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25th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

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Into History: Expedition Colony

With the advent of the modern modes of travel thanks to the steam engine, formerly distant Africa drew closer to the borders of Central Europe. The way was opened for exploratory expeditions from the Czech lands, pioneered by the renowned Emil Holub, the first of the Czech professional "adventurers". But 20th-century travelers who proudly volunteered to travel with Holub were given more powerful weapons than their predecessors - the automobile and the movie camera. In their films, they charted expeditions whose rapid progress was made possible by the use of automobiles. Travel films are not only a testament of the desire of their creators to get to know distant places, but also an imprint of their thinking. The films, often exploring the diversity of African cultures, relate in various ways to the ideology of colonialism - either actively endorsing it or taking a definitive stand against it. The Colonial Expedition retrospective presents a selection of pre- and and post-World War 2 films, that demonstrate the active role of Czechoslovakia in the cultural colonization of Africa.

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Africa I. From Marocco to Kilimanjaro
In 1947, an unknown duo of aspiring explorers set out from Czechoslovakia on a trip around the world. Two films were made from their expedition, which eventually covered “only” the African and American continents. The first of these later became probably the most famous, as well as the most successful Czechoslovak film about Africa. It sold out cinemas, thus ensuring the filmmakers, Hanzelek and Zikmund, phenomenal success that continues to this day. However, the film is also remarkable from a lesser-known perspective, in the context of colonial ideology. During the trip, the communist coup took place in Czechoslovakia, and the filmmakers were forced to come to terms with this change, not only upon their arrival, but also when making the final cut of the film and its commentary. It thus became a unique view of the early communist regime on the African colonial order, which it reflects to some extent critically, without avoiding the promotion of communist ideas.
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Africa I. From Marocco to Kilimanjaro

Miroslav Zikmund, Jiří Hanzelka, Jaroslav Novotný
Czechoslovakia / 1953 / 104 min.
section: Into History: Expedition Colony
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A film from the expedition of the Austrian anthropologist Hugo Adolf Bernatzik and the Czech explorer Bedřich Machulka examines the life cycle of a man from a Sudanese tribe. One of the first surviving Czechoslovak films about Africa.
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Gari-gari (Calling of the African Wilderness)

Hugo Adolf Bernatzik, Bedřich Machulka
Czech Republic / 1928 / 83 min.
section: Into History: Expedition Colony
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In the early 1930s, the famous race car driver Eliška Junková and the Aero factory organized the Aero Blue Team automobile expedition, in which four cars were sent to North Africa, three of which were crewed by women. The expedition, the purpose of which was to promote the resilience of Aero cars in the North African desert, is documented by a film that ambivalently addresses both women’s emancipation in the context of a male-dominated sport as well as the issue of colonial domination.
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Six Women Search for Africa

Josef Laufer, Leo Marten
Czech Republic / 1934 / 17 min.
section: Into History: Expedition Colony
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In 1931, naturalist Jiří Baum and sculptor František V. Foit set out in a Tatra 12 automobile on an expedition from Africa’s northernmost point to its southernmost point. From their journey, a film was created that not only maps their progress, but also reveals how Czechoslovaks regarded the indigenous people of the African continent.
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To the Cape of Good Hope

Jiří Baum
Czech Republic / 1933 / 47 min.
section: Into History: Expedition Colony
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