The Inspiration Forum is a unique project in the field of film industry activities. Its purpose is to teach filmmakers to engage in dialogue with people from the public sphere, people who are radically changing the boundaries of social dialogue. That is what it should be like also in creative documentary. What is the purpose of the forum and its position within other industry activities? We asked the curator of the Inspiration Forum, director and longtime head of the project Institute of Documentary Film, Filip Remunda.
You are the curator of the Inspiration Forum. In the past, you were able to get well-known personalities to come to the Czech Republic, such as Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, or fighter for the rights of prisoners and former prisoners of Guantanamo Moazzam Begg, writer and activist Tariq Ali,or this year, in April, you welcomed Vitalij Jaroševskij from the largest Russian opposition newspaper Novajagazeta. Could you please introduce the people you invited to Jihlava this year?
We are also honored to have been visited by members of the controversial art group Vojna (War) from Russia and the Ukrainian Femen, the Cuban exile writer Carlos Aguilera, or Y. A. Padmanabha Rao, an Indian expert on the development of education, who participated in the education program for more than 10 million children in over 200,000 schools, in the poorest parts of India and other countries. The spectrum of our guests, as you can tell, is very colorful. We try to cover the widest possible range of fields in which creative and nonconformist-minded people work. The only constant is the fact that I always try to invite someone from the former Soviet Union.
I see it as a gesture of support to people who are thought of in the worst possible way, due to the unfortunate experience of Russian occupation in Czechoslovakia. I do not agree with these extreme views – such as “You can only deal with the Russians when armed” – which I unfortunately repeatedly meet.
This year, I am delighted that an unconventional Russian artist, conceptual artist Pyotr Pavlensky will visit us. He is still relatively unknown here, but in Russia he is held in high regard. In one poll, he even overshadowed the superstar Pussy Riot and was announced the most important artist of last year. Pavlensky realized his latest happening four days ago, when naked, armed only with a huge kitchen knife, he climbed on to the roof of the psychiatric centre in Moscow, where he cut off his earlobe, in a van Gogh-like fashion, in protest of the countries abuse of psychiatry. According to the opposition, Russia today is following the lead of infamous cases of liquidating ones opponent in medical institutions. I feared, that he might have to be subjected to a psychiatric examination, like in the past, and that he may be delayed in the process, and may not have been able to make it to Jihlava. His colleague, Oksana Šalygina, confirmed that Pyotr was released and is on his way to St. Petersburg. It’s only a short journey from there to Jihlava…
Ethan McCord, an American soldier, who is a guest of Inspiration Forum
Another guest of this year’s Inspiration forum is former American soldier Ethan McCord, known from the video Colateral Murder published by Wikileaks, from which it is evident that in 2007 an Apache helicopter shot at a van full of civilians in the suburbs of Baghdad. Immediately after the incident, Ethan rescued two children to somehow mentally compose himself. What is interesting, about his whole story, is the fact that Mr. McCord is no pacifist, the opposite is true. He likes weapons and he enlisted to go to Iraq, proud that he came to fight for freedom and democracy. He claims to have realized that the commander of the American Army systematically dehumanizes the enemy and turns the American soldiers into killing machines. Ethan has been touring America for a couple of years now, speaking openly about his experience of the War on Terrorism.
Joseph Cheng of Hong Kong University, a founder of the Occupy Central movement and a guest of Inspiration Forum
The third guest is a professor from Hong Kong University Joseph Cheng, an esteemed intellectual, who has been actively partaking in the recent events and belongs to the founders of the Occupy Central movement. To have enough strength to fight for the preservation of autonomy of “his city” he also turns to Czechoslovakian history and the work of Václav Havel.
Why is it that the invited guests agree to come to the Czech Highlands? What is it that attracts them to the IDFF and what do they expect will come from meeting filmmakers?
We are not a festival with a red carpet and big budget. We cannot afford to lure them with the promise of an astronomical reward. American agent of Garry Kasparov asked for 64,000 EURO for Kasparov's attendance, and mentioned that a twenty percent discount is already included in it… Without personal ties, I would be completely lost as a curator. During the year I communicate primarily with my filmmaker friends and other friendly personalities on the international cultural scene. Pyotr Pavlensky took the weekend to think over the invitation and on Monday he wrote to me saying- “Filip, I found your festival interesting and for that, I gladly accept your invitation.” The credit of the Jihlava festival and the Inspiration Forum plays a key role.
FIXATION by Pyotr Pavlensky
We have something for everyone
To me, it looks as if all three guests have one thing in common. They all have tried to change or at least publicly shame a political system or institution from the position of an individual. They also have a great amount of courage in common; it leads them to a place on the brink of personal freedom. Will this inspire this year’s IF filmmakers to take more risks – to lean to bolder cinema?
I’m not going to force anything on anyone. I myself hate it. I only try to let opinions that have the power to tear people away from the obvious be heard. Tariq Ali questioned the merits of „the most famous Czech“ Madeleine Albright in the installation Democracy in Kosovo and he insulted many attendees by claiming, that although he deeply respected Václav Havel as an artist, his politics were very controversial. I enjoyed seeing that this judgment provoked several supporters of Václav Havel and lifted them off their seats.
And then there is Alexej Plutser-Sarno from VOJNA, who inspired many with a radical deliberation on the creative process “First you have to send off all your shitty friends, stupid relatives, social morality, the ridiculous Criminal Code, mangy social norms, smelly thoughts of money and a fucked up image of saintly and esteemed art and artists being the national prophets, who came to us from the Stone Age. Did you kick them to the curb? Now, you can get to work.” In short, we have something for everyone...
In his statements Pavlensky interprets his performance as not being directed against Russian power, but geared towards civil apathy. Are you aware that he might also try to awaken the Jihlava audience? Or do you think it is already wide awake?
I am intrigued by how Pavlensky is seen here and how he is seen in Russia. The Czech, including me, are shocked by Pavlensky. I remember, when I flew to Moscow after his performance named FIXATION, everyone was asking me what I thought of him. I replied, “Do you mean the guy who nailed his balls to the Red Square? I think he’s more exhibitionist than artist.” My answer shocked my Russian friends. Pavlensky was their number one topic. Everyone understood him in their own way, everyone considered him to be macho. The Red Square, military parade, Lenin, all of the listed are supposedly symbols of male chauvinism… Furthermore, what else has such a connection to Russian militarism, if not “nailed balls”? While Pavlensky’s latest action, SEGREGATION, became iconic in Russia overnight, in the Czech Republic I noticed hesitant reactions. Further reason to be happy that Pavlensky will come to the Czech Republic and that Czechs will be able to experience him firsthand…
What do you think is the purpose of IF beyond IDFF? What do you expect will come from the presence of McCord and Pavlensky in the Czech Republic?
McCord is arriving shortly after an incident that killed five of our soldiers in Afghanistan. A huge debate has been going on since they died. Matěj Stropnický and Roman Joch quarreled with each other over whether they are fallen soldier heroes or victims. Jiří Pohl then attacked the facebook group of the Czech Army. He addressed the words, “Fucking mercenary, going around killing people in free countries. Hope you die there,“ to a wounded soldier. A soldier actively serving in the army then filed a criminal complaint. He ran out of patience with people who are attacking the Czech Army in Internet discussions. We expect that the engagement of Czech forces in the world will be widely discussed at the festival.
Translated by Floriana Skorulska