The 17th edition of the Czech Republic’s Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, the largest doc event in Central and Eastern Europe, begins today, Thursday, October 24, and runs through next Tuesday, October 29th. Characterized by a youthful, anarchic, and eclectic edge that champions a large number of experimental work, the festival has drawn raves by North American programmers who’ve made the trek to the historic mining town. For the past few years, the event has made an effort to attract greater industry presence, hosting several concurrent programs for professionals, including a producers forum, filmmaker workshops, a film festivals conference, and a market for work from the region. Its public film program includes nearly 70 new feature documentaries in both competitive and non-competitive sections. Were I attending, the following new work is what I’d be most interested in checking out:
The primary competition, Opus Bonum (Latin for “good work”), features a dozen titles from around the world. Among the less familiar are: Khavn De La Cruz’s MISERICORDIA: THE LAST MYSTERY OF KRISTO VAMPIRO (pictured), a personal, experimental, blood-soaked film about family and Filipino culture; Shelly Silver’s TOUCH, an essay about Chinatown, language, and family; Amir Borenstein and Effi Weiss’ SAME RIVER TWICE, a re-tracing of a Scottish explorer’s journey down the Jordan; and Johanna Domke and MArouan O’mara’s CROP, an unusual look at the Egyptian revolution told entirely from within the country’s most influential newspaper.
Central and Eastern European work figures in the ten-strong Between the Seas competition, which includes: Aljona Surzhikova’s NOT MY LAND (pictured), a look at ethnic Russians in Estonia; Robert Kirchhoff’s NORMALIZATION, an investigation into the supposed innocence of a group of men convicted of murdering a Slovakian woman; Davit Stepanyan’s remarkably titled PRETTY GIRL, WHY HAVE YOU COME, DO YOU WANT TO DO MY JOB?, following the efforts of Armenian activists to preserve forestland; and Alexander Abaturov’s SLEEPING SOULS, on the inevitability of rigged elections in a small Russian town.
Twelve local filmmakers vie for the Czech Joy competition award, which features such titles as: Radim Špaček’s INCOMING, a portrait of Czech soldiers in Afghanistan; Jan Gogola’s MYTHMAKING, a participatory exercise in solving conflict by inventing a new holiday and a new mascot to unite two villages under strife; Petr Hátle’s THE GREAT NIGHT, an impressionistic view of nocturnal life on the fringes; Pavel Štingl’s EUGENIC MINDS, an animated and archival guide through the history of social and genetic engineering; Ivo Bystřičan’s MY LAST 150,000 CIGARETTES (pictured), an anti-tobacco crusade, with the filmmaker dressed as a cigarette; and Bohdan Bláhovec’s SHOW!, focused on a controlling stage-dad as he manages his daughter’s girl group.
Non-competitive sections include a range of sidebars, including USA Today, exploring the peculiarities of American culture, such as our obsession with virginity in Therese Shechter’s HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY (pictured); Doc-Fi, a spotlight on hybrid forms; a celebration of television docs, both conventional, strictly local interest Czech Television Documentaries, and more intriguing manipulations of the medium, Reality.TV; several programs of experimental and retrospective work; radio documentaries; and workshops.