Review: ‘Lost Holiday’

'Borat'

Czech filmmakers attempt to track down six unidentified Asian men in"detective documentary" "Lost Holiday."

Working from mysterious found photographs, an intrepid group of Czech filmmakers attempt to track down six unidentified Asian men in the gripping, self-described “detective documentary” “Lost Holiday.” Serious issues of global communication, leavened with wry Czech humor, ensure pic will find brisk play at fests prior to strong tube life.

Passing through Sweden in 2001, Czech traveler Lada Jelinek found a suitcase containing a plastic bag stuffed with 22 rolls of negative. When developed, the photographs totaled 756 pictures of the six casually dressed, largely stone-faced men. Who are they? What were they doing in various, strangely unremarkable European locations? Were they on holiday, or was it an official delegation … or something more sinister?

After arranging the photographs in a Prague gallery installation — where visitors could pose with a blow-up of a representative shot of the mystery men in a field of yellow flowers — helmer Lucie Kralova and her various “search units” begin the arduous task of identifying them and their increasingly tantalizing motivations.

Working under the assumption that the men are Chinese, they trace the license plate number of a vehicle in the picture, but that leads to a dead end. Retracing the group’s steps, they visit the locations seen in the pictures and encounter a humorless Swedish cop and, eventually, a German tourist couple who remember having coffee with the group.

Without giving away the mystery’s solution, it can be said that the revelation leads to a cultural exchange involving a high-profile trip to China for Kralova and her team.

Tech bag is well-packed, with Petra Gavlasova’s foreboding score creating a pungent atmosphere while simultaneously underscoring the mischievous humor of the enterprise. Intertitles on DVD caught contain numerous spelling and syntax slips that somehow enhance pic’s DIY energy.

Lost Holiday

Czech Republic

Production

A Docufilm Prague production, in association with Czech TV, Famu. (International sales: Docufilm Prague, Prague.) Produced by Martin Reznicek. Directed, written by Lucie Kralova.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Tomas Stanek, Brano Pazitka; editor, Jakub Hejna; music, Petra Gavlasova; sound, Richard Mueller. Reviewed on DVD, Karlovy Vary, July 3, 2007. (In Karlovy Vary Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 84 MIN. (Czech, Chinese, Japanese, Danish, English, Norwegian, Swedish dialogue)
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