Cinematik will preview The Nightsiren, awarded at the Locarno festival
15. August 2022
The new Slovak film by director Tereza Nvotová, The Nightsiren, won the Golden Leopard at the prestigious Locarno International Film Festival in the Concorso Cineasti del presente (cinematography of the present) section. The film had its world premiere on Friday and, in addition to the jury, attracted the attention of the international audience and professional public. The Cinematik Festival will present it in the Slovak preview screening.
The Nightsiren is a magical drama with elements of mystery and horror. The jury awarded the prize for “a bold vision that opens up the difficult themes of misogyny and superstition in today’s society, and for the overall cinematic grasp.” When receiving the award at the ceremony, director Nvotová said that she wanted to dedicate the award to all women who had to face violence in their lives, be it psychological or physical.
“Before the premiere, I was worried about whether viewers abroad would understand the film, especially since it takes place in a small village in the Slovak mountains. However, the reactions of the audience were very strong, the film touched them, and many people still write to me about how it stayed in their heads.” says director Tereza Nvotová, “The main prize brought The Nightsiren success at international festivals, the film has already been invited to major festivals in America and Spain. I think that this award will also help the entire Slovak cinematography, which is not much known abroad.”
The Nightsiren seeks to break down myths and conventions surrounding femininity, and tackles issues that are outdated but still relevant in the 21st century. It also draws attention to gender and racial stereotypes and explores the fear of being different, which is the source of many problems in today’s world. “Our society rejects those who are too different and looks for simple explanations and a specific culprit for their problems. We believe in superstitions that turn into modern conspiracies and we refuse to admit that we are to blame for many misfortunes.” says the director. The Nightsiren also raises the question of the value of personal freedom, especially if we refuse to follow the conventional path.
“The Nightsiren is a film about freedom, and that’s how I approached the work. I allowed myself to use genre elements, to play with film language, with music and dream sequences, or time planes so that the viewer has the greatest possible emotional experience. I really hope that people will go see The Nightsiren in the cinema because it’s a crazy ride and it’s worth it.” adds the film’s director and screenwriter.
The film was filmed in Veľká Fatra and featured Natália Germáni, Eva Mores and Iva Bittová in the main roles. The film was co-produced by BFILM and moloko film and was supported by the Audiovisual Fund. In the last twenty years, Slovak titles have only made it to the Locarno Film Festival, which was held this year from August 3 to 13.
“The film The Nightsiren is special because it talks about difficult topics through a compelling story. The film does not want to moralize and lecture, it wants to help understand and identify.” Miloš Lochman, film producer, moloko film.
Interview with Tereza Nvotová:
Your film won one of the main prizes at the Locarno International Film Festival, which is one of the world’s top film festivals. What does that mean for you?
I am very happy, because Czech and Slovak film is so small in the eyes of the world that without a big prestigious festival, it has no chance of getting beyond the borders. There are only fifteen A-rated festivals in the world and they choose from thousands of films. The fact that The Nightsiren was chosen for the competition and that it won the competition means that I managed to speak a language in the film that is understandable even abroad. Even though the story takes place in a small village in the Slovak mountains, the themes it deals with are universal and through this festival they can then be opened up in the wider society as well.
Did you expect such success?
Not. After a long journey full of uncertainty that I went through with this film, winning in Locarno means that I have to trust my instinct because it was right, even though more people told me that it wasn’t and that The Nightsiren would not do well. It means to me that making a film means taking risks and standing up for your vision. It gives me the strength to continue making films, despite the fact that it is difficult to make a living from them.
Both your first feature film Filthy and The Nightsiren deal with important social issues that are not talked about much. Is it important for you to open a social discussion with topics that can be interpreted from different points of view?
That’s actually what I enjoy most about my job. To confront the viewer with him- or herself. You give them an experience that he would not have experienced in their own life, and thus maybe open their mind a little so that he/she does not look at other people only through the prism of their own life. However, I also choose topics according to what interests me personally. What I struggle with myself. I think then I can speak directly from the depth of the issue. I enjoy it when viewers go home from the cinema and have something to think about, something to talk about, something to research. Of course, when discussing controversial topics, there is a risk that the creator will moralize. I try to pay attention to that. I don’t want to tell the viewer what to think. I just want to convey an experience that they can then process within themselves.
What would you like to tell the audience, why come to The Nightsiren?
They will experience a film that is not afraid of big emotions, difficult themes, but also a processing that takes the viewer on a completely crazy ride, at the end of which, together with the main character, they confront their demons in order to find their own freedom and accept themselves.
How do you think The Nightsiren can appeal to an international audience?
I think they might be interested in the fact that the film takes place in the wild mountains, works with superstitions about witches, and opens up taboo topics about sex, drugs and violence against women and children. At the same time, the film works with genre elements of horror and mystery.
Do you have a personal message that you convey to your viewers through the film?
This film was also created from my own experience of living in a female body. I think many women in our society struggle with never being good enough. They try to adapt to what is required of them: to be mothers, take care of the household, at the same time earn money and have a great career, but not too big, so as not to overshadow men, to have an opinion but not to distract… It is impossible to fulfill everything, even if we really tried for it. Finding your personal freedom is then much more difficult because we often struggle with guilt. The journey of the film’s protagonist, Charlotte, is also a journey to freedom. First she has to deal with her own trauma, but when she finally accepts who she is and what she really wants, she finds that it bothers those around her. And not only that. They start to fear her and blame her. So she has to fight this battle twice, like many other women.
In your opinion, what is the transferable experience of a small mountain village in Slovakia for a foreign viewer?
I think that by the fact that our main heroine comes from the city, she also represents the point of view of foreign or urban viewers. The conflict with this village society thus points to a universal problem that we are solving today everywhere in the world. In our film, the village represents all those who have given up on reason, science, or logic, and are guided purely by emotion. I’m talking now about people who believe in conspiracy theories, who take away women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies, who think homosexuality is a sin and people of color are a threat… Unfortunately, the world is changing and it’s not for the better. There are more and more people with this limited thinking, and they are far from only in the villages. Fear does the worst things to us and the greatest crimes are committed under the guise of “protection”. That is why I would like The Nightsiren to reach people of a different opinion spectrum, for example, those who are similar to the villagers in the film. Perhaps this will open the way to discussion and understanding.