Academia Film Olomouc
Academia Film Olomouc (AFO) is the international festival of science documentary films held annually in April under the patronage of the Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic. The festival maps science and educational films from the fields of humanities, natural as well as social sciences, educational programs of both domestic and foreign television productions (BBC, Discovery Channel) and current science, artistic and technological progresses (recently e.g. podcasts). The festival is characteristic for its use of discussions – film and science professionals and specialists are invited to thematic blocks to confront their opinions with audience, mostly represented by those interested in audiovisual works, university students as well as high school students. Plurality of its audience is the key point of AFO – the youngest audience is provided with screenings for schools, the organizers prepare screenings at the Olomouc Upper Square for general public and festival echoes present crucial AFO films in the main European metropolises (Brussels, Paris, Vienna, Prague). Presently AFO is held by the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies of the Philosophical Faculty of the Palacký University in Olomouc (Czech Republic).
Origin of the Festival
Academia Film Olomouc was initiated in 1966 by key institutions that guaranteed the development of science and education in Czechoslovakia. Those were the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Short Film Prague and the Palacký University. The origin of the festival was inspired by then unique a festival of didactic films in the Italian town Padua which was extraordinary by the fact that it was held within the university campus. Short Film Prague was the main promoter of the festival since its very beginning. It was an institution that produced educational films by Jiří Lehovec, Jan Calábek or Bohumil Vošáhlík since the 1950s. These pictures presented current scientific discoveries and innovative methods so that they were comprehensible to scientists as well as students of given study field or talented pupils from elementary schools. Topics of the oldest science documentary films were often connected with very specific problems that are difficult to explain even nowadays, such as principle of the world, weather changes, possibilities of sound recording or motion and time relativity. Visually they portrayed organisms of plants, cell nuclei and photosynthesis. Such films gained international reputation in their time. What is more, an independent department, which dealt with similar topics, existed in the 1950s and 1960s within the Czechoslovak State Film, part of which organization was Short Film Prague. Connection of the university and film industry became a logical means of bringing up-to-date science observations closer to widest public. There was no institution, though, that would provide the project with necessary background. The festival in Padua was a model for the workers of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, who turned to the Palacký University, whose students ranked among the most active in holding cultural events in the 1960s. The university professor Jiří Stýskal sponsored the first Olomouc screening of science documentary films with his colleagues Eduard Petrů, Alena Štěrbová and Miroslav Tomšů in 1966. The festival was given the Academia Film title twelve months later after its positive reception.
Important Historical Moments
1960s and 1970s
The modest idea of a science festival reaches the whole country importance during the 1960s and 1970s. It is praised particularly for being an event that maps the situation and transformation of film form. The participation of the Czechoslovak Television on the origin of science films came hand in hand with the development of television broadcasting in the 1970s. Its films thus enrich the festival program. The festival had to cope with a sociopolitical situation that was going through a significant transformation at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s. The festival was financed by grants of the organizing institutions.
Interest in Academia Film Olomouc gradually increases. Number of films in competition as well as materials with film recording grows. Originally a small university event becomes a festival that draws attention of wider public. It is the video phenomenon that marked a strong development during the 1980s besides television. Academia Film Olomouc reacts to this fact in 1986 and includes in its program one of the first video projections in the Czechoslovakia. This step had an extraordinary meaning in its time. It is because the Central Film Distributor that ensured distribution of films within the Czechoslovakia, began to buy video programs from the whole world and distribute them further to the Czech and Slovakian cinemas not until 1 January 1985. Academia Film Olomouc thus ranked among the first institutions that helped the progress of the integral network of video programs.
In the 1990s AFO becomes an international festival. It experiences existential problems, though, due to the end of the financing model of a state film. Short Film Prague gained independence and focused more on co-productions of feature films, financial situation of the education system gets worse as well. The festival is still funded by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic as well as by the Ministry of Culture, however, more and more it must rely on private sponsors. In 1997 the festival organizers established the Award for the Best Multimedia Educational Program, they look for the audience also outside the duration of the festival within the framework of the “AFO into Region” project. In 1999 the festival organization changes, Jan Schneider becomes the director of AFO and thus changes for the up to then director Jindřich Schulz, the former vice-chancellor of the Palacký University in Olomouc. Beginning of the New Millennium
In 2001 the festival partly moves to the Regional Museum where a video forum, media forum and film bar are set up: “We want to increase the number of festival visitors. Returning to the previous quarters of the festival should be a way of bringing the event closer to audience so that it corresponds to the motto and the overall orientation of this year’s festival. In one word, we don’t want our festival to be focused on university pedagogues and students, but for widest public,” said Schneider 19 April 2001 to MF DNES. The festival is given a new name: International Festival of Documentary Films and Multimedia Educational Programs. The organizational team cancels the competition of educational films. More profound organizational changes take place in 2003. Rostislav Hladký becomes the new director, the festival changes its date and for the first time it takes place in autumn.
The organization of the festival goes into the hands of the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies of the Palacký University. The organizers return to its spring term, Petr Bilík becomes its director. AFO begins to co-operate with the non-governmental organization JSAF, the organizer of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival. The aim of the new organizational team is to not overlap the program of the Jihlava festival, to anchor the program structure tightly within educational and science documentary films and strengthen its international character. This is why AFO gives space to educational programs by BBC or Discovery Channels. Academia Film Olomouc does not want to be just a spectacle show that would “be forced to change its face according to moods and momentary attitudes of its audience,“ as Petr Bilík puts it. We want it to be “an artistic encyclopedia of informative and inspirational experiences”. The festival adopted the name the International Festival of Science Documentary Films. “Watch and Know” is its motto. New conception and organizers have the effect of increase of interest about the festival particularly on the part of wider public and AFO becomes an event of a worldwide importance.
Apart from the festival program, the organizers focus a lot on its design. All the graphic components, starting with the festival logo, posters, invitations, festival daily and catalogue to the festival trailer and festival minutes, have one single design. Author of the trailer is Josef Abrahám, Jr. during the years 2007-2009. Students of the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies occupy all the festival positions of the festival under the supervision of their pedagogues. The festival is thus also an educational platform. International market of science documentary films DOC Port is a part of AFO as well. A significant part of the festival is formed by the accompanying program including concerts of the Czech alternative club music (e.g. Sunshine, Ohm Square, Airfare) and screenings on the square. AFO into Region, an inseparable part of the festival, origins in co-operation with secondary schools. It offers the students from the Olomouc region to get acquainted with the most interesting things about the festival which is held at the university they are studying at. AFO puts major focus on printed promotion. A voluminous catalogue and the festival daily AFOhled are available for the festival visitors. Students of the department also film a videojournal called AFOsféra during this event. Those who cannot be present at the festival, can watch the television broadcasting of festival minutes.
Program Structure of the Festival
Students of the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies of the Palacký University have co-operated on the program structure since 2007. They choose films together with the main program manager, discuss them and put them within proper program blocks. The main part of the program is formed by the International and Czech competitions. Other parts of the program are retrospective and then it is especially the section Studio which includes blocks with screenings, lectures and discussions that are within particular thematic sections. Topics such as Body and Carnality, 1968: Global Revolt, Experiments on Humans, Mystery of the Universe, Film and Ideology were introduced during the past years.
Significant personalities of science, cinematography and television production were introduced during the festival. In 2007 it was especially Albert Barillé, the French creator of the population series Once Upon a Time… (Man, Life). The British BBC documentarist Nigel Marven visited Olomouc one year later, in 2009 it was the American Jeff Lieberman who hosts the successful show Time Warp, broadcast by Discovery Channel, or Andrew Holtz, author of the book The Medical Science of House, M.D. – The facts behind the addictive medical drama. Other significant guests were e.g. the undersea filmmaker Steve Lichtag or the British filmmaker and a biologist David Barlow, who films the inside of a human body. In 2013 Richard Saunders was invited to be a member of the "World Competition Jury" for the 48th festival. He also gave a lecture on the claims of water divining as part of the "Pseudoscience" block and a lecture and workshops on origami as part of the "The Beauty of Numbers" block.
- "AFO 48: Competition Juries". Olomouc, Czech Republic: Acadamia Film Olomouc. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
- "Call for AFO48: Discover the beauty of mathematics" (in Czech). Olomouc, Czech Republic: Acadamia Film Olomouc. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- "Clash of science toll on AFO48 judge Richard Saunders" (in Czech). Olomouc, Czech Republic: Acadamia Film Olomouc. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- Academia Film Olomouc (2013), "48th International Festival of Science Documentary Films", catalog (Olomouc, Czech Republic: Profi-Tisk Group s.r.o.): 86, 91, ISBN 9788024434629, retrieved 16 May 2013