Presidential vote and Czechoslovak past among themes at 22nd Jihlava documentary festival


This year’s edition of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival gets underway on Thursday. While the country’s top documentary event opens with a film focused on the Czech presidential elections, many international works are also promised – along with a selection of stimulating speakers.

'We Can Do More',  photo: archive of Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival
The main competition at the Jihlava festival of documentary – which this year is taking place for the 22nd time – is entitled Czech Joy. The section tends to attract the most intense interest at the six-day event, with entrants often going on to have a national impact.

Among the works battling it out for top prize will be We Can Do More, which is being screened at Thursday evening’s curtain-raising ceremony.

The film looks at the failed presidential bid of Michal Horáček. One of its co-directors, Robin Kvapil, was an advisor to the would-be head of state and has said that, as a documentarian, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture the campaign from the inside.

Another Czech Joy competitor, Attention Economy: 39 Minutes After the Presidential Election by Petr Salaba, records the immediate aftermath of Miloš Zeman’s victory in January’s election.

Away from politics, Jiří Holba’s Feral explores the world of Charlie Soukup, a Czech underground songwriter and former dissident who has chosen to live away from civilisation in the Australian outback.

That documentary is one of several by Czech directors made beyond the country’s borders but competing in the Czech Joy competition.

Perhaps the most surprising entry, however, is Talks with T.G. Masaryk, which is a fiction film.

Foreign participation in this edition of the Czech Republic’s premiere documentary event promises a number of highlights, including German director Wim Wenders’ new work about the current pontiff, Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.

Another famous name represented will be French New Wave great Jean-Luc Goddard, whose The Image Book picked up a special award at this year’s Cannes. Goddard has also created the trailer for Jihlava, a genuine coup for the festival.

The thought-provoking Romanian director Radu Jude, who won the main competition in Karlovy Vary in July with the fiction film “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians”, will bring his latest work, a short documentary entitled The Marshal's Two Executions based on archival footage.

Alongside screenings and master classes, Jihlava prides itself on its Inspiration Forum section, which brings stimulating speakers – often with no connection to film – to the Vysočina town.

'The Marshal's Two Executions',  photo: archive of Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival
This year the sidebar will allow the festival’s primarily student audiences to put questions to the likes of Charlotta Kotik, the great-granddaughter of T.G. Masaryk, and Sir John Tusa, a Czech-born one-time managing director of the BBC World Service.

Czechoslovakia’s centenary will also be reflected, with sections entitled Czechoslovak Orient, offering a rare opportunity to see pre-war films from Carpathian Ruthenia, and Foreigner Looking for an Apartment, focused on Czech émigrés forced to build new lives abroad at various times in the 20th century.

Jihlava IDFF also has a music-focused section named Siren Test, among whose guests this year will be David Toop, a highly respected UK music writer and musician. The festival concludes on Tuesday.