48th edition of Summer Film School kicks off in Uherské Hradiště

The 48th edition of the Summer Film School festival is kicking off this Friday in Uherské Hradiště in the south-east of Czechia. The festival will run until August 4 and will feature around 180 films including shorts. I caught up with programme director Jan Jílek just before the start of the festival and started by asking him about some of the highlights, such as a retrospective of Luis Buñuel.

“Buñuel is one of the big classics of world cinema – he’s a great provocateur and a subversive film director who is still very relevant even nowadays. So I think Buñuel’s films will be one of the top highlights of this year’s programme.

Jan Jílek | Photo: Jiří Šeda,  Czech Radio

“As for other highlights, we shouldn’t neglect to mention our international guests. This year we will have two major international guests – one of them will be Jim Sheridan, who is an Academy Award-nominated director and winner of the Berlin Golden Bear for his film ‘In the Name of the Father’. His films, like ‘My Left Foot’ starring Daniel Day-Lewis, are classics of world cinema.

“And the second international guest is Semih Kaplanoğlu, who is a Turkish director. He’s a very lyrical film director, a poet of the cinema, and the highlight of his career I think is the so-called ‘Yusuf Trilogy’ – three films with the poet Yusuf as the main protagonist. The three films are called ‘Egg’, ‘Milk’ and ‘Honey’, and the last part of the trilogy also won a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.”

What do you look for when curating the programme?

“I think the programme is pretty systematic – but without being too strict. The structure is quite simple and easy. We have three big programme blocks called ‘History’, ‘Contemporary Film’, and ‘Czech and Slovak Films and Guests’, and within these blocks we present several sections.

“We work with the phenomenon of programme sections because people are used to it and many people follow one or two throughout the whole festival. Each section has its own curator who introduces the films, and it’s very special and very typical of Summer Film School to work with programme sections like the retrospective of Luis Buñuel, Eastern Promises with films from the eastern territory, or Terra festivalis, which is dedicated to one chosen country which has been successful in film festivals around the world, and this year the country is Portugal.”

The slogan of this year’s festival is ‘Dotýkám se filmu’ – something like ‘Touching film’ in English. What does that mean exactly – what was the thinking behind the slogan?

“The slogan is connected with this year’s logo. For several years already we have had the human senses as a running theme of the festival logo – like an eye for sight or an ear for hearing – and this year it’s a hand for touch.

Photo: Summer Film School Uherské Hradiště

“Touching film as a motto can be interpreted in a symbolic way – we want our audience to touch film in the sense of watching films in their natural milieu, which is in the cinema, in the dark. This experience is very important, especially in these times – during the pandemic everyone was using streaming platforms and VOD, and now everybody is watching everything on a flat-screen TV, so we want to stress the importance of cinema as a shared experience of watching on a big screen in the dark.

“On the other hand, we want to screen as many films as possible that will touch our audience – so that people will come home from Summer Film School and they will think about the films, they will have them inside, and maybe will watch some other films from different countries or topics or directors. So we also want to touch our audience with the films we have chosen.”