The Opus Bonum competition films are:
Bassiji, dir. Mehran Tamadon, Iran, Switzerland, France - "We don't want the cultural invasion of the West," cries the protagonist of the film, a former member of a special unit of the Iranian army "bassiji" ("mobilized"), which became famous for its interventions against the demonstrations during the presidential election.
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, dir. Jessica Oreck, USA, Japan - Film by a Japanese woman living in New York dealing with the Japanese fascination with insects, transiting from a view of the insect world to the particular Japanese mentality.
Crips, Strapped'n Strong, dir. Jost Van der Valk, Mags Gavan, Netherlands - Documentary probe into the world of a Dutch gang, "Crips", in a run-down part of The Hague, full of armed robberies and drug trafficking, against a backdrop of rap music.
Facs of Life, dir. Silvia Maglioni, Graeme Thomson, Italy, United Kingdom, France - Documentary essay on knowledge, its transmission and availability, based on the ideas of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, whose lecture is heard in the beginning of the film.
Double Take, dir. Johan Grimonprez, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany - The name of the formally remarkable essay can mean "double take", referring to doubling and multiplication of takes, but also reconstruction, change of view, or repeated use of existing takes as specific visual memory.
Food, Inc., dir. Robert Kenner, USA - "How much do you think a chicken weighed fifty years ago and how much does it weigh today?" asks this consistently arguing and witty analysis of the transformation of our nutrition into an industry.
Encirclement - Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy, dir. Richard Brouillette, Canada - This film lasting almost three hours gives contemporary economists and philosophers (including Noam Chomsky) scope to debate the current state of the world economy.
By Comparison, dir. Harun Farocki, Germany, Austria - Translucent Being 2007 in his follow-up, examining institutional processes against the background of our present, comparing the process of brick production in Africa, India, and Europe, progressing from stone fragments to digital pixels.
Petition (Complaints Office), dir. Zhao Liang, China, France - Filmed over twelve years, a portrait of people emigrating from the Chinese countryside to a city to claim justice. Slow administration of justice drives them in an alien environment on the boundary of survival.
A Hundred Patients of Dr. Jia, dir. Wang Hongjun, China - With a single take from a static camera the director looks at a hundred patients of a Chinese country doctor, looking at Chinese society from below, as it were.
All Fall Down, dir. Philip Hoffman, Canada - This new work by the guru of Canadian experimental film depicts the history of a farm in Ontario, where the director alternatively lives, and the relation between man and soil, in a formally remarkable collage of diary entries, photos, maps and family films.
The Yes Men Fix The World, dir. Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonnano, USA - This mystification barrage is a follow-up to the successful Yes Men about a duo of media pranksters speaking to the world in the name of major multinational corporations.
Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi, dir. Ian Olds, USA - This is a film about the relationship between an American reporter and his Afghan "fixer" (whose job it is to help foreign journalists obtain information), turning into a tragic sketch about the situation after Ajmal's kidnapping.
The following films will compete in the Between the Seas section, the Best Eastern European Documentary Film Award 2009 under the auspices of the Vysočina Region (150,000 Czech crowns):
Until the Next Resurrection, dir. Oleg Morozov, Russia - Kaliningrad, settled after the war by Russian immigrants, is the hopeless home of heroes who unavoidably head towards tragedy, with some similarity to the heroes of classic Russian literature, captured in this film shot over more than ten years, which does not avert its gaze before physical pain.
Disco and Nuclear War, dir. Jaak Kilmi, Estonia - Watching of Finnish television influenced a generation of (Soviet) Estonians, who recall in a playful collage the time they lived in the front line of the Cold War, on the one hand raised to be communist, on the other bombarded by Western pop culture, music, and television serials.
FILM IST. A Girl & A Gun, dir. Gustav Deutsch, Austria - Fascinating cinematographic vision in five acts (Genesis, Paradeisos, Eros, Thanatos and Symposion), composed of ancient pornographic, scientific and propagandist scenes inspired by Godard ("All you need to make a film is a girl and a gun.").
Food Design, dir. Sonja Stummerer, Martin Hablesreiter, Austria - Popular-science examination of food laboratories showing how food is designed in a mutual conditionality of shape, colour and smell, recalling the evolution of production methods
and presenting the work of food designers, the hidden creators of the miracle of commercial success.
A Hero of Our Time, dir. Zuzana Piussi, Slovakia - A man embodying historic experience and intellectual memory, the almost ninety years old Slovak film critic and theoretician Pavol Branko going through three stories about three women. As the author of many studies on the documentary he finds himself in the situation of documentary film
Border, dir. Jaro Vojtek, Slovakia - In 1946 the post-war border separated closest relatives and a cemetery, when a part of the village Slemence remained in the territory of Czechoslovakia and the other in Ukraine. It seems that they will not reunite because the European Union border on the other end has been guarded even more closely since 2007.
Rabbit à la Berlin, dir. Bartek Konopka, Poland - An allegorical documentary talking compellingly about the end of ideology seen through the eyes of animals, describing the life of wild rabbits in a vast no man's land that divided the city and became in the gap between two worlds a remarkable biotope, only destroyed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Developed in the workshop Ex Oriente Film 2005
Goodbye, How Are You? dir. Boris Mitic, Serbia - A documentary fable about a hero of our time based on Serbian aphorisms, full of black humour, commenting in the spirit of Godard's modern film and of sardonic Balkan intellectuals the forty years of the national history in its banality, exaltation, embarrassment.
Unknown Soldiers, dir. Shalva Shengeli, Georgia - A refugee from Abkhazia, a separatist region of Georgia, joins the Georgian army, undergoes the drill to become a professional soldier, whose first holiday is interrupted by the war with Russia over South Ossetia in August 2008.
Nyarma, dir. Edgar Bartenev, Russia - Nyarma is one part of the sled that has to be frequently replaced when pulled by reindeer. The film looks through the eyes of a young herdsman at the life and traditions of the Nenets people in an intimate visit to the unique and little known culture of people who know that those who hurry in the tundra wish to die.
Guardians of War, dir. Zijad Ibrahimovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina - Blessed are those who have had a good death, say the survivors who have to bury their relatives, as well as a man who reopened after many years the door of his house to think between the floral-design wallpapers and cracks in the walls about the soul of war, about a pain that stays in the blood.
The Passion According to the Polish Community of Pruchnik, dir. Andreas Horvath, Austria - Oscillation between the ironic and the irrational, showing violent scenes where the mob sets out to lynch a larger than life figure of Judas and raises perturbing questions: Is it only an innocent ritual, an expression of love for Jesus, or a residue of anti-Semite feelings?
Hick-Town Spy, dir. G. Z. Papp, Hungary - Gabor Rimner started to work for the CIA in 1973, handing over sensitive information from the Hungarian side. After many years he describes with passion his adventures, demonstrating the tricks, tools and hiding places of a Cold War agent, a man living a double life between treason and heroism.
Being a Tourist in One's Own Home, dir. Jaroslava Bagdasarova, Slovakia - A film conceived as visualisation of social phenomena, capturing the choreography of everyday life in the seaside resort of Chaplino, where the Chukotka government built houses for local families to accommodate tourists - American and Japanese - but they don't come.
Sunrise / Sunset, The 14th Dalai Lama, dir. Vitali Manski, Russia - The time granted by the 14th Dalai Lama in his exile residence at Dharamsala, India, made it possible to film a working day of the charismatic spiritual leader who campaigns for conciliation, with faith in rebirth, as a point of departure for thinking about the role of Buddhism in the contemporary world and the political fate of Eurasia.
The following films will compete in the Czech Joy section, Award for the best Czech documentary film 2009 under the auspices of RWE - Energy of Czech Film (100 000 Czech crowns):
59/184/88, dir. Lukáš Kokeš - A bittersweet portrait of an eternal "loser" seeking women through advertising, a man who has missed the train but does not give up hope because something will surely turn up. It is the final part of the director's "trilogy of vanities".
Auto*mat, dir. Martin Mareček - A film gesture about a search for survival in the capital with its untenable traffic situation that sides with cars and motorists more than "immobile" inhabitants. It is at the same time a chronicle of the eponymous civic initiative.
Copper Age, dir. Ivo Bystřičan, Martin Mareček - A documentary probe into multinational banking institutions. The authors examine the results of the privatization process in Zambian copper mines in which major merchant banks have capital interest.
Jan Hus, dir. Miroslav Bambušek - This work abandons the format of the biographical film and lets the Czech reformer pass through the history of the 20th century in an allegorical narrative about the Eastern Bloc.
Circle - Portrait of a Demonstration, dir. Tereza Reichová - This film recalls the infamous "battle of Janov" between right-wing radicals and the police on a roundabout near a Litvinov housing estate inhabited largely by Roma people. After several months the director talked to several persons who had taken part in the event.
My Vlasta, dir. Hana Železná - Several women review the popular legend of the Maidens' War, talking of the change of view since the inception of the myth. How do we perceive the theme of the female politician, that of abuse of the female body, and the theme of the warrior woman today?
I Like My Boring Life, dir. Jan Gogola - Diary of an old woman from the Prague district of Zbraslav as a record of eternity. The reading of the text that combined personal experiences with reflections of the time is a follow-up to a diary whose content was in the centre of a preceding film by this author.
Not Only Standing but Rearing Up, dir. Viola Ježková - A notable film for its work with the camera, it lets speak in four parts the theologian Milan Balabán, a distinguished personality of contemporary spiritual life and former Charter 77 member. "God is not who or where, God is whither."
A Bohemian Mountain, dir. Lucie Králová - An impressive portrait of the highest Czech mountain and the modern architecture rising on it, as well as the people living there, in difficult climatic and interpersonal conditions (this area was the Sudetenland...).
A Duel with the Brain, dir. Jan Šípek - Filmed over three years, this portrait of three of the director's friends is an attempt to see things in close-up. Vašek is a musician, a hacker nicknamed Shaddack dreams of becoming a virtual being, Luboš is a painter, performer, gravedigger, ex miner, village ploughboy from Great Osek, and palaverer.
Welcome to DPRK! dir. Linda Jablonská - This is a documentary excursion to communist North Korea. The team went to the heart of the totalitarian state on a strictly planned and controlled tour. Who would go on a holiday to a country that threatens the security of the whole world and why? What is there to see for sixty thousand crowns?
Forgotten Transports: To Poland, dir. Lukáš Přibyl - Documentary homage to the strength of the human spirit that makes do without commentary, working solely with the direct narration of people who fought against the Holocaust and survived, dispelling preconceived notions of documentaries about the Holocaust.
The following films will compete for Best Experimental Documentary Film Award 2009:
24/7 /Into the Direction of Light/, dir. m.ash, Austria - The sea in a condensed time-lapse take where the intensity of light determines the colours, the waves are produced digitally and the image evokes movement in all directions though the camera is static all the time.
Action: Study, dir. Richard Kerr, Canada - A study of movement in which film stock reacts to the movement of the figure in the scene. Images other than the moving body are scratched out so the projection light flickers through them in patches. The conflict between the figure and the stock gradually turns into an abstract combat between black and white.
Block B, dir. Chris Chong Chan Fui, Malaysia, Canada - Time-lapse observation of a big block of flats in Kuala Lumpur, where the director grew up, inhabited largely by immigrants, showing shared courtyard galleries and the movements and lives of dozens of households.
Buoy, dir. Seoungho Cho, South Korea - Material accumulated over several years documenting the barren landscape of Death Valley, which the director breaks up and puts in question, recombining parts of the material into a new picture of the inhospitable but beautiful area.
Cobra Mist, dir. Emily Richardson, United Kingdom - Visually dazzling shots of the deserted Anglo-American radar station at Orford Ness, United Kingdom, under the cover name Cobra Mist, animated into time-lapse and panoramic sequences, augmenting the emptiness and monumental nature of the place.
Workers Leaving the Factory /Dubai/, dir. Ben Russell, USA - Workers leaving the Brothers Lumière factory are often regarded as the first documentary ever made. Ben Russell paid homage to this work by bringing it up to date: He filmed workers in Dubai building skyscrapers with the speed of an assembly line.
Sunday, 6 April at 11:42, dir. Flatform, Italy - Anatomy of a story and its parallel storylines in one place. Two narrators describe events we watch from above.
A Film From My Parish - 6 Farms, dir. Tony Donoghue, Ireland - Stories of six Irish farmers reflected in an animated documentary. Their frugal lives compelled the director to behave ecologically during the shooting, riding a bicycle and shooting the entire film with only two light video cameras.
J., dir. Solomon Nagler, Alexandre Larose, Canada - An elegiac collage of archive shots. Individual scenes unravelling in an abstract encounter of black and white surfaces, where a discreet story unfolds in the outlines emanating sadness.
His Favourite Wife Improved, dir. Ken Jacobs, USA - One of the last films of the legendary American avant-garde film-maker Ken Jacobs probes into television broadcasting, breaking down the image with digital interferences to disengage the viewer from reception automatisms.
Vanishing Point, dir. Kawaguchi Hajime, Japan - Everyday commuting to work captured in hundreds of long-exposure photos, which produce in multiple expositions a scene of fine structures and shades.
Talking Heads, dir. Tijmen Hauer, Netherlands - Ceaseless layering of television newsreaders making an unintelligible collage of talking heads that fuse in a single head spouting an undigestible quantity of information.
Lay Claim To An Island, dir. Chris Kennedy, Canada - In 1969 the Indians laid claim to the island of Alcatraz as their territory, a place that only had a symbolic value to them. The amalgamation of texts from the speeches of the Indians and their political supporters in combination with archive shots and journal entries is a contemplation of the significance of the place and its ownership.
Our Voices Are Mute, dir. SJ. Ramir, New Zealand - These blurred landscape images are not a documentary of a place (National Park and Rangipo Desert, New Zealand), but a contemplation of man's place in an unknown land and his ability to merge with it (be absorbed by it) when he comes as a mere traveller.
Somewhere, dir. Salise Hughes, USA - On Technicolor found footage, in this collage the West Side Story heroine is won by a cowboy from another film who sings to her "somewhere there's a place for us". The new film provides them with the dream.
Infinity Kisses - The Movie, dir. Carolee Schneeman, USA - The famous avant-garde feminist film-maker joins photos accumulated over eight years to make an impressive collage in which she divides the takes into parts to which she projects besides photographs extreme close-ups of selected expressive details.
Don't Ring, dir. Vivian Ostrovsky, France - The director exchanged 8mm film stock for a mobile telephone ("it's more intimate") to film her neighbourhood and Paris, in combination with scenes from classic films from the 1960s and 1970s, which she remakes with the mobile.
Ocean, dir. Dietmar Brehm, Austria - Found-footage film working with material from an old porno film shot on ocean shore. Only fragments of bodies in blue are used against a white background, creating abstract compositions that evoke ocean waves.
Pauillac, Margaux, dir. Jacques Perconte, France - A classic travelogue shot on a train passing through the well-known wine-growing region, animated digitally in postproduction to become a symphony of coloured planes in motion.
Pori - Helsinki, dir. Miia Rinne, Finland - Free-jazz variations on a journey with a fantastic soundtrack and pictures produced by manual repainting of the documentary scene. The film evokes the work of Stan Brackhage whom the director admires.
Live Fast, dir. Yves-Marie Mahé, France - Optical play with an extract from a film by Carlos Saura showing a high-speed train running between blocks of flats.
SHU/Blue Hour Lullaby, dir. Philipp Lachenmann, Germany - Time-lapse film about a supermax prison in the Mojave desert. It is a static take at dusk combined with night shots of aircraft moving in changing compositions above the prison, creating the illusion of a starry sky.
LoopLoop, dir. Patrick Bergeron, Canada - Observation of the surroundings of the track of a train bound for Hanoi. Animation techniques make it possible to go back to ignored details and move forward again. Otherwise, Patrick Bergeron makes a living as a special effect compositor for major film studios (he has worked on Matrix, for example).
Trees Of Syntax, Leaves Of Axis, dir. Daïchi Saïto, Canada - Portrait of a park in Montreal playing with the spectator's sensory perception of space. This manually developed film penetrates the structures of trees and the closer it gets to them, the more it seems to sink into the film stock.
On This Day, dir. Naomi Uman, USA - The wedding of the director's ex boyfriend, focusing in speeded up shots on the individual participants and on the rigidity of some parts of the ritual, imparting to the reportage wit and irony.
Excerpt, dir. Guli Silberstein, Israel - One scene from Internet news of a family hiding behind a wall in the war zone, commanding attention for the depiction of a critical situation by dint of deformations of colours and shapes and the distance between the spectator and the mediated reality.
Palmes D'Or, dir. Siegfried A. Fruhauf, Austria - 800 photos from the Cannes Festival mixed by the director into rapidly flashing visual scrimmages. Layering reduced all that was identifiable and perceptible from the event for which visual attractiveness is an important value.
Loop the Loop - Difference and Repetition 2, dir. Yeonjeong Kim, South Korea - Examination of the birth and development of a city and the unending cycle of human work in it, through multiplied and repeated scenes of urban development.