Documentary channel

The seven-hour long documentary on the Czech New Wave that was eight years in the making

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s 420-minute documentary explores the Czech New Wave filmmaking movement.

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s upcoming documentary CzechMate: In Search of Jiri Menzel has entered the history books even before it has been screened for the public. The archivist and filmmaker’s third feature-length documentary adds up to seven hours, and is the longest Indian production to have been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification.

The 420-minute documentary features 85 interviews with close to 20 Czech filmmakers, all of whom heralded the subversive and exciting Czech New Wave movement that roughly lasted between the 1950s and the ’70s. The censor board gave the documentary an adult certificate on January 3.

Other posterior-warming Indian films include Cheran’s Thavamai Thavamirindu (275 minutes), Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker (244 minutes), the NT Rama Rao starrer Daana Veera Soora Karna (257 minutes), MG Ramachandran’s Nadodi Mannan (220 minutes), JP Dutta’s LOC: Kargil (255 minutes), Nikhil Advani’s Salaam-e-Ishq (216 minutes), and Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan (224 minutes), Jodhaa Akbar (214 minutes) and Swades (210 minutes).

Celluloid Man, Dungarpur’s 2012 documentary on PK Nair, the influential head of the National Film Archive of India, is modest by comparison: it totals 150 minutes. The rough cut for CzechMate was 14 hours long.

CzechMate is still shorter than the average movie by Filipino director Lav Diaz, which includes Death in the Land of Encantos (540 minutes) and A Lullaby To The Sorrowful Mystery (485 minutes).

CzechMate is a deep dive into the Czech New Wave, which produced some of Europe’s greatest filmmakers, including Jiri Menzel, Jan Nemec, Vera Chytilova, Ivan Passer, Milos Forman and Jan Kadar. “It was a tough challenge to bring the film down to seven hours,” Dungarpur said. “There is no comprehensive film made on the Czech New Wave, which was as important as the French New Wave or Italian Neo Realism. I think the big challenge for me was finding the filmmakers first. Many of them are no more, many have stopped making films, some are still making films. The challenge was to convince them to talk to me. They couldn’t wrap their head around why an Indian would be so interested in what they made.”

Dungarpur, who set up the Film Heritage Foundation to document and preserve Indian cinematic heritage in 2014, has slaved over CzechMate for eight years. It began with his fascination for Jiri Menzel’s films, which includes Closely Watched Trains (1966), Larks on a String (1969) and My Sweet Little Village (1985). Dungarpur first came across Menzel’s movies when he was a student at the Film and Television Institute in Pune. He was fascinated by how Menzel used absurdist humour to discuss serious issues, including censorship and authoritarian rule.

“Back in 2010, when I started this project, I just wanted to travel across the world in the hope of meeting all the filmmakers whose work has inspired me,” Dungarpur said. “Menzel was obviously on that list. But it took me two years to land an interview with Menzel. During my search for him, his films and for material about him, I discovered an entire group of filmmakers from Czech Republic and Slovakia who, like Menzel, were making cinema in perhaps the most difficult times – in a climate of extreme state-fuelled repression and censorship. And all of them continued to stand up to harsh regimes. They never gave up. I wanted to explore that thoroughly.”

The Czech New Wave was populated mostly by products of the Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, who rebelled against state strictures on free expression through a range of stylistic approaches, including documentary realism and absurdist humour. Dungarpur found a wealth of material and information – textual, oral and visual – during his research. Accompanied by translators and aided by film historians, he travelled to Europe regularly to hunt down the directors and filmmakers, unearthing a treasure trove of rare footage, nuggets and anecdotes along the way.

“Many of the films that New Wave filmmakers made revolve around the lives of ordinary people, who are generally side characters,” he explained. “They become the heroes in these narratives. I think they took bits of Italian neo-realism when it came to the subjects they chose and were influenced by the French New Wave in terms of how to shoot and present them. What really fascinated me was how they used state money to make films that were against the state.”

The documentary has been made for a cinephile audience, including students of cinema and “people who have been following film movements across the world”, Dungarpur said. “It was interesting to see the reactions of some of the censor board members after they watched the film,” he said. “One of them told me, ‘I cannot believe we have just seen a seven-hour film. But this is a film I can watch again.’ That makes me really happy.”

Closely Watched Trains (1966).

Like Celluloid Man and The Immortals, which explores the history of Indian cinema through memorabilia and objects, CzechMate complements Dungarpur’s interest in the conservation and restoration of cinema. His Film Heritage Foundation has salvaged rare prints of several films, including the Konkani production Mogacho Anvddo and Guru Dutt’s Bharosa, besides collecting publicity material such as posters, photographs and lobby cards. Recent acquisitions include the prints of Shyam Benegal’s films and movies starring the actress Sadhana.

“A lot of them marks the end of one phase of my career, which I feel is now over,” Dungarpur said. “It all started with PK Nair, who was the subject of Celluloid Man. It was he who got me interested in archiving and restoration of cinema and its history. But I’m now at a stage when I want to explore the filmmaker in me. The foundation will continue its work, of course.”

Celluloid Man (2012).
We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

It’s the new year and it’s already time to plan your next holiday

Here are some great destinations for you to consider.

Vacation planning can get serious and strategic. Some people swear by the save and splurge approach that allows for one mini getaway and one dream holiday in a year. Others use the solo to family tactic and distribute their budget across solo trips, couple getaways and family holidays. Regardless of what strategy you implement to plan your trip, the holiday list is a handy tool for eager travellers. After having extensively studied the 2018 holiday list, here’s what we recommend:

March: 10 days of literature, art and culture in Toronto

For those you have pledged to read more or have more artistic experiences in 2018, Toronto offers the Biblio-Mat, the world’s first randomising vending machine for old books. You can find the Biblio-Mat, paper artefacts, rare books and more at The Monkey’s Paw, an antiquarian bookseller. If you can tear yourself away from this eclectic bookstore, head over to The Public Library in Toronto for the Merril Collection of over 72000 items of science fiction, fantasy magic realism and graphic novels. With your bag full of books, grab a coffee at Room 2046 – a café cum store cum studio that celebrates all things whimsical and creative. Next, experience art while cycling across the 80km Pan Am Path. Built for walking, running, cycling and wheeling, the Pan Am Path is a recreational pathway that offers a green, scenic and river views along with art projects sprinkled throughout the route. You can opt for a guided tour of the path or wander aimlessly for serendipitous discoveries.

Nothing beats camping to ruminate over all those new ideas collected over the past few days. Make way to Killarney Provincial Park for 2-3 days for some quiet time amongst lakes and hills. You can grab a canoe, go hiking or get back to nature, but don’t forget to bring a tent.

If you use the long-weekend of 2nd March to extend your trip, you get to experience the Toronto Light Festival as a dazzling bonus.

June: 10 days of culinary treats, happy feet and a million laughs in Chicago

Famous for creating the deep-dish pizza and improv comedy, Chicago promises to banish that mid-year lull. Get tickets for The Second City’s Legendary Laughs at The UP-Comedy Club - the company that gave us the legendary Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Key & Peele. All that laughter can sure work up an appetite, one that can be satiated with Lou Malnati’s classic deep-dish pizza. For dessert, head over to the Ferrara Original Bakery for mouth-watering treats.

Chicago in June is pleasant and warm enough to explore the outdoors and what better way to soak in the sunshine, than by having a picnic at the Maggie Daley Park. Picnic groves, wall climbing, mini golf, roller blading – the park offers a plethora of activities for individuals as well as families.

If you use the long weekend of 15th June, you can extend your trip to go for Country LakeShake – Chicago’s country music festival featuring Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley.

August: 7 days in London for Europe’s biggest street festival

Since 1964, the Notting Hill Carnival has been celebrating London’s Caribbean communities with dancing, masquerade and music ranging from reggae to salsa. Watch London burst into colours and sparkle at the Notting Hill Carnival. Home to Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens Museum, London is best experienced by wandering through its tiny streets. Chance encounters with bookstores such as Foyles and Housemans, soaking in historic sights while enjoying breakfast at Arthur’s Café or Blackbird Bakery, rummaging the stalls at Broadway market or Camden Market – you can do so much in London while doing nothing at all.

The Museum of Brand, Packaging and Advertising can send you reminiscing about those old ads, while the Clowns Gallery Museum can give you an insight in clown-culture. If you’d rather not roam aimlessly, book a street-art tour run by Alternative London or a Jack the Ripper Tour.

October: 10 days of an out-of-body experience in Vegas

About 16 km south of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, lies a visual spectacle. Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation by Ugo Rondinone, stands far away from the wild vibe that people expect in Las Vegas and instead offers a sense of wonder. Imagine seven pillars of huge, neon boulders, stacked up against one another stretched towards the sky. There’s a lot more where that came from, in Las Vegas. Captivating colour at the permanent James Turrell exhibit in Louis Vuitton, outdoor adventures at the Bootleg Canyon and vintage shopping at Patina Décor offer experiences that are not usually associated with Vegas. For that quintessential Vegas show, go for Shannon McBeath: Absinthe for some circus-style entertainment. If you put the holiday list to use, you can make it for the risefestival – think thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, right above you.

It’s time to get on with the vacation planning for the new year. So, pin up the holiday list, look up deals on hotels and flights and start booking. Save money by taking advantage of the British Airways Holiday Sale. With up to 25% off on flight, the offer is available to book until 31st January 2018 for travel up to 31st December in economy and premium economy and up to 31st August for business class. For great fares to great destinations, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.