24th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival
Section Constellations presents films, that last year shone on world documentary skies. We introduce carefully selected titles from other film festivals.
The body as a material sculpting object and abstract unity of functions. The body as a part of early traumas, ideological rejection, political censorship, persistence and ephemerality. The body as a concept of organization of extensive natural communities. The body as an empty shrine for further artistic use. This audiovisual essay in letters by Iranian filmmaker and British sculptor is a dreamful, intimate dialogue, discourse on the country’s fate following the Islamic revolution, on family and a desire to perfect the female body devastated by malignant disease. A film conversation on the artistic reflection of beauty, memory, experience, fulfilment and inception of new life.
A Moon for My Father
Douglas White, Mania Akbari
United Kingdom, Iran / 2019 / 73 min.
Mikel, director of the film, along with the protagonist Mathias, are childhood friends, nevertheless due to the time that has elapsed, the former finds that he knows hardly anything about the latter. The mad circumstances leading up to a fatal twist in their lives makes them shoot a documentary reconstruction about the process that turns into a very personal portrayal of a man who was made to live a double life against his will, the border between each one of them being as thin as a line drawn between victim and perpetrator in a ruthless criminal underworld. More than to the criminal plot though, attention is turned to stubborn attempts of a person dragged down by a spiral of serious problems while being able to wear a mask of seemingly happy and steady life.
Mikel Cee Karlsson
Sweden, Finland / 2019 / 99 min.
East European Premiere
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.
Multi-talented artist and Czech native Jiří Synek (1921-2017), known to readers as František Listopad, spent most of his life in Portugal, where he performed under the name Jorge. He was a poet, translator, theater and film director, organizer, and teacher, and as such had a large influence on Portuguese cultural life. He had a significant role in building the Portuguese television and film school. He also wrote continuously, and his poems and prose are an exceptional testimony to the melancholy of exile. The documentary contains revealing archival recordings and poetic sequences, presenting Listopad through his ideas and life philosophy.
Four Seasons and Autumn
Pedro Sena Nunes
Portugal / 2018 / 90 min.
Central European Premiere
An ageing beekeeper in the rural Macedonian mountains strives to maintain the tradition of honest, environmentally friendly beekeeping. Her quiet everyday life – caring for the colony and selling honey in a nearby town, the untiring care of her mother, living off their farm without electricity – is interrupted by the arrival of nomadic beekeepers, who perceive nature primarily as an opportunity for profit, a way to break free from their poverty. The filmmakers spent three years with the heroine of the film, shooting over four hundred hours of material which became the basis of this melancholy environmental appeal, lyrically depicting the immaculate beauty of nature.
Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska
Macedonia / 2019 / 85 min.
Irving Park is a neighborhood in Chicago where the film's four lead characters live together under one roof. But their cohabitation has a rather unusual arrangement – they are all aging gay men practicing dominant-submissive relationships. This time-lapse film gets right in the middle of the action of this abnormal household, and through a seemingly primordial provocation that seems only natural and commonplace, such as long conversations from the Lord and his naked slaves, the film enables a sense of family reciprocity, unsolvable crises and daily inhabitation. As one of the cast members admits: we all live in acceptable relationships of domination and submission.
Greece / 2019 / 117 min.
Central European Premiere
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.
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.
Streaming has become an unprecedented hit in China with a commercial value in the billions. In 2017, more than 427 million people could not get by without sharing the details of their pre-camera privacy. Whether it be an incompetent street dancer, an adult man suffering from a genetic disorder that makes him look like a child, or a slacker working in an underwear factory. The director watched dozens of these “newsmakers” and from more than 800 hours of absolute mundanity, she put together a remarkable collective portrait of a generation for whom offline and online worlds are inextricably linked, showing a fascinating testimony about the pursuit of rapid success and the loneliness and mere killing of time.
United States, Hong Kong SAR China / 2019 / 124 min.
East European Premiere
A documentary portrait of the Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa is a contemporary audiovisual reflection on the meanings that objects, locations and sounds in films carry. The filmography of the director of films such as House of Lava, Bones, In Vanda’s Room, and Colossal Youth is explored using not only his own words and clips from his movie trailers, but also a melancholic atmosphere and experiments with image and sound. Despite occasional glimpses into Costa’s office, he remains an enigmatic personality, which we know only through his work and creative processes. How he thinks, what he feels, and how he lives must be derived from his work.
Portugal / 2019 / 65 min.
Three places and three moments spent with the Geneva Golden Youth. For his documentary, the director organized a workshop with students from the prestigious HEAD School of Art and Design in Geneva to get to know the young men and women who are well-accustomed to a life of luxury and who like to kill time having long discussions in the nightclub, snorting cocaine and sipping champagne. The director sees the film as a highly subjective vision, a kind of pseudo-ethnological work in which some formal elements show hints of irony. Here he acts as an amused moralist and observer trying to break into a world riddled with lavish parties, drugs and all-pervasive vanity.
France, Switzerland / 2019 / 31 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
A grandmother, a granddaughter and a dog. A path leading up to dying. Several timeless moments from the life of a sick woman enriched by the presence of a filmmaker granddaughter who captures the transient quality of life events and the gentleness of giving farewells through film. Behind closed doors, simple conversations, routine actions (a dinner) and handing over of experience (gutting the pig’s head) unwind. The acuteness of fleeting moments is augmented by the dog’s view. The projection of final moments in life captured by the eyes of the camera that of a devoted pet. An intimate balance of losses in one’s life laid out on a ground plan of a family tri-portrait.
The Dog's Eye
France, Belgium / 2019 / 37 min.
“A good terrorist is a dead terrorist,” a well-known saying goes. The same kind of ambivalence present in the title applies to this film telling the story of Jason Walters, a convicted and later redeemed member of the Dutch terrorist group Hofstad. They were responsible for manslaughter, planning of terrorist attacks and threatening with killings. Walters gave up only after two weeks of his flat being continuously besieged. Nevertheless, out of the testimonies of representatives of justice, prison wardens and other men charged with terrorist acts, a stereotypical image of a radical Muslim man embodying all the world’s evil suddenly melts away. A scarred Europe has displaced possibilities of redemption and repentance into toxically politicized causes outside all tolerable social criteria, as in the cases of most imprisoned terrorists.
The Good Terrorist
Netherlands / 2019 / 80 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.
A sensitive portrait of Daniel Spoerri that takes viewers not only to the workroom of this versatile artist, but also to his childhood spent in Romania where his father fell victim to the Jewish pogrom. In addition to Spoerri himself, his assemblages speak to them, breathing new life into various objects. They enhance the theme of rebirth around which the director constructed her own personal, fine-tuned film. - Daniel Spoerri (1930) is a Swiss visual artist and writer born in Romania. He is famous for his snare-pictures (tableau pièges), in which he places groups of objects found in chance positions onto a plane surface so that the resulting object can be hung up like a painting.
This Movie is a Gift
Austria / 2019 / 72 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