International Festival of Science Documentary Films 2010

    The 45th year of the International Festival of Science Documentary Films Academia Film Olomouc (AFO) will take place in Olomouc, Czech Republic, from the 13th to 18th of April, 2010. Following the pattern of the former years, AFO will comprehensibly and innovatively introduce expert and scientific knowledge through audiovisual media. However, AFO is definitely not a closed academic event - it emphasizes plurality of the audience and proves that even educational films and programs can become a thrilling show for all generations.

    Also this year, the mainstay of the festival program will consist of the competition sections, within which framework the submitted films (made during 2008 and 2009) will compete for an award for the best Czech as well as the international popular-science documentary film.

    The International Competition films offer a magnificent spectacle and ask provocative questions. The French film The Antibiotic Adventure: The Microbe Strike Back disputes the human victory over the bacteria, L´esprit des plantes queries the general awareness of plants inferiority in the evolutionary ladder. There are several filmmakers who are dealing with the topic of knowledge and research boundaries. In Rodney's Robot Revolution, Andrea Ulbrick from Australia captures the MIT professor Rodney Brooks, who is, together with his team, trying to construct the first socially intelligent robot that would be able to substitute the human contact, and who is also examining the dark side of the technologies application, e.g. in military industry. In Un choix pour la vie (A Choice for Life) by Karim Miské, the new and burning question, which is caused by the ability to diagnose even the slightest deviations from the standard, is asked - whether to interrupt the high-risk pregnancy or to deliver a seriously handicapped child. With humor and overstatement, the Dutch film De Ziel van Witgoed (Soul of Appliances) shows how the appliances are step-by-step becoming our equal partners that are completely essential for our lives. Two films will be introduced by Thierry Berros, the French director who is, after two years, taking part in the International Competition again. The film Holy Dung is dealing with the topic which is not very popular in the high society - the topic of animal excrements and their use in many fields such as building or beauty industry. Human brain is undergoing various changes from birth to adulthood; the outer manifestations of those changes are captured in a documentary called From Baby to Kiss. Also the other competition films are characterized by the harmony of visual refinement and current social as well as scientific issues.

    As in previous years, non-competitive section of the festival program will be divided into several thematic blocks clustered into the Studio section that gives audience the opportunity not only to watch technically as well as aesthetically progressive films, but also to meet their authors, to attend lectures on current topics and to discuss them with the experts. The Anarchism performance as a way of thinking and acting from the perspective of its historical development as well as its actual manifestation will be one of the leading projects of this year AFO. The diary style, the authentic visual material and well-researched commentary of renowned historians are all brilliantly combined in Emma Goldman (2003), the film about a radical activist who devoted her entire life to fighting for the rights of oppressed women and men, for freedom of speech and for free love. Also the other films, mapping the individual anarchistic movements and their pioneers, express the anarchistic idea: in People Speak (2007) by Howard Zinn, actors and musicians, who are gathering on stages of several American theaters, transform the voices silenced by means of official history into a living performance. In Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992), discredited mass media are being accused by a philosopher and linguist Chomsky. A discussion with prominent Czech activists and experts in political science and philosophy will be part and parcel of these as well as other projections (Lucio and Sacco and Vanzetti); its aim will be to liberate the topic from frequent journalistic vulgarization.

    "During the last two centuries, the word anarchism was given many meanings - some authors claim that the number of meanings is the same as the number of all anarchists born during that period. Defectors of Russian aristocracy such as Bakunin and Kropotkin, working-class fighters as well as poets or followers of counterculture were all brought together by their common will to doubt and to overcome the authorities. For someone, the anarchism was especially the vision of a new society without oppressed authorities, for the others, it is a philosophy of constant fight, resistance and impeachment of any forms of supremacy," explains Ondřej Slačálek, a political scientist and an activist who is going to give a lecture on anarchism.

    Squatting, which is a thorn in flesh of private ownership defenders, can be considered as one of the specific manifestations of contemporary anarchist persuasion too. Table, Bed, Chair and 69 rigorously map not only the ideological premises of derelict houses and their new inhabitants in European metropolises, but also legal and social context of squatting. These two films can be confronted with Jan Hanuš's films reflecting the Czech background: Food Not Bombs and Squat Wars. Jan Němec, the spokesman of Czech squatters, and Michael Kocáb, the Czech Minister for Human Rights, will clash in the discussion which is supposed to become a highlight of the section called Squat the World.

    Another program block will be devoted to bioacoustics, an interdisciplinary field examining acoustic manifestation and properties of animated nature, within which physiology, ecology and neuropsychology are equal to aesthetics, musicology and theory of language. Bioacoustics is searching for entirely essential questions: how do animals communicate? What is the similarity between the human culture and animal world? Do animals go in for art? The outlined topics will be consulted through the scientific documentaries produced by BBC and PBS (Extraordinary Animals, Why Birds Sing, Life of Birds - Signals and Songs, A Life Among Whales). The selected popular-science films are presenting acoustic communication among birds, marine mammals, and primates. The historical evolution up to now and the research trend in scientific discipline, which is, despite its immeasurable potential, almost unknown in Czech environment, are summed up in a manifold program.

    The program section entitled The Living and the Dead: Closest Relatives of Man will try to answer the question whether the gap between the humanity and the animals is really as enormous as the history of human culture shows at the first sight. This view of man was considerably changed by the Darwin's theory of evolution, but still rather the differences between men and animals have been sought: unlike the animals, humans have language, developed communication, they hand over the culture, use tools, go in for art... However, nowadays it turned out that instead of being different from animals in unique characteristics, our qualities are practically the same as theirs; the only difference is that our qualities are more developed in certain combination. The chimera of human superiority will be doubted and parallels between apes, whales and dolphins will be examined in films called Ape Genius, Becoming Human, and Horizon: Neanderthal and The Last Great Ape. Martina Konečná, a primatologist attending the PhD program at Harvard University, and Jaroslava Valentová, an ethologist working at the Department of General Anthropology at the Faculty of Humanities of Charles University in Prague, are going to deliver lectures and therefore to deepen the topic.

    "An evolutionary circumstance contributed to the enormous difference between men and other animals. The closest relatives of man have died out. Recently, a large part of Europe was inhabited by the Neanderthals. According to the latest research, the Neanderthals were capable of talk and their culture was developed on the same level as the culture of Homo sapiens sapiens. An interesting feature is their brain case; in comparison to a modern man, the Neanderthals' brain case was larger by 15% in proportion to the body, and this fact thus gives a reason to speculations about higher mental level of the Neanderthals," says Zdeněk Holý, a script editor of "The Living and the Dead" program block.

    A unique exhibition introducing the large-size photographs of the solar corona, which can be visible during the Sun's eclipse, will be presented within the framework of the AFO 2010 accompanying programme in Konvikt, the Baroque festival centre. The author of the photographs, Miloslav Druckmüller, who is a research worker of the Institute of Mathematics, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Brno University of Technology, will explain the scanning and processing of those photographs.

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    Last modified on 31-03-2010