The program of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival has now taken a more definite shape. In the coming weeks we will keep you informed about the exceptional films and personalities that the festival will bring to the Czech Republic this year. As part of the festival section Translucent Beings, Jihlava will present profiles of: Fernando Solanas, the guru of Argentine cinema, the famous Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase, and the Czech exile documentary filmmaker Jana Bokova. This director of world renown will come to present her films personally. The last retrospective, of the American experimental filmmaker Bruce Conner, will be introduced by American avant-garde theoretician William Wees, who thanks to many personal meetings with Conner gained (and published) a rare insight into his work. The famous French documentary filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin, who worked in the 1960s and 1970s jointly with Jean-Luc Godard, has accepted an invitation to sit on the jury of the section Between the Seas. During his visit, the festival will screen several of his famous documentaries never shown in the Czech Republic before, including Pravda, which was shot in Czechoslovakia.
As in previous years, several films will have their world premiere in Jihlava. The IDFF Jihlava has since its beginnings played a key role as a platform for the presentation and summary of, as well as criticism and reflection on, Czech documentary film. This year, Jihlava will hold the world premiere of Helena Trestikova´s film (the sequel of her Marital Etudes) and the premiere of both of the new films of Miroslav Janek (Verka, Audabiac). Jan Sikl will personally present two episodes of his Private Century (films composed of amateur footage from family archives that he has been gathering throughout the Czech Republic for ten years). Pavel Koutecky has for several years been working on a time-lapse film about Vaclav Havel, a part of which he will present in Jihlava during his workshop. Among other guests will be the authors of Czech Dream, Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda, as well as the director of the ethnographic film Afonka No Longer Wants to Herd Deer, Martin Rysavy, who as last year’s winners will sit on the jury of the section Czech Joy. Jiri Havelka and Ondrej Cihlar, actors and moderators at the VoSto5 Theatre will again host and direct the Opening and Closing ceremonies (on 25.10. and 29.10; however, screenings will continue all day Sunday after the Closing ceremony).
“There is no such thing as a revolutionary film without a revolution!“
The master of the poetics of the political: once banned and persecuted, now celebrated as well as award-winning – in Cannes, Berlin, and Venice, the author of the concept of “third cinema”.
”Millitant film has to be able to draw infinite new possibilities from the conditions and bans imposed by the System.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, Fernando Solanas was an influential figure of radical leftist Argentine cinema. Before becoming a director, he was involved in theatre, music and law, and had worked as a journalist. In 1962, he produced and directed his first short film, Seguir andando. He has been exploring his country from political and social angle for almost forty years ever since. In 1966, he joined the group Cine Liberacion and together with Octavio Getino made the documentary Hora de los hornos (The Hour of the Furnaces) – the full version of which will be presented as part of his retrospective. This four-hour long masterpiece became a classic of political cinema, earning the support of Peron; through archive footage, montage, poetry, interviews and drama, the documentary tries to provoke the passive audience into acting against political injustice. The film was shown secretly, with breaks to give the audience space for active debates. The Hour of the Furnaces is the key work of a movement that came to be called “Third Cinema”. (Third Cinema as a matter of principle avoided the values and techniques of both Hollywood and European production, to campaign against neocolonialism, capitalism and Hollywood film culture as money-making entertainment. The term was first used in Solanas’ and Getino’s manifesto Towards a Third Cinema). Solanas and Getino made several more documentaries of this kind together and gradually began making films that diverged from the principles of Third Cinema. Their 1972 film Los Hijos de Fierro – which will also be shown in Jihlava – was banned in Argentina, and because of it, Solanas received threats from the Triple A group; one of the protagonists of the film was murdered. When at last Peron came to power again in 1973, Solanas started to make feature films. He escaped to Paris in 1976, only returning to Argentina in 1983. In 1985 Solanas madeTango... Gardel´s Exile. In South (Sur). Solanas continued the themes of The Hour of the Furnaces in Memoria del saqueo (Social Genocide, 2004) – also to be shown in Jihlava. This controversial, strongly leftist documentary was presented at the Berlin festival, where Solanas received an award for lifelong achievement and was afterwards invited by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro to open his anti-capitalist documentary in their countries. His last finished film, La Dignidad de los Nadies recently won the Defense of Human Rights award at the Venice Film Festival, as well as winning the City of Rome award, and Best Documentary. The film will be shown in Jihlava at a special screening that will be a part of Solanas’ workshop.
“Even if you think from the very beginning how your film is going to influence society, I think it is not as important as that. When people ask me questions about feminism, I just tell them off. I’d be happier if they said, “the person who made this film was a woman”, rather than, “only a woman could have made a film like this”. I am happy to make films that so many men and women like.”
The youngest recipient of the Golden Camera in Cannes, a courageous, strong filmmaker with a peculiar roughness and refined sensibility.
In 1989, she graduated from the School of Photography in Osaka, where she lectured for the next four years. In 1993, she started a search for her father, who left the family when she was young. The fiction film that was the result of her search, Embracing, won the Courage Award at the Image Forum Festival. All of the many films she has made since were very successful at festivals. They feature regularly at the International Film Festival in Yamagata, and also at Visions du reel Nyon. Among her most notable films are Suzaku (1997, FIPRESCI award at IFF Rotterdam, Best Actress award at IFF Singapore, Golden Camera at IFF Cannes), The Weald, a portrayal of six groups of elderly people living in the Nishi-yoshino mountains, Hotaro (FIPRESCI award at IFF Locarno). The Czech Republic has so far seen only her last feature film, Shara. Jihlava will present her most recent film Shadow, which balances on the frail border between fiction and documentary.
“My films are usually quite short, and if you blink too much you miss most of it.”
An experimental filmmaker working with found, discarded or recycled footage, by linking and overlapping, Conner creates striking, dynamic collages while at the same time challenging American icons.
“It’s good when a film has something to offer when you see it second, third, fifth time.”
His work ranges from a sophisticated mosaic about the assassination of a president to a video for a cult band.
Bruce Conner (USA) is one of the key experimental filmmakers today. His first films employing rapid editing and archival footage became legendary, and the way in which these combined sound, music and image has permanently changed the art of cinema worldwide, changing the way we look at films as well as films shot on video. Conner’s films are independent in the true sense of the word – he invents the concept, he produces, shoots and edits them himself... He turns the lack of money into an advantage by using the “leftovers”, or “defects” of the medium.
Conner studied visual arts at the University in Wichita, Nebraska, where he graduated from in 1956. He continued his studies at the Brooklyn School of Art and at Colorado University. In 1957, he moved with his wife Jean to San Francisco, lured by the rumors of a dynamic art and literary community. He soon became a key figure in Beat Generation circles. He also lived in Mexico City, Brooklyn, and Massachusetts, eventually settling in San Francisco where he works to this day. He first became known in the 1950s with his assemblages shrouded in nylon stockings – sculptures made of found objects – ladies’ stockings, jewelry, bicycles and broken dolls, often incorporating painting or collage. At the end of the 1950s, he also began making short films that were absolutely unique in style. He made his first film, entitled simply A Movie, in 1958. Among his most significant films are Report (1967, on the Kennedy assassination), Marilyn Times Five (1973, a supposed Marilyn Monroe nude), Mongoloid (1978, featuring music by the punk band Devo), and America Is Waiting (1981).
“Jean Rouch told me: no apologies. It stuck in my head... I have a terrible respect for the object I am shooting, even though I am aware that I am in fact manipulating him or her during the shooting. I could manipulate even more and my film would perhaps be even more articulate, but the respect for those people would be missing from it. And it is important for me that the person or group of people I film will recognize themselves in the result, and they’ll say ‘that is the truth’.”
A respected figure of international documentary film, the Czech exile director whose films are almost unknown in the Czech Republic.
Jana Bokova, Czech by origin, is an internationally respected figure in documentary film. In 2003 the Paris Cinematheque hosted a complete retrospective of her work. Countless essays and research papers were published on her in magazines such as Sight and Sound or Positif. She lives in Buenos Aires. She emigrated in 1968, moving first to Paris, where she studied at the Sorbonne. After that she went to the USA, working as a photographer for the Rolling Stone and other magazines. After returning to Europe, she studied at the newly opened National Film and Television School in London. The advisor on her first assignment was Jean Rouch. Her 1975 debut film, Militia Battlefield, on the life of a bar singer in London, was immediately distributed in French cinemas and won extraordinary acclaim from both critics and viewers. There followed Marvena and Marika (1977), on the life of emigres, also set in London. In 1980 she made Blue Moon, about a languishing Paris cabaret, as well as a documentary portrait of Anthony Quinn entitled Quinn Running. He most successful film so far is the 1990 documentary Havana. She was the first to film the writer Reinaldo Arenas, about whom Julian Schnabel later made the feature film Before Night Falls, which was directly inspired by Havana. In the years after that, she made for instance a film on Eric Clapton (2002), and Mexico, (2000), about the world’s most populous city. Her last film to date, Tango Salon (2004) is a portrait of a famous dance club in Buenos Aires that has managed to preserve its atmosphere even though an economic crisis rages all around it. During her career Jana Bokova has also made two feature films. Her fiction debut, Hotel du Paradise, was made in 1986 and was entered in competition at Cannes.
Born to leftist-Jewish parents, Gorin studied philosophy at Sorbonne (he attended, for instance, seminars given by Louis Althusser, Jean Lacan and Michel Foucault) and worked three years as an editor for the literary supplement of the daily Le Monde. Gorin first met Jean-Luc Godard in 1967 and, as an important representative of the New Left youth movement, worked with him both practically and theoretically on the film La Chinoise. A creative duo emerged from their friendship and collaboration, and together they founded the Dziga Vertov group (named after the famous Russian avant-garde documentary filmmaker Dziga Vertov, who considered the clips edited out of a film to be its most important component). Together they made the films Lotte in Italia (Struggles in Italy, 1969), Vladimir et Rose (Vladimir a Rosa, 1971), Tout va bien (Just Great, 1972) and Letter to Jane (1972). The last film made by this group is usually considered Ici et ailleurs (Here and Elsewhere, 1975). The films by the group Dziga Vertov are formally bold lampoons with political irony as well as persuasiveness. The festival will also feature another Godard film that Gorin took part in: Pravda was shot in Czechoslovakia in 1969. Currently living in the USA where he is a university professor, Jean-Pierre Gorrin accepted the invitation to be a member of the Jihlava international jury.
Among the members of the International Jury is the only Czech cameraman to work with Jean-Luc Godard. Director Stepan Benda studied philosophy and literary theory. Similar to Jana Bokova, Vaclav Reischl or Bernard Safarik, he is among those Czech exile filmmakers who made their debut film only after leaving Czechoslovakia. He studied at the Deutsche Film und Fersnsehakademie in West Berlin, where he made his feature-length debut, inspired by Poe’s story The Purloined Letter (1988). Benda rendered the story, featuring Poe’s favorite hero, the amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin, who solves apparently inexplicable mysteries, in the style of silent cinema, which was a source of inspiration even in his earlier work. As a director of photography, he has worked for instance on the Slovenian documentary Foto Film 2001 (1996) by the directors Maja Weiss and Peter Braatz. With Godard he worked on Germany Year 90 Year Zero, 1991.
IDFF Jihlava is continuing this year in its publishing activities (last year’s publications featured the translation of Guy Gauthier’s historical-theoretical book Le Documentaire – un autre Cinema, and a co-publication of Karel Vachek’s A Theory of Matter) with the release of the book Jean-Luc Godard – a collection of primary texts by and about Godard never before published in Czech. Edited by Helena Bendova and David Cenek, with Juraj Horvath contributing the graphic layout, the book forms the basis for a series focusing on the principal chapters of history and the present state of documentary film.
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