KVIFF 2017 Review: The Black & White ‘White World According to Daliborek’
The uneasy relationship between documentarian and subject is questioned, strained, and then completely broken in The White World According to Daliborek (in Czech, Svět podle Daliborka), a portrait of a rural Czech wannabe neo-Nazi so aggressively staged that you wonder why the filmmakers didn’t just hire actors and make a fictional film.
To be sure, that is not the intent of director Vít Klusák, a provocateur who, in his most famous movie Český sen (Czech Dream), invented a new too-good-to-be-true megastore and then filmed the pitiful masses lining up for its non-existent grand opening.
No, before introducing Daliborek to audiences at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival during its world premiere, Klusák launched into a diatribe against Czech president Miloš Zeman and his latest statements about the Lety concentration camp (which is currently, against all reason, a pig farm) before claiming that’s why it’s important to make films such as this one.
Clearly, the director has an agenda. I’d argue it might be more heroic to tackle Zeman himself, or the Czech neo-Nazis that have an actual impact on society, but Klusák limits his focus to a single man with all of 185 YouTube views.
For nearly all of The White World According to Daliborek, however, Klusák doesn’t intervene in the portrayal of his subject: a Czech skinhead who makes little-seen hate-filled YouTube videos under the name Destruktor666.
In reality (or the film’s reality), Daliborek is a little more than a pathetic man-child who espouses Holocaust conspiracy theories, sexist and racist rants he turns into music videos, and other assorted bigotry without any knowledge of the world outside the small Prostějov flat he occupies with his mother.
The film is careful to note that those who surround Daliborek are not without sin. His girlfriend, while not to keen on a skinhead rally Daliborek brings her too, casually upholds racist ideals; his mother’s boyfriend nostalgically recalls violence against Roma (the largest ethnic minority in the Czech Republic); and mom supports everything he does, including donning blackface for a YouTube video in which Destruktor666 attacks a pair of homeless people.
But while Klusák doesn’t insert himself into the film (for a while, anyway), his compositions reveal direct interference in the lives of his subjects. Such is the unprecedented access to this character that we have a shot of Dalibor soaking in a bath full of suds, and get a POV shot of his filthy, cracked nails resting on the basin.
How this shot - or any other in the film - came to be filmed is questionable, but one thing is certain: the director does not employ a fly-on-the-wall tactic to observe his subject. How much of the movie has been instigated by Klusák is questionable, but we really shouldn’t be left wondering how much of the film is “real”, anyway.
In an “epilogue”, Daliborek and family, along with the filmmakers, take a journey to Auschwitz on a crass tour bus that reads “Come to Auschwitz - A Journey Through Emotions.” The bus is, in fact, a prop created for the movie (not that most viewers would know this), and caused a real-life stir last year when the owner continued to operate it with the tacky artwork, claiming it would cost too much to remove.
Here, the filmmakers put Daliborek face-to-face with a real-life Auschwitz survivor, and you can guess what happens next as he struggles to justify her story with the conspiracy theories he’s read online. This gives the survivor, the tour guide, and other parties the opportunity to incredulously react to his nonsense.
“I feel sorry for you,” says one woman. I concur.
But the filmmakers don’t. After 100 minutes of staying silent, Klusák finally interjects himself in the film for a big “shame on you” finale. At this moment, the four lead characters seem to know what the film’s true intent was, and may finally realize they’ve been had.
Of course, Daliborek and co. had no intent of travelling to Auschwitz: it’s the director and his co-writers who are at fault for contriving a scenario that results in real-world pain and embarrassment.
The Daliborek pictured in the film is a sad and even pathetic individual, and unlike the filmmakers, I derive no pleasure from ridiculing him. As much as the lead character is filled with hate, so is the director; that he’s on the “right” side of things shouldn’t be an excuse for the vitriol.
In end-credits scrawl, we are told that after production Daliborek unfriended his far-right friends on Facebook and deleted his YouTube channel. It’s possible that he is capable of learning, of reforming, and of abandoning his ideology of hate. The same cannot be said of the filmmakers.
It might sound like I didn’t care for The White World According to Daliborek, but in fact the opposite is true: I heartily disagree with the filmmaker’s style and purpose, but this lends the film a unique dynamic and insight into documentary filmmaking, and I think viewers both in the Czech Republic and abroad will find it fascinating. Of all the films I caught at this year's Karlovy Vary fest, audiences responded best to this one, with a minutes-long standing ovation.
The lead character, too, is engaging enough is his own right, in a car-crash kind of way (before the film, he was ridiculed in the online world). Regardless of the movie’s hard-line stance, intelligent viewers will be able to make up their own minds about how to view him.
The White World According to Daliborek will open in cinemas across the Czech Republic from July 13.