Political thriller “The Scumbag,” a fiction film inspired by the real-life murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova due to his investigation into alleged links between the Mafia and senior politicians, has become a box-office hit in Slovakia, striking a chord with folks as the national election looms.
The film, being sold by Princ at the European Film Market and screening Tuesday, is described as “a story about power, corruption, sex-slavery and the murder of a young journalist and his wife in a young democracy.”
Based on the novel of the same name written by Arpad Soltesz, an investigative journalist and former colleague of Kuciak, the film leads the box office in Slovakia 18 days after its release with a gross of Euros 1.96 million ($2.13 million). It has become a talking point in the political discourse approaching the country’s national election on Feb. 29.
The rights for the novel were acquired by Rudolf Biermann’s production company In Film in May, but by end of July, Biermann and the other producer Mariana Čengel Solčanská were struggling to find financing. When CinemArt boarded as distributor for both Slovakia and Czech Republic, it agreed to finance the majority of the film on one condition: that the film had to be ready for release by the end of February 2020, in time for the elections in Slovakia.
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The film was released in Slovakia two weeks before the second anniversary of the murder of Kuciak and Kusnirova on Feb. 21, when an independent group, Initiative for a Decent Slovakia, organized remembrance events in 50 towns and cities across the country.
The response of moviegoers reflected the feeling of national mourning. One viewer said on social media: “I have never experienced this graveyard silence and weeping of people when watching a film. When the end titles came up, everyone in the cinema started to applaud. I had goose bumps.”
Another wrote: “It has been a long time since I had such feelings of anger and sadness after seeing a film. The scene in the editorial office after the death of the journalist is the most powerful moment of the film. I applauded and cried at the same time.”
In one political debate in the election campaign, Lucia Nicholsonova from the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) political party surprised her political opponent Erik Tomas from SMER-SD by giving him a cinema ticket with the words: “Here, if you allow me, I bought you a ticket to see the film ‘The Scumbag.’ After March 1st, our country will finally get rid of all the scumbags.”