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October 13-17, 2010 
         
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          B16




 
    Josef Valušiak, Jilemnice, December 2009
The Messenger of Good Film News 4/2009 – I
 
   

J u b i l e e   M e d i t a t i o n

              P r o l o g u e          

              A beautiful and impressive fifty years!
              If we subract the playful, irresponsible years of childhood and the restful, remaining years of retirement, we find that we have a respectable length of time in the life of an active
person. Undoubtedly, this gave us a powerful reason for taking stock, celebrating and
appreciating. The Brno Sixteen Almanac did a great job of this task, presenting a
comprehensive and detailed history of the B16 from its inception, with all the crises and
models of its transformation and development. In regards to this, I apologize for repeating
myself, but I would like to remind readers of the great efforts of the team of the B16 and
Alternative Film Society (PhDr. Šárka Tryhuková, Katrin Taubingerová, Josef Strubl and the
unfortunately departing Rosta Bezděk). These are the people who carried the burden of at
least the second half of the festival and who, according to traditional customs, should be
have been driven around Brno in allegorical wagons in triumphal procession for the jubilee
anniversary of the B16! Or at least carried into the White House on the shoulders of
enthusiastic fans! Instead, probably on the verge of collapse, they generously prepared an
abundant week-long program of celebrations, accompanying events and retrospective and
current screenings – and, of course, the main competition. It was impossible to do
everything, so this article will focus on some of the more interesting films based on this
author’s subjectivity. This will be divided into two parts: the films that most impressed me
and the films that were given awards by the jury, which, as usual, are different from my
favourites. 

             A w a r d e d   f I l m s

            I will start with the strange story of the film Janna & Liv by Thérèse Ahlbeck (in the
student category). The story involves a conflict at a doctor’s office between two expectant
mothers. Liv has some special privileges, but Janna is expected to give birth prematurely at
any moment. The problem is that there is no available ambulance (private medicare doesn’t
work in Sweden either!), so the doctor instructs Liv to drive Janna in her car.
Unfortunately, they get lost and end up in the country! Their conflict escalates during the
drive and finally Liv tells poor Janna to get out of the car and drives away. Unsuccessfully
trying to hitch a ride (Oh, those heartless Swedes!), when Janna rounds the bend, she sees
the car in the ditch and Liv unfit to drive on. Janna doesn’t know how to drvie (!), but
with Liv’s guidance manages to take them to the hospital. How can such a story end? Lying in neighbouring beds, the two happy mothers smile at each other with their cute babies. Isn’t
that touching? This filmic concoction is saved by the decent craftsmanship of the entire
crew, especially both excellent actresses. The film won a bronze medal!
 There were two silver medals awarded in the student category. Sores & Sirin (by Katrin
Gebbe) is a film about two siblings. During the Iraq war some time ago, Sores saved the life
of his little sister. Living in Germany for many years, they are suddenly visited by their
grandfather one day. The calling of their tribe is non-negotiable: the boy is given a
traditional dagger as the incumbent head of the family, but Sirin refuses to go back to the
poverty of her homeland. Sores magnanimously makes it possible for her to stay in Germany, where he also leaves behind the dagger. (In my screening notes I simply wrote “tear-jerker ends; top-notch production”.)
The second silver was also awarded to a German film – Abendlied / Evening Song (by Frauke Thielecke), and this is the first film which I agree on with the jury. The protatgonist is a
decrepid nasty old man, who had a Polish nursing assistant hired for him by his son. He
really despises her coming and when she calls from her car while driving to apologize for
being late, he is very rude to her. Unfortunately, Nadja has a car crash and the old man
becomes filled with remorse. With great difficulty, he manages to get to her in the
hospital. The moment of their meeting is very powerful. The close-up of him touching her
hand is his last and finally humane gesture. He dies at her bedside. The song that the girl
sings for him over his grave is not a sentimental gesture this time, but a real catharsis –
a celebration of conciliation and humanity.
            I would not have minded if this film had been given the gold, but this position was unquestionably taken by Prague FAMU film academy student Zuzana Kirchnerová-Špidlová for Bába / Grandma, which was also the B16 grand prize winner. The main asset of the film is also its deep, moving humanity, which doesn’t need any complex narrative twists to bore into the depths of the soul. The confrontation involves a basic but very stressful situation: the constant care of a completely bed-ridden grandmother drives the young protagonist to a psychological crisis in which she tries to kill her grandma. With sensitive direction and cinematography, precise rhythm of mood changes, escalation of conflict and, most importantly, internal and external veracity – all these qualities brought a number of awards from Czech and foreign film festivals.
            I feel even more embarrassed about this year's category of independent professionals. It seems that 70% of children aged 3 to 7 have a fictional hero – a confidante who then accompanies them into adulthood. The tragedy of this rotten world is that more and more children grow out of it and the poor abandoned heroes are left lonely and jobless. The Spanish film Manual Practico del Amigo Imaginario (abreviato) / Imaginary Friend Practical Manual (abbreviated), directed by Ciro Altabás, addresses the situation of Captain Kiloton. After many years, his 22 year-old fan is visited by a very attractive friend from childhood and Captain Kiloton is threatened by their relationship with the prospect of unemployment. All the various childhood heroes like Barbie, Batman, Homer and Easter Bunny gather at a large conference for a motivational presentation about the necessity to take action to save their “friends”. Everything is resolved peacefully as Kiloton finds a refined solution: to befriend the pair! Perhaps it is the fact that I am more than a generation older than the other jury members, but I cannot understand why this "post-infantile" movie got a gold medal, as well as an Honourable Mention from the even younger Student Jury. Now, regarding the second gold medal, won by Swiss film Larsen (by Carlo de Rosa), I must admit for the sake of journalistic integrity that it did not leave any impression in my failing memory. I apologize profusely for this purely personal embarrassment: in my screening notes I found only a brief comment to the effect that it is yet another of many films that unfortunately relies too heavily on narrative commentary. 
            This rather helps me come to terms with the awarding of a silver medal to another
Spanish film: Metropolis Ferry (by Juan Gautier). It is about a group of young people at a
border crossing who see some officials beating an illegal immigrant and courageously make an official complaint about this behaviour. As the short (15 minute long) film obviously does not have enough time to detail the characters or their motives, the piece ends up seeming like a rather lifeless (although worthy) propagandistic thesis. The bronze medal in the Independent Professional (IP) category was again given to a Spanish film: La Tama (by Martin Costa). It bothered me a little that the conflict between the teenage girl and her mother
(and in fact the whole world) was so open – without a point, without a question, or even a
strong conclusion. The film work, as is evident from the name of the category, is at a professional level; however, the main quality or dominant feature of the film is again the
strong and spontaneous performance of the main actress. Later when checking the list of
award-winning films, a wicked thought came to me: could the presence of my co-juror, the
beautiful and temperamental Czech actress Bára Seidlová, have influenced her colleagues to such an extent that they ended up preferring films with strong performances? Otherwise
seemingly inconspicuous, the excellent acting of the other bronze medal film, Türelem / With
a Little Patience (by Laszlo Nemes), is even more significant. In a single, precisely planned (14 minute-long) shot, the camera tracks with the main character, a secretary who goes to her office along a forest path and then concentrates on her daily tasks. The subtle yet precise expression on her face, her contact with her colleagues, the general running of the office in the background – everything is captured with evocative realism without a single word of dialogue in a kind of eerie oppressive timelessness. Near the end of the shot, the woman approaches a window and looks out, the camera following her gaze. In the woods in front of the building, an SS unit is in the process of exterminating a group of local civilians. This is the third of the prize-winning films that I fully supported. This is an emotional experience that manages to create an impressive atmosphere primarily in a visual way, involving the viewer with its main point and opening the door to one’s own reflections and searching.       
            Now for a small historical excursion: we know that the Brno Sixteen started out as a festival of amateur film and maintained this status for three whole decades. At its 30th year (1989), student films were accepted for competition, but they were not particularly successful. Not until 1994, with the rise of talent from FAMU Prague film academy (such as Saša Gideon and Bohdan Sláma), did students dominate the competition. This was not only due to the crisis of amateur film, but also the fact that amateurs could no longer compete with students who had the support of teachers, professional equipment and crews (especially in the U.S.). For this reason, the 37th B16 was divided into three competition categories: amateurs (A), students (S) and independent professionals (IP). The handicap that faced amateurs was in effect removed and the B16 became quantitatively and qualitatively improved: the number of films increased from a few dozen to 182 and they became more appealing for both the audience and jury. This year's jury obviously did not have to know any of this. Nevertheless, the 50th anniversary was as sweet for its hosts and amateur filmmakers as (Czech Prime Minister) Topolanek's government was for Europe [that is to say it was not]. Although no formal report had been issued, the amateur films were generally considered poor and, according to some behind-the-scenes information, it was allegedly only due to the urging of the organizers that the jury finally awarded two medals in this category. The bronze went to the film 1471 (by Robin Whenary), which reminded me of a well-made five-minute academic study on "building tension". It involved a standard confrontation between two rhythmically conflicting situations: a grandson phoning his grandmother. She had an impatient face and there was a particularly irritating ring tone. The grandmother had too many little things to do before she got to the phone. Was there a point or was it a joke? Of course, the grandmother misses the call. This is a study about nothing. The other medal, a gold, was won by the German film Das Paket / The Parcel (by Marco Gadge), which was about smuggling a Vietnamese man over the border. Again we see a brilliantly acted and effectively directed anecdotal short, which clearly demonstrates that its director did not study at the film academy in Leipzig in vain.
            Overall, it could be said that the jury rather appreciated mainstream films with audience appeal.
                
             F i l m s   t h a t   I m p r e s s e d   M e

             I’m sure I am not alone in my aversion to the increasingly "adrenalin" action genres and desperate dwadlling laughter of today’s commercial film. For real drama, the basic starting points are still conflicts between characters and the development of relationships. For this reason, although less brilliant than the award-winning The Parcel. I consider the Dutch film Bingo considerably more dramatic and serious. In less than half an hour, the director manages to lay out a situation which climaxes in tragic ethnic conflict among a group of illegal workers (a Moldovan gypsy, a Russian boxer and a Chechen teacher) and illustrate the hopeless drama of their shared destiny. The talented director (student Timur Ismailov) also had another film in the competition – Animator, which was given a prize without any hesitation. With an excellent sense for pacing and visual atmosphere, he manages (without a single word!) to tell a story about the meeting between a pilgrim and an animation film illustrator, who allows the stranger to stay over at his house, far from civilization. The host’s dog finally manages to break the tension between the two men, allowing them to become friends. This reminds me of another very subtle short film, also without words. This time the catalyst of the intimate relationship is not a dog, but an old car that a man and his son are taking to the scrap yard. In her film Rastanac / Farewell, Croatian student Irena Škorić managed from a banal situation to sensitively create a wonderful atmosphere of shared memories, mutual understanding and domestic well-being. There is a similar situation, although negative this time, portrayed the the film É finita la commedia / The Comedy is Over by two Belgian filmmakers (Jean-Julien Collette and Olivier Tollet – IP). The concept reminds me of a television production: two protagonists are sitting in a car having a dialogue, mostly filmed using long and medium shots. The father (67 years old) is expressing his dejection in life – from things like marriage and death; the son (26 years old) is at home jobless and clueless. As they reminisce about their shared family life, their mutual male understanding and feeling of well-being increases. Then they get out of the car and get to work: opening the trunk, they reveal the body of the dead wife/mother. Is this black humour or today’s cynical indifference to traditional and fundamental values?
            This, however, is not about a standard conflict of character. This approaches the wide,
mysterious and untamed landscape of the human soul. In this regard the film El Hilo de Oro / The Golden Thread by Spanish filmmaker Diego Sanchidrián (IP) was very interesting. In the
parallel stories of the sad fates of a single women and another unloved wife (who do not know each other), the film tries to portray the mysterious bond that unites the two suffering women. (This theme is also emphasized by the illustrated story about the flower and the little cloud, which the one woman reads to her daughter – it’s about the fact that they do not know one other, but need each other anyway.) The difficulty of the theme made it hard for the director to fully manage the film, but I did not notice this fact until later on when watching another film – A Good Thing (Chow Kwun-wai – S). The "mobile phone” relationship between two girls is not merely a friendship, but a real "golden thread", which joins them in dreams, intuition and even reality. At the last minute this bond saves one of them from a suicide due to a tragic love affair. The quality of this film is not only in its excellent acting and precise direction. As a first impression during the screening, I noted down "devout film”. This could also be said about the award-winning films Baba and Evening Song, which were discussed above. 
            But ....!
            All the films mentioned so far – whether awarded, unawarded, under-rated, interesting or weak – all have one thing in common: they represent specific situations in the real world using traditional film language – traditional (although not socalist) realism. For the B16, however, there used to be a typical and special category of film, which to this day is still called the emotional film; in the national competition these films are usually put in the experimental category. It is a special combination of poetry and introspection, and in that sense I was impressed by the piece Zavři oči / Close Your Eyes by young film student Petra Königová. It is a visually inventive film poem about the last moments in the life of an old woman. In less than seven minutes, we see the thoughts of the old woman from when she was a baby to her final moment of rest – and then back again through adulthood to happy childhood – and finally her last breath.
            Of the works trying to look into the world of poetry and imagination, I was impressed by the German-American experimental film Glory at Sea (by Benh Zeitlin – IP). A diverse group of symbolic figures, led by a pastor, set out on a pilgrimage to meet with their deceased loved ones. Following the river to the sea, they build a primitive raft from the wreckage on the main land. Finally in the ocean depths there is a happy reunion. The excellent cinematography, production design, music and editing create a wonderful atmosphere, a unique experience of the allegory of life, love, desire and unification in the afterlife. Failing to give an award to this unique combination of fantasy and filmic finesse is incomprehensible, even reprehensible.

            How was it with the Amateur category?
            Some people may think that the selection of amateur films was not up to par with the
ceremonial jubilee. Of the 122 submitted amateur films (!) only 17 got through the selection
phase (with another 7 programed in the non-competition screenings). In spite of that, I believe that this year's amateur films were not only much more interesting than those that
were awarded last year, but that the quality of some of them even surpassed a few of this
year's medalists in the student or professional categories – whether through their unique
formal concept, or the depth of their existential theme. However, we should not look among
the prize winners! An example of interesting play with form is the film Bude z vás jiný člověk / You’ll be a New Man, an unfailing mainstay of Czech experimental production from Foxymon studios (directed by Martin Láník). The narrated short story by Dino Buzzati was weakened (regretfully for me) for the lack of a live actor, which was replaced by an imaginative and sophisticated animation prop. The attending filmmakers of these above-mentioned realistic films, however, were generally quite excited by the fact that someone made it possible to engage (albeit with some constraint) their own imagination in watching the film and, unlike the film juries, really appreciated it.
            Another long-standing mainstay of our team is Vladimír Franče, who brought two
films this year. A whimsical search for the lost Hermelin (cheese), Dobroty s příběhem /
Goodies with a Storyline was conceived and shot by the clients of a sheltered housing
facility. Their enthusiasm and commitment is impressive and moving to the extent that the
jury awarded them honorable mention. Even more wonderful is Jako by se mě dotkla jakási
předzvěst smrti / As if I had a Premonition of Death, perhaps one of the best films by this
director. The longish title already hints at the basic feeling of this film. The
protagonist’s drunkenness is not the cause, but rather the consequence of his depression –
heading towards aimlessness in his efforts to find himself, “his face”. It is difficult to express in words what the film actually depicts, but it did so in a vivid, poetic way using complex audio and video forms. Yet there was another film which excited me even more. On a Journey with Death was made by Austrian amateur filmmaker Erich Steiner – who was born in 1980 and so at the threshold of the “age of Christ”. I am aware that my enthusiasm is primarily a subjective matter of my inner constitution, as well as the filmmker’s reference to one of my favourite films (Wild Strawberries by Ingmar Bergman). In the shadow of approaching death, an old man personally encounters, through the memories of his youth, himself as a boy with his young mother and other characters in his life. However, I also sense a certain disproportion between the plethora of philosophizing in words and the lack of vividness in the images of the character-shadows. Nevertheless, the overall artistic concept of the production design creates an evocative atmosphere of meditation and dramatically illustrates the fact that the filmic image is more than merely the capturing of what is happening and said in front of the camera. I fear that among younger viewers, the percentage of people who would experience the film in this manner is on the decline. After all, We live in a time when the cult figure is not Antonioni, but Tarantino, where the talked about film is not Bergman’s The Guests of the Lord’s Supper, but The [Texas] Chainsaw Massacre.

            E p i l o g u e

            Anniversaries are celebrated with joy and jubilation. The Brno Sixteen has lived up to its fiftieth year in fine form and full strength and has every right to celebrate. However, when
I read through what I had written, I was a little taken aback. When I tried to go through the list of awarded, evaluated and even unmentioned films, I froze. It would be better not to even count the number of films in which dying or death is a significant or major theme! Regarding my article, this could be explained with my own age (the festival is exactly two-thirds of my age); however, according to the Echo catalogue, the list of filmmakers shows that only a handful are over 40! If I wrote about a "general feeling of gloom and depression" last year, then this year's films go even further. Nevertheless, the vast majority are not a kind of fashionable morbidity, which pleases me. Here death is not the irresponsible and entertaining prop of thrillers or horrors. It may evoke a kind of emotional reckoning (On a Journey with Death), lead to self-realization (Baba), or serve as a victorious incentive to conciliation (Evening Song and A Good Thing), or as a passage to final reconciliation and peace (Close Your Eyes and Glory at Sea).
                                           
            So here I sit over these lines of text and with stubborn desire try to recall the impressions of individual screenings; I find that not even the foggy autumn windows evoke the "melancholy and depression”, but rather a silent hope for yet another fifty years of the Brno Sixteen. Maybe it is just a coincidence, but perhaps the profanation of death in the multitudes of commercial corpses will awaken some opposition in the next generation of
amateur and independent filmmakers – a position that supports life, but accepts death as an integral part of it, not depicting it definitively, but responsibly and wisely. Is this is a far-fetched hope, or is it possible that some light really will enter our souls?
            After all, it is Advent!

Jilemnice, December 2009                                                                    

                       Josef Valušiak
Donašeč dobrých filmových zpráv (The Messenger of Good Film News) 4/2009 – I



 
     Roman Forst, Plzeň
The Messenger of Good Film News 4/2009 – I
 


BRNO THE FIFTIETH

FILMIC BRNO

I first heard about the Brno Sixteen when I was the maker of my first film short just over a decade ago, when I also found out that there was an actual amateur film scene in the Czech
Republic.
    "It’s not so easy to get into the Brno Sixteen," was echoed from various amateur filmmakers.
"That’s a slightly different league." This made me even more curious about “my" first B16.
Of all the people that I’d been meeting throughout the year at various Czech amateur film
festivals, only a handful of them were at the B16.
    Why might that be? Simply because of the
huge international competition for the eighty or so films accepted for competition. For this
reason I have been returning to Brno every year since then as a visitor – this year is my
tenth time.

BRNO THE GOOD AND THE BAD

    Whenever someone wants to shoot a film and is trying to "dazzle" me with their outstanding idea, I ask them, "Have you been to look at the B16?" This has unusual effects, both good and bad. The festival reveals so many original ideas and concepts of film and the
profession, even at the "lowest" amateur level, that all your unique ideas pale in
comparison – to the extent that you feel that there’s no sense in filming anything else.
This happens regardless of whether you are watching an amateur, student, or independent  - never really made a distinction between these categories as a member of the audience.
    Fortunately, there's the other "good" effect. After leaving the cinema, I always feel a
great desire to film something. Where this comes from, I do not know. Perhaps it is that
special inspiration. Maybe that is what I return to Brno for.

BRNO AS AN AUDIENCE

    Like many other festivals, the B16, although Brno is a university city, suffers a bit from
spectator anemia – that is a small audience. This is really a pity, because such a
concentration of interesting films from around the world does not come along much otherwise. It can be argued that nowadays with high-speed Internet it is no problem to watch short films online. Sure, but do you actually watch any?
    It's also a pity in respect to the filmmakers, because they actually go to festivals, foreigners perhaps even more than Czechs. What do they get out of it? Possibly a prize, but more importantly feedback on their work.
    So that I am not totally unfair to the B16, at the more popular time slots, that is afternoons and early evenings, spectator participation is quite good. It is just a pity when the theatre is half empty during the screening of award-winning films. Maybe it would be worthwhile to move the screening of the winning films from Sunday morning to Sunday evening – to make it the icing on the cake of the festival.

BRNO FOR FILMMAKERS

    Meeting with the filmmakers is one of the things I enjoy most in Brno. Even though I only
have an amateur level of English, I never miss the filmmaker gatherings. I do not know why,
but it's a different kind of meeting – suddenly the filmmaking takes on a kind of international dimension,
    It has one other positive effect – every year I promise myself that the next year I'll know good English.

BRNO JURY

    Three, two, one, go! Six runners at the starting line set off. There are one hundred meters
of obstacles ahead. The fastest runner crosses the laser beam finishing line and obtains a
gold medal. Right behind, the runner crosses the line for a bronze, then the fourth, fifth,
sixth. The silver position remains vacant, because the competitor who was supposed to come in second didn’t take part in the race.
     That’s not possible, is it?
     Maybe there could be a different explanation. It’s the World Figure Skating Championships and the last pair just completed their freestyle routine. The international jury award the points. After all the points are calculated and the world champions are announced, there is only a bronze and the remaining positions. The silver position remains vacant, as the pair that should have filled it probably didn’t qualify for the finals.
    That does not work either, does it?
    One more version: it’s an international festival of short films. At the start, there are 81 films in three categories. After three days the marathon ends and the amateur category is topped by the German film Das Paket (The Parcel by Marco Gadge) and the third position is taken by the film 1471 (by Robin Whenary of the UK). Second place remains vacant, of course,
because the film that was supposed to win the silver medal probably failed to qualify at the
level of the festival selection committee.
    This doesn’t seem possible either, does it?
    Well, it happened! In the jury led by Saša Gedeon, this was the outcome. Instead of justifying this to the surprised festival participants somehow, the head of the jury disappeared unnoticed from the closing night ceremony.
    As a festival participant, I naturally wondered about the reasons for such a decision.
Another jury member, Dan Mircea Duta, repeatedly refused to comment on the decision,
insisting that I turn to the (absent) Mr. Gedeon. Finally, [another member of the jury]
Peter Dubecký explained to me in the final hours of the festival that the jury did not grant
a second prize in the amateur category, because they simply did not like the amateur films.
Bam! It was that simple! Apparently they did not reach the level of the independent film
professionals or students.
    Do amateur films, produced without the support of film school
equipment, educational guidance or production finances, really have to achieve the level of
school films or that of professionals in order to be worthy of the attention of a jury? It is not enough that the "non-professional" craft, unlike student exercises, must attract an audience with something different? That they have to engage an audience primarily with their ideas and originality? In my opinion, they certainly succeeded in doing this.
    However, instead of obtaining recognition, all the amateur filmmakers, who invest their free time and sometimes even a lot of money into their projects, were sent a message from the jury: "Forget it, we are not interested!"

BRNO THE COMPETITIVE

    It is clear that competitiveness is a natural human trait and everyone enjoys being "better"
than others. Therefore, every certificate counts and levels of victory may always remain a part of film festivals. It is also clear that any assessment is always subjective, and it rarely happens that everyone agrees, even less so in the case of a jury. Can such a thing ever be resolved?
    Although I also appreciate certificates of recognition, it is personally more valuable to get some audience feedback. The problem for amateur filmmakers is that it is difficult for them to access audiences, which is why even this evaluation need not necessarily be completely independent.
    This brought to mind another idea. What if the jury at the festival was a randomly selected
group of ten or so people from the lay audience who would be willing to sit through dozens
of hours in the cinema and simply with their subjective impressions (unburdened by "rules"
that all professionals must comply with) evaluate the films: like or dislike? Conversely,
professionals such as directors, editors, film theorists, critics and so on could serve as
an auxiliary panel with the task of writing their professional opinions on every short film
they see. This would be available for reading by individual filmmakers and viewers, possibly
in a final festival bulletin or on the Web. Perhaps there could be extra prizes for editing,
screenplay, directing and so on. In this way they would certainly be much more helpful to
filmmakers than by making a proclamation such as: "...amateur film as a whole does not reach an [adequate] level..."
 
BRNO THE SUBJECTIVE

    From the perspective of a viewer, I was completely satisfied. Everything went well and I really saw almost all the 80 films, some of which I enjoyed and some not (but that is simply the fate of film); they made good coffee there, the girls hanging around at the festival were pretty, and the evenings at the pubs were fun. I don’t need to worry about the decisions of the jury, because I have already found my favourites and some duds. I will certainly come back again next year as a spectator for this excellent movie marathon.
    From the perspective of a filmmaker, I am completely satisfied with the approach of the
organizers. I am quite happy about the prizes awarded to films such as Janna & Liv (Thérèse Ahlbeck), La Tama (Martin Costa) and Dobroty s příběhem (Goodies with a Storyline by Vladimír Franče); but a bit disappointed with the choice of some other awarded films. For example, there was the winning film Bába (Grandma by Zuzana Kirchnerová), which is certainly a good film, but a little superficial and quite over-rated by the media. The film Abendlied (Evening Song by Frauke Thielecke) was quite bland and the film 1471 (by Robin Whenary, www.vimeo.com/5020428) was very boring and lacked content and depth, making you want to leave if the film was not so short. Instead of these films, the jury could have awarded some less media-hyped films, but ones which were all the more interesting and expressed insight that went far beyond the plot. Some examples of such films are the American Glory at Sea (Benh Zeitlin, www.vimeo.com/5139179) and the Spanish film Martina y la luna (Martina and the Moon by Javier Loarte); a couple of shorts that go completely beyond the norm are the Czech film Bude z vás jiný člověk (You’ll be a New Man by Martin Láník) and the Iranian film Tanavob (Alternation by Mehdi Fard Ghaderi).
     But you know what? Don’t worry too much about all this! This is just the subjective grumbling of a unsatisfied filmmaker who will try to make another film within the next ten years and then will certainly bring it to Brno ...  :-)


Roman Forst, Plzeň
Director of Strom (The Tree – 1999) and Andaro: Legenda o Velkém Nic (Andaro: The Legend of the Big Nothing – 2009, www.andaro.cz)
Donašeč dobrých filmových zpráv (The Messenger of Good Film News) 4/2009 – I



Jaroslav Sedláček
Film and the Times, 3-4, 2009


Grandma? Impatiently!
Or from the 2009
Brno Sixteen


    There were 81 films in the competition from all over the world, which gives you a pretty
good idea about the state of current student, independent and amateur short fiction film.
What did the 50th jubilee Brno Sixteen festival have to offer? With slight exaggeration, it could be said that amateur film is hopelessly amateur (especially the Czech films); the
independents know what they don’t want to film, but haven’t yet figured out what they do want to make; and students unrelentingly dwell on and combine all the hardships and
depressions of the world. Any exception to this rule is rare and pleasantly refreshing for
the public – especially during a three-day film marathon.
    In the independent category, the Hungarian film 
TÜRELEM (With a Little Patience – 2006)
directed by Lászlo Nemés aroused some well-deserved attention, among several films. The
13-minute long film, composed of a long single shot without dialogue, depicts an exquisitely
dramatic scene of the day in the life of a secretary during wartime. There are several parallel activities taking place, which evidently are closely related. A young woman approaches along a forest path, enters the ground floor of a wooden building and receives a brooch from someone, which provides her with several little tacit moments of happiness. She sits down at her desk and tries to get on with her administrative work. At that moment, several high-ranked German officers enter. While others react with a certain upheaval, she remains calm. She hands them some documents and on the way back to her desk notices through
the window a desperate woman emerging from the forest towards the building; a few people try to hold her back. The woman doesn’t manage to reach “our heroine”, who watches on motionless and in silence by the open door. The woman outside is dragged over to a larger group of civilians who are undressing at the gunpoint of Nazi soldiers. Our heroine closes the door, returns to her work and the film ends. Only the window frame is visible, through which we can see the forest, the empty segment of this overly large world out there.
     If this film is a masterpiece in any respect, it is in the way it uses emotional connections
and atmosphere. The viewer enters the story on a beautiful summer day with an attractive
woman – we feel relaxed and full of pleasant expectation. Then, of course, the plot takes a
few unexpected turns, without us knowing exactly why, which intricately increases the
suspense. We leave the story at the point of an imminent massacre. With the volley of shots,
which we do not hear but expect to represent the final sad ending of the film, the story
remains depressingly unfinished and therefore open-ended in some way, as if to give us a
chance to intervene, to do something.
    The film arouses emotion in us and does not allow us to forget it even long after it ends.
At the same time, however, it is not possible to come to just any emotional or rational
conclusion. In my opinion, it is precisely this point which is the fundamental flaw of the
work. Yes, it is a story about not seeing and not hearing, about daily routine in which
human life has no value, about disdain, making alibis, hypocrisy and opportunism of the
worst kind. Yet at the same time, it is also an intellectual game that flaunts its ingenious
construction, without Nemés being seemingly interested in its function. That is why this
film by the young Hungarian filmmaker ended up in third place in its category at the B16,
and perhaps why in 2008 it ended up as “only” a nomination for a European Film Award.      
    The category of student films (and not only this category) was dominated by Zuzana Špidlová with her bachelor’s film project Bába (Grandma – 2008), about a girl, Veronika, who due to circumstances has to take care of her infirm and dying grandmother. Winner of the FAMU Prague film academy prize and the Cinéfondation prize in Cannes in 2009, she was only awarded the gold medal in her category and the Head Full of Films grand prize after a
many-hours-long discussion by the jury, and then only by the slightest margin of votes. The
problem was in many respects very similar to (yet quite different from) the above-mentioned
film by Nemés. In a surprisingly terse and a shocking manner, Bába captures a seemingly
simple, but in fact, very complex and multi-layered problem. Everything from the directing
to the acting displays an absolute confidence in terms of the film’s production values – a
perfect symbiosis of all the filmic elements. Neither of these filmmakers judges their main
character; their objective is to expose the respective theme as much as possible.
A disturbing discrepancy in an otherwise perfectly functioning machine is the
mother-daughter relationship in the case of Bába. The role of the mother, a nurse, was
relegated by director/screen-writer Špidlová to the periphery due to her constant night
shifts, despite the fact that she in fact had a fundamental, if not decisive say on the whole situation (and its possible resolution). While the grandmother-granddaughter relationship oscillates in a wide range of tones, from compassion to apathy to deep hatred, the tone between the mother-daughter hardly resonates at all. The loneliness which the girl is pushed into is merely the result of the filmmaker’s will, a trick played on the audience,
which Špidlová cleverly disguises with the storyline of the first bashful encounters between
Veronika and Ondřej, a younger boy from the neighbourhood. Veronika’s social isolation and
Ondřej’s lack of experience are substantial enough to prevent them from helping one another
when difficult situations arise. It is this hopelessness that gives the director an alibi to bring Veronika to try to kill her grandmother (in the given situation, it is not a question of euthanasia, contrary to how it was falsely portrayed in various media).
    Paradoxically, it is quite probable that this awkwardness in the screenwriting (or deceitful
tactic?) is what gives the film its power and allows it to collect points. Thus it excludes
the activities of our brain, but multiplies emotion. It is not about finding solutions or
thinking about a given problem; the viewer is supposed to be surprised, confronted with the
lack of one’s own preparedness for such a situation and horrified by the potential tragic
outcome. Viewers should be so emotionally overwhelmed that they do not analyze anything and simply and numbly state: "That was powerful!" This is paradoxical when compared with the Hungarian Turelem, which does stand up to analysis, but does not allow for catharsis.

Jaroslav Sedláček
in Film a Doba (Film and the Times), 3-4, 2009




    Vladimír Franče
The Messenger of Good Film News 4/2009 - I
 


THE BRNO SIXTEEN FOR THE FIFTIETH TIME
(This regards a film festival and in no way does it refer to a species of animal; furthermore simply B16.)

B16
(This regards a film festival and in no way does it refer to Benedict XVI.)

B16 or Beautiful Babes
(This regards all the young ladies, women fimmakers and all these angelic creatures without whom the festival could not have taken place. They are something like our “nurse-maids”. In no way, however, does this refer to a baby or infant.)
                                                                                                                                                                       
14:56  In Prague I board the Studentagency bus and a lovely gal requests my boarding pass,               that is my bus ticket. 
14:58  I take my seat (by the window).  
15:01  The bus departs and I am anxious to fall asleep as soon as possible. I need to gather               as much strength as possible, for I am going to one of the most prestigious film
             festivals and have to be in top form.

15:21  Coffee, tea? (asks the same hazel-eyed girl). Tea, thanks… (I say hesitantly).
15:37  I spill hot tea on myself (my left leg).
15:50  I’m falling asleep…
15:59  Headsets? (That same girl is in action again). Sure, thanks…at least I won’t hear the
             bustle around me, right!

16:10  My headset is strangling me…
16:11  On the screen right in front of me an unbelievably stupid American movie begins…
             I reminisce about the beautiful views from the train.

17:40  I get off the bus, still in one piece, luckily.
18:02  Criss-crossing the side-streets of Brno, I observe the local girls, greeting the most
             attractive ones. Surprisingly, they don’t return my greetings, except for one…but that
             would be for another story.

18:17  I enter the White House (for the uninitiated – that is the building where Bakala Hall is
             located – where the screenings take place).

18:20  I greet some fellow filmmaker friends…and…I spot an angelic creature, Šárka
            Tryhuková: without this charmng lady, the film festival could certainly not happen. (See
             the above paragraph.) I scurry along to greet her…it’s necessary to make contact;
             I bow to all the ladies who took part in the organization, operations, programming,
             production and all the many other tasks that are required for the smooth flow of the
             festival. I hope they forgive me for not naming them all here. Of course, I cannot forget
             about the men when giving thanks. Thanks to absolutely everyone who made this 50th
             jubilee festival a great success! (This by no means is meant to diminish the
             undisputed quality of the previous years that I’ve attended.)                                                                    


B16 or Perfect Pics
(This regards practically all the filmic creations.)

My compliments to the technicians for providing great quality projections. There were eighty films from various countries around the world to be seen, yet I was surprised that there were none from Poland. If I claimed to have watched all the films, you would take me for a madman or a superman…so, in fact, I did not see them all.
Although it is not for me to evaluate the films, I would like to mention a few of the ones that embedded themselves in my memory:

Chinese Opera Boy, Clara Wong Yuen Yin (Hong Kong)
A feast for the eyes – Chinese opera full of colour, emotion, physical and emotional strength.
It is a story about a boy who addresses a teacher.
Glory at Sea, Benh Zeitlin (USA/Germany)
This film really got me in two ways: the first time was on the screen and the second time was when it failed to win any award!
Manual Practico del Amigo Imaginario (abreviato) / Imaginary Friend Practical Manual (abbreviated), Ciro Altabás (Spain)
Do you have an imaginary friend? You’d really enjoy the countless comical situations.
Andaro – legenda o velkém nic / Andaro – The Legend of the Big Nothing, Roman Forst (CZ)
Creative, playful – a fairy tale story.
Mauvaise erreur / Bad Mistake, Xavier Hibon (Belgium)
Imagine that it’s your birthday and someone wants to give you a “horror” surprise and you end up beating him to death.
Bude z vás jiný člověk / You’ll be a New Man, Martin Láník (CZ)
Pure pixelation with a suspenseful almost horror-like plot.
1471, Robin Whenary (UK)
You are calling your mum from a phone booth and she just doesn’t answer…could she be baking a cake?
3 dny / Three Days, Zuzana Dubová (CZ)
A nice little film set in a university residence. What else could it be about except love?
Tanavob / Alternation, Mehdi Fard Ghaderi (Iran)
A train thief is nabbed, but he didn’t have to be – all filmed in a single shot.

B16 or Barbarity
(This regards the social ineptitude of the jury, and in no way does it refer to wildness.)

My fellow filmmakers from various parts of the world and I tried in vain to find at least one member of the jury who would be willing to get together with us to pass on a few words of wisdom. Every evening after the screenings, there was a cultural agenda planned for us where we could get to know each other. Everyone was curious about who these jury members were. They never came. Neither did they come to the official discussion of filmmakers, nor to the reception after the announcing of the prizes, so that they might attack us rhetorically, or in whatever other way. I tried with futility to explain to the filmmaker from Iran that the actress in the jury was really quite an item. “I don’t see it. I don’t believe it,” he told me. Just imagine that you are participating in a film festival half way around the world, and you don’t get the opportunity to shake hands with even one of the jury members!

We can reason that they were tired after the screenings and had to get on with the job of deciding on the evaluations. And they were so tired that they forgot to award a second prize in the amateur category. In any case, they deserve thanks and admiration for watching eighty films – hats off!
 
I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year filled with love. I hope things go well, my friends. 

Warm greetings,

Vladimír Franče
(Director of two films at the B16: Jako by se mě dotkla jakási předzvěst smrti / As if I had a Premonition of Death and Dobroty s příběhem / Goodies with a Storyline)

in Donašeč dobrých filmových zpráv 4/2009 – I.
(The Messenger of Good Film News 4/2009 - I)