One-on-one with Helena Třeštíková

We are looking forward to welcoming notable Czech filmmaker Helena Třeštíková to RIDM later this week for a master class and a retrospective of her work. She is crossing the Atlantic with her daughter Hanka and producer Katerina Cerna. Our director of programming Charlotte Selb asked Helena few questions via email in the lead up to these events.

Charlotte Selb: You developed your own style of long-term observation. How does the editing process of films like Marcela, René and Katka work?

Helena Třeštíková: Editing is the most important stage in long-term observation documentaries. It is the moment when the form of the film is created. Editing this type of film is time consuming and requires “never-ending” flexibility trying out new ways of finding the correct form. Many years need to be condensed into about 90 minutes, which is not an easy task to do.

C.S.: How would you define your relationship with the characters you followed for so many years? Is it just a filmmaker/subject relationship? Is it difficult for you to keep the distance necessary to make the film?

H.T.: The relationship with all my protagonists is a friendly conversation and I make the effort to get closer to their way of thinking and vision of the world. I try to understand them, not to moralize them and not to give them any lessons, but at the same time to express my opinion. It is a balance between empathy and keeping some kind of a distance.

C.S.: In that respect, was your relationship with René different from the one you had with Marcela, Katka, or the characters in Marriage Stories?

H.T.: My relationships with the film protagonists are of course different and they differ due to each person’s characteristics and their position towards me, but in most cases it is always about understanding and getting closer to each other.

C.S.: Are you generally more interested in female characters? If so, why?

H.T.: Women are maybe a bit more understandable, but I don’t consider myself as a filmmaker of solely female topics.

C.S.: Do you feel like your work brought some sociological insight into Czech society, both in your own country and abroad?

H.T.: I hope that through each of the human stories, my films can bring some point of view of Czech society and its issues. In Marriage Stories we were lucky to catch people’s life in two different stages of society’s arrangement – late socialism and early communism. I hope it can be interesting even for the foreign audiences.

C.S.: Would you be interested in filming outside of the Czech Republic?

H.T.: No, I feel like a chronicler, who observes Czech society through different fates. I need to know the context to do it and this I have only here in the Czech Republic.