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Slovakia looks to build on current successes

Cathy Meils in Bratislava 2009-12-06

A Slovak Film Institute (www.sfu.sk) panel, sponsored by Film New Europe, on the global position of Slovak films had a practical goal: to ensure that the current crop of international success was not "a cul-de-sac," in the words of SFI's Alexandra Strelková.

Slovakia's track record has been growing impressively over the past two years. At home, viewers are returning to the cinemas to see local films, and abroad Slovak films are locking in coveted slots at leading film festivals and taking home armloads of prizes. That's making the fund-raising part of film production easier for producers and directors, Cooking History's Peter Kerekes told FNE.

Slovaks now have a win-win combination: a new Audiovisual Fund with adequate funding to support the rising generation of filmmakers making their names worldwide. The fund's new board, chaired by acclaimed film editor and producer Patrik Pašš, and fund director Martin Šmatlák (who also serves as Chairman of FNE's board of directors) have succeeded in convincing the Slovak government to move aggressively forward at this crucial point. While the Bratislava Film Festival (www.iffbratislava.sk) was taking place, the Slovak prime minister promised that the next step would be the introduction of tax incentives.

That is welcome news for Slovak producers such as Tomas Krnac, currently directing and producing the Slovak/Polish co-production Jazzus. "We need tax incentives to motivate coproductions and encourage productions to come to Slovakia," he said.

Strelkova pointed to Austria as a model for Slovakia in terms of institutional structures as well as a coproduction partner. While Austria has a well-developed film institute, Peter Zawrel of the Vienna Film Fund (www.filmfonds-wien.at) said Austrians could only dream of the local box office numbers for Slovak film: three films in the top ten in 2009, and a share of over 30% for local films, placing Slovakia in the top echelons worldwide.

Panelist Eva Vezer of Hungary's Magyar Filmunió (www.filmunio.hu) and new president of European Film Promotion (www.efp-online.com) was singled out for her success in establishing Hungarian films as a recognizable brand world wide. But, as Vezer noted, Hungary has the benefit of a 40-year tradition of hosting a national film week that is attended by an enviable list of international industry professionals. Slovakia, by contrast, has existed as a separate country for only 17 years. That makes Slovak branding an uphill battle.

The panel took place on December 4, under the umbrella of the Bratislava film festival. The festival's new programme director Matthieu Darras said that it had been easier to programme international premieres from France and Brazil than Slovakia. He did manage to have a Slovak film in the ccmpetition, Mira Fornay's Foxes with world sales handled by Film Europe. As Film Europe's (www.filmeurope.eu) managing director Marta Lamperova said, Slovak producers and directors need to become more savvy about marketing and sales strategies. The current procedure is to book both Slovak and Czech premieres at the same time, making prime festival placement impossible, and losing opportunities to lock in international sales.

Strelková told FNE some of her goals are creating a recognizable identity for Slovak films through carefully programmed retrospectives and identifying the current strengths in Slovak cinema.The latter has become easier in the past year.


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