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HOLLYWOOD DIRECTOR WORKS WITH CENTRAL EUROPEAN CREW TO TELL TALE OF SLOVAKIA'S EIGHTEENTH CENTURY ROBIN HOOD

Film to strip Janošík legend to historical bone

WHEN news of a new movie about the legendary Slovak hero Juraj Jánošík was released, young Slovak scriptwriter Eva Borušovičová was flooded with phone calls from all over the country. Strangers recounted local tales about Janošík, the Slovak version of Robin Hood, and even offered their homes as film locations.
"Slovaks consider Jánošík as their own turf, and many people wanted to contribute to my research to make sure the story I came up with was true," she said.
While flattered by the interest, Borušovičová says she was able to incorporate few of the suggestions, as the screenplay was basically complete. The working title of the forthcoming movie is The True Story of Juro Jánošík and Tomáš Uhorčík, which reflects the fact the movie is based on facts and avoids the "fairy tale" clichés of all previous Janošík projects.


VÁCLAV Jiráček (left) as Jánošík and Ivan Martinka as sidekick Uhorčík.
photo: Courtesy of Charlie's

WHEN news of a new movie about the legendary Slovak hero Juraj Jánošík was released, young Slovak scriptwriter Eva Borušovičová was flooded with phone calls from all over the country. Strangers recounted local tales about Janošík, the Slovak version of Robin Hood, and even offered their homes as film locations.

"Slovaks consider Jánošík as their own turf, and many people wanted to contribute to my research to make sure the story I came up with was true," she said.

While flattered by the interest, Borušovičová says she was able to incorporate few of the suggestions, as the screenplay was basically complete. The working title of the forthcoming movie is The True Story of Juro Jánošík and Tomáš Uhorčík, which reflects the fact the movie is based on facts and avoids the "fairy tale" clichés of all previous Janošík projects.

"The new film is an attempt to present Jánošík not as a myth but rather as a historical figure based on archival research," says historian Peter Cabadaj.

Jánošík has been a popular theme for many Slovak artists (see also story next page), with past film projects including, among others, a black and white version from 1921, an animated movie and a feature film from 1962.

The new Jánošík film will be a collaboration of acclaimed Polish director Agnieszka Holland and her daughter Kasia Adamik. The involvement of Holland, whose work includes films such as Total Eclipse and The Secret Garden, will bring prestige to the ambitious project and help its promotion on the international market, say the people behind the film.


BRONZE statue of Jánošík.
photo: Zuzana Habšudová

The film tells the story of Juraj Jánošík, the captain of a gang of robbers that decided to take justice into their own hands and distribute money and goods stolen from the aristocracy and travelling merchants among the people. In 1713, historical records show, Jánošík was captured, imprisoned and hung by a local court. Despite his early death, his story has lived on and become part of Slovak oral history and folk art.

Jánošík will be played by Václav Jiráček, a Czech film academy student, while Jánošík's best friend Uhorčík will be played by Slovak Ivan Martinka. The film also stars Polish actor Michal Zebrowski as Huncaga, the traitor in the gang of outlaws.

The international cast should help to make the movie attractive for audiences in Slovakia's neighbouring countries which, according to Borušovičová, are the main target group for the project.

The list of the Slovak crew in Jánošík reads like a who's who of the Slovak film industry. Director of photography Martin Štrba, art director František Lipták and composer Vladimír Godár have been involved in recent successful Slovak films such as Záhrada (The Garden), Orbis pictus and Krajinka (The Little Country).

The budget for the project is a modest Sk150 million ($3.4 million), with part of the money being provided by state cultural funds from Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Shooting starts this summer in the spectacular High Tatra mountains, as well as in the Terchová and Spiš regions where Janošík actually lived. The film is scheduled to be released for distribution in February 2004, both as a feature film and a three-episode TV series. The producers have promised the film will be accompanied by English subtitles.

Despite the film makers' promises to produce a true story, in which Jánošík will be presented as a real figure, historian Cabadaj says it should not change the status Jánošík has achieved in popular myth.

"No matter how different the new film will be, I think that for the majority of people Jánošík will remain the hero that the legend has made him."

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