The regime didn't like that his films featured ugly people. Dušan Hanák's work finally released

The films have been digitalised.

Director Dušan Hanák Director Dušan Hanák (Source: Miro Nôta)

He never had the ambition to become a director filming movies for a mass audience. Nor did he plan on becoming a narrator who could catch the interest of all people. Instead, Dušan Hanák wanted to be an analyst interested in the context of things, the purpose of human existence, and the truth, according to the Sme Kultúra newspaper.

Read more:One of the most controversial Slovak documentaries now online with English subtitles Read more 

Hanák also wasn't interested in catching people's interest right off the bat with visually attractive or shocking scenes. He did not just want to scrape the surface but rather find depth, strong stories, and strong destinies.

The figures in his movies had guts. They were real people with real problems, happiness, despair, and conflicts. It was not hard to identify with them.

A fearless experimenter

Hanák was not afraid to experiment and he was not afraid of criticising the communist regime despite the fact that he constantly had to convince the people in charge that his movies were in accordance with the politics of culture. Otherwise, he would not be able to film anything else.

During the times of normalisation, he was considered suspicious and his films ended up in the vaults. The streaming service known as DAFilms now offers a retrospective on Hanák's film production. His movies are available online throughout Europe, Asia, and America.

Some of his movies were in the vaults for years. The director studied film during a cultural boom that formed the new Czechoslovak wave. He began filming feature films after the occupation. The featured debut with the title 322 (1969) was filmed according to the tale of Ján Johanides.

The psychological drama about chef Lauko, who is diagnosed with throat cancer, was a metaphor for the regime and society back then and Hanák's ideas about freedom, happiness, wine, lies, and solitude. The movie got the MFF award in Mannheim, but in Czechoslovakia, it was locked up in the vaults.

His other film, a documentary known as Pictures of the old world (1972), met the same destiny. In the film, Hanák shows some suggestive portraits of elderly people in Liptov and Orava, who, despite the time of civil chaos and uncertainty, are able to live with inner freedom.

Global acceptance

Censors did not like that there were so many ugly people in the film and blamed the director for not filming happy retirees in retirement homes. That is why Picture of the old world had to wait for its time almost twenty years.

Read more:Extremely well-crafted piece of work. Hollywood Reporter praises Slovak film about holocaust Read more 

After the fall of the regime, the documentary was successfully introduced in many countries all around the world and received awards in Nyon, Munich, and Montreal. The film was also awarded the prize of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for the best documentary film.

The head of the Slovak film institute, Peter Dubecký said "Hanák's movies belong to the most significant pieces of Slovak cinematography, not only for the wide range of acceptance from the audience and international awards but also for their deep honesty, authenticity and humor. The films make themselves relevant to audiences today. All the films have undergone thorough digitalisation and restoration processes so the audience can see them in a high quality".

"We are happy to begin with a retrospective personality like Dušan Hanák whose name resonates in a worldwide context. In the end, this is evident in the interest of our curators in Europe, America, and Asia, who have given his movies the space to be presented" said Dorota Zacharová, project manager of DAFilms.sk.

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