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Jan Hrebejk • Director

Mature vision


- Director Jan Hrebejk and screenwriter Petr Jarchovský discuss their new film Innocence and the secrets (and limits) of their success

Jan  Hrebejk    • Director

Cineuropa: How did the story originate?
Petr Jarchovský: Innocence [+see also:
film review
interview: Jan Hrebejk
film profile
was inspired by several different situations which in reality happened really a little differently, at different places and to different people than in the film. The situation of an underage girl accusing an adult man of sexual abuse was a real one. We decided to follow the impact of such a situation on his background, people, family relations. We wondered, for example, if it would not be interesting if the detective investigating such a complicated and serious case would be someone with whom with the accused man had some personal problems.

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Your films get broader distribution and more awards than most Czech movies...
Jan Hrebejk: Films from countries where there is not a huge market need to have not only high quality but usually some happy context in order to be successful. Very often, the interesting ones are those that are original and radical. But in the tradition of Czech cinema, the successful films are not radical. They are poetic comedies, fairytales.... Czech cinema is still underfinanced. The more interesting projects are found among the documentaries, which cost less to make.

...and you've been twice shortlisted for the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film and had four films distributed in the US. What do you understand about American audiences – or what do they understand about you?
Hrebejk: In America, our viewers are cosmopolitan audiences in university cities or metropolises like New York or Chicago – audiences who seek out independent films and do not mind reading subtitles. We're not the only Czech filmmakers who have had success in America, of course. Jan Sverák won an Oscar for Kolya and filmmakers of the Czechoslovak New Wave such as Jirí Menzel are still better known. We just had the luck of finding an American sales agent early on.

Is it still difficult to find financing for your projects, even with your successes?
Hrebejk: I am not the best paid filmmaker of my generation. My schoolmates from FAMU that work in advertising are many times better paid. And our projects receive almost nothing in grants. It's assumed they will be successful, so they do not need any support – which is simply not true. In the end, this means that we very often shoot in worse conditions than our colleagues do.

You've acknowledged your fondness for Woody Allen's films. What European filmmakers inspire you?
Hrebejk: The classics – François Truffaut, Federico Fellini, Luis Buñuel, Luchino Visconti, Ingmar Bergman, Andrzej Wajda... Nowadays I love Pedro Almodóvar, Emir Kusturica, Nikita Mikhalkov…but my favourite is Mike Leigh.

Did your experience with Kawasaki's Rose [+see also:
film review
film profile
at Berlin last year change your approach to filmmaking?

Hrebejk: It's very nice to have a film at the Berlinale, but there's also something to a queue in front of a cinema where you have to pay for the tickets. The process of making a film is always the same, and everyone wants viewers. What counts is talent, the ability to make a statement, and the maturity of the vision.

You are already working on another project together. What's it about?
Jarchovský: It does not has name yet, but thematically it‘s connected to Kawasaki's Rose and Innocence. It‘s a psychodrama with the themes of secret sin, seeking forgiveness, and accepting responsibility for your behaviour. If I manage to finish the screenplay, and if Jan likes it, it could to be the third part of a trilogy about blame and punishment.

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