Family Relationships – The Key Topic at Czech Film Festivals in 2019

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The time of summer cinema is gradually coming to an end, but many of the films are just about to appear in cinemas. As shown by the programs of film festivals in the Czech Republic (the KVIFF and others), the topic of the relationships between generations and the difficult paths to understanding and acceptance – which has no restrictions as to space and time – is becoming increasingly popular.

Light of My Life - a film by Casey Affleck

Need to grow

How important is it for a young person to observe the religious and cultural traditions of his country? And can a parent consider his debt unfulfilled if the child does not feel a craving for his native roots and, moreover, does not want to respect the rules adopted in the family? Abdulmohsen Aldhabaan, the director of Last Visit, is looking for answers to these questions with this examination of the complexities of the patriarchal lifestyle in an Islamic family. Who is a Real Man – a city dweller, who knows how to handle modern gadgets, or one who, nevertheless, will not wander far from civilization and will be able to provide a simple but safe existence for himself and his loved ones? Father Nasser has to check his nerves for strength: it is not easy to see that a teenaged son does not want to obey the elders in the family, but at the same time seeks to prove his “maturity” in other ways: he gets behind the wheel of a car without a driving license, or goes for a swim without knowing how to do it. Rarely do such stories have a happy-ending, but this time in the final frames there is hope that a renewed spiritual connection between father and son has arisen.

Casey Affleck

Also about hope, but also for a bright future which is not really there – a film by Casey Affleck, Light of My Life. The words “perfect childhood” conjure up a certain mental picture, and there is no place in that picture for wandering through life living in a tent with every day fraught with fear, danger, hunger and cold, especially when it comes to a teenage girl. The director places his characters in a post-apocalyptic situation – this time, however, humanity does not turn into a zombie world, only women die from an unknown disease, all except the daughter of the main character. In a world in which there are only men, the father tries to save the life of his eleven-year-old daughter, not noticing that she has already managed to grow up quickly. Despite the fact that in her life there were no dolls and bows, she has acquired skills that prove to be more useful: it is her ability to use a gun and the lessons she has learned while growing up independently that save her father’s life.

Find yourself or lose?

Not going to college or university after school, but going to work instead as a nanny in the USA and, for example, improving your English – that’s a common practice among young people and is widespread, also in the Czech Republic.  This is what Mia, the main character in A Certain Kind of Silence, decides to do as she is invited to live with a wealthy, sophisticated family and take care of a ten-year-old boy. For her, this is a real life test, and passing means becoming an adult; and not coping with the challenges that arise means holding over in the late phase of adolescence. The viewer is invited to think about what can actually be considered adult conduct? Perhaps the ability to express your opinion on time, to defend your rights and not allow yourself to be humiliated when humiliation goes beyond all bounds?

A Certain Kind of Silence

Perfect parent

“To give my child the best” – speaking of this, parents think not only about food and clothing, but also education. What to do if your ideas about the best, as a parent, are fundamentally at variance with the principles of that world and the system in which you raise your child? Such a problem arises in the life of Chao-Yan, who, despite the protests of her family, decides to raise her son according to Confucian tradition (Confucian Dream by Mijie Li). The social system of modern China, however, is not configured to foster spirituality and a penchant for philosophy, but to ensure that a person devotes his life to work. Getting out of step with everyone and being alternative is not so easy: Chao-Yan periodically falls into despair, she is sometimes away from her own child, but does not lose hope of changing the atmosphere in the family.

The other extreme is to forget about spiritual values ​​entirely and assume that problems can be solved if you buy a child a new gadget or a toy, or shout about it “on time” (in fact, when the moment is long gone). An example of such parenting is presented in the short film Get Ready with Me (read an interview with the film director, Jonatan Etzler, in our magazine). The father is so immersed in video games, and the mother in watching TV, that no one notices that their daughter makes “funny” videos about how to commit suicide and posts them on YouTube.

Does travel heal or cripple?

Time, the road, and some degree of isolation from reality.  Whether travel cures and helps to establish contact, or fix what was broken or cannot be restored – this what we could try to find out from two road movies directed by Antonio Lukich (My Thoughts Are Silent) and Felipe Ríos (The Man of the Future).

My Thoughts Are Silent by Antonio Lukich

It’s interesting that nature plays a significant role in both of them. In one film, the viewer admires the landscapes of Patagonia, while the elderly Michelsen tries to rethink the mistakes and misses in his relationship with his grown-up daughter. In another case, the son, keen on recording the sounds of wildlife, and his stupid but sincere mother are trying to keep their souls contact. And if in viewing The Man of the Future it is worth watching, first of all, the actors’ mimicry, in the second film the tragi-comic nature of the situations is emphasized mainly by a dialogue in which English is forcibly and roughly mixed with Ukrainian (or vice versa), and all the conversations are about American dreams or about religious issues.

Photos: KVIFF

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