HALF of the eight prizes awarded at the seventh annual international festival on mountain film and adventure, Mountains and City, went to Slovak documentary movies. Organisers call it the most successful year for Slovak cinema in the festival's history.
The festival screened over 50 films from 13 countries between April 20 and 23 at Bratislava's Aupark. The legendary Slovak filmmaker Pavol Barabáš took the first two prizes and two other went to "newcomers" Pavol Pekarčík and Michal Ruttkay.
"It is a sign that Slovak mountain films of young authors are strong in quality and able to stand up in international competition organised locally," the festival's director Alan Formánek told The Slovak Spectator.
The festival's films traditionally compete for awards in four categories - Rock, Earth, Water and Air, with two new sections - Snow and Bicycle - added this year. The festival's Grand Prix went to Canadian film The Magic Mountain.
Barabáš, whose films are frequent winners at international festivals worldwide, won the Earth section with Pururambo, and also received the LitFond Award for Premeny Tatier (The Tatras' Metamorphoses).
The short Slovak film on mountain expeditions, Pekarčík's Karakoram gained the V4 Prize and Ruttkay's Územie duchov (Land of Ghosts) about travels to New Guinea received the jury's honorable mention. Other award-winning documentaries included My Right Foot (Great Britain), Aoraki Ski Mountaineering (Austria), and Balancing Point (USA).
Compared to previous years, the festival brought the highest number of Slovak films to the screen this year.
"It's pleasant to see that nine of the 50 films were Slovak, four winning. While it points to increased interest of filmmakers, on the other hand the fact that they won awards is due to the festival's awarding structure - one prize went for best film in Slovakia [LitFond], another within Visegrad Four countries - which means that Slovak films had a greater chance to win," Formánek said.
This may be reflected in their small chances of success beyond the borders of Slovakia, nevertheless; the films have proved they are attractive for local viewers and the festival is one of the driving forces behind this.
Another stimulus for local documentary production this year brings the Institute of Documentary Film. The non-profit centre based in Prague supports Eastern European creative documentary film-making. These days it gives young Slovak documentary filmmakers the chance to make new projects in cooperation with international experts.
Among the Sloval participants are Marko Škop, whose feature documentary Iné svety (Other Worlds) recently premiered in cinemas, Juraj Lehotský, who made several music videos for No Name, and Afghan filmmaker living in Slovakia Sahra Karimi. The festival hosts Danish producer Karoline Leth, German ARTE television programme director Sabine Bubeck-Paaz, editor-in-chief of the French ARTE section Karen Michael and Czech director Filip Remunda.
The continuing promotion of and support for local film production through festivals and workshops finally seems to have won the attention of Slovak broadcasters. While Škop's film and Jaro Vojtek's My Zdes are being shown in commercial cinemas, Slovak public television has begun to take note of the successes of its filmmakers, like Barabáš. The winning Pekarčík's Karakoram at the Mountains and City, for example, was its production.
By Zuzana Habšudová
1. May 2006 at 0:00