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- 21.2.2011 17:18 -

NEWS - Experience (and see) the City Differently

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How much time does a regular European spend in his car? Does he really have to? Is it possible to ride a bicycle in a city without losing one’s humour or even life? How to find one’s way in one‘s neighbourhood? Who to vote for? Where to place a home for the elderly project architects of the infamous Blanka tunnel in Prague?
The award-winning and popular film Auto*mat by documentarist Martin Mareček promises everything but a 90-minute advertisement for urban cycling. Though the film title is the same as the name of the civil association famous for organizing mass cycling happenings, its subject is much wider; the film is multi-layered, playful and original, necessarily disappointing all those who would expect nothing but a simple promotional piece. On the contrary, it will please those spectators who are aware of the space they live in and who cannot and will not be indifferent to it; be they Czech or Japanese, as proved by the screening success at the Yamagata IDFF. The city as a base of the contemporary man of the west as well as a symbol of the western life style are subjected to a thoughtful observation, which is not only amusing for its swift and playful form but also asking interesting and significant questions, which have often slipped out of the wheels of our lives under the pressure of everyday concerns. In the course of the years of collecting the observational film material, many a witty, enlightening or dramatic situation has occurred; out of which many a one qualified for the carefully selected final cut. Thanks to this fact as well as to the director’s personal engagement in the events, the film is far from regular television journalism.
Besides the impressive, comical (and, unfortunately also tragic) events and performances of a number of important personalities and public figures, the film reveals the personality of Pavel Bém, the double-dealing controversial former mayor of Prague. Director Vít Klusák, Mareček’s contemporary and colleague (whose new feature-length documentary “All for the Good of the World and Nošovice” has just entered theatrical distribution) is also granted short yet significant space in the film. Holding “a piece of wood” in his hand, he proves his sense for creating dramatic documentary situations.
Among others, the multi-layered film reminds us that rather than being made just at the city hall, politics represents a regular, useful part of the functioning society, in which anyone can participate; be they drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. The civil association Auto*mat represents a product of such a conviction; as the director says, “in this case, making a film is not enough”. Thus the resulting film not only chronicles the civil activist movement (co-founded by the director) but also rehabilitates the very term of “activism”, shifting it from the category of “nuclear power plant climbers”, bloody fur coats and masked anarchists to the calmer environment of settled people in their thirties; only then can it accomplish its constructive task. Let us recall G.K. Chesterton who once called for personal revolution; If I want the pole in front of my house to be white, I don’t have to parade the street on allegorical floats; all I have to do is go and paint it white. And do so every month.

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