New project encourages people to use video to add life to a street map
When we look at a street map, we see two-dimensional space, unless we have one of those pop-up maps that used to be so popular. But even then, the rather lifeless map comprising lines, curves, text and a handful of colors doesn’t accurately convey the feeling of the place.
That is where a new initiative, officially launched in Prague May 20, comes in. It is titled My Street Films, and while it started in the United Kingdom, it has attracted the attention of some of the Czech Republic’s top documentary filmmakers. The goal is for the citizens of the city — in this case, Prague — to use their phones, digital cameras or any other kind of visual recording device at their disposal to shoot a short film, no longer than 10 minutes, that takes place in their immediate neighborhood.
The films can be from any genre, including experimental and documentary, and the final product will then be posted on a map online to indicate exactly what the approximate physical setting of the respective work is.
“Participation is open to the general public, regardless of film education, skills or technology,” Diana Tabakov of the documentary film portal DAFilms.cz is quoted as saying in a press release.
“My Street Films is something like citizen journalism,” says the project’s founder, Michael Stewart, “it is about exploring the documentary boundaries that are constantly shifting.”
Of course, not everyone is a filmmaker. Some may have a story to tell, or they may only have an idea for a story, and that is where the project also functions as a support mechanism to help people shape their ideas and tell them in a way that is visually interesting and narratively well thought-out. Prospective participants can submit a short summary of no more than 300 words on the project’s website, Mystreetfilms.cz, by June 8. Within 14 days, a decision will be made on the quality of the ideas, and five projects will be selected to be fleshed out by five big-name local filmmakers who will help the aspiring directors make their stories come to life.
The five individuals who will act as mentors are Filip Remunda (who shot to fame along with co-director Vít Klusák upon the release of their 2004 documentary film about a fake shopping center, Czech Dream / Český sen), Ivo Bystřičan (whose My Last 150,000 Cigarettes / Mých posledních 150 000 cigaret showed at the most recent One World Film Festival), artist Federico Díaz, noted documentary filmmaker Linda Kallistová Jablonská and slam poet Bohdan Bláhovec, best known for his recent film Show!, which goes behind the scenes over the course of many months as the teenage pop group 5Angels is formed.
From among the final films that are posted over the next few months (the closing date is Sept. 7), a handful will be chosen to represent Prague at the British Open Festival City Docs Fest in London in June 2015. Some of the works will also be screened at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival in south Moravia this coming October.
Bláhovec shot the very first film, which can be accessed on the project’s website. It gives a simple yet sympathetic glimpse of two groups of people on opposite sides of the same street, behind Prague’s Dejvice train station, and it is definitely worth a look.