26th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival
The Old Believers
director: Jana Ševčíková
original title: Starověrci
country: Czech Republic
running time: 47 min.
synopsisThe title refers to members of an old Christian sect who were forced to leave their native Russia because of their beliefs. In the seventeenth century a group of these people settled in the Danube Delta in Romania. Jana Ševčíková visited the descendents of these emigrants over a period of five years. Her efforts resulted in an archive-like documentary which stands out within Czech cinematography. It is a portrayal of a specific community as well as a meditative contemplation, pointing to aspects that are already lost in modern-day society. Glosses of the inhabitants and scenes from their everyday life - permeated with religious rituals - alternate in the film with bewitching views of the delta landscape. The atmosphere is determined by the use of black-and-white film, which absorbs itself in the faces of characters, in tree bark and on water surfaces. This creates an image of almost mystical order ruling over the community. The flow of time is not a sign of change here. It is instead a continuation, in which birth and death are but part of a self-renewing order passed on in customs and beliefs, and having maintained a remarkably well-preserved form over several centuries.
biographyWith films that reflect on life in contemporary Eastern Europe, Czech filmmaker Jana Ševcíková has distinguished herself as a practitioner of poetic documentary. A graduate of the Prague Film Academy, her thesis film, Piemule (1984), offers a frank examination of Czech émigrés in Romania during the final years of Ceausecu‘s totaltitarian regime. She has produced films independently, such as Jakub (1992), and received state funding from the Czech Ministry of Culture. Her films have been shown at festivals in Berlin, Strasbourg, Karlovy Vary and Cracow. Praised throughout Europe, Ševčíková‘s intimately crafted works challenge the distanced conventions of ethnographic filmmaking.
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