FNE at Jihlava: Slovak Film Production on the Rise

By Cathy Meils

    After two years of transformation of the system for financing film production, Slovakia returned to the international spotlight with the opening night screening of Matchmaking Mayor at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival (www.dokument-festival.cz), 26-31 October 2010. The film, a Slovak and Czech coproduction directed by Erika Hnikova, was one of several promising signs from Slovakia, particularly in the field of documentary filmmaking.

    Documentaries have become a major factor in the Slovak film industry since 2008. In the past three years, one-third of all feature length films made in Slovakia have been documentaries. Furthermore, of the 40 documentaries produced in that time, 10 have been full-length films, with the majority of those getting theatrical release. Slovak documentaries are beginning to show box office numbers that make them competitive with fiction features. In fact, Slovakia recently nominated a documentary film The Border as its 2010 Oscar candidate.

    "We have a new generation of documentary filmmakers who are bold and want to tell their stories," Film Europe (www.filmeurope.eu) sales agent Marta Lamperova said at one of several Slovak presentations taking place in Jihlava. Slovak documentaries "broke through in 2008 with Blind Loves," Lamperova said. "It created a gateway."

    Following the success of Blind Loves and Peter Kerekes's Cooking History in 2009, the documentary film Osadne, about the Slovak village at the edge of the European Union, is receiving theatrical distribution in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and showing potential for further international sales.

    A new catalog of upcoming Slovak documentaries shows a total of 12 long or feature-length films in development and preproduction, another 12 in production, and eight films in post-production or recently completed.

    The opening night film Matchmaking Mayor, which captures a welcome Slovak tendency to cut the bitter with humor, was warmly received. So, too, was the East European Forum pitch for a Slovak documentary about the first Romany running for national election. The topic drew the interest of representatives from a number of countries. In addition, a Slovak co-production meeting offered a promising documentary project about a Korean who has been travelling the world by bicycle for nearly a decade.

    Further attention will be devoted to new Slovak films at the upcoming Bratislava IFF (www.iffbratislava.sk), 4-11 November 2011. The festival will screen premieres of five Slovak films among the ten national films selected for the festival.