Czech Film Springboard 2023: Resistance against patriarchy

25 July 2023

Film Industry

Czech Film Springboard 2023: Resistance against patriarchy

Film Industry

Czech Film Springboard 2023: Resistance against patriarchy


The 2023 edition of the Czech Film Springboard's selection unveils an intriguing roster of rising talents, acutely attuned to pressing social currents. Dominated by narratives that dissect female experiences within patriarchal frameworks, this selection marries diversity of genre with a variety of styles. The line-up magnifies the appeal of the Czech film industry, which is becoming a thriving hub for international talent seeking to carve out career paths within the country.

Article by Martin Kudláč for CZECH FILM / Fall 2023

Behind the scenes exploitation

Polish-born, Prague-based filmmaker Tomasz Wiński, noted for his debut, Borders of Love, which explored the complexities of non-monogamous relationships, is set to direct his second feature, Dangerous Weekend. The narrative delves into the themes of sexual assault, power dynamics, and their aftermath within the film industry.

The film follows a renowned soap opera actress preparing for a new role, while simultaneously confronting her past trauma and abuser – her ex-boyfriend and co-worker on the new project. Wiński's narrative poignantly illustrates the protagonist's journey, highlighting both the strain of past trauma and the entertainment industry's exploitative nature.

Czech actress Hana Vagnerová is not only co-writing the script but is also set to star in the film. The pair's successful collaboration echoes their prior work, Borders of Love. The script, while fictional, is grounded in real-life instances of power abuse within the film industry, corroborated by actors' confessions and the Polish journalist's influential book, Everybody Knew About It.

Dangerous Weekend aims to deliver a more potent experience than Wiński's debut, employing a documentary-like approach to heighten the protagonist's isolation and escalating conflict. The film also embodies the principles of the New Czech Intimacy manifesto, co-authored by Wiński, to revitalize domestic cinema.

Together with his wife Tereza Wiński, they are expediting the production process through their company One Way Ticket Films. The first draft of the script is ready, and casting is underway, with alternative financing being explored in order to commence production by late 2024. The film is expected to be a two-country production, partnering with either Poland or Slovakia.

In addition to securing finances, the team is seeking coproduction partners, sales agents, and distributors. To recreate the behind-the-scenes success of Borders of Love, Wiński aims to reunite the original crew, reinforcing the synergy and teamwork for Dangerous Weekend.

Trauma transformed

Elvira Dulskaia, recognized for her nuanced portrayals of women's experiences, is making her debut feature with Like Air, a mystery drama that intertwines themes of trauma, memory, and supernatural abilities against a rural village backdrop. The narrative follows Míša and Juraj, two Gen Z individuals with a shared, haunting childhood event – the explosion of a village transformer that gave them unique traumas and abilities. Míša, living in a city with no past recollection and a shard of metal lodged inside her head, contrasts with Juraj, who uses his healing touch in the village.

Returning to her childhood village, Míša uncovers forgotten memories and her own mystical abilities. The narrative symbolically portrays the past's presence and the struggle to break free from previous generations' influences. Míša and Juraj participate in a ritual that forces them to relive the catastrophic explosion.

Dulskaia, a FAMU graduate, has created works like the award-winning short documentary Me, Flamingo, and the short film Ice Break. These pieces anticipate her work on Like Air, which blends drama and genre with aspects of magical realism, surrealism, and horror.

8Heads Productions, founded by Czech film producer Julietta Sichel, is producing the film. Dulskaia's feature-length debut aims to be an audience-driven project without extensive international coproduction. Alongside securing domestic production financing, she is seeking potential partners from Poland, Germany, or France.

The film's development is projected to last until 2025, with principal photography in March 2026 and a festival premiere in 2027. Like Air will participate in international pitching forums and script labs, exploring reconciliation with a traumatic past, a universal theme particularly resonant for a generation facing global events like a pandemic and the European war.

Behind closed doors

You Never Just Walk Away is an upcoming drama written and directed by Rozálie Kohoutová that explores the unsettling experiences of victims of domestic violence. This project represents Kohoutová's first foray into feature-length fiction direction, following her notable work on documentaries such as Roma Boys, FC Roma, and Jenica and Perla.

You Never Just Walk Away focuses on the protagonist, Pavla, and her journey to escape from her abusive partner, painting a vivid picture of the harsh realities domestic violence victims confront, even after mustering the courage to break free. Kohoutová enhances the story's authenticity by casting real-life domestic violence victims, social workers, and police officers in the film.

Kohoutová aims to bring the complexities of domestic violence into sharp focus, delving deeper than merely physical harm to reveal the enduring psychological trauma and manipulation victims undergo. The film examines the cyclicality of domestic violence, and the delicate task of safeguarding both victims and their children.

Drawing on her past experience, the director plans to shoot the film in a documentary style, using authentic shelter environments as settings. Kohoutová also plans to encourage improvisation from the non-professional actors, adding a raw and immersive element to the docudrama nature of the project.

Punk Film, a Prague-based production company founded in 2003, is producing the film. The company’s portfolio includes notable projects like the documentary Happily Ever After (2022), which explores open marriages and polyamorous relationships; the company’s dedication to creating meaningful works beyond mere commercial allure aligns seamlessly with the ethos of You Never Just Walk Away.

Negotiations with the domestic public broadcaster are in progress, and the Czech Film Fund has already provided developmental support. You Never Just Walk Away will be a low-budget production that is open to any international cooperation. The shooting is slated for the summer and autumn of 2024, with a festival premiere in 2025. Accordingly, the team is mainly looking for TV and VOD presales, for potential festivals, and for international distributors. Martina Knoblochová from Punk Film references Peter Kerekes' award-winning docudrama 107 Mothers and Lise Akoka’s and Romane Gueret’s drama The Worst Ones as references, noting that Peter Kerekes has already consulted on their project.

Faith, freedom & teen abortion

Polish-born filmmaker Anna Wowra is making her feature-length debut with the coming-of-age drama In Good Faith. Set against Poland's socio-cultural backdrop, the narrative explores the tumultuous journey of two teenage sisters coping with an unwanted pregnancy in a society where abortion is virtually impossible. The film aims to explore sisterhood, first love, and the cost of freedom through the lens of its young protagonists.

Wowra, a 2023 Future Frames talent currently based in Prague, has been carving her niche by exploring the youngest generation's female perspective in the modern world. In Good Faith's script finds its inspiration in the grim realities that emerged from Poland's restrictive abortion law. The film takes a dark turn as it delves into the narrative of a DIY abortion drama, offering a nuanced exploration of the conflict between tradition and modernity, faith and freedom, and the imposition of conservative values on women in a patriarchal society.

Wowra's previous short film, Stuck Together, serves as a stylistic foundation for In Good Faith, with the kinetic camera hovering around the protagonists in the style of civic realism. Her narration is predominantly inspired by the New Romanian Wave, while the film's formalist elements draw on current Icelandic cinema trends.

In Good Faith is being produced by Tomáš Pertold of Perfilm, an independent Prague-based production company. Pertold's latest work, Petr Pylypčuk's Eighth Day, premiered at Cannes' La Cinéf. In Good Faith will mark Pertold's first foray into feature-length producing. While the coproduction structure is still being finalized, Pertold anticipates that the Czech Republic and Poland will be the primary contributors, and discussions with potential Slovakian producers are in the pipeline.

The film's production is tentatively slated for summer 2025 or early 2026, with principal photography set in the Czech Republic, albeit with a Polish cast. The final cut is expected to be ready by 2027. As preparations continue, Pertold is working on securing finances and is actively engaged in negotiations with potential partners and the Czech public broadcaster. He is also open to collaborating with post-production companies for sound design and visual post-production needs.

Unmasking totalitarian tendencies

Award-winning Czech documentarian Jan Gebert is set to make his feature-length fiction debut with the psychological drama Europa. The film explores the darker corners of the human psyche through the protagonist Tomáš, a young man fleeing a troubled family background and seeking escape in the metropolis.

Tomáš's life takes a turn when he joins a secretive university club, Europa, under the charismatic leadership of psychology professor Tim Jurkovič. His entry triggers a descent into a world where taboo behaviors and thoughts are given free rein, reflecting the ongoing societal debate between civility and savagery. Europa harnesses Gebert's expertise as a historian and reporter, offering authenticity and a critical perspective to the narrative. His directorial style skillfully delineates the nuances of power play and manipulation, underlining the birth of a totalitarian microcosm from ideological maneuvering.

The film is being produced by the independent production house PINK, led by Radovan Síbrt. Known for nurturing new talent and creating original content, PINK's production ethos complements the raw and honest portrayal of a society wrestling with its darker instincts. The company's track record boasts the Berlinale-winning feature Touch Me Not and Gebert’s critically acclaimed documentary When the War Comes, about the rise of alt-right youth, a topic which extends to Europa through the theme of the dormant undercurrents of European culture, notably the predilection towards authoritarian rule. Gebert is also working on another project under PINK, Organism, a documentary focusing on one of the killers involved in the murder of a Slovak journalist and his fiancée.

Europa stands as an allegory of the dichotomy that pervades contemporary societies, oscillating between liberty and autocracy, reality and illusion, valor and villainy. The film's producer hints that Europa promises to deviate from Gebert's documentary format to tread a more stylized and symbolic path, with shades of Taxi Driver informing the narrative style.

Concurrently, Síbrt is on the hunt for a coproducer from Slovakia, while also entertaining the idea of involving partners from Western Europe, most likely Germany or France. He intends to scout for coproduction partners at forums in Cottbus, Thessaloniki, and the Berlinale, while also exploring potential post-production studios. Ensuring a low-budget setup for Europa, Síbrt aims to safeguard Gebert's creative latitude to the maximum extent possible.

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



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