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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Czech Republic / Slovakia / Switzerland

Viktor Tauš starts shooting his passion project American Chick

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- The social drama featuring a strong female lead, and inspired by true events, revolves around freedom, ostracism and the desire to live

Viktor Tauš starts shooting his passion project American Chick
Klára Melíšková in American Chick (© Heaven’s Gate)

Czech writer-director-producer Viktor Tauš has recently been mostly associated with quality Czech TV. He directed the well-received crime miniseries Blue Shadows, Monsters of the Shore and Rats, the latter having been sold to several countries in the Baltics as well as Australia.

While tending to small-screen duties, Tauš continued to work on his passion project American Chick for almost two decades. The director thought the film would be his sophomore feature, following his autobiographical debut, Kanárek (1999); however, the cinematic version of American Chick was preceded by a stage play. Tauš directed the play (co-written with David Jařab and Evita Naušová) in 2018, and then further retooled it for the format of a “live film” or “theatre within a film”. The site-specific version (after being staged in an actual theatre, the play was performed in a variety of different spaces, such as a defunct asylum and on tarmac) was nominated for the Czech Lion Award in the Best Television Film or Miniseries category after a recording of it was aired by Czech Television.

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American Chick is inspired by the life story of a woman, called Ema Černá in the film, whom the director met during his period of homelessness and who tries to carry on living her life against all odds. Černá goes through an orphanage, foster care and a detention centre. She endures the ordeals – including bullying and beatings – driven by the desire to meet her father, who supposedly lives in the USA (she was born there and was brought to Czechoslovakia at the age of nine by her mother, who then abandoned her). The director calls American Chick “a probe into the history of the Czechoslovakia of the 1980s and 1990s” and “a contemporary drama about freedom, ostracism and the desire to live”.

The theatrical version centres on childhood, while the film will follow the protagonist through different moments in her life, into the present day. However, the stigma that the protagonist bears continues to have an influence on her life. The dream of finding her father in the USA is vanishing, and she has to learn to come to terms with her own faults and accept her fate.

Despite the fact that the film will follow Ema Černá from childhood into adulthood, children from orphanages will also be in the film’s focus. “[American Chick] is my Oliver Twist,” said Tauš on Vltava Radio (listen here). The director also expects the film to open up a social discussion about the outdated nature of the orphanage system. Slovak screenwriter Miro Šifra, with whom Tauš collaborated on Rats, served as a story editor on the script in its later iterations.

“The most important thing for me on this project is that it is a very personal project for Viktor Tauš. He has been processing it in various forms for years… It is his personal life story, which he wants to devote himself to. But at the same time, it concerns a girl who was forced to spend her childhood and adolescence in orphanages in the 1980s. It tells the story of the girl's incredible tenacity, as she copes with herself and the pressure exerted on her. She resists adults and solitude. The most valuable thing for me is that the girl, like her siblings, is an existing person, and Viktor Tauš is still in contact with them to this day,” said Michal Reitler, director of Content Development at TV Nova. In addition to a child cast, a host of professional actors have joined the film, including Pavla Beretová, Klára Melíšková, Vladimír Javorský, Magdaléna Borová, David Novotný, Zuzana Mauréry and Eva Elsnerová. The production is scheduled to last into 2023, while the domestic premiere is preliminarily set for autumn the same year.

American Chick is being produced by Viktor Tauš for Heaven’s Gate, and co-produced by Axman Production (Czech Republic), BFILM (Slovakia), K Film Swiss (Switzerland), Barrandov Studios (Czech Republic) and TV Nova (Czech Republic). Creative Europe – Media, the Czech Film Fund and the Slovak Audiovisual Fund have supported the project. Bioscop will handle the Czech theatrical release.

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