The programme of this year's Ji.hlava IDFF will introduce prominent directors as well as significant contemporary topics. A film highlight will be the retrospective of Marguerite Duras. Audiences can also look forward to an expanded virtual reality section with a special focus on American VR production, as well as the latest Czech documentary crop and the very first retrospective of the Czech documentarist Pavel Koutecký. The Inspiration Forum’s discussions will revolve around water, space, artificial intelligence, and communities. The 27th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival kicks off in six weeks, on October 24 –29.
Women, women, and women again!
The twenty-seventh Ji.hlava is primarily dedicated to women. "Ji.hlava has long given a significant platform to female filmmakers, featuring retrospectives of, for example, Susan Sontag, Shirley Clark, Alice Guy, or Agnes Varda. It's important for us to make their works accessible, works that were often marginalized in their time, and to allow audiences to view them with today‘s perspective. So I‘m very pleased that the retrospective of Marguerite Duras will be accompanied by several distinguished guests, including French director Claire Simon – or that the icon of Japanese cinema, Naomi Kawase, will return to Ji.hlava after eighteen years," says the festival director Marek Hovorka about this year's programme.
Topics such as female physicality and sexuality, aging, friendship, childbirth, coming to terms with motherhood, sexual violence, and the effort to break free from gender roles run throughout the program. The Constellations section, which presents a selection of exceptional films from other film festivals, will feature several such films. For example Our Body where director Claire Simon grapples with womanhood and pivotal life stages, from birth through a cancer diagnosis to, for instance, gender transition. Simon, who took her camera to the gynaecological department of the Tenon clinic in Paris, will personally present the film in Ji.hlava. "Capturing pain is the hardest part," says the director.
"A woman's worth is based only on her ability to captivate a man," can be heard in the film Smoke Sauna Sisterhood by Estonian director Anna Hints. The film takes place in a smoke sauna, where the heroines grapple with life's fears, traumas, and relationships. "In the protective dimness of the smoke sauna, all emotions can surface, and no experience is too harsh or embarrassing," says the director, whose debut was featured at the prestigious Sundance festival this year and has since become a festival hit.
The topic of aging is addressed in the film Vika! by the acclaimed Polish director and investigative journalist Agnieszka Zwiefka. The eighty-five-year-old Polish DJ Vika can get crowds dancing, actively challenges stereotypes associated with aging, and strives to live life to the fullest, defying societal norms. At the same time, however, she grapples with the reality that inside her apartment, she is nothing more than a lonely widow.
The film Seven Winters in Tehran by German director Steffi Niederzoll follows the case of Iranian Reyhaneh Jabbari, who was sentenced to death at the age of nineteen for killing a man who tried to rape her. When given the chance to avoid execution by retracting her accusations against her assailant – she chose not to. The film has received awards from festivals such as the Berlinale and CPH:DOX.
Naomi Kawase back at Ji.hlava!
After eighteen years, Japanese director Naomi Kawase returns to Ji.hlava. According to Marek Hovorka, "For over three decades, she has been one of the most prominent Asian filmmakers. Her documentaries and feature films are characterized by a unique poetic touch and a feel for film form and rhythm. Her work stands out for its empathetic portrayal of female protagonists and themes they carry within." The esteemed filmmaker received the Contribution to Cinema Award in Jihlava in 2005. She also took home the Grand Jury Prize and the Golden Camera from the Cannes Film Festival for her first feature film, Suzaku. She also served twice on the jury at Cannes, once alongside Steven Spielberg.
"We will present both her documentary and feature work. The cinematic treatment of the Olympic Games – Official Film of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – is a captivating spectacle rooted in Japanese cultural traditions," describes Hovorka. "For me, not only people are characters, but also the environment. When the camera stops and the characters disappear, what remains in the shot is the path, the forest, the wind blowing. Existence is not just in the characters, but also in the surroundings. Scenes are also characters in my films," says Kawase about her creative method, which she will introduce to the Ji.hlava audience during a Masterclass. Another film, this time a feature titled Still the Water (2014), addresses adolescence and death – and according to Kawase, ranks among her top three films. "It takes place on a Japanese island where we follow two teenagers who, through the mystical discovery of a drowned body, come of age. Life, death, and love are beautifully intertwined here," says Marek Hovorka.
Lesser known Marguerite Duras
The Ji.hlava festival promises exceptional cinematic experiences this year with a significant showcase of French films featured across several sections. One of the most prominent will be a retrospective dedicated to the famous French writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker, Marguerite Duras. "She is among the most remarkable artists of the 20th century. In many ways, her approach to film direction is more radical and original than that of Jean-Luc Godard," says the curator of the retrospective, David Čeněk. Duras, whose themes revolved around female emancipation, the abandoned and abandoning woman, and a woman strengthening her position primarily through pain, drew material primarily from her own life. This is evident, among other works, in her most famous novel, The Lover.
Ji.hlava will showcase a selection of Duras's lesser-known films, including television reports for the feminist magazine Dim Dam Dom. "If any of us wants to understand the possibilities of film art, we cannot bypass her work, her films without a dramatic plot, her challenge to perceive the film-image and film-sound as two parts of a single entity. Marguerite Duras was able to base her reflection on a successful film on a favourite culinary recipe and the correct dosage of ingredients," explains Čeněk.
The festival will also present her film Le navire Night (1979), which captures conversations of anonymous lovers – and also the feature film I Want to Talk About Duras (2021), directed by the aforementioned Claire Simon; her film portrays the relationship between the famous artist and her thirty-years younger partner Yann Andréa.
Czech Joy reveals first highlights
The festival program traditionally offers a large showcase of current Czech documentaries. Among them will be The World According to My Dad directed by Marta Kovářová, which captures her father’s fight for climate justice in the form of a live diary. The film You Will Never See It All directed by Štěpán Pech will focus on the Czech artist with Slovak roots, Ján Mančuška. In the film Olympic Halftime Czech-Japanese documentary filmmaker Haruna Honcoop delves into the fate of Olympic constructions. While her previous film Built to Last (2017) focused on structures built during socialism across Eastern Europe, her current film maps Olympic construction in Beijing, Tokyo, and Paris.
Translucent Being: Pavel Koutecký
The section Translucent Being will be dedicated to director Pavel Koutecký (1956–2006). It is the very first retrospective of this talented and versatile Czech documentarist, whose works were recognized both in Czechia and abroad. The exhibition introduces Koutecký as a persistent observer, subtle ironist, and brilliant filmmaker, whose primary theme was the transformation of society after November 1989. “Pavel Koutecký was a part of the festival since its early editions. We know he held Ji.hlava dear to his heart, and we always appreciated his films, which he gladly presented at the festival. He managed to combine films about Czech politics with perspective and still give them a distinctive cinematic form. He was, in the best sense of the word, a cinematic chronicler of the Czech journey from socialism to capitalism, and we are delighted to present his cinematic work to a new generation of viewers. It's just a great pity that he can't be with us,” says Marek Hovorka. The programme includes his student, social, and political films: from those lesser-known from the eighties to his opus magnum Citizen Havel, 2007, a project he worked on for thirteen years, which, after Koutecký's untimely death, was completed by director Miroslav Janek.
Virtual reality – a special focus on American VR
This year's program will also offer a big showcase of virtual reality. Ji.hlava first introduced a VR section nine years ago, being the first among Czech festivals and fourth in the world. This year, the section will focus on American production. "The novelty is that we are targeting a specific country. We observe productions across countries where VR is strong in production, technologically, and in terms of creativity," says the curator of the section, Andrea Slováková. The selection includes the film Surfacing by Rossella Schillaci in which participants will experience how it feels for children growing up with their mothers in prison.
Experience water, universe, community and AI at the Inspiration Forum
The Inspiration Forum – Ji.hlava’s discussion platform – will this year offer a rich programme of debates, lectures, interviews, art, and a new participatory programme. Over the course of five days, five contemporary and crucial topics will be discussed: food, water, space, artificial intelligence, and communities. "At the Inspiration Forum, our aim is not just to reflect on current issues but to seek pathways to their resolution and directions for the future. We are uniting science, philosophy, thought, and imagination to shape visions of a better world for everyone," explains the head of the Inspiration Forum, Tereza Swadoschová.
This year's Inspiration Forum will see a host of experts and intellectuals focusing on key contemporary topics.
Space will be the focal point of the second festival day. Questions about its vitality, boundaries, and a potential future conflict over cosmic resources and territory present both fascinating and unsettling topics. Czech anthropologist Lucie Ráčková will discuss human stress in extreme conditions, which is immensely important for long-term space missions.
Water, an essential source of life on Earth, will be at the center of attention on the third day. Discussions will focus on the origins, ownership, and protection of water resources. In addition, there will be a discussion about deep-sea mining, which Portuguese marine biologist Patricia Esquete criticizes for its potentially irreversible impacts on marine ecosystems.
The theme of communities represents the way people interact and share resources. Polish sociologist Jan Sowa offers a provocative view of current inequalities and challenges associated with resource redistribution.
Finally, artificial intelligence represents one of the most current technological topics. Paris Marx, a critic of the technology industry, will explore the potential challenges and opportunities that AI brings, both in terms of regulation and its impact on human work.
Eight outstanding documentaries from Central and Eastern Europe, planned for theatrical release during the upcoming 12 months – the Docu Talents from the East – were presented yesterday as part of CineLink Industry Days at the Sarajevo Film Festival.
Projects from Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine made it to the final selection of Docu Talents from the East 2023.
The Docu Talent Award was granted to the most promising projects. The international jury decided to split the award between two projects: A Picture to Remember by Ukrainian director Olga Chernykh and producer Regina Maryanovska-Davidzon, and the Czech-Slovak co-production Chronicle by Martin Kollar. The award is accompanied with financial prize 5,000 USD in cooperation with the festival’s partner Current Time TV.
The 3,000 EUR in-kind DAFilms.com Distribution Award was awarded to An Almost Perfect Family by Romanian director Tudor Platon, produced by Carla Fotea and Ada Solomon. The award covers international VOD release on DAFilms.com (including Americas, Europe, Asia) for two years.
The jury gave the following statements:
“The personal and intimate A Picture To Remember presents a unique vision of life during the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Through the experiences of three generations of women: the director, her mother and her grandmother, the film presents the human experience of war powerfully and with tenderness. We also found the writing in the trailer quite evocative.”
“We found Chronicle to be a film without words that speaks loudly. The cinematic experience communicates a certain urgency. The creative collage of images evokes striking tension, suggests interesting metaphors, and conjures microcosms of absurdity in our world.”
“The jury is pleased to award the DAFilms Award to An Almost Perfect Family. With emotional and moving generational echoes, we found the pitch intimate, clear, precise — and brave.”
Since 2005, Docu Talents curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival, has been a launch pad for a number of documentaries by both renowned and emerging directors such as Laila Pakalniņa, Vladimir Mansky, Bartek Konopka, Piotr Stasik, Peter Kerekes, Dmitrii Kalashnikov and Helena Třeštíková. Films presented at Docu Talents in the past had world and international premieres at major film festivals including in Cannes, Berlin, Locarno, Rotterdam and Sundance.
“The awarded films tell the story of today's world in a subjective and straightforward way. Each in its own way, they find a cinematic language to talk about moments that turn life upside down. Yet, these films about the start of a war in one's own country, the suicide of a partner or the break-up of a family are not emotionally primal but layered. They have their own poetics and a resulting authenticity that manages to discover humor and insight even in these moments, as well as to create a space for dialogue with the audience,” says Marek Hovorka, director of the Ji.hlava IDFF.
EAST WEST INDEX 2023: DISPROPORTION REMAINS
Representatives of the Ji.hlava IDFF presented in Sarajevo also results of this year’s EAST WEST INDEX (EWI) – an exclusive survey among key European documentary film festivals, which focuses on figures representing individual regions.
Thanks to EWI, we found that the 2020 pandemic led to a 20% reduction in the number of films compared to 2019, which was a total of 600 missing films. As cheerful as the current data is, the 14 tracked festivals still presented nearly 150 fewer titles than in 2019.
The East West Index was launched by Ji.hlava IDFF to see how many films from Western and Eastern Europe are being screened by European festivals. In general statistics, both hide under the category "European film", but it is notable that for festivals in Western Europe, on average only one in seven are from Eastern Europe. Conversely, for Eastern European festivals, on average one in two films is from a Western European country. Nothing has changed in this ratio in the last five years.
See the survey in detail here.
EMERGING PRODUCERS 2024 WERE ANNOUNCED
During the event, the representatives of the Ji.hlava IDFF also revealed the names of the Emerging Producers 2024. This unique programme aims at promoting talented European documentary film producers and provides them with a range of networking, educational and promotional support throughout the year. 17 European producers will be accompanied by a producer from Philippines, which is the guest country of the 2024 Emerging Producers programme. The Emerging Producers programme consists of two workshops – taking place in Jihlava in October 2023 and during the Berlinale in February 2024.
Docu Talents from the East – the traditional presentation of most remarkable documentary films in post-production from Central and Eastern Europe will take place on August 13 at Sarajevo FF.
Eight new creative documentary projects will be presented as part CineLink Industry Day on August 13, the presentation will take place at Hotel Europe – Atrium from 14.30 – 15.45.
The most promising project will receive the Docu Talent Award in cooperation with Current Time TV. The award is accompanied by a cash prize in the amount of 5,000 USD. The DAFilms.com Distribution Award will also be awarded, which covers services in the amount of €3000 including international VOD release on DAFilms.com for two years.
"One for all, or one against all? The protagonists of the presented films are exploring their family roots and cultural background, striving for a fairer and more open world, and trying to secure their own place in it – often in spite of global and political influences. The films in progress, in which they appear, thus closely and often mercilessly depict the world in which we live and which we are shaping together. In line with tradition, Docu Talents from the East presents formally diverse and thematically significant documentary films at the completion stage made by prominent filmmakers from Central and Eastern Europe'', says Marek Hovorka, director of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival, which has organized and curated the Docu Talents since 2005.
In the last 18 years, Docu Talents have served as a launchpad for documentaries from Central and Eastern Europe. Below is the selection of this year’s most remarkable documentary projects from the region:
A PICTURE TO REMEMBER
Ukraine | France | Germany | 70’
Director: Olga Chernykh
Producer: Regina Maryanovska-Davidzon
Production Company: Real Pictures LLC
A Picture to Remember is an essayistic account of a family's long journey through the war. It chronicles the search for a way to handle terrible and recurring losses experienced by three generations of Ukrainian women - those of the director, her mother, and of her grandmother.
Slovakia | Czech Republic | 70’
Director: Martin Kollar
Producers: Ivan Ostrochovský, Albert Malinovský and Katarína Tomková
Production company: Punkchart films
A documentary observation essay creating a portrayal of irretrievably disappearing realities.
Poland | 82’
Director: Agnieszka Zwiefka
Producers: Zofia Kujawska and Agnieszka Zwiefka
Production Company: Chilli Productions
After her mom’s tragic death on the Polish-Belarussian border a 16-year-old Kurdish girl Runa has to become a mother for her 4 younger brothers as the family deals with trauma and tries to establish a new life in Europe.
Bosnia and Herzegovina | Turkey | 50’
Director: Deniz Čelebić
Producer: Deniz Čelebić
Production Company: Kapiya Production
As the diary of a woman who carries ancestral memory of displacement from home because of the war, the documentary Root shows her journey of becoming rooted through the garden she cultivated on the land of the Other.
DREAMING OF EL DORADO
Croatia | 60’
Director: Alan Stanković
Producer: Boris Veličan
Production Company: Event Film Ltd.
Film about a young girl Fatima Zahro from Senegal who took her destiny into her own hands and decided to move to Croatia.
AN ALMOST PERFECT FAMILY
Romania | 90’
Director: Tudor Platon
Producers: Carla Fotea and Ada Solomon
Production Company: microFILM
After 30 years of marriage, my parents announced to me that they were separating. In the midst of this painful process, I was falling in love and starting my own family. The film explores the different shapes that love can take between parents and children and children who become parents.
80 ANGRY JOURNALISTS
Hungary | Germany | 80’
Directors: András Földes and Anna Kis
Producer: Loránd Balázs Imre
Production Company: filmDOUGH
Viktor Orbán’s government seizes Hungary’s top independent media outlet, Index.hu. Journalists fight back by resigning and forming a new entity but face familiar toxicity. Can healthy communities survive in a corrupt system? Possible answers are revealed through the lives of three ex-Index.hu employees as they navigate challenges.
HAVEL SPEAKING, CAN YOU HEAR ME?
Czech Republic | 90’
Director: Petr Jančárek
Producer: Jiří Konečný
Production Company: Endorfilm
Leaving. And the ever-necessary presence of the playwright, prisoner of conscience, citizen, statesman and a shy director of his own life.
The programme is held as part of the Visegrad Accelerator supported by the International Visegrad Fund.