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Slovaks rally to Communist era pics

Restored films prove popular with DVD buyers

KARLOVY VARY — A Slovak government-backed project to restore film classics of Communist times has proved a hit with the public in the small Central European country.

More than a quarter of a million DVD copies of restored and digitalized films from the 1960s to the 1980s have been sold over the past three years. Ten films have been released each year.

Pics have included those by internationally known directors, such as Juraj Jakobisko and Peter Solan — whose 1962 film “The Boxer and Death” is being screened as part of a retrospective of his works this week at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

The project, which was funded via the Slovak Film Institute’s annual $2 million restoration budget, has made available films that in many cases have not been seen since they were first released.

A further 10 films from the 1960s — including Jakubisko’s surreal and disturbing 1969 classic “Birds, Orphans and Fools,” about the aftermath of the Soviet suppression of the Czech Spring of 1968 — are due to be released over 10 weeks in the fall.

Priced at just $4 each, the DVDs are well within the budget of all Slovaks and have proved a surprise hit in the country of 5 million population, where most contemporary Slovak films achieve DVD sales of between 500 and 1,000, Miroslav Ulman of the Slovak Film Institute said.

“We have been overwhelmed by how popular these timed releases of classic Slovak films have been,” Ulman told Variety.

“The institute has the original negatives of the films and has been working with directors and cinematographers to ensure that the restoration process remains true to the original film.”

The DVDs — which come complete with English substitles — are available to international buyers via the Slovak Film Institute’s website at http://www.klapka.sk.

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