Sun of the Living Dead

Anna 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.

Sun of the Living Dead

I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony,
but chaos, hostility, and murder.

Werner Herzog

This film is about compassion. About compassion for people and nature, and about cultural memory. But what actually is compassion? How long does something remain in memory? We simply sign a petition, and we feel like it’s sorted. I did what I could, and now I think I’ll go order some shoes from another website. I’m not moralising. The question is different – why do some things remain hidden from our field of view even though they’re extremely relevant elsewhere in the world? Aren’t we perhaps beginning to live like a ball on a roulette wheel, jumping from one bit of information to the next? Why has compassion become almost a dirty word? Sun of the Living Dead is simultaneously about pseudo-compassion, mistaken terms, and their meanings.

Prisoners of war from the heroic past, for whom we erected monuments, and contemporary prisoners, for whom we change our Facebook photos. People sentenced to death, whether for crimes they actually committed or in an act of political vengeance. Modern “memorials” after they’ve disappeared from the headlines. Demonstrations that garner interest on social networks and petitions that remain solely in the digital space. These are the subjects Sun of the Living Dead investigates from several different perspectives – the anthropological, the aesthetic, the media, and the visual. It takes the form of a great number of questions and themes, which will be interconnected in a variegated audiovisual collage. The primary axis along which this range of issues will accumulate, through comparisons and analyses, will be the story of a French pilot, which makes a theme both of itself and of our view of it as observers.

Sun of the Living Dead

The issues we attempt to address in our new film seem unrelated at first glance, but they are connected through our reactions to them – our perceptions. Because we are living in the post-media age (as the media endlessly reminds us), our film shows that the world today is chaotic. In this case, intelligibility does not equate to truth. Long ago we ceased speaking of objective evils, and we all know that the media can be a tool of propaganda, or on the contrary can help people come together and initiate change. I’m drawn to the visual as well as the emotional aspects – the things that interest or influence us and why, and conversely, those things which no longer capture our attention.

A theme that emerges is that of the ethics of displaying suffering in film and media. Which images, recordings, or documents can we allow ourselves to show and which not? Can we simply pixelate something objectively cruel and unpleasant? Do we react differently to photographs of executions from the turn of the century and those with the same content shot just last year?

Because our film contains so many themes and questions, albeit mutually connected, I prefer the style of a non-linear documentary essay. Ideally this will allow us to answer the questions posed in the film. This film shouldn’t tell anyone’s story. It should instead draw attention to cultural and social phenomena.

Sun of the Living Dead

As is already my custom, the film will be comprised largely of archival footage, for example modern news recordings, internet streams, archives from the beginning of the century, shots from the first and second world wars, interviews, and clips from films, TV series, or other programmes. Some sections will be disproportionately long, while others by contrast will be short. The very viewing of the film should cause discomfort through the perpetual uncertainty it creates regarding what is happening and what twist will come next.

I’m currently in the preparation phase of the film, so from morning till night I sit and watch archives from various newscasts while trying not to die from the sadness concentrated into minute-long reports on the most horrific events of the last twenty years. Of course, we also have to sort out organisational complications or secure access to archival materials, but the thing that troubles me most from the past five years is how I’ve grown desensitised. When you watch endless recordings of the suffering of people you don’t know (and occasionally also people you do know and like), you start to get the feeling that the limits of your sensitivity are shifting and you’re afflicted by a kind of occupational hazard. A recording of a person’s death becomes merely visual material that either is or is not “interesting”. It’s a dilemma I attempt to draw attention to with this new film. I just hope I come out of the battle with “the chaos and hostility of the universe” with minimal losses.

Translated by Brian D. Vondrak

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starší články

25. 09. 2020

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