11 January 2024
Czech production company Frame Films is recognized for its adaptability and openness to a wide range of themes, genres, technologies, and storytelling methods. The company’s portfolio, entailing documentaries, animations, experimental works, and virtual reality, reflects its commitment to diverse and innovative filmmaking, uplifting local topics with global appeal.
Written by Martin Kudláč for CZECH FILM / Spring 2024
Founded in 2013 by producer Jitka Kotrlová, Frame Films has rapidly established itself in the international film arena. Named after New Zealand poet Janet Frame and dedicated to auteur-driven projects, the company’s output is characterized by its “glocal” approach. Topics addressed are often rooted in local contexts yet resonate globally. Kotrlová regards this feature as the company’s hallmark, and the success of this approach has been acknowledged by leading international film festivals, with Frame works frequently premiering at prestigious events like Visions du Réel, Hot Docs, Sheffield DocFest, Venice, and the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Two other producers, in addition to founder Kotrlová, support the work of Frame Films. Zuzana Kučerová and Hana Blaha Šilarová have both forged strong, enduring partnerships with filmmakers in the company’s closest orbit. Frame’s ethos of collaboration is integral to the development and production of the company’s films, reinforcing a commitment to teamwork and mutual support within the creative community they have fostered. Key collaborators include Tomáš Elšík, Kristina Elšíková, Marek Náprstek, and Martin Páv, the latter of whom has been with Frame since its inception. They are joined by Květa Chaloupková, Adéla Kabelková, Jaromír Kratochvíl, and Hana Stehlíková, further strengthening the core team.
Kotrlová initiated her collaboration with Tomáš Elšík in 2013, producing the medium-length FAMU documentary Message from Dement (2013). Set in São Paulo, this intimate story contributed to apprehending the murderers of the protagonist’s best friend, initiating a fruitful partnership between the director and the producer. Their next venture was Elšík’s first feature-length documentary, Central Bus Station (2018). Taking on multiple roles, Elšík explored the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, employing the station building and its surroundings as a metaphor for Israel’s identity. The work premiered at Sheffield DocFest before going on to earn accolades at over 20 festivals. Kotrlová and Elšík are currently working on Ent (2025), an environmental documentary presenting the philosophical argument that humans are integral to, rather than central in, a complex environmental system. The producer is actively seeking television pre-sales and a sales agent for the project.
Another long-running partnership of Frame’s is with director Martin Páv. Following a series of short films, the company backed Páv’s ambitious feature-length documentary debut, Vote for Kibera (2018), an in-depth portrayal of life in Nairobi’s largest slum, highlighting the inhabitants’ resilience and aspirations amid challenging circumstances. Páv’s subsequent project, Wolves at the Borders (2020), explored the ecological and social impacts of wolves reappearing in the Czech lands, and attempts to strike a balance between conservation of nature and local community concerns. Currently, Frame is supporting Páv’s latest endeavor, Glowing, being filmed in Kenya, India, and South Korea, which delves into the global phenomenon of skin bleaching.
Kotrlová’s company also actively collaborates with international partners, seeking involvement in compelling projects beyond their own initiatives. Frame took part in Andran Abramjan’s Empire Builders (2018), a semi-documentary challenging right-wing populism by merging reality and fiction to critically assess contemporary ideologies. Additionally, the company coproduced Matt Sarnecki’s The Killing of a Journalist (2022), a Danish-American-Czech venture with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Final Cut for Real. Sarnecki’s documentary delves into the murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, highlighting political corruption and its ramifications. Prior to this, the company coproduced Never Happened (2019) by Barbora Berezňáková, a critical examination of Slovakia’s political scene in the 1990s, melding historical significance with present-day relevance. Finally, Frame partnered with Lithuanian Mistrus Media on the Ivo Briedis documentary Homo Sovieticus (2020), exploring the question of whether or not the totalitarian mindset is confined to particular geographical boundaries.
Frame Films is gearing up for a significant year in 2024, with a range of projects transitioning into various stages of distribution and production. Three projects are set to be launched into distribution: Dakar Sistaz, Jungle/Placht, and You Are My Light.
Directed by Jan Těšitel, Dakar Sistaz aligns with the company’s focus on youth-oriented productions. The documentary spotlights teenage twins Aliyyah and Yasmeen Koloc, who have gained fame in the car racing world and a substantial following on social media. The film delves into their career evolution, their journey to the prestigious Dakar race, and its impact on their personal and professional lives. Frame Films is actively seeking distribution and broadcasting partnerships for both the film and its associated spin-off series.
Alice Růžičková’s Jungle/Placht revisits the life of Czech painter Otto Placht, two decades after her initial documentary about him, offering a reflective look at the changes in his life and art. Additionally, Hana Stehlíková’s short, 2D, animated documentary You Are My Light addresses the sensitive topic of postpartum depression. Expanding its animation portfolio, Frame is also working on three short animated films: Glass Elephant, Machine Mountains, and Chemodan (2025).
Parallel to these distribution endeavors, Kotrlová’s company is initiating production on several projects in 2024. Kristina (Nedvědová) Elšíková’s sophomore feature, Stormchasers (2027), a coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of a drought-stricken summer, is a part of Frame’s young-adult strand, and will begin production as a collaboration with Poland and Germany, having already secured support from the Czech Film Fund. The project follows the company’s production of Elšíková’s debut, Snowing! (2019), which explored intergenerational relationships in a rural setting, offering a psychological and poetic insight into family dynamics.
Now moving into the production stage is Jaroslav Kratochvíl’s Comfortable Century. This project looks at interiors designed by famous architect Adolf Loos in the city of Plzeň, blending documentary and visual art techniques, including video mapping, to recontextualize historical memories.
In addition, Frame is in talks with Czech Television about the web series Freak, on the challenges of motherhood, written and directed by Klára Vlasáková. Continuing its commitment to genre diversity and innovative filmmaking, the company is also finalizing Andran Abramjan’s short experimental work Three Economic Units, which merges animation and live-action using Kinect technology. The project follows Frame’s previous experimental venture Darkening (2022), a 3D CGI animated documentary, billed as the first Czech VR film. Directed by Ondřej Moravec, this new venture stands out for its unique storytelling approach. Utilizing immersive VR technology, it addresses the themes of depression and coping mechanisms.