Ukrainians in Czechia doc opens the 26th Ji.hlava festival

“This is the world premiere of 8th Day of the War, a film about the war in Ukraine.

“But it’s very special – I’ve never seen a film like this before.

“Because it’s shot with Ukrainians living in the Czech Republic and only shot for 24 hours, at the very beginning of the war between Russia and Ukraine.

“It’s so powerful to see this Ukrainian community living in the Czech Republic dealing with this completely new horror situation, how much they want to help their families who are left behind in Ukraine and how they are dealing with this shock they are going through.

Marek Hovorka |  Photo: Lubos Pavlicek, ČTK

“The sad thing is that even the director at the time, maybe during this day the war will be over.

“As we know it’s not, but hopefully it will be over soon.”

You have nearly 100 documentaries premiering at Ji.hlava this year. Are there any films or special guests that you are personally very happy to have? I know you’re going to say they’re all awesome.

“[Laughs] It’s a very difficult question.

“There are a lot of great movies and a lot of great people.

“If I have to name one of them, I am very happy to have Lav Diaz join us, as a member of the main jury but also as a filmmaker who will present films in our retrospective of Filipino films.

“This includes his nine-hour film [Death in the Land of Encantos]one of the longest films in cinema history, shot after a typhoon in the Philippines 15 years ago.

“Jennifer Baichwal presents her new film, Into the Weeds.

“You probably remember Jennifer Baichwal for her films Manufactured Landscapes and Anthropocene.

“Her new film Into the Weeds will have its European premiere at Ji.hlava and she will have a masterclass the next day.

“Our very good friend Hilal Baydarov from Azerbaijan will have his new fiction film [Sermon to the Fish] – but it’s sort of shot in a documentary style.

“He presented the film this year at the Locarno Film Festival.

“We have a special connection with Hilal, because he actually started his career at Ji.hlava: Ji.hlava was the first festival to show his documentary films, six years ago.”

You have two main competitions, Opus Bonum, which is an international competition, and Czech Joy, which is for domestic films only. What does the festival, or festival-goers, consider most important?

“We have five competitions, including a new one that we have included this year.

“This is a competition for VR films and installations, because for years we have also focused on the documentary part of virtual reality projects.

“You mentioned Opus Bonum. This is the main competition, an international competition, and for us it is important that these films are like art films, works of art, which are very much linked to the history of cinema and in a way want add something new to the language of cinema.

“But we also have another international contest called Testimonials.

“It’s geared towards thematic documentaries, because documentaries are also known for big, you could say, blockbuster documentaries oriented on political, environmental, scientific issues.

“Then, of course, there is the Czech competition, Czech Joy, but we also have two devoted to experimental cinema, because Ji.hlava is known for experimental cinema.

“We have an international competition called Fascinations, and each year we show the state of progress of experimental cinema in a very broad way.

“And we have the Czech version of this completion, called”

Berta D. Wells