At the start of the New Year, six Czech-German short documentaries consider life in an absence of time. The docs are the result of a two-year long documentary development program called Breathless which aims to create a series of creative documentaries that intentionally oppose conventional television programming.
Back in April of 2008, the Breathless selection committee handpicked the six projects from over 130 emerging and established applicants in the Czech Republic and Germany to participate in Breathless’s development workshop. The workshop took place last summer in a small town outside of Prague and was led by several filmmaking advisors and mentors, including two head producers, Jiri Konecny from the Czech Republic and Stefan Kloos, managing director of Kloos & Co. in Berlin. Both producers are presiding over the projects from start to finish.
The two-year Czech-German documentary development program was created by Zipp German-Czech Cultural Projects and coordinated by the Institute of Documentary Film in Prague (IDF) and DOK Leipzig. This month all six films are in the pre-shooting phase and by February the projects will get the green light from the selection committee and bounce full swing into production, when Breathless will also step in with funding assistance.
The chosen projects are challenging films that take a free-form, borderless approach to the documentary genre, but still cling to the Breathless theme: ‘The Dominance of the Moment.’ The slogan, and the mandate of the program, is to raise questions about the age of information overload and the omnipresence of communications technology, globalization and digitalization; the end result is a set of six films that debate the perceived shrinkage of space and time and how this consequently effects relationships between individuals and their environments.
Milltown, Montana by German filmmaker Rainer Komers, is an essayist expedition through a landscape that faces devastation at the hand of man. Using only visual language, we see what was once the largest mining area of the USA lapse into a post-industrial standstill. In Time’s Up – an Experiment in Time Management, the two filmmakers, Jan Peters and Marie-Catherine Theiler, make a film within the timeframe of the filmmaker’s pregnancy, shooting between Switzerland and Germany. And in Discovering the Slowness, Anca Miruna Lazarescu shows us a small church in Halberstadt, East Germany where an organ plays ‘Organ 2′ by John Cage as slowly as possible, continuously until the year 2640.
Czech filmmaker Jan Gogola, has been making well-received films for over 10 years, and also works as a journalist and teacher at the Film Academy of Performing Arts. His Breathless film, I Like a Boring Life looks at the timeless nature of two overlapping diaries – one of grandmother, Alena Němcová, and the other of her mother-in-law. Through his participation in the program, Gogola better understands the spirit of the film. ‘I feel rather like a co-author of my films,’ he says, adding that the ‘international context of the Breathless project is to think about film in universal human connections and reactions.’
A second workshop will take place in June 2009 before the films’ scheduled premiere in the autumn of 2009 at the Jilhava International Documentary Film Festivals and at the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film (DOK Leipzig). International theatrical and DVD releases are also in the works.