Offbeat, likeable docu “Bata-Ville: We Are Not Afraid of the Future” reps the feature debut for conceptual artists-cum-helmers Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie. Part art project, part reality TV-style travelogue and part semi-straight history lesson, film tracks a bus load of Brits, mostly former employees of two now defunct Bata shoe factories in Blighty, as they make a pilgrimage to the Bata company’s headquarters in Zlin in the Czech Republic. “Bata-Ville” should have bright future at docfests, followed by airplay on specialty cablers.
Usually clad in identical bubblegum-pink retro uniforms, complete with pillbox hats, the helmers appear as self-appointed tour guides for the former Bata employees who applied via an advertisement to go on the journey. On board, the passengers share memories of working at Bata’s semi-utopian factories, run with a view to fostering communities. Inspired by founder Tomas Bata’s optimism about things to come, Pope and Guthrie ask the passengers if they fear the future. The slight mismatch between the art school mindset of helmers and the down-to-earth workers adds an interesting tension. Though technically well-assembled, the material feels stretched to make it feature length.