• Datum 16-01-2014
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Let’s start on the bright side of contemporary Slovak cinema, as there is definitely a lot to depict. After a 20-year break after the so-called Velvet Revolution, during which no memorable film was added to our national cinematography, 2009 offered a pleasant production of 18 feature films. Metaphorically speaking — according to the first law of dialectics — this increase of quantity came with a transformation of quality. Two examples: Bathory, the latest obscure historical opus of former new wave prodigy Juraj Jakubisko, broke box office records with 426.901 viewers, and Blind Loves, an introverted documentary by young director Juraj Lehotsky, was selected for the Directors’ Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival — only the second Slovak film in history, after Jakubisko’s The Deserter and the Nomads in 1968. Would it be possible that after 40 years, a new generation of young filmmakers could take the place of the progressive auteurs of the 60’s, letting the latter earn their money in order to get a peaceful celebrity retirement alongside their colleagues from bigger film nations?
The foundation of the Slovak Audiovisual Fund in 2010 introduced an autonomous system of financial support for the national film industry and remains an important institutional support of modern and progressive filmmakers. Since its inception, the fund has been reorganized several times in order to satisfy the voices of the practical side of filmmaking and the entire audiovisual network (often in a quite edgy atmosphere). While improving the whole support system, the dilemma of what its main priority should be appeared several times — auteur cinema or box office success?
After a slight quantitative breakdown in 2010 and 2011, 2012 brought 17 Slovak premieres. In 2013, My Dog Killer by young filmmaker Mira Fornay competed at Rotterdam, and won a Tiger Award. Box office success arrived too in Candidate, an adaptation of the contemporary novel by Maroš He?ko and Michal Havran — although using the term ‘box office’ for Slovak theatrical conditions is becoming more and more ridiculous. As in most European countries, cinemas in Slovakia are closing one after another as a result of expensive digitalization in the times of the formation of a new (independend from Czech) and therefore still fragile national cinematography.
Although the situation of theatres seems stabilized now, it’s not very accommodating to Slovak cinematography with arthouse ambitions. The reasons are complex, but we can express them simply: there is no room for ‘art’ in the ‘house’, which was built on loans from commercial, globalized companies. But this sounds inadequate in the context of other Central and Eastern European countries that face similar distribution circumstances. I would rather choose the term ‘schizophrenia’ to metaphorically express the phenomenon that divides our filmmakers’ efforts between artistic ambitions (mostly based on the new wave tradition and blurring the borders between documentary and fiction) and the desire to gain the affection of an audience pampered by the simplicity of Hollywood cinematography.

Eva Križková is a film scholar, conducting PhD research on aesthetic aspects of Slovak auteur film distribution, as well as co-­founder and editor-in-chief of Kine?ko and co-founder of distribution laboratory FILMTOPIA | This work was supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency under the contract No. APVV-0797-12