It is perhaps fitting that the Human by Yann Arthus-Bertrand is the only film to have had its premiere at the UN General Assembly. Based on over 2,000 interviews shot around the globe, the documentary does nothing less than attempt to capture mankind in three hours and 20 minutes. Arthus-Bertrand intersperses testimonies on everything from war to love with stunning images of nature, reflecting his background as a pioneer of aerial photography. When we spoke at Prague’s One World festival of human rights documentaries I asked the French director
The Slav Epic is the monumental work of Czech painter Alfons Mucha in which he traces the history of the Slav peoples. But over the years the fate of the 20 massive canvasses, which Mucha regarded as his lifetime achievement, has also turned into something of a saga between the descendants of the painter and the City of Prague. And the latent tension between them has just taken a new twist.
Czech adventurer Dan Přibáň is well-known as the team leader of a number of expeditions using what was considered the world’s worst car – the Soviet-era Trabant. Where others would opt for all-terrain vehicles to travel some of the toughest areas on Earth, Přibáň and his colleagues chose the plastic Trabant for expeditions across Central Asia, Africa and South America. Last year, they returned from their most gruelling journey yet: Australia and South East Asia. A documentary about their adventure is now set to premiere in Czech cinemas.
A Syrian Love Story on Monday was awarded the main prize at the One World festival of human rights documentaries in the Czech Republic. The film, directed by British filmmaker Sean McAllister, tells the story of a family which the regime of Bashar Assad. Once in Paris, they look for a new home but the marriage between the two main protagonists eventually falls apart.
Perhaps best known from his powerful images from the streets of Prague during the Soviet-led invasion of 1968, Josef Koudelka – who emigrated soon after those events – must rank as the greatest living Czech photographer. A treat for photography buffs at this year’s One World festival of human rights documentaries has been Koudelka Shooting Holy Land, in which we follow the protagonist, now in his late 70s, as he captures the building of the wall between Israel and Palestine as well as the region’s stunning landscape. The documentary is the work
“I’m always a potential killer,” says “Lauri”, the unseen narrator of the Finnish film White Rage, one of the highlights of this year’s One World festival of human rights documentaries. The term white rage refers to the mind-set behind the cold planning of atrocities and the narrator recounts how he himself plotted a massacre at his school after being bullied for many years. Fortunately Lauri – who wrote an anonymous article about his experiences in a top Finnish magazine – didn’t carry through his bloody plans. From his narration it appears he
In communist days, writing inspired by love and passion between people of the same sex was largely taboo, and even today lesbian and gay writing in the Czech Republic tends to be ignored, despite having a long and rich tradition. Things are no better when it comes to translations of lesbian and gay poets and novelists into Czech. But the translator Sylva Ficová is trying to put things right, translating both into Czech and from Czech to English. She tells us more in this week’s Czech Books with David Vaughan.
The Russian woodpecker was the nickname given to a rapid-fire shortwave signal emitted during the cold war from the Duga radar in what is today’s Ukraine. But was there a connection between Duga and 1986 disaster at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power station? That question is explored in a film entitled The Russian Woodpecker currently being screened at the One World festival of human rights documentaries in Prague. I discussed the subject with producer Mike Lerner, a guest of East Doc Platform, which is organised by the Institute of Documentary
The Shockproof Festival is on at Prague’s arthouse cinema Aero. The festival, known for its focus on B-movie action films, gore, exploitation horror and more, this year is focusing largely on the theme of epidemiology and outbreaks (don’t be surprised if a zombie apocalypse is just around the corner).