Central European talent on the rise

A look at filmmakers, writers and actors

Filmmaker and art historian Marek Zydowicz, who was co-producer for the Polish shoot of David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” last year, has been a major creative force in his native Poland, having organized the 14-year-old cinematography fest Camerimage in Lodz. Along with Lynch and Polish architect Andrzej Walczak, he recently set up the Arts of the World Foundation to create a cultural center in Lodz.

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Czech scribe and helmer Alice Nellis, who won the San Sebastian Golden Shell for 2002’s “Some Secrets,” is back on top this year with “Mysteries,” a comic romancer and social critique set in Prague. Nellis confesses that, like her characters, many Czechs are struggling with how to handle newfound wealth — and often amazed it doesn’t guarantee contentment. “They think, ‘If I get this and this and this, it will be better.’ ”

Having talked Oscar-winning Jan Sverak into producing “Little Girl Blue” (the only time he’s agreed to take on the job for someone other than himself), Nellis then recruited Czech avant-garde singer and musician Iva Bittova for her lead role. Sverak is now planning to direct Nellis’ script for an offbeat adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale “Seven Ravens.”

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Karel Roden, a thesp with as much experience in legit as in film, has become a hot commodity to casting directors both in Prague and abroad. A retiring sort who generally avoids public appearances and interviews, the versatile Czech actor excels equally at comedy, as in Nellis’ “Mysteries” and in Steen Agro’s “Shut Up and Shoot Me,” a Czech-U.K. co-production that won over the reviewers who programmed Variety Critics’ Choice: Europe Now! at the Karlovy Vary fest in 2006. Although he’s been seen in pics from “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” to “The Bourne Supremacy,” he prefers to work close to home, still doing stage work with brother Marian and taking on action roles in Prague-shot pics like 2006’s “Running Scared.”

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Hungarian helmer Nimrod Antal established his passion for gritty horror with “Kontroll” in 2003, a moody thriller set in the Budapest subway system. The collection of tough, colorful losers he assembled in that surprise hit, which won attention at fests, proved to be good foundation work. Now repped by CAA, Antal is again shocking auds with “Vacancy,” a horror motel pic featuring Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson.

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Cristian Mungiu, the Romanian writer and director of “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” which made history for his country by winning the Palme d’Or in Cannes this year, is leading a revolution of sorts. Romanian film, virtually unknown to Westerners just a few years ago, is now making waves thanks to the dark vision of Mungiu, with his tale of backstreet abortions under Ceausescu, and films like “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” and another Cannes kudo winner, “California Dreamin’,” which topped Un Certain Regard. Following Mingiu’s portrayals of quirky working-class characters in 2002’s “Occident,” his new hit has all eyes watching for his next move.

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