Cinémotif Films: Nurturing talents, bridging countries

28 April 2024

Film Industry Publications

Cinémotif Films: Nurturing talents, bridging countries

Film Industry Publications

Cinémotif Films: Nurturing talents, bridging countries


Czech independent production company Cinémotif Films is more productive than ever, broadening its focus from nurturing debut filmmakers to developing seasoned talents, while expanding its territorial reach to foster creative partnerships across Eastern and Western Europe alike. Meanwhile they continue their commitment to hybrid and unorthodox narrative films, as well as other daring arthouse projects. Its founder, Kristýna Michálek Květová, is Czech Producer on the Move 2024.

written by Martin Kudláč for CZECH FILM / Summer 2024

Cinémotif Films, an independent production company founded by Kristýna Michálek Květová and her colleagues from FAMU, is now, excitedly, advancing into its next phase. While Květová’s initial project was the minimalist coming-of-age film Road-Movie (2015), directed by Martin Jelínek and produced by Studio FAMU with a premiere at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Cinémotif itself came into existence in 2016.

Following an expansion of leadership, with Květová bringing on producers Martina Netíková and Tomáš Michálek, the company’s inaugural venture was Johana Ožvold’s debut, The Sound Is Innocent (2019), a poetic docu-audiofilm exploring the history of electronic music. Coproduced with France’s Films de Force Majeure and Slovakia’s Punkchart Films, Ožvold’s film premiered at Visions du Réel in 2019 and was selected for major festivals, including Sheffield DocFest and DOK.fest Munich.

A foreshadowing of the company’s trajectory, this initial achievement was followed by Fiona Ziegler’s Lost in Paradise (2021), an absurdist comic road movie detailing a cultural clash. The project also marked a milestone as the first ever Czech-Swiss coproduction. Cinémotif then continued to expand its territorial reach, next partnering with Romanian producers Corneliu Porumboiu and Roxana Garet on their project Dark Ages (2022), a thriller with arthouse flair directed by Tom Wilson.

Harvest year

The year 2022 was pivotal for Cinémotif Films, as several of its projects came to fruition. Veronika Lišková’s sophomore documentary, The Visitors (2022), stemming from a collaboration with Norway’s Ten Thousand Images and Slovakia’s Peter Kerekes Film, premiered at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. Interweaving personal reflections with local accounts, Lišková uses the seemingly idyllic Longyearbyen as a jumping-off point for a discussion of globalization, sustainability, and latent xenophobia. Set against the backdrop of a warming Arctic, the film scrutinizes the impact of locals’ collective choices on migration and environmental degradation.

Balancing its portfolio between bold documentaries and innovative fiction next led Cinémotif to collaborate with the Slovak production house Punkchart films, led by experienced director and producer Ivan Ostrochovský, on the project Arved (2022). Vojtěch Mašek’s feature-length debut is a period bio-pic/mystical thriller about the Czech occultist Jiří Arvéd Smíchovský, known for consorting with Nazis and Communists alike. The film, noted for its intricate use of time loops and a labyrinthine plot, garnered three Czech Film Critics’ Awards in 2022, for Best Screenplay, Music, and Actor, and led the Czech Lions nominations with twelve nods.

Punkchart films has since emerged as Cinémotif’s primary collaborator, working on multiple projects, including Ostrochovský’s Photophobia (2023). Codirected and cowritten with Pavol Pekarčík, the film was shot in the city of Kharkiv’s metro while it was under siege in war-torn Ukraine. This hybrid poetical docudrama offers a child’s perspective on the Russian-Ukrainian war, telling a poignant tale of survival, friendship, and the quest for hope in the darkest of times. The film bowed in the independent Giornate degli Autori sidebar of the Venice Film Festival before embarking on a vigorous tour of the international film circuit.

Production momentum

Cinémotif is now stepping up the pace with no signs of slowing. Veronika Lišková, mentioned above, has completed shooting on Year of the Widow (2024), her first fiction feature, and is currently in postproduction. Following Petra, a young widow, as she navigates deep grief and bureaucratic challenges after a sudden loss, the film broadens into an exploration of coping, societal norms, and individual autonomy. Apart from its frequent collaborations with female filmmakers, producer Květová notes that the company is two-thirds women and goes out of its way to accommodate the needs of working mothers, allowing more of them to be on set, as was the case with Year of the Widow.

Already, Lišková is developing her next project with Cinémotif, My Second Perfect Me, a hybrid film about eating disorders, coproduced with Slovakia’s Peter Kerekes and Italy’s Jump Cut. Aiming to redefine common perceptions of eating disorders, the film ushers us on the protagonist’s personal and therapeutic journey of self-acceptance as she strives not to succumb to the relentless pursuit of perfection. Also in development with the company is Hellcats, a project by Eugen Liška, scriptwriter on Year of the Widow. His film is based on Hana Vondráčková’s literary blog, which details with dark humor her experiences caring for her mother, who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Also, in cooperation with Punkchart films, Cinémotif is coproducing Ivan Ostrochovský’s documentary Self-Portrait, a profile of renowned Slovak cinematographer Igor Luther. The film, structured as a docu-essay, explores Luther’s extensive career and struggles in the midst of a severe illness, capturing his reflections on both his professional contributions and his turbulent personal life.

Ostrochovský also plays a big part in Cinémotif’s next major milestone, the company’s largest project to date: Lata, a biopic drama set in 1930s Czechoslovakia, is helmed by Ostrochovský with a planned coproduction involving SAMSA Film and partners from Germany and Austria. The film tells the story of Lata Brandisová, a German aristocrat who was the first and only woman to win the Grand Pardubice Steeplechase. Beyond recounting her historic victory over her male competitors, the project delves into the social and political issues of the era, highlighting the subject’s extraordinary resilience.

Coproduction converges

As Cinémotif approaches the close of its first decade in existence, founder Květová—selected for the 2024 edition of European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move program—highlights the company’s shift toward becoming a strategic international coproduction partner, bridging the gap between Eastern and Western European cinema. While initially focusing on debut projects, Cinémotif now aims to support emerging filmmakers beyond their first film, fostering the development of their subsequent works as it grows along with them. In this spirit, the company’s current slate includes Jan Merta – Blue Mr. Fox (2025), an intimate time-lapse documentary portrait of the influential 1980s Czech painter Jan Merta, known for his naive mysticism. The project, now in postproduction, is a father-son dialogue codirected by the protagonist’s son, Tomáš Merta, and his colleague Tomáš Klein. Klein is also developing Trial Death under the company’s roof, exploring the use of psychoactive substances in palliative care through time-lapse photography and fiction-film techniques.

Meanwhile, following on the success of Arved, Cinémotif continues preparations on Vojtěch Mašek’s sophomore film, Tool for Happiness. Mašek’s new project merges romantic comedy with absurdist sci-fi in a near-future where cannibalism is recognized as a basic human right. This darkly satirical film follows the individuals who are designated for consumption as they are sent to families for humane, consensual slaughter during traditional gatherings meant to strengthen social bonds. But then one of the human sacrifices crosses paths with a woman in search of true love, leading them to challenge both the law and their destinies. In addition Cinémotif is preparing the TV miniseries American Dream, by Sára Zeithammerová and director Damián Vondrášek, whose short film Rites (2022), also produced by the company, won a Czech Lion for Best Short Film. The series explores how a romance scam first destroys, then ultimately brings together a dysfunctional family.

Internationally, Cinémotif continues to strengthen its ties, particularly with Slovakia, where it is currently supporting Mária Pinčíková’s Screams With No Echo, a fiction feature debut that explores totalitarianism and propaganda through a stylized narrative involving physical education and gymnastics. Another ambitious project the company is backing in Slovakia is the documentary omnibus Wasteland Chronicles (Zóny nikoho), by a triumvirate of filmmakers from the young generation: Viera Čakányová, Barbora Sliepková, and Lucia Kašová. The project delves into the country’s major environmental disasters, revealing their toxic impact on the Slovak landscape. Finally, the Cinémotif collaboration with Croatian producer Miljenka Čogelja of Pipser, initiated on Year of the Widow, continues with Miroslav Sikavica’s feature debut, Milk Cow. Slated to be shot in early 2025, the film—described as an intense, claustrophobic dark comedy—follows a widow’s transformative journey after the disappearance of her late husband’s savings, challenging traditional family roles and expectations.

Czech Film Center
division of the Czech Film Fund promoting Czech cinema worldwide



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