KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — Eight of the best Czech and Slovak film projects in development were pitched Tuesday at Karlovy Vary Film Festival’s Pitch & Feedback session, held in the restored century-old Becher Villa as part of the event’s industry program. The session aimed to increase the chances that the projects will be noticed by festivals, co-production markets and sales agents.
The most ambitious project pitched was the Czech/Finnish biopic “Zatopek,” which is based on the life of legendary running champion Emil Zatopek. He was nicknamed the “Czech Locomotive.” The film, which has an estimated budget of $2.9 million, will turn on the 1952 Olympics in which the man with a “big heart substituting for a lack of talent and elegance” won three gold medals. Directed by David Ondricek and co-written with Jan P. Muchow, the story is bound to touch Bohemian hearts if its budget, roughly double that of an indie Czech film these days, can be found.
A Czech project celebrating a historic hero less well remembered, “Il Boemo,” explores the life of a Bohemian composer who was a friend and mentor of young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Josef Myslivecek. The 18th-century artist, largely forgotten by history, was “one of the most popular and prolific composers of Italian opera,” said the film’s producer Jan Macola. The project is written and will be directed by Petr Vaclav.
In listening to the pitches, coaches including veteran producer Katriel Schory, head of the Israel Film Fund, expressed surprise that the pic would be able to portray the period on a limited budget with a small crew.
The region’s filmmakers appear to have been honing their sales skills as evidenced by the quality of the presentations for the projects. Czech writer-director Ondrej Provaznik, who has twice won documentary prizes for work looking at legacies of social and environmental dysfunction, found the feedback instructive, he said, while pitching “Fish Blood,” a feature based on the real-life razing and flooding of villages in South Bohemia to make way for a cooling lake for the Temelin nuclear power plant. His main character, a returning Czech emigre, “used to live in her own village but this village, along with others, has been destroyed,” said Provaznik.
“I’m thinking more and more about the relationship you have with your own country,” he explained. “It changes through your life, with elements of love and sentiment, and also patriotism, but on the other hand disappointment and disrespect from the society you are part of.”
Other work pitched included ironic Czech family story “Snowing!,” written and directed by Kristina Nedvedova; Slovak border drama “SchengenStory,” directed by Peter Bebjak and produced by Wandal Production; “The Disciple,” a Slovak story of surviving corrupt church institutions by Ivan Ostrochovsky; and “By a Sharp Knife,” a Slovak crime drama by Teodor Kuhn.
The event was organized by the Czech Film Center, the Slovak Film Institute and the Karlovy Vary fest, with training program MIDPOINTScript Center as partner. This year’s panel included Schory, Kristina Trapp, fest consultant and former matchmaker at the Berlinale Co-Production Market, Angeliki Vergou, a script evaluator and project exec at the Thessaloniki fest, Tassilo Hallbauer of sales and co-financing company Beta Cinema, and Christoph Thoke of Mogador Film, a German producing and financing house.