25th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival
The Wall of Shadows
director: Eliza Kubarska
original title: Ściana cieni
running time: 94 min.
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:
Polish film director, traveler, and climber Eliza Kubarska (1978) graduated from the Academy of Arts and Films in Warsaw. In her award-winning outdoor documentaries, such as What Happened on Pam Island (2010), Walking Under Water (2014) or K2: Touch the Sky (2015), she follows people who have connected their lives with the tallest mountains or the depths of the sea.
more about film
other films in the section
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.
The narrator of the film is Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela. The film portrait captures his career from the 1980s to the present day using the footage of fashion shows and comments by Margiela’s close collaborators. The most important part of the film, however, is the designer, his voice and participation in the film. Margiela is known for his introversion; he does not let anyone photograph or interview him. When he does speak, he never speaks for himself but always on behalf of a collective. The film respects his approach and gives him a voice, not a face; we can see only his hands – the instruments of his imagination. “My documentary work is very personal and intimate in many ways, and what I want to achieve is to discreetly communicate these elements to the audience.” R. Holzemer
Martin Margiela: In His Own Words
Germany, Belgium / 2019 / 90 min.
East European Premiere
In an abandoned industrial zone at the foot of the Austrian Alps, a Nigerian mechanic lives and works by dismantling old cars and selling their individual parts, mainly to Eastern Europe and Africa. The documentary captures him during his work and while taking meditative breaks with a cigarette overlooking Erzberg Mountain, where iron ore has been mined since ancient Rome. The hero's isolated microcosm is observed at the very edge of economic activity, yet it is inextricably linked to global economic relations in Europe and Africa, the mining of resources, and the exploitation of profits.
Movements of a Nearby Mountain
Austria, France / 2019 / 85 min.
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.
Liberal-minded twenty-five-year-old Eva lives in Berlin, and none of the words used to describe her alternative life are entirely accurate. She is a wanderer, poet, lesbian, prostitute, virgin, housewife, drug addict, and model who decided at age fourteen that privacy was an outdated concept. Thanks to social networks, which she uses to permanently present herself to the public, we see primarily those characteristics by which she defines herself in opposition to majority society: an absolute openness in terms of showing physicality, sexuality, and drug use. Searching Eva is not just about the search for a woman whose body (and soul) have become a public spectacle; it is a multilayered film essay that explores female identity as such.
Germany / 2019 / 84 min.
East European Premiere
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.
The murders, which have steadily been on the rise since the 1990s, form the subject matter of this epic documentary depicting the horrific scale of violence in a crime-stricken, Mexican society riddled with corruption. The ghost-like appearance of the overall picture is reinforced by the chosen black-and-white material and the division of the film into chapters, capturing with almost anthropological consistency a series of testimonies from the bloody history of the country. The sun shines on the horror: the search for the kidnapped, raped, and murdered women and missing students, the murder of a photojournalist who pointed out the links between politicians and criminal cartels, the uncovering of mass graves on private sites.
Canada / 2018 / 154 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.
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
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
“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
The First Bridge
Latvia / 2020 / 11 min.
The nonprofit B´Tselem organization documents the violation of human rights in Jordan’s West Bank. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers, it has collected thousands of hours of video records capturing the everyday hardships of Palestinians who are tormented by the Israeli army, the police, and even ordinary civilians. Amateurly filmed night raids and daily hardships provide a vivid narrative about injustice, helplessness and violence in the Israeli-occupied territories. The hand-held camera, which is the only weapon the volunteers use, creates a raw, aesthetically unadorned image of a world where people are deprived of their land, their privacy, a carefree childhood, and even a dignified death. “It is a story of a vulnerable life, with no political rights or the right to protest, a life on the receiving end of the project of dispossession of land and resources which is the Israeli occupation.” E. Tarabien
Of Land and Bread
Israel, Palestine / 2019 / 88 min.