The 24th Ji.hlava Intl. Documentary Film Festival, which had to pivot into a digital only event at the last minute, features a lineup (see link here) with more than 220 films, including 59 world and 26 international premieres.
The festival, which runs from Oct. 27 to Nov. 8, includes a South Korean film retrospective, and a comprehensive showcase of documentaries by African-American filmmakers.
“We are sorry that we can’t screen the films in cinemas but we want to see the current situation as an opportunity. One positive aspect is that everyone will be able to get to see the films,” said Marek Hovorka, the festival director. “Fifteen years ago, the same year when YouTube was launched, Ji.hlava IDFF founded the first VOD portal dedicated to documentaries. Today, DAFilms.com is one of the leading European VOD platforms,” he said, referring to the partnership with DAFilms, which will be the festival’s streaming platform this year.
“The uniqueness of this program is in the fact that apart from over 220 films available to the Czech viewers, we will offer more than 80 films from Ji.hlava’s competitions to audiences worldwide, released in their world, international or European premieres,” said Diana Tabakov, the executive director at DAFilms.
World premieres in the Opus Bonum competition section include Filippo Ticozzi’s “Dissipatio,” Philip Rizk’s “Mapping Lessons,” Liryc Dela Cruz’s “On Endings,” Daniel Kötter’s “Rift Finfinnee,” Edward Kihn’s “Terrain Vague,” and Viera Čákanyová’s “White on White.”
A number of themes can be seen in the selection. One asks the question: where is our home? This is seen in “One Says No” by Chinese director Dayong Zha that captures the desperate fight to save his home of a man named Azhong against a brutal construction lobby.
Another film looking at the search for home is “Refugees Are Welcome Here” by Tomáš Rafa, which captures the uncertain situation of refugees in refugee camps in Berlin.
A refugee from Syria who takes diligent care of his little garden on the outskirts of Remse in France and who would like to exchange his temporary asylum for a permanent home is the main protagonist of “Gevar’s Land.”
The Black Cinema Matters section looks at “the rich and inspiring tradition” of Black documentary filmmaking, said David Čeněk, its program selector. “The section introduces a radical change in the perspective of the African-American narrative, which has long been dividing not only American public but is also bogged down with a lot of prejudice, ignorance and lack of empathy,” Hovorka said.
The section comprises works by Afro-American filmmakers attesting to their experience of racism and violence. American curator Greg de Cuir Jr. was a consultant of the section.
The Transparent Landscape section showcases films from South Korea over the past 100 years. One of them is Dongwon Kim’s “Sanggye-dong Olympic,” which follows the preparations for the Summer Olympics in South Korea of 1988. The Korean government kicked 160 families out on the streets, tore down their houses in the slums of Sanggye-dong where they built luxury apartments. The director spent three years with the families and witnessed their desperate struggle with the authorities. The film initiated a new era of Korean social documentary.
Another chilling documentary is “The Murmuring,” directed by Byun Young-joo, who describes the trauma of Korean women who served as sex slaves to Japanese soldiers in WWII.
Viewers have the chance to see the first ever experimental film in the history of Korean cinema, “The Meaning of 1/24 Second,” directed by Ku-lim Kim. Its fast-paced collage is critical of the drastic urbanization of the city of Seoul.
As well as the screenings, the festival has a substantial program of debates. “In order to bring the unique atmosphere of Ji.hlava to online audiences, we have prepared several simultaneous live streams, all-day live service from the festival’s Lighthouse studio at the Ji.hlava’s central Masaryk Square as well as an interactive environment interconnecting the audience with the filmmakers,” Hovorka said.