Czech docs of the year 2019

Welcome at the English double issue of dok.revue 2019. This winter issue looks back upon the Czech documentary scene in the year 2019 and serves as an annual book of the most (internationally) interesting Czech documentaries and articles about them at dok.revue.

Kiruna, A Brand New World

„Czech documentaries have been recognized increasingly at festivals and in cinemas this year for their boldness and willingness to take on complex issues with imaginative approaches, whether exploring the impact of electronic sound on society, or the disastrous effects of Swedish iron mining,“ claims Will Tizard, journalist and documentarian based in Czech Republic, who covers the film sector in Central and Eastern Europe for Variety. For English dok.revue, he originally wrote an article about emerging Czech female documentarians, with leading lights recently screened at the 23rd Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival. 

This year, Czech documentaries were presented at prestigous festivals. The docu by the first-time female filmmaker Johana Ožvold called The Sound is Innocent was screened at Visions du Réel in international competition Burning Lights. From the pioneer sound engineers working behind the Iron Curtain, through the French avant-garde composers, up to the post-modern creators of digital sonic artefacts, Ožvold summons an abstract landscape that is haunting and yet achingly beautiful. You can read a review in this English issue. 

In Nyon´s international competition of feature films, another Czech documentary film was screened. Kiruna, A Brand New World made by the first-time female filmmaker Greta Stocklassa, shows the town of Kiruna, in Sweden, which must relocate: the iron mine over which it was built is threatening to swallow it up. Stocklassa creates a subtle film around three protagonists who must also re-build their identity: a high school girl rediscovers her Sami roots, a young Yemeni refugee hopes to obtain asylum, a nostalgic teacher struggles to accept the upcoming destruction of his town. In this English double issue, you can read an interview with Stocklassa. 

The directorial debut by the French-Czech producer Artemio Benki called Solo was set to world-premiere as part of the ACID selection during the Cannes Film Festival. This film also wan the Czech competition called Czech Joy at Ji.hlava IDFF this year. In his film, Benki follows a journey of the Argentinean virtuoso Martin Períno who ended up in a psychiatric ward, unable to find his peace and reach his purpose. You can read a review of this film in current English issue. 

However, there will be other Czech documentaries screened at prestigous international festival in the year 2020. At International Film Festival Rotterdam, there will be screened the new film essay by doyen of Czech documentary filmmaking Karel Vachek called Communism and the Net or the End of Representative Democracy. In this double issue, you can read an interview with Vachek about his new film. Another Czech documentary, FREM by Viera Čákany, will be screened at Berlinale 2020. You can read more about this original essay shot in Antarctica in the section New release

In this English double issue, you can mostly find English translations of Czech articles published at dok.revue this year. You can read interviews with important Czech filmmakers or reviews of interesting documentaries, or articles written by filmmakers themselves about their new films (section called New release). In section called Sport, you can read about teaching documentary filmmaking at schools at Visegrad countries. This was also a topic of the panel discussion held during 23rd Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival. You can also see a video from the masterclass of Kazakh filmmaker Sergey Dvortsevoy held at this festival in 2019.

December 17, 2019

from current issue:

Situational reviewThe creators of Havel didn’t know that they don’t know. And that’s the worst kind of not knowing!Is director Slávek Horák’s film Havel truly chaos that says nothing at all about the recent history of our Czech nation or its first president? Or are the filmmakers entitled to artistic license and allowed to create whatever they like, despite giving the film and its main character the name Havel? And what does it say about the times we live in that from the legacy of the influential playwright, intellectual, politician, and master of words, the filmmakers chose to focus solely on his slightly sensationalised private life?Kamila BoháčkováNew releaseHeaven over Today’s ChinaWhat is the story behind the feature-length documentary, Heaven, focusing on a Chinese Christian-run orphanage that is also a testimony about today’s China? Director Tomáš Etzler sees the film as a logical ending of his seven years in the Middle Kingdom. The second contribution was written by editor Adéla Špaljová who describes her collaboration with the director on the creation of the final cut of the documentary.Tomáš Etzler, Adéla ŠpaljováNew releaseAs Far As Possible Ukrainian documentarian Ganna Iaroshevych describes how she has been preparing her new film called As Far As Possible. It´s a portray of a man who decided to leave Germany and lives in the Ukrainian mountains fighting against the extinction of water buffaloes. „Our film tells about an alternative way of slow living close to nature and animals, and in harmony with yourself. And it seems to us that now this topic is especially relevant to many people around the globe,“ says Ganna Iaroshevych.Ganna JaroševičNew releaseThe Alchemical FurnaceJan Daňhel describes the concept behind his documentary film Alchemical Furnace that portrays the figure and work of Jan Švankmajer.ThemeIt comes right from the bellyIn this personal essay, a Danish sound designer Peter Albrechtsen remembers one of the world's greatest and most unique modern film composers, Jóhann Jóhannsson. This article was written in 2018, shortly after the Jóhannsson´s death, but has never been published.PoemGramsci’s NotebooksMike HoolboomInterviewKarel Vachek: Films Just Have to Make You Laugh!A doyen of Czech documentary filmmaking Karel Vachek unfortunately passed away on the 21th of December 2020. We publish here the interview he made in 2019 just after releasing his last film, the ninth film novel called Communism and the Net or the End of Representative Democracy. Fifty years after Prague Spring and thirty years after the Velvet Revolution, Karel Vachek “with his inner laughter” looks back on the evolution of our society and predicts a transformation to direct democracy based on the possibilities of the internet that will allow for the engagement of the whole mankind without the need of representatives. Kamila BoháčkováNew BookArmy Film and the Avant Garde?American film historian Alice Lovejoy discusses how her book Army Film and the Avant Garde: Cinema and Experiment in the Czechoslovak Military came to be. First published by Indiana University Press in 2015, the book will be published in a Czech translation by Jan Hanzlík in 2021 by the National Film Archive. The idea for the book emerged during the years the author lived in the Czech Republic.Alice LovejoyIntroductionLiving with inner laughterDok.revue 2.20Kamila Boháčková