FNE spoke with Pavel Strnad, chairman of the Czech Audiovisual Producers' Association about the current state of the Czech film industry
FNE: What was the most important development in the Czech national film industry over the past year?
Pavel Strnad: Czech films continue to draw audiences. In 2008 the market share reached a record-breaking number - 40.6% of viewers bought a ticket for a Czech film, and this year we expect the box office share to be around 35%, which puts Czech films among the most popular national films in Europe. Thanks to a major increase in the budget of the Czech Film Fund two years ago, we can also see a steady growth in the production. The number of theatrically distributed feature and documentary films grew from 21 in 2007 to 38 in 2008 and we expect 45 Czech films in theatres in 2009.An important change will happen in 2010, when the 20% tax rebate, announced by the Czech government last month, comes into effect. We believe this measure will provide more financing also for international coproductions and help the Czech industry become competitive on the international scene.
FNE: How important are European coproductions for the development of the Czech film industry and what opportunities do you see for cooperation with neighbouring countries in film production, education and distribution?
PS: European co-productions play a very important role for Czech cinematography. Every year we see a number of high-profile films which were financed with the help of coproducers from other European countries - "Bathory", "Karamazovi", "Country Teacher", "3 Seasons in Hell" just to name a few. Co-productions not only help in financing Czech films, but also bring Czech filmmakers and talent onto the international scene. With the new tax rebate there will be also be a chance for Czech producers to get more involved in minor co-productions.
FNE: What is the role of film in Czech's cultural identity?
PS: Film plays very important role for Czech's cultural identity, as well as for any other small nation. The popularity of Czech films shows that the Czechs are eager to see Czech stories in Czech language with Czech actors. Though the main box office hits are usually comedies, drama is a predominant genre in the Czech cinematography. We also see more films dealing with important events and stories from the Czech history that could not have been told under the Communist regime. I find this very important and hope this trend will continue.
FNE: How does the recognition of Czech film internationally promote not only your country's film but also Czech Republic as a country?
PS: I don't want to repeat myself saying how important film is also for promoting the Czech Republic abroad. It is obvious that internationally successful films can reach audiences around the world and let them know about our country and people living here. I think filmmakers like Milos Forman, Jan Svankmajer, Jiri Menzel and Jan Sverak, who made such films should be appointed as Honorary Ambassadors of the Czech Republic!
FNE: Looking back over the past five years what are the major achievements and what do you consider still needs to be done?
PS: We have been waiting for the new film law for almost a decade and I hope that the Czech politicians will finally fulfill their promise and adopt an effective system that will provide conditions for future development of Czech cinematography. The Czech Republic still doesn't have a film institution which would cover support, promotion and archiving of Czech films, which I think is big handicap for Czech film.