15 October 2018

Czech & Slovak Film Festival @ NFSA

| Ariel Larkey
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Czech & Slovak Film Festival

As 2018 winds down, the film festivals ramp up in the nation’s capital. Following screenings in Melbourne, the sixth edition of the Czech and Slovak Film Festival 2018 hits the NFSA in Canberra to kick off this bumper season of cinema.

A century on from the establishment of Czechoslovakia; a quarter-century on from its “Velvet Divorce” into separate states Czechia and Slovakia; and a half-century on from the “Prague Spring”, the festival returns in its sixth iteration with an interconnecting theme of ‘spring’.

From this Thursday – Sunday, there will be eight screenings showcasing the cinema of today and yesteryear from the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Opening Night ‘czechs’ in with Hastrman (2017). An adaptation of the novel by the same from author Miloš Urban, this is a beguiling period fantasy about a peculiar nobleman who returns to a small Bohemian village at the turn of the 19th century following years abroad. Enchanted and fascinated by water, he also finds himself enamoured and infatuated by local free spirit Katynka in this romantic, otherworldly thriller. Hastrman will be preceded by animated short film Springman and the SS (1946). Screening 18 October, 7 pm.

Friday night double-bill

Daisies (1966) is a Dadaist romp as two women embark upon an anarchic and hedonistic rampage, taking advantage of men and leaving chaos in their wake, as they try to find meaning in their lives and the world around them. To be viewed as a symbolic reflection of the emerging artistic freedoms around the time of the Prague Spring. Daisies will be preceded by the unique short documentary Oratorio for Prague (1968) which, although originally envisaged to document the Prague Spring, accidentally became a crucial record of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and had to subsequently be smuggled out of the country. Screening 19 October, 6:15 pm.

From Slovakia, Domestik (2018) is a story of double dreaming and double meaning. As cyclist Roman grows tired of his sacrificial service to his racing team, his one-track mind sees him increasingly obsessed with success. Meanwhile, Roman’s personal pursuit renders him unaware of his wife Šarlota’s machinations to fall pregnant in this desperate domestic drama about persistent perfectionism from debut writer/director Adam Sedlák. Screening 8:15 pm.

Saturday screenings

Adapted from the best-selling Czech children’s books of the same name, The Oddsockeaters (2016) tells the colourful, animated tale of small creatures responsible for eating the inevitably missing sock. Three years in the making, and directed by the books’ original illustrator Galina Miklínová, this delightful children’s feature is also a not-so-subtle allegory of modern-day Prague. The film will be preceded by short animation Fruits of Clouds (2017). Screening 12:30 pm.

Celebration in the Botanical Garden (1969) heralded a new wave. The film’s excess was in stark contrast to its production backdrop amid the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. A wanderer from France, Pierre, brings novelty to a small village in the little Carpathians. Crazy scenes ensue with a crazy musical score to boot. Courtesy of the Slovak Film Institute. Preceded by the short film Prysia’s Garden (2015). Screening 2:30 pm.

Final feature of the day, Barefoot (2017) marks the end of director Jan Sverák’s ‘Czech Quartet’. Forced to leave Prague during WWII, a young boy has to adjust to a new way of life outside of the city in this comedy/coming of age drama set amid the final days of the war. Screening 4:30 pm.

Sunday sessions

The first Slovak film to make the cut for Official Selection at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, Out (2017) is the absurdist fable of the over-50 Ágoston who suddenly finds himself unemployed. As he embarks upon an odyssey across Eastern Europe in a bid to find work – and better fishing – he encounters all kinds of unexpected situations. Screening 12:15 pm.

The festival wraps up and ‘Czechs’ out with The Firemen’s Ball (1967) on Sunday afternoon. Honouring director Miloš Forman who passed away in April this year, this was his final film before departing his homeland for Hollywood where he would find massive success with the legendary One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Here, a volunteer fire department attempts to throw an annual ball for the entire village. However, nothing goes to plan in this ribald ridicule of politics and authority. Screening 2 pm.

Screenings are $10 each. Season Passes are also available for $65.

To learn more about the festival, visit the Official Website.

For bookings, head HERE.

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