Problems with a bulldog, being (un)faithful, or a secret mass for homosexuals. The best documentaries were listened to
The first stop on the four-day radio marathon belonged to audio documentaries. The nine best made the narrowed-down selection of the expert jury. For the whole day, the Konvikt theatre hall was filled with listening to them.
"I welcome you all to this year's documentary section, which I personally have been very much looking forward to. After all, documentaries show us life the way it really is," was how the moderator of the listening day, Ivan Studený, welcomed the packed theatre hall shortly after nine in the morning.
The first documentary, Man: A Dog's Best Friend, describes the problems of documentary-maker Eva Lammelová and her French bulldog Tonča. Although the story of a dog that pees itself in protest after the documentary-maker's husband Petr refuses to let it in their bedroom at night sounds rather absurd, the result is a work that is a beautiful and above all humorous distortion of a love triangle between the two owners and Tonča.
The documentary, told in the form of an essay, also caught the attention of the expert jury. The Czech part of the jury agreed unequivocally that Czechs are a nation of dog-lovers. The Italian radio creator and member of the expert jury Daria Corria also enthusiastically contributed to the debate. "Myself I connect the element of a dog most frequently with family. Especially if the dog starts acting like a baby," was how she concluded the discussion.
Roughly a year ago, author Marika Pecháčková started looking for respondents who would be willing to talk about unfaithfulness they had experienced. Since no one wanted to, however, she took on the topic herself. At the end of her personal testimony she discovered that in her case it is not a matter of being unfaithful at all, but of being "faithful" – trust and self-confidence. "I consider this work a great experiment – both personal and formal," juror Marek Hovorka noted in the debate.
Everyone has yearned for their own home at least once. A nest in which they can raise children, a little villa with a yard and a swimming pool. The author of the documentary How To Owe a Dream Tereza Reichová had the same dream. After collecting an inheritance, she decided to build a home, but despite keeping an eye on the budget, she got into debt. While recording she discovered that she had many people around her with a mortgage looming over them, which for many of them is a great source of fear, accompanied hand-in-hand by another, that of execution.
The documentary captured the interest of both listeners and jurors not only with its subject matter, but also with its inventive and unobtrusive sound design, tastefully and practically interspersed between the testimony of the documentary's characters. "I appreciate the fact that execution is viewed not only as a financial commitment, but also a partnership one," noted juror Eva Blechová. Foreign guest Alan Hall agreed, valuing in particular the connection between the personal battle with financial problems and the society-wide situation of excessive debt.
Seven years ago, journalist Magdalena Sodomková received a message from a Czech man in Bali asking for help. At the time there was no inkling that the twisted story of one night in front of Prague's Cross Club would be available to the public as a multi-part detective podcast entitled The Mathematics of Crime. This interesting project by Sodomková along with Brit Jensen was particularly appreciated by juror Eva Blechová. "What I find particularly commendable in The Mathematics of Crime is the work with sound and the individual descriptions and interweaving of the scenes, which were easy to imagine," she noted in the discussion.
Following a short lunch break, listening continued with a documentary from the hand of Daniel Kupšovský entitled My Own Private Russophobia. The story of Daniel who, after a few years working in London, returns to the Czech Republic and comments on young Russians living there as often arrogant nouveau-riche children unable to apologise for the past, who look at the world through Putin's eyes. A detailed listening of the documentary may encourage the author's proud endorsement of xenophobia, but it is not good to rely solely on a first impression.
Kateřina Havránková's work For You – How to Live with Faith when the Church Does Not Want You brings up another controversial topic. It is about probably the only Roman Catholic parish priest living in a registered partnership with another man. Both believers and non-believers in the audience got caught up in the subsequent debate, and this document left a deep mark on them. The documentary Return Halftime also addressed a similar issue of faith, catching attention particularly in that the majority of the material used was recorded in a single session.
Bringing an ecological angle to this festival section was Jiří Slavičínský's documentary Mongolian Steppe, Middle of the Summer, which points out the alarming drought on pastures between Russia and China.
The theatre hall wrapped up this challenging festival day with a listening of the work Josef, an Attempt at a Portrait of a Man by Dora Krapálová. Myself I particularly appreciate about this work the structure of Facebook statuses, which along with utterances slowly unveil Josef's woes while driving a bus through Brno to the terminal. "This work made a great impression on me, as I hear it as poetry of the everyday," juror for the news report section David Vaughan said from the audience. "Overall it strikes me as something very Brno. You couldn't record this in Prague," was how he ended the public discussion for the first day of the festival, whereupon the whole room responded with laughter and applause.
The ears of the student jury this year were won over by Vladimír Mareček's radio work entitled Future Uncertain. The winners of all four categories – documentary, news report, drama and multimedia – about which the expert jury will decide, will be revealed on Thursday evening.