Docu Talents from the East projects: Everybody is OK/The Commune/Letter

Docu Talents from the East projects: Everybody is OK/The Commune/Letter

Three further projects were pitched at Sarajevo, on the nature of memory, the legacy of freethinking in the time of Czech Normalisation, and an intimate confession from a woman to her brother.


Russian doc feature debutant Katya Zayaz (pic above, co-directing with Alex Pukhov) pitched her Everybody is OK, a tale of a lost town as soon through the eyes of a man suffering from Alzheimer’s. In 2020, the 12,000-year-old town of Hasankeyf, on the banks of the Tigris River in modern Turkey, was flooded as part of a huge new water reservoir project. Resident Ramazan’s fading memory reflects the tragedy of the town’s’ slow death: both the man and the ancient town are losing their identities, losing their stories.


“Memory of the place and memory itself is the main topic of this film,” underlines director Zayaz of her 80-minute film. “In Everybody is OK, we are using a non-linear structure to explore the nature of memory, Ramazan’s conversations with his friends and family, his long walks, his strange behaviour…in the moments when he is completely lost due to his illness. All this gives us plenty of possibility to mix past, present and future until the moment when Ramazan is transferred to a new place, until the moment when both the man and the city forget who they are.”


A Gorky Film Studio production, shooting is almost complete, confirms producer Anastasia Rytsina, with one final “expedition” scheduled for September 2020. The team is looking for European broadcasters, plus post-production support on colour grading, graphics, clean-up, stabilisation and sound editing/mix/design. The producer estimates a March 2021 premiere.


Jakub Julény’s The Commune also deals with aspects of memory, and with an unresolved legacy of the past. 


The film’s synopsis reads how the desire for freedom during Czechoslovakia’s Normalization period (post 1969 through to Velvet Revolution in 1987) brought together people professing a deep inclination towards the principles of the underground movement. Now, decades later, they can’t face their mutual suspicions of betrayal – of having cooperated with the state security police. 


Drifting throughout is the memory of their tragically departed guru, philosopher and poet Marcel Strýko. To try to come to terms with the past, an old companion from Prague organizes a revival concert in a Gothic cathedral. Will this reunion of freethinkers finally lead to repentance and forgiveness?


“I have always been fascinated by hippy and underground movements which exist in all cultures, so I found a group of people [involved] in those movements in a small town in Slovakia during the 1980s,” explains director Julény. “They were producing very unique music, visual arts and poetry. I was very interested why the regime was so afraid of their activities. Although there were just 10 of them the state secret police got collaborators in between them.


“Nowadays this group is so atomised and our heroes are suffering from loneliness and existential problems so I rather focus on this than the romantic point of their activities during the 1980s.”


Julény stressed for the Sarajevo online audience that he will use both archive and surrealistic animation in the doc ,“because surrealism was (principle) among them.”


Adds producer Barbara Janišová Feglová of Slovakian Hitchhiker Cinema: “I am personally interested in the point of view of the young generation and the way they feel and face the consequences of this heritage.” She is confident the film will be completed by the end of September and she hopes to premiere locally in December. At Sarajevo she was looking to secure sales and festival interest.


The very personal Romanian project Letter derives from director Carmen Tofeni’s desire to make “something intimate, like a secret language just between me and my brother.” 


“But this time I am going to use my voice. I am going to use a camera and a microphone,” she added to the professional online audience.


In her synopsis, she writes how “the film is an intimate confession to my brother, following our father being diagnosed with cancer. The turmoil brings up a bigger search about the meaning of one sibling for the other’s life.”


Tibi, an ex-convict, finds purpose within his brother’s NGO and becomes a nationally acclaimed athlete. Mara, a bereaved sister, reshapes her own spiritual connection with her brother. “The film follows my process of acknowledging the evolution of my fraternal relationship – with both ups and downs,” comments Tofeni.


Director of photography of the recently premiered feature Ivana The Terrible (Locarno Film Festival 2019) and the short Route-3 (Toronto 2019 and Clermont-Ferrand FF 2020), Carmen is an alumna of The Italian National Film School – Centro Sperimentale and of the Sarajevo and Berlinale Talent Campuses.


“Worrying about the narrative structure for this doc I realised that this quest might also be a discovery for myself,” she confesses. “I do trust a lot the bond between me and my brother and I am sure that by finding a dialogue about past addictions I might discover a more truthful portrait of myself.”