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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Slovakia / Czech Republic / Hungary

A child’s imagination meets wartime reality in Iveta Grófová’s World War II drama Emma and the Death’s Head

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- The Slovak filmmaker is currently shooting the movie with a Slovak-Czech-Hungarian film crew and with On Body and Soul’s Alexandra Borbély playing the lead role

A child’s imagination meets wartime reality in Iveta Grófová’s World War II drama Emma and the Death’s Head
Director Iveta Grófová and actress Alexandra Borbély on the set of Emma and the Death’s Head (© Anton Faraonov/PubRes)

Slovak filmmaker Iveta Grófová is shooting a new feature-length film called Emma and the Death’s Head, which comes on the heels of her Crystal Bear-winning Little Harbour [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Iveta Grófová
film profile
]
. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Slovak author and filmmaker Peter Krištúfek (Visible World), who was originally preparing to shoot the movie but tragically died shortly before it was about to enter production in 2018. Slovak producer Zuzana Mistríková, of PubRes, invited Grófová to take over directing duties after Krištúfek managed to turn his novel into a script.

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The World War II-set story follows a Hungarian widow, Marika, who is hiding a Jewish boy, Šimon, during the turbulent era of the Slovak State, when the country served as a client state of Nazi Germany. The boy survives thanks to the help of the widow and his own imagination. The plot unfolds in a border village where Slovak and Hungarian inhabitants intermingle, while Hungarian citizens are facing growing nationalism, leading to their deportation to forced labour camps after the war. Emma and the Death’s Head tells a story about “uncertain borders between humanity and the desire to live [in a place] where one excludes the other”.

Principal photography started in August in Slovakia, and shooting continued in the Czech Republic before subsequently returning to Slovakia. The Slovak-Czech-Hungarian film crew has already carried out 24 shooting days, with 26 remaining. Production will wrap in March 2022, with a release preliminarily planned for 2023. The original collaborators that Peter Krištúfek brought on board, Slovak DoP Martin Štrba and Slovak costume designer Katarína Štrbová Bieliková, remain involved in the project. The leading role of the widow will be played by Slovak-Hungarian actress Alexandra Borbély, of On Body and Soul [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ildiko Enyedi
interview: Ildiko Enyedi
interview: Réka Tenki
film profile
]
fame, accompanied by Slovak actor Milan Ondrík and Austrian thesps Florentin Groll and Alexander E Fennon, as well as a Hungarian cast consisting of Dénes Uljaky, Lili Monori, János Derzsi and Piroska Molnár.

Emma and the Death’s Head is a co-production between Slovak company PubRes, Czech outfit Total HelpArt THA and Hungary’s Campfilm. Radio and Television Slovakia and Czech Television have also boarded the project. The Slovak Audiovisual Fund and the Slovak Fund for Culture of National Minorities (Kult Minor) supported the film. Fortuna Film und TV is a partner on the movie.

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