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On mud and elephants. The sixties according to Václav TáborskýStill from Mud Covered City


On mud and elephants. The sixties according to Václav Táborský

26. 10. 2023 / AUTHOR: Janis Prášil

This year's Ji.hlava IDFF brings a unique collection of works by Václav Táborský. Before he emigrated to Canada in 1968, where he worked as a university teacher and writer, he was largely responsible for ushering in cinéma vérité in Czechoslovak cinematography.

Táborský took part in the founding of the creative group ČAS, which moved documentary film from the staging of the 1950s to the reality of everyday life in the 1960s. His filmography includes over 80 short films and almost 50 educational programs that depict everyday life with humour and authenticity.

Václav Táborský with architect Jan Kaplický and singer Pavel Bobek at Wenceslas Square in Prague, August 21st, 1968

A significant theme in the documentaries of the 1960s are small abuses that point to societal problems. Examples are ways in which leisure time is spent in the film essays Holiday and Wenceslas Square or the slapstick A Pub. In these works, Táborský presents the period of rest as an allegory of a collective escape from social reality into crowded or melancholicly slowed-down time. Táborský's portraits A Song for Ms. Pilar or the Czech Painter Jan Zrzavý, which look into the everyday life of artists, have more serious outlines, as does the candid confession of divorcing spouses in Two Tables Between Us, which finds a humorous counterpoint in the essay One Plus One Is Two, in which Jiří Menzel looks for a partner using modern scientific methods.

Táborský's sensitive probes into the world of children also have a sociological dimension, including both the feature films Gone with the Wind or The Miraculous Puzzle, as well as the documentary portrait of children from an orphanage They Are Waiting Every Sunday. Young people in villages in Muddy Footsteps, residents of the unfinished housing estate in Prague's Malešice in Mud Covered City, or decaying Prague cultural monuments and institutions in the essay Hey You, Our Elephant are all waiting for a new life.

Still from <b><i>Hey You, Our Elephant</i></b>

It is not only culture that is a kind of unwanted elephant, but also the democratizing tendencies of the late 1960s. In his last film, which he made before emigrating, Táborský captures the twilight of freedom. Miloš Kopecký, who also accompanies the anti-instructional film with Adolf Born's animations about how not to die on a pedestrian crossing Go and Go, goes out into the streets of the Prague Spring and engages in chillingly Schweik-like conversations about what people think about current society and its future development.