Zdeněk Miler: Krtek

I love them all, the three year old grandchild Henry said, referring to the Krtek films made by Czech Zdeněk Miler. Even if he runs around saying Ninja Turtle all the time, his best moments are those with the animation films featuring the mole and his friends. Which one do you want to see, we ask him. The answer is ”the one with the bulldozers”. A couple of days ago he saw ”Krtek ve městě” (The mole in the city) (1982, 29 mins.) 3 times. He knows every cut, he asks us grown-up’s to be totally quiet so he can listen to the sound – nobody says anything, no dialogue, but the sound score of this and other Krtek films is excellent.

Why do you like that one so much? I just do, is the answer. So why do I, grown-up documentary fanatic love it. Let me try and let me guess why he, the three year old likes it, as does his cousin Thomas, half a year younger.

It starts dramatically. The mole and his friends (the mouse and the hedgehog) lose their homes as trees are felled and bulldozers move out to plow the land to make it ready for buildings for human beings. The bureaucrats arrive wearing their high hats and hearing the crying of the three small ones, one of them decides to give them an official paper that states that whereever they come, they are to be helped. They have to leave the forest that is no longer there, they arrive in the city after succesfully passing police and military authorities due to the signed document, they get an appartment, decorated as the piece of nature they left, but in plastic, they experience the noise and pollution of the city until one day they have had enough and when they get the chance it’s back to nature flying on the backs of swans…

Civilisation criticism, we grown-ups would say, made in the best adventurous way possible. Yes, this must be what the 3 year old kids like – the adventure aspect. The three animals, who can not stay in their homes, wherefore they have to fight their way in the city, where they do not belong. You feel with them, you have fun with them, you don’t understand the behaviour of the human beings in the film – you are emotionally involved.

Very banal because what catches the kids is (also) the way the story is told. The many colours, the movements of the three, often with small funny expressions, the mentioned sound score, the mole with the famous ”hallo”, the liberating laughter, the music that underlines and creates an atmosphere…

In other words a masterly done film as are many of the 60 Krtek films that I have seen thanks to friends in Prague, who got them for me – and to the boys who insist on watching. What an artist he was, Zdeněk Miler!

Photo: Cousin Thomas prepares a screening of Krtek in a garden house in Copenhagen.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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