It was sunny in Prague. It was the first time for me to be able to follow the One World Festival as I have always been (with pleasure) linked to the East Doc Forum of IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) that runs (almost) parallel. I enjoyed the privilege it is to be a juror, watching films and asked to pick what you and fellow jurors find are the best. On our way to the cinema at the FAMU film school Hungarian colleague Enikö Gyureskó and I were stopped by young Ukrainians with very little English understanding asking for directions. And at the FAMU the screenings, we attended also had Ukrainian and Belarussian students, who had arrived a couple of weeks or days before. They are young and are being helped. Hope the best for them!
It was sunny in Prague. We watched 10 films, three of them were directly connected to the elections in 2021. One was “Candidates”, another “First Time Voters” and a third one had the long title “Points for the President aka Attempt at Contrarevolution”. The three did not make this juror happy, content-wise first of all, depicting a homophobic, xenophobic and racist society. The latter goes back to the Velvet Revolution and Vaclav Havel – it seems there is nothing left of his “truth and love” approach and vision. The director Martin Kohout puts a focus on a lot of funny bizarre moments in the election campaigns and there was a lot of laugh in the cinema. “Czech dark humour” was the answer, when I asked the festival people WHY. Yes, but when the laughing shadows for the political dark situation? Maybe I am too serious but I was shaken by what I saw and heard. So much more today after Orban’s strong victory in the neighbouring country.
Nevertheless there are and has always been strong filmmakers with a humanistic approach and sense of Cinema in Czech Republic and Slovakia. Let me point at two films of fine quality among the ten we saw; they were not awarded: Vera Lackova’s emotional “How I became a Partisan” with the director as the main character searching for the fate of her great-grandfather AND Linda Jablonska´s “Leaving Beginnings Behind”, following four women from they leave a youth custody centre to enter “the real world”, a film shot over many years, social with warmth and understanding.
And now to the two films awarded, I have copied the text from the website of the festival:
The Czech Competition category is a traditional part of the festival. The jury making the decision about the best Czech documentary is made up of representatives of international film festivals. This year’s members comprised Danish consultant and documentary film critic Tue Steen Müller, Enikö Gyureskó, who is the coordinator of the best-known Hungarian documentary film festival Verzió, and Maryia Trafimava, and activist and collaborator for the Watch Docs Belarus festival.
The Czech Competition Jury Award for the Best Film was presented to director Martin Mareček’s film Out In Force. The jury agreed that this winning film manages to create an impressive experience that stays with the viewer for long after watching the film. It makes one wonder about its topic in a non-deductive, non-partial way and it evokes strong emotions. The jury appreciates the arc of the storytelling and the thoughtful attention to the character development also because the film was shot over many years, and with patience. The jury members add: “We are pleased to see that because of the much controversial nature of the main protagonist, there is a respect for all the characters, and that the director gives a deeper look to the protagonist’s personality.”
The Czech Competition Jury Special Award went to director Helena Třeštíková’s film René – The Prisoner of Freedom. In its reasoning, the jury said: “What is the meaning of it all? I think this is what we all try to find out, is it not? This is the theme of many documentaries. It takes time to get close to an answer to the question and if you are like the protagonist of this film, many personal complications are brought to the screen. Doesn’t our society often let down unique and complicated people on their way to finding their purpose in life? It needs a great director with a unique eye and a lot of patience to understand the ups and downs of this very charming and special person.”