06 March 2023
01 March 2023
Štefan Pongo is a Roma lorry driver. Fifteen years ago, he emigrated from the Czech Republic to the UK with his family to shield them from the open racial discrimination there. The children have graduated from university and the family is doing well. But hateful sentiments from the old country continue to have an impact. When the Czech president claims that the Roma are work-shy, an angry Štefan asks other Roma to send him photographs on social media of them at work. Štefan receives thousands of photos and becomes a well-known media figure. He starts producing video blogs, organizes anti-racism demonstrations and provides humanitarian aid to Roma settlements in need. All this comes at the cost of time spent with his family. Štefan’s spirited wife, Iveta, has had enough.
A young anthropologist, Zdenka, moves with her husband and three sons to Svalbard,
Norway, to study how life is changing in polar regions. She has received a prestigious two-
year grant to carry out extensive research on the impact of globalisation on the inhabitants
of the world's northernmost town, Longyearbyen. After falling in love with her new home, Zdenka discovers that more than icebergs and permafrost are vanishing in the Arctic. Through conducting interviews with residents, she begins to perceive how heterogeneous the small local community actually is, while also revealing tensions that lie beneath the surface. Zdenka then has to work out the extent to which she can get involved in the local community that she only originally intended to observe.
When a young investigative journalist and his fiancée are brutally murdered at their home in Slovakia, their deaths inspire the biggest protests in the country since the fall of communism. The story takes an unexpected turn when a source leaks the secret murder case file to the slain journalist’s colleagues. It includes the computers and encrypted communications of the assassination’s alleged mastermind: a businessman closely connected to the country’s ruling party. Trawling these encrypted messages, journalists discover that their country has been captured by corrupt oligarchs, judges and law enforcement officials. The mafia is the government, and a reckoning awaits.
The film invites us into the inner world of the translator Anna Kareninová, where the love for language is as strong as for loved ones. Through personal diaries from her travels to France and Italy, we embark on a journey to meet the rhythm of the language of the writers Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Ezra Pound. The honesty with which she approaches the translations of their work is also manifested in her relations to those closest to her. Care for the old apartment she shared with her late husband, poet Petr Kabeš, and the never-ending inner debate over his books and texts only shows the depth of their relationship. The subtle touches of Céline, Pound and Kabeš reflect the delicate world of a woman who is found by the one she seeks.
The very hard-working cinematographer Martin Štrba (b. 1961) shoots vibrant films about the present—including some marked by COVID, such as the drama The Unbalanced or the dramedy Waltzing Matylda—but he also often films stories from the past. Most of these are set in difficult historical periods, such as the World War II film Emma and the Death’s Head. Some are dedicated to specific personalities, such as Charlatan, which made it to the Oscar shortlist in 2021. Now Štrba is working with the team from Charlatan—director Agnieszka Holland and screenwriter Mark Epstein—on a Franz Kafka biopic.
Interview by Vojtěch Rynda for CZECH FILM / Spring 2023