Czech Republic: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival features dramas about Roma
Peter Baláž, a former Olympic athlete and boxing champion many times over, has played himself in a melancholy boxing film by Ivan Ostrochovský called "Koza" (Goat). Baláž was present on 6 July for the screening of the film in the Grand Thermal Hall at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.
A second screening of the film was held today. Last year it won the festival's "Works in Progress" Prize.
Production company Sentimentalfilm describes it as follows: "Former Olympic boxer Peter Baláž, nicknamed Koza (Goat), lives with his partner Míša in a ghetto for social cases. They live from day to day and are constantly out of money. Míša unexpectedly becomes pregnant and decides to have an abortion. She forces Koza to raise the money for it. Koza has not trained for a long time but decides to go back in the ring and make money to change Míša's mind. He and his manager go on a tour that is not about victory, but about how many blows he can take."
Baláž's own life is reportedly not much different from the film. He lives today in the unpleasant conditions of a Romani ghetto in Žilina, Slovakia, where he receives a disability pension and dreams of owning his own gym in which to train children.
The boxer and director are said to have been friends since childhood. Ostrochovský says he wanted to make a truthful film about the life of the Romani boxer who won the Slovak boxing championship eight times, competed at the World Championship three times, and competed in the Atlanta Olympics.
The second film about Roma at the festival is a black-and-white "eastern" called "Aferim!", which is a Bulgarian-Czech-Romanian co-production. Directed by Radu Jude, a representative of the Romanian New Wave, the film won the Silver Bear for direction in Berlin this year.
The film is a sort of collective travelling memory of Romania which tells the story, in an artistically original style, of the hunt for a runaway slave in a backward part of Romania where, during the 19th century, chattel slavery of Roma was still common. It is set in 1835, when a hired police officer and his son set out to find a runaway Roma slave.
"This film was made thanks to the Czech participants, without them we could never have completed the production. It is the first such co-production in the history of our cinematography," Romanian producer Ada Solomon, who was visiting Karlovy Vary for the first time, told a packed auditorium before the screening.
Solomon was at the festival on behalf of director Jude, who is currently filming. "We came to this project through Ada Solomon, who is basically my fellow student from the European co-producers' program. This was an opportunity to do something for her, because the project needed financing. I liked the work of the director and the collaboration went ahead. Our company basically performed all of the visual post-production in the Czech Republic," producer Jiří Konečný told the Czech News Agency.
Konečný said "Aferim!" was made with black-and-white film, which is hard to find today. It was processed by a laboratory in Budapest and then sent to the UPP studio in Prague.
"The Czech investment was about CZK 4 million, three million of which was provided by the State Fund for Cinematography," Konečný said. "Aferim!" will be screened in Czech theaters on 8 October by the Artcam distribution company.
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