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Marek Hovorka • Festival director, Jihlava IDFF

“We try to be the voice of the region”


- The director of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, Marek Hovorka, sat down with Cineuropa to discuss the anniversary edition of the festival and its myriad different initiatives

Marek Hovorka  • Festival director, Jihlava IDFF

Marek Hovorka graduated from the department of Documentary Film Studies at FAMU and founded the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival along with his four classmates from secondary school in 1997; he has helmed the festival ever since. Cineuropa sat down with him to talk about the 20th edition of the gathering, which unspools from 25-30 October.

Cineuropa: The Jihlava Film Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Why did you decide to mark the occasion with the Jihlava Manifesto (read the news)?
Marek Hovorka:
We live in peculiarly tame times. Can you imagine filmmakers bringing the Cannes Film Festival to an end prematurely? Or mapping out cutting manifestos against previous filmmaking generations, such as those of the 1970s and 1980s? We believe that manifestoes belong to art, and that they are important for self-determination, dialogue and delimiting stances. That’s why we chose the “Jihlava Manifesto” label. Documentary films still have one foot in television and can make the most of its good will, whether it is accommodating towards filmmakers or not. That’s why we chose the film essay as being key to the selection, as it is a category that is difficult from the auteur’s point of view, imposing demands on viewers and co-producers. We want to show how exceptional films come together in this collection and how diverse film essays can be.

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Have you been working on any other changes for the upcoming edition?
This year, we have tweaked the open part of the industry programme in order to consider film professionals as personalities devoted to film, not just representatives of institutions. At the same time, we are focusing on questions pertaining to the development of documentary film and how film crews work – how do they influence each other? The main theme this year is also a futurological poll asking whether in 20 years’ time, in 2036, there will still be documentary film, and in what form. The questions and answers will be published in a special issue of our publication, which Frederick Wiseman, Ulrich Seidl, Bill Nichols, Khavn De La Cruz and Luciano Barisone have contributed to. We are readying big changes for the 21st edition as well. After 20 years, we want to stop and reform the festival, looking at all the details and pondering what to retain and what to change.

Jihlava also showcases less traditional documentary formats, for example in the Doc-fi, Reality TV and Fascinations sections, and the incorporation of interactive narration in the form of video games is also progressive and ties in with prevailing trends. What led to this expansion?
Yes, we will also offer video games that include documentary or educational aspects to our visitors this year, for the second time. Similarly to the world of video games today, cinema was also considered as entertainment at the beginning. We are convinced that the world of video games will soon enable the creation of artistic and distinctive worlds similar to those that Michelangelo Antonioni or Federico Fellini brought to the cinema.

Besides the festival itself, the Jihlava IDFF also runs educational and industry activities throughout the year. One new feature is what is the thinking behind this platform? is a format for creating a meeting platform based on professional discussions between film professionals from the Czech Republic and the host country. This year, we will focus on Iceland. Jihlava’s whole industry programme is built in such a way that it enables different types of professionals to meet up. For example, we have the Emerging Producers project, introducing the up-and-coming generation of European producers of documentary films; the Inspirational Forum, connecting directors with luminaries outside of film; the traditional meeting of festival representatives, Festival Identity; and other specific discussions and professional meetings.

Jihlava is also collaborating with the Institute of Documentary Film (IDF). On what activities, precisely?
I am very happy about our collaboration with the IDF: it is an institution that responded to the deeper needs of Eastern European film professionals. That’s why we traditionally present the latest selection of films from the Central and Eastern European region at the East Silver market, or they belong among the regular meetings of the Ex Oriente Film workshop. Together with the IDF, we are inviting Mike Bonano along, one half of the activist duo Yes Men. Among the other reputable guests are British co-producer Rebecca O’Brien, editors Claire Atherton and Jacopo Quadri, and Icelandic director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson.

The Jihlava Film Festival also supports filmmakers from the Visegrad region through the Visegrad Accelerator platform.
Right from the very first editions, we envisaged Jihlava as a space to bridge Eastern Europe with Western Europe. That’s why we focus on this region in various ways. This year, we will introduce key national film institutions, and we will offer a reflection on contemporary Eastern European cinema through the eyes of film critics. We try to be the voice of the region, which is rather overlooked in the rest of Europe, and draw attention to the fact that strong cinema arises from a quality background with well-functioning institutions and an open approach. Documentary film is a sort of artistic antivirus for society, and the better it gets, the more stable society will become.

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