Restore Point, Photophobia, Stepne, Tony, Shelly and the Magic Light… these are the new Slovak films at Cinematik

23. August 2023

Domestic and international film festivals are popular venues for exclusive premieres. This is also true for Cinematik, which is one of the most important film events in Slovakia and the wider region due to its attendance, international scope and attractiveness of its programme. As part of its 18th edition, which will begin in Piešt’any on 12 September, a varied line-up of exceptional domestic new releases will premiere in front of the festival visitors.

The first evening of the festival is traditionally dedicated to the opening ceremony, which inevitably includes the screening of the opening film. As a rule, it is a title that has not appeared on the big screen anywhere else before the eyes of Slovak viewers. This time it will be We have never been modern (2023), a Czech-Slovak co-production drama that had its world premiere in Karlovy Vary at the beginning of July.

The film is set in 1937 in Svit, near the Tatra Mountains, where the protagonist, a young doctor Helena, arrives with her husband, a factory director, to build a new “Bata” town. However, their plans are disrupted by the discovery of a dead hermaphrodite newborn right on the premises of the bustling factory. Helena, who is also expecting a child of her own, is deeply affected by the situation. Everyone around her tries to close the case quickly in the way that suits them best, but she is determined to find out the whole truth.

Dawn is the second feature film by Matěj Chlupáček, who made his debut back in 2013 with the drama No Touch. The Slovak screenwriter Miroslav Šifra, as well as the Grammy Award-winning composer Simon Goff for the Chernobyl series and Joker, the colourist Natasha Leonnet, who also worked on the Oscar-winning La La Land, and the editor Pavel Hrdlička, who has been awarded several Czech Lions, have all contributed to the new film. The acting ensemble consists of Eliška Křenková, Miloslav König, Milan Ondrík, Marián Mitaš, Ján Jackuliak, Martha Issová and others.

As the first in Slovakia, Cinematik audiences will also be able to see Ivan Ostrochovský and Pavel Pekarčík’s new film Svetloplachost (Photophobia, 2023), which follows the different forms of childhood through two Ukrainian children hiding with their families for months before the bombing in the subway of the devastated city of Kharkiv.

The film was shot over four months in 2022. While the world’s attention was focused on what was happening on the battlefields, the filmmakers who came to Kharkiv with humanitarian aid wanted to capture the much more subtle, but perhaps all the more painful, effects of the war. Photophobia arrives at Cinematik directly from the Venice International Film Festival, where it will have its world premiere in the Giornate degli Autori (Days of Authors) section.

Another Slovak premiere in the programme of the 18th Cinematik will be the grotesque coming-of-age drama by debuting director Tomáš Klein Sensitive Person (2023). Based on the book by Jáchym Topol, this wild road movie is set in a dystopian world full of fear and frustration, through which the family of the nomadic actor Moura (David Prachař) wanders in their caravan. The film confronts the viewer with a load of conflicting impressions and emotions, following its bizarre heroes’ journey of self-discovery. It had its world premiere in the main competition of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

Another of the exclusive premieres in the Cinematik programme will be the first Slovak screening of the animated film Tony, Shelly and the Magic Light (2023). It had its world premiere at the 63rd Zlín Film Festival, the oldest festival for children and youth in the world. It was subsequently screened at the 43rd Annecy Animation Festival, the largest animated film festival in the world, where director Filip Pošivač won the Jury Prize in the Contrechamp section.

The family film, shot in stunning stop-motion technique, tells the adventurous story of eleven-year-old Tonko, who is also a world unique: the world’s first ever light-up animated puppet.

On the list of domestic premieres at Cinematik is also the Czech-Slovak co-production Brutal Heat (2023) by debuting director Albert Hospodářský. The drama follows the bizarre adventures of eighteen-year-old Vincko, who gets stranded in an unfamiliar town under strange circumstances on his way to the cottage. At the same time, however, a dangerous solar fragment is hurtling towards Earth from outer space.

The Slovak premiere of Stepne (2023), a feature film co-produced by Ukrainian director Maryna Vroda, will also take place in Piešt’any next month. It is a story about a man who returns to his native Ukrainian village to take care of his dying mother. Disappointed and tired, the man unexpectedly feels the taste for life again in this very environment. The film had its world premiere at the 76th Locarno Film Festival in the Concorso Internazionale section and was awarded Best Director and the FIPRESCI Prize.

In the distribution preview, Cinematik visitors will also be able to watch the genre-exclusive domestic co-production title Restore Point (2023) directed by Robert Hloza. The film’s story is set in the year 2041, when mankind uses very advanced technology and the constitution guarantees all citizens the right to “one whole life”. Thus, after an unnatural death, such as a car accident or a terrorist attack, a person can be restored from their digital backup. All one has to do is to regularly create a digital backup of one’s personality – a “restore point” – every two days. But does humanity even deserve the right to a second chance?

Before distribution to Slovak cinemas, the audience in Piešt’any will be able to see another sci-fi film in cooperation between Hungary and Slovakia. Artificial Sky (2023) will take us to the year 2123, when fertile soil will disappear from the Earth’s surface. Flora and fauna will become extinct. Just before the total catastrophe, scientists will develop an extremely nutritious plant, but one that can only grow in the human body. The inhabitants of Budapest live cut off from the rest of the world. The population is divided into two groups: those who eat and those from whom the food is grown. The film has already had its domestic festival premiere.

Currently, our wildest director Jonáš Karásek is presenting the world premiere of his latest short project – Disease (2023) – at Cinematik. The film is set in the year 2025 and its theme is a global pandemic. The interesting thing is that if you were expecting some big acting names, you’d be wrong. Karásek has chosen the path of non-actors for his current project. “Our film is about a disease that half the population in the film suffers from. Our performers are somehow connected to this near-future pandemic,” the director explains why he decided to go with non-actors, “Even our stories are based on some of their personal experiences, albeit slightly altered, dramatized.”

Of course, there will also be premieres of documentary titles. One of the competition titles of the Cinematik.doc section will be a portrait of the screenwriter, director, essayist and poet Eduard Grečner, which was filmed by Maroš Brázda under the title The Truth Is All There Is (2023). From a completely different keg is the title Happy Man (2023): Soňa G. Lutherová follows the transition of a woman into a man in the context of everyday family life. And Cinematik will also present the Slovak premiere of Robert Kirchhoff’s All Men Will Be Brothers (2023), which explores the personality of politician Alexander Dubček and his impact on today.