Czech directors team up to document ‘Life in Quarantine’

Early last spring, when the coronavirus first wave hit the Czech Republic and the first “lockdown” was imposed to contain its spread, directors Martin Müller and David Laňka set out to make a documentary. Only the title was certain: “Life in Quarantine”.

Inspired by the frenzied sharing on social media of people’s suddenly and increasingly separate lives, they began asking Czechs to upload their personal photos and home movies to their website – short videos, shot on mobile phones. A year – and hundreds of submissions later – the hard work of weaving it all into a tapestry begins.

David Laňka studied at the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory but began writing screenplays in his teens, and writing film and music reviews. Martin Müller studied mechanical engineering before attending the Zlín Film School and becoming a cinematographer and director.

Martin Müller and David Laňka | Photo: No Stress Production

They have been collaborating now for years, on both documentary and feature films, as well as video clips. The idea to capture how Czechs from all walks of life were experiencing the coronavirus pandemic was inspired by a “Life in a Day”, a crowdsourced documentary comprising a selection of 80,000 video clips submitted via YouTube, showing what happened around the world on 24 July 2010, Mr Laňka told Czech Radio.

“When the pandemic started, I remembered the ‘Life in a Day’ project, which director Ridley Scott, in the role of a producer, challenged people to make videos without a story – so, a snapshot from that particular day. Something from their daily lives. It resulted in a nice feature-length documentary. And Martin was thrilled with the idea of taking on a something similar.”

The two directors settled on the title “Life in Quarantine” straight away. But a year on (an “anno horribilis” and then some, which has claimed 30,000 lives in the Czech Republic), the final form of their feature documentary is still an open question.

Photo: No Stress Production

Through their specially crated website, now closed for submissions, they asked Czechs to film the most ordinary things that they experience in quarantine. For example, how they cook, clean and spend their leisure time, or perhaps plan for - or postpone – a wedding, or teach their toddlers to walk, says Martin Müller.

“Now we have a wealth of material collected from people. We are going through it the editing room, and are looking for a final form or shape… to create something nice, something truly memorable. A memory of that terrible year.”

Martin Müller and David Laňka plan to release “Life in Quarantine” online, free of charge, as a thank-you to the hundreds of people who contributed stories, snapshots of their lives, to the documentary.