AFO film and science festival: A journey into both physical and virtual memory

Graphics: AFO
Thursday 25 January 2024, 14:00 – Text: Martina Vysloužilová

Film screenings and top documentaries from around the world, unforgettable lectures, meetings, and debates! This year’s 59th Academia Film Olomouc International Festival of Science Documentary Films (AFO), organised by Palacký University Olomouc, will be indelibly etched in its visitors’ memories. Documentary film fans will meet in Olomouc from 23 to 28 April 2024.

This year, the festival’s main theme will be Memory. The audience can look forward to ambitious journeys “into the future past”, passing through prehistory and the dinosaur era all the way to the time of artificial intelligence. Festival programmers aim to search for the key to understanding memory in the context of society and technology, and together with the audience they will imagine a world in which memory is completely absent. Interesting guests from abroad will once again come to the Czech Republic. The accompanying programme will target adults and children alike.

Remembering is not knowing

“The programme will reflect on the various ways in which memory and information storage affect our world and the relationship between memory and knowledge. We are interested in human memory in terms of the storage of information and individual memories, as well as “technological memory” – the evolution of the various technologies to which humans have developed over history to delegate their own memory. That is, all the way from the emergence of writing to neural networks,” said Zdeněk Rychtera, the main programmer of the Memory section.

Thus, the entire main programme section will be dedicated to memory, with film screenings, lectures, and podcasts. However, this theme will also be woven organically into the other programme sections outside the competition, and shown from various angles. The AFO programme will include sections on Resilience, Naturalness and Nature, Of Mushrooms and Men, The Dinosaurs of Tomorrow, and Science in Pop Culture.

Tributes to Jane Goodall and Cormac McCarthy

“On the occasion of Jane Goodall’s 90th birthday, we are going to commemorate the vital legacy of this iconic scientist and activist. We will also present an intimate documentary on the work and ideas of author Cormac McCarthy, who spent the last 25 years of his life as an active member in residence at the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary research centre. The Czech premiere of Cormac McCarthy’s Veer by Polish director and physicist Karol Jałochowski will be featured,” said Ondřej Kazík, the festival’s head of programming.

Fans will experience the genius loci of newly renovated buildings

The festival will also continue its cooperation with external partners such as Czech Television, which will again be the general media partner of the festival, and the National Film Archive. AFO is also expanding the list of key festival venues. “One of them is the renovated Central cinema in the Olomouc Museum of Art; our visitors will surely love it because of its proximity to the festival headquarters and its excellent facilities. Another one is the Red Church of the Olomouc Research Library, where the VR zone will be featured for the whole week; it has grown in size compared to last year, and this will allow us to present new possibilities of working with augmented reality. Our AFO Junior section will also be expanded. In addition, we’ve agreed to cooperate more closely with Czech Radio Olomouc with their beautiful premises where we want to bring festival visitors from all over the world,” added AFO director Eva Navrátilová.

The festival’s visual identity: Back to the future

Every year, AFO comes up with a new visual identity that is in line with the main theme. This year, the creative team tried to elaborate on the theme of memory and “invited” artificial intelligence to join the team. So, a canine crew oversees and navigates astronauts on the Moon. The graphics are based on a retro aesthetic, and the typography evokes the golden era of theme parks. The festival becomes a unique place in space and time, with its own rules, waiting to be filled with visitors’ experiences.

“Using AI, we prompted scenarios from the past that relate to the selected iconic event. And it’s turned out that AI is unable to process such a request accurately. With our graphics, we want to show that human memory is selective, too. History is written by the victors; our memories are being managed by external servers, and for the time being, AI is interpreting all this data with a high error rate. The ‘memory’ of our yet non-existent festival is also an alternate one. So, we’re starting to build a unique ecosystem and attraction that will culminate during the festival, as we will experience a journey to this unique place together,” said graphic designer and art director Radim Měsíc when describing the creation of the AFO59 visual identity.

The Academia Film Olomouc International Festival of Science Documentary Films (AFO) has been organised by Palacký University Olomouc since 1966. It is one of the oldest Czech film festivals. Its driving organisational force is, most importantly, current as well as former UP students. The chance to take part in the production of such a large event is an ideal opportunity for them to test and develop their own skills. AFO is thus not only a world-renowned festival, but also an established educational platform. It is one of the most visited film festivals in the Czech Republic in terms of the number of accredited viewers.



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