Monday April 17, 2017, 24:00 on ERT2
Nespatřené (The Unseen), 1996, Czech Republic, 53 min.
Director: Miroslav Janek
“Sometimes I think I should give up, but life is for living,” says a blind boy in Miroslav Janek’s The Unseen. This award-winning documentary takes place in a school for blind children in Prague. For too long the disabled were hidden from the public eye, they were unseen. Janek’s film rectifies this by allowing the children to tell their own stories.
Nowhere in the film do we see any adults, except for a photograph of a caretaker’s legs and a portrait of the cameraman. These are both taken by the children, whose many photographs shape the film’s conceptual framework. We hear only the children’s voices, and a boy with a unique talent for comedy narrates most of the film. We enter into the children’s world as we see them laugh, tease one another, ride bicycles, sing, and play instruments. Most of them share a passion for taking pictures. Their affinity with a reality they do not see but are eager to record is established in the opening scene of the film, in which two teenagers learn how to operate a 16mm film camera.
Janek and his wife Tonicka, the film’s editor, have been making television documentaries since their return to the Czech Republic from the United States in the mid-1990s. This film is a modest but powerful gem. It is a witty and heart-warming portrayal of humble existence that extends itself beyond the visible as we know it. The Unseen is a celebration of life in which these delightful children attest that creativity and joie de vivre have no boundaries.
—Kamila Kuc, writer, filmmaker and curator