pay for his son to attend medical school. He therefore decides to break the taboo and accompany a climbing expedition to the summit of Janna. He hopes the gods will be merciful to him. The majestic mountain scenery becomes the set for a drama about a man tempting the elements and his own religious beliefs. “People are often guided by emotions, and in the mountains it’s even more pronounced. Over there, we are who we are. Everything is black and white. Only here in the lowlands do we have many shades of grey.” E. Kubarska Q&A with Eliza Kubarska:
The Wall of Shadows
Poland, Germany, Switzerland / 2020 / 94 min.
Irving Park is a neighborhood in Chicago where the film's four lead characters live together under one roof. But their cohabitation has a rather unusual arrangement – they are all aging gay men practicing dominant-submissive relationships. This time-lapse film gets right in the middle of the action of this abnormal household, and through a seemingly primordial provocation that seems only natural and commonplace, such as long conversations from the Lord and his naked slaves, the film enables a sense of family reciprocity, unsolvable crises and daily inhabitation. As one of the cast members admits: we all live in acceptable relationships of domination and submission.
Greece / 2019 / 117 min.
Central European Premiere
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.
Right from its opening line: “Not everything in this story is true”, the film can be seen as a playful application of deductive reasoning often found in crime fiction. Somewhere at a landfill site where you can allegedly get the best views of the Adriatic sea, a middle-aged man comes across a microcassette and begins to deduce who could have made such a recording and for what reason based on the cassette’s simple label description. Accompanied by an essential Balkan brass band and with the help of animation by Ivana Pipal, the man begins to piece together a caricature image of this mystery person’s life and love story, which most likely never even happened. But whatever the case may be, this story will continue to be recycled. „I think local love is a good thing, to understand your surroundings. It’s when patriotic feelings start to lead to exclusion and neighborly tensions that it becomes dangerous.“ I. Bezinović Q&A Igor Bezinović and Ivana Pipal:
Microcassette - The Smallest Cassette I've Ever Seen
Ivana Pipal, Igor Bezinović
Croatia, Serbia / 2020 / 19 min.
Small silhouettes appear in the middle of the sights, observed from afar. They move quickly but they cannot escape the quick all-seeing eye. They are monitored all the time. Despite the apparent absence of the human element we are not watching an animated film or a computer game but authentic videos from Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian missions of American and French soldiers. The silhouettes belong to real people who are only a trigger pull away from death. This is the 21st-century warfare. Everyone who can be seen is under threat. Eléonore Weber used dehumanized images of dying for her chilling reflection of the modern form of war.Q&A with the director Eléonore Weber:
There will be no more night
France / 2020 / 75 min.
Somewhere between North and South America, capitalism and communism, and the Soviet Union and the United States lies Cuba — regarded as a historical, geographical, and cultural intersection of various utopian visions. Although these visions have yet to be fulfilled, the people of Havana, whom Hubert Sauper chose as his guide, still cleave to them and continue to believe the stories of their ancestors. This spontaneous and melancholic travel essay confronts the unadorned reality of the impoverished island state and explores the myths its people live by. And despite the country’s long history of foreign influence, oppression, and political upheavals, these myths have ensured that the people of Cuba never lose their inner freedom. “In Epicentro, I tried to reflect on these amazing and opposing terms, ‘utopia’ and ‘dystopia’, and thereby focused on Cuban society as a case study.” H. Sauper Q&A with the director of Epicentro Hubert Sauper:
France, United States, Austria / 2020 / 107 min.
A genre hybrid film by Vincent Boy Kars is a docu-dramatic experiment – the main character, Leyla, is supposed to play key scenes from her life. The acted parts of the film explore Leyla’s relationships with her parents and boyfriend – played by hired actors – and the art of dance she has been studying. More emphasis, however, is placed on the parts between the scenes when Boy Kars and Leyla discuss her life and the ways to present it. Not only does Leyla relive her memories but she also has re-enact them again and again, always in another way, following the director’s instructions. The documentary highlights the constructive nature of documentary films and begs the question how drama helps us understand our own lives. “To me, this film is about developing your own way of filming. Sometimes I seem to create a new genre. I combine interesting elements of fiction and documentary, trying to develop an approach where acting and being come together.” V. Boy Kars
Vincent Boy Kars
Netherlands / 2020 / 90 min.
Central European Premiere
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.
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
This observational film provides a detailed insight into the daily work of the administration of Boston City Hall in Massachusetts and the activities of the city’s mayor Marty Walsh. Representatives' meetings, meetings with citizens, and fieldwork by individual employees reflect the difficulties that affect not only Boston but the entire United States. The issues of racial inequality, homelessness, poverty trafficking, and climate change are reflected in the specific steps of the city administration. The complex picture of an important social institution illustrates the difficulties faced by local democratically minded authorities during the Trump era. „I made City Hall to illustrate why government is necessary for people to successfully live together.“ F. Wiseman
United States / 2020 / 275 min.