27 January 2023
Even though it may not appear so, in 2022, Czech cinema, despite strong international competition, at least partially returned to normal, both in terms of attendance at domestic cinemas and participation at foreign film festivals.
In 2022, like in previous years, domestic comedies, romantic films as well as family fairytales scored highest in Czech cinemas. The football comedy Lavi, with the attendance of more than 690 000 became the best attended Czech film, followed by the fairytale The Old Blunderbuss Mystery 2 with more than 460 000 viewers. The third place was taken by the historical epic Medieval with the attendance of more than 350 000. In total, 96 Czech feature films, including minority co-productions, were released in cinemas or at festivals, significantly exceeding the figures of previous years which is partly a consequence of numerous postponed premieres from the two pandemic years.
Abroad, on the other hand, in accordance with many year´s tradition, film drama, documentary portraits, and Czech animation for both children and adults have attracted most attention. A successful year at foreign festivals was kicked off in February by the fivefold Czech participation at the Berlinale. Somewhere Over the Chemtrails by Adam Koloman Rybanský, the co-production Beautiful Beings by Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson and the animated short Suzie in the Garden by Lucie Sunková started their festival journey in Berlin, Jiří Menzel's Larks on a String – the winner of Golden Bear from the 1990 Berlinale – returned to Berlin in its restored version, and director Michal Blaško started his festival year with presentation of his TV miniseries Suspicion at the Berlinale Series section, followed by the world premiere of his feature debut Victim at the Venice IFF.
In the spring, also Czech documentary cinema made its voice heard. At the Swiss Visions du Réel, two feature documentaries were world premiered – Lucie Králová's Kapr Code in the Burning Lights competition and Adam Ondra: Pushing the Limits by Jan Šimánek and Petr Záruba in the Grand Angle. The co-productions Boylesque (dir. Bogna Kowalczyk) and The Killing of a Journalist (dir. Matt Sarnecki) premiered at the Canadian Hot Docs, while Pongo Calling directed by Tomáš Kratochvíl screened at British Sheffield Doc/Fest in June. All these documentaries have subsequently toured dozens of other festivals around the world.
The Cannes Film Festival, in its competitive Un Certain Regard section, hosted the world premiere of a highly topical Ukrainian Butterfly Vision by debut director Maksym Nakonechnyi, co-produced by the Czech company MasterFilm. The Cannes Classics section premiered a restored version of Věra Chytilová's Daisies, and the parallel Semaine de la Critique presented the animated co-production short Scale by Joseph Pierce, which subsequently appeared, together with Eliška Kerbachová's student film At Spiral's End and the short co-production children’s film Paolo's Happiness directed by Manuel Schroeder and Thorsten Droeseler, in the programme of the prestigious Annecy IAFF.
The Karlovy Vary IFF has traditionally given a lot of space to new Czech cinema. The main competition featured The Word – winning Beata Parkanová Best Director Award and Martin Finger Best Actor Award – Tomasz Wiński's Borders of Love, which received the FIPRESCI Award, and the co-production America, directed by Ofir Raul Graizer. The new competitive Proxima section presented the feature And Then There Was Love… (dir. Šimon Holý) and the documentary Art Talent Show directed by Adéla Komrzý and Tomáš Bojar, which won both the main prize of the section and the FIPRESCI award. In the Future Frames programme, the Czech Republic was represented by Martin Kuba´s graduation short film Vinland, while Adam Sedlák´s BANGER. and Miroslav Krobot's Big Opening were screened out of competition. Czech cinema made a mark also at the 2022 Locarno Film Festival in August, with three world premieres: Francesco Montagner's experimental short Asterión was screened in the Pardi di Domani section, Tereza Nvotová's second feature Nightsiren dominated the Cineasti del Presente section, winning its main Golden Leopard prize, and Veronika Lišková’s documentary The Visitors shone in the parallel Semaine de la critique section.
The strong year for domestic titles at foreign festivals was crowned by several Czech world premieres at the Venice, Toronto, and San Sebastian festivals in September. The Venice Orrizonti competition presented the aforementioned feature debut of Michal Blaško Victim, and the co-production To the North (dir. Mihai Mincan), the Venice Immersive section presented the VR short film Darkening by Ondřej Moravec, and the Venice Classics included newly restored Czechoslovak classic The Ear by Karel Kachyňa. The fifth Czech entry at Venice IFF was Ordinary Failures, directed by Cristina Grosan, invited to the parallel Giornate degli Autori section. Michal Blaško travelled from Venice straight to the Toronto IFF with his Victim, and a week later the long-awaited portrait of the composer Josef Mysliveček, Il Boemo, directed by Petr Vaclav, celebrated its world premiere at the San Sebastian IFF, to be subsequently selected by the Czech Film and Television Academy as the Czech Oscar candidate.
During the autumn, BANGER. by Adam Sedlák participated at Busan IFF, while animated feature for children The Websters Movie, and the short Sand Pie were screened at the prestigious Cinekid, and four Czech films appeared in the programme of the Warsaw IFF. Bethlehem Light by Jan Svěrák and Shadowplay by Peter Bebjak were invited to the main competition, the documentary competition was dominated by Jana Ševčíková´s latest film Those Who Dance in the Dark, bringing her the best documentary award. In the short film competition, the jury was impressed by FAMU student Piotr Jasinski´s Everything's Fine, Potatoes in Line, awarding it the best short film prize. Also at the Tallinn IFF, the last of the "A" festivals of 2022, Czech cinema was represented – by three Slovak-Czech co-productions – Plastic Symphony by Juraj Lehotský in the Main Competition, The Unbalanced by Zuzana Piussi in the First Films Competition and The Chambermaid by Mariana Čengel Solčanská in the Critics' Picks section.
Czech Joy, the competition section of Czech films at the International Documentary Film Festival in Jihlava, where Czech cinema is traditionally strongly represented, was won by Lucie Králová's Kapr Code, while the jury's special mention went to Veronika Lišková's The Visitors. Art Talent Show by Adela Komrzý and Tomáš Bojar became the Czech representative at the prestigious IDFA documentary festival in Amsterdam.
In 2022, several festivals dedicated an entire overview section to Czech cinema. In March it was the Anima Brussels festival, which screened several programs of short student and children's animated films and feature-length animated films of recent years. At the end of May, Krakow IFF and in August Makedox gave special space to Czech documentaries as well. During the Czech EU Presidency, Czech cinema got special attention at Luxembourg's CinEast and Brussels' BOZAR, where Zatopek, Shadow Country, or Havel were screened in the second half of 2022.
Some Czech titles also succeeded in international sales. Borders of Love will be released in Germany (Meteor Films), the USA (Strand Releasing), Korea (Scene and Sound), Taiwan (Sky Entertainment) and Japan (AT Entertainment). Il Boemo has been sold to such important territories as France (Nour Film), Spain (Filmin), and Italy (Cloud Nine) and Nightsiren succeded in sales to USA (Breaking Glass Pictures) and to Germany (Busch Media Group). Victim will be released in Spain (Inopia Film) as well and Somewhere Over the Chemtrails in Ukraine (KISFF FILMS).
Two Czech animated features made in French co-production, Even Mice Belong in Heaven, and The Crossing, have been nominated for the French César Awards. The 2022 Czech Film Critics' Awards were dominated by Occupation – with four awards – while at the Czech Lion, Zatopek scored eight awards, and Occupation three. The critics and academics alike were won over by Adéla Komrzý's Intensive Life Unit in the documentary category, and the same was true of Denisa Grimmová and Jan Bubeníček´s Even Mice Belong in Heaven, which was awarded in the Audiovisual Achievement category of the critics and the Best Animated Film category by the academics. Two Czech films were nominated for the European Film Awards, regularly held at the end of the year: The short animated documentary Love, Dad by director and animator Diana Cam Van Nguyen was among the top five nominees in the Short Film category and Peter Kerekes' feature co-production 107 Mothers was nominated in the Discovery of the Year category.
A number of upcoming films and series have also attracted attention abroad. In January, Marie Dvořáková and producers from Evolution Films presented her upcoming portrait of photographer Marie Tomanová The World Between Us at the When East Meets West co-production market in Trieste, Italy. Agnieszka Holland and producer Šarka Cimbalová's new project FRANZ and Ivan Ostrochovský's The Spring, developed in co-production with the Czech company Negativ, were selected for the prestigious Berlinale Co-production Market. At the concurrent Berlinale Series Market, director Olmo Omerzu and producer Radovan Síbrt (PINK) presented the project of their upcoming series The Attachment Theory.
Petr Kazda and Tomáš Weinreb participated in the prestigious L'Atelier programme at Cannes 2022 with their forthcoming third feature The Forest, produced by nutprodukce, and Vladimír Lhoták, who is behind the highly successful animation Even Mice Belong in Heaven, has been selected to participate in the Producers on the Move networking programme, also taking place during the Cannes FF. In June, Beata Parkanová (A Cry Like a Beautiful Song), Šimon Holý (Chica Checa) and Tereza Nvotová (The Father) presented their upcoming projects at the by-several-months-postponed Sofia Meetings co-production market. The visiting film professionals also had the opportunity to see the first excerpt from Michal Hogenauer's new feature Calm in the Canopy, produced by Sirius Film Manual, there, while the participants of the Works in Progress presentation in Karlovy Vary saw several scenes from another film in progress, Albert Hospodářský's feature debut Brutal Heat. In November, Beata Parkanová and producer Ondřej Zach (OZET Film) appeared with her project Black Blood at the Connecting Cottbus co-production market and Waltzing Matylda, to be completed this year, was presented together with a preview during Works in Progress at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.
Several Czech animated feature projects have been presented at the French Cartoon Movie, including MAUR films's Rosentaal (dir. Miroslav Krobot) and PFX's Diplodocus (dir. Wojciech Wawszyczyk), which are in development, and nutprodukce's Tony, Shelly, and the Spirit (dir. Filip Pošivač) and Barletta's Living Large (dir. Kristina Dufková), nearing completion. The Mifa Pitches programme at the Annecy IAFF presented the Georgian-Czech feature project Igi, developed by producer Šárka Cimbalová (Marlene Film Production).
At the prestigious m:brane co-production forum in Malmö, Sweden, focused on contemporary children's content, producer Martin Jůza from Krutart was looking for partners for the Dinofables series, director Pavel Ruzyak for Petra's Film and producer Zuzana Kučerová from Frame Films for short film Dakar Sistaz directed by Jan Těšitel. Polish Kids Kino Industry was attended by GameGirl by director Marina Andrea Škop and producer Julietta Sichel (8Heads Production).
There is a lot to look forward to in the field of Czech shorts and documentaries as well. At the European Short Pitch, the projects Hun Tun (dir. Magdalena Hejzlarová) and Sea Salt (dir. Leila Basma) got space. The latter, together with Daria Kashcheeva's Electra (Oscar nomination for Daughter in 2020), were consequently presented to the professional audience at the Cannes Court Métrage. Robin Kvapil's Citizen Miko, a documentary feature screened at the Jihlava IDFF 2022, was presented in March at Docs in Progress, a programme taking place at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in Greece and awarded its Music and Sound Services Award. The new documentary Love Exposed by Filip Remunda (Hypermarket Film) and a new VR project Fresh Memories by Ondřej Moravec were presented at the IDFA Forum in November. Its first part, titled The Look, is heading to the SXSW 2023 festival.
In 2022, four upcoming feature films have received support from the Eurimages Fund, crucial for the successful financing of the project and its production: feature film The End of the World by director Ivan Zachariáš and production company LUMINAR Film, aforementioned The Spring by Ivan Ostrochovský, made in co-production with Czech Negativ, and the animated films The Crystal Planet directed by Arsen Anton Ostojić, produced by Alkay Animation Prague, and Living Large by Kristina Dufková, produced by Barletta.
Last year also saw the filming and editing of numerous long-awaited projects that audiences will be able to see in cinemas or at festivals this year. These include the adaptation of Jáchym Topol's book A Sensitive Person directed by debuting Tomáš Klein, the documentary portrait of Swedish politician Blix Not Bombs directed by Greta Stocklassa, the story of the murderous couple Mr. and Mrs. Stodola directed by Petr Hátle, Nobody Likes Me directed by Petr Kazda and Tomáš Weinreb, who made their name with their debut feature I, Olga Hepnarova, and the mystery detective story We Have Never Been Modern by Matěj Chlupáček. Bohdan Sláma is working on his new film Dry Season, in autumn Tomáš Mašín completed the shooting of his long-awaited film Brothers, a controversial story of the Mašín brothers, who shot their way across the heavily guarded Czechoslovak state border in the 1950s, and The Great Nothing, a new film by renowned documentarist Vít Klusák reflecting the recent COVID 19 pandemic, which he made together with his wife Marika Pecháčková, should also appear at cinemas in 2023.
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