Reflections on Happiness and Death

From May 25, the DocAllianceFilms portal presents four film essays by four remarkable Czech documentarists – Robert Sedláček, Jan Gogola Jr., Ivan Vojnár and Tomáš Škrdlant. They tell stories of general ideas and essential words; stories of individual human values and dignified dying; stories composed out of random encounters welded together by the subjective force of the director’s personality...

“The word is of no importance today...You can say anything but nobody will listen,” says Václav Bělohradský in Robert Sedláček’s documentary Václav Bělohradský: Nobody Is Listening. At the same time, he challenges the possibility of arriving at any conclusion in front of the camera at the very beginning of the film. Yet the director is reluctant to give up. In his portrait of the prominent Czech philosopher, he reflects on the principles of human thought, its whims as well as its longing for knowledge. In the end, the film takes up the form of a dialogue, with Bělohradský embodying the importance of polemic, doubt and of considering all partial questions from unexpected perspectives.
In a less obvious yet still unconcealed way, director Jan Gogola Jr. leads a dialogue with the protagonists of his film Nonstop. However, the key for their selection did not consist in the aura and charisma of the individual personalities but rather in the context of the D1 highway and nine shooting days spreading from the winter to the summer of 1997. By means of various random as well as planned encounters in the environment of roadside restaurants, roadhouses and petrol stations, Gogola’s film explores the theme of infinity; frequently in a subversive and spontaneous way, with a cascade of accounts flowing on the background of new images of the wandering camera. The film is reminiscent of a unique organic structure which is not to be fully controlled nor completed, similarly to the human exploration of faith, cosmos and constant transformation.
Rather than dealing with the theme of infinity, the film Looking for Good Death explores problems associated with finality. Made by mature director Tomáš Škrdlant, the documentary received the main award at the 2007 Academia Film Olomouc festival. Its central theme is that of dignified dying. The intimate stories of several seriously ill people reveal a way of dying which is reconciled, experienced in the circle of close ones, and supported by pills that kill pain but do not artificially prolong life. Looking for Good Death thus becomes a relevant contribution to the contemporary discussion of the possibilities of palliative medicine and hospice care.
The last of the four film essays presented at the portal is Ivan Vojnár’s Remembering. The director revisits the method of a film survey which used to be popular among documentarists primarily in the 1960s. In the course of two months of 2006, the director asked both known and unknown Prague citizens questions about happiness, ideals, politics, sympathy, values and relationships in clubs, hospitals, theatres, cafés and on the streets. Mingled together, the answers represent an interesting probe into the thinking of the Czech society at the beginning of the second millennium.
(We are sorry but the films of this event are available only in Czech)

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