Czech Filmmakers in Focus of My First Film Section

ZFF’s side program My First Film, screening debut titles by renowned filmmakers in a selection made by film critic Nenad Polimac, this year focuses on Czech cinema. Between 11 and 18 November, Zagreb Film Festival visitors will have a chance to see debut films by the Czech new wave authors, some of which later made significant international careers: Miloš Forman, Jiři Menzel, Vĕra Chytilova, Ivan Passer and Jan Nĕmec, as well as the directing debut by the middle generation of Czech directors, Jan Svĕrák.

Black Peter (1964) is the iconic Czech new wave film and Miloš Forman’s feature fiction debut, a Golden Leopard winner in Locarno. The protagonist of this coming-of-age tragicomedy is a shy teenager unsuccessfully trying to adapt to the grown up world after high school.

Jiři Menzel’s feature debut, the comedy Closely Watched Trains (1966), a best foreign language film Academy Award winner, also focuses on the rites of passage into the adult world. Dramatic late WWII events in the film are fully shadowed by the daily preoccupations of the young protagonist Miloš and other characters, such as sexual fantasies and pigeon breeding.

Vĕra Chytilova is the director of the experimental feminist classic Daisies, and next to Forman and Menzel is considered to be the most significant name of the Czech auteur film of the sixties. At ZFF we will be watching her debut Another Way of Life (1963), in which – like in her later films – she focuses on women’s emancipation.

Intimate Lighting (1965) by Ivan Passer, an outstanding cinematic portrayal of a midlife crisis, is believed to be one of the finest titles of the so-called golden era of Czechoslovakian 1960s cinema, and Jan Nĕmec’s experimental drama Diamonds of the Night (1964) one of the most fascinating debuts of all times. In the adaptation of Arnošt Lustig’s autobiographic short story Darkness Casts No Shadow we follow two young men, concentration camp fugitives wandering around unknown regions in search of food and water, finally to become prey to elderly Germans.

The most recent title in the line-up is Jan Svĕrák’s (Kolya) comedy The Elementary School (1991), taking us to Prague after the Second World War. There is complete chaos in a male class and the new and ruthless teacher Igor Hnizdo is supposed to put a stop to it; the key to his discipline is in physical punishment.

A warm-up for the line-up of Czech authors will take place at Europa cinema a month before the festival, with the anniversary edition of the 25th Czech Film Week, between 9 and 16 October under the title Czech and Slovakian Film Week.