Forman vs. Forman: interview with Helena Trestikova and Jakub Hejna

Picture of the movie Forman VS Forman © DR

Selected for Cannes Classics, Jakub Hejna and Helena Trestikova's documentary Forman vs. Forman is a heartfelt look back over director Miloš Forman's career, from the Czech Republic's New Wave movement to Hollywood, through never-before-seen archive material and anecdotes recounted by the filmmaker's son, Petr Forman.  

Before making this documentary, what image did you have of Miloš Forman?

Helena: I've admired Miloš Forman since I was a little girl. His Konkurs (Audition) and Černý Petr (Black Peter) were the films that inspired me to become a director.

Jakub: I saw Amadeus when I was eight, and I remember dissecting its scenes with my mother, who is a costume designer. That's how I approach film, by examining a film's story arc as a whole.

How did you set about making this documentary?

Jakub: We had wanted to make a documentary compiling all these different snapshots of Miloš Forman's life for a long time. It was important to us that he be a part of it, but his health sadly made that impossible. Helena and I had already worked together before, and because of the nature of documentary we wanted to make, we decided to direct it together. It was made entirely in an editing room.

Helena: We began researching in 2017, working with over 70 different sources.

How did you edit the documentary?

Helena: We tried to maintain a link between Miloš' words and the images, putting the emphasis on his life's overarching themes.

Jakub: We wanted to turn this archive material into a new, independent film. We continued receiving various snippets right up until the very end of the editing, which meant we were continuously going back over sequences we had already finished, to feed the new material back in.

In the documentary, you paint a very comprehensive portrait of Miloš Forman, incorporating film extracts, home videos and newspaper articles. What do the archive materials tell us about the kind of person he was?

Helena: To me, what really shines through is how he was an outsider on an endless quest for freedom.

Jakub: I'm fascinated by the turning points in his life, such as when his parents died in a concentration camp, the years of failure in the States. I'm impressed by his ability to overcome adversity and to seize crucial opportunities despite the hardship he had faced.

How did you reach out to Petr Forman? How did you convince him to get involved?

Helena and Jakub: We have known Petr Forman for a very long time, and right from the start, we knew we wanted to add a voice-over to narrate some sections. Petr was a pleasure to work with, and just like his father, he's a highly creative person who managed to take the art of the voice-over to the next level, with an even-handed, well-balanced touch.