Academia Film Olomouc

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Academia Film Olomouc (AFO) an international documentary film festival in Olomouc, Czech Republic, held each April under the patronage of the Palacký University. The focus of the festival is scientific and educational films from the fields of humanities, natural science and social science, and current scientific, artistic and technological advances. The festival's panel consists of industry professionals in the fields of filmography and the natural sciences. Alongside the festival itself, the organizers prepare screenings for schools, and screenings in the city's Upper Square for the general public, and host screenings of key recent films in the other European cities, including Brussels, Paris, Vienna, and Prague. AFO is hosted by Palacký University's Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies, part of the Philosophical Faculty.


Origin and early years[edit]

A screening in Olomouc's Upper Square

Academia Film Olomouc was established in 1966 by the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Short Film Prague and Palacký University, inspired by a festival of didactic films in Padua, Italy, also held within the university campus. Short Film Prague, the main promoter of the festival from its beginning, had been producing educational films since the 1950s, by film-makers including Jiří Lehovec, Jan Calábek and Bohumil Vošáhlík. These films presented current scientific discoveries and innovations so as to be comprehensible to students and schoolchildren, as well as scientists, and gained an international reputation at the time. At the same time, a separate department dealing with similar topics was working within Czechoslovak State Film in the 1950s and 1960s.

Collaboration between the university and the film industry was a logical way to introduce the general public to up-to-date scientific ideas. The festival in Padua became a model for staff at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, who turned to Palacký University, known for an active programme of cultural events in the 1960s. The university professor Jiří Stýskal sponsored the first screenings of science documentary films in Olomouc with his colleagues Eduard Petrů, Alena Štěrbová and Miroslav Tomšů in 1966. The festival was given the name Academia Film twelve months later, after a positive reception.

The festival grew throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Television broadcasting in the country was also developing in the country in the 1970s, and Czechoslovak Television participated in the festival, enriching the festival program. Interest in AFO increased into the 1980s, and the number of films in the competition grew, with what started as a small university event becoming a festival that drew the attention of the wider public. AFO reacted to the growth of the video phenomenon in 1986 by including in its program one of the first video projections in Czechoslovakia. This was an important step, as the Central Film Distributor that distributed films within Czechoslovakia had only started buying video programs from the around the world for distribution in Czech and Slovakian cinemas since 1 January 1985. AFO was therefore among the first institutions that helped the progress of the integral network of video programs.[clarification needed][citation needed]


In the 1990s AFO became an international festival, but experienced problems due to the end of state funding. Short Film Prague gained independence and began to focus more on co-productions of feature films, and the financial situation of the education system deteriorated. While still receiving funding from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and Ministry of Culture, the festival was increasingly forced to rely on private sponsors. In 1997 the festival organizers established the Award for the Best Multimedia Educational Program, and began to seek an audience outside the duration of the festival with the “AFO into Region” project.[clarification needed] In 1999 Jan Schneider became the director of AFO, replacing Jindřich Schulz, the former vice-chancellor of Palacký University.

In 2001 the festival moved part of its operations to the Regional Museum, where a video forum, media forum and film bar were set up, with Schneider telling MF Dnes that the move was "a way of bringing the event closer to the audience".[1] The festival was renamed as the International Festival of Documentary Films and Multimedia Educational Programs, and the organising team cancelled the education films competition. In 2003 Rostislav Hladký became the new director, and the festival changed its date, taking place in autumn for this first time.

Responsibility for the organization of the festival later fell to the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies of Palacký University, with Petr Bilík as director. They returned AFO to its original spring dates and started working with JSAF, the non-governmental organization (NGO) which organises the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, with the aim of not overlapping with the program of the Jihlava festival, defining the programme of the festival tightly within educational and science documentary films and boosting its international character. Since then, AFO has been devoting more space to educational programs by organisations like the BBC and Discovery Channel. The festival changed its name to the International Festival of Science Documentary Films, with the motto "Watch and Know".

Festival organisation[edit]

Students of the university's Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies have collaborated on the organisation of the festival and its programme since 2007, choosing films together with the main program manager, and placing them within programme categories. The main parts of the program are the International and Czech documentary competitions. Other sections of the programme are retrospective, and these sections are mainly organised by the Studio section, which includes segments with screenings, lectures and discussions on particular themes. Topics have included: Body and Carnality, 1968 - Global Revolt; Experiments on Humans; Mystery of the Universe; and Film and Ideology.

Apart from the festival program, the organizers place a strong emphasis on design, with all the graphic components of the festival, such as the logo, promotional material, and festival documentation, designed according to one single design. From 2007-09 the trailer was created by Josef Abrhám Jr.. A catalogue and daily festival newsletter, AFOhled, are produced for festival visitors, and students of the department also produce a videojournal called AFOsféra documenting the event. Students of the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies make up the festival's organising team, under the supervision of their pedagogues. The festival is thus also an educational platform. The international market of science documentary films DOC Port is also a part of AFO. The accompanying programme to the festival includes Czech alternative club music concerts and public screenings in the city's main squares.

The "AFO into Region" project involves collaboration with secondary schools, bringing students from the Olomouc region into contact with films from the festival.

Festival guests[edit]

The festival regularly features high-profile guests from the fields of science, cinematography and television production. Recent guests have included: (2007) Albert Barillé, the French creator of the series Once Upon a Time... (2007); British BBC documentary maker Nigel Marven (2008); Jeff Lieberman, the American host of the Discovery Channel show Time Warp (2009); Andrew Holtz, author of the book The Medical Science of House, M.D.; the undersea filmmaker Steve Lichtag; and the British filmmaker and biologist David Barlow, who films the inside of human bodies. In 2013 Richard Saunders was invited to be a member of the "World Competition Jury" for the 48th festival.[2] 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 Beauty of Numbers" block.[3][4][5]


  1. ^ 19 April 2001, MF DNES
  2. ^ "AFO 48: Competition Juries". Olomouc, Czech Republic: Acadamia Film Olomouc. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  3. ^ "Call for AFO48: Discover the beauty of mathematics" (in Czech). Olomouc, Czech Republic: Acadamia Film Olomouc. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Clash of science toll on AFO48 judge Richard Saunders" (in Czech). Olomouc, Czech Republic: Acadamia Film Olomouc. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Academia Film Olomouc (2013), "48th International Festival of Science Documentary Films" (PDF), catalog, Olomouc, Czech Republic: Profi-Tisk Group s.r.o., pp. 86, 91, ISBN 9788024434629, archived from the original (PDF) on 10 August 2013, retrieved 16 May 2013