All hail fresh films
Festival's 10th edition takes on the grand theme of fanaticism
Posted: August 28, 2013
To the Wonder. Not exactly a début for director Terrence Malick, but this work by the big man who makes few films is certain to send cinephiles racing to the box office.
Perhaps because it is about to face its teenage years, the annual celebration of first-time filmmakers has taken on a provocative subject for this year's edition. The 10th Fresh Film Fest, held at various cinemas in Prague Aug. 28-Sept. 1, will focus on the age-old theme of fanaticism and the many forms it takes.
A few weeks ago, the organizers revealed the name of a documentary that will be a cornerstone of the festival. Scientologists at War investigates the controversial religion founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, which has some high-profile followers in the form of Tom Cruise and John Travolta but has attracted negative criticism for a long time because of very public battles over privacy.
The film, directed by Joseph Martin, tracks the consequences of a decision by Marty Rathbun, a former member of the Church of Scientology, to distance himself from the church and its activities. Notorious for maintaining strict control of its members, the church's desire to silence him leads to some unnerving confrontations, and it is absolutely worth checking out.
Another religion, Christianity, comes under the microscope in Jesus Camp, which made big waves when it was first released in 2006. The film looks at the brainwashing of children at specially designed camps, where open-mindedness is rejected in favor of pure ideological indoctrination and criticism of conventional wisdom is severely punished. Some of the camps were ultimately closed after a very intense backlash from the public.
When: Aug. 28-Sept. 1
Where: Various venues
Admission: 70-90 Kč
In total, the festival program comprises some 140 short and feature-length films, which were chosen from an initial selection of more than 1,200 submissions.
As usual, the three main categories - namely Fresh Generation, Théâtre Optique and Confrontations - consist of films made by début or second-time directors. Fresh Generation is the fiction film category, Théâtre Optique is for animation films and unsurprisingly Confrontations is the documentary category.
Another film to look forward to, especially in light of the recent revelations about the tech industry's complicity in large-scale surveillance of users both in the United States and around the world, is Google and the Brain World, which focuses on a slightly different but equally intimidating aspect of the vast enterprise of this company whose informal motto is "Don't be evil." The Internet giant's goal of scanning every single book on the planet, despite fierce opposition from the literary world, is the object of this documentary film.
As in the past, a film is screened at the summer cinema in Riegrovy sady, and this year it's the odd Spring Breakers, by alternative filmmaker Harmony Korine, which can be viewed free of charge. For once, maybe the price of admission is proportional to the film's artistic quality, although it certainly has its moments of unabashed (and ludicrous) entertainment, or at least slow-motion shots of bosoms quivering in their D cups in the sunshine.
Screenings at the FAMU film school will also be free.
A far cry from Spring Breakers is the Break Rules section, which showcases slightly more experimental fare from otherwise experienced directors. One film every filmgoer worth her salt will want to see is the latest from Tree of Life director Terrence Malick, To the Wonder. A very intimate love story starring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko, many critics have made their displeasure clear, especially so quickly after the critically acclaimed Tree of Life, released in 2011. However, To the Wonder seems to be a return to the more quite, nuanced kind of filmmaking, underscored by beautiful cinematography and a polished score, that put Malick on the map in the 1970s.
While cinema tickets sell for between 70 and 90 Kč, festival passes are also available for 500 Kč (350 Kč for students, teachers, seniors and physically challenged individuals) and can be used for the duration of the five-day festival.
Unless indicated otherwise on the program, all films are accessible to both English and Czech speakers.
André Crous can be reached at