2016 Premières? Genre Reinforcement

Slovak cinema has recently been characterised by an increasing productivity and its genre diversity is also developing. It seems that this is also true of the current year. This article presents a selection of the films with their premières planned in 2016.

Director Michal Kollár’s psychological thriller
Red Captain (Červený kapitán) will receive its première in March. Its story returns to the troubled 1990s, to the period shortly after the fall of communism when the decision on the break-up of Czechoslovakia was made. Red Captain is one of a few Slovak feature films to reflect on this period filled with naïve ideas of a better future, but also coping with a great many new impetuses and challenges, often onerous, and with the obtrusive burden of the past. Director Kollár depicts all
this against the backdrop of the investigation of a murder referring to the former State Security. The film is based on a book by the successful Slovak author of detective stories, Dominik Dán, and it is a Slovak-Czech-Polish co-production.

The political thriller Kidnapping (Únos) is also based on a novel by Dominik Dán. It plunges deep into intricate Mafia networks, in which secret service employees and high-ranking state officials are also involved. The film was made by Mariana Čengel Solčanská who is one of the most productive filmmakers in Slovakia.

Agave (Agáva) directed by the experienced Slovak screenwriter Ondrej Šulaj will be premièred by the end of March. He also was inspired by literature – a prose work by the distinguished writer Ladislav Ballek – and in this story he returns to the period immediately after World War II, shortly before the communists assumed total power over the state. “I like to take chances and do things that are also a challenge for me. Ballek’s prose is such a challenge – with its theme of searching for certainties in the post-war world, the seemingly trifling story against the background of a love triangle, the atmosphere of a southern sultry hot summer scented with acacias which opens and irritates the minds of the people living in a border town...” said Ondrej Šulaj.

The present time plays an important role in
the road movie Stanko. In it director Rasťo Boroš follows the fates of two young people from the edges of society on their journey together to Italy. The story also touches upon the topic of trafficking with girls, but the major focus of the film is friendship. “Each of the main protagonists follows their own idea of happiness. But in reality they need something else. Someone to care for them. In the story, I wanted to show the consequences brought about by such a relation. Mainly, responsibility for the other and the consequences of the lie told by one of them to manipulate the other for his own benefit,” says Rasťo Boroš in explaining his intentions. He cast non-actors in the main roles.

Little Jarka from the novel She Is a Harbour (Piata loď) doesn’t have an easy life either. She
is not yet even a teenager and her inner world is already marked by experiences that augment her confusion. Director Iveta Grófová was inspired by the book by Monika Kompaníková. She herself made her film début in 2012 with Made in Ash (Až do mesta Aš) which was successful at film festivals. She collaborated with Marek Leščák
on the script of She Is a Harbour and the Slovak- Czech-Hungarian film was also supported by Eurimages.

The road movie of director György Kristóf OUT (Vychladnutie) is under way in an extensive international co-production. Last year, the project figured at the Cinéfondation – L ’Atelier in Cannes, which focused on fifteen of the most promising projects from all over the world. Kristóf tells the story of a fifty-year-old man who takes off on a journey from Slovakia all over Eastern Europe on a quest to find a job and make his dream come true – to catch a big fish.

The premières of two films with Slovakia as a minority co-producer are linked to this year’s Berlin IFF. As a young woman, Olga Hepnarová killed eight people in Prague in 1973 and was subsequently executed. The existential drama I, Olga Hepnarová (Ja, Olga Hepnarová) attempts to capture the kind of person she was without downplaying her crimes. Olga came from an underprivileged family background, she was isolated and unable to build normal relations with other people; the débuting directors Tomáš Weinreb and Petr Kazda tried to look into her mind and discover what led up to her committing the said crime. The Berlin IFF also included the co-production film In Your Dreams! (Ani ve snu!) in its programme. It examines the world of contemporary young people living in the city. In the story, director Petr Oukropec focuses on the sprightly teenager Laura who would like to get to join a parkour gang and, at the same time, deals with her first big love.

As for minority Slovak co-productions planned to have their premières in 2016, let us at least mention Little Crusader (Križiačik, dir. Václav Kadrnka), characterised by its makers as a medieval road movie based on the poems of Jaroslav Vrchlický; the historical drama Masaryk (Masaryk, dir. Julius Ševčík) about Czech diplomat Jan Masaryk and the events associated with the Munich Agreement; the omnibus animated film Deadly Stories (Smrteľné historky, dir. Jan Bubeníček) where each story is related to a different genre and technological treatment, and the 3D animated family film Oddsockeaters (Lichožrúti, dir. Galina Miklínová).

Naturally, some new Slovak documentaries
will also have their cinema releases. Several of them focus on personalities from various areas
of art: for instance, director Juraj Johanides on the underground band Bez ladu a skladu which
is referred to in the title of his film Bez Ladu a Skladu. From Socialism to Capitalism (Bez ladu
a skladu. Od socializmu ku kapitalizmu); director Patrik Lančarič took to task the Slovak poet and Minister of Culture in the period of the communist normalisation, Miroslav Válek (the film Válek); Juraj Nvota focused his attention on artist Alex Mlynárčik (Elsewhere/Inde); in turn, the Slovak- Czech pair of filmmakers Robert Kirchhoff and Filip Remunda investigate fame and transience
in Steam on the River (Para nad riekou) through musicians Laco Déczi, Ľubomír Tamaškovič and Ján Jankeje.

Okhwan’s Mission Impossible (Okhwan) tells the remarkable story of Okhwan Yoon, a South Korean who used to be a successful businessman until he opted for a totally different life-project – he set off on an epic bicycle journey around the world in order to help to reunify the Korean peninsula. His personality and journey were mapped by director Marek Mackovič who had already introduced Okhwan thanks to a short episode in the Life in a Day project (2011) produced by Ridley Scott.

The young filmmaker Mária Rumanová considers the identity of the East Slovak border town Čierna nad Tisou and the local people in her creative documentary Sunrise Hotel (Hotel Úsvit). And, following our earlier reference to reflecting on the period shortly after the fall of communism through thrillers, documentaries such as Sunrise Hotel can offer authentic testimonies of life in contemporary Slovakia.

Daniel Bernát
Stanko (Stanko), PHOTO: AH Production