25/5 — 1/6/2022
62nd International Film Festival
for Children and Youth
15. 9. 2021

Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 September: “The Nirvana cassette that got stuck for ever”

You thought your festival schedule was tough? You thought you knew all about working long hours? Just look at the bartenders of the Legenda pub, that seldom closes before 5 o’ clock in the morning. The same guy who was serving your ‘velké pivo’ only a few hours ago, starts cleaning up the mess at 9 in the morning, as he has been doing for a whole week now. That deserves our full respect … although the gin-tonics this year are no longer what they once used to be.

With all the writing that needs to be done, I hardly leave my hotel room these days, except for interviewing juries. I hardly get to see any films and it feels like I’m missing out on the festival atmosphere. When the party ends and people stumble to their rooms, I stay up to write a first draft of my text. What else should I do? Skip the evening parties? That would leave me with not much to write about.


That is why I needed to apologize to Katerina Fojtova, my long time Zlin Festival companion, for not catching up with her any earlier. And for the way I’ve been treating the Zlin Dog Jury, which concerns her as Zlin Dog programmer. We agreed to do the jury interview after their deliberation debate, but who could have guessed it would take them 7 (!) hours? It’s one o’ clock and they still haven’t left the jury room, when I decide to give up on them, permanently. “I want to know about each of the 35 films why we liked them or not,” says Loreta Gandolfi, head of the jury. “That is our learning process.” It’s a pity that we can’t have this jury represented on the website through an interview, as the Zlin Dog student competition is a breeding ground where you can pick up a sense of what the future will bring.


All week long the festival had provided a ‘party place’ for international guests on the balcony of the Moskva Hotel, but nobody ever went there – old habits never change. Tonight people finally visit the place, and soon the team of young festival volunteers occupies the dancefloor. The last festival guests to arrive are the utterly charming Rodrigo Litorriaga (LA FRANCISCA, A CHILEAN YOUTH) and Mano Khalil. His film NEIGHBOURS, about the suppression of Kurdish and Jewish minorities in Syria, leaves the audience perplexed.


My favourite moment of the night is making jury member Eliza meet with festival technician Zuzana. The first one awarded a Czech film in the animation competition: “I was not 100% sure about the film’s qualities but what convinced me was the sound design.” Guess who was responsible for that?! Zuzana is delirious about the appreciation for her work, and the two chat away for hours.


Today Eliza went hiking in the mountains near the city; she tells about the beauty and peace on the Czech hillsides. But her best story is about how she became a Nirvana fan. “As a child we had this old Renault 25 at home and we were so proud about the cassette player. One day the cassette of the Nirvana Unplugged session got stuck in the machine and we couldn’t get it out. For the rest of my childhood years, every time we got into the car, the same tape was playing over and over again.


The next morning, right before we leave for the airport, I have planned a last minute interview with Olivier Pairoux, director of SPACEBOY. He is one of the most enthusiastic festival guests I have ever met – “If you want to do an interview, you can call me at any hour of the day or night. I will always be happy to talk about my film.” And that is the truth. He is full of stories and anecdotes and speaks impassionedly about his sources of inspiration (including a story about writing a fan letter to Michel Gondry and dropping it secretly into his mailbox on a drunken New York night). Even when getting interrupted for selfies and autographs, nothing can stop him from telling stories. Not even our driver who is pacing up and down the hotel lobby, waiting to take me to the airport.   


Every driver seems to have his own favourite route for airport transportation, and today brought no exception to that. But this one had found by far the best route ever, avoiding highways and taking us to Vienna in less than 2,5 hours (which is a record!) over charming Czech and Slovak countryside roads.


On the last day of the festival, I realize how my Covid alertness has changed. Last year this blog contained a daily paragraph about health and safety; this year the subject was hardly mentioned. A certain laxity has grown inside me, and I’m not sure how I should feel about that. That is what happens after you’ve been standing on a dancefloor surrounded by too many festival enthusiasts, shouting in each other’s ears. Today in Vienna airport I suddenly realize: “Felix, we’re not wearing our facemasks!” When putting on the mask,  it covers how I’m blushing with shame.


One consequence of the Covid crisis is my growing trust in cell phones. In earlier days I never would have dared to enter to the airport without a printed ticked in my pocket. Nowadays I have not only my ticket safely stored in my phone, but also all other important documents regarding health and safety. And today also my hope for the future has grown. When waving goodbye to the festival, I realize how – if all goes well – this time it should take us not even one year before coming back. I suppose in approx. 9 months, the gateways to the Zlin Festival Heaven will swing wide open again with angel choirs singing to welcome me back... probably a Czech pop metal song.


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