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The man who planted trees

IT IS SAID that Martin Slivka "planted the trees" of Slovak documentary film, and to be thanks to him that Slovakia has produced so many well-known names in the genre.
And now director Martin Šulík, who was influenced by Slivka during his studies at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts (VŠMU), has made a documentary about the doyen of Slovak film entitled Martin Slivka, muž, ktorý sadil stromy (Martin Slivka: The Man who Planted Trees).

Martin Slivka helped found the documentary film section at VŠMU.
photo: SITA

IT IS SAID that Martin Slivka "planted the trees" of Slovak documentary film, and to be thanks to him that Slovakia has produced so many well-known names in the genre.

And now director Martin Šulík, who was influenced by Slivka during his studies at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts (VŠMU), has made a documentary about the doyen of Slovak film entitled Martin Slivka, muž, ktorý sadil stromy (Martin Slivka: The Man who Planted Trees). It premiered at the Febiofest Film Festival on March 27.

The film's title was suggested by Slivka's friend and fellow director Eduard Grečner, and refers to a novel of the same name by Jean Giono that tells the story of one shepherd's long, single-handed effort to reforest a valley in the foothills of the Alps.

The impetus for the film came from producer Patrik Pašš, who worked with Slivka on Deti vetra (Children of the Wind), a documentary about the Roma community. To the end of his life, Slivka refused to have a biography written about him, and so, when he died in 2002, Pašš looked for somebody to delve into this demanding and exceptional theme. "Luckily, after one year of persuasion, Mr. Šulík found time to make the picture," Pašš said.

"The main reason we did all this was to keep the oeuvre of Martin Slivka alive in some way, so that his works are still seen and new generations do not lose contact with it, because we forget too quickly. Keeping continuity is very important," Šulík said.

Šulík and his colleagues collected about 70 interviews with Slivka's relatives, friends, and co-workers and created a complex picture of the multi-talented creator of Slovak documentary ethnographic film, director, screenwriter, film theoretician, teacher, author and ethnographer. The film shows him as a witty and devoted man who could be authoritarian in his family circle.

Slivka's widow, Oľga, with director Martin Šulík.
photo: TASR

The filmmakers used only half the interviews into the movie. "Many others were interesting, but they brought up new topics, and the film is already 90 minutes long," Šulík said.

Pašš will release the film next year as a DVD which will also include bonuses and interviews not in the theatrical release. Afterwards, the film will be screened in DVD cinemas across Slovakia. The filmmakers also want to bring it to festivals, for example to Karvoly Vary in the Czech Republic. There is also a plan to publish a book, whose part should be interviews and photos not included into the film.

Martin Slivka, born 1929 in Spišský Štiavnik, was a devoted documentary filmmaker and ethnographer who in some respects continued the work of his teacher, Karol Plicka. In his films Slivka explored the origins of our traditions and folklore. He created more than 150 documentary films and wrote a number of ethnographic books. UNESCO included his film Odchádza človek (A Man Leaves Us) on the World Cultural Heritage List.

Slovak Television will broadcast the tribute to Slivka on April 15 at 20:00 on its second channel, Dvojka.

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