Ukrainians in Czechia doc opens 26th Ji.hlava festival

Oksana Moiseniuk

The 26th edition of the Ji.hlava International Festival of Documentary Films has just got underway. This year’s edition of Czechia’s biggest documentary event will deliver nearly 100 world premieres and several valuable retrospectives. On the eve of the festival I called founder Marek Hovorka in Jihlava and asked him about the film to be screened at Tuesday night’s gala opening.

“It’s the world premiere of 8th Day of the War, which is a film about the Ukraine war.

“But it’s very special – I haven’t ever seen a film like this before.

“Because it’s shot with Ukrainian people who are living in the Czech Republic and shot only during 24 hours, at the very beginning of the war between Russia and Ukraine.

“It’s so powerful to see this Ukrainian community living in the Czech Republic is facing this completely new, horror situation, how much they want to help their families who stayed in Ukraine and how they deal with this shock they are going through.

Marek Hovorka | Photo: Luboš Pavlíček,  ČTK

“The sad thing is that even the director at that time that just maybe during this day the war will be over.

“As we know this is not the case, but hopefully it will be over soon.”

You have almost 100 documentaries in their world premiere at Ji.hlava this year. Are there any particular films or guests that you personally are very excited about having? I know you’re going to say all of them are great.

“[Laughs] That’s a very tough question.

“There are many great films and many great people.

“If I should point out one of them, I am very happy that Lav Diaz is joining us, as a member of the main jury but also as a filmmaker who will present films in our retrospective of Filipino films.

“That includes his nine-hour film [Death in the Land of Encantos], one of the longest films in film history, shot after a typhoon in the Philippines 15 years ago.

“Jennifer Baichwal is bringing her new film, Into the Weeds.

“You probably remember Jennifer Baichwal for her films Manufactured Landscapes and Anthropocene.

“Her new film Into the Weeds will have its European premiere at Ji.hlava and she will have a masterclass the day after.

“Our very good friend Hilal Baydarov from Azerbaijan will have his new fiction film [Sermon to the Fish] – but it’s shot in a way in a documentary style.

“He presented the film this year at the Locarno film festival.

“We have a special connection with Hilal, because he actually started his career at Ji.hlava: Ji.hlava was the first festival which presented his documentary films, six years ago.”

You have two main competitions, Opus Bonum, which is an international competition, and Czech Joy, which is for domestic films. Which does the festival, or festival-goers, regard as most important?

“We have five competitions, including a new one which we included this year.

“It is a competition of VR films and installations, because we have focused for years also on the documentary part of virtual reality projects.

“You mentioned Opus Bonum. It’s the main competition, an international competition, and for us it’s important that these films are like art films, art pieces, which are very much connected to cinema history and somehow want to add something new to the language of cinema.

“But we also have another international competition called Testimonies.

“It’s oriented toward topic documentaries, because documentary is also known for big, we can say, documentary blockbusters oriented on issues of politics, environmental issues, science.

“Then of course there is the Czech competition, Czech Joy, but we also have two dedicated to experimental film, because Ji.hlava is known for experimental cinema.

“We have an international competition called Fascinations, and every year we show what the progress of experimental cinema is in a very broad way.

“And we have the Czech version of this completion, called”

Author: Ian Willoughby
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