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Vít Klusák • Director

“A good film should not be easy to swallow”


- KARLOVY VARY 2017: Czech documentarian Vít Klusák talks to Cineuropa about his working methods, following the premiere of his latest doc, The White World According to Daliborek

Vít Klusák  • Director
(© Milan Jaroš)

Vít Klusák is a Czech cinematographer, producer and documentarian who, together with Filip Remunda, founded production outfit Hypermarket Film and is currently also a teacher at FAMU. He debuted with Czech Dream (ironically dubbed a “cinematic reality show”), which was followed by Czech Peace [+see also:
film profile
, about a US military radar base in the Czech Republic, and All for the Good of the World and Nosovice! He and Filip Remunda are also the people behind a television cycle of auteur documentaries, called Czech Journal. Klusák’s new opus, The White World According to Daliborek [+see also:
film review
interview: Vít Klusák
film profile
, has just screened at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: You choose thorny topics for your films – for example, the portrait of controversial oligarch Andrej Babiš in Matrix AB. What influences your choice?
Vít Klusák: There are a couple of factors. A documentarian should be oversensitive, in a positive sense; ideally, he or she should recognise and identify crucial social phenomena more deeply, more precisely, and in a more surprising, piercing and lasting way than the mainstream media, and this is what I attempt to do. Then you are at a crossroads: you either take on a topic that others always overlook, or one that all eyes are on but which nobody dares address. That was the case for Andrej Babiš. An important factor is also the situational potential of a particular topic. I do not want to make, and I do not know how to make, films with talking heads. 

Owing to those thorny topics, you have been labelled a controversial filmmaker ever since your debut, Czech Dream. Does this “status” have a direct impact on your work?
I do feel the pressure of certain expectations regarding what I will try my hand at next. It’s quite fun for me, but also a commitment. It is also driven by my effort to make films that viewers won’t be indifferent to. I am convinced that a good film should be a gauntlet that you throw down, something that’s not easy to swallow. It should force the viewer to become an active co-author, and the way in which a topic is tackled should lead the viewer to finish it off him or herself, as an experience.

Regarding your approach to a certain topic, what is the difference between painting a portrait of an internationally well-known oligarch (Matrix AB) and a virtually unknown neo-Nazi (The White World According to Daliborek)?
I consciously did not make a form of condemnation, but rather developed a disputatively empathic method of painting this portrait. I found it right and honest; however, it gets a lot of viewers worked up, including several of my colleagues. They do not want to hesitate as to what to think about those people; they want to get served an instant position. 

While preparing your latest film, you were featured in the international news as the creator of the “Auschwitz tour bus”. The bus was a prop for your film, but it also served to unmask the bad taste and insensitivity of the tourism industry towards the Holocaust. What do you think of the situation in retrospect?
It fascinated me that we were the ones targeted while we were trying to point out the “Disneyfication” of educational trips to concentration camps. A similar situation arose during our police interrogation, when they were examining under what circumstances we managed to film the fans of Ortel [a controversial Czech rock group accused of right-wing extremism and xenophobia] doing Nazi salutes. Instead of investigating those who were doing the salute, they were investigating me and probing whether I had bribed the fans to do so. The whole situation reminded me of one time when I was pursuing a thief in Prague who had robbed a shop at gunpoint. I was chasing him, shouting, “Catch that thief,” only to discover that indifferent bystanders were more agitated by me than by the silently fleeing youngster.

What is the difference between Vít Klusák the documentarian and Vít Klusák the producer?
Filip Remunda and I are producers to ourselves because nobody would have tolerated our directorial risks. The White World According to Daliborek started out with half of the budget, and only three weeks before the world premiere at Karlovy Vary, I managed to secure some finances via crowdfunding to cover the majority of the debts. You cannot cram a documentary film into spreadsheets; you can plan 30 shooting days, but the situation of your protagonists can easily inflate that twofold. In cases where a reasonable producer would pack it in, Filip and I continue to shoot. It is irresponsible, but it’s the only possible way to do it.

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