The Jihlava Caravan
26. 10. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton
As someone who grew up in the UK, I cannot help but associate caravans with wet summers and excruciating ten-hour drives to various sub-par holiday destinations with family members; guaranteeing everyone having a thoroughly miserable time year in, year out. However, these memories are far removed from the experience of the Enchanted Caravan (Začarovaný caravan) running all this week at the festival.
The caravan is a French initiative, founded in 2006 in Champagne-Ardenne, aiming to provide a cinema experience to the remote rural communities of the area. Its location, just outside of the Dukla cinema, is the caravan's first trip onto Czech soil, and offers a list of nineteen, predominantly French, shorts for viewers to choose from -- that is, those who can squeeze into the tiny cinema and projection room. With space for a maximum of twelve people, this must be one of the smallest cinemas in the world, and is a rewarding trip for festival visitors.
This was far more about the experiences than the films, although the two selections we made did not disappoint. Tessa Joosse's Plastic and Glass (2009, 9') is a good fit with the factory theme, where workers in a recycling plant turning the sounds of an industrial operation into a musical number. Miniyamba, directed by Luc Perez (2012, 14') draws on France's colonial past to deliver a visually stunning animation of the life of a musician and his friend attempting to cross the border from Africa to look for a new life in Europe. Sitting in the caravan, bumping knees with fellow cinemagoers, we feel very close to the action on screen and off.
At a time where the possibilities of filmmaking are more open than ever before -- thanks to video streaming sites, digital video recording, mobile phones -- the caravan reminds us of how important having a real cinematic big-screen (is `big' the right word?) experience is for watching films and building enthusiasm for cinema. The portability of the medium is clever -- attach the miniature cinema to the back of a car or van, and you can take it virtually anywhere. It allows communities to connect through film, however remote, and this is something that could apply to a wide range of places, not just in France. It is an interesting project which throws open questions about the way we look and engage with film, and the possibilities of the platform for both viewers and filmmakers. I hope that it continues going from strength to strength.