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Fonja - Echoes of Ji.hlava 3rd Edition

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Czech Center New York

321 East 73rd Street

New York, NY 10021

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The winning movie in category Best World Documentary Film, Special Mention from the 23rd edition of Ji.hlava International Documentary Film.

About this Event

February 27, 7PM

In the Cinema

Directors: Ravo Henintsoa Andrianatoandro, Lovatiana Desire Santatra, Sitraka Hermann Ramanamokatra, Jean Chrisostome Rakotondrabe, Erick Edwin Andrianamelona, Elani Eric Rakotondrasoa, Todisoa Niaina Sylvano Randrialalaina, Sitrakaniaina Raharisoa, Adriano Raharison Nantenaina, Alpha Adrimamy Fenotoky, Lina Zacher, 2019, 80 min, Madagascar and Germany.

In Malagasy with English subtitles.

Fonja is a film made by the youngest and possibly most exceptional filmcrew of Madagascar. Over the course of a four months film production workshop, ten detainees from the male youth prison of Madagascar’s largest detention center in the capital Antananarivo discover the camera for the first time.

While they learn about the specifications and rules they also develop their very own approach to use the camera. It becomes a tool to play around, to vizualize their own ideas, to rediscover their familiar surrounding upside down, through a filter of purple or fully zoomed into detail. Fonja takes us on a journey into their daily life in the prison through images independently shot by the young prisoners themselves. We get a glipmse into a world which is shaped by a strong hierarchy and the obedience of internal rules on the one side and social cohesion and solidarity on the other side. A story about struggles and dreams, told by a strong bonded group and their great spirit to invest all of their creativity, energy and inspiration to make their own film.

The location

The youth prison Antanimora is part of the „Maison centrale Antananarivo“, the largest prison in Tana and surroundings. The approximately 2600 inmates exceed the capacity of 800 over three times. The prison consists of a building complex with three different sections, each organized as a collection cell; the women‘s and children‘s prison, the adult wing and the unit for underage male adolescents. 80% of young people are in socalled protective custody and wait usually for several years or in vain for a lawsuit. Approximately 70% of the youth are orphans and grew up on the streets of Antananarivo.

Crew biography

Raharisoa Sitrakaniaina

Sitraka entered the prison when he was 14. Since then he has taken over many duties and has started to organise activities on his own. He is the room-lea- der of one of the two cells (dorms) and is respon- sible for instructing the room members, to solve internal conflicts and to report major problems to the prison-guards. He organises small commissions like food-orders from the prisoners for outside and also leads the ‘playtable’ where he rents out cards to others for a small fee.

Since 2016 Sitraka has started a theatre-group with around 15 members. Every half a year they perform their self-written theaterplay to the rest of the priso- ners. The other activities Sitraka conducts include a self-managed preaching-service inside the cell at night, story-telling gatherings and slam-events. Over the course of the film-shootings he played a major role both as camera-man, for organising the day-schedule, leading interviews and as main cha- racter behind the camera.

When he will be released in 2021 he wants to conti- nue working in the field of film both as cameraman/ cinematogrpher and director.

Rakotondrabe Jean Chrisostome

Jean Chrisostome also belonged to some of the eldest and long-term detainees un- til he was released in 2018. Together with Sitraka he conducted a lot of the activities like the theatre-group and slam-events. Instead of documenting right in the center of attention he preferred to take the ca- mera and step back to capture more quiet movements like the proceeding of a small ant or the slow passing-on of clouds in the sky. Besides the camera, music is one of his biggest talents. He writes songs and raps which he performs behind the came- ra and with the audio-recorder always on his side, sometimes solo and sometimes with a whole dance-crew next to him.

Raharison Nantenaina Adriano

Adriano entered the prison at the age of 16 and was released in April this year. He belonged to one of the eldest and used to spend his time by drawing pic- tures, cartoons and designs or logos for all kinds of announcements of prison activities. During the workshop Adria- no specialised himself in the technical handling of the cameras. To choose and change lenses, menu settings and deci- de what angle and frame is appropriate for the action to be documented were the tasks he was responsible of during the project.

Adriamamy Feotoky Alpha

Alpha was detained for 3 years and is already enjoying freedom during the- se days. He also belonged to Sitraka‘s group, helping him with everything that was on the plan for daily film-shootings. Next to his duties at film-activities, he was also responsible for the opening and closing of the main gate, to check everybody who passes through and to communicate with the guards about the upcoming program. He has earned himself this job after a long way of lo- wer tasks and he belonged just like Sitraka to some of the ones who enjoy high social status and respect among the fellow prisoners. Oftentimes he did camera-man work and handed-on his obtained abilities in terms of came- ra-handling to others.

Lina Zacher

Lina Zacher, born in 1991, studied Industrial Design and Game and Learning Design from 2013-2016 and then moved to the class of Stella Geppert in the field of Art Education. Together with Delphine Bishop she developed the video exchange project „Mio“, a concept for improving intercultural learning in schools and then founded the same-named associa- tion „Mio e.V“. In the Philippines, Lina Zacher spent more than half a year working with refu- gee children of the indigenous tribe ‚Lumad‘ and realized together with the Philippine artist Aba Dalena the exhibition ‚Batang Lumad‘ (Lumad Child), which addresses the current problem of ‚landgrabbing‘.

For her latest project and debut „Fonja,“ a do- cumentary film shot by juvenile detainees, she spent more than four months in a youth prison in Madagascar, teaching camera handling, image composition, and editing techniques.

Author‘s statement

My vision for this project is to carry out this personal and unique film with and from the minors of the youth prison Antanimora in Madagascar.

This film is not only an important portrait which is highly relevant for human rights dis- cussions but also a symbol for the great talent and individual creativity lurking in all of us even at a place being despised of society like prisons. My goal is to push those unusual young filmmakers and to make their effort a success. I want to reach out and spread the great spirit and positivity of this strong group to inspire and create wonder among others.

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Czech Center New York

321 East 73rd Street

New York, NY 10021

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