(One) Slovak Film at the Warsaw Film Festival

By Ondrej Starinsky

    Out of the 153 features that will be presented in the following days of the 24th Warsaw Film Festival, there will be one film from a country not normally represented: Slovakia.

    The Warsaw festival audiences will get their chance to see Juraj Nvota's Music (screening October 17 and 18) which is featured in the competition for first and second feature films.

    What is so exceptional about this film from Poland's neighbour to the south? Just the fact that it was made and then accepted for an international competition is exception enough.

    For the past 15 years Slovakia has had problems releasing films. The number of premiered features has varied through the years, with between 1-3 films produced annually (excluding minor co-productions) with high ambitions and low budgets. The result was a negative impact on the overall quality. Due to low state financial support and a small local market (a population of just over 5 million), the film industry was under-funded.

    But recently Slovak cinema has seen a growth of fiction and non-fiction film premieres which are beginning to have success at international festivals. For the most part, young documentary filmmakers have been most successful in winning critical and public acclaim abroad. Marko Skop's Other Worlds won a Special Mention and the Audience Award at Karlovy Vary 2006, and Juraj Lehotsky's Blind Loves won the CICAE Award for Art Cinema at Cannes this year. This would have been almost impossible in the late 1990's.

    The key to success appears to be linked to increased state support for films in the last two years. Fourteen premieres were planned for 2008. Next year will show if the growth in numbers produces improvement of quality. Audience and critical response to Nvota's Music at the Warsaw festival might provide a hint of what to expect.