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REPORT: Febiofest Slovakia 2017

by Martin Kudláč

A look at some Slovak projects with international potential presented at the International Film Clubs Festival Febiofest's Industry Days

REPORT: Febiofest Slovakia 2017

The Association of Slovak Film Clubs, in collaboration with the Slovak Film Institute, has presented the second edition of the Industry Days platform for film professionals at the International Film Clubs’ Festival, Febiofest. The platform aims to introduce upcoming works from Slovak producers to domestic and international audiences. “This year, we want to present eleven projects that surely represent only a fraction of what is being prepared in Slovakia at the moment, but at the same time, a fraction that offers a good insight into the wide range of auteurs' and producers' approaches to current topics and modern cinema. That is just the way Slovak film looks at the moment. It absorbs impulses from abroad and combines them with local topics and unique formal approaches,” commented Přemysl Martinek, the art director of IFCF Febiofest. He emphasised that the intention was not to pick only typical “festival” films but also to showcase the complexity of Slovak cinema, dipping into works by filmmakers that have already found box-office success while also shining a spotlight on promising documentaries and short films.

Zuzana Liová's Waiting (Slovakia/Czech Republic/Germany)
After her international breakthrough, The House (2011), Zuzana Liová returns with her new fiction feature project, Waiting, produced by independent company Hitchhiker Cinema and co-produced by Czech group Mimesis Film and Jana Cisar Filmproduktion from Germany. The project has already received support from the Slovak Audiovisual Fund and the Creative Europe Media Programme, and Slovak national broadcaster, Radio and Television Slovakia, is already on board. The project´s budget is €970 000 and it is currently in development, working from the third version of the script. Location scouting is complete and all the principal crew have been secured, while casting is still being finalised. Jan Baset Střitežský, director of photography for Liová´s feature debut, will also lend her efforts to this second film. Producer Barbara Janišová Feglová hasconfirmed that the team is open to partnerships and approaches from potential co-producers. She also revealed that the story is about death and finding joy in small things, about existence and the inner transformations of the characters. The banality of life is revealed in light of the terminal illness of Ivan, a sixty-something painter, who lives a dull life in a village with his wife, with whom he shares a boring relationship. “Dying is not just a physical process; it also has a symbolic meaning. Our attitudes, habits and egoism disappear as well. It´s an ongoing process of perpetual change which surrounds us at all levels of our existence,” explains the director. Principal photography is expected to take place between December 2017 and May 2018, with the film´s release set for Autumn 2018.

Ivo Trajkov's Piargy (Slovakia/Czech Republic, Slovenia, Macedonia)
Based on the novella Piargy by Slovak writer František Švanter, this project has been in development for four years and is currently helmed by Czech-Macedonian director Ivo Trajkov, who co-wrote the script with Slovak scriptwriter Jana Skořepová. The story follows a priest who supposedly uncovers a mystery of the Antichrist, buried under an avalanche that fell on the village of Piargy, by way of the only survivor, Johanka. František Švantner is a classic writer of 20th century Slovak literature, whose naturalistic stories stray into the horror genre. The film is shot in black and white and set against the backdrop of the beginning of WWII. The project´s budget is €1.75 million and, while some material was shot last year, the principal photography is planned to take place from Autumn 2017 to Spring 2018 in order to have the final cut ready before the end of 2018. The Slovak Audiovisual Film Fund has already lent its support to the project and the producers are still awaiting a decision from the Czech Cinematography Fund. They have also applied for support from the Slovenian Film Fund and Eurimages and are even contemplating an application for a Ukranian grant. The Slovak national broadcasting corporation is already on board with the project and negotiations with two companies for distributing the film in Slovakia and the Czech Republic are currently ongoing. Piargy is being produced by Slovakian company Arina and co-produced by i/o post (Czech Republic), Slovenian production company Staragara and Story Scope (Macedonia).

Tomáš Krupa's A Good Death (Slovakia)
Director Tomáš Krupa is working on a feature documentary, A Good Death, currently in production, tackling the taboo theme of euthanasia. He follows terminally ill Janette, who wishes to die with dignity at a moment of her choosing, something that is not possible in the UK. She finds a Swiss doctor who is willing to help her, although her children are against euthanasia. “The goal is to make a strong human statement, to create a visually captivating film with a climactic story development and a higher significance,” reveals the director in a statement. With a budget of €95 000, the project is being produced by Slovak independent production company Hailstone, and has been written, directed and produced by Tomáš Krupa. The documentary was shot in several European countries and, as the director feels that it has international potential, the team is open to approaches from international co-producers and broadcasters, having already been in discussions with the BBC, a Swiss television channel and both Slovak and Czech national broadcasters. The film should be finished in 2018 and its release is expected for 2019. 

Igor Voloshin's The Cellar (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Russia)
Russian filmmaker Igor Voloshin is heading up a project entitled The Cellar, produced by Slovak company Furia Film, about a marriage crisis and its impact on a child. The director commented that the story is about “evil and how we can fight the evil”. The producer stressed that, despite the film´s theme of marriage troubles and death, The Cellar is not a thriller but rather a psychological family drama. Slovakia is a major producer alongside two co-producers, Czech Republic’s 8heads production and Russia’s Gate LCC. The project is now past the development phase after ten versions of the script, with location scouting and casting complete. It’s a mainly Slovak and Czech cast, also featuring Russian actress Olga Simonova. The Slovak Audiovisual Fund, the Czech State Cinematography Fund and the Russian Ministry of Culture, as well as Eurimages, have all supported the project. The first day of shooting is set for 8 May. With 34 shooting days planned, the film should be finished by the end of 2017. Producers are aiming to unveil and introduce the film on the festival circuit. 

Peter Bebjak's The Line (Slovakia, Ukraine)
The director of The Cleaner, Peter Bebjak, also working on Holocaust film The Message, will finish his upcoming fiction feature The Line in two months, confirmed producer Wanda Adamík Hrycová. The Line, formerly known as Schengen Story, is a crime thriller set on the Slovak-Ukrainian border that revolves around an organised crime leader operating in that region. Hrycová stated that the story is about moral as well as physical borders. She also revealed that she chose Peter Bebjak to lead the project because of his work on television crime series, and for his ability to blend genre and arthouse cinema. Bebjak's customary director of photography Martin Žiaran is on board, along with Emília Vašáryová of Eva Nová fame. Hrycová noted that this film marks the first Slovak-Ukrainian collaboration and that it will have a mixed Slovak and Ukrainian cast. Domestic release is provisionally set for August 2017 but the producer is also open to approaches from sales agents and the possibility of festival exposure. The Line is being produced by Slovakia’s Wandal Production, with Garnet International Media Group from the Ukraine and Radio and Television Slovakia both co-producing. 

Mariana Čengel Solčanská's The Maidservant (Slovakia)
The director Mariana Čengel Solčanská, who has just had a record-breaking opening weekend with her latest film, the political thriller Kidnapping, is already working on a new project. The Maidservant is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Slovak writer Hana Lasicová, who has also penned the script. The project is in development with the first draft of the screenplay, and tells a story set against the backdrop of the last fragile days of the Habsburg monarchy and the emergence of the new Czechoslovak state. The story follows a young maidservant in the house of a respectable Viennese family, who develops a relationship with the daughter of the house. The Maidservant is intended to be a historical drama with an LGBT theme and, according to the director, a focus on naturalistic details, the intimacy of childbirth, death and sexuality, distinctive female characters and women’s contribution to history. The project is being produced by Slovak production company Trigon Production with an estimated budget of €1.8 million. Development is likely to continue throughout Summer 2017, with production scheduled for Spring and Summer 2018. The production team aims to approach Austrian co-producers, as they are planning to shoot in Vienna.

Juraj Lehotský's Nina (Slovakia, Czech Republic)
The associate producer of Juraj Lehotský´s next fiction feature, Nina (see news), Katarína Tomková, confirmed that the film was shot in Summer 2016 and edited in Autumn/Winter 2016, and that the final cut is ready although colourisation is still in progress. The team is currently looking for a film festival to host the world premiere and is hopeful of subsequent screenings on the festival circuit. The Slovak Audiovisual Fund supported the development and production of the project, along with Creative Europe Media and the Czech State Cinematography Fund. The director himself revealed that he avoided moralising in Nina and that the film is an attempt to dive into a child's mind and try to understand her point of view. The film is still open to sales agents.

Pavol Pekarčík's A Long Day (Slovakia)
Pavol Pekarčík, director of one third of the award-winning documentary Velvet Terrorists, is working on a portmanteau documentary called A Long Day, which follows the everyday lives of its four protagonists, hearing-impaired Roma children. Pekarčík explained that, while Roma live on the fringes of society, hearing-impaired Roma live on a fringe of a fringe. He revealed that he opted for a sort of observational documentary, favouring long shots that enable him to closely follow the reality of the four children, taking a minimalistic approach with as little directorial intervention as possible. The project was supported by the Slovak Audiovisual Fund and is awaiting a decision from the Czech State Cinematography Fund. Pekarčík shot the material in 2015 and 2016 and still needs at least 20 more shooting days. The editing will be carried out in Autumn 2017 and producers are looking for festivals for the world premiere and beyond, as well as for sales agents. Slovak production company partizanfilm is producing the film, while co-producing is kaleidoscope, also from Slovakia. 

Peter Budinský's Heart of a Tower (Slovakia)
Feature-length animated project Heart of a Tower, directed by Peter Budinský, is about little Riki, who embarks on a great adventure to save Yourland, a fantasy world. The primary target group is a 7 to 12-year-old audience with their parents as a secondary target group. Heart of a Tower has been hailed as the first Slovak animated feature for kids. The project is currently in development as finishing touches are applied to the script, and the storyboard should be finished by August 2017. Slovakian independent production company and animation studio Plutoon is producing the film, with Slovak company BFILM co-producing. The budget is estimated at €2.2 million and the producers are planning to work with three additional co-producers. The release of the film is provisionally expected for 2020, and the producers are looking for broadcasters and distributors. Heart of a Tower is conceived as a cross-media project: besides the feature film, producers envision a book with augmented reality, board games and a mobile app.

Joanna Koźuch's Once There Was a Sea… (Slovakia) 
Produced by animation studio plackartnyj, with BFILM co-producing, the short animated documentary Once There Was a Sea..., written and directed by Joanna Koźuch, is about the disappearance of the fourth biggest lake in the world, the Aral Sea — a man-made eco-catastrophe. The choice to tackle the issue through animation was motivated by three objectives: to conceal the identity of protagonists, to recreate the lake and to bring the dreams and desires of the characters to life. The film is expected to be released in 2019 and the project´s budget is €160 000, covering not only the short animated documentary but also an online documentary and printed comics to accompany the main film. The director stated that her intention is to make a film about “a big desire and the even bigger stupidity of man.”

Marta Prokopová and Michal Blaško's Wild Beasts (Slovakia)
Another short animated effort in the pipeline is Wild Beasts, written and directed by Marta Prokopová and Michal Blaško. The film portrays a new world order, as mankind hands the reins of power over the world to animals. Young Slovak production company Super film is producing what has been described as a dark, intimate story and surreal animated drama, rendered in digital drawing animation with colourful visuals revealing the ”tragic consequences of man´s actions” with humour, irony and symbolism. The development stage is expected to last until September 2017, with pre-production beginning in October 2017 and post-production scheduled for 2018.

(Pictures © Febiofest Slovakia)