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KARLOVY VARY 2022 Proxima

Review: Art Talent Show

by 

- Adéla Komrzý and Tomáš Bojar's documentary depicts one week of entrance exams for the Prague Academy of Arts

Review: Art Talent Show

The first collaboration between Czech filmmakers Adéla Komrzý (Intensive Life Unit [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) and Tomáš Bojar (FC Roma [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), the feature documentary Art Talent Show [+see also:
trailer
interview: Adéla Komrzý and Tomás Bojar
film profile
]
, was filmed over one week during entrance exams for the Prague Academy of Arts. Taking the point of view of the institution, what comes out as more interesting are the questions the professors ask the prospective students and their responses, rather than the whole process itself. The film has just world-premiered in Karlovy Vary's Proxima competition.

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The documentary takes a while to take off as what we see in the first half-hour is quite static and hard to connect to: the professors of the three studios – Painting, Graphic Design and New Media – are looking through the applicants' submissions while we watch them from a bird's eye perspective. They are having fun with their comments and opinions, but for the viewer who still lacks any knowledge of the professors as characters, and who gets to see just parts of the submitted works, this opening section quickly starts feeling redundant.

The film comes to life once the interviews with the applicants begin, and we start recognising the specificities of the professors' tastes and interests. Their main goal seems to be to challenge the young wannabe artists about their views of art, life and society, and these conversations often turn out to be thought-provoking. Does art have ethical borders? Why do you do what you do? Who is art intended for? What does it mean to "sell out" as an artist?

The responses of the young people often confirm the viewers' expectations - much talk is made about sexual orientation and the correct gender pronouns, especially with the two most colourful of the teachers, Kateřina Olivová and Darina Alster from the New Media department. In Painting, Marek Meduna and Petr Dub pose difficult questions to students who have not thought in-depth about the purpose of their art or the reasons for the approach they take. In Graphic Design, we would like to learn more about professor Vladimír Kokolia, a painter, poet and musician who seems interesting and charismatic enough a protagonist to get his own documentary.

Two receptionist ladies who appear several times serve as an obvious metaphor for the entrance – they are the ones who unlock the door – but their folksy, deadpan retorts to students add much needed life to the proceedings that sometimes turn plodding and over-stretched. At 102 minutes, the documentary overstays its welcome, but this is because of the protracted beginning rather than what happens in the second, more dynamic part of the film.

Some of the film's appeal might be lost in translation, with international viewers not being acquainted with the Czech art scene. The conclusions that the viewer can take from the documentary are quite timely and show how the selection process very much belongs to its era: the very self-conscious applicants tend to go heavy on social and human rights issues. This is far from unexpected but the way the teachers guide them to these responses is probably the most intriguing part of the film.

On the technical side, the building of the Academy proves to be a fertile ground for Šimon Dvořáček's restrained cinematography, which, when combined with Hedvika Hansalová's no-nonsense editing even brings a bit of a tongue-in-cheek humour to the artsy film made about an art institution.

Art Talent Show was co-produced by the Czech Republic's GPO Platform, the Prague Academy of Arts and Czech Television.

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