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The Beautiful Fly of the Bees

The Beautiful Fly of the Bees

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(Včely letěly krásně) Director: Karel Čtveráček, CZ, 2009, Czech version, 70 min

The reconstruction of the photographic Atelier Seidel in Český Krumlov and the rediscovery of a unique collection of nearly 140,000 historical photographs becomes not only the basis for the narrative of a life-story of two photographers – father and son, but also leads to the revival of Czech-German dialogue, and to the reconstruction of the long-gone lives and culture. It brings us to a general meditation over photography, which serves here not only as historical testimony, but also as a means of experiencing and remembering.

The shooting of the documentary about the Photographic atelier Seidel began in February 2006. At that time, the quiet building of the art-nouveau atelier still pulsed with the life of the Seidel family, and the future seemed unsure, just as the first spring flight of bees seems unsure in frosty days. The stream of events got into motion and a new legend was about to be born. In the course of the following three years, Atelier Seidel in Český Krumlov went through a wondrous change. The old art-nouveau building was dressed anew, rare machines were restored, and photographs on glass-panels were moved to the depositary and conserved. The story of the family of photographers, which seemed long-forgotten, gained new glaze at the sight of thousands of photographs, which were preserved as if by miracle.

The documentary The Beautiful Fly of the Bees records the memories of the contemporaries as well as the lively course of events concerning the present revitalisation of the atelier. The archive shots and old photographs bring us back to the times when people in Šumava floated wood, extracted peat, and the beekeepers enjoyed the annual flight of the bees. Eventually, the historical events stirred up people’s destinies and changed the face of the Czech-German border forever.

Thanks to their remarkable entrepreneurial zest and exceptional talent, both Seidel-photographers preserved for us an authentic picture of the world that would have otherwise been irretrievably lost from our horizon. Today, thanks to them, we can study from the photographs the pre-war culture and society of Šumava, or just to dream for a while, to set ourselves free and overcome the course of the time. As Suzan Sontag writes, photographs are not only doses of information, but also clouds of fantasy. During the three years of shooting the atelier was visited by people who once worked there or who are connected to the place through family history. There are people from both sides of the border, who still remember Franz Seidel and his wife, people whose testimony is exceedingly personal and reaches back to the times directly after World War Two.

The photographer Jan Štindl, who photographed and retouched in the atelier after the war, has now, after long years, come to the place which determined the course of his life. Othmar Hanke, a close family friend, was after the war together with his family moved to Austrua – now he attempts to establish a common database with the photographs of Šumava. Manfred Pranghofer, the director of Böhmerwaldmuseum Passau, attempted already before 1989 to preserve the photographs from the Photographic atelier Seidel and now comes to the atelier to have his portrait done again. There is also Ing. Petr Hudičák, the director and soul of the project of the reconstruction of the atelier and the preservation of the photographic collection.

The photographs found in the atelier of Josef Seidel are today a priceless testimony to one epoch; they are the memory of an extinct culture, which for centuries formed the character of the border region of Šumava. They also become the connective element for people on both sides of the Czech-German border, who strive to save their common cultural heritage.

The screening will be presented with a personal appearance by the filmmakers. A discussion will follow the screening.


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