Up to 80 domestically produced documentary films should receive cinema releases in the next 12 months, according to a presentation by the Czech Film Centre and the Institute of Documentary Film. The latter’s website features an online catalogue of some 80 films in various stages of production that should come out by September 2014. Among the directors preparing new documentaries are established names such as Filip Remunda and Linda Jablonská.
This Friday sees the start of the International Festival of Outdoor Films in Ostrava, the largest festival of its kind in the Czech Republic focussing on adventure, travel and extreme sports. This year, the travelling festival will visit a total of 43 towns and cities in the Czech Republic, neighbouring Slovakia and also Russia.
Thursday saw the opening of a small international film festival called Water, Sea & the Oceans in Hluboká nad Vltavou in South Bohemia. In its tenth inception, it is dedicated to undersea adventure and underwater life. Steve Lichtag, a diver and award-winning filmmaker who has made documentaries about everything from Great Whites to endangered crawdads, is the festival’s founder and president; I spoke to him about the event’s history and aims.
The Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival is having financial problems and has had to apply for emergency funding, the news website Lidovky.cz reported on Wednesday. The festival has applied for grants of CZK 1 million from the Jihlava Region and the city of Jihlava, where it is one of the biggest cultural events of the year. If it does not receive the money, it will have to make cuts to its programme, festival director Marek Hovorka said.
Walt Disney Pictures has expressed an interest in being the international distributor for a new nature documentary film Aldabra, which was shot by a Czech team on a remote island of the same name in the Indian Ocean. The film, which should be released in 3D in the Czech Republic in October, was directed by Steve Lichtag, who was born in Znojmo as Zdeněk Loveček. Disney pictures have already provided and advisor for the team and has begun preparing the English version of the commentary. The music for the film was created by a Czech-American team of artists including the Prague-based Robert Jíša, member of the band King Crimson Tony Levin and even Peter Gabriel. The island Aldabra, which Jacques Cousteau visited some sixty years ago, is an uninhabited coral atoll with a wealth of exotic wildlife and underwater fauna.
This year’s Pavel Koutecký Award for best Czech documentary has been won by Pavel Abrahám with Dva Nula (Two Nil), which focuses on fans at a soccer match featuring Sparta Prague. The presentation was made at a ceremony at Prague’s Archa theatre on Tuesday evening. In all over 100 documentaries were considered for the prize, with the winner selected from a shortlist of 10. Pavel Koutecký was a filmmaker who died in 2006 at the age of 50, halfway through the making of Citizen Havel, a portrait of the late president that subsequently became a great success.
In this week’s In Focus, we look at the success of a new Czech documentary called Fulmaya, the Girl with Skinny Legs. The film is a portrait of Slovak actress and musician Dorota Nvotová and how she chose a path less travelled: life in Nepal for six years where she worked as a guide and above all helped to raise funds for children at a local orphanage.
A new documentary called Šmejdi, or Crooks, focuses on the phenomenon of so-called product demonstration excursions. On these trips, especially elderly people are often abused and manipulated into buying overpriced products. The film, which premiered in Prague on Tuesday, has already sparked a debate among lawmakers about tightening the rules and increasing the penalties for such practices. The film’s producer, Hana Třeštíková, describes what goes on these trips.
A new documentary entitled Hledá se prezident (Looking for president) offers an insight into the first ever direct Czech presidential election which brought Miloš Zeman to Prague Castle. The behind-the-scenes film, which has just premiered in Czech cinemas, follows the candidates from the summer of 2012, when the campaign was just beginning, right up to the heated run-off vote in January. I spoke to the film’s director, Tomáš Kudrna, and first asked him about his choice of material that made it to the final cut.
Orania, which has been shown at this year’s One World film festival of human rights documentaries, is a fascinating portrait of a controversial purely white town founded in 1991 by a group of Afrikaners averse to post-apartheid South Africa’s “rainbow nation”. Two decades later, Orania now has a population of around 1,000, and even its own currency.