Kha-Chee-Pae” explores the emotional impact on children growing up in an orphanage. To depict such a difficult and sensitive issue, Miroslav Janek makes use of many different filmic elements combined in a cinematic poem

Ulla Jacobsen
Jacobsen was previously editor in chief of the DOX Magazine from March 1998 until early 2009. A lot of the DOX articles republished in ModernTimes was ordered by her. After 2009 she worked freelance, until she died in 2013.

Kha-chee-pae

Miroslav Janek

Czech Republic 2005, 57 min.

When dealing with children it is difficult to avoid looking down on them from above, from an adult’s point of view, but Miroslav Janek has adeptly solved this by including the children in the process to a great degree. He has lent them cameras and encouraged them to create their own short films in any genre. And the children exploit this opportunity with joy. Their vivid imaginations bubble up as they use the camera as a play-tool to set up different TV shows and animations (together with the director). As it turns out, these films reveal a lot about their reality and they express things that are difficult to capture in an interview. The protagonists of the children’s shows are not film stars or celebrities, but alcoholics and homeless people, wives beaten up by their husband, characters the children know from their own world.

By contrast, the animations include cute figures like a little wooden dog or mussel shells that can walk. They are fortunately part of the naive world of children, too. The director’s hand is also visible around these films. He filmed sequences in a more traditional way exemplified by a touching interview with a girl who writes a letter to her mother asking her mother to take the girl and her little sister home. The same girl breaks down in the final sequence, kicking her legs and flailing her arms while shouting “Mummy, Mummy!!” – and this is the very essence of their lives. They might have a good time with their friends but the bottom line is that they miss their parents very deeply, the feeling of being loved uniquely by someone: the need of a mother or father is irreplaceable.

In other passages, Janek expresses the feeling of longing in more abstract ways using lyrical, black-and-white sequences, dissolving images, slow motion and music; images shown while children’s poems are read aloud, illustrating their mood, their emotions.

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Janek doesn’t pity the children or does he pretend that their lives are filled with happiness either. They play like other kids but are ultimately alone. Blending filmic elements with getting the children to play along shows a lot of solidarity with them, by not taking advantage of their defencelessness, but using their own resources to show their lives through playing, like children do but with the camera as a tool.

 


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