British film director Marc Isaacs speaks to us about his recent trip to the Prague Jeden svět film festival, his views on Czech mentality, and his deep thoughts behind his new film – The Road : A History of Life and Death. Reporter Kirsty Rigg speaks with him to find out more…
With 100,000 attendees, the Jeden svět festival, organised by People in Need, sits proudly as the largest documentary festival on human rights in the world. It comes as no surpise that such an event, which took place in Prague between 4 and 13 of March, drew in mass talent from across the water, with names from far and wide who gathered together to raise glasses to a good and possibly under-celebrated cause.
Among the enormous crowds was a handsome, scraggly-haired Londoner called Marc Isaacs, whose casual appearance had him blend in more with the media crowd more than it did the line of up and coming directors. His film, which was screened at Kino Lucerna mid-festival triggered a poignant question and answer session with his adorning Prague audience, who he had clearly made an impact on.
The film is an unusually moving documentary about based around human suffering, and the apparently endless search for happiness which can never be concluded as it is layered in ambiguity. He documents the lives of people from all corners of society, people who differ enormously in background and the journey which they are on, but he cleverly glues them together on one ground – they are all on “the road”. The characters include an old construction worker losing himself to alcohol, a refugee from Kashmir making his way as a hotel porter, and an old Jewish lady who fled her Austrian home before the Nazis. Isaacs interviews them gently but sternly throughout the documentary, and manages to open them up to profoundly intimate conversations.
“What is happiness?” He said to his Lucerna audience. “Nobody can ever truly answer that question because in reality it is ambiguous. The reality is not a black and white story like we hope. We are all searching for this oneness with the world that we’re never going to get.”
After the screening, Mr. Isaacs found the time to answer a few questions from myself. He spoke from the side of a Londoner looking fondly at the sights of Prague, and despite admitting that he doesn’t know the city so well, he clearly had a soft spot for it.
“Being in Prague is basically like being on holiday in the country” He said. “In London everyone is always fighting for space, it is not like that here.”
Despite saying he would not consider the Czech capital as a place for filming in the future, he insisted that this was largely owning to his own lack of knowledge and said that he would rather “leave it to the wonderful Czech filmmakers”.
He added: “ I don’t really have knowledge of the Czech film industry of today, but I am a great fan of the Czech new wave directors and wish I was around at that moment when everything seemed new and exciting”. He also said that from the little time he spent with Czechs, he found them to be extremely “welcoming and hospitable”.
Marc Isaacs’ creative documentaries have won various awards including Royal Television Society, BAFTA and various film festival prizes. Marc is a guest tutor at the London Film School, the National Film and Television School (London) and Royal Holloway University (UK).
He hopes to return back to Prague for future film festivals.
More information: http://www.marcisaacsfilms.com