Czech director Martin Kohout will turn his focus to the housing crisis, Variety has learned, developing a new film under the working title “Growth of the City.”
“No city is able to solve the housing crisis without building new apartments, so they just become bigger and bigger – it’s an endless process. This idea of never-ending growth is something I would like to explore, because it also has to do with climate change. Instead of focusing on the problem, we are just doing more,” he says.
Kohout, born in 1984, was only 5 years old when the Velvet Revolution took former Czechoslovakia by storm, ending the rule of the Communist Party. In “Points for the President aka Attempt at Counterrevolution,” world premiering at Ji.hlava Intl. Film Festival, he returns to that time once again, trying to figure out what went wrong.
“I was there; I was waving the flag. For my generation, it’s an important topic that has influenced us,” he states.
“I am showing something that can be observed in other countries as well. All the reforms that took place in the 1990s were very much inspired by the West, by Reaganomics and Thatcherism, and this adaptation was not perfectly straightforward. This landmark moment might be seen as a happy ending, but in fact it was just the beginning of something new.”
With voters struggling to find their place within the new system, populist Czech politicians started to gain power, suggests Kohout. Including President Miloš Zeman, serving his second term and currently hospitalised, or Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, once dubbed “Czech Trump.” While the film focuses on the events leading up to the parliamentary elections in 2017, and presidential elections that followed, Babiš had recently suffered a surprising defeat in October, days after the release of the incriminating Pandora Papers.
“When I started to shoot, Donald Trump was about to win and Brexit was being discussed. It was obvious that also in Czech Republic many are frustrated with the current system – that’s why they are attracted to this kind of ‘charisma.’ The problem with the traditional left-wing parties in Czech Republic is that their representatives are just not convincing. They often look like mobsters or get into politics to earn some money. People are annoyed by that.”
Kohout decided to talk to as many people as possible for the film, covering various political events in order to show how the understanding of democracy has evolved in his country.
“This kind of transformation couldn’t be covered in one speech or some straightforward explanation. The ‘issue’ with the Velvet Revolution was that many people saw it as something symbolic, but there wasn’t a clear plan for the future. It’s a known fact that many of the people who joined the demonstrations in 1989 weren’t really fighting for this neoliberal capitalism.”
While Kohout, inspired by Karel Vachek’s 1992 documentary “New Hyperion or Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood,” managed to gain access to various events, he wasn’t always welcome – especially by the politicians of Babiš’s ANO party.
“In his film, Vachek was just walking around, talking to the president, the ministers and MPs. The situation has changed a lot,” he says. It encouraged him to focus on the voters, however, following the words of former Prime Minister Petr Pithart, claiming that “people are not stupid. They are just disoriented.”
“This quote is really important. It’s something we all need to consider,” he says, mentioning another famous name: Miloš Forman.
“When he made ‘The Firemen’s Ball,’ he wanted to portray Communist officials. He couldn’t do it directly, so he showed the reflection of how they operate. Politicians are a construct, a reflection of what the public thinks about them. Here, I am talking about President Zeman, but he is shown mostly via all these people who construct their idea of him.”
The film, supported by the Czech Film Fund, was produced by GPO Platform, with Jakub Wagner serving as its producer and cinematographer.