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Barbora Sliepková’s “Lines,” about the everyday urban bustle of Bratislava, has already brought her the Opus Bonum award at Ji.hlava Intl. Documentary Festival and the Karlovy Vary Docs in Progress award. But the helmer is looking forward to taking a “little break” from the city, developing a film about dreams, and teaming up with Lucia Kašová and last year’s Ji.hlava winner Viera Čákanyová on a project about environmental issues under the working title “Ecological Catastrophes.” 

“We are in very early stages,” she tells Variety, adding she is still a bit “scared” of the topic. “Sometimes I can’t even read about ecology or watch films about it. It’s too depressing. At the same time, it’s too important to ignore.” 

“Ecological Catastrophes” will focus on three most urgent ecological threats in Slovakia, starting with toxic wastelands. Sliepková’s part, called “Black Eyes,” will be about a village of Predajná and its two “lakes” full of toxic liquid. 

In “Lines,” produced by Barbara Janišová Feglová for Hitchhiker Cinema, she keeps the mood lighter, however, finding humor in the hidden workings of the city and the people who keep it running, including road painting crews. 

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Barbora Sliepkova Credit: Nicole Brlej

“These people are invisible. We rarely see them, but they take care of the city. Watching them work was like witnessing a dance: they know how to do it quickly and effectively. They are proud of their techniques. I decided to follow one crew and they weren’t exactly shy, but they wanted to know what we were doing. We showed them some shots and when they saw it was black and white, they went: ‘Okay. It’s some art thing,’ ” she laughs. 

Sliepková’s film was warmly received by the viewers, invited to look at the ever-expanding Bratislava through the eyes of its faithful observer, Danko.  

“It was the first time we showed it to the audience, not just the crew, and I was almost surprised at how much they laughed,” she says.

“Danko was the last person we found, our DP Maxim [Kľujev] told me about him. Bratislava used to be known for people like him, just walking around, sitting in bars. He is the old world and serves as our guide.”

Showing a place which, just like any other city, always seems to be under construction, Sliepková wanted to play around with the constant noise. 

“We talked about this feeling when you are sitting in a café, overhearing other people’s conversations. I call it a ‘city feeling’,” she says, mentioning the work of sound designer Michal Horváth and Jonatán Pastirčák, responsible for the music. Creating the soundtrack to little interactions taking place in a big city, between the people but also their pets, including a chameleon and a snail.

“I love the playfulness and the absurdity this element brings. Animals are our silent companions, but they also create sounds. I used to live in France and my mom said: ‘I don’t like this place. I can’t hear any birds.’ Since then, I’ve always been looking for birds in the cities,” says Sliepková.

“Over the last couple of years, I’ve learnt to be more communicative, to just come up and talk to somebody on the street. This blind performer I am showing in the film? I’ve lived just above the place where he is singing. He would tell me stories about meeting the Pope and the presidents. Then COVID hit and he decided to tour different cities, just because he missed interacting with people. In a film, you can never capture anyone’s reality in its fullness – just this one moment. But you can allow others to share it.”