Ji.hlava examines how regional filmmakers and theatergoers need to adapt to the new post-pandemic and war reality – Cineuropa | Episode Movies

– The Czech meeting organized a panel discussion with film journalists from the Visegrad region to discuss the current state of documentary film and its near future

A moment during the panel

The Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival promotes platforms for networking and collaboration across Europe, but also on a regional level. As a prestigious documentary gathering in the Central and Eastern Europe region, the festival has created a special place in its Visegrad Accelerator for professionals from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. This year’s edition focused on a selection of V4 ‘documentary talent’, who met with sales representatives and film industry representatives to discuss their work in progress; a series of Visegrad-based projects in the Ji.hlava New Visions Forum and Market aimed at supporting filmmakers in establishing new co-productions; as well as a panel discussion with journalists and critics from the countries mentioned, who spoke about the current situation of documentary filmmaking. The full title of the panel was Visegrad Accelerator: Central Europe Through the Eyes of Film Journalists.

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Berlin film critic and film programmer Carmen Gray moderated the discussion between the head of the Polish section movie theater Magazine, Cineuropa’s own Ola Salwa; Lorant StohrFilm critic at the Hungarian weekly newspaper Élet és Irodalom; Movie review Pavel Sladky, from Czech Radio; and freelance Slovak film journalist and Cineuropa contributor Martin Kudlac. The discussion started with taking stock of the situation after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected all four countries in a similar way to the rest of the world, while all four journalists gave an insight into the current state of documentary filmmaking in their respective countries. The Czech Republic and Slovakia shared the most similarities as the countries have a long history of working together and remain the closest co-production partners.

They also share similarities in terms of theater audiences and their penchant for documentary portraits of famous people, which are the top-grossing documents at the box office. Independent documentaries find their audience in alternative ways, such as B. Event screenings in cultural spaces or on VoD platforms, in particular DAFilms.com.

Salwa revealed that Polish filmmakers are open to cooperation with international partners, adding that the most popular documentary at the moment is a portrait of a famous Polish actress, confirming that the same trend from the Czech Republic and Slovakia is also prevalent in Poland. Non-fiction is the most popular genre in literature, Salwa said, leading to a demand for non-fiction films as well. She revealed that domestic filmmakers must avoid certain issues, such as abortion, which are not supported by the Polish Film Institute, forcing filmmakers to “self-censor”.

After listening to the three other journalists, Stőhr said that the situation in Hungary was the worst in the Visegrad region due to the censorship applied since 2012, which forces local filmmakers not to focus on sensitive social issues. Stőhr said documentaries about famous local figures such as athletes could receive more public funding, although the Hungarian journalist called them “PR films”. He pointed out that another avenue for documentary filmmakers would be television films produced in cooperation with the public broadcaster. What Sladký and Kudláč confirmed is also a situation in their countries where the public broadcaster plays an important role for independent filmmakers. Salwa noted that due to the current political situation, Polish public television is “a partner nobody wants”.

Critics agreed that the pandemic has slowed production and reduced admissions to cinemas, particularly for documentaries, with the sole exception of the Czech documentary Caught in the web [+see also:
film review
film profile
, which actually topped the pandemic-era box office (see news). They agreed that the skyrocketing cost of living and the war in Ukraine would further delay audiences’ return to cinemas, although they noted that VoD platforms remain a viable choice for documentary production. Given the political situation in Poland and Hungarian support for Russia, the Visegrad region appears to be in crisis and may never be the same again. All participants agreed that this is a time of shrinking resources and limited opportunities for documentary filmmakers, while filmmakers and theatergoers alike must adapt. “The future is female,” noted Kudláč, who said he has high hopes for the young generation of Slovak female filmmakers and producers based on their current work and international success during the pandemic.

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