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Jan Gogola Jr • Director of Eternal Jožo

“This film shows that even in our broken society, we can still talk to each other”


- We talked to the director of Eternal Jožo, Jan Gogola Jr, about finding a spiritual side to a pop star

Jan Gogola Jr • Director of Eternal Jožo
Director Jan Gogola Jr (right) with Jožo Ráž (© Ladislav Cmíral)

World-premiering in the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival's Czech Joy section, Jan Gogola Jr's “situational portrait” Eternal Jožo [+see also:
interview: Jan Gogola Jr
film profile
takes a look at Jožo Ráž – a Slovak singer and co-founder of beloved band Elán. He covers his past successes and failures, including an accident that left him with serious injuries, but mostly his search for God. As well as his love of Smurfs.

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Cineuropa: There would be no need to introduce Jožo Ráž to a Slovak or a Czech audience, but what is his significance for you, personally? Also because you put him in some uncomfortable situations in the film.
Jan Gogola
Jr: When I work, I always want to find out something we don't know. I want my films to be a visible experience of something that was invisible, so to speak. At least before. When we think about musicians, we don't usually think about this spiritual level. My main theme is “civilian metaphysics” – I wanted to talk about all of these important subjects like death, God, religion and mysticism. But I didn't want to talk about it with a philosopher or some monk, but rather a pop star. French philosopher Gilles Deleuze once said that he wanted to leave this academic context behind, and that's what I intended to do as well. When it comes to Jožo, his band, Elán, was the biggest in the Slovak Republic, and I think this film could be interesting for his bandmates or fans. Nobody expects him to talk about such things.

He certainly likes to talk about it, even though it's not easy. At one point, he says, “Time doesn't exist,” only to hear: “But we have to go to the awards ceremony.” Is he lonely in this search?
We are living in just one moment, always. It's a cliché, but he knows it. He is lonely, yes – he is a pop star and a very controversial person. This distances him from society. Our film is an attempt to give him a friend, in a way – I wanted to get closer to him. I brought him some cocoa once because it brings back memories of his mother, and at the same time, his secretary brought some cocoa to us. This moment showed me that he is alone, but at the same time, he isn't.

And yet you still confront him about his past, asking why he never spoke up about what was taking place politically in the country. He says: “I sang about it.”
In the film, we can see him opening up about quite intimate subjects – his mother, for example. He is capable of acknowledging his ego with humour. I didn't want to make a biopic, but rather show him facing all of these unexpected situations and show people that Jožo lives what he preaches.

In connection to his controversial positions, he used to say that during the communist regime, even before 1989, things used to be better than they are now. To me, it's nonsense. But what was important was to talk about these things. He finally said that he is against violence, and that was crucial. Also because he used to support former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, who was behind the kidnapping of the former president's [Michal Kováč’s] son. I asked him: “Jožo, how can it be that someone can organise the kidnapping of his political opponent's son?!” He answered that it was not the right decision, and we have never heard that from him before. It just shows that even in our broken society, we can still talk to each other.

He doesn't have a mobile phone or a credit card. He doesn't even answer his phone in the office! He seems happy to be far away from all of that, so this idea of having a camera following him around must have been strange.
I must say that at the beginning, he didn't want to make this film. I explained to him: “Jožo, you are thinking about God. The way you see the universe, the way you say that nothingness is everything and everything is nothingness – these things are important.” This way, we can see that each and every one of us can embrace some spirituality in our lives.

Years ago, I interviewed him for a magazine with my friend, and we did it solely by using the lyrics of Elán's songs. He liked it a lot. One hour turned into two, and it was the beginning of our relationship, I guess. He understood that, for me, the philosophy of his band and their songs is really important. We already just felt close, all those years ago. I liked it when he said that God is also dealing with various problems. It makes Him seem like a friend, too – someone who isn't omnipotent, but who could actually use some help. I think it's a story about friendship as well.

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