A raw look at a Slovak Romany girl’s sad trajectory from textile factory novice to sex worker, “Made in Ash” is tough filmmaking that will have limited appeal even for fest audiences, but still signals the emergence of a helmer to watch in Iveta Grofova. Formerly a documaker, Grofova employs non-pro thesps in authentic settings, but makes few concessions toward making them likable. Her occasional use of animation to suggest the protagonist’s emotions is eye-catching, but seems at odds with the girl’s character.

With no work available locally, naive, Dorotka (Dorotka Billa) travels to the Czech town of Ash, near the German border, where foreign girls like her toil long hours as seamstresses and live in crowded hostels. Far too pliable, she falls under the influence of her hustler roommate (Silvia Halusicova), who pimps her as a sexual partner for an unattractive, older German man (Robin Schmidt), one of many who cross the border to sexually exploit financially strapped Eastern European women. When Robin proves no Prince Charming, the local stripper bar and turning tricks along the highway look like Dorotka’s best options. Occasional lyrical moments accent the gritty lensing.

Made in Ash

Slovakia-Czech Republic

  • Production: A Protos Prods., Endorfilm, Punkchart Films production in co-production with Czech TV, RTVS, Atelier.doc, Partizanfilm, Hulapa film. (International sales: Endorfilm, Prague.) Produced by Barbara Kipsova, Jiri Konecny, Ivan Ostrochovsky. Co-producers, Jaroslav Kucera, Maros Slapeta, Pavol Pekarcik, Robert Kirchhoff, Iveta Grofova. Directed by Iveta Grofova. Screenplay, Grofova, Marek Lescak.
  • Crew: Camera (color, DV), Viera Bacikova; editor, Maros Slapeta; music, Matej Hlavac, production designer, costume designer, Katarina Rozvadska. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (East of the West), June 29, 2012. Running time: 84 MIN.
  • With: With: Dorotka Billa, Silvia Halusicova, Robin Schmidt, Jarka Bucincova, Maria Billa. (Slovak, German, Czech dialogue)
  • Music By: