In late June 2017, the Center for Documentary Film announced the competition for the best university thesis project (bachelor’s and master’s thesis) in the field of documentary cinema. The aim of the competition was to trigger broader interest of the academic circles and more profound and systematic thoughts about documentary cinema, its origin, distribution and reception. Documentary filmmaking is currently seen as a marginal field of academic research in the Czech Republic as it defies the traditional categories and approaches employed in the dominant segment of fiction film. The study of documentary film theory requires an overview of the current media sphere, knowledge of traditional and progressive methods of documentary filmmaking and good knowledge of the social and cultural sphere. Because documentary cinema interconnects all of the aforementioned layers, its study is from a certain angle a key discipline to the understanding of our day and age – the era when social issues are exposed to a permanent reflection of electronic media.
COMPETITION OF THESIS PROJECTS
Two of a total of six registered projects have been rejected because they have not met the criteria. Out of the remaining four projects, the jury awarded two masters projects: Contemporary Independent Chinese Documentary Cinema in the Context of Censorship by Haruna Honcoop (FAMU) and Ondřej Kazík’s (Palacký University) Creative Producer Group and the Process of Documentary Production in Czech Television.
In the international context, Haruna Honcoopová’s project is socially relevant, the presenter has manifested a profound knowledge and deep insight into the topic, mastering the language allowing her to work with unique sources; she has also been communicating with valuable respondents and has access to resources. The description of the current production process of creation of independent Chinese documentary cinema has an overlap beyond the realm of film theory.
Ondřej Kazík’s project is valuable for its effort to describe invisible mechanisms of a crucial audiovisual institution. The formulated topic is adequate in its scope, the presenter worked efficiently with the resources, and he has already dealt in detail with the topic in his academic career. The author’s will receive detailed feedback on their two projects in near future.
The decisive factor was the degree of the original and creative approach of the author, whether the topic has or has not yet been addressed and to what extent it contributes to the social dimension, in close relation to the envisaged methods and methodology and techniques of research and work with resources. An important role is played by an evident pre-understanding of the topic, the unique nature of the found resources, but also, for example, language abilities and the focus or scope (the ability to treat the topic within the scope of the thesis without clinging to the surface), the knowledge and critical approach to resources.
The competition of the bachelor’s and diploma thesis projects will continue in the future, in order to support the creation of research projects providing different perspectives of documentary cinema as well as to increase the quality of this research and texts. The winners will be offered consultations with experts addressing specified and related topics as well as institutional support of a library and a video library of the Center for Documentary Film.
Bachelor’s projects: the author of each of the best three projects will receive a prize of 5,000 + the possibility to consult, conduct research and study for free at the Center for Documentary Film.
Master’s projects: the author of each of the best three projects will receive a prize of 10,000 + support services + possibility to consult, conduct research and study for free at the Center for Documentary Film.
Evaluation committee was composed of:
Andrea Slováková (director, documentarian, film theorist an curator)
Marek Hovorka (director of Ji.hlava IDFF)
Petr Kubica (producer, programmer, translator)
Šimon Bauer (director of the Center for Documentary Film, lecturer)
- originality of the topic (has/has not yet been addressed)
- clarity of formulation of hypothesis and starting points
- used methodology
- presence of the original research
- employed resources
- potential to attract attention of the wider reader/academic/professional community
- viability (availability of sources – with view of the implementation of the project – projects oriented towards foreign production should be paid special attention to).