Olesya Bortyak

About Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival I have heard many times during another big film festivals, such as Vision du Reel in Switzerland and Berlinale International Film Festival. I always came to the pavilion of Jihlava IFF and tried to get to know about some new good films from that side. Everybody knows that film program in Jihlava IFF is one of the best among other documentary film festival. And many filmmakers dream to have a world film premiere here in Jihlava.

It was a big surprise to visit master-class of Helena Trestikova at Jihlava IFF. In 2009 I was honored to watch her film «Rene» at GoEast International Film Festival. RENÉ is a documentary that tells an extraordinary story - filmed over 20 years - about a character on the edge of society. The documentary director Helena Trestikova follows through these 20 years the life of René Plasil, habitual criminal - who even robbed the director at a certain point. He was sent to prison for the first time at the age of 16 and as a constant backslider, never lived a proper life.

Helena Trestikova explained during master-class how her “special thing” in life is to make long-term observational documentaries and how she must be the only person on earth who in fact cannot wait for time to pass by! She became one of the most popular documentary directors in the Czech Republic in the 1980s when she combined sociology, demography and documentary, in a film cycle called MARITAL SCALES, in which she followed six married couples and their family life between 1980 and 1987. The documentary series was an enormous hit for Czechoslovak television in 1987.

Helena told us that  she have been making RENE for twenty years. She calls this method a connection between documentary and story. If she can observe someone through a longer time it means she can observe exactly what is special, what is unique about this person. Her general idea is that every life is interesting. Her aim was to find the special topic in this life - what is the key in this life? She looks for the topic and her film is a result of this search. It is very interesting and a great adventure.

Everyone has their story. You cannot find this story the first time you meet a person - you have to work on it for a long time and then you get the idea. It is very exciting for me as well.

I watched amazing film by Iranian director Shahin Parhami «Sehrzaad’s tale».Shahrzaad’s Tale is a story of a lost era and a forgotten star of pre-revolutionary Iranian cinema, a tale of a working class woman who against all the odds struggled and succeeded to become an icon in the mainstream popular culture of the 1960s-70s Iran. It is also the story of ‘Film Farsi’, a popular genre of Iranian cinema that has been neglected by the media, film critics and film historians. Following the Revolution of 1979, the film industry and its star-oriented culture became seen as a decadent, un-Islamic, westernized, amoral and corrupted form of entertainment.

Shahrzaad is the pseudonym of the early 60s popular Iranian cinema actor, Kobra Amin-Saidi. Having appeared in more than fifty feature films, 80% in which she had major roles, Shahrzaad saw her fortunes plummet dramatically after the revolution. Like many artists in the entertainment industry, Shahrzaad was banned from the silver screen and TV. Shahrzaad was also a published poet and a filmmaker. In fact, she was the first woman filmmaker in Iran who wrote and directed a dramatic feature film, Mariam & Mani (1977), before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Though many artists chose to leave the country or to stay and adopt a new lifestyle or career in the newborn Islamic Republic, Shahrzaad belongs to neither of these groups. As she puts it herself, "I was consumed by an overwhelming sense of fear and insecurity." She suffered a nervous breakdown and lost touch with friends and family. Today she is in her late-sixties, and after more than 30 years of being out of work Shahrzaad is a wandering homeless woman in search of food and shelter. In the last two decades she has sought very basic means of survival in the forests of Northern Iran where she lived for three years, or in southern provincial towns and villages where the cost of living is cheaper than in metropolitan Tehran. According to an online report, she was living in abandoned buildings there for the last a few years, occasionally working as a vendor, selling books on sidewalks, or as caretaker or cleaning lady.

After the premiere we met with Shahin and talked about his challenges in making documentary about Shahrzaad’s poems. He sent me some of them with his translation from Iranian into English. By thye way he told me that his previous film AMIN was made in Kiev. So we agreed to collaborate in future Iranian-Ukrainian film projects.

Very Interesting for me was to see performance KABARE. The actors were amazing. Without any translation  I understood what they wanted to perform…and the meaning –  there's a thin line between love and hate.

In general visiting Jihlava IFF was amazing and very helpful experience. Now it’s time to work on a new film projects and hopefully one day they also will e screened at Jihlava IFF.