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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Czech Republic / Slovakia

Abuse of power and sexual predation at the centre of Czech true-crime miniseries Guru


- The series is an original production for local VoD service VOYO, which plans to pump in more original content in a bid for new subscribers amidst the streaming wars

Abuse of power and sexual predation at the centre of Czech true-crime miniseries Guru
Guru by Biser A Arichtev

The Czech Republic is starting to satiate its hunger for true-crime stories; indeed, crime is the most frequent genre on the domestic small screen. Czech Television has just premiered the first episode of its new retro crime series Nineties, directed by Slovak filmmaker Peter Bebjak (and lensed by Bebjak’s regular collaborator Martin Žiaran). The first episode of Nineties became the most-watched new domestic TV programme ever (racking up 1.9 million viewers).

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Guru, another new crime miniseries based on a real event, is getting ready for the premiere of its first episode. The story follows a young woman, Alice (Anna Fialová), who has hit a rough patch in her life and starts to seek solutions through therapeutic yoga lessons provided by guru Marek (Vojtěch Kotek) and his manipulative assistant Klára (Kristína Podzimková). She undergoes “a ritual”, which she discovers is rape, and reports it to the police. As a result of the investigation, she discovers that she has not been the only person to fall victim to this sexual predator who has been abusing his power.

While the story slightly resembles the recent case of Keith Raniere (and his cult NXIVM), which the media latched onto, Guru is actually based on a Czech self-appointed tantra guru, Jára, who practised the technique of “unhooking” on his students in order to rid them of the “hooks” unduly left by their previous sexual partners. He has been tried for the rape of six women. The case has already been the subject of an episode of the Czech legal series Life and Times of Judge A.K., but the three-episode miniseries Guru is dedicated solely to this subject matter. The topic of sexual predators and sexual abuse has been resonating particularly loudly recently and is gaining social momentum. The documentary Caught in the Net [+see also:
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, revolving around sex predators targeting minors online, became a box-office hit during the pandemic (see the news), while filmmaker Ondřej Provazník is preparing Highlight, a drama that will thematise sexual abuse when perpetrated by people in a position of power, from a more complex perspective (see the news).

Guru, which is being helmed by television director Biser A Arichtev, has been made for local VoD service VOYO, available in the territories of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as original programming under its VOYO Originals label. It is the second original production, following the miniseries Case Roubal, which dramatises the crimes and trial of one of the most sadistic Czechoslovakian serial killers. VOYO plans to continue pumping local original programming into its catalogue, with one new production planned for each month of 2022, starting with Guru in January, and 16 to 20 additional new series for 2023. VOYO aspires to rank among the top three streaming services in the Czech territory (first place being occupied by Netflix, which is followed by HBO Go, soon to transform into HBO Max). Amidst the streaming wars, it boasts the competitive advantage of having local content (targeting older audiences) in order to grow its subscriber base.

Guru is being produced by Czech outfit Dramedy Productions, whose Filip Bobiňski serves as a producer and showrunner, with Michal Bütow on board as a creative producer for TV Nova. The miniseries will be available in the Czech Republic and Slovakia via the VOYO service.

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