A packed room of industry pros showed up to scout more than 20 upcoming films, out of 60 Czech films in various stages of production, selected for the annual presentation of New Czech Animated and Feature Films at Plzen's Finale (www.filmfestfinale.cz) festival.
With a healthy 38 Czech films produced in 2008, can Czech cinema continue to grow?
"There will be more films in 2009," Jana Cernik, head of the Czech Film Center (www.filmcenter.cz), which organizes the event, told FNE. "Everything is due to the new money in the film fund (some 12 million Euros), which began in 2007 and will last until 2011. We're seeing the results now."
The sudden rush of funding has allowed filmmakers to keep productions 100% Czech, for the most part. Slovakia and, more recently, Germany are still co-production partners of choice, but other international partners are stepping forward, including Poland, the U.K,, Ireland, Russia, Austria, and possibly Croatia.
A judicious selection process, and a merciless moderator, kept the presentations contained to under three hours, with ample time for filmmakers to begin conversations with production partners, festival reps, and distributors.
The absence of some high profile films and directors (Negativ's Alois Nebel, or box office hit directors Jan Hrebejk and Juraj Jakubisko) brought more attention to films such as The Whispering Game, a Czech/German co-production from FilmBrigade (www.filmbrigade.cz) and SCHMIDTzKATZE (www.schmidtzkatze.de) based on a true story of children helping a French WWII pilot escape from the Nazi armed forces. The heart-tugging story looks likely to pull in a third production partner or sales agent.
Films from international directors were also on display. Agnieszka Holland's War with the Newts offered striking visuals that could land it the co-producers necessary to fund the remaining 3.5 million Euros of a projected 6 million Euro budget.
Interspersed with pitches from filmmakers were presentations from funding sources, notably SPI's new partner organization, Film Europe (www.filmeurope.eu), offering to help films through the festival and international sales maze.
Can the Czech film boom continue?
"That will depend on the political situation," Cernik said. "We need to find a solution for funding up-coming filmmakers, international co-productions, minority co-productions, and genres such as animated and children's films. But Czech documentaries are doing well."