News Interview: Helena Třeštíková about her documentary Mallory

Published: July 03, 2015| 06:00 AM

Czech documentarian Helena Třeštíková has made a name for herself shooting intimate observational films that chart her subjects as they undergo tectonic shifts at key stages of their lives. Her protagonists are often outcasts, grappling with drug dependency, poverty, crime, and other social ills. For her latest, atypically upbeat work, Mallory, Třeštíková spent 13 years following a courageous woman’s efforts to escape a harrowing life of substance abuse and homelessness.

Why exactly did you choose Mallory as a subject?
She lived in a shelter with her one-year-old boy and she caught my interest because she is very outgoing, authentic, sometimes self-destructively honest. She is not shy about the camera and she is just the same in front of and away from it. She does not act. Those are great qualities for a documentary. After making an initial short documentary, I couldn’t stop shooting Mallory. Even though I was busy with other projects I thought I must come back to her. And, after the Negativ production company got involved in 2009, we shot intensively up until this February.

You witnessed Mallory’s long battle with the authorities over housing, work, and welfare. What do you think of Czech bureaucracy after all those visits to government offices?
We tried to document how the state can help a person in a difficult situation and in this case the state totally and unexpectedly failed. For those officials, Mallory was just a routine item; they didn’t see the human being behind her case – it sounds like a cliché but it was extremely depressing. For example, the vacant social housing project for rent defaulters that Mallory wasn’t allowed to move into because she was not a defaulter – she never owed money for housing. They were unable to arrange a temporary exception for her. The apartments remained empty and she lived in a car for a year with her boyfriend while her son Kryštof was in a home. It was frustrating... If my film managed to launch a debate about the necessity of social housing, it would prove itself worthwhile.

Read the whole interview in today's Festival Daily.

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