Ondřej Trojan filming Toman, the story of an unlikely hero
by Martin Kudláč
- The post-war drama follows the contradictory personality of a high-ranking communist official who saved Jews after World War II
Period dramas from the previous regime have become a linchpin in current Czech cinema, as demonstrated most recently by the success of A Prominent Patient [+see also:
film profile] at the Czech Lion Awards (see the news). Producer-director Ondřej Trojan has helmed several such films, including the socialist coming-of-age story set in a summer camp Let’s All Sing Around, the 2004 Academy Award-nominated Želary [+see also:
film profile] and the 1970s coming-of-age dramedy Identity Card in 2010.
Trojan is currently shooting his latest project, Toman [+see also:
film profile], another period drama revolving around the real-life figure of Zdeněk Toman, a high-ranking official in post-war Czechoslovakia who ran the secret police, helped the communist party to seize power, became a political prisoner, managed to escape to Venezuela and became a financial donor to Israel.
Toman presents us with an ambivalent and contradictory historical personality, as he headed up the state security office yet became the first high-ranking communist official to be jailed and condemned to death in 1949. However, he managed to help transport Eastern European Jews to safety after World War II before vanishing into exile (he was of Jewish descent, and his father, related to Hasidic rabbis, and mother both perished in Auschwitz), thus becoming an unlikely hero. He was awarded for his activities in the USA and Israel, and was officially rehabilitated after 1989.
“We want to authentically map out the life of the mysterious and influential communist secret agent Zdeněk Toman from the end of World War II until the communist coup in 1948, set against the backdrop of historical events and the figures that shaped those events. I do not want to shoot a fabricated fiction film loosely based on historical facts. Toman will be as faithful a period reconstruction as possible, based on conclusive archive material and eyewitness accounts,” says the director-producer. Tomáš Sysel, who worked on the award-winning My Dog Killer [+see also:
film profile] and In Your Dreams! [+see also:
film profile], is lensing the movie.
Several pre-shoots were completed in the autumn of 2016, while the 47 shooting days have been divided into different phases during spring, summer and autumn 2017 on location in Prague, where the actual events took place. Some of the interiors have been shot on the stages at Barrandov Studios. Principal photography will wrap in October, and the first cut is expected to be finished in December. The domestic release is provisionally slated for 12 April 2018.
The production outfit founded by Ondrěj Trojan, Total HelpArt, is producing this Czech-Slovak co-production for the Czech Republic, with production outfit PubRes staging it for Slovakia. The public broadcasters from both countries, Czech Television and Radio and Television Slovakia, are co-producing, while the Czech Film Fund and Slovak Audiovisual Fund have supported the project. The film does not yet have a sales agent attached.
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