DOCUMENTARY

Line to Line: Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival 2021

Strains

Lines are a bit of a topic at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Competition. There are people you assume, greeting you in entrance of screening halls, pop-up foods stands, restaurants and the wobbly information and facts desks in the cramped pageant center—all reminders that this quaint Czech town of 50,000 persons was not constructed to engage in host to a movie competition of worldwide renown. Then there are strains of the much less evident type, like the swirling white chalk marks on the pavement that hook up the many festival locations—an act of “environmental installation,” made every year due to the fact 2005 by area artist Vit Kraus working with a sports line maker, which is intended to information, and perhaps also confound, people as they navigate the picturesque streets of Jihlava’s historic old city.

And then there’s Traces the film, which deservedly emerged as the large winner of Jihlava when the festival’s 25th edition wrapped on 31 October, having home Very best Entire world Documentary, Best Debut and Greatest Seem Structure awards in the Opus Bonum part, the IDFF’s primary competitiveness. Directed by Slovak first-timer Barbara Sliepková, the intensely stylized observational documentary turns its highlight on a smaller forged of folks living in the ever-growing Slovak cash of Bratislava and working with various shades of solitude. There’s a lady in her 50s who is both proudly “unsociable” and yearns for the human link a romantic romance affords a person. There is a slightly buttoned-up idealist functioning for district council on a system of socially and environmentally accountable city improvement a center-aged bachelor waxing nostalgic about the pre-free of charge current market Bratislava of his childhood a yuppie genuine-estate agent crisscrossing the city by yourself in his motor vehicle a team of builders drawing parking lots and street markings with a a little extra substantial-tech device than the one Vit Kraus utilizes 12 months soon after yr.


Even though in phrases of information, Traces has all the trappings of a operate-of-the-mill pageant documentary—from faux-fly-on-the-wall narration to vaguely forlorn-seeming protagonists—it is Sliepková’s assured perception of visible fashion and sly prodding of her title’s metaphorical likely that ultimately would make this a key entry into the present-day cinematic canon of urban explorations. Canny black-and-white compositions prominently foreground the titular lines—contrails, tower blocks, blinds, ballot box slits—as do intermittent scenes of targeted traffic marking development in progress. In live performance with the protagonists’ subjective testimonies, this yields an arrestingly evocative portrait of a contemporary European metropolis and strains that serve to information, join and divide its folks.

Elsewhere in Opus Bonum, railway lines have been on the head of Mexican filmmaker Tin Dirdamal, whose impressionistic travelogue Dark Gentle Voyage walked away with the festival’s Greatest Editing award. Portion of the “Hanoi Dogma” he served mastermind—a manifesto in search of to winner the ephemerality of filmic expression by, between other points, pulling its participant movies from all circulation two years right after their respective premieres—Dirdamal’s most current sees him choose a 1,700-kilometer southward prepare journey as a result of Vietnam in get to cope with the revelation that a nearby pal has been dedicated to a mental establishment pursuing a violent outburst. Travelling with his younger daughter Eva Cardena, with whom he shares a directing credit, Dirdamal, through voiceover, engages in quite a bit of tedious auteurist navel-gazing, the place somewhat pedestrian musings on parenthood and childlike curiosity intermingle with fragmented recollections of his institutionalized close friend. If it weren’t for the intriguing montage and camerawork—whose vibrant mixture of grainy property movie footage and lo-fi vérité-design train footage would not have looked out of put in the festival’s crowded experimental sections—the eventual removal of Dim Light-weight Voyage from the public document would not be a tragedy of the greatest get.

This is absolutely not the case for Notify Me, which, along with Strains, is most likely the greatest new release to perform at this year’s Jihlava IDFF, and surely the one particular with the best probability of capturing common world wide awareness. The film—spearheaded and supervised by Estonian director Marta Pulk, but which lists no less than 20 co-directors—is some thing of an inverted companion piece to the Emmy-winning 76 Days, Hao Wu, Weixi Chen and an anonymous co-director’s 2020 dispatch from within a Wuhan healthcare facility for the duration of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Close to the starting of mentioned pandemic, Pulk and her co-conspirators, most fellow alumni of a Werner Herzog masterclass, printed the mobile phone figures of helplines that invited men and women to anonymously share their views and anxieties brought on by the advent of the novel coronavirus and ensuing lockdowns. Furnishing these voicemail confessionals with images shot by the 21 administrators in their respective residence countries—some opting for documentary staples like CCTV footage and phantom rides, other folks, like German director Sonja Ortiz, using inspiration from effectiveness art—Explain to Me creates a fascinatingly transnational history of the COVID era, exactly where conspiratorial ramblings clash with visions of divine punishment, men and women fretting about their loved ones members’ well being, and sheepishly privileged admissions that there is anything to be stated for the enforced cosiness of a pandemic-induced lockdown. If there is an overarching issue Pulk et al. check out to attract from their international polyphony, it appears to be contained inside a single succinct voicemail assertion: “Don’t think it won’t be simple to ignore all of this, incredibly soon”—hence the need to have for a chronicle like Explain to Me.

That these types of a present, bold and achieved entry was ignored fully by the Jihlava jury is not a very little shocking, even though it may advise that, nearly two decades into the pandemic, we might be looking at some tiredness regarding COVID as a documentary subject matter. In fact, none of the other primary area winners have an explicit COVID bend to them. Very best Central and Japanese European Documentary and Greatest Cinematography honoree You Are Ceaușescu to Me is a drastically uneven but thematically potent attempt on the element of director Sebastian Mihăilescu to use Brechtian general performance to reflect on the legacy, or absence thereof, of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu among the the era of Romanians who arrived of age lengthy following the slide of Communism. Whilst somewhat bland stylistically, Laura Viezzoli’s When You Are Close to Me, recipient of a exclusive mention, is a profitable, broadly available charmer chronicling the each day regimen in a Tuscan residence for deafblind persons. Meanwhile, No Want to Disguise noticed director Rikun Zhu acquire a jury commendation lauding his “original approach” to storytelling—specifically his use of in depth long can take and scenes showcasing lengthy introspective dialogues and monologues, although at a runtime of 94 minutes, this method a little bit outstays its welcome. Zhu nevertheless manages to paint a vivid photograph of a youthful Chinese pair, their open up partnership and how it chafes against their person dreams of succeeding overseas and the traditional attitudes they, for all their countercultural bravado, seem to have internalized.

Exterior of the primary segment, the multi-pronged experimental aspect of Jihlava mostly caught the eye this calendar year. Equally the intercontinental and domestic side of the experimentation-focused Fascinations level of competition sent unforgettable forays into cinematic abstraction, this sort of as Testuya Maruyama’s Antfilm, whose oppressively droning soundscape and decelerated strobe-gentle flashes of ant silhouettes productively control to simulate existence in an anthill. In Arnheim in Anaheim, an additional striking international area entry, Hungarian director Péter Lichter remixes webcam footage from Disneyland with display captures of his have editing system, chopped-up passages from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Rudolf Arnheim’s seminal Film as Artwork, increasing the troubling query of irrespective of whether classical theories of film and fact even now keep accurate in the experience of the elementary unreality of the electronic age. This worry also cropped up on the Czech aspect of Fascinations, where Lea Petříková’s playfully messy, anecdote-significant black-and-white small Historical past of Shrouded Screen wrestled with cinema’s propensity to only seize surfaces rather of essences.

The most worthwhile experimental piece at Jihlava 2021, having said that, was discovered in the retrospective devoted to the Romanian avant-garde of the Communist period. Lifted from the Romanian Film Archive and celebrating a belated worldwide premiere, Mircea Săucan’s 1967 movie The Alert! is, in the terms of part curator Andrea Slováková, probably the sole Romanian contribution to the new waves of the ’60s. Functionally a collection of 4 15-moment instructional films on chemical plant security, complete with on-screen captions about proper resuscitation protocol, The Alert! doubles as an abstract really like tale among two factory staff striving to escape the dehumanizing equipment that surrounds them. Instructed in circular camera movements and stark reduced-angle shots of metal tubes and industrial chimneys, each and every other scene recalling Mikhail Kalatozov and early Andrei Tarkovsky, Săucan’s movie is at at the time politically subversive and joyously tongue-in-cheek. Like the feet of Jihlava’s attendees slowly lower Vit Kraus’ pavement strains to hazy smudges, The Notify! gleefully blurs the strains amongst commissioned documentary, superior drama and absurdist comedy, collectivism and capitalist exploitation, passionate romance and the psychological detachment required to carefully perform CPR. Line-savvy Jihlava could not have identified a more fitting pièce de résistance to cap its 25-12 months anniversary.


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