Ji.hlava Chief Marek Hovorka on Keeping the Docu Fest Fresh

Interview with Marek Hovorka, the director of Ji.hlava IDFF

Marek Hovorka, a native of the city of Jihlava in the Czech Republic, founded its biggest cultural event some 22 years ago at a time when films were submitted on VHS cassettes in bubble wrap and invitations sent out via fax machine. Today the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival is a nexus for work from around the globe and a key player in the influential European documentary film ecosystem. He reflects on the fest’s humble start and the unexpected turns it has taken on its road to major player status.

What was the genesis of your idea for Ji.hlava IDFF? What convinced you it could work in a town that was then so quiet and fairly remote?
In 1997 the situation for documentary filmmaking and its festival landscape was completely different – and not only in the Czech Republic. Almost all films were screened from film prints and nobody had a website. But me and my friends had the desire to watch docs on the cinema screen; we wanted to meet all those inspiring directors in person and organize discussions with them after the screenings. And after the first edition of the festival we realized that we were not alone. Even for a three-day event in one cinema hundreds of viewers came from all around the country.

What’s been most surprising for you in the expansion and development in the fest? Greatest challenges?
It is the most complex and biggest event of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe and one of key European doc fests, but we did not start with this ambition – it just happened. We only wanted to create a platform for creative, author documentarians and their films. And when we realized the festival can be useful for them in different ways we tried to create tools for them: the very first VOD platform, which is today called DAFilms, we founded in 2006, the same year as YouTube. Or the Emerging Producers project, which focuses on the new generation of European documentary producers. Or Inspiration Forum, a unique platform for sharing reflections and ideas for new films, where filmmakers and festival audiences meet open-minded scientists, writers, philosophers and other opinion makers.

Has the spread of docs to wider audiences and the growing diversity of the genre surprised you? And do you feel an obligation to keep audiences up to speed on all the morphing and evolving of the form?
Absolutely. We are happy we were at the right time and in the right place because the documentary spirit has reached the most creative and inspiring level in the last two decades – and not only in cinema but also in visual art and literature. Almost 20 years ago in Jihlava Richard Leacock told me that digital cameras will change cinema completely. At that time there were few filmmakers who trusted him but he said he was so happy that cameras would soon be as common a tool for self-expression as the pen. He was fascinated by the democratization of cinema. And his trust in diversity and personality is part of Ji.hlava’s spirit, which is very much oriented toward discoveries and supporting new generations of filmmakers.

For the whole interview go to Variety.com





more articles from a section:  Interview

1.21Going to the Polish Turf with Our Own TeamInterview with documentary filmmakers Filip Remunda and Vít Klusák about their latest joint film project Once Upon a Time in Poland that shows how religion and faith are misused in contemporary Poland for mass manipulation and political purposes. The film‘s Czech premiere was held as part of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival 2020.Kamila Boháčková
1.21The times of lifelong careers are overAn interview with documentarian Jindřich Andrš, whose film A New Shift won the Czech competition section Czech Joy at Ji.hlava IDFF2020.Vojtěch Kočárník
1.20None of the big streaming platforms are buying documentaries now because people are so scared in their personal lives Challenges for the film industry and festivals in the age of the coronavirusRadim Procházka
1.20We have to start with ourselves, or nothing will changeAn interview with Macedonian documentarians Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevská, creators of the film Honeyland.Vojtěch Kočárník
2.20Karel Vachek: Films Just Have to Make You Laugh!A doyen of Czech documentary filmmaking Karel Vachek unfortunately passed away on the 21th of December 2020. We publish here the interview he made in 2019 just after releasing his last film, the ninth film novel called Communism and the Net or the End of Representative Democracy. Fifty years after Prague Spring and thirty years after the Velvet Revolution, Karel Vachek “with his inner laughter” looks back on the evolution of our society and predicts a transformation to direct democracy based on the possibilities of the internet that will allow for the engagement of the whole mankind without the need of representatives. Kamila Boháčková
1+2.19To Surprise MyselfWhile the main competition at the International Karlovy Vary Film Festival does not feature any Czech title, the festival’s documentary section has one Czech film to offer: A documentary road movie by Martin Mareček entitled Over the Hills exploring the relationship between a father and a son, as well as the distance that separates us from others. Unlike his previous socially engaged films, the latest title provides a personal and intimate insight. But as Martin Mareček put it in his interview for dok.revue – what is intimate is universal. Marek Hovorka, Petr Kubica, Kamila Boháčková
1+2.19Greta Stoklassa: I Read Rather than Preach the RealityAn interview with the director Greta StoklassaKamila Boháčková
F2.18Special little momentsInterview with Antonio Di Biase, the director of De Sancto Ambrosio movie, which has the world premiere in Opus Bonum competition at 22nd Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.Matěj Pořízek
F2.18Are we experiencing dystopia today?Interview with Frédérick Cousseau, the director of the poetic documentary called NU, which has the premiere in Opus Bonum competition at 22nd Ji.hlava IDFF.Tomáš Poštulka
F2.18Freedom of ChoiceInterview with Jacky Goldberg, the director of Flesh Memory, which will have its international premiere in Opus Bonum competition

starší články

F1.18DOK.REVUE
26. 10. 2018


from current issue:

New releaseShooting About KunderaDocumentarian Miloslav Šmídmajer describes the process of making a documentary about Milan Kundera with the working title “Milan Kundera: From the Joke to Insignificance.” Miloslav ŠmídmajerThemeNest in the bedroomPeter Hames, well-known British film historian and author of the book The Czechoslovak New Wave sent his remembrance to Karel Vachek to our magazine.Peter HamesThemeNever stop laughingPaolo Benzi, the Italian film producer and founder of the independent film production company Okta Film, describes for dok.revue how he met famous Czech documentary filmmaker Karel Vachek, who passed away last year. Paolo Benzi is also the main tutor of the Emerging producers in Ji.hlava IDFF.Paolo BenziThemeBehold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightenedIn this English issue of dok.revue we have collected some remembrances to Karel Vachek, the respected Czech documentarist who died in December 2020 at the age of 80. One of the contributors is Olaf Möller, a well-known film theorist and critic collaborating with many renowned film magazines (Film Comment or Sight & Sound), film museums and festivals (e.g. Il Cinema Ritrovato or International Film Festival Rotterdam).Olaf MöllerThemeEvery human being should get to wear comfy shoesThe Czech documentarist Karel Vachek was a chairperson of the jury at Yamagata international documentary film festival (YIDFF) in 2009. The board member of YIDFF and the former director of this festival, Asako Fujioka, has a remembrance of him smoking his pipe and going to the mountains with Japanese poet and filmmaker Yoshimasu Gozo to recite poetry to the skies.Asako FujiokaThemeLike the dog on the beach...American film historian Alice Lovejoy writes her remembrance of Karel Vachek, the remarkable Czech documentarist to whom we dedicate this English issue of dok.revue.Alice LovejoySportPandemic as an opportunityJi.hlava's Emerging Producers discuss the opportunity that can emerge from crisisSteve RickinsonInterviewThe times of lifelong careers are overAn interview with documentarian Jindřich Andrš, whose film A New Shift won the Czech competition section Czech Joy at Ji.hlava IDFF2020.Vojtěch KočárníkInterviewGoing to the Polish Turf with Our Own TeamInterview with documentary filmmakers Filip Remunda and Vít Klusák about their latest joint film project Once Upon a Time in Poland that shows how religion and faith are misused in contemporary Poland for mass manipulation and political purposes. The film‘s Czech premiere was held as part of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival 2020.Kamila BoháčkováIntroductionDok.revue 1.21This issue is dedicated to the doyen of Czech documentary filmmaking Karel VachekKamila Boháčková