The Jeden Svet international documentary film festival kicked off last night in my favourite Bratislava cinema, Kino Lumière, and I went along to the opening, which was presented by famous Slovak writer Michal Hvorecký. However, as it was already full when we arrived, I was sitting away from those who could have translated for me. Thus much of the opening film, Back to the Square (featuring personal stories from the Egyptian Revolution) was nigh on impossible for me to understand, as it was in Arabic with Slovak subtitles! For an Englishman just moved to Slovakia, that wasn’t so easy to follow…
However, an Egyptian friend (the only Egyptian in the audience most likely) reliably informed me it was an insightful if narrow view of the types of predicaments faced by Egyptians post-Revolution. It was, however, impeccably filmed, and very atmospheric.
It is one of several films at Jeden Svet 2012 to look at the Arab Spring, and the comparisons, as Hvorecký pointed out, between the likes of Tunisia and Egypt right now and Slovakia 23 years ago are actually quite acute. Immense initial optimism after the overthrowing of a dictatorial regime that had lasted pretty much as long as living memory followed by the slowly-sinking feeling of despondency, frustration and even outright despair when things don’t change as quickly as they should and in some cases, remain exactly the same as they were before, just with different packaging.
Anyways, Jeden Svet has some great films this year, including some very interesting Slovak documentary films. The film-maker Zuzana Piussi who currently faces imprisonment for her documentary Disease of the Third Power (because she dared to expose corruption), has her film Fragile Identity, about Slovak ideas of what represents nationality, aired on Friday. The festival runs all this week – until December 9th. I’m just not sure how many of them I will be able to enjoy, as films herald from places like Burma and China and are often in the original language, then just with Slovak or Czech subtitles. As for the Slovak docufilms showing, it would do Slovak film makers a lot of good to have their films translated into a widely-spoken language – for notoriety’s sake. It could be an element to improve on for next year, as this is an international festival and English is an international language.