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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Slovakia / Poland / Czech Republic / Belgium

Martin Gonda's Flood narrates the untold story of Rusyn displacement


- The film intertwines the intimate story of a young woman's struggle with the broader historical context of the Rusyn community's fight against the construction of a reservoir in the 1980s

Martin Gonda's Flood narrates the untold story of Rusyn displacement
Flood by Martin Gonda

Following the success of his Cannes-premiered student film Pura Vida in the Cinéfondation, emerging Slovak filmmaker Martin Gonda returns to Eastern Slovakia with his feature-length debut, Flood, penned by the director himself, Dominika Udvorková and Martin Šuster. The film delves into the unexplored theme of the displacement of the Rusyn, an East Slavic ethnic group from the Eastern Carpathians in Central Europe, during the construction of the Starina reservoir in the 1980s. Set against this tumultuous backdrop, Flood intertwines personal and collective stories, bringing to the forefront the often-overlooked plight of the Rusyn minority in Slovakia.

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Gonda's film speaks to minorities, individuals who have experienced displacement and young adults through its protagonist, Mara. The story unfolds in a small village, threatened by an impending flood due to the construction of the reservoir. Mara (Sára Chripáková), a young woman yearning for city life and an education, is bound to her rural roots by her strict father, a Rusyn farmer, who refuses to relinquish his land and legacy despite the looming end of their world. Flood explores the themes of adolescence, uprooting and the sacrifice of personal desires for the greater good. The film seeks to elicit reflections on one's roots and the concept of home, as well as the challenges of navigating a disappearing culture and heritage.

The Starina reservoir's construction, which lasted from 1981-1988, led to the largest displacement in Slovak history. Gonda's personal connection to the region, having spent his childhood summers there, adds a layer of authenticity and depth to the narrative. The film not only recounts the physical destruction of the seven Rusyn villages, but also captures the emotional and cultural impact of this event on the community. The director aims to present a deeply researched, emotive and intimate story as well as diving into the complex dynamics between personal identity, community ties and the inexorable march of progress. The movie is poised to engage and challenge audiences, fostering a deeper understanding of the often-painful interplay between tradition and modernity.

Flood won the main prize at Febiofest Bratislava Industry Days in 2021 (see the report), with the film captivating the jury “with its engaging narrative on the theme of a family on the brink of extinction in the name of progress”. The shoot started in September, and the majority of the footage has already been shot, with Oliver Záhlava (Pura Vida) serving as the cinematographer. The editing phase will be carried out in Poland. The cast combines professional and non-professional actors, and Flood is destined to be the first film about Rusyns made in the Rusyn language.

Flood is being produced by Silverart (Slovakia), and co-produced by Harine Films (Poland), Cineart TV Prague (Czech Republic) and Y-House (Belgium). The Slovak Audiovisual Fund, the Polish Film Institute, Radio and Television Slovakia, the Minority Culture Fund, Creative Europe – MEDIA, the Košice Self-governing Region, the Czech Film Fund and the Belgian Tax Shelter have supported the project.

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