In just a few days, the small town of Jihlava on the Bohemian-Moravian border will once again become the centre of the European documentary scene. The annual Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, which is in its 19th edition, will offer hundreds of film screenings as well as some highly-anticipated guests, such as Masha Alyokhina or the “famous” Syrian immigrant Osama Mohsen.
I spoke to Marek Hovorka, the festival’s director, and I first asked him about the choice of this year main visual theme, which is “eternity”:
“For documentary festivals it may be easier to focus on the everyday agenda, for instance the exodus of immigrants from Syria and others countries or the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris but we decided to think about the everyday reality from a slightly different perspective.
“That’s why we focus on eternity as something each of us has to deal with, not only in terms of what we have to do from morning till the evening, but about the meaning of these things from a life perspective.
So how will the topic be reflected in the festival’s programme?
“We have two sections in the festival programme linked to this topic. The first one is the section called Fascination, focusing on experimental documentary cinema. It will be a very unique retrospective of abstract documentary films dealing with topics related to eternity.
“And the second section is called Czech Funeral, and it will show images and shots from the beginning of 20th century till today of funerals of important Czech intellectuals, writers and philosophers, because these men have formed the identity of Czech nation.”
A number of highly anticipated guests will appear in Jihlava’s Inspiration Forum this year, such as the Wiki Leaks founder Julian Assange, who is set to speak by video link, so I guess there will be a vibrant discussion.
“Inspiration Forum is a place where we try to ask questions dealing with today’s works. For me it is another level of the festival. We are screening films which try to ask these questions but it is different to have the characters on stage and you as audience can ask them questions in which they are interested. So inspiration platform has become a platform to discuss things happening today with people who are part of them.
This year as you said there will be Julian Assange, Masha Alyochina from Pussy Riot or Osama Mohsen, the famous immigrant who is now a coach in a football school in Madrid.”
"It’s a tough question. We have 16 films in this competition and 15 of them will be screened in world or Czech premieres. For me, it is not easy to talk about them because I am also part of the programme board, but I would say each of them is very unique and each of them tries to find its own way to deal with filmmaking and with issues important to filmmakers and to audiences these days.”
Marek Hovorka, head of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, which gets underway on October 27.