Porn and Politics, With a Czech Touch, Headed for Berlinale

23 February 2021

Czech Film

Porn and Politics, With a Czech Touch, Headed for Berlinale

Czech Film

Porn and Politics, With a Czech Touch, Headed for Berlinale

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The main program at this year’s Berlinale includes two films with Czech coproduction participation. The latest from director Radu Jude, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, with a subject no less provocative than its name, is in the running for the Golden Bear in the festival’s main competition, while the political thriller Je suis Karl, by Christian Schwochow, has made it to the Berlinale Special section. Celebrating the news alongside the Romanian and German directors are the Czech producers, actors, sound engineers, composers, and other professionals who took part in the two films’ production.

by Pavel Sladký for CZECH FILM magazine / Spring 2021

Romanian director Radu Jude is by now a regular at the Berlinale festival, having won, among other honors, the Silver Bear for Best Director in 2015, for Aferim!, about the hunt for a runaway Roma slave in 19th-century Wallachia. His latest feature, “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians”, follows a theatrical director staging a reconstruction of the ethnic cleansing of Jews in Odessa by Romania’s army during World War II. “I Do Not Care” won Jude the Crystal Globe, the top prize at the Karlovy Vary festival, in 2018. The new film continues his “Berlin string” of world premieres and marks a return to the burning issues of the present after forays into delicate themes of Romanian and European history.

From pornography to the foundations of European society 

The title alone raises questions: Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn subtitled Sketch for a Popular Film is about the events unleashed after a Bucharest schoolteacher’s homemade pornography finds its way onto the internet. Administrators hold a meeting with angry parents (one of whom is played by Czech actress Petra Nesvačilová). Who is to blame and why? Who should be ashamed and why? What social values are the basis for condemnation, ridicule, and quarrels? What is the meaning of education in our society? These are some of the questions viewers may find themselves asking after the film.       

Radu Jude is one of Romanian cinema’s edgiest directors. His new film is segmented into chapters, each in an entirely different style: the first, an observation from the streets of Bucharest; the second, a wry audiovisual glossary of the terms of contemporary society; and the third, in which the conflict comes to a head, titled “Sitcom.”

In Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, Jude deals not only with pornography and its controversial role in society, but also with public space, in both the urban and intellectual sense. It examines the hypocrisy that arises from certain contemporary social customs.

“My film is about the tension between the private and the public,” says the director. “The fragmentary structure of the film is aimed not only at telling the story visually but at creating links between the people and things portrayed. I opted for it for several reasons. I want to use film as a medium corresponding to our approach to knowledge: incomplete, misleading, fragmentary. Simple, easy-to-understand narration, with a beginning and an end, often ensures commercial success, but I think it’s time for different narrative structures now, like what happened in literature over a hundred years ago. Also my film takes the lessons from modernist cinematography of the 1960s and combines it with the sensitivities of today,” adds Jude, noting that his sources of inspiration in this regard include Fassbinder and Godard.

A film in masks: About the pandemic in the times of the pandemic

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn was shot in the summer of 2020 during the complicated times of the pandemic. This reality is directly reflected in the film and made some of its conflicts more intense. Among other things, the characters in the film wear masks and argue about them.

“First of all, I conceived of the film as contemporary, and masks are a fact of life today that I wanted to capture. Secondly, I was concerned about the health of everyone taking part in the production,” Jude says.

He notes that strict measures were in place during the summer shoot, including regular testing, mandatory mask-wearing, and changing protective gear every four hours. The routine was sometimes unpleasant, says Jude, “but I felt a great relief when the shoot was over and we were all healthy.”

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is a Romanian-Luxembourgian-Czech-Croatian coproduction. Collaborating on the Czech side was Jiří Konečný’s endorfilm, which now works with Jude and producer Ada Solomon on a regular basis. All of the image postproduction was also handled in the Czech Republic. The Czech Film Fund supported the project with a grant of €96,000.

Je suis Maxi. Je suis Karl: A story of right-wing populists in search of supporters

German director Christian Schwochow’s thriller Je suis Karl, celebrating its world premiere at the Berlinale Special, is the story of a girl named Maxi whose family is destroyed by a terrorist attack in Berlin. Only she and her father survive the death of her mother and little brothers. While she is still in mourning, Maxi meets a charismatic young political speaker, Karl, from a group called RE/Generation Europe. Gradually the audience realizes they are not so much young patriots defending tradition and stability as a cover group for far-right extremist terrorist actions being planned all over Europe.

The film has a budget of €5.6 million and is set in Germany, France, and the Czech Republic. “The main theme is the transformation of right-wing populist movements, which are modernizing and drawing in new adherents among the younger generations — like the Identitarian movement, which also operates in the Czech Republic,“ says the film’s Czech coproducer, Pavel Strnad of Negativ. He characterizes Schwochow’s directing style as modern and dynamic. 

“Christian has made several very successful TV projects in recent years, which have allowed him to try out large-scale action scenes with cinematographer Frank Lamm and production designer Tim Pannen. He also puts major emphasis on his work with actors, and all of the Czech actors spoke very highly of their collaboration with him,” says Strnad. One of the lead roles in Je suis Karl is played by Anna Fialová; Czech audiences will also recognize Elizaveta Maximová in a supporting role.

“The producers from Pandora Film Produktion contacted us in the early stages, when the screenplay was in development, and we quickly agreed to work with them. We had known producers Claudia Steffen and Christoph Friedl for a long time and always hoped to find a project we could collaborate on,” says Strnad.

A quarter of Je suis Karl shot in Prague

The Czech Film Fund supported Je suis Karl with a grant of €154,000 in 2018, through a call for minority coproductions. The project also received funding through an incentive allocation of €288,000. A quarter of the film was shot in Prague, with the score composed by respected Czech musician Tomáš Dvořák, aka Floex, whose work skirts the boundaries of electronic, classical music, and other styles, and his regular collaborator Tom Hodge. Thanks to Soundsquare studio, the film’s sound was also in Czech hands, while MagicLab worked on some of the visual effects.

“Getting the film into this year’s Berlinale is a tremendous success, and is further confirmation for us that our work as producers is moving in the right direction,” notes Strnad.

Beyond the premiere in the special online version of this year’s Berlinale for professionals in March, the filmmakers are looking forward to the Summer Special edition in June and the opportunity to put their works in front of international and domestic audiences.

 

Films

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Sketch for a Popular Film)

Emi, a school teacher, finds her career and reputation under threat after a personal sex tape is leaked on the Internet. Forced to meet the parents demanding her dismissal, Emi refuses to surrender to their pressure.Radu Jude…

Director

Radu Jude

Year

2021

Type

Fiction

Je suis Karl

Somewhere in Berlin. Not just some day – today. A parcel in a hallway. ALEX, a husband and father of three, leaves his flat to get wine from his car. In the confusion that follows, he's torn from the routine of everyday…

Year

2021

Type

Fiction

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