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Slovak films get exposure at global festivals

In recognition of the tenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, the Czech and Slovak embassies in the United States are staging an exhibition to show off the cultural wealth of the former federal partners. One of the biggest events for the Slovak side is a festival of Slovak film which has been shown in Washington and is now making its way to New York.
The festival, known as 'Slovak Film Days,' was opened at Washington's National Art Gallery on October 16 by Slovak Ambassador to the US Martin Bútora. It now moves to New York from November 6-7 as part of the joint Czech-Slovak cultural exhibit called 'Ten Years After the Revolution.' The festival is staged at Cantor Cinema at New York University, Tel.: 001 212 423 0555.


'The Garden' has been selected the best Slovak film made in the 1990's.
photo: Courtesy of SFÚ

In recognition of the tenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, the Czech and Slovak embassies in the United States are staging an exhibition to show off the cultural wealth of the former federal partners. One of the biggest events for the Slovak side is a festival of Slovak film which has been shown in Washington and is now making its way to New York.

The festival, known as 'Slovak Film Days,' was opened at Washington's National Art Gallery on October 16 by Slovak Ambassador to the US Martin Bútora. It now moves to New York from November 6-7 as part of the joint Czech-Slovak cultural exhibit called 'Ten Years After the Revolution.' The festival is staged at Cantor Cinema at New York University, Tel.: 001 212 423 0555.

The festival screens both old and new Slovak cinematographic art. Martin Šulík's award-winning film The Garden (1995) depicts a young Slovak generation in search of its roots. It's the story of a school teacher who runs away from the city tenements in which he lives to a village where he discovers his grandfather's clothes, books, garden and peace of mind. Of the 48 Slovak films made in the 1990's, The Garden was chosen by the Slovak Film and Television Academy in a 1999 survey as the best.

The wistful mysticism of Šulík's work is nicely balanced by the work of 1960's director Dušan Hanák, whose movies have a gritty authenticity in their depiction of village life under communism. Pictures of the Old World (1972), one of two Hanák offerings at the festival in New York, was resurrected as a cult hit at Slovak film clubs in the 1990's, as young audiences identified even with its1960's setting.

The Slovak Film Institute in Bratislava, the organiser of the New York and Washington festivals, has ambitious plans to exhibit Slovak films to the rest of the world as well. The New York screening is being held at the same time as the Slovak Film Week festival in Budapest, Hungary (November 4 -11) which takes place at Hunnia Cinema, Erzsebet Krt..26, Tel.: 00361 322 34 70 11. The offering in Budapest - eight films - is basically the same fare as appears in New York, with the addition of two films by Hanák contemporary Juraj Jakubisko.

Budapest is followed by the 2nd Festival of Slovak Films in Cran-Gevrier in France (November 19-26), featuring eight full length films, eight animated works and student entries. For more information call Martine Jolivet, Tel.: 0033 4 50 88 67 17. This year's last festival of Slovak film is staged in Ottawa, Canada (November 20) at the National Archives of the National Library on Wellington Street, Tel.: 001 613 232 67 27. The schedule is still to be determined.

One Slovak film festival that has already been held at internet cafés and the Czech Centre in London (October 21-24) was sold out, according to organiser Ivana Beleňová. "The festival was also a success with the English speaking audience, not only Slovaks and Czechs," she said.

The exposure that these festivals will give to Slovak film, according to Slovak Film Institute Director Peter Dubecký, will be crucial to helping Slovak cinematography to recover from years of neglect it suffered during the 1990's. Slovak film, he said, has fallen a long way since its 1960's heyday under Hanák and Jakubisko, followers of the Czech new wave.

"Slovak cinematography is the best promoter of this country," Dubecký said, adding that festivals of Slovak films have already been held in Oslo, Alexandria and Sao Paulo.

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