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Czech comedy films on the rise

2007-08-21

A Catfish Summer, a Czech comedy about a big-city, small-time hustler who finds adventure in a remote village in the middle of nowhere, represents a new trend in the Czech film industry.

The film, the directing debut of Michal Krajnak, is now in postproduction and will be released domestically by Bioscop (www.bioscop.cz) on Nov. 8.

For the past few decades, Czech film was dominated by personal, somewhat morbid features about people who fail in life. Now the industry is moving toward light comedy, even slapstick, and for the most part is finding it profitable.

In 2006, nine of 24 released Czech films were light comedies. One of them, Holiday Makers, became No. 1 in the Czech charts, attracting 820,000 viewers. In second place was another teen comedy, The Rafters, with 705,000 viewers.

Catfish Summer producer Viktor Taus, who started his career as a director in 1999, helped write the script. His small production company, Fog´n´Desire Films (www.fogndesirefilms.cz), was established this year for the purpose of making this film, but there are plans to produce more.

In a talk with FNE, Taus described A Catfish Summer as "a typical low-budget Czech film" but he also admitted, "I always wanted to make a comedy."

Somewhat surprisingly, it is co-produced by Czech private TV channel Prima (www.iprima.cz), which rarely funds Czech films. Prima´s executive director Petr Chajda has also handled co-productions for the private TV channel Nova and was a manager at Barrandov's planned digital TV channel

"From my side, I like Czech film and I like the idea of supporting it," Chajda told FNE.

Not every Czech comedy is successful. Best Wishes! by Martin Kotik, with the renowned Jan Dolansky in the main role of a fly-by-night taxi driver, attracted only 49,000 viewers. And one of the best Czech comedies since the collapse of communism, Money makes men, based on two spectacular robberies that really took place in Prague (directed by Jiri Chlumsky and released by Bioscop), ended up with only 210 000 viewers.

Czech comedies are often derided in Internet chatrooms as demented, inconsequential, embarrassing or infantile.

"Film comedy in Czech is a trapdoor," Bioscop´s programme director Irena Prokopova told FNE. "People here are accustomed to intelligent comedies in the style of Sverak or Hrebejk. Czech slapstick or bum-bum comedies very often fail at the box office."

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