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FEBIOFEST 2019

Juraj Šlauka • Director of PUNK NEVER ENDS!

“To a certain degree, I consider my film to be a parody of social drama”

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- Slovakian scriptwriter Juraj Šlauka talks to Cineuropa about his directorial debut, PUNK NEVER ENDS!, which was made under truly “DIY” conditions

Juraj Šlauka  • Director of PUNK NEVER ENDS!
Director Juraj Šlauka (right) with Czech co-producer Jordi Niubó (© Prague International Film Festival)

Slovakian scriptwriter Juraj Šlauka, known for his work on Miro Remo’s documentary projects, has unveiled his first feature-length directorial outing, PUNK NEVER ENDS! [+see also:
interview: Juraj Šlauka
film profile
]
, at the domestic event Febiofest 2019. The drama, set on the fringes of society and starring non-professional actors from similarly peripheral backgrounds, sees the protagonist unable to reconcile his impulsive lifestyle with social norms. Šlauka talked to Cineuropa about working under “DIY” conditions, why the film is not a regular social drama, and the merging of fiction and documentary filmmaking.

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Cineuropa: PUNK NEVER ENDS! is a continuation of your doctoral project, which began as a documentary and gradually morphed into fiction. Why did this transition occur?
Juraj Šlauka:
 Honestly, the film was never conceived as a documentary; it was always a fiction. Since non-professional actors star in it, we had to come up with a way of directing them in front of the camera without encroaching on their authenticity. And this has perhaps made it closer to documentary filmmaking. This disinformation about the project being a documentary stems from the fact that I feared getting a rejection from the fiction-film committee at the Slovak Audiovisual Fund (AVF). I assumed that an experiment based on the constantly shifting sands of reality wouldn’t be easily understood. So in the beginning, I turned to the AVF’s documentary committee for financial support. I did basically have to resort to fraud right at the start. However, I am convinced to this day that it was the only possible way to secure at least the minimum amount of funding. The period spent realising the project ultimately got dragged out to eight years owing to the difficulties of working with non-professional actors, the majority of the cast being either drug addicts or alcoholics.

You are a long-term collaborator with Slovakian documentarian Miro Remo, and your feature debut bears some similarities with his doc about serial offenders. Is there a connection? 
Since my school years, I have occupied myself with looking into methods of working with non-professional actors or reality so that the final product will resemble a work of fiction, academically. When Miro asked me to join him on Comeback, it was a unique opportunity to put those ideas into practice. Miro was toying with similar ideas, and that’s what connected us. Comeback was a documentary that evoked a fiction film, on the formal level, whereas PUNK NEVER ENDS! is the other way round. It is probably because I started out as a scriptwriter, and thus I have a constant inner tendency to veer towards fiction, or towards shaping reality into a fictional form. Miro is a pure documentarian, but the mutual influence is certainly very strong, mostly on a human level. Naturally, when I work as a scriptwriter for Miro, I fully respect his perspective. I tend to step back and support his authorship. Having my own projects on the go helps me not to vent my ambitions where I shouldn’t.

You mentioned that the film was made under “DIY” conditions. Can you elaborate?
Working under DIY conditions meant making the film without any financial backing. During one phase of the shoot, we were even collecting scrap metal in order to get the cash we needed for that particular day. The film crew consisted of a tight circle: me, a cinematographer, a sound guy and a production manager. To shoot the more difficult scenes, the crew grew accordingly. We shot the film on a camera – one intended for taking photos. The cinematographer did his own lighting, although I don’t think this is really very extraordinary. I believe many filmmakers have created their films under dire conditions. It is possible – although maybe just once.

PUNK NEVER ENDS! exudes the codes and conventions of a social drama; however, you turn this on its head with a stylisation that does not really fit the pattern.
As I mentioned before, this is most likely because of my scriptwriting background, which cannot find a way to come to terms with pure documentary filmmaking. I noticed that certain audiences cannot accept it, while other groups welcome it with open arms. We have a pretty strong wave of social dramas in Slovakia. To a certain degree, I consider my film to be a parody of this genre, with added crime elements.

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
We are working on a car-racing film with Miro Remo. It is a project we gave ourselves as a kind of reward. The previous topics we worked on were serious and less of a laughing matter, so we wanted to relax. However, this existential “heaviness” still eventually transpires even in seemingly light topics. We have finished the social comedy turn right! [see the news] with Andrej Kolenčík, which will become his feature-length fiction debut. I am also writing some bedtime stories and am gearing up for my sophomore feature, in which I’m preparing for a trip back to childhood.

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