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24th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

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Conference Fascinations

Bold allegorical, radically poetic, and unusual documentaries produced at the fringes of the official structures of the post-war Soviet regime in Ukraine.

Although Ukraine has no experimental cinema that might correspond to the avant-garde movements in Western Europe, America, and East Asia during the second half of the 20th century, experimentation with various forms of visual representation, media, and styles and genres took place in several forms at different places: On the margins of official art, at film schools, and outside the state-controlled system, directors created radically poetic films, hybrid works combining allegory, a distinctive visual language, staging, performance, and documentary observation. Some of the radically poetic films (whose creators were later called the Ukrainian School of Poetic Film) showed the clear infl uence of that legend of poetic filmmaking, Sergei Parajanov, who taught at the Ukrainian film school. Another influential figure was Feliks Sobolev, known for his visually stunning popular science films. Ukrainian visual collages were often characterized by an ironic subtext, especially in how they worked with the techniques associated with “official” documentary film, for instance enthusiastic voiceovers in the style of communist propaganda films. Among amateur filmmakers from this era, we see attempts at a more distinctive visual language, and so our retrospective also includes an example of a home movie that makes use of elements not usually found in such works (close-ups, motifs unrelated to family and shared experiences). The places of spontaneous experimentation and the documentation of performative interventions in public were first of all universities such as the Polytechnic Institute in Kharkiv or Medical Institute in Lviv. Some of the works created at film school were considered subversive, and some were rejected or even banned. (The best known example is the cult music film The End of Holidays.) Until recently, many of the films in this retrospective were unknown even at home, and some remain so today. Only two of them have ever been screened outside of Ukraine.

This retrospective selection is part of the Ji.hlava IDFF’s long-term focus on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. At previous Conference Fascinations screenings, filmgoers – among them renowned international distributors, representatives from experimental film festivals, and gallerists – could learn about the Czech experimental scene (2015), underground and experimental film from the communist era in Eastern Europe (2016), experimental Balkan production from the same era (2017), and experimental and underground film from the Baltic countries under communism (2018).

For generous help we would like to thank Oleksandr Teliuk and Oleksandr Dovzhenko and National Cinematheque of Ukraine.

Andrea Slováková

film database

Entering the Sea
This important film presaging the Ukrainian poetic school was intended as Osyka’s graduation work, but the diploma committee deemed it too formalist and rejected it. A panorama in a series of inquisitive shots of a crowded beach serves as a prologue for a lyrical study of the movements, faces, and bodies of the men, women, and children; of the sun and the sea.
personal program

Entering the Sea

Leonid Osyka
USSR / 1965 / 16 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
Exit Clause to Yugoslavia
A performative miniature in which the filmmakers – students of the Polytechnic Institute in Kharkov – document their public street performances. Their unselfconscious playfulness seems an unwitting omen of the fall of the Communist regime.
personal program

Exit Clause to Yugoslavia

Oleh Kachmar, Andrii Tuziak
USSR / 1987 / 2 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
Get Ready for an Entrance
A socio-critical reflection based on memories from the end of the war and post-war reconstruction. A meditative commentary on the state and future of the world is accompanied by memories of witnesses of various professions and a collage of archival materials from the theatre, workers’ meetings and celebrations, and scenes from factories, theatres, and childcare institutions.
personal program

Get Ready for an Entrance

Ihor Minaev
USSR / 1975 / 11 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
KVN
A documentary collage consisting of images of fields and housing estates, young people having fun, or a university setting and staged scenes filled with humour and hyperbole, accompanied by a voiceover recalling propagandistic socio-critical documentaries. Though banned in the Soviet Union, the film screened at several foreign festivals.
personal program

KVN

Arkadii Faustov
USSR / 1965 / 9 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
Kyiv Etude
Close-up details of sculptures and architecture in public spaces and shots of people on big city streets, set to music ranging from romantic tunes to jazz. The series of portraits and anthropological sketches shows one day in the life of Kyiv.
personal program

Kyiv Etude

Eduard Tymlin
USSR / 1966 / 9 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
Man Looking for a Rainbow
Besides possessing environmental appeal, this poetic depiction of the exploration of the Podillya cave system in the Termopil region holds a privileged position among the films from the Studio of Popular Science Films for its captivating storytelling, rhythmic assembly and distinctive visuals.
personal program

Man Looking for a Rainbow

Volodymyr Khmelytskyi
USSR / 1966 / 16 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
Mirage
This award-winning student film uses humorous animated collages to explore the characters, actors, and work of the big studios. Set to a dialogue-like commentary and music evoking various cinematic genres, the film engages in a critique of the star system of cinema.
personal program

Mirage

Arkadii Faustov
USSR / 1984 / 4 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
Robber
Allegorical scenes of village life, clearly inspired by the poetic style of Parajanov, show a father and son, temptation, a deed and punishment, in the mythical setting of a garden. Scenes of country life and animal husbandry are infused with rural lyricism. Apples become figurative tools, and abundance is redeemed through crucifixion.
personal program

Robber

Roman Balaian
USSR / 1969 / 11 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
The End of Holidays
This legendary musical film from the Perestroika era combines four video clips linked by the story of a young musician. It is a punk portrait of the Leningrad band Kino and its frontman, singer and actor Viktor Tsoi, whose performance style and looks made him a cult figure for Ukrainian youth.
personal program

The End of Holidays

Serhii Lysenko
USSR / 1985 / 29 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
The Wheel
A poetic portrait of sculptors who create their works on the potter's wheel from clay and other natural materials. The theme of the potter's wheel permeates through poetic scenes in which sculptors are captured at work, with their families, hand in hand with nature, and also in vivid images where both the creators and their artifacts are installed in everyday environments.
personal program

The Wheel

Mykhailo lIenko
USSR / 1972 / 18 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
Untitled
Children and a cat discover the adult world through all their senses, playfully exploring a library, seawater, an entire flat, and a park. To a playful musical soundtrack, the film comments on the world through a collage of newspaper headlines and magazine photographs, presented as analogous to a home movie.
personal program

Untitled

Borys Shylenko
USSR / 1960 / 10 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
Untitled
Fragments of a home movie in which the filmmaker captures weekend strolls and tanks rumbling through the city. The visit to memorial places and open nature is an example of an amateur film in which the director places a clear emphasis on details and attempts to create distinctive compositions and augment normal home movie situations with unusual visual motifs.
personal program

Untitled

Mykola Peretiatko
USSR / 1990 / 8 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
Water supply
A poetic look at the work of a man from an Abkhazian port town who looks after the nearby woods and hillsides. The expansive hilly pastures, mountains, animals, and rivers form the setting for a rural idyll and symbolist scenes in which the man frees a wolf from a trap or cleans a creek bed.
personal program

Water supply

Ada Kviraia
USSR / 1987 / 16 min.
section: Conference Fascinations
International Premiere
Ministerstvo kultury
Fond kinematografie
Evropská unie
Město Jihlava
Kraj Vysočina
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