Anthology Film Archives


May 5 – May 11


Though her career has attracted very little attention in the U.S., Helena Třeštíková is a crucial figure in her native Czech Republic, where she has constructed one of the more distinctive, methodical, and revealing bodies of work in modern non-fiction filmmaking. Over the course of nearly five decades she has directed dozens of documentaries – for both theatrical exhibition and television broadcast – many of which have screened widely at international film festivals. The majority of her films employ a methodology that is not unprecedented, but which she has explored with an unparalleled degree of commitment and focus: so-called “time-lapse” portraits. Reminiscent of Michael Apted’s “Up” series (28 UP, 35 UP, 42 UP, etc.), but focusing on particular couples or single individuals rather than a group, her films revisit their subjects repeatedly over many years (even decades), charting the course of their lives and the effects of time, age, and experience. She has, effectively, devoted the greater part of her career to the experiment that the UP films represented, and the result is a rich and profoundly revealing body of work that captures the lives of ordinary men and women of diverse ages, backgrounds, and fates, and speaks multitudes about Czech society and culture throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Her films also reflect – sometimes implicitly and sometimes quite explicitly – some of the most interesting and fraught ethical dimensions involved in the project of nonfiction filmmaking. In particular, her films RENÉ (2008) and RENÉ – THE PRISONER OF FREEDOM (2021) represent a fascinating exploration of the tension and power dynamics between filmmaker and subject, thanks precisely to the many years during which they were filmed, a span of time that allowed the films not only to depict the life of René but to delve into the impact Třeštíková has had on that life.

This dynamic is one that’s further explored in our concurrent and related film series, “Documentary Feedback”. Alongside that series, we’re thrilled to present this brief, necessarily partial survey of Třeštíková’s career, and to welcome Třeštíková herself to New York to present several of the films in person!

Co-presented by the Czech Center New York, which has generously supported the retrospective.

Special thanks to Helena Třeštíková; Miroslav Konvalina & Ivana Andersen (Czech Center New York); Zuzana Černá (negativ film productions); Helena Koutná; and Petar Mitric (Taskovski Films).

Helena Třeštíková will be here in person to present the screenings on Sat & Sun, May 6 & 7!

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