“Everydayisfamous,” breathes the ubiquitous voice of grandmother Alena Němcova, reciting her diary entries in Czech filmmaker Jan Gogola’s newest documentary short, I Love My Boring Life. Gogola is a filmmaker, teacher and journalist whose cinematic oeuvre is one of extreme visual technique comprising of metaphor and absurd comedy, where the world is a construct ready for reinvention.
During the 44th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, I Love My Boring Life was presented alongside eight other documentaries as part of Docu Talents From the East, an annual works-in-progress industry event which previews up-coming projects from the Eastern European region.
Using time as its central theme, Jan Gogola’s film is a surreal approach to eternity – daily life mixed with a transpersonal history where weather is mentioned in the same breath as war. I Love My Boring Life is one of ve documentary shorts (under 30 minutes) produced within “Breathless – Dominance of the Moment”, a two-year long Czech-German co-production project that funds workshops and mentors short experimental documentary filmmakers from both countries. Hinging on the ow of time and speed, the Breathless concept is inspired by the bombardment of information technology that in recent years has overloaded our senses and fragmented our conception of time and orientation, where the use of terms such as globalisation, digitalisation and mobility has become unavoidable. Thus, each Breathless film toys with the idea that our lives are no longer our own.
Beginning the Breathless process in January 2008, Gogola’s short documentary relives the diary entries of the Němec family’s grandmother, Alena, who Gogola has known for ten years from Prague’s Zbraslav neighbourhood. Deconstructing the conventions of time with the basic narrative techniques of fiction film, the filmmaker sees the diary as “an example of processing the world in one’s own way, in its common and timeless aspects.” The idea is to a make a film about the singularity of ordinary life where, through the careful architecture of images, “every moment could be a living painting,” says Gogola. The camera enters the Němec’s house and moves into normal family situations where Alena’s voice-over becomes a sound effect within the spatial situations, a commentary that traces the past into the present. “Alena is not the author of her life,” affirms Gogola. “Like us, she is the co-author. This film is not a reconstruction, rather it’s a reincarnation of the past.”
Every moment could be a living painting
The concept for the Breathless short documentary stemmed from Gogola’s previous film, Diary of Grandmother Němcova, which focused on the diary entries of Alena’s mother-in-law, Jirina Němcova. Six years ago, while Alena Němcova was living in the same house as her mother-in-law, she began a diary of her own, which in turn inspired I Love My Boring Life. Given Breathless’ theme of time, the ‘diary-with-no-end’ concept made sense when perceiving the journal as “a can of time,” explains Gogola. “In the Němcova family house there are younger generations too, so maybe aer 10 years there will be another diary and another film.”
In addition to Gogola’s film, its Breathless counter-part The Phantom Of Liberty II (working title) by Czech filmmaker Karel Žalud, was also presented during Docu Talents. It reveals the physicality of time in a global age where, ironically, the freedom of man is jeopardised by his self-spun web of arbitrary calculations. Borrowing the narrative techniques of Robert Altman, Žalud makes use of the spatial overlapping of the characters in his storytelling– a scene jumps from the passenger seat of one car to the backseat of another as the two automobiles pass on the highway; a motorcyclist then engages with the driver of the car before the camera leaps into a train cart on the highway overpass. In his statement, the director underlines that “all the situations included in the narrative must be quite commonplace or banal, corresponding with the viewer’s experience as they capture only typical events. No eccentric occurrence should disturb the chain of paradoxes created by mostly conventional scenes that do not share any common context.”
With this, its fifth edition, Docu Talents From the East has made a reputation of directing the attention of documentary distributors, buyers, festival programmers and journalists to the productions and developments of Eastern European art, history, politics and daily life. The Eastern European region has a deep-rooted tradition of documentary filmmaking, although a genuine support system for creative documentary work has only existed for the last 10 to 20 years, since the fall of the Iron Curtain. The genre is now moving into new territories of network broadcast and theatrical release – a consideration all nine docs-in-progress are port her uncompromising habit. Třestíková has crept in and out of Katka’s world for 13 years (while at the same time recording re-peat-offender René’s philosophical laments from prison for her acclaimed documentary René), to capture a cinematic sentiment not simply of drug abuse, but also the struggle to replenish the power of life.
At the end of the trailer we are informed that Katka is pregnant. Will she be forced to give up her baby? Or pushed to come clean and reclaim her life in order to save her child’s? The production team manages to leave us with this intrigue.
When surrealist preacher/docu-guru Karel Vachek presented his latest documentary, The Obscurantist and His Lineage, his comments on the film’s concept were just as non sequitur as the actual trailer (or Director’s Note’s as he called it). The Czech director has been making documentaries since the early 1960s and his work has since screened in theatres and galleries across Europe and the United States. Since 1994, Vachek has taught in the Documentary Film Department at Prague’s performing arts school, FAMU (where amateurs morph into experts, including Miloš Forman and Emir Kusturica), and has acquired a reputation for his non-conformance to aesthetic and political trends. Czech critics Vratislav Effenberger and Jan rooms and UFOs.” Vachek uses the projection screen as a crooked mirror through which to gaze at nonrational and expansive perceptions of reality.
During a four-minute preview of The Obscurantist and His Lineage, existential slogans and fortune cookie wisdom are plastered in the most commonplace surfaces; for example “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life,” This displayed across a city bus. To conclude his presentation Karel Vachek assured the crowd of his project’s legitimacy, saying, “I apologise for the nonsense, it will be a serious film.”
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