About Film

The shooting of the documentary film about the photography studio Ateliér Seidel started in February 2006. At that time the pulse of the life of the Seidel family still lingered in the silent building with its Secession studio, and the future appeared uncertain, just like the first uncertain spring flight of the bees in frosty days. A stream of events was put into motion, and a legend began to be born. Over the next three years the Ateliér Seidel in Český Krumlov went through a remarkable transformation. The old Secession building received a new robe, valuable apparatus was restored, the photographs on glass plates moved to a depository and preserved. The story of the family of photographers, which seemed to be long forgotten, acquired a new lustre at the sight of thousands of miraculously surviving photographs.

The documentary film The Beautiful Flight of the Bees records the memories of eye witnesses and the lively activity of the ongoing revitalisation of the studio. By means of archive shots and old photographs it transports us to the time when the Šumava flowed with wood, peat was harvested, and bee keepers looked forward to the annual flight of the bees. Later on, historical events intervened in people’s destinies and changed forever the nature of the Czech-German borderlands. The two Seidel photographers, thanks to their remarkable entrepreneurial élan and singular talent, preserved for us a faithful portrait of a world which would otherwise have disappeared without trace. Thanks to them we can today study the pre-war Šumava culture and society in photographs, or daydream for a moment, briefly let ourselves drift back in time. Photographs are, as Susan Sontag wrote, not only pellets of information but also clouds of fantasy.

In the course of the three years spent filming, people who had once worked at the studio and those whose family history is linked with the place gathered there. They are people from both sides of the border who still remember Franz Seidel and his wife, people whose evidence is extremely personal and reaches back to the time just after World War II. Jan Štindl photographed and retouched in the studio after the war; many years later he returns to the place which determined the direction of his life. Othmar Hanke, a close family friend, was forcibly moved with his family to Austria after the war – now he campaigns for the setting up of common databanks of photographs of the Šumava. Manfred Pranghofer, director of the Böhmerwaldmuseum Passau, strove to save the photographs from the Ateliér Seidel even before 1989 and now comes to the studio to have himself portrayed once more. Last but not least, Petr Hudičák, director and soul of the project to renew the studio, whose priority is to save and make accessible a unique collection of photographs.

The photographs found in Josef Seidl’s studio are today priceless evidence of an epoch, mementos of a destroyed culture which for centuries shaped the nature of the Šumava borderlands. They are also turning into a bond between people on both sides of the Czech-German frontier who are striving to save a common cultural inheritance.

Film&sociologie Česká televize Ministerstvo kultury ČR Česko-Německý fond budoucnosti Českokrumlovský rozvojový fond Museum Fotoatelier Seidel

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