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CZECH FESTIVAL SHIFTS CENTRAL EUROPEAN PRODUCTION WESTWARD

A black hole of film

THE DOCUMENTARY that will represent Slovakia at the 7th International Documentary Film Festival in the Czech town of Jihlava is Peter Kerekeš's film 66 Seasons. The film will compete for the award of Best Central European Documentary Film in the newly formed section Between the Seas, including films from Hungary, Poland, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
"The Jihlava festival is the only festival that explores the documentary genre in central Europe.

THE DOCUMENTARY that will represent Slovakia at the 7th International Documentary Film Festival in the Czech town of Jihlava is Peter Kerekeš's film 66 Seasons. The film will compete for the award of Best Central European Documentary Film in the newly formed section Between the Seas, including films from Hungary, Poland, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

"The Jihlava festival is the only festival that explores the documentary genre in central Europe. There are many specially oriented festivals, but this one focuses on the documentary genre in general," said Marek Hovorka, director and founder of the festival, which will take place between October 23 and 28.

Judged on no thematic or technological conditions, only the quality of the selected movies, the festival's aim is to help unknown central European documentary productions penetrate the west, as western festivals ignore them. For this specific purpose, the festival introduced the Between the Seas competition category this year, which will be evaluated by an international jury.

"The largest documentary festival [in Europe] takes place in Amsterdam, Netherlands. For the last ten years no Czech documentaries were shown there, and I can say for sure that the same applies to Slovak film," said Jana Ptáčková, head of the festival's production.

"We are a black hole for them [the western festivals]," Hovorka added. "Central European film was [only] interesting [for them] in the beginning of the 1990s [after communism fell]."

Apart from helping central European film productions, the Jihlava festival also differs in the atmosphere it offers.

"It's a very intense festival. Jihlava is a small town [around 100,000 citizens], so people, as well as their thoughts, have to meet there," Hovorka said about his hometown. He also explained that the festival aspires to place the filmmakers among ordinary people, rather than present them as "unreachable icons".

Even though the festival focuses on central European production, it also screens documentary films from other countries. Since its foundation in 1997, it annually presents around a hundred films, new as well as old, from up to 50 countries.

In the section entitled Transparent Beings, the festival will host such internationally renowned filmmakers as the Canadian experimentalist Mike Hoolboom, the controversial Ulrich Seidl from Austria, and Oscar-winning American director of artistic-independent movies Joseph Strick. The section Czech Joy will naturally give space to Czech documentary films, which will compete to be the best of the year.

The festival's main accompanying event will be the public English-language Pitching Forum, offering an opportunity for documentary filmmakers and commissioning editors to meet and negotiate contracts. It is designed to pave the way to the European film market for directors from central Europe.

According to the festival's director, Kerekeš is one of the few central European directors who have managed to break the border and make it to international festivals with their films.

The films shown in the main competition section will be screened in their original language with English subtitles. Most of the other films will have English subtitles, or will be simultaneously translated. For more information on the festival visit www.dokument-festival.cz.

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