Since the very beginning, the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival has been held under the motto, «Thinking through Film». This motto is, in a way, a provocation that implicitly indicates that thinking in a public space has been sidelined, or somehow lacking, and has to be revived. But can thinking that has retired, has gone hidden, be replaced by film – not primarily a discourse providing a framework to our thinking, but a sequence of images, a compact visual structure?
Image as configuration
The difference between conceptual thinking and thinking through film, through image, is aptly described by Czech philosophe Miroslav Petříček in his book, Thinking in/through/with Images. Concepts are successive, following up on one another, developed in a discussion, whereas an image makes the world prominent here and now at once. Concepts, too, suddenly become visible in all of their implications and an image is then something of a configuration, not a text that can simplify what is complex; an image as a configuration allows for immediate insight into the unity of things. An image thus becomes an inspiration for the dispute that strives to somehow untangle, capture or conceive the experience of immediacy.
As explained in the aforementioned book by Miroslav Petříček, this movement from image to dispute, or back, is very tricky, as it becomes clear that in a certain sense it is impossible because the line between the image and the word or concept cannot be crossed. Something always remains that cannot be completely transferred from one world into the other. The fact that these two methods of testifying or perceiving the world cannot be reduced does not mean that these two worlds should not be in mutual communication. On the contrary, if they are supplemental to each other, i.e. if they factually complement each other (not externally, but internally; complementation stemming from wholeness, not an external addition), their dialogue is important exactly because they are mutually interrelated and provide a more complex idea of the world we are living in. The linking element – thinking and image as a film – is life itself. As Miroslav Petříček puts it: «Thinking is characterised by the same complexity as life, and forms a part thereof, a moment, in any way being able to relate to life, to think life; it is always human thinking – which is always a prerequisite for thinking about a human being. Thinking as an expression of life.»
Inspiration Forum, held as part of the Ji.hlava Documentary Film Festival, strives to infuse the festival interspaces with live thinking. It is usually staged as a discussion, where the diversity of opinions enlivens the topic, making it into something worth pausing over, taking a breath and thinking about. Although thinking is a live movement, it requires us to stop, and step out from the march of time. In that respect, it resembles a film, an illusion of uninterrupted movement, in which motion (image) is regularly interrupted in order to move, to be enacted. In the context of thinking, ecstasy is traditionally mentioned – a rapture that enables us to surrender to the issue, to live it through, to become one with it, thus getting to know it completely. In this context, an image of motionless Socrates, as portrayed in Plato’s dialogues, often appears: the philosopher is standing on the spot for many hours without movement, focused on a single problem that he is contemplating, or that seized him and keeps him still, as if struck by the electrifying power of a stingray. But are these ancient Greek depths also the sources of the word «inspiration», lying at the very heart of the Inspiration Forum? Being inspired, we are hit by the strike of knowledge which, as indicated by the etymology of the word in-spirare, infuses life.
Since the very beginning, the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival has been held under the motto, «Thinking through Film».
Documentary cinema strives to capture life through film. It attempts to record life so as to not only reveal or «catch life living», display it as corpus delicti, an exhibit, but also to deform it as little as possible. In short: to capture live images and images of the living, without trying to animate them, i.e. in terms of artificial animation known, for example, from the tourist industry. If a documentarian «animates» someone, it is only himself or herself, trying to breathe in life to testify to this aspiration by film. In order to serve its purpose, a discussion forum has to be something like a «life stage», a kind of a laboratory on the path to the testimony of life, where different paths are tested, doors are opened to various possibilities which can later be seen as dead ends, others can point to a direction in which new and ground-breaking discoveries – life revelations – are made. The Inspiration Forum can, therefore, be a place where life itself is found.
«Thinking through Film»
This kind of existential poetics that I gradually sank into can certainly be marked as a mere frivolous play with words and their meanings, an intellectual exhibition, elevating the banal to something exceptional and unique. However, a game, as is well-known, is a serious business; the players have to invest themselves fully in it because only that makes it truly a game. And only that renders a living, inspirational outcome, something that moves us. And this is also how Ji.hlava’s organizers approach «Thinking through Film» – as a game of its kind. And since they are serious about their mission, their efforts to live the connection between film and thinking inspires filmmakers and their viewers. But – and this has been omitted or perhaps insufficiently emphasised – what is the purpose of inspiration? What is the purpose of breathing in life through film or discussion?
The above at least implies that it is a sort of a representation, conceptual or visual «grasping», thinking of what is real. Thinking that leads to a change, a transformation of oneself. In the words of Miroslav Petříček in his Thinking in/through/with Images: « We can tell if we are thinking the real – by seeing how we ourselves are transformed. Like viewers changing in front of an object in a gallery, to see the object as an image.»
Being transformed through film, that is what it is about.
About Inspiration Forum
These are the main topics covered by this year’s Inspiration Forum (God & Co. | Church In an Accelerated World; Woman in Change | Inspiration for the Third Millennium; Re:democracy| New Models for the Future; Climategeddon | How to Make Politicians Act; How Not to Be Afraid? | State of the World and the Effective Role of the Individual; Made in China | From Confucius to Xi Jinping). In the course of six festival days, it will open up six key topics in more than thirty discussions and present over one hundred guests from all over the world, among them: Fawzia Koofi (AFG), Sophie Howe (UK), Bill McKibben (USA), Tomáš Halík (CZ), Stein Ringen (NO), Alisa Ganieva (RUS), Srećko Horvat (HR), Isabelle Salton (BR), Francisco Cantú (USA), Kapka Kassabova (BG), Magda Vašáryová (SK), Kateřina Šimáčková (CZ), Saša Uhlová (CZ), Zoe Gudović (SRB), Kateřina Šafaříková (CZ), Marta Jalowska (POL),Dariusz Karlowicz (POL), Anna Orosz (HU), Jan Sokol (CZ), Martin M. Šimečka (SK), Adéla Gjuričová (CZ), Eamon Ryan (IE), Sini Harkki (FI), Juraj Zamkovský (SK), Jonathan Ledgard (UK), Bence Ságvári (HU), Christian Weißgerber (GER), Pavla Melková (CZ), Clifford Coonan (IE).
9th Inspiration Forum will take place as part of 23rd Ji.hlava IDFF on October 24–29, 2019