Berlinale 2024: Personal triumph, social upheaval

17 January 2024

Czech Film

Berlinale 2024: Personal triumph, social upheaval

Czech Film

Berlinale 2024: Personal triumph, social upheaval


The Czech streak at one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals, the Berlin International Film Festival, aka the Berlinale, remains unbroken. The 74th edition once again welcomes a lineup of works showcasing the storytelling prowess, thematic depth, and innovative approach of Czech cinema. From introspective documentary essay to dystopian social sci-fi, Czech filmmakers continue to challenge audiences with their profound insights into the human condition and their commitment to exploring complex societal themes.


Article by Martin Kudláč for CZECH FILM / Spring 2024

From obscurity to recognition

The Berlinale’s Panorama Dokumente section—“explicitly queer, explicitly feminist, explicitly political—and at the same time seek[ing] to think beyond these categories”—this year unveils the captivating portrait I’m Not Everything I Want to Be, about Czech photographer Libuše Jarcovjáková, often referred to as the Nan Goldin of Czechoslovakia. Directed by award-winning documentarist Klára Tasovská, known for Fortress (2012) and Nothing Like Before (2017), both made in collaboration with Lukáš Kokeš, I’m Not Everything I Want to Be marks her solo directing debut.

Tasovská’s biographical essay transcends traditional documentary form, weaving a narrative that highlights both the joys and the anxieties inherent in the pursuit of individuality. Set against the backdrop of Communist Czechoslovakia, Berlin, and Tokyo, the film captures the essence of Jarcovjáková’s life and her defiance of conventional beauty and relationship norms.

Employing a rich montage of the photographer’s images, including self-portraits that predate the “selfie” era, I’m Not Everything I Want to Be retraces the pivotal moments in Jarcovjáková’s path from obscurity to recognition—from her early explorations of Prague’s underground scenes to personal upheavals and her return to the Czech capital after the Iron Curtain’s fall—offering an intimate glimpse into the subject’s evolving identity. The documentary integrates archival footage, audio diaries, observational footage, and personal writings to give a comprehensive picture of Jarcovjáková’s life and artistic journey, while capturing the feeling of the era.

Produced by Kokeš and Tasovská for Somatic Films and coproduced by nutprodukcia (Slovakia) and Mischief Films (Austria), in association with ARTE G.E.I.E. and Czech Television, I’m Not Everything I Want to Be is supported by the Czech Film Fund and Creative Europe MEDIA. In addition to exploring the artist’s personal narrative, Tasovská’s film delves into broader themes of queer identity, gender, and minority representation, resonating with contemporary societal discussions to offer a nuanced look at an artist who challenges and redefines the boundaries of photography and personal expression. Vienna-based sales agent Square Eyes handles the international rights.

Post-truth crisis

Ukrainian director Roman Bondarchuk unveils his latest, The Editorial Office, in the Berlinale’s Forum section. Set against the backdrop of the looming Russian invasion, the dramedy reflects the film-maker’s evolution from documentaries (Euromaidan: Rough Cut and Ukrainian Sheriffs) and the realm of fiction (Volcano), continuing his exploration of dark humor and the absurd. 

The Editorial Office follows Yura, a junior researcher from a provincial nature museum who stumbles into journalism after witnessing
a case of forest arson. This career pivot thrusts him into a murky world where truth and fiction intertwine. Bondarchuk weaves a tale of personal truth-seeking in the midst of societal chaos, set both on the eve of the Ukraine war and in its fictionalized aftermath. The director’s portrayal of post-invasion Ukraine resonates with alarming realism, as he incorporates elements like deepfake technology and media manipulation to underscore the precariousness of truth in times of crisis while exploring parallel realities: the “facade” of democracy and a harsher, more dangerous reality hidden in the shadows.

Produced by Darya Bassel of Moon Man and Dar’ya Averchenko of South Films (Ukraine), coproduced by Elemag Pictures (Germany), Silverart (Slovakia), and MasterFilm’s Dagmar Sedláčková (who also coproduced the award-winning Ukrainian film Butterfly Vision), The Editorial Office captures Kherson’s atmosphere just before its tragic transformation due to the war. The film gains poignancy from the fate of its shooting locations, many now destroyed or irrevocably altered, and the diverse fortunes of its cast in the wake of the conflict. The death of the film’s editor, Viktor Onysko, in battle, adds a layer of personal loss and heroism to the project.

Bondarchuk’s directorial approach, rooted in his deep connection to Kherson, combines a keen observation of daily resilience with the tragic realities of war. The Editorial Office, supported by the Czech Film Fund and Eurimages among others, offers a window into prewar life in Ukraine but also serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of its people. “I want to give a voice to these people. To preserve the warmth of this land before the catastrophe,” said the director in a statement issued when the project was presented at the 2023 KVIFF Eastern Promises, an industry platform of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Dystopian twist

This year’s Berlinale Co-Production Market will feature Twist the Rabbit, the latest project in development by acclaimed director Mira Fornay. Known for her versatile storytelling, Fornay here reunites with prolific producer Viktor Schwarcz of Cineart TV Prague. Schwarcz produced Fornay’s three feature films, including her most formalistically radical work, Cook F**k Kill. The director’s most recent film, the children’s adventure She-Hero, was awarded the International Jury’s Generation Kplus Grand Prix at last year’s Berlinale.

Twist the Rabbit marks Fornay’s venture into the realm of dystopian love story. Set in the year 2052, the film presents a world where social norms and reproductive rights have undergone a seismic shift. Abortion is in this dystopian society considered a severe criminal act and that is the reason why Leila, a young lawyer, finds herself in a detention center, where she must gain trust of at least one child in order to be free again with the love of her life, Gábor.

Twist the Rabbit promises a blend of linear storytelling with documentary-like dynamism, eschewing the formal experimentation of Cook F**k Kill. With its minimalist yet impactful mise en scène, the film is poised to offer a thought-provoking view on the future of Europe and the human condition, challenging audiences to reflect on the meaning of individual choices and the essence of freedom in an increasingly conformist world. Fornay has repeatedly emphasized that the film is not about childlessness, but rather a broader exploration of freedom of choice in a society under increasingly radical totalitarian rule. The director’s aim is to spark discussions on diversity, the future of society, and the importance of preserving freedoms in the face of restrictive norms, while exploring themes of love, freedom, and the perilous effects of societal dogmas.

Together with Viktor Schwarcz of Cineart TV Prague, who is joined by junior producer Natalia Pavlove, Fornay is also producing Twist the Rabbit with her own company MIRAFOX, with the project having successfully secured development support from two funding bodies: the Czech Film Fund and the Slovak Audiovisual Fund. Completion of the film is expected in late 2025.

Paranormal Czechoslovakia

We’re on it, Comrades! (c) Barletta

A comedy TV series We’re on it, Comrades! will get it's time to shine during the Berlinale Series Market, an industry platform providing an exclusive preview of the most anticipated series from across the globe. Created by screenwriter Miro Šifra (Red Captain, We Have Never Been Modern), We’re on it, Comrades! represents yet another collaboration between director/producer Matěj Chlupáček and director Michal Samir, working together since Chlupáček’s early debut feature Touchless (2013). 

Set in 1980s Czechoslovakia, this comedy series follows a group of amateurish individuals from the so-called Paranormal Activity Institute, tasked with the investigation of everything odd and supernatural. As such, the series promises to deliver an entertaining cross between The X-Files and Monk situated in a bizarre Eastern European institution.

Though both Chlupáček and Samir made their respective names with feature-length films (Chlupáček’s latest, visually arresting period drama We Have Never Been Modern was nominated for the Crystal Globe at 57th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and recently received a total of 12 nominations at the upcoming Czech Lion Awards), We’re on it, Comrades! is far from being their first venture into the domain of TV entertainment. Chlupáček directed several episodes of HBO original series In Treatment starring Karel Roden, and also coproduced several other TV series, most notably Iveta (2022-2024) written and directed by Michal Samir, which portrays the life and professional career of tragically deceased Czech singer Iveta Bartošová.

Matěj Chlupáček is producing We’re on it, Comrades! in tandem with Maja Hamplová via their production company Barletta along with a host of other coproducers, including Czech Television and German producers NETWORK MOVIE and ZDFneo, while ZDF Studios is handling the sales. Creation of the series was also supported by The Czech Film Fund, Slovak Audiovisual Fund and the Moravian-Silesian Region.

The series is scheduled to air in March 2024.


Related films

I'm Not Everything I Want to Be

Libuše takes a picture of her reflection in a mirror. It’s a situation that keeps repeating in her life for the last 50 years. She took raw photos in the late 70s in socialist Czechoslovakia, when she looked for people who've…


Klára Tasovská





The Editorial Office

In the wild steppes of southern Ukraine, a young nature researcher named Yura is looking for an endangered species of groundhog but instead witnesses a crime. Eager to expose the truth, Yura takes his photo evidence to the local…


Roman Bondarchuk





Twist the Rabbit

2052: Leila must "gain" a child. If Leila fails, she'll lose her freedom and the opportunity to be with her newfound love Gábor.





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