Ji.hlava international documentary film festival
The idea to create an event known under its present title – Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival – was conceived in the minds of a group of Jihlava grammar school students in 1997. And because words soon became reality, each autumn, the Ji.hlava IDFF brought together dozens and later hundreds and thousands of viewers, directors, artists, producers, film critics and journalists – friends and fans of documentary cinema – to spend several days “thinking through film”. Today, 20 years later, we can proudly claim that this celebration of creative documentary cinema has long been recognised as the largest event of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe.
Each edition of the festival, the organisers led from the start by the present director Marek Hovorka introduced new and additional projects and features expanding on the documentary reflections and experiences of festival-goers, filmmakers and producers alike. However, we are striving to make both sides of this documentary equation straight in order to always end up in the black. In 2000, the first Czech Joy award for the Best Czech Documentary Film was granted, together with awards for the Best Documentary Central and Eastern European Documentary Film in the Between the Seas section and the Best World Documentary Film – the ultimate festival title – in the Opus Bonum section. Today, the core of the festival programme consists of 7 competition sections: among the Ji.hlava IDFF’s competition sections are also the First Lights for documentary debuts, and Short Joy for the best short docs. But the festival does not shy away from unconventional documentary forms included as part of the experimental sections called Fascinations (international competition) and Exprmntl.cz (Czech focus).
The Ji.hlava IDFF also provides best care to film professionals because each film included in the programme has a long way to go and faces many obstacles before hitting the festival screen. Hence, the Ji.hlava Industry Programme intended for professional filmmakers has for sixteen years played a crucial role as part of the festival events. The Emerging Producers project represents a showcase of up-and-coming generation of European producers. The Inspiration Forum is a platform that hosts distinctive figures from various walks of life, searching for new relevant topics and perspectives of our day and age. Festival Identity brings together festival organisers and programmers from all across the globe and the East Silver market organised by the Ji.hlava IDFF in conjunction with the IDF annually provides an overview of the latest documentary works from Central and Eastern Europe. Conference Fascinations further underscores the importance of experimental cinema as part of Ji.hlava IDFF’s festival programme, discussing its production potential and distribution possibilities across continents. Aside from that, the Ji.hlava IDFF annually brings to the Karlovy Vary IFF filmmakers from Central and Eastern Europe to join the Docu Talents platform that enables them to present their upcoming works for the first time to the filmmaking world.
However, the Ji.hlava IDFF is not only an annual festival showcase. Each year, the Echoes of JIDFF reverberate various parts of Europe, and film fans in Prague and Jihlava can tune in to the late summer documentary vibes of the Living Cinema. A critical reflection on documentary filmmaking is also the focus of the printed and online version of our dok.revue journal, complemented with numerous specialised publications the preparation of which was initiated by the festival. The Ji.hlava IDFF also stood at the cradle of the Center for Documentary Film in Jihlava, a space for concentrated research as well as multifaceted exploration of documentary cinema on several levels – including a book and video library as well as other research sources.
We cater to our visitors and our festival guests with outmost respect and honour, or – in the words of one of the most prominent Czech programmer and documentarian who stood at the cradle of the concept of the festival, Jan Gogola jr.:
“It is not about going to the cinema but becoming a cinema on the go. This is also the case of the Ji.hlava IDFF where you can visit home and street screenings that transform apartments and the entire town into a cinema, where, as a different example, close-up and long shot merge in the form of a single-member and audience jury, where workshops showcase works still in development, where films are screened on the pages of publications, sold as the Eastern Silver, spread through a decentralised rhizomatic structure of the web environment, telling stories in halls and bars where actors engaged in discussions transform into translucent beings ethereally embodying the ungraspable nature of the ‘meaning’. The red cinema carpet tailor made to fit Jihlava. The synergy of complementary programmes gives rise to the festival as if it was a film of its own kind, providing a context to be browsed through by the visitors, who can edit their own films based on their perception thus ceasing to be mere visitors. And when they continue their festival transformations also during their wanderings away from the white lines marked on Jihlava’s pavements connecting festival venues, they will no longer be mere visitors in their own lives.”
Jan Kino GoGo, 2016