Lucie Králová picked up the award for Best Czech Documentary at Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival for “Kapr Code,” about composer Jan Kapr, who passed away in 1988.
After a severe injury put an end to his athletic ambitions, Kapr turned to music and politics: a loyal member of the Communist Party, he received the Stalin Prize in 1951. He returned it after the 1968 Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, however, becoming persona non grata.
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But it was never her intention to recount his life story, she tells Variety, at least not in a conventional way.
“I am really fed up with all these films about artists. I hate them,” she admits.
“My films are always about this search for a new form, for other ways to communicate meaning. Kapr was interested in finding a new language as well. In the 1960s, he was done with Soviet propaganda music. He started to chase all these innovative, progressive forms.”
It marks another win for the Czech director at the fest, where she was previously noticed for “The Ill-Fated Child,” co-directed with Miloslav Novák, and “Sold.” Now, she is already at work on her upcoming doc “Dream-Heeders,” where she will turn her attention to dreams.
“It’s about how dreams can change our lives, how they can connect people in this collective unconscious experience. Some researchers claimed that before 9/11, many people dreamt about it even before it happened,” she says.
The film, just like “Kapr Code” – sold by Lightdox – will be produced by Mindset Pictures and DOCUfilm Praha.
In order to mirror her protagonist’s ever-changing fortunes and his interests as a musician, Králová enlisted the help of Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno and librettist Jiří Adámek. Coming up with a “documentary opera” where Kapr’s life is not being recounted: it is sung.
“He lived his life as a composition and our film is a composition as well,” she observes, referencing one of his works, “Codes,” in the title.
“The choir is also singing about the things we are not sure about, about all these holes in the memory. That’s why we decided to include all these making-of scenes. We were searching for something here. We are not claiming we know it.”
Despite plenty of material to browse through, courtesy of Kapr’s daughter, Králová opted for a “playful” approach to his biography, one that would reflect his exuberant personality.
“He was always torn between chaos and order. You can sense this tension in his music as well,” she says.
“It was a complicated task, to work with this archive in a way that wouldn’t be just descriptive. But we really tried to understand who he was, because he wasn’t an opportunist – he really believed in Communism.”
“It’s sad that our film, in a way, is so timely again. Because nothing has changed! Russia still thinks we all belong to its realm. It’s very clear in the case of Ukraine and we are probably not that far off.”
She says she “invited” Kapr to co-create the story with her, through his music and 8mm amateur films depicting family life and friends.
“Now, it’s almost as if he scored them himself,” she says.
Kapr actually enjoyed a career as a film composer as well, working on the likes of “New Czechoslovakia” or “Giant Shoe-Factory.” But his private recordings focused on daily joys, not politics, with the crew measuring the footage devoted to every recurring theme.
“His family never saw these movies! So many featured Kapr falling from a sledge, people falling while skiing, including Pavel Ludikar, the famous opera singer who performed at the Metropolitan Opera. It’s all very strange,” says Králová.
“Kapr wanted to be the best gymnast in Czechoslovakia, he wanted to represent his country, and then he fell from the rings in his youth. We connected these falls to that story.”
Despite mentions of serious health struggles, political disappointments and even a family secret, “Kapr Code” is still full of humor. As noticed by the audience at Krakow Film Festival, where it won Best Music Documentary award in June.
“People were laughing so hard during the screening. Like it was the funniest comedy: ‘Look at these crazy Czechs and the movies they make,’” she laughs.
“I don’t take myself seriously either and this whole process is always connected to humor. There are dramatic turning points and near-death experiences [in the film], but take Kapr’s hilarious mother-in-law, who makes you smile 30 years after her death. Maybe that’s the best thing we can do in our life: Make sure we leave some good memories behind.”
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