The best intentions and shared musical interests fail to bridge a cultural gap in absorbing Czech docu “Vierka, or the Mystery of Family B’s Disappearance.” Quality nonfiction item will grab fest attention, is a tube gimme and has good afterlife prospects for global docu fans.
Not long ago, Czech singer Ida Kelarova heard the remarkable taped voice of 12-year-old Vierka, a Slovak Roma, or Gypsy. Instantly taken, Kelarova arranges to have the musical moppet and family relocated from their dismal living conditions to her own house. Plans are set in motion for Vierka to record, and to be spotlighted in regional concerts.
Vierka turns out to be a sprightly life force, belting out snatches of “Oh Happy Day,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “I’ll be There” and even some rap, with an outward confidence and vocal strength that belies her age.
While Vierka’s father renovates one of Kelarova’s properties, the youngster’s mother only wants to bake sweets. Jovial family gatherings for language lessons degenerate into arguments over bananas, cigarettes, and Kelarova’s mounting stress over her shortage of money and the Berkys’ lack of initiative.
A month into the arrangement, the Berkys leave, with no forwarding address. Tracked down via cloak-and-dagger methods by the film crew, in the end, Kelarova’s worst professional fears seem realized.
Vet docu helmer Miroslav Janek, a teacher at Prague’s FAMU film academy, has worked in the U.S. and Italy. His credits include the quirky 2000 rural docu “Battle for Life” and indulgent puppet theater profile “Crimson Sails” (2001).” His work has found a new focus via children’s issues, with “Vierka” at least as interested in the youngster’s bubbly personality as hot-button issues of the cultural gulf Czechs and Slovaks face with Gypsy culture.
Tech credits are on-the-fly, yet astute. Janek’s second film of the year is hourlong orphan docu “Kha-Chee-Pae,” touted for the Karlovy Fest line-up in July.