Czechoslovakia traditionally led the field in making children's films, a fact still reflected in the number of children's film festivals held in the Czech Republic. The biggest and most famous festival is in the North Moravian town of Zlin, which has been going for more than 40 years. But another children's film and TV festival is to be held in late September in a small town of Ostrov near the world-famous spa town of Karlovy Vary in Western Bohemia.
The Ostrov festival is called The Ota Hoffman Film and TV Festival for Children, after a famous children's films' scriptwriter and producer. The competing films will be judged by two juries - a "regular" jury made up of adult film critics, and another one comprised of children. The festival in Ostrov is also the only festival where the competing films are evaluated by a vote, in which all the children present in the cinema hall take part. I spoke with the festival's programme director, Vratislav Hlasek, who told me this year's event would be special:
"For the first time, this year's festival will have a theme, which means that in addition to the competing films which were produced last year in Czech film studios and by Czech and Slovak TV, it will also be a retrospective of Czech and Slovak sci-fi films. This year is a magic one: 2001 reminds us of Stanley Kubrick's film "2001 A Space Odyssey" from the famous novel by Arthur C. Clarke, and we thought it could be an interesting idea to compare the world in 2001 as seen through the eyes of filmmakers 30 years ago and what it actually looks like today. After all, we'll never have the chance again."
So Ostrov will witness several visions of the world in 2001 and even more distant future, as there will be some 20 science-fiction films screened during the festival. Mr. Hlasek also told me that the whole town would be decorated accordingly:
"We are trying to bring the theme of spaceships, extra-terrestrials and time-travel right inside the town and want children to be reminded of this theme not only inside the House of Culture where the main cinema hall is located, but everywhere in Ostrov, and so there will be many various characters and objects from outer space decorating the town during the festival."
But the Ostrov film and TV festival is special for another reason: everyday local cable TV will broadcast news from all the events, and the programmes will me made by children themselves. At a press conference earlier this week we were shown how things went last year, when the children's TV station - called "Ocko" - or little eye - was set up. It showed that the time when children were just passive consumers of entertainment are gone, that they themselves are able to formulate their thoughts and create projects targeted not only at their friends, but - thanks to new technology - also the general public.
Yet another attraction of the festival will be a so-called 'endurance screening' project, and Mr. Hlasek explained to me what it would be all about:
"It's usually impossible to screen a whole series consisting of several parts during one single festival - and just a few parts wouldn't be any use. But despite this we didn't want to abandon two series which are very popular with children. The first one is called 'The Visitors', it was produced back in the 1980s and it's still being shown on Czech TV , and the second one - which the parents will be more familiar with - is called She Fell Down from the Clouds and it's a series made by Slovak TV many years ago. Each of them has 13 parts, and our plan is to screen them in their entirety, and - moreover - back to back, which altogether makes more than 15 hours of viewing. This project has been designed for volunteers with strong nerves, people interested in taking part in this experiment and we are doing it with the aim of organising something that our country has never experienced, and also as something exciting for the media, so that they can report on something really unusual."
There will also be many accompanying events, including discussions with renowned astronomers and displays of props used in older Czech science-fiction films or objects closely connected with this year's theme, such as astronauts' space suits etc. A number of famous film personalities have been invited to talk about their work with children, and so there's certainly a lot to look forward to in Ostrov from 22nd to 26th of September!
Multi-national, multi-cultural, beautiful or ugly - you can describe London in many ways and still never capture the city's character. Jiri Hanak is a Czech-born actor, journalist and photographer, who has lived and worked in London since 1984. Last week saw the opening of his photographic exhibition called London Cacophony at the British Council in Prague. It shows rather unusual pictures of London, views that usually escape the notice of the ordinary tourist - such as an old tree in Green Park, which birds avoid because the muttering of dead souls can be heard amidst its branches, or shop dummies wrapped in decorative paper, bearing Shelley's quotation: 'Hell is a city much like London.' I spoke with Mr. Hanak at the opening ceremony and asked him how he worked - did he simply walk round the city and take photos of what he saw?
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