Review: Czech films in 2021

20 January 2022

Film Industry

Review: Czech films in 2021

Film Industry

Review: Czech films in 2021

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Despite the negative impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the whole film market, Czech feature films´ producers appeared on international scene also in 2021. The complicated situation reconfirmed the importance of international cooperation, thanks to which projects with Czech participation made it even to the festivals of „Big Three“. Czech documentary celebrated great success not only at important international film festivals, but it reached great results also at traditional documentary-oriented events all over
the world, as well as at domestic scene. And Czech animation enjoyed extensive international success in 2021. Both animated features and shorts were not only well received at international festivals, but many of them also received a nomination for prestigious world film awards.

FICTION FEATURE FILM REVIEW

Festival Achievements

For Czech film, 2021 started by a phenomenal success of Radu Jude at Berlinale. The satiric drama Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn brought this Romanian filmmaker the Golden Bear for the best film – the success also gained thanks to the cooperation with the Czech coproducer Jiří Konečný of endorfilm and the support of the Czech Film Fund. Another Czech coproduction film presented at Berlinale was Je suis Karl by Christian Schwochow (Czech coproducer Negativ), premiering in the Berlinale Special section.

While at Cannes, the restored classic of Vojtěch Jasný from 1963, The Cassandra Cat, resonated, the third of the major European film festivals, Venice IFF, presented to the festival audience four features made with Czech participation: Jan P. Matuszyński´s political thriller Leave No Traces (coproduced by Background Films, Magiclab and Czech Television) fought in the main competition, Miracle by Bogdan George Apetri (coproduced by Cineart TV Prague) was screened in Orizzonti competition, and 107 Mothers, directed by Peter Kerekes (coproduced by endorfilm and Hypermarket Film), gained a prestigious award for the best screenplay in the same section. Mimesis Film was the Czech coproducer of another film presented at Venice IFF in the Giornate degli Autori section – Il Palazzo by Federica di Giacomo.

Domestic Karlovy Vary IFF’ Competition hosted world premieres of two Czech fiction films: Bird Atlas by Olmo Omerzu, and Václav Kadrnka´s Saving One Who Was Dead. East of the West competition presented the debuts Two Ships by Jan Foukal and Mirrors in the Dark by Šimon Holý, as well as the coproduction features Dear Ones, and Runner. Films with Czech participation made it to the programmes of other important world festivals too. The Year Before the War directed by Dāvis Sīmanis and coproduced by Radim Procházka was competing at Rotterdam IFF´s Big Screen competition, Agnieszka Wosczyńska´s debut drama Silent Land was invited to the competitive Platform section of Toronto IFF (Czech coproducer i/o post) and San Sebastian presented, next to 107 Mothers, and Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, both screened within Zabaltegi Tabakalera competition, the debut of Emanuel Pârvu titled Marocco, also coproduced by Czech i/o post, in the prestigious New Directors competition.

Czech cinema was presented at important autumn film festivals. Black Nights in Tallinn hosted the international premiere of the Czech comedy Occupation, directed by Michal Nohejl, which was selected to its First Feature Competition, BFI in London screened Martin and the Magical Forest, Czech family film by Petr Oukropec, as well as the coproduction Leave No Traces and Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn. Jude´s satire was also a part of Busan IFF´s programme. The successful autumn was crowned by the main awards for 107 Mothers at Cottbus IFF and Les Arcs.

Important Awards

At the March award ceremony of the Czech Film and Television Academy, Czech Lions, the makers of the drama Charlatan by Agnieszka Holland got five statues (including the best film and best direction award), while Shadow Country by Bohdan Sláma received six, including the best screenplay award. Czech film critics chose Shadow Country as the best film of the year. Agnieszka Holland, for her Charlatan, won the best direction award, and Petr Zelenka, for his Droneman, the best screenplay award.

In October, David Ondříček´s biopic Zatopek was sent to Oscar competition as the Czech candidate in the best foreign film category. But Czech Republic was also one of the coproducers of the 3 films sent to the Oscar race by other countries: Leave No Traces (Poland), Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Romania), and 107 Mothers (Slovakia). Radu Jude was also nominated for the European Film Awards in the categories of the best European director and the best European scriptwriter.

Czech distribution, international distribution and sales

Even in the time so considerably affected by the pandemic, Czech Republic´s 2021 feature films production numbered 46 films – by 17 more than the year before, mostly because the 2021 production embraced many films whose production was originally postponed due to corona.

The most successful film in Czech cinemas became Patrik Hartl´s comedy Prvok, Šampón, Tečka and Karel, reaching the attendance of 600 000. Second Zatopek almost reached 400 000, while almost 300 000 viewers came to see Vojtěch Moravec´s comedy Mothers.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn was sold to Iceland, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Greece, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Norway, Portugal, Brazil, Lithuania, Israel, North America, Ex-Yugoslavian countries, France, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Austria, Poland, Taiwan, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Netherlands, Belgium, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Japan and South Korea. Leave No Traces has seen sales to Estonia, Slovakia, former Yugoslavia, Portugal, Spain, France, Benelux, U.K., Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Greece, Sweden and Czech Republic. Miracle will be distributed in North America, France, Greece and Portugal, 107 Mothers was sold to Benelux, Switzerland and Former Yugoslavia.

Czech feature projects at international industry scene

The future success of 107 Mothers was foreshadowed by one of the main awards, Sub-ti, in the First Cut+ section, the project won at the turn of January and February at When East Meets West market, which annually takes place at Italian Trieste. The project Saving One Who Was Dead was presented at the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum, where its director and producer Václav Kadrnka gained HAF Goes to Cannes award.

Five Czech projects successfully participated at the weeklong coproduction online forum Sofia Meetings in Bulgaria. Tomasz Mielnik´s black comedy Gregorius, the Chosen One won the main Cinelab Romania award in the second film project category, while Beata Parkanová presented her project The Word in the Works in Progress category, later awarded by D-Facto Motion Award at Connecting Cottbus coproduction market.

Zuzana Kirchnerová with her drama The Caravan participated at Cannes´ L'Atelier Cinéfondation, while coproduction project Victim of Michal Blaško was awarded at the Eastern Promises market´s Works in Progress presentation, taking place in the frame of Karlovy Vary IFF. Comedy Somewhere Over the Chemtrails by Adam Koloman Rybanský was presented within Karlovy Vary edition of the First Cut Lab. Baltic Event´s Works in Progress, which is a part of Tallinn Black Nights FF, was dominated by Bethlehem Light of Jan Svěrák. Project Head Nurse directed by Jan Vejnar and produced by Kamila Dohnalová succeeded at Crossroads Co-production Forum in Thessaloniki, bringing the filmmakers an EAVE scholarship awards. Adam Martinec pitched his prepared feature debut Slaughter at Talent Village in Les Arcs.

Feature projects supported by the Czech Film Fund and other funds

The Czech Film Fund supported development of 23 feature films in 2021, including Ivan Zachariáš´s Beautiful Sadness, Štěpán Hulík´s Recordwoman, Ondřej Hudeček´s Poberta, Beata Parkanová´s Bears, or Adam Martinec´s Slaughter. Fifteen films were supported by the Czech Film Fund in the production, including Jan Svěrák´s Bethlehem Light, and The Caravan by Zuzana Kirchnerová, both already resonating at the international film scene, or a new film by Miroslav Krobot, Big Opening, Buko by Alice Nellis and Štěpán Fok Vodrážka´s Dustzone.

The cultural support fund of the Council of Europe Eurimages supported Cristina Grosan´s Ordinary Failures, The Caravan by Zuzana Kirchnerová, and minority coproductions – Forever Hold Your Peace (with Czech participation on Analog Vision), and Emma and the Death’s Head (Total HelpArt T.H.A.).

DOCUMENTARY FILM - REVIEW

Festival Achievements

Two Czech films were invited to prestigious Locarno IFF: animated documentary short Love, Dad and the documentary feature debut of Francesco Montagner titled Brotherhood. The latter, competing in the prestigious Concorso Cineasti del presente – focusing on incoming generation of filmmakers – won the main award, the Golden Leopard. Brotherhood was also successfully presented overseas – its North American premiere was hosted by DOC NYC festival. The film´s quality was reconfirmed at the domestic market, by victory at Ji.hlava IDFF, where Brotherhood became the best Czech documentary. Among the awarded films in the Czech Joy competition was also Ordeal by Zuzana Piussi, and Preparations for Film T by Milan Klepikov, both getting special mention.

Another important domestic festival where Czech documentary scored was Karlovy Vary IFF. In its main competition, newly accepting both documentary and (fiction) feature films, Erika Hníková´s Every Single Minute was awarded special mention of the jury. At Full Throttle by Miro Remo was a part of the main competition too, while Intensive Life Unit by Adéla Komrzý gained a jury award in the East of the West competition.

Several documentary-oriented festivals of high international reputation hosted world and international premieres of Czech documentaries in 2021. Kateřina Hager´s and Asad Faruqi´s A Marriage was screened in The Changing Face of Europe programme of Canadian Hot Docs, Pavel Borecký´s Living Water held its international premiere at Visions du Réel festival and together with the coproduction documentary Gorbachev. Heaven, directed by Vitaly Mansky, it screened in Nyon, as well as at another prestigious documentary film festival – CPH:DOX in Copenhagen. A New Shift by Jindřich Andrš celebrated its victory at Impact section of FIPADOC, while the time lapse documentary Anny by Helena Třeštíková won the main prize at DOK.fest in Munich. The latest Třeštíková´s project René - The Prisoner of Freedom was premiered at IDFA Masters section together with Intensive Life Unit, screened in Luminous section of the festival, which also presented minority coproduction Museum of the Revolution. I Am Trying to Remember, directed by Pegah Ahangarani, was selected for documentary shorts´ section, while Best of Fests section included Love, Dad by Diana Cam Van Nguyen into its programme.

Important awards

Caught in the Net by Barbora Chalupová and Vít Klusák became the best documentary of both the Czech Lion Awards and the Czech Film Critics´ Awards. Discovery of the Year award went to Jindřich Andrš for A New Shift, which also made it to the wider selection for the European Film Awards, together with Gorbachev. Heaven.  

Czech and international distribution and sales

The documentary portrait Karel by Olga Malířová Špátová, with the attendance of almost 400 000 became the most attended documentary, and at the same time one of the most successful distribution films of 2021 in Czech cinemas. As far as international sales is concerned, A Marriage was sold to Japan, and Milan Kundera – from The Joke to Insignificance to Slovakia, Portugal and Italy.

Czech documentary projects at international industry scene

At one of the first coproduction markets of the last year, which took place online in Italian Trieste, two films with Czech participation succeeded in a strong competition. HBO Europe prize, offering 1000 EUR, went to Francesco Montagner, who prepared his Brotherhood under the baton of nutprodukce, and Museum of the Revolution by Srđan Keča, also coproduced by nutprodukce, gained the Flow Digital Cinema Award (for postproduction services).

Project Música o Muerte: Destined to Freedom by Hana Jarklová and the portrait Blix directed by Greta Stocklassa were presented at FIPADOC festival, while the latter also became a part of Hot Docs Forum. The feature length docu-opera Kapr Code was presented at Paris DOC Works
in Progress. Sheffield Doc Fest pitching forum hosted the feature-length project Volver a Volver and the short Darkening, later also pitched at IDFA Forum. Four Czech documentaries were awarded at East Doc Platform: Blix, The Boundaries of Fidelity, I´m Not Everything I Want to Be, and Mastery. The upcoming edition of When East Meets West will present Marie Dvořáková´s So Far from Mikulov.

Documentary projects supported by the Czech Film Fund and other funds

The Czech Film Fund supported the development of 20 documentaries last year, including Jiří Zykmund´s One Winged Angels, Anna Kryvenko´s Mirror of the Sea, Jana Počtová´s To the Sun and the Horizon, and Andrea Culková´s Citizen's Assembly. The Czech Film Fund supported 15 films
in the phase of production, including those already enjoying an international recognition: Blix by Greta Stocklassa, So Far from Mikulov by Marie Dvořáková, I´m Not Everything I Want to Be by Klára Tasovská, and also new project of Jana Švankmajer, Kunstkamera, Theodora Remundová´s Valley of the Heart or Winged Lions by Tomáš Bojar.

Among the coproduction projects supported by the cultural support fund of the Council of Europe Eurimages was Štěpán Pech´s Jan Mancuska: You Will Never See It All.

ANIMATION - REVIEW

Festival Achievements

After multi-year preparation, two animated features were completed in 2021 in Czech Republic, both premiering at the largest world film festival of animated films – Annecy IAFF. While My Sunny Maad, directed by Michaela Pavlátová, was the first Czech film after 28 years to make it to its main competition, gaining the prestigious jury award, Even Mice Belong in Heaven was shown within Screening Events section of the festival. Coproduction The Crossing (gaining the Jury Distinction Award) and student film Sisters directed by Andrea Szelesová, which screened in the graduates’ shorts section, completed Czech participation in Annecy.

The whole year 2021 was like a continuous party for animated short Love, Dad by FAMU student Diana Cam Van Nguyen. After its world premiere at Locarno IFF, Love, Dad scored in the short film sections of several important international festivals, including Toronto, BFI London, Tallinn Black Nights, and traditional DOK Leipzig. In December 2021, after the victory at American AFI fest, Love, Dad successfully qualified for the Oscar competition, and, rounding off the great year, the film was selected, together with Sisters, to January 2022 short film festival in Clermont-Ferrand.

At Cannes IFF, following in 2021 Annecy IAFF in July, Czech animation was represented by Anna Podskalská´s Red Shoes which made it to Cinéfondation student films competition. Thanks to its victory at the festival in Austin, later in the fall, the film automatically qualified for the Oscar race in 2022 as well.

Similarly successful were in 2021 the already mentioned winners from Annecy. My Sunny Maad won at Guadalajara and Bucheon and was a part of the programmes at Karlovy Vary, Zurich and Cairo. Even Mice Belong to Heaven was awarded in Tallinn Black Nights´ competition of films for children, and at Shanghai IFF, and presented at key festivals specialising in films for children, including Cinekid, and Kids Kino in Warsaw. Coproduction The Crossing was presented in the Zabaltegi section of prestigious San Sebastian IFF, at BFI London, and awarded at Bucheon or at documentary/animation DOK Leipzig.

Important awards

In December, as the first Czech film in history, My Sunny Maad was nominated for the Golden Globe Awards in the category of animated feature films. Even Mice Belong in Heaven by Denisa Grimmová and Jan Bubeníček, on the other hand, could boast the nomination for the European Film Awards, in the animated feature category. In March, A Colourful Dream, directed by Jan Balej, became historically first best animated film of the newly created Czech Lion´s category.

Czech and international distribution and sales

Even Mice Belong in Heaven entered Czech cinemas in September, reaching the desired goal of 100 thousand viewers by the end of the year. The story of a mouse and a fox will also travel abroad – the film was sold to UK, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, French speaking part of Africa, Taiwan, Singapore, the CIS, China, Canada, Hungary, former Yugoslavia and South Africa.

Czech animation projects at international industry scene

Czech animation projects in various stages of production were presented at numerous industry events all over the world. The prepared features Journey to Yourland and coproduction The Websters participated at Meet the Producers – GAP Financing Market of Mifa. The former, together with the feature Golem, was presented at Cartoon Movie, the latter at Kids Kino Industry Forum, together with the series Happily Never After, gaining CETA award. The short project About a Cow was presented at the Euro Connection market at Clermont-Ferrand IFF. The prestigious Cartoon Forum hosted presentations of the projects Acorn Elves, Dinofables, The Seniors, and Veggierado. Two Czech projects were awarded at Animation Forum of Anifilm in Liberec: Electra. A Poem, and Desire to Win.

Animated projects supported by the Czech Film Fund and other Funds

In 2021, the Czech Film Fund decided to couple the development and production supports for animation. The support was granted to 17 film projects and two series. Among the supported projects, already resonating at international scene were Suzie in the Garden by Lucie Sunková, Electra. A Poem by Daria Kashcheeva9 Million Colors by Bára Anna Stejskalová, Darkening by Ondřej Moravec, About a Cow by Pavla Baštanová, Happily Never After Alžběta Zatloukalová Göbelová and Gabriela Hloz, and Veggierado by Jan Bubeníček. In its December batch of coproduction projects, the cultural support fund of the Council of Europe Eurimages supported the prepared feature Of Unwanted Things and People.

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