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Czech movies shine at Berlin

Menzel film 'England' heads long list of pics at festival

BERLIN — With a pic in every category of the Berlinale, Czech cinema is on a roll.

Jiri Menzel’s “I Served the King of England” is screening in competition, the first Czech pic to be selected for that category since Menzel’s 1990 Berlinale winner “Larks on a String.” David Ondricek’s “Grandhotel” is in Panorama and Petr Nikolaev’s “It Gonna Get Worse” made it into the Forum.

Furthermore, Vlasta Pospisiolva’s “Three Sisters and One Ring” and Jan Balej “The Sea, Uncle, Why It Salty?” are screening in Generation.

“It’s because we’ve been building on contacts with the festivals for years now and every year we invite representatives from the Berlinale to Prague and screen Czech films,” explained Jana Cernik of the Czech Film Center.

“After the fall of the Iron Curtain, we had to start all over again and build new relations with the festivals. That took time, but now you’re starting to see the results,” John Riley, a rep for various Czech producers, added.

While Czech filmmakers receive very little in the way of state funding, the industry is managing on its own.

“The success of the Czech film industry really goes back to the initiative of private individuals and we’re currently in talks with the government to introduce measures that will make sure that the Czech industry will maintain its strength,” Ludmila Claussova of the Czech Film Center said.

A tax incentive has been in the pipeline for what seems like forever, but Czech production services have been fighting off low-cost rivals from Bulgaria and Romania and continue to attract high-profile U.S. and Western European productions.

Currently, Mathieu Kassovitz is shooting Vin Diesel starrer “Babylon A.D.” at Barrandov studios. In April the production of “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” will be moving from New Zealand to Prague. Universal will start shooting action pic “Wanted,” directed by Russian “Nightwatch” helmer Timur Bekmambetov.

As far as homegrown productions are concerned, Czech producers make the small amounts of coin they can receive from the Czech Film Fund last by finding affluent co-production partners.

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