27th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

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Constellations

Section Constellations presents films, that last year shone on world documentary skies. We introduce carefully selected titles from other film festivals.

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Crotch Stories
Can childbirth be a pleasant physical experience? The filmmaker listens to the stories of midwives, doulas, and women who have already given birth, and reflects on childbirth as an intimate yet highly political topic. She processes her experience of pregnancy and the strength of her own body in a self-reflective monologue with a dose of exaggeration and humor. The film consists of documentary footage and physical performances of the protagonists, which are transformed into colorful animations reminiscent of French modernist paintings. This opens up important issues of bodily integrity, the right to pleasure, and the freedom to make decisions about one's own body. “Pleasure produces distension and an absence of fear and lets you open up.”
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Crotch Stories

Myleine Guiard-Schmid
France, Belgium / 2021 / 35 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel
The legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York City finds itself at a critical moment in its existence. Eight years of reconstruction means hope for the owners that it will be reopened in its full glory and beauty. But for the more than 50 regular tenants, the already difficult living conditions in the middle of a construction site can result in an even more difficult existential situation. It is this unique turning point that is the subject of the documentary, which uses profiles of residents of different ages and interests to piece together a historical picture of the iconic building. A hotel that in the pop culture imagination – but apparently also in reality – has become more than just a mere place of habitation.“Our intention was to keep a distance from the mythology and deconstruct it. We wanted to welcome the audience through the backdoor of the Chelsea Hotel and to show something different from what people usually imagine.”---Source: https://www.cineuropa.org/en/interview/422124/
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Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel

Amélie van Elmbt, Maya Duverdier
United States, Sweden, Netherlands, France, Belgium / 2022 / 80 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
Everything Will Be Ok
Animals have taken over the world. Will they behave in the same way as humans, which even in modern history have committed wars, genocide and general terror? In his ominous mnemonic dystopia, the renowned Cambodian director asks whether a radical change in the social order can reverse tragedy and bring desired peace, or whether we will forever spin in a cycle of power apparatus towards totalitarianism, repeating the same mistakes that inevitably bring injustice and violence. A dreamy political essay structured like a diorama, interwoven with archival footage and evoking Orwell's Animal Farm in a futuristic guise.“I’m not asking the audience to understand it all. We cannot understand it all, and something you can understand entirely is useless. But take a part that connects with you in your mind, and try to enjoy it or have some reflection on it. And then continue to hope and to live. I hope the project will remind you that through shared creativity we will remain free and connected. Everything will be OK.” — Rithy Panh---Source: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/berlin-2022-rithy-panh-cambodia-covid-pandemic-despair-1235092437/
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Everything Will Be Ok

Rithy Pahn
Cambodia, France / 2022 / 98 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
Mara
In Belarusian, “mara” means “dream,” but in the sense of “hope.” In Slavic mythology, the word denotes a female spirit that manifests in people's minds while they sleep and brings either dreams or nightmares. An artistic personification of the mythical being Mara roams through the streets of Minsk in 2020–2021 in the film of the same name. During the anti-dictatorship protests that took place, it served as a symbol of the hopes and subsequent horrors experienced by the Belarusian citizens demanding to have their basic rights and freedoms. For the director, Mara is her alter ego incarnate, which in poetic shorthand allows her to talk about her most personal fears and desires in the face of an unpleasant reality that’s hostile towards dreams.“I didn’t want to make a typical ‚reportage‘ film. For me the most important thing was to show what trauma does to the human psyche.”---Source: https://eefb.org/country/belarus/sasha-kulak-on-mara/
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Mara

Sasha Kulak
France / 2021 / 62 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
Museum of the Revolution
Belgrade’s Museum of the Revolution was meant to become another Brutalist monument celebrating socialism in Yugoslavia. Its construction plan later failed and this desolate building from 1961 is now a refuge for homeless people. Among them is a young mother with her child and Mara, an aging woman. Their lives could not be placed further away from the utopian visions of the perfect world. The Serbian filmmaker Srđan Keča moulded his 2014 video installation into a documentary, a humble glimpse into a fragile personal cosmos lying aside from all social structures. It takes note of a world amid emptiness, on the brink of state affairs, outside of the major population’s field of vision, with human lives flowing slowly through.“There’s a whole genre of socialist ruin porn, especially in photography with Yugoslav monuments, representing them as if some alien civilization built them and playing with SF [science fiction] tropes, but these monuments have histories and represent histories.”---Source: https://povmagazine.com/srdan-keca-on-museum-of-the-revolution-and-documenting-paradise-lost/
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Museum of the Revolution

Srđan Keča
Czech Republic, Croatia, Serbia / 2021 / 91 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
Neighbour Abdi
Abdi spent his childhood in Mogadishu during the civil war. Now he designs and makes furniture in the Netherlands. In the past, he repeatedly witnessed violence and war crimes. After he emigrated, he broke the law himself and ended up in prison. His neighbor happened to be filmmaker Douwe Dijkstra. Together, they decided to reconstruct and take a better look at Abdi's childhood and youth full of traumatizing incidents. Besides not-always-reliable memories, their tools include Dijkstra's special-effects studio with a green screen and many miniature models. The film is both a biography and a stimulating deconstruction of an effort to grasp someone else's past.“My process is very investigative, working through research and experimentation. But then I also find that in this ‘making of’ approach, it is never about the technical side of things. For me, it’s always about showing the perspective of me as a filmmaker, or the way I relate to the topic or to my protagonist or subject.” — Douwe Dijkstra---Source: https://businessdoceurope.com/locarno-ff-neighbour-abdi-by-douwe-dijkstra/
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Neighbour Abdi

Douwe Dijkstra
Netherlands / 2022 / 29 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
Nuclear Family
The film opens with Travis Wilkerson's childhood memories shaped by the Cold War and his mother's obsession with the atomic bomb. Having lived in constant fear of a nuclear holocaust, he would often be haunted by nightmares. After Donald Trump's electoral victory, the nightmares came back. In an effort to understand the root cause of his neuroses, the filmmaker embarks on a therapeutic road trip across the United States. He’s joined by his daughters and his wife, who is also the co-creator of this documentary. Together, they visit missile launch facilities known as “nuclear silos” and other places linked to the annihilation of indigenous peoples. Their family trip becomes the underlying basis for the pervasive criticism of a national ideology that’s founded on mass destruction and raising fears.“The film is a story of our land — even though it never belonged to us personally —, our family, but also of all the violence against the indigenous people, without which we wouldn't be living there today.” — Erin Wilkerson---Source: https://www.melodieundrhythmus.com/mr-2-2022/strahlende-zukunft/
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Nuclear Family

Erin Wilkerson, Travis Wilkerson
Singapore, United States / 2021 / 95 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
PRISM
Is the movie camera a neutral medium, or is there an ideology behind it? The film's directors investigate how racism is written into the development and current format of filmmaking technology. Their online debates during film production show how controversial the topic is. Although white people are no longer the only ones standing in front of and behind the camera, film equipment is still adapted to white skin. The film consists of three diverse essays in which the authors share their own personal experiences with the bias of technology, confront stereotypical thinking about the film, and demonstrate how truly different it is to capture dark and white skin on film. “For me cinema is the people, those who see it and take it with them back to their reality.” (Rosine Mbakam)
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PRISM

An van Dienderen, Eléonore Yameogo, Rosine Mbakam
Belgium / 2021 / 77 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
Rimini
Richie Bravo, once a successful pop star, travels from Italy to Lower Austria to bid a final farewell to his late mother and his family home together with his younger brother and his father, who lives in a retirement home. He then returns to Rimini, where he is a charismatic and passionate gigolo, entertaining elderly ladies and groups of pensioners with his touching songs in dingy hotels. Suddenly his daughter comes to see him and demands money, which Richie doesn’t have. With exceptional empathy, Ulrich Seidl has made a bittersweet portrait of a groping, lonely man trying to start a new life, but it might already be too late.“RIMINI is about the search for happiness and the attempt to leave the past behind. But it catches up with you, that is the bitter or liberating truth that the protagonists finally have to face. It is about the longing for love, sexual bartering and the loneliness that remains.” — Ulrich Seidl---Source: Presskit
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Rimini

Ulrich Seidl
Germany, France, Austria / 2022 / 114 min.
section: Constellations
The film already had its Czech Premiere
Sermon to the Fish
A young man returns to an abandoned village surrounded by the vast plains and high mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh after several years in the army. Meanwhile, the village has become an empty stage set whose inhabitants have died of a mysterious disease, one that is slowly eating away at his sister, the sole survivor. Two siblings and an old dog are the only living beings in a dead landscape that is a metaphor for the impact of war on human life. A heavily atmospheric film made up of slow-moving, bleak scenes complemented by ambient, unsettling music as it attempts to answer the question of whether surviving is the same as living.“The deserted village, shot impeccably by Baydarov himself and consisting of abandoned oil fields, ruins, and touches of unnatural beauty, such as a bent yellow tree nestled between the hills, is the perfect location for a group of characters who realise that once the war is won, nothing remains.”---Source: Review: Sermon to the Fish, Davide Abbatescianni. 12. 8. 2022, Cineuropa. Available at: https://cineuropa.org/en/newsdetail/428803/
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Sermon to the Fish

Hilal Baydarov
Türkiye, Switzerland, Mexico, Azerbaijan / 2022 / 89 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?
The film is a probe into the romantic relationships and sexual adventures of young gay men whose lives deviate from traditional heteronormative ideas. In intimate conversations with several protagonists, they discuss dating in the queer community, polyamory, and unfulfilled love. The scenes consist of colorful animations inspired by Arabic fairy tales, theatrical play scenes with explicit nudity, and musical numbers with Arabic pop songs. The stark contrasts between the different narrative forms support the ironic tone of the film, which explores the possibilities of true love outside of society’s expectations.“It's a remarkable collection of tales that inventively and honestly explore masculinity through a queer eye.”---Source: Rich Cline Review, 26. 9. 2022. http://www.shadowsonthewall.co.uk/22/d11.htm#shal
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Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?

Mohammad Shawky Hassan
Lebanon, Egypt, Germany / 2022 / 63 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
Sparta
In Rimini, Ulrich Seidl introduced the fizzled-out bar singer Richie. Filmed in parallel, Sparta follows Richie's brother, Ewald, who’s in his forties. He left his native Austria years ago. Now he's trying to make a fresh start in Transylvania. With a group of local boys, he turns a dilapidated school into a fortress. Outwardly innocent games are an excuse to spend time with children, whom Ewald finds sexually attractive. This unprejudiced drama challenges us to empathize with a pedophile. According to the findings of the weekly Der Spiegel, the director did not sufficiently familiarize the child actors with the film's sensitive subject matter and exposed them to nudity, violence, and alcohol. Seidl denies the charges.„In my work I have always sought to plumb the contradictions in our thoughts and actions that are the essence of being human. I am aware that my world view as an artist, and how I express the latter in my films, is in blatant contradiction with the contemporary zeitgeist that demands a simplified, context-free “either-or,” when a “both-as well as” far better expresses human experience.“ — Ulrich Seidl ---Source: https://www.ulrichseidl.com/en/statement-sparta
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Sparta

Ulrich Seidl
Germany, France, Austria / 2022 / 101 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
The Adventures of Gigi the Law
Pier Luigi, called Gigi, is a rural policeman who spends his days investigating minor offenses, flirting with a new colleague over the radio, and arguing with his neighbor about his overgrown garden. But one suicide case keeps him up at night, and he begins to investigate whether there is something more behind it. The slow narrative, absurd situations, and the protagonist’s character evoke European art films. The pleasant atmosphere of the unforced passage of time and the stories from the life of Gigi and the people around him create an engaging, empathetic, and at times dreamily poetic film.  “A poetic comedic documentary reminiscing of Tati’s Mon Oncle.” — Cirriere della Sera ---Source: https://shellacfilms.com/international-sales/gigi-la-legge
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The Adventures of Gigi the Law

Alessandro Comodin
Belgium, France, Italy / 2022 / 102 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
The Cars We Drove Into Capitalism
This humorous documentary takes us back to the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War, when the car was considered not only a small miracle and a key symbol of technological progress, but also a means of fighting the imperialist class enemy, while paradoxically representing an almost unattainable social status. However, the journey of people who were able to choose their dream car even from the small handful of available socialist brands and wanted to step towards a better tomorrow was often tortuous and lasted for decades. This nostalgia-soaked film odyssey, composed of several autobiographies of Trabant lovers and Muscovites for whom the car means more than a means of transport, presents a fascinating automotive history and the hardships of the socialist era.“We are quite interested in the psychological reasons of the people’s attachment to these cars that is going on even today. It is a strange form of nostalgia - not so much for the Socialism or the youth, but for a time when a vehicle was reparable with your own hands and a few simple instruments. Most of the drivers had to learn the guts of their cars, if they wanted to have a moving vehicle - and knowing your car from the inside created a much stronger bond between the man and the machine.”---Source: http://www.agitprop.bg/?fbclid=IwAR3saJ0PCSaA-x2D4Fbb6U4PZn_7X8JnXPAFggLfWe-ixAxDdeX_HS9qEL0#/works/WATCH
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The Cars We Drove Into Capitalism

Boris Missirkov, Georgi Bogdanov
Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark, Bulgaria / 2021 / 93 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
The Fire Within: Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft
Married couple Katia and Maurice Krafft lived for just two things: each other and volcanoes. During the Mount Unzen eruption of 1991, they were both tragically killed. They left behind over 200 hours of raw footage documenting their work, which Werner Herzog used to edit a visually mesmerizing eulogy of sorts. He primarily lets shots of volcanic craters and flowing lava do the talking, accompanied by classical music, while only sparingly interrupting this explosive symphony with his commentary. He takes an interest in the Kraffts mainly as the creators of captivating images who share his fascination with nature and who, much like him, find beauty in places most dare not trek to. “It appears to me that the Kraffts were shooting a whole film about Creation in the making. They just didn’t have enough time left to edit it.” — Werner Herzog
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The Fire Within: Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft

Werner Herzog
United States, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France / 2022 / 81 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
The Kiev Trial
In January 1946 in Kyiv, under the banner of the Soviet Union, Nazi generals, officers, and their collaborators were tried for war crimes. The film reconstructs the trial using unique archival footage from the courtroom. In chilling testimonies from witnesses and survivors of concentration camps and the Babyn Yar massacre, the horrific crimes against humanity that took place during the war come to life, contrasting with the Nazi defendants’ cold-blooded descriptions of events.“If we do not talk about the traumas and tragedies that occurred, they come back to haunt us.” (Sergei Loznitsa)---Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2022/04/sergei-loznitsa-donbass-interview-russia/629509/
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The Kiev Trial

Sergei Loznitsa
Ukraine, Netherlands / 2022 / 106 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
The Super 8 Years
The film consists of 8mm shots filmed in the 1970s by Annie Ernaux and her husband, including family celebrations, holidays, daytrips, and vacations spent in various destinations around the world. However, these aren't just home videos, but also an “archive” of political and social changes and the impact they had on an ordinary French family. Nostalgic imagery is accompanied by the auteur’s own literary monologue reflecting on the transformation of society from the 1970s to the present. This gives rise to a cinematic reflection on humans’ rediscovery of the natural world and the possibilities it brings in overcoming life’s hectic nature at a time of late-stage capitalism.“There will be another moment in which hope, this desire to conquer other things, will be born again. But it’s all about this impossibility of foreseeing tomorrow, even though tomorrow is already present in today.”---Source: https://filmmakermagazine.com/114729-interview-annie-ernaux-david-ernaux-briot-the-super-8-years/
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The Super 8 Years

Annie Ernaux, David Ernaux-Briot
France / 2022 / 60 min.
section: Constellations
Czech Premiere
Ministerstvo kultury
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Město Jihlava
Kraj Vysočina
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