Welcome, one and all, to the 4th Czech and Slovak Film Festival of Australia (CaSFFA), our biggest and boldest event yet, with its theme of “Text and Texture” encompassing not just the one expected art form (cinema); not just two (cinema and literature), but all those points where the cinematic and literary arts collide – all those places “betwixt” film and the written word, per the name of one of this year’s accompanying exhibitions.
This theme was inspired by Melbourne (2008) and Prague’s (2014) newly shared status as “UNESCO Cities of Literature”. Hence, to our delight, the Melbourne and Prague UNESCO City of Literature offices are both official partners of this year’s festival – and so too Readings, International Bookstore of the Year 2016.
Our film program includes a pick of the greatest film adaptations of Czech and Slovak literature, like the peerless mediaeval epic Marketa Lazarova, in a continuation of our partnership with the Melbourne Cinémathèque; Cutting it Short, another of Jiří Menzel’s beloved collaborations with Bohumil Hrabal, as well as an underseen ‘60s classic where cinema and comic books merge as never before or since, Who Wants to Kill Jessie?, which will be followed by a panel with local graphic novel luminaries Shaun Tan and Bernard Caleo.
In a very strong year for Czech and Slovak cinema, several new films also fit our theme perfectly, from our wonderful Opening Night feature The Noonday Witch, which adapts a folkloric ballad by Karel Jaromír Erben, one which has given the heebeegeebees to several generations of Czechs and Slovaks, to Alice Nellis’ glorious new fairy tale film The Seven Ravens, a charmer for all ages! Our superb Closing Night film, Petr Zelenka’s absurdist comedy Lost in Munich, is right on-topic too, centred around one of the more significant documents of the 20th century for Czechs and Slovaks – 1938’s despised Munich Agreement.
Off-screen, look for “First Impressions“, an exhibition of beautiful, formally playful vintage Czechoslovak film posters, and keep tabs right here, where you’ve found our first foray into blogging – and when better than during a festival devoted both to cinema and to writing? On which note, here’s welcoming another new festival partner, the Australian Film Critics Association, who have lent us Glenn Dunks, Tom Clift and Hayley Inch to contribute to our blog and, in another CaSFFA first, to give out a prize on Closing Night to the best new feature film in this year’s program. Lastly, get in quick to book the young ‘uns into our fairy tale comic book workshop and concertina book-making workshop, facilitated by Bernard Caleo and Gracia & Louise, respectively.
In winding up, I must acknowledge the wonderful design work done for us for a third successive festival by the team at Sense Advertising; to pay tribute to the sterling, impassioned toil performed by departing festival co-founder Brendan Black over the three previous years, and to thank all who came to our pre-season events this year: the Zdeněk Svěrák 80th birthday celebration in March; our Queensland Film Festival co-presentation of Marketa Lazarova in Brisbane in July, and our “Xmas in July” screening of Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella that same month.
So, see you at this year’s festival, whether in Melbourne or, excitingly, for the first time, in Canberra! And don’t be shy – CaSFFA’s all-volunteer team are highly personable and approachable, so do come and have a chat and a beer with us, courtesy of our wonderful new Premium Sponsor, The Foreigner Brewing Company, whether at ACMI, Federation Square, or at the National Film and Sound Archive.