One of the most important Czech documentary filmmakers, Helena Třeštíková has directed some forty films since graduating from Prague’s FAMU film school. Her latest trilogy of portraits (“Marcela”, “René”, “Katka”), shot in the late 2000s, brought her international attention. Masterpieces of editing, the three films confirm the filmmaker’s deftness at transforming the humdrum existence of the downtrodden into unique, fascinating narratives.
She worked for a long time in Czech television, which funded the hit series “Marriage Stories” (1987), seven years portraits of young married couples. The series’ six episodes combined sociology, demography and “cinéma-vérité”, making the filmmaker very popular in her country. It was followed in 2006 by a second series, “Marriage Stories 20 Years Later”, which catches up with the couples later in their lives. Both series feature Trestikova’s signature working method, known as time collection.
During her years in Czech television, Trestikova showed an interest in female characters, directing several portraits of women with tragic lives. The disgraced actress in Lída Baarová’s “Bittersweet Memories” (1995), the imprisoned opponents of Communism in Sweet Century (1998), the victim of Nazism and Stalinism in Hitler, “Stalin and Me” (2001) and the concentration camp survivor in “My Lucky Star” (2004) all recount their personal histories, marred by 20th-century totalitarian ideologies.
Her latest trilogy of portraits (“Marcela”, “René”, “Katka” ), shot in the late 2000s, brought her international attention. René won the prestigious best documentary prize at the European Film Awards in 2008. “Katka” won two awards at the RIDM in 2010, including best editing. In these three portraits of society’s outcasts, shot over a period of ten to twenty years, the director focuses more than ever on continuity over time, patiently building stories and waiting for events that will signify a life. Masterpieces of editing, the three films confirm the filmmaker’s deftness at transforming the humdrum existence of the downtrodden into unique, fascinating narratives. The trilogy also highlights Trestikova’s complex relationship with her characters, especially in “René”, where her own life increasingly comes into play.
She continued with her time-lapse method also in her latter works, like “Private Universe”, covering a span of 37 years from the life of one family. Recently, Helena Trestikova’s works have been the subject of retrospectives at several major festivals, including Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema (BAFICI), the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and RIDM Montreal.