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VENICE 2022 Orizzonti

Michal Blaško • Director of Victim

“There is this balance between an intimate story and one about an individual against society”

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- VENICE 2022: We chatted to the Slovak filmmaker about his feature debut, in which he takes a deep dive into the xenophobia that’s firmly embedded in society

Michal Blaško • Director of Victim

When the son of a Ukrainian immigrant in the Czech Republic is taken to intensive care, a rumour quickly makes the rounds that he was attacked by local Roma boys. While the right-wing and liberal camps get riled up, the mother and son have to choose how to navigate the situation, ever in fear of their status in the country. We spoke to Michal Blaško about his feature debut, Victim [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Michal Blaško
film profile
]
, which has premiered in the Orizzonti section of the 79th Venice International Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: You tend to write about people, mostly outsiders, in difficult situations, encountering xenophobia, bullying or discrimination. What fascinates you about such characters?
Michal Blaško: I think the common denominator among these stories is that there is a strong main character, and we spend some time with her or him. And when there is some kind of borderline situation, we try to understand why he or she decided to react like this. There is this balance between an intimate story and one about an individual against society.

Her story, that of a wronged minority, is hijacked by extremist groups to push back against another minority. Was there any specific incident that inspired you?
There were a few similar incidents: one happened in Slovakia, one in France and one in Italy. What they all have in common is that there were politicians involved, there was a demonstration, and not only were the “hoax” media present, but the general mass media were as well. These were things that we tried to put into the story because we thought that something like this could happen anywhere in the world.

In order to belong, Irina has to trample over other minorities.
Yes; in the beginning, the main characters weren't supposed to be Ukrainians. That happened during the development stage. We thought it might be interesting to also make them part of the minority, which creates this conflict.

Is she selling her soul, or is she just using a flawed system stacked against her to gain security in life?
She is primarily protecting her son. She knows that she has to keep lying because they could lose their chance to get citizenship. And I don't think she’s asking for benefits from society. But she's an interesting character: when she thinks she's doing something bad, she needs to do something good. I don't consider her a bad person.

The fact that the son is lying goes hand in hand with him being afraid of his mum and the whole stress of being an alien in the country.
Exactly. There are just the two of them; they depend on each other. Their circumstances are really difficult. During the premiere of the film, some people totally understood why she decided that she needed to lie.

The extremists in the story jump at this opportunity to hijack the conversation, whereas the politicians are just showering them with gifts. But nobody really cares about the Roma people and the attacks on them.
These right-wing politicians in Slovakia and the Czech Republic have been gaining popularity because they have found a way to be attractive to people who may be frustrated. Situations like these are the perfect opportunity for them. They are also using social media now because they're very good at it. And it’s terrible that they’re so good at it.

The setting for your story could be anywhere in modern-day Europe; you don't really specify the location. That gives it a very universal tone.
Absolutely. We wanted to keep it anonymous and not be specific.

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