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25th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

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Opus Bonum

Opus Bonum is a competition section for the documentary films from all around the world, with the price for the Best World Documentary Film.

→ The winners will receive an award of 10.000 USD
→ The authors of the best Central and East European film will receive an award of 3.000 EUR (in cooperation with Current Time TV)

film database

Back Home
Due to the impact of the global Coronavirus pandemic, the author of the film comes back to her birthplace after having spent the last 10 years abroad. She goes about her daily routine under lockdown along with her parents: her father teeming with good humour who takes government restrictions with reservations, and her mother who voluntarily locks herself in her room because of fears she could infect other flatmates with the virus she may not even have. Sara Shazli observes city bustle outside the windows and domestic life through the camera lens in her own perspective, treating familiar situations with both tragic and comic distance. Being locked down with her parents helps her in rediscovering family ties and her relationship to home. „My plan today? I’m gonna go from my room to the living room, and then from the living room to the bathroom.“

Back Home

Sara Shazli
Egypt / 2021 / 76 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
Betula Pendula
Thomas lost his sight already in his childhood. He kept his sight memory, though. After many years, he comes back, both in person and in memories to his childhood places, the colours and shapes which he still vividly remembers. Starting from descriptions of rooms and furniture, he delves deeper, into feelings, passions, hopes and frustrations. In a combined visual and tactile film essay on the ability of perceiving the invisible details, looking back at his life, he asks the question, along with the filmmaker Lina Zacher, to what extent one’s identity is created by images. Can one understand oneself and one’s surroundings, finding one’s place in the society without actually seeing where one is?„Nemusíte prožívat všechno to, co jsem zažil já! Jen to musíte natočit.“ 

Betula Pendula

Lina Zacher, Thomas Wellner
Germany / 2021 / 40 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Cusp
A chronicle of one summer through the eyes of three young girls in the holiday season timelessness of a smalltown. An intimate, ambient tri-portrait follows the protagonists through the bleak  environment of gas stations, fast food joints and caravans in which the girls experience their first love affairs, sex, drunkenness, disappointments and desperations. A poetic treatment of the purple-coloured sky and red sunsets, bordering on lyricism, lies in sharp contrast to the local down-to-earth existence, spontaneous killing of boredom, goofing around and modest parties. In open talks and social interactions, they bring up etching topics of traumatic family breakdowns, aggressive machoism, sexual exploitation and toxic laws of survival and satisfaction.„In Cusp, we’re seeing three girls in a highly specific setting — a Texas town where teenagers play with machine guns, and where the lack of supervision is at once economic and spiritual.“ (Owen Gleiberman, Variety)

Cusp

Isabel Bethencourt, Parker Hill
United States / 2021 / 83 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
Dark Light Voyage
After a devastating discovery about the fate of a friend now confined to a mental institution, the director and his young daughter set out on a 1 700 kilometre long train journey from the north to the south of Vietnam, hoping to regain harmony and find answers to some questions along the way. His daughter’s inquisitive narrative exposes philosophical reflections on life’s journeys and the fate of people surviving in areas still suffering from the events of the Vietnam War. These are complemented by shots of everyday and highly stylized images. The film finds inspiration in Zen Buddhism and the belief of the Vietnamese Ruc tribe in a primordial fire that accompanies humanity. „If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.“

Dark Light Voyage

Eva Cadena, Tin Dirdamal
Mexico, Vietnam / 2021 / 66 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
Good Light, Good Air
The name of the South Korean city of Gwangju means “good light”, while Buenos Aires means “good air”. What these “good places” in two opposite parts of the world have in common is their experience with dictatorship. The lives of the young generations in these countries were shaped by the bloody suppression of the 1980 uprising in Gwangju and by the rule of the Argentinian military junta in the 1970s, respectively. The sons and daughters of mothers and fathers who went missing forty years ago are on a quest for truth that had been corrupted for years by the political regimes. Opening mass graves and exhuming family traumas cause phantom pain constantly reminding that parts of the collective past has been amputated.   „The ones who lived through it are still alive. That history isn´t over yet.“ (From the film.)

Good Light, Good Air

IM Heung-soon
South Korea / 2020 / 110 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
Letter to Nikola
The audiovisual letter to the unborn child is an intimate confession on the border between the personal and the social. In despair and frustration with the state of the world, a testimony to a time gone awry is born. The rescue ship Aquarius, whose crew helps refugees stranded in the stormy waters of the Mediterranean, is a space of imagination built on the humanist message of a photographer of stories of human misfortune. An existential shudder and schizophrenia of experiences framed by the numbers and statistics of the dead and survivors on the one hand, and the personal stories of the refugees on the other. The beginning of a new life in the face of a civilization confronted with uncertainty and unprecedented images of destruction.“Although I wanted to record your first days on this earth, it was a long time before I took the first photographs. I don't know what scares me more: the idea of seeing a two-dimensional reproduction of you or the fact that the eye of the camera separates us.” (Hara Kaminara)

Letter to Nikola

Hara Kaminara
Belgium / 2021 / 50 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Lines
The black and white film oscillates between intimate portraits of seemingly random protagonists and a socially critical account of the impact of urban transformation on both personal and community life. The almost neo-realistically stylized footage shows the everyday hustle and bustle of contemporary Bratislava whose inhabitants, in addition to their own woes, have to cope with the constant grind of urban construction, collapsing traffic and rising housing prices. The peculiar visual compositions and neurotic orchestral music create an audiovisual poem about the reality of modern urban life, in which even painting lines on the road can be seen as a philosophical reflection. „Being home alone is still a great luxury. Being alone in the world is unbearable. When you’re alone often, you tell yourself that’s probably how it’s supposed to be.“ (Barbora Sliepková)

Lines

Barbora Sliepková
Slovakia / 2021 / 80 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
No Desire to Hide
The film shows the ordinary lives of young people in China, with all their romantic problems, unfulfilled dreams and existential crises that are interwoven into everyday dialogues and conversations with the director. The two central protagonists try to function in an open relationship, which suits only one of the partners, while the other suffers and longs for a family life. The possibility of emigration to America is a hope, but it is gradually receding due to the worsening political situation. The camera captures even the most intimate moments and puts the viewer in the position of a voyeur observing the exposed bodies and souls. „There is very little space for Chinese independent films these days. For big film festivals in western countries, they don't pay attention to the small budget films as they look less industrial.“ (Zhu Rikun)

No Desire to Hide

Rikun Zhu
China, United States / 2021 / 94 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Out in Force
The desire to achieve the greatest physical strength and moments of complete lack of mental strength define the life of film critic Kamil Fila during the filming of this atypical time-lapse documentary. The necessary moment of observation is broken in a longer period of time by the protagonist’s attempts to bring his life into harmony with the people closest to him, which, nevertheless, regularly lead to failure. The result is a portrait of an intellectual at his wits’ end, a man who struggles with the limits of rationalisation. It is precisely the openness with which Fila lets us peer into the depths of his private life that has a therapeutic effect not only for him but also for the viewer. „Five years ago I was approached by a production company if I was interested in making a time-lapse film about the critic Kamil Fila and his then project of personal transformation. It was such a strange offer that I accepted.“ (Martin Mareček)

Out in Force

Martin Mareček
Czech Republic / 2021 / 91 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Santelmo
Encyclopaedias describe St. Elmo's fire as a harmless meteorological phenomenon caused by a strong static discharge. In Philippine mythology, a "santelmo" is a wandering soul of a deceased person who has not found peace yet. Similarly, young men wandering through countryside seek in vain reconciliation with the world in this hypnotic black and white poem that resembles the work of Lav Diaz because of its contemplative pace. The three young men, whose aimless journey is accompanied only by rustling of leaves and grass, chirping of insects, and singing of birds, speak about people for whom they have suffered and whom they plan to take revenge on. Yet, they are prevented from freeing themselves by memories that cannot be killed.„We exist in nothingness. We live searching for answers."

Santelmo

Liryc Dela Cruz, Liryc Dela Cruz
Italy, Philippines / 2021 / 52 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Tell Me
At the onset of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, 15 filmmakers from various countries across the globe who had met during Werner Herzog’s masterclass in a Peruvian jungle decided to publish phone numbers of helplines which people staying in lockdown may have used to call and share their confessions of living in isolation. Thanks to this project, an emotionally laden documentary came into life that puts into contrast images of the external desolate environment with sound recordings reflecting a wide range of feelings about existence in a voluntary prison cell. Staying isolated is not only about being locked inside but leads to a deeper understanding of oneself and one’s relations to the others.„Filmmaking has become so democratic. You can make a film on your iPhone, do it. Because everything you do, every story you paint on the canvas becomes a teacher.“ (Marta Pulk)

Tell Me

Marta Pulk
Estonia, Jordan / 2021 / 75 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
When You Are Close to Me
A world of silence and darkness. A world of things unspoken and unseen. It is the world in which deaf, blind and deafblind people spend their entire lives. But it is also a world full of fantasy, joy and an excited sensitivity towards outside stimuli, touches and vibration. The immense power of physical contact with and the closeness of caregivers is an energizing element in this humanist documentary exploration of the world of people with vision and hearing impairments. The filmmaker patiently observes the lives of patients living in the specific conditions of institutional existence and opens up her observations to a wide range of possible forms of communication and sharing, while also showing an understanding for the hard work and absolute exhaustion of the caregiving personnel.„Seeing and watching can be done in many different ways. For instance, with the heart or the ears, but also in many other ways.” 

When You Are Close to Me

Laura Viezzoli
Italy / 2021 / 75 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
Will
Will is a kind of verbal symbolic balance sheet for life, in which we reconcile our material and immaterial possessions and pass on our message to the next generation. The poetic last words form the outline of the film composed of four segments reflecting in different ways on life against inevitable finality – whether it is a couple of young people walking through a Parisian cemetery, a video installation poetically pointing out the manifestations of mortality around us, a family filmed from the position of the grave while performing cemetery rituals, or the film director as the passive recipient of a farewell to life. "Imagining the last words before dying, I wrote a poem. The poem was divided into four parts and used as the titles for the four stories."

Will

Wonwoo Kim
France, South Korea / 2021 / 58 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
YOON
Yoon in the language of the Senegalese Wolof ethnic group means “journey” – whether it is the distance to be covered or the process of moving from one place to another. This is the journey that the protagonist, Mbaye, embarks on. In an ever-repeating cycle, he buys a second-hand car in Portugal, loads it with goods to sell and items to deliver to others, and sets off on a 4,500-kilometre drive to his native Senegal. The post-modern traveler spends the immensely long and lonely journey worrying about whether he will reach his destination at all and calling his relatives and recipients of the packages he delivers along the way. "Yoon addresses the trade of outdated cars, the life strategies of routiers and the grey areas that are traversed in an activity that takes place between Portugal and Senegal."

YOON

Pedro Figueiredo Neto, Ricardo Falcão
Portugal / 2021 / 84 min.
section: Opus Bonum
International Premiere
You Are Ceaușescu to Me
High school and university students, a teacher or a gigolo meet in a vacant warehouse that is turning into a film studio. They will reenact scenes from the life of former Romanian President Nicolae Ceaușescu. His fight against fascism, joining the Communist Party, his imprisonment and his trial. The more intensely the actors get into their roles, the more they reveal about themselves during the breaks in filming. Together with the profile of the communist leader as a young man, this creates a collective portrait of contemporary Romanian youth, their value priorities and their relationship with history in an experimental space between fiction and documentary.   „The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.“ (William James)

You Are Ceaușescu to Me

Sebastian Mihăilescu
Romania / 2021 / 100 min.
section: Opus Bonum
World Premiere
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