Is this effective education or abuse?

The documentary “Every Single Minute”, which premiered in competition on Saturday at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, is a non-fiction film that has the power to leave some viewers delighted and others furious. A document about a child rearing system that apparently doesn’t give parents or the child a moment to relax, it presents its characters in a provocative non-judgmental way, leaving it up to the audience to decide whether the couple at the center of the film maximizes the life of his son. potential or engaging in some form of abuse.

It’s hard not to walk away from “Every Single Minute” without feeling at least a little bit about the second option, which means it’s hard not to wish director Erika Hnikova to take on her a bit more. topics from time to time. But neutrality also makes an artistic statement, and you have to give it credit for giving everyone involved enough rope to wind us up in their system or hang ourselves.

The film follows Michal and Lenka Hanuliak, a couple from Slovakia who are raising their son, Misko, in the Kameveda system, created in the Czech Republic and popularized by Pavel Zacha, who gave up his own job to raise his son in a way that has transformed every waking moment into a moment of “training”, both athletic and intellectual.

Zacha’s son has become a hockey and tennis prodigy who now plays for the New Jersey Devils in the NHL, and the Hanuliaks see him as their guru in raising Misko, a kid we met three months before his fourth birthday. .

Their devotion to Kameveda begins with flashbacks to Misko as a baby, with his parents encouraging him to use his legs to push back against the walls of the small tub they are bathing him in, and then shortly thereafter when Michal tries to push him back. learn sit-ups before he can walk.

Does all of this seem a bit over the top, and sometimes a bit silly? Sure. And it also seems a little scary, especially when you consider that a region of Central Europe just across the border from Germany gave birth to a system described in this way on its official website:

“Kameveda is a ‘science’ whose ‘graduates’ will in the future be able to push the limits of human possibilities in many attractive disciplines. Kameveda can also be a very effective instrument in combating the progressive degeneration of the population with its return to perfect physical condition, harmony of personality, strong immunity and hardiness created in early childhood.

For the Hanuliaks, there is nothing sinister about Kameveda; rather, it is a way for two clearly hyper-competitive people to devote themselves entirely to making their child fit and hyper-competitive himself. So breakfast turns into a long word quiz, there’s a pull-up bar in Misko’s room long before he has the strength to do pull-ups and a typical day can be swimming and jogging. morning and piano, tennis and ice skating lessons in the afternoon.

Reconstruction of the occupation

It’s safe to say that physical training takes up almost all of “Every Minute”; they might mentally train little Misko when the cameras are off, but what we see is almost exclusively sports related. And the parents are so motivated that they will contact Zacha himself on a video call to give updates and ask in which direction their son’s palms should be turned when he tries to do push-ups.

He says it doesn’t really matter, which seems to disappoint the couple who are obsessively looking for the best way to make their child a champion. (Michal scours YouTube for videos of 3-year-old-9-month-old skaters to see if anyone is better than Misko.)

The family refers to letting Misko ‘play’, but it mostly seems to involve some sort of training: when they go to the beach together, other kids are building sandcastles while Misko runs to and from it. water, Michal by his side encouraging him to raise his knees higher. And when the child hurts his knee and cries out, “I don’t want to train with you!” to her father, Lenka makes it a competition and says: “It’s because daddy doesn’t do it well. Train with me.

Hnikova’s cameras take all of this from a distance; there are relatively few close-ups in “Every Single Minute”, and a lot of scenes where the camera sets up across the Hanuliak rink, or at the bottom of a steep hill where Misko climbs the steps all on days, or in a corner of the room where the family eats or works out.

Despite the studied neutrality, we see signs of stress at the end of the film: Michal has to spend a day at work, Lenka half-heartedly supervises a dull session then sighs: “I don’t feel very well today” and Misko sometimes rebels of non-stop training.

tiff toronto

But the film doesn’t leave it there: instead, it takes us to the Kameveda Children’s Summer Games, where Misko is the big winner and the family walks away arm in arm as he sings: “I’m gonna win, I’m gonna win. It is perhaps a better fanfare than the theme of “Rocky”, if nonetheless disturbing.

“Every Single Minute” is currently featured on Kameveda’s official Facebook page, which calls it “a film that looks at Kameveda education in practice” and then adds a happy face. By lying down and never tilting your hand or pushing the viewer in a specific direction, Hnikova allows the film to elicit that kind of reaction – but at the same time, it’s hard to imagine most viewers will be too. happy with what they see on the screen.

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