At a time when lively discussions on distribution are held in the film industry, some Slovak and co-production films are also making their way onto the screens of world cinemas.

The Teacher (Učiteľka) directed by Jan Hřebejk, Koza by Ivan Ostrochovský, I, Olga Hepnarová (Ja, Olga Hepnarová) by the directing duo Tomáš Weinreb and Petr Kazda, the block of bedtime stories Mimi & Lisa (Mimi & Líza) by Katarína Kerekesová and The Red Captain (Červený kapitán) by Michal Kollár – these are a few of the films made recently that have been shown to foreign audiences, not just at festivals. However, festivals are important for Slovak films and they can play a role in their further life beyond the borders. This is confirmed by the producer of The Teacher Ľubica Orechovská from PubRes, when she talks about how a film might successfully break into foreign distribution: “It definitely has to be a competitive film, you need to have a suitable and experienced sales agent who chooses the correct approach to the film and it has to receive its première at a credible international forum, ideally linked with a film project market. The Teacher’s success at the Karlovy Vary IFF definitely helped it to a great extent, whether with reference to the interest of audiences, the Best Actress Award (Zuzana Mauréry – editor’s note) or media responses, especially positive reviews from abroad.”

Co-production can also contribute to the success of a film abroad. The Slovak-Czech-Polish crime thriller The Red Captain was the best-attended domestic film in Slovak cinemas last year, but it was also screened in all three co-production countries. In turn, the existential drama I, Olga Hepnarová (sales agent Arizona Films) is a Czech-Polish-Slovak- French co-production and it was screened in all four of the above countries. But there are other countries in play also. “So far, the licence was provided to France, the USA, United Kingdom, Brazil and Ireland and other licences are related to distribution of the film in other forms, such as television broadcasting, VOD and S-VOD,” said Marian Urban, director of the ALEF FILM & MEDIA production company last November, when he also mentioned that talks were underway about cinema distribution licences in other countries. At the same time, Marian Urban added that the film was presented at so many festivals, won so many awards and was sold to quite a large number of countries thanks to the fact that it opened the Panorama section at the Berlinale a year ago.

As for the film Koza (sales agent Pluto Film) released into Slovak distribution in autumn 2015, according to last year’s information rights were sold to Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Albania, Kosovo and The Netherlands. Other countries have licences for presenting the film on paid TV or VOD. Equally, the film drama The Teacher (sales agent LevelK) had several cinema distribution contracts concluded last year, in more than twenty countries in Europe and Asia, but also in Australia, USA and New Zealand.

The animated TV series for children Mimi & Lisa (sales agent Planet Nemo Animation) by animator and director Katarína Kerekesová also managed to get into cinemas beyond the borders of its home country. So far, a block of six short episodes has been distributed in France and Belgium. The series was dubbed into French which will also be used to present it in Luxembourg – it will be a minor distribution via the Centre National de L’Audiovisuel. “We will see what lies ahead of us, but we definitely reckon on the presentation of a further block of episodes of Mimi & Lisa in France,” concludes Katarína Kerekesová.

Zuzana Sotáková


Support for Audiovisual Industry is a programme launched by the Slovak Audiovisual Fund in autumn 2014 with the aim of inducing interest in making audiovisual works in Slovakia, supporting the development of infrastructure of the Slovak audiovisual industry and increasing its international competitiveness. Modifications to its basic conditions are currently under consideration. 

The main idea of the programme is that, if the producer invests at least 2 million Euro in Slovakia in making the work, he may be retrospectively granted a sum of up to 20 percent of the eligible costs. Several productions, predominantly foreign projects, have expressed their interest in this programme to date. In 2015 the first to be registered was the second season of the well-known series Marco Polo produced by The Weinstein Company, for which the Slovak Audiovisual Fund has already disbursed the grant. (Funds are only earmarked once information on the amount actually invested in the project is confirmed.) Last year four titles were added to the list. According to the information from the Slovak Ministry of Culture, the American company Lionsgate has expressed interest in making the adventure film Robin Hood: Origins in Slovakia under British director Otto Bathurst. The cast of the film includes such actors as Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx and Eve Hewson. Two television projects have also been registered. The co-production two-part historical film Maria Theresia to be made by director Robert Dornhelm will capture the life of the Austro- Hungarian monarch. Slovak public service TV (RTVS) has already enlisted in the project, Slovak filmmakers are to collaborate in its making and part of the film could be made this year in Bratislava. The second project is Inspector Max (Inšpektor Max) produced by Trigon Production, a Slovak production company, in collaboration with RTVS and Czech Television.

In addition, the Ministry of Culture also referred to interest expressed by the British company Fourth Culture Films in making two feature films in Slovakia – Consider Yourself and Maestro which have been registered in tandem. The first film is a biography of the author of musicals, Lionel Bart and, for instance, Geoffrey Rush was mentioned as possibly being cast in the film. The second project should illustrate the stirring fate of Eduard Keller, the Viennese piano virtuoso.

After the Support for Audiovisual Industry programme was launched, Slovak producers objected that the condition to invest a minimum of 2 million Euro is too high a demand and excludes domestic productions from applying. In this respect, the Director of the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, Martin Šmatlák, stated that the Ministry of Culture is the one making decisions on the above condition, because all the basic conditions of the programme are determined by legislation, not the internal regulations of the Fund.

Last year, the Ministry of Culture addressed this issue and announced amendments in the basic setting of the programme. “We seek to attain a level affording us a higher degree of flexibility for the entry of non-state investments in film production in Slovakia,” declared the Ministry in August 2016, stating that its ambition is to increase the attractiveness of the programme for both foreign and domestic filmmakers. In January this year, when the English edition of Film.sk was completed, this process had not yet been concluded. “The Ministry of Culture is currently dealing with this issue; we anticipate that the support for the audiovisual industry will be amended in the first quarter of 2017.”

Daniel Bernát


Slovakia collaborates on several international workshops and training programmes for authors of audiovisual works. Below, we provide brief information on at least some of them. At the same time, we indicate the current state of film education for children and young people. 

Several international workshops are (at least in part) organised in Slovakia and they deal not only with the various phases of work with film, but also with various types of projects. The MIDPOINT programme focuses on the development stage. Last autumn, the MIDPOINT TV Launch workshop was organised in Banská Štiavnica; it focused on the development of TV series that aspire to be of high quality or have a more artistic aim. This programme is intended for teams of screenwriters and producers and it is directed at Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Baltic countries. In 2017, the event will continue with further phases at the Finále Plzeň Film Festival in the Czech Republic and at the Sarajevo Film Festival. Another workshop from the MIDPOINT programme, Intensive SK, was also organised in Banská Štiavnica in November 2016 when scripts of full-length feature and animated films were analysed.

The DOK.Incubator workshop is directed toward documentary filmmakers. It aims to assist its participants with their projects at several levels, including preparation of an adequate distribution strategy and investigating possibilities for finding a place for the work in the international context. Last July one of the three workshops was organised in Slovakia in Smolenice; it should take place here again this coming summer.

In Bratislava last year, internationally renowned filmmakers Agnieszka Holland, Fridrik Thór Fridriksson and other prominent guests shared their experience with participants of the networking and educational event, Visegrad Film Forum (VFF). The event is held at the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts and works by students of film schools from the Visegrad Four countries are also presented there. This year the VFF will be held on 25-29 April.

The Visegrad Animation Forum (VAF) focuses on animated production within the V4 countries; the event culminates each May at the Anifilm International Festival of Animated Films in Třeboň, Czech Republic, and it is co-organised by the Slovak Association of Animated Film Producers.

The above events are primarily intended for film professionals or students of film schools, but how does audiovisual education of students of primary and secondary schools fare in Slovakia? The range of projects in this context is gradually extending, but an overall film or media education concept is still lacking within the education system. That is why teachers of the Audiovisual Studies Department at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava have prepared a motivational project – Film Education for Secondary School Teachers and Students. In addition to lectures for secondary schools, a major component is a film education handbook for secondary school teachers.

The civil association Boiler is behind several activities within alternative and informal education for young audiences. Its members familiarise secondary school students with Slovak cinema by means of interactive lectures with film excerpts.

The popular-educational series about the history of cinema, The Film Cabinet, organised by the Slovak Film Institute in collaboration with the Association of Slovak Film Clubs, consists of screenings with lecturer introductions and discussions with the filmmakers; it is intended both for students and the general public. In turn, the Film Cabinet for Children is intended for pupils of grades 1 to 5 of primary schools and their teachers; it allows the youngest audiences to view the world of animated film by means of screenings and captivating lectures. 

Daniel Bernát, Zuzana Sotáková, Monika Mikušová


The organisational structure of the Slovak Film Institute (SFI) consists of National Film Archive (NFA), the core unit in the area of audiovisual heritage protection and restoration, and the National Cinematographic Centre (NCC) as the core unit for public access to the audiovisual heritage and current cinema. Recently, both of the units have gotten new managers.

For years, you could have met Alexandra Strelková, the Director of SFI’s NCC, at world film festivals, showcases, film markets and other events, including the priority presentations at the European Film Market in Berlin and the Marché du Film in Cannes. Strelková was NCC Director from 2005, but last year she decided to leave this position and the SFI introduces Rastislav Steranka as her successor at the current film market in Berlin.

There are several departments under this organisational unit of the Slovak Film Institute: the Film Events Department, the Audiovisual Information Centre, the Publications Department, which also covers the staff of this magazine. When Alexandra Strelková started working for the SFI, the NCC was a newly created unit within the Institute. “In part, I was familiar with the activities of film centres from Karlovy Vary where I previously worked as the Festival’s liaison with European Film Promotion within the Variety Critics’ Choice project. So I started out by thoroughly studying EFP members and I thought that the NCC must be one of them,” Strelková recalls the first initiatives that she succeeded in performing one year later when the SFI was accepted as a member of EFP at the Berlinale 2006. “After my first trips to Cannes and Karlovy Vary, having “scanned” the field, I started to prepare plans in two areas – how to keep pace with the EFP partners and how to extend the presentation of the SFI’s archive films.” Understandably, this did not prove to be easy. “The establishment of the NCC meant a huge increase in work but the working team was not extended, hence it was necessary to adopt a certain system and to gradually make it work. That required time and intensive communication and the collaboration of many people. And also the necessary funding.” Consequently, in 2009 the SFI started implementing the project titled “Presentation of Slovak Cinema and Audiovisual Art Abroad”, with financial support from the Slovak Ministry of Culture.

Strelková started out as NCC Director at a time when the current Slovak cinema was not in the best condition; however, this situation gradually changed and improved in several aspects. “The gradual opening up to the world was equally new for Slovak filmmakers; they also had to learn how to function in this new reality – to get used to travelling more, to networking, learning languages, understanding that you have to make an earlier start on working with the film internationally, not just after the Slovak première of the film, taking into account that promotion costs something and merits expert attention, and so on. This is where we strove and are still striving to help the most,” says Strelková and continues her account: “At the same time, the environment as such was gradually created in Slovakia and is still being formed and standardised, a suitable model for funding films, sources of mo- ney were sought, professional associations were established and are still being established, they are seeking out methods of joint communication and collaboration, some of them are even opening up more to the international environment. Unfortunately, in my view, film festivals which I see as being an important part of the film environment in the international context are not growing in Slovakia; we have not yet managed to create an event that would attract more attention in the international world.”

Alexandra Strelková knows very well that the demanding work in the NCC is not for everyone; nevertheless, she defends this work as beautiful and in evaluating the period spent within the Institute as well as the development of Slovak cinema, she states: “I definitely consider the time and development as positive; indeed, we have managed to achieve and progress in so many things! I’ve experienced Slovak films in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, Rotterdam… Beautiful premières of restored films, Slovak films receiving awards, films sold abroad… I quite immodestly think that the NCC contributed to this progress and to rendering Slovak cinema more visible and I hope that our environment perceives this in the same way. And I definitely regard as positive that steadily more and more things are happening in Slovakia even without the active involvement of the SFI. The ground is created.”

Alexandra Strelková’s successor says that he has taken over the NCC and its team in an excellent shape. “I just jumped onto a well-functioning express train. That is why I have great respect for this important position,” states the current film centre’s director Rastislav Steranka who didn’t enter an altogether unknown environment, as he previously worked in the Creative Europe Desk (CED) Slovakia, also an independent unit within the SFI. “Without my previous experience in the CED Slovakia office, I would not even dare to take up the position of SFI’s NCC Director with a remit for the promotion of Slovak cinema. The years previously spent in the EU MEDIA programme and the related travelling to European film festivals, markets or industry events have shown me not only how the entire film promotion process works, but also the actual international festivals and platforms for film professionals.”

The NCC collaborates in the organisation of events not only with its external partners, but also of course with the SFI’s National Film Archive. Last year, Marián Hausner became the director of this main organisational unit of the SFI for audiovisual heritage. In performing basic tasks related to the care of collections and funds consisting mainly of cinematographic and other audiovisual works, but also materials in written and graphical forms, et alia, related to their production, distribution, archiving and reflection, the NFA can base its work on legislation and priority projects which are long-term. “Preservation starts with acquisition which was systematically determined by the Audiovisual Act (Act No. 343/2007). This Act defined the deposition obligation and acquisition activities and these have continued in force in the current Audiovisual Act (Act No. 40/2015),” explains Marián Hausner. He continues: “Filmographic activities and the cataloguing of collections and funds form part of the SK CINEMA Information System Project implemented since 2002. The databases and knowledge of Slovak cinema are available via the film portal at www.skcinema.sk. Film conservation and restoration form the main parts of the Systematic Restoration of the Slovak Audiovisual Heritage Project adopted by the Slovak Government in 2006. Films are currently treated in the film laboratories in Zlín. The film heritage was successfully digitised and digitally restored within the Digital Audiovision national project in 2011 to 2015 and now the project is in its sustainability phase. In 2014, a top-level digitisation workplace was built in the SFI within the project.” All the a.m. projects also create the conditions for access to the audiovisual heritage. This is, for instance, achieved by means of services provided by the individual NFA departments, SFI’s publication activities or screenings in Cinema Lumière, especially within its programming component, the Filmothèque, which presents cinematographic works in the SFI’s study screening room on 35mm copies, largely from NFA collections. “As regards film events, colleagues from the NCC perform invaluable work as they focus on the presentation of not only contemporary Slovak films but also those that have already become a part of the audiovisual heritage,” concludes Marián Hausner, Director of the NFA.

( in collaboration with Alexandra Strelková )

Daniel Bernát