The annual indie film festival held all over the Czech republic was technically kicked off couple days earlier but I was able to attend only now. And the first day started with a remastered classic.
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Pierce Brosnan, Natalie Portman, Glenn Close
Mars being a big topic especially last two years with new exciting findings one can truly hope that Tim Burton’s classic will not be the case. That’s right, Mars Attacks a star-packed classic sci-fi was included in the program as a tribute to the British cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, who you can mostly know due to his collaboration with one and only David Cronenberg. This film is one crazy ride, but I have always quite loved it for the hidden clues and political messages. But it’s still completely insane.
Director: Benjamin Ree
Cast: Magnus Carlsen, Garry Kasparov, Viswanathan Anand
The second film of this festival I’ve seen was an outstanding documentary captivating and drawing you deeply into the true nobility and logic of chess game not blindsiding you from its pressure and near insanity. The film in question is a danish little documentary that I think belongs to the big leagues.
The documentary is about the life of an extraordinary young man, Magnus Carlsen, who found chess at very young and at 13 he was already European champion. The documentary takes you on an interesting journey of a kid that did not fit in until he truly achieved his long life goal. While you search for such a thing you are bound to find yourself and if you are truly lucky, you even find your happiness. At the end of the film, that is what you feel for Magnus who fought for becoming the world chess champion taking the chair from five-time champion Viswanathan Anand, famous for computer analyzing his opponents, leaving nothing to a chance.
Chess for me, alongside with Japanese game Go, always held great value for I could always see great and pure honesty in its strategy. Should your mind be capable of it, you can see the logical future many moves ahead, no sport does that like these two board games. Now I am not one of the very selected few, but Magnus Carlsen is, even so beyond almost reason or this very human race. And this is an honest and scientific observation better people than me came up with. My favorite moment in the documentary was when Magnus was around 12 or 13 facing against Garry Kasparov, a true legend. I used to watch interviews with him and his games videos later on and never I have seen him in actual doubt until I’ve seen this documentary. Kasparov was sweating, I tell you.
In the end, it was Carlsen who surpassed Kasparov in his record as world-leading champion. You see Kasparov in this documentary saying nothing but praise for a man who is rightfully called the Mozart of Chess. This documentary has a very nice length and surprises you with its light humor combined with the reality of a bullied and hardly understood kid becoming a confident man.
JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE
Director: Amy Berg
Cast: Janis Joplin, Laura Joplin, Kris Kristofferson, David Dalton
Very few people truly find the absolute void of music and even less are so deeply devoted to it than Janis Joplin. Documentary directed by Amy Berg is a testament to her constant doubt and need for love that is visible in everything she did in a way that if you truly understand it, you feel both pain and love while listening to her voice, and her need to tell her story combined with devotion to see people understanding it.
Janis is a well-crafted documentary that pinpoints the right voices and the crucial emotional moments of her life. The journey takes us to see Janis as a child and how and possibly why her feelings and herself grow to be such an uncertain women in a body and soul that provided such a strength for others. Part of that, of course, is her relationship with drugs and her constant struggle with them, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, and in the end very tragical. When this film ended the whole cinema was in this uneasy silence because this film truly brought you closer to Janis Joplin, the reality of her pained life that she never fully got to live. And when a film does that you know it’s a work worth celebrating.
THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE
Director: Niki Caro
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Daniel Brühl, Iddo Goldberg, Arnošt Goldflam, Michael McElhatton
Based on book by Diane Ackerman
The last film of this day is a drama from the Second world war, the war which still after all these years hides millions of stories worth telling. Those can be found even In my own family, coming from so-called Sudetenland, an area free given to Hitler by England and France, I could tell you story of my family from which my heart still clenches in pain. But this is not the time or place. Now we move to Poland and its capital, Warsaw. City about which we learn for its bravery not only during the war but after as well. The way polish people were able to completely rebuilt this city ruined by Germans and later their fight with Russians, which eventually freed Poland, now that is very inspiring.
So is the story presented to you in a film called the Zookeeper’s Wife, this story takes you to the year 1939 to the Warsaw Zoo, at this time under protection and management of Zabinski couple.
Jessica Chastain took on a role of Antonina Zabinski, the women whose courage mixes with rational fear through all the movie. She is a devoted wife and very skilled zoologist, although not by school rather by life. After the zoo is bombed and forced under nazi management Zabinskis do unimaginable.
Right under the nose of the Nazis and another zoologist (Lutz Heck) of whom they were previously acquaintances played brilliantly by Daniel Brühl, they slowly start saving Jewish people from nearby horror ghetto. What starts with their dear friend ends with hundreds of men, women, and children hidden in a cellar of the zoo and smuggled from Warsaw, literally under Nazi forces that used the zoo as a training site and for their projects.
The film also stars my favorite Czech actor,
Arnošt Goldflam, who played devoted writer and doctor Dr. Janusz Korczak. This man never left his class of kids, knowing he could be saved, but also knowing the fate. This film does not share his destiny so I will tell you instead. Korczak went with kids from his orphanage, although he did not have to, to concentration camp Treblinka. He and all his children were murdered in a gas chamber.
The picture itself was partly shot in the Czech republic, this part felt little odd to me for what should be Poland I recognized as my homeland. But that is just a detail.
The film takes you very beautifully if one can say that, through horrors, polish people went through between 1939 and 1945. The strength of this film lies within the acting and especially miss Chastain who is the main protagonist, but also young Shira Haas who I hope I’ll see somewhere soon. Because there are many perspectives the story is keen to tell, there are also many cuts and skips, and that can at times kill the continuity. But not to worry, it’s a very strong picture which is honest to the suffering not only of the people but also the animals. The last thing I must mention is brilliant score by Harry Gregson-Williams.
So, these are my thoughts on the films I’ve seen on day one and after Monday, I will arrive with another bunch I’ll see on Monday.
Are you in Prague? Get your Febiofest tickets now at http://www.febiofest.cz