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Marek Hovorka • Festival director, Jihlava IDFF

"A radical programme and new talents"


- Marek Hovorka, festival director and head of programming at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, speaks to Cineuropa about the concept and aims of its upcoming 19th edition

Marek Hovorka  • Festival director, Jihlava IDFF

We chatted to Marek Hovorka, festival director and head of programming at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, to find out more about the concept and aims of the gathering's 19th edition, which takes place from 27 October–1 November. 

Cineuropa: The programme board of the JIDFF consists of three people: Petr Kubica, Andrea Slovakova and you. How are you handling all of the various programmes, and what is the selection process like? How many films do you invite to the festival, as opposed to submissions?
Marek Hovorka:
There are several existing methods for programming a film festival, but I do not really believe in democracy here. JIDFF is not a festival for all kinds of films; that is why there are just three of us on the programme board. We want to have a clear profile focused on innovative auteur films – from three different geographical perspectives and following two genre lines: we divide our competitions into International, Central-Eastern European, and Czech films, and we focus on documentaries and experimental docs.

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I do not know the ratio of submitted versus invited films, but it is always important to combine active dramaturgy with an open mind. We encourage filmmakers to submit their films to Jihlava, and naturally, films that haven't had their premieres yet stand a much better chance of getting selected. In this year's programme, we will screen 58 films as world premieres, nine international and 11 European premieres. And it is always an interesting surprise to see the final line-up.

The festival's major section, Opus Bonum, consists of documentaries of all kinds, lengths and origins. What is the main line of thought when selecting films for this competition?
Well, the selection is radical. It is very important to think about these films in a cinematic way, and not just as documentary productions. Each filmmaker tries to discover and follow his or her original cinematic path; this is the reason why the diversity of the selected films is so broad. A good example is last year's Opus Bonum winner, I Am the People, which world-premiered at Jihlava and went on to screen at festivals around the world, including in the Cannes ACID programme.

We are not only trying to get different films; we are also trying to create a different festival. For instance, our system of juries is probably unique: the Opus Bonum jury only has one member, but it's always a distinguished filmmaker, like Victor Kossakovsky this year. For the Fascinations programme, we invite a director or critic from the experimental field and their family, so that they can decide on the winner together. This year, it's multimedia artist Elena Gui,and experimental filmmaker and distributor Emmanuel Lefrant.

Between the Seas is loosely geographically defined: Eastern and Central Europe, but also including Balkan and Caucasus countries. What is the dominant idea and common thread, except for the loose geography?
The idea is to focus on a region that has its specific historical and cultural characteristics, and which is not part of traditional Western European relations and co-operations. When you look at the programmes of the big Western European festivals, the main focus is naturally on productions from their own region, and those of Latin America, North America and Asia. If you find two or three Eastern European documentaries, that's a success. 

We also aim to highlight new talents and present films that show a clearer picture of the people living in countries “East of the West”. They show you a different way of thinking about life. And as far as I can tell, Eastern Europe is again increasingly gaining attention.

A large part of the programme is dedicated to experimental films. This year, you have made the Czech experimental programme competitive for the first time.
For films in the Fascinations and sections, we always focus on the experimental films with documentary elements. This year is also special because we will have the first conference on issues related to experimental cinema, called Conference Fascinations. There is a lot to discover in our experimental programmes!

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