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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Slovakia

Peter Bebjak tackles the Slovak literary classic Jozef Mak

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- The small-screen adaptation of the socio-psychological novel by Jozef Cíger-Hronský, revolving around an everyman yielding to fate, will be ready by Christmas

Peter Bebjak tackles the Slovak literary classic Jozef Mak
Actors Judit Bárdos (left) and Dávid Hartl (centre) and director Peter Bebjak on the set of Jozef Mak (© D.N.A. Production)

Prolific Slovak producer-filmmaker Peter Bebjak has been forging a sparkling career on the big and small screen alike. He started shooting the crime-thriller Shadowplay last December (see the news), his Holocaust drama The Auschwitz Report [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
is still awaiting its domestic premiere owing to the COVID-19-related theatre shutdowns and will be released in the USA, the UK, France, Spain and Japan, he has just won a Czech Lion for the television miniseries Actor (see the news), while an ambitious (and the most expensive) Slovak epic TV series The Slavs (see the news), of which he directed several episodes, aired in early March. Plus, he is already working on another project: Bebjak is currently shooting a film adaptation of a Slovak literary classic, the socio-psychological novel Jozef Mak (1933) by writer Jozef Cíger-Hronský.

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The novel follows the titular protagonist, a Slovak peasant, and his difficult fate between the 19th and 20th centuries. Born out of wedlock and bullied by his brother as a child, he goes off to fight in World War I, and when he returns home, he finds that his brother has married his childhood sweetheart. He then marries Jula, his brother’s wife’s maidservant, and later finds out that his brother also cheated on his wife with Jula.

Jozef Mak is a portrait of a man yielding to fate – a fate that he stoically accepts. His name translates as “poppy”, and the author characterises him as an everyman, “one of many, irrelevant, men like him that abound in the world like poppies” – in other words, a “man in a million”. “The story of Jozef Mak has been part of the compulsory reading list in schools for decades. We all know him, but the truth is, few people have actually really read it. And yet it is an amazing work full of all kinds of passions. The novel shows us a hero whom we understand, a person we meet a lot, but he is even more interesting. We want to bring to the small screen a story that will be understood by viewers of all ages and which will show that this Slovak classic has something to offer,” said producer Rastislav Šesták, of D.N.A. Production.

The adaptation, intended for small screens, will be shot in Slovakia in the Museum of Orava Village, where Bebjak previously shot the fairy tale A Christmas Wish, Banská Štiavnica and Komárno. The leading role will be entrusted to Czech actor Dávid Hartl, and the cast also includes Judit Bárdos, Tomáš Maštalír, Diana Mórová, Alexander Bárta, Jana Kvantiková and Judita Hansman. Ondrej Šulaj, a writer on several films by Martin Šulík, wrote the script, and Martin Rau, the DoP on Bebjak’s box-office hit The Rift [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
(see the news), will be handling the cinematography.

Jozef Mak is being produced by D.N.A. Production and Radio and Television Slovakia. The film is planned to be aired by the public broadcaster during the next Christmas season.

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