‘My Unknown Soldier’ Director’s Family Secret: ‘There Was a Hole…’

Interview with Anna Kryvenko, the director of My Unknown Soldier

Some 50 years after the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet forces, tensions in the Czech Republic still remain. Indeed, although she hails from Ukraine, an area whose people have much more in common with the Czechs than they perhaps realize, director Anna Kryvenko, who now lives in Prague, is well aware of anti-immigrant prejudice that Russian-speakers often face on a daily basis there. However, this was not uppermost in her mind when Kryvenko embarked on the film school project that eventually became her feature debut “My Unknown Soldier,” which premieres in the First Light strand of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.

Using rare archival footage from the time, the film pivots on a family secret that only came to light as Kryvenko was researching the period: her grand uncle was part of the occupying forces that came to Czechoslovakia in 1968 as a Soviet soldier and had subsequently been banished from the family album. Confronted with this story, Kryvenko was moved to create both a poetic meditation on the Prague Spring and a film that has much to say about today, especially given the proliferation of intolerant far-right sentiment that has spread around the world.

When did you realize you had the material for a feature film?
Oh, a few years ago. It’s already been three years since I started work on this film, so it was maybe four or five years ago. I was at my parents’ home in Ukraine [at the time] – I’m now living in the Czech Republic, in Prague, where I was studying at film school. I was at home with my parents that summer, because for some time I was working with the family archives. I wasn’t only doing films at film school, I was doing Audio-visual Studies, which meant we were working with visual art and sound design and gallery space. This was going to be a small, experimental film about family and home – all these questions – and I thought it would be interesting to look at some family photos and use them somehow.

What did you find?
I was sitting with my mother, I remember, in the kitchen. Our family is not so big, and in one of the pictures there was a hole. I asked my mother who it was [that was missing], and it was really interesting because she didn’t remember. It was like there was a hole in her memory too. But a week or two later, when I was back in Prague, she called me and said it was my grand uncle, who was in Prague in 1968. I thought, ‘Wow, this is great, but I don’t know what to do with it.’

Why not?

For all answers go to Variety.com





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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