It may be beautiful but Český Krumlov, the second most visited city in the Czech Republic, is unrecognisable as an urban community. The reason? Over-tourism. Meanwhile, in Elevation, an ageing Ukrainian ski coach confronts his demons in search of renewed success.
Both projects were pitched at Sarajevo/Ji.hlava’s Docu Talents from the East programme.
“Český Krumlov is an old magical medieval town, full of myths and pictorial houses at the bend of the river,’ Matouš Bičák, co-director of The Most Beautiful City in the World, points out, with a hint of regret. “To me it represents something unreachable, a glorious past connected with Egon Schiele or the most magnificent, old, Bohemian aristocratic families.”
Which is how it would be now, if it wasn’t for the Velvet Revolution, privatization and the arrival of modern tourism, argues co-director Marie-Magdalena Kochová.
“For me Český Krumlov is a battlefield of individualism and collectivism. It used to be a small, sleepy town in the Eastern bloc. The revolution…and listing by Unesco has transformed the city into Disneyland overnight,” she says. “Only a few permanent residents live in the city centre. The locals moved to the peripheries into blocks of flats, and now they are just looking at the city which used to be theirs. Now it is just a goldmine for a few.” All of which is detailed in the pair’s project.
Matouš Bičák is studying towards a master’s degree in documentary at FAMU (Prague). In 2016, together with Eliška Cílková, he won the Czech Press Foto 2016 award (DOP collaboration on the film) for the film From Detail to the Whole.
Marie-Magdalena Kochová studied new media at the FDU ZČU and is currently studying at FAMU towards a bachelor’s degree. Her film Apparatgeist was granted the Special Mention of the Student Jury at the Ji.hlava IDFF 2019.
The Most Beautiful City in the World is produced by Mikuláš Novotný of Prague-based Background Films (Prague, Czech Republic). “It is clear that there is no right solution to this problem,” he says, assessing the problem of over-tourism. “But we believe that by constantly searching… we will eventually reach the optimal balance.”
Producer Ksenia Gapchenko outlines her reason for hooking up with the Ukrainian project Elevation, the second feature doc of Max Rudenko. “I joined the project because I couldn’t resist the topic of a ski jumper who doesn’t know how to land,” she says.
The film’s synopsis tells how Vasyl works as a ski jumping trainer at a children’s sports school deep in the Carpathian Mountains. He was himself a ski jumper until he sustained a serious injury. Sport is everything in his life. He believes that unity with nature gives him the strength to psychologically prepare his trainees for competitions, to cope with fear and self-doubt. In the film, he is opening his personality through a young and very talented trainee. At the end of his career, this may be the last chance for him to win…
“Vasyl is fighting for his dreams and ideals very passionately. Vasyl is trying to change the bureaucratic system,” says Rudenko of the film’s core protagonist who, despite trying to overcome financial hardships in keeping his facility alive, succeeds in getting his young charges into European competitions.
But producer Gapchenko drives home the dilemma at the heart of the story. “Everything sounds like Vasyl is a real hero but there is [controversy]. He is his own antagonist, a modern Sisyphus,” she says. “He is twice divorced and is having a conflict with his son who is also a coach and part of the bureaucratic system which Vasyl hates so much. His students are leaving him but still Vasyl is dreaming of something big.
“It is a documentary that is visually very exciting but will also has many layers. Financially-wise we didn’t lock the budget yet, and [at Sarajevo] we are looking for fund and pre-sales,” she ends.