Made In Prague highlights

Five to watch from the programme.

by Amber Wilkinson

Happy End
Happy End

The Czech Republic hosts one of the key film festivals of the calendar, with Karlovy Vary widely considered to be a launch pad for new work from eastern Europe. The country has also proved a magnet for blockbusters in recent years, with many Hollywood productions heading to the Barrandov Studios in Prague, among others, to shoot films including Snowpiercer, Child 44 and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Despite this, and strong domestic film production and attendance, it can still be hard for UK audiences to get to see new movies from the country on the big screen.

For two decades, the London Czech Centre’s Made in Prague Festival has been aiming to change that, showcasing films from the country – along with a host of additional arts events. This year, the festival runs from November 5 to December 2, with screenings at venues including the Barbican, Regent Street Cinema and Deptford Cinema. Below, we’ve picked five of the best to look out for in the line-up.

Eva Nová

Eva Nova
Eva Nova
Marko Škop has previously made documentaries and he brings a keen observational gaze to his first feature, about an ageing actress and recovering alcoholic who is trying to reconnect with her estranged son. Slovakian star Emília Vášáryová is magnetic in the central role as Eva, wearing her red lipstick as though it will ward off the devil. It is her inner demons that threaten her most, however, as a trip to see her son (Milan Ondrík) doesn’t go as planned. Škop – who won the FIPRESCI critics prize in Toronto for the film – has an eye for detail, frequently framing Eva so that she appears tiny and isolated in her surroundings or showing her reflection in everything from windows to mirrors. An exploration of performance and a character study of redemption, he keeps us rooting for Eva despite her faults. Škop and Vášáryová will take part in a Q&A after the screening. Read our full review

Gate Picturehouse, 8.45pm, November 8

The Seven Ravens

The Seven Ravens
The Seven Ravens
Like Eva Nová and many of the films showing in the Made in Prague season, Alice Nellis’ charming fairy tale has a feisty female protagonist at its heart. The ‘princess in waiting’ in this Brothers Grimm adaptation wouldn’t hold with the pink ruffles sported by her Disney cousins. Bohdanka (Martha Issová) is a go get ‘em sort, who, upon learning her brothers have been cursed wastes no time in setting out on a quest to get them back. With enjoyably complex characters and a story that shows the importance of loyalty and trust as well as not judging a book by its cover, this is a family treat – and the kids will no doubt enjoy the art workshop that is taking place after the screening. Read our full review.

Regent Street Cinema, 2pm, November 27

I, Olga Hepnarová

Michalina Olszanska in I, Olga Hepnarová
Michalina Olszanska in I, Olga Hepnarová
This promising debut from directors Petr Kazd and Tomás Weinreb is a tense character study of the last Czechoslovak woman to be executed. Michalina Olszanska – who is fast building an international profile thanks to this and her mesmerising turn as an evil mermaid in The Lure – plays the titular character as we see her life before and after the murderous act that would come to define it. Kazd and Weinreb shoot the film starkly, giving the viewer plenty of time to think about what might have motivated her but offering no easy answers. Olszanska is the key to the film’s success, proving steely and inscrutable to the last. Weinreb and Olszanska will both attend a Q&A at the screening, which will be followed by an after party. Read our full review.

Regent Street Cinema, 7pm, November 11

Home Care

Home Care
Home Care
The Czech Republic’s nomination for the Foreign Language Oscar in 2015, this is another film with a strong female protagonist, Slávek Horák’s debut takes an impressively unsentimental approach to the subject of terminal illness. Alena Mihulová plays Vlasta, a home care nurse who suddenly finds herself with a cancer diagnosis. Horák zeroes in on her particular experience, leavening the tale with humour and Mihulová shows us the full gamut of Vlasta’s emotions, as she grieves for what she is about to lose, while navigating her way forward on her own terms. The director and actor and actor Bolek Polívka, who provides sterling support as Vlasta’s old school husband, will attend a Q&A after the screening. Read our full review.

Regent Street Cinema, 8pm, November 12

The Long Night Of Czech shorts

Leshy
Leshy
If you want to see the feature directors of tomorrow, then short films are an excellent place to start and this eclectic showcase offers some of the best. There’s deliciously dark humour on display in Jan Saska’s animation Happy End, which features the best music cues of the festival, while fellow animator Marek Náprstek opts for cheerful surrealism in the story of a man facing the end of his life in The More I Know. Meanwhile, Pavel Soukup’s Leshy is a masterclass in tension, as a young girl and her gamekeeper father come to discover a potentially deadly creature living in the nearby forest. In addition to being a great collection of films, entry to this showcase is free. Don’t miss it.

Deptford Cinema, 8pm, November 19

Read more reviews of films showing at the festival. To find out more about the London Czech Centre’s full programme and to book, visit the official website.

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