The Great Night by young Czech director Petr Hátle has been one of the surprising winners of the recent Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival. However, the film’s journey to prestigious international film destinations has only started in Jihlava. Currently, The Great Night is screened at another Doc Alliance partner festival, Danish CPH:DOX. Will it be a success as well?
The Great Night by young Czech director Petr Hátle has been one of the surprising winners of the recent Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival. The highest award has definitely proved that Petr Hátle is a notable filmmaker of the youngest Czech generation as well as that the Jihlava jury will not be seduced by famous names. However, the film’s journey to prestigious international film destinations has only started in Jihlava. Currently, The Great Night is screened at another Doc Alliance partner festival, Danish CPH:DOX. Will it be a success as well? We have discussed the story of the film’s origin, its current victory as well as its future existence in an interview with director Petr Hátle.
“The Great Night” captures the night side of the Czech capital city of Prague. What attracted you about the theme of nightlife and, paradoxically, what did night’s darkness reveal about Prague and its inhabitants?
We’re not aware of it anymore, as we’re constantly surrounded by artificial light sources, yet until public lighting was introduced, the night used to be real darkness descended upon the earth; a dangerous, uncertain space. Symbolically, it has remained like that. That’s what fascinates me. It’s for a reason that we’re still warning our children: “Be home until dark”. It’s at night that people are murdering, boozing, going nuts, dying the most. Sleeplessness, pangs of conscience, memories are getting worse at night, assuming monstrous proportions; ghosts and spooks keep walking around the city. The night is also related to dreaming, opening the doors to the hidden realms of our consciousness. At night, it’s perhaps even easier to think, laugh and make love. In my film, I have tried to look into the dark space behind a closed door. I have chosen real people who have experienced night, both in their bodies and their souls, as my guides.
How long did the shooting take place? Was it difficult to get in touch with some of the night Prague characters captured in the film (e.g. the prostitutes, the junkies)?
We were shooting in the course of 10 months, some 40 days of shooting altogether. Each month, we would close ourselves in the editing room, discussing the filmed material with the editor. We were gradually looking for the film language to tell our story. I have known most of the film characters for years, we would meet in a non-stop bar in Prague frequented by this kind of people, so we were already close before I decided to make the film. What was more demanding was the organization of the shooting. Most of the characters don’t have a mobile phone and keep moving from one place to another, or possibly to jail or to the hospital. However, in a strange coincidence, we would always meet somehow.
What was your response to your winning Jihlava IDFF? Were you surprised or did you consider at least the possibility of success?
Of course I was happy about winning Jihlava. It was a big surprise though, as I would experience rather negative or even resentful reactions after the premiere of my film among the audiences. After spending such a long time with my characters and with the making of my film, I have come to think of it as of a regular, standard film. I didn’t expect to make so many people angry. However, with hindsight, I also feel malicious joy; like anyone one who can ruffle somebody’s feathers.
“The Great Night” is currently screened at the Danish CPH:DOX festival. What are your future plans for the film? What is its ideal future path according to you?
I would like the film to be screened as much as possible, of course. Without viewers, a film is but an empty digital noise without meaning. However, I leave its future path up to my competent producers and up to fate. Real quality can only be discerned after a few dozen years, so now there’s no hurry.
See how Hátle’s The Great Night can stack up to the competition of 5 selected feature-length films, currently screened at CPH:DOX, in a unique online event lasting mere 48 hours, from Monday, November 11 to Tuesday, November 12 for free. The high quality of Copenhagen’s festival screenings will also be proved by the arthouse documentary film The Art of Catching by American director Jessica Anne Bardsley on the border between visual and narrative dreaming. The film is available for free streaming in the week from November 11 to 17.
Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.