REPORT: Industry Days – Work in Progress @ Febiofest 2019
by Martin Kudláč
- We present an overview of the works in progress presented at this year’s Febiofest Industry Days, giving a taste of what’s to come in Slovakian cinema
The fourth edition of the Febiofest (20-26 March) Work in Progress industry panel, which presented Slovakian projects in the making to a professional audience, consisting of both domestic and international attendees, introduced a host of upcoming films. There seems to be a glut of World War II-set stories in fiction filmmaking, while creative documentaries are also following suit. Debuting and up-and-coming filmmakers clearly dominated the fourth edition, which shone a light on Slovakian emerging talents. Here we outline the most interesting projects.
How I Became a Partisan - Vera Lacková
Vera Lacková founded a production company called Media Voice, through which she has been working on projects for human rights organisations and non-profit organisations, such as Brussels’ Ergo Network and the Austrian foundation ESSE. She is currently in production with her feature-length project, the social documentary How I Became a Partisan, which bears the subtitle “Film Resistance Against Oblivion”, and has 80% of the budget secured. What started out as an exploration of a personal topic linked to her great grandfather’s role as a partisan during World War II has snowballed into a broader topic revolving around Roma partisans. As she noted, Romas were not only victims, “but forgotten heroes” as well. Set up as a Slovakian-Czech co-production, the project has ben backed by the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, the ESSE Foundation and the Slovakian Ministry of Culture, with additional help from the Museum of Romani Culture and the Museum of the Slovakian National Uprising. How I Became a Partisan will be ready for a 2020 run on the festival circuit. Lacková, who is serving as the director, scriptwriter and producer, said she is open to possible co-producing partners, film festivals, sales and distribution.
The Impossible Voyage - Noro Držiak
Slovakian animator Noro Držiak, who worked on the EFA-winning animated feature Alois Nebel [+see also:
film profile] as an SFX supervisor, is readying his first feature-length docu-drama, The Impossible Voyage. Combining different types of animation as well as live-action scenes (shot against a green screen), Držiak is translating the story of Milan Rastislav Štefánik, a highly revered Slovakian personality who lived at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, onto the big screen. This hybrid film is described by the producers as “film fantasy”, as suggested by the title, which is intended as an homage to Georges Méliès. This was certainly backed up by the highly imaginative and stylised promo reel that was presented at the event – an unusual choice for a period biopic. One of the reasons for this, as the producers explained, is to attract a young and international audience. The Impossible Voyage is a co-production between Slovakia and the Czech Republic, backed by the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, the Czech Film Fund and the MEDIA programme. Both the Slovak and Czech public broadcasters have boarded the project. The film has already been shot, and the finishing touches are currently being put to it. It is expected to be finished at some point in April. The domestic theatrical run will begin in September, and the producers are still looking for a sales agent, festivals and distribution.
Amnesty – Jonáš Karásek
Slovakian director Jonáš Karásek has finished Amnesty, his next feature, following the political thriller The Candidate [+see also:
film profile], which proved to be a box-office hit. Without diverging a great deal from his debut, Amnesty remains in the familiar territory of a political thriller, this time based on a true story that has already been told in literary form, in a book called Amnesty That Broke All Hell Loose, written by a prison guard. Revolving around three main couples from different backgrounds, the character-driven drama will start in autumn 1989, amidst the Velvet Revolution, and will continue through to the biggest and bloodiest prison riots ever witnessed in the history of the country. The Slovak and Czech co-production has been supported by the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, Radio and Television Slovakia and the Ministry of Culture. The director’s cut will be ready by mid-April, and the thriller will be hitting local cinemas in October. The producers are looking for a sales agent and film festivals.
Little Kingdom – Peter Magát
Up-and-coming Slovakian director Peter Magát is finishing his feature-length English-language debut, Little Kingdom, based on the stage play EPIC by Debris Company and adapted for the big screen by Northern Irish scriptwriter Ewen Glass. A World War II thriller set in and around a factory, which constitutes the little kingdom referred to in the title, it follows two couples, each of them representing a different world and a different set of values (the exploitative owner of the factory and a double agent, and common folk who are in fact workers in the factory). The movie boasts an international (US, British, Swedish, Croatian and Slovakian) cast assembled by Emmy Award-nominated casting director Nancy Bishop, including Brian Caspe, Alicia Agneson, Klara Mucci and Abigail Rice, among others. The project is currently in the post-production phase – more specifically, at the editing and SFX stage. The film should be ready by June 2019, and a domestic release is already scheduled for September 2019. The estimated budget is €900,000, and the production has been backed by the Slovak Audiovisual Fund. Slovakian outfit FilmFrame is producing, with co-producing partners Loki Film Production (Iceland) and Radio and Television Slovakia also on board.
Ema & Death’s-Head - Iveta Grófová
The director of the Crystal Bear-winning coming-of-age drama Little Harbour [+see also:
interview: Iveta Grófová
film profile], Iveta Grófová, has boarded the project Ema & Death’s-Head, based on a book by Peter Krištúfek, who had been tapped as the director before his tragic passing. Grófová is currently tinkering with the script and adapting it to suit her own vision. The book’s story unfolds between 1939 and 1942, during an era of ever-spreading fascism. The novel’s, and potentially the film’s, main character is a Jewish boy called Šimon, who has to remain in constant hiding. Thus he creates a story of his own featuring a beautiful woman from a Nivea advert, Ema, who helps him survive the attacks of a similarly imaginary antagonist, Death’s-Head (who will most likely be portrayed as Heinz Linge, Hitler’s valet). The book examined the life of the Jewish community in Slovakia and the effects of World War II, which the film should home in on as well. Besides Šimon and his story of survival, another perspective on the time will be offered through the eyes of another main character, Marika Sándorfiová, who hides and protects little Šimon in the Slovak-Hungarian region. Slovakian company PubRes is producing, with Czech outfit Total HelpArt (THA) attached as a co-producing partner. The project has so far received support from the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, and the budget is expected to reach €1,450,000. Radio and Television Slovakia and Czech Television are currently in talks, and producer Zuzana Mistríková said they expect principal photography to take place in 2020. They are open to further partners and are looking for sales agents and festivals.
Homeland of Silence – Štefánia Lovasová
The Work in Progress slate featured a promising short student film by Štefánia Lovasová, of the Slovakian Academy of Performing Arts. The young director centres on the topic of agricultural subsidy fraud, which shook the country last year and lifted the lid on shady, illicit dealings against a potentially political and mafia-related background. Nevertheless, Lovasová does not intend to focus on the political side of the topic, but rather wants to aim the lens at the children of the farmers caught in the conflict. Homeland of Silence is intended as her graduation project, though producer Michaela Kaliská sees potential for festival distribution. The Slovak Audiovisual Fund has supported the project, which is being developed and produced by the Academy of Performing Arts, and the shoot is scheduled for summer 2020. The team is open to any form of cooperation.
Team Building – Adina Popescu and Iulian Ghervas
After a promising student film spot, the organisers also decided to include a Slovakian minority co-production for the first time. The firm Leon Productions has boarded the Romanian project Team Building, directed by Adina Popescu and Iulian Ghervas, and produced by We Are Basca, the outfit behind Marius Olteanu’s Monsters. [+see also:
interview: Marius Olteanu
film profile], which was unveiled at the Berlinale. The social documentary, set against the backdrop of football in a Transylvanian village, is in the middle of production, and a good portion of the footage will be shot in Slovakia in July 2019. The trials and tribulations of a fifth-league Romanian football team are in fact not the main focus, but an interesting angle from which to look at wider issues in modern-day Romania. The producers decided to pair the two countries because of a number of apparent similarities between them. The Romanian part is already fully funded. The project has received support from the Romanian Film Fund, while the Slovakian producer is still awaiting a response from the domestic audiovisual fund. Team Building is expected to be ready by the beginning of 2020, and the producers are currently looking for festivals and sales agents.
Fightback – Peter Begányi
Slovakian production company Piknik Picture is readying a biopic drama called Fightback, about Imrich Lichtenfeld, the father of Krav Maga, a defence system developed for the Israel Defense Forces. Based on a true story that has never been filmed before, Fightback follows Lichtenfeld and his father in the pre-war capital of Slovakia, “recounting the historic events from the less well-known perspective of those who actively participated in the fight against Nazism and championed the establishment of the state of Israel”, add the producers, who promised a real-life story with plenty of action. The project is currently in the script-development phase, with Peter Begányi attached to direct. Fightback will be his sophomore feature, following his documentary debut, Erotic Nation, described as “documentary grotesque” and using sex as an overarching motif to look at the domestic political and social situation. The producers are currently in talks with potential partners, the Slovakian and Israeli public television channels are already on board, and negotiations are ongoing with the Hungarian equivalent. Fightback will feature a Slovakian, Czech and Hebrew cast. The producers are open to further co-producing partners willing to join the project, and are looking for sales agents and festivals. The film is expected to be finalised by August 2021, as principal photography is scheduled for January 2020.
A Little Bit Utopic or Being Human – Vladislava Sárkány
Vladislava Sárkány is producing, writing and directing the documentary comedy A Little Bit Utopic or Being Human, about “the effort to change one’s own country for the better”. Sárkány aims to address an issue pertaining to the whole of society through the collective portrait of a single village (Spišský Hrhov, which gained a reputation as a good example of how a Roma minority could successfully integrate into the community, and how a minority could coexist harmoniously with the majority). The project is currently at the rough-cut stage, after four years of research and observation. Sárkány plans to use the microcosm of the village to ponder the more universal topics of human existence, and coexistence within society. Despite being a social documentary, the writer-director noted that there is no shortage of surreal scenes, as she has been working with a narrative style. The project has received backing from the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, and the domestic public broadcaster is also on board. A preliminary domestic release is set for December 2019. Sárkány said she is open to potential co-production partners for post-production work and festivals.
The Sailor – Lucia Kašová
The creative documentary The Sailor, written and directed by Lucia Kašová, catches up with 80-year-old sailor Paul Johnson, who has lived an eventful and adventurous life, most of which off terra firma (he crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the smallest vessel ever recorded). Kašová approaches her subject, stuck on a ramshackle boat, living among a community of “sea gypsies” and drinking vodka all day, with the ultimate question: “What is the price of freedom?” His life story then serves as a springboard for an exploration of this topic. The project was developed at Beldocs 2018, principal photography is already finished, and the producer is eyeing a release date of December 2019. The team is looking for festivals, distributors and television broadcasters.
Bunker – György Kristóf
György Kristóf’s sophomore feature, Bunker, will be a dystopian dance thriller. Currently at the development stage, Kristóf aims to shoot the story with no dialogue, instead replacing it with carefully choreographed movements. Katarína Krnáčová, of Silverart, is producing, with Libra Film Production (Romania) and KMH Film (Hungary) getting involved as co-production partners. France may possibly board the project as well. Krnáčová noted that they are open to various co-production models, and are seeking sales agents, distributors and television broadcasters. The shoot is planned for 2020, with work to finalise the movie set to take place in 2021. The estimated budget is €1.5 million, the Slovak Audiovisual Fund has already thrown its weight behind the project, and Bunker was also presented at Sofia Meetings in 2018.
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