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BLACK NIGHTS 2021 First Feature Competition

Michal Nohejl • Director of Occupation

“The theatre setting brought an extra dimension to the expression of the story”


- In his first feature, the Czech actor-director uses humour and satire to deal with a painful period in Czechoslovakia’s history

Michal Nohejl • Director of Occupation

Czech actor Michal Nohejl presented his first feature, Occupation [+see also:
film review
interview: Michal Nohejl
film profile
, at this year's Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. As the title would suggest, the film makes use of satire to deal with the tension and the impact of the times when Czechoslovakia was under occupation. We talked to the director about how he developed the characters and the visual concept of the film.

Cineuropa: Where did the inspiration for the film come from?
Michal Nohejl: My friend, a writer, told me the story. It was based on a true story that had happened to two of his friends. It was set in the times after the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the troops of the Warsaw Pact in 1968.

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Why did you choose a theatre setting to tell the story?
I chose the theatre because I’m quite familiar with it, and the actors are as well. The theatre setting brought an extra dimension to the expression of the story. For us, it was the best place to tell the story in the most natural way.

How did you develop the different characters?
I chose the actors while working on the script, and then we searched for suitable types of people that we know personally from different areas of our lives.

Was it difficult to assemble the cast for the film? How did you proceed?
I cast my actor friends because it is much easier to work with people I know. The characters of Milada and the Russian soldier were picked during a casting session.

How did you develop the visual concept for the film?
Most Czech films from that period are grey, without any colour. Together with the DoP, we decided that we definitely wanted the film to be full of colours. The location led us in this direction as well.

Is heroism something that should belong only to the sphere of theatre, rather than real life?
Absolutely not. But theatre is a place where the theme of heroism is often performed.

What is heroism, in your opinion?
You should ask Julius Fučík.

What were the biggest challenges in making this film?
In order to produce the movie on a low budget and in the short time period that we had, some very precise preparation was needed.

What message would you like to convey with the film?
That’s not an easy question. Maybe that occupation and heroism take many different forms...

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