Life Is Like a Steam on the River

Documentarians Robert Kirchhoff and Filip Remunda describe their adventure of making the Steam on the River.

Steam on the River (Pára nad řekou, Filip Remunda, Robert Kirchhoff, 2015)

The three protagonists portrayed in the film set off on their music career in the 1960s: Laco Deczi – trumpeter, Jan Jankej – contrabass player and Ľubomír Tamaškovič – saxophone. They all believe in themselves and the music they are playing. And they have no other choice. We wanted them to unite and become one in this frame of mind. Each of them is different. One feasts like an animal in the zoo, and another hunts for food in the jungle. But we have ruled out the option to make our film into a documentary portrait.

New Haven, Connecticut. Laco Deczi lives in a wooden cabin by the seaside. It is also the seat of the famous Yale University and a birthplace of the 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush. Population of one hundred and twenty thousand. A very peaceful place. We came here to meet with Laco during the preparations for the shooting. He drove us around the city, stopping by a pile of debris and regretting that we had not been there a week earlier to capture the demolition of a factory stack. He wanted the film to open with a scene in which he would have played his trumpet on the backdrop of falling bricks and demolition noise. The shooting itself unfolded along very similar lines, with Laco spicing the film up with his own ideas. The film opens with a scene of a police car with lights on pulling over in front of a jazz club, and a cop entering the club and later escorting Deczi back to the car. He orders him to put his hands on the car roof and advises him about his rights under arrest and arrests him for making three blunders in a song by Dahoud Clifford Brown. The cop was actually Laco’s neighbour living in the same street, Arpad, a son of Hungarian emigrants. Laco spontaneously surprised him during lunch and asked him if he could play a cop kicking out a jazzman from a music club for messing up a song. Although he’d had a couple of beers, Arpad did not think twice and went to get his car from the station, put on his uniform and joined us on the set. The film was scripted as a sequence of absurd images, a documentary jam-session, in which all characters freely improvise and react to situations which, albeit prearranged, were always left open-ended. So when Chris DePino, a former train conductor, lobbyist and a staunch political supporter of George Walker Bush, called to his ranch in Texas suggesting a recording of a concert of Czechoslovak jazzmen, Laco could have easily stood face to face with the second mightiest man on the planet. But rather than on this mighty man, we focused on Chris and Laco as too good friends who like to fool around.

In the same way, we worked with other characters. Regardless of whether we were shooting Jan Jankej in a St Nicholas costume earning his living in front of a German department store or Ľubo Tamaškovič who set out on a trip to Paris to find his spiritual brother Ray Stephen Oche, with whom he used to play to sold out clubs more than forty years ago. The road to fame is paved with hardship and doubt. The tiresome odyssey is exhausting but at the same time motivating. The everyday routine turns into a succession of expectations, quests, surprises, disappointments and... losses.

They have stayed true to themselves and they are now looking at each other. The situations thus open up the existential topic of the lightness of being, and of death. In the world inhabited by three billion musicians, these three come to the forefront. They appear as part of the absurd, humorous and tragic stories of their lives, as if navigating a mighty river. And time flows. Ľubo Tamaškovič in the film’s opening scene says: “Worldly fame is just a gust of wind. A human life is like a steam on the river, so why hurry?”





more articles from a section:  New release

1.21Shooting 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 Šmídmajer
2.20The Alchemical FurnaceJan Daňhel describes the concept behind his documentary film Alchemical Furnace that portrays the figure and work of Jan Švankmajer.
2.20Heaven over Today’s ChinaWhat is the story behind the feature-length documentary, Heaven, focusing on a Chinese Christian-run orphanage that is also a testimony about today’s China? Director Tomáš Etzler sees the film as a logical ending of his seven years in the Middle Kingdom. The second contribution was written by editor Adéla Špaljová who describes her collaboration with the director on the creation of the final cut of the documentary.Tomáš Etzler, Adéla Špaljová
2.20As Far As Possible Ukrainian documentarian Ganna Iaroshevych describes how she has been preparing her new film called As Far As Possible. It´s a portray of a man who decided to leave Germany and lives in the Ukrainian mountains fighting against the extinction of water buffaloes. „Our film tells about an alternative way of slow living close to nature and animals, and in harmony with yourself. And it seems to us that now this topic is especially relevant to many people around the globe,“ says Ganna Iaroshevych.Ganna Jaroševič
1.20The story of a small provincial townNovice Russian director Dmitrij Bogoljubov tells dok.revue about the circumstances surrounding the origin of his new film Town of Glory, a co-production with Czech production company Hypermarket Film and Czech Television. The film uncovers the mentality of Yelnya, a provincial Russian town that is one of the most depressing in the country and where the legacy of the Great Patriotic War still lingers – something Putin’s establishment has successfully exploited to gain the support of the local citizens. The film was available to stream for a short time in March on the portal DAFilms as a part of the festival One World Online. This fall it will be shown on Czech Television and possibly in cinemas as well.Dmitrij Bogoljubov
1.20Sun of the Living DeadAnna Kryvenko on the loss of compassion in the post-factual age, the battle with the chaos and hostility of the universe, and how to create a documentary essay from archive materials.Anna Kryvenko
1.20FREMWhat is it like to shoot a film in Antarctica? Is it possible to get into the head of artificial intelligence? And what is GAI? All this is described by the documentarist Viera Čákanyová in the text she wrote about her new film FREM in dok.revue.Viera Čákanyová
1+2.19Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me?What were the two last years in the life of former dissident, ex-president Václav Havel like? How did he reflect on the fact that he was gradually leaving this world? Documentarian Petr Jančárek talks about his upcoming documentary film capturing the final stretch of Havel’s, life, the rough cut of which was shown at the Ji.hlava IDFF in the Studio 89 section marking this year’s anniversary of the so-called Velvet Revolution.Petr Jančárek
1+2.19On Adultery as Mirror of Our Own SelvesBarbora Jíchová Tyson, a visual artist, who has been living in America for seventeen years, has finished her first feature film Talking About Adultery this year. According to the author, the film is an essayistic collage and represents a perspective on humanity, which holds the mirror up to us all.Barbora Jíchová Tyson
3.16Gangsters, Helena and Me.Director and actress Petra Nesvačilová on her new movie HELENA’S LAW

starší články

4.15DOK.REVUE
19. 10. 2015


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