Humans of My Street Films: Czech Edition

“Find your way to film,” says the motto of this year’s Czech competition. How did our authors, whether they were film professionals or amateur filmmakers, find their way to film?

Ivo Bystřičan, director and workshop tutor

I am happy when I can meet people, talk with them and discuss what they enjoy, what interests them, what attracts them, where they see their place in the world. It is exciting to see and hear about everyday details in which the participants notice a germ of a story, a reference to something broader. Contributing to the process in which the original observation makes small steps towards a film, no matter how miniature, which tries to say something essential to others while representing a gradual process of self-knowledge, is an interesting path for me. Thanks to tutoring, I can learn many new things about myself. Moreover, all of the participants do it because they want to. Without a professional background or previous experience, they are drawn to self-expression through film. That’s a delight. Unlike professionals, amateur filmmakers do not make films for a living; which expands their possibilities. It doesn’t matter how long the film is, what form it has or what forms it combines, what the potential of its distribution or audience is. They can do whatever they want and are as free in their creative process as when you have a paper and a pencil and can create imaginary worlds.

To me, the original observation turns into a film theme if I’m at my wits’ end, if I can’t explain it and I feel that it’s something new. Just like now when I’m writing this text on a low wall at a petrol station. It’s nine in the morning and across the street, two guys in overalls suddenly start whooping with joy and clapping their hands. A few steps away, a barkeeper is unlocking the door of her pub called Fairytale. I will go to them and ask them to tell me theirs.

Tereza Reichová, director and workshop tutor

I’m a restless Gemini. Since I was small, none of my interests would last long; I was sort of good at everything but got bored easily. What I always did best though was managing people and constantly defending my position against the mainstream. Plus I always had the tendency to make “high art”, but it lacked ideas and was only made for appearance sake. Eventually, I realized that my main hobby of changing the world could be connected with art after all. And that was it. A simple equation: Activism + art + management = application to the Department of Documentary Film. It worked like magic! I can keep changing the themes and forms of my films as I please; nobody scolds me for ordering people around anymore; and what could be labelled as “a punker that never grows up” is now branded as “activist director”.

Jaroslav Kratochvíl, director and workshop tutor

I don’t see any significant difference between professional and amateur filmmakers. During the My Street Films workshops, the boundaries between the two are blurred as well. Sometimes, the least conspicuous member of the crew will come up with the best idea; I think we just learn from each other. For instance, I’m not good with the camera and I generally don’t understand the technical aspects at all. What I’m trying to do at the workshops is sharing my view that competing for the technically best image is nothing but conceited fetishism which is as telling of the film’s quality as designer clothes are of the people that wear them; their information value being equal to zero.

Taťána Rubášová, director of the short film Na Knížecí

I made Na Knížecí, which eventually won the My Street Films competition, because I love competitions. I can’t tell if my things are good or not. I lived at Na Knížecí back then. Making a nice film about a place where the roads to hell meet, as many would say, was a challenge. Fortunately, a neighbour revealed to me that a Mrs. Marková has lived in the house for 76 years.

Lenka Kerdová, director of the short film Messestraße Elf

Working with film has been a long-term outcome of my artistic search straddling painting, photography and the moving image. What interests me the most is the process and the medium as such. On my way home from the studio, I randomly attended one of the My Street Films seminars and screenings in Prague’s Kino Pilotů and learned about the call for submitting a concept for a short film inspired by a certain place. I recalled a rather unusual experience I had on Veletržní Street shortly after moving in a new apartment; with respect to my whole life situation, I actually found it ideal to treat the theme in the form of a short film. That is how Messestraße Elf was born. I very much appreciated the chance to consult my script with Martin Mareček and to try to make a short film/documentary in a traditional way with a script and a small crew. I consider film as a natural medium through which I can express my ideas; at the same time, I am also fascinated by the complexity of the film language.

Martina Poliaková, director of the short film 21st Century Women

For quite a long time, I have been spending my time around people who are involved in public space and who change it. There is a long way from being a film viewer to being a film author; I applied for the MSF workshop because I wanted to find out how to capture social change by audiovisual means. In the fall of the past year, the resistance against the conservative wave which turned against women and their right for an abortion culminated both in the Czech Republic and abroad. Poland’s resistance from below in the form of the Black Protest raised solidarity among feminists in the Czech Republic; the individual feminist groups, otherwise autonomously addressing their particular themes, started meeting and supporting each other more. The process had its symbolic climax in a common feminist block during the antinationalist demonstration on November 17, 2016 in Prague. I wanted to know the opinion on the female question and feminism; both that of women from the feminist block and that of passers-by, common people we meet on the street.

Širín Nafariehová, workshop participant

I think I’ve been very much influenced by the immigration hysteria that broke out in the Czech Republic one year ago. My father comes from Iran so this theme has been very personal for me and I’ve been in quite a few arguments about it. I felt very bad about the attitude of some Czechs. First, I wanted to make a film about my schoolmates who have one foreign parent as well. So we went to a demonstration that was organized against foreigners. I was interested in the opinions of those people since I never met them in person before. Prior to that, I would avoid such demonstrations because they made me feel uncomfortable and I was always afraid of the hateful crowd. However, I found it interesting to show the opinion of those people in the film. At that time, I had crutches so I was not going to reveal who we were; I don’t think I could have run too far. Thanks to that, we met Lukáš and were able to keep shooting with him and ask him about things related to nationality. Lukáš is a Czech patriot who is proud of his country and is bothered by some of the things that happen in the Czech Republic and abroad. I think that our meetings were a test of tolerance, respect for others and primarily the right for one’s own opinion, whatever it is. Shooting with Lukáš went very well as he was not camera shy at all; yet I was struggling the whole time since I kept lying to him about who I really was. I think it must have been a great shock for him.

Pavla Mudráková, workshop participant

One of my favourite activities is observation. The moving image has a potential that is very different from the static one; so I bought a small camera. I’m not sure if I‘m on my way to film yet; maybe on a nearby meadow. I got to my concept through my father who is a big breeder and lover of all living things. He will notice a tree seedling in a crack in a pavement and he will replant it so nothing happens to it. As far as I remember, he has taken me to the breeders‘ exchange and livestock exhibitions. When I got older, I saw what a fascinating environment it was; not only because of the animals but also because of the people. I realize how extraordinary the breeders‘ exchanges are despite their hidden nature. They are held on Sundays at dawn.  I wanted to capture at least an image of this world.

Tereza Plavecká, workshop participant

I found my way to film already at grammar school as Aero Cinema held afternoon student screenings. I spent almost a year in Krakow, Poland within the Erasmus programme and worked as a volunteer at several film festivals. After my return to the Czech Republic, I wanted to keep in touch with film and I missed new Polish films as well. I started working in Bio Oko where I met a number of my good friends and primarily my future husband.  In 2013, I and my friends founded Bardzo Fajny Festival, the first festival of Polish film and culture in Prague. The cinema eventually became a crucial place in my life; in 2016, I got married in Bio Oko. The concept of my film which I develop within this year’s My Street Films workshop is based on the environment of a forest in which I spent a lot of time as a child. When I was writing the concept, none of the films on the My Street Films map was set in Čimický Háj between Kobylisy and Čimice districts. That encouraged me. The film will be a little personal stroll through the forest which is full of sounds, memories, secrets and questions. The workshops are inspiring; however, it will be a great challenge for me to finish the film.