Past Events - 2009

Spring 2009 Events and Screenings

The Spring 2009 Proseminar in Cinema and Culture:

“It’s Better to be Healthy and Rich Than Sick and Poor”:
Changing Currencies in post-89 Central-European Cinemas

Led by: Nataša Durovicová (Cinema and Comparative Literature and the International Writing Program)

All screenings are free and open to the public. Sponsored by the Institute for Cinema and Culture and International Programs. If you require further information or accommodations to attend, call the Institute for Cinema and Culture at (319) 335-1348 or email

Note: spaces are still available for students wishing to take the 1 credit course (048:112:001) connected to this series.

"Across the Border: Five Views From Neighbours [Über die Grenze - Fünf Ansichten von Nachbar]"

Date: Thursday, January 22
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Coordinated by: Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2004, 131 minutes

a documentary coordinated by the Austrian Nikolaus Geyrhalter, is a polyglot portrait of ideas about borders at the beginning of the 21st century. In an episodic journey from North to South five directors, from Poland , the Czech Republic , Slovakia , Hungary and Slovenia , present their view and vision of nation, identity and Europe. This film has been made at a unique point in history, that of a political re-ordering of Europe.

"PSY" [Literally 'Dogs', better translated as 'Pigs']

Date: Thursday, January 29
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: Wladyslaw Pasikowski, Poland, 1992, 104 minutes

"’What is 'Dogs' about? 'About a dog's world, about the fact that freedom also engenders filth and stupidity while destroying ideals. Everything has been debased, sullied in mud, thrown into the cesspool,' wrote a reviewer. Such extreme critical reactions were elicited by the film's subject matter and its portrayal of the world as fundamentally castrated of positives and saturated with cynicism, moral dirt and cruelty. A world that is simultaneously hardly abstract, and in fact present in the here and now (i.e. in Poland in 1989), one that is additionally portrayed in an iconoclastic and provocative manner, derisive of all things sacred, be they related to nation or religion. Behind this façade of scoffing and anti-martyrological blasphemies, there was something more - a morality tale, a painful diagnosis of contemporary Poland. Was this 'cinema of immoral anxiety'? Opinions were divided. Only viewers succeeded in 'expressing themselves' clearly, demonstrating their fascination by lining up in front of the box office and rendering 'Dogs' a commercial hit."

"Bolshe Vita"

Date: February 5, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: Ibolya Fekete, Hungary, 1996, 97 minutes

Winner of the Prix Europa (Berlin) and Satyajit Ray Award (London)

The film is original on many levels. Released in 1996, based upon the brief window of "openness" in Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe in 1989, offering contrasting glimpses of the time before and after. Questioning not only the east (Russia), but also the alternative, as proles from Russia, Hungary, and the West mingle in a suspended state, confused about what to do and how to do it, in a world from which autocracy has suddenly, without preparation, been subtracted. The characters are each sharply drawn, convincingly played, by actors of great talent. In some sense the highly focused lens, following two Russian street musicians (whose musical styles even conflict) through their brief introduction to the middle ground between East and West in Budapest, explodes with the energy of the larger story in which it is enveloped - leaving a strong sense of arbitrary forces leading to resolutions which are anything but "storybook" in tone and sense of closure. Apparently the film grew out of the director's earlier experiences making a documentary about an actual pair of Russian musicians.

"Je lepšie byt zdravý a bohatý nez chorý a chudobný [It’s Better to be Healthy and Wealthy Than Sick and Poor]"

Date: February 12, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: J.Jakubisko, Czecho/Slovakia, 1994, 97 minutes

Jakubisko's "It's better to be Wealthy and Healthy, than Poor and Ill" is a cinematic joy from start to finish. [...] The story takes place in 1989, around the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. Nona the main character is Slovak, and she befriends Ester who is Czech. Nona is pregnant and abandoned by her politician boyfriend, because he doesn't want a kid. The other man she sees comes around from time to time, but avoids commitment. Ester also has bad luck with her communist activist boyfriend. Immediately the two ladies hit it off and become roommates, but survival is tough in a post cold-war country; so they resort to crime. Their next-door neighbor is an old nun, who stops by to check on them and sometimes to party with them too. Nona and Ester have many misadventures and road trips. They get involved with stealing, prostitution, stripping or whatever means necessary to survive. Usually they trick men by stealing their wallets, and running off without ever having sex with them (so they are not really prostitutes, but more of thieves) Things get better when they rob a truck driver, who sells people broken electronics from the black market. He has millions, which they take from him at gunpoint. From that point on their lives change both for the better and worse. Of course the film is funny, sad, surreal and all-heart at the same time, as most Eastern European comedies. With colorful characters, dreamlike images and political satire, Jakubisko has been compared to Fellini and Emir Kusturica. So the film is kind of like Thelma & Louise, but more so for the oppressed, poor and struggling working class. This [..] is the last film in Jakubisko's Trilogy of Happiness. If you can find a copy, you are guaranteed a unique movie experience.

For over 30 years Juraj Jakubisko has plundered Slovak folklore, song and dance to conjure a series of baroque, often absurd fables of love and death. Originally trained in the graphic arts, Jakubisko enrolled the Prague Film Academy. He graduated in 1966 at the height of the Czech New Wave [...] Ironically for a director often dubbed the 'Fellini of the East', Jakubisko cites Antonioni as his first love during these formative years. [...] Much of the director's work is governed by the thought that to be free you have to be a fool, and to be a fool you have to be free. [...] in wake of the Prague Spring, Jakubisko was placed firmly on the hit list [...] But by the end of the 80s he sensed change, and put fairytales aside in favour of a taboo subject: the communist takeover in the wake of World War Two. [...] Perhaps Jakubisko's most resonant film was his next, It's Better to be Healthy and Wealthy than Poor and Ill, which toyed with the notion of a separated Czechoslovakia a matter of months before the actual split occurred, and starred Dagmar Veskrnova, the future [wife of Vaclav Havel and] first lady of the [new] Czech Republic
- Daniel Bird Senses of Cinema

"Kurvahošigútntág [The Inheritance]"

Date: February 19, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: V. Chytilová, Czech Republic, 1993

People in CZ or SK have seen this movie surely a lot of times and it is getting better and better from one seeing it to the next. The best part of it are the lines - spoken in Czech with Valassko-dialect. Therefore non CZ-SK people would miss a great deal of fun that comes from all those lines and word plays which Bohus (played by Bolek Polivka - who made himself unforgettable here) generates like a machine. They are so genius and catchy, that a lot of people use a lot of them even now - a decade after this movie was made. Almost every line of this movie - that us over here already know by hard, causes laughter and the best way watching it, would be on the "televiza" in a 5th class category village pub with a beer, shots of rum and redneck comments from around. Story - a village alcoholic inherits a lot of money in the early 90ties - the beginnings of the new post communist era in the eastern Europe.

Vera Chytilova's protagonist Bohus in THE INHERITANCE is a good-for-nothing loafer who never lifted a finger to build a socialist society. Now that the socialist project has collapsed, he comes into a big inheritance. He spends it cynically, buying the friendship of a prostitute, paying for a merry-go-round for the village (but refusing to sponsor any real improvements), taking the men from his village on a bus trip to town where they thoroughly disgrace themselves by starting a brawl in an expensive restaurant. He also instantly changes into a cruel capitalist, firing some of his newly-inherited employees as an exercise in pure power. Though somewhat broadly drawn, Chytilova's picture of the post-socialist era functions effectively as a bitterly satirical putdown of the new capitalism. Her genius lies in the details — the ostrich that Bohus buys his high-priced girlfriend as a birthday gift, his Eurodisney shirt, the opening shot of the film that shows a handful of ants busily dragging off the carcass of a moth. By picking out elements from the diegetic space, Chytilova effortlessly weaves metaphors into her story, implying that the new capitalist order returns man to a state of nature in which money begets violence.
- Inez Hedges, Jump Cut 38 (June 1993)

Vera Chytilová has, perhaps, still not made a film, which someone would not consider misguided, and her post-1989 oeuvre has been judged by the critics almost entirely negatively. "The Czech Republic has lost a film-maker and gained a skilled artisan" called out Ondrej Zach in connection with Dedictví (The Inheritance, 1992). […] , Mirka Spácilová writes of it as "a cheap political satire," "a bitter post-revolution attitude," "break-neck hatred" and "a gushing of hurtful embitterment, attacking the lowest human features, a flagrant socio-critical agitation." Ondrej Štindl complains of the "chanting of slogan-ridden exclamations," "manner of populist humour" and the "stiff and sporadically redneck humour." Perhaps the artist has radically changed her poetics? And if she hasn't changed it, is her opinion of the world declining? […] It isn't possible to want this essentially non-conformist director to consider any seemingly happy reality (which is far from the one we live in) as the only possible and right one; the director would work very uncomfortably. That's why Chytilová expresses the feelings of social groups that are confronted with the current situation of society. Is it possible that this "social class" aspect conversely also influences the directness, roughness and, if we want, even the "cheap" and "redneck" humour that the director uses? […] Today, Vera Chytilová is not perceived as an iconic personality whose work is known only by a narrow group of cineastes. Her personally involved and ever-adventurous attitude has though, I assume, much higher value today than if the director had waved a white flag and created pseudo-independent creations about nothing.
- Jaromír Blazejovský, KinoEye 2/VIII (2002)

So far the only important woman director of the Czech cinema is Vera Chytilová, its most innovative and probably most controversial personality. […] She combines didacticism with often daring chronology and illustrative realism, she stresses the symbolic nature of images as well as visual and conceptual shock. Influenced to some extent also by cinema verité, particularly by its female representatives, and militantly feminist in her attitudes, she nevertheless made excellent use of the art of her husband, the cameraman Jaroslav Kucera, in her boldest venture to date, Daisies […] In her later films, there is a noticeable shift towards realism. However, all the principles mentioned above still dominate the more narrative approach, and a combination of unusual camera angles, shots, etc., together with a bitterly sarcastic vision, lead to hardly less provocative shock effects. […]
Since the "velvet revolution" she has maintained her independence as idiosyncratically as ever. Refusing to take up any comfortably accommodating position, she has been accused of nostalgia for the Communist years. This would be to misrepresent her position. A fierce campaigner for a state subsidy for the Czech film industry, she cannot but lament the extent to which the implementation of the ideology of the "free market" has been allowed to accomplish what the Soviet regime never quite could—the extinguishing of Czech film culture. She has made a number of documentary films for television as well as a 1992 comedy about the deleterious effects of sudden wealth, which was publicly well received but met with critical opprobrium […]. The continuing relevance of Daisies, and its depiction of philistinism in several registers, is surely the strongest argument in support of Chytilová's position. […]
- Josef Skvorecký, updated by Verina Glaessner

"Knoflikari [The Buttoners]"

Date: February 26, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: Petr Zelenka, Czech Republic, 1995

Knoflikari is quite difficult to explain. For a start the title is a bit of the mystery and it appears that the Czechs think that the English word "buttoners" is a synonym of "twerps" and the Czech title, Knoflikari, preserves the button origins of this supposed English word. Czechs have, therefore, been very disconcerted to find out that the title is more or less meaningless in English and does not take on the intended significance (some Czech websites still translate the film as Twerps anyway).

Such warping of logic, however, does not seem entirely out of place for a film which is about how the weather can save your life, the pros and cons of sex in the back of a taxi, the rituals of civilization, a secret perversion which utilizes a pair of false teeth, sperm in space and a ghost searching for forgiveness. The film's extravagant claims as to its own craziness belie a subtlety and restraint in the humor and even obvious factual descriptions, such as noting that the film being divided into six short stories, are prone to be somewhat misleading and one-sided. By the time you are on the third story, you realize that each of the six different plots is being played out in all the film's parts. [...]

Andrew Horton, Central European Review 0/15 (1999)

It is hopefully clear by now why the mosaic mode is so popular with young Czech filmmakers and, more specifically, with Zelenka. It is enough to recall Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, and, most recently, Paul Haggis’s Crash to understand the international appeal of the mode, which seems most appropriate for grasping the ever-shifting moral and existential realities of post-modern existence. All films made in this mode invariably point to the universal, almost physical law of retribution (summarized colloquially as “what goes around, comes around”). That is, they point to the inevitable punishment for indulgences and greed, but also to a counterbalancing forgiveness. It is most likely these films will remain confined to the specific cultural and ethical realities of their time, for it is difficult to imagine how they could offer any comprehensible information, let alone evoke emotional empathy in viewers who do not belong to the here and now.

Christina Stojanova, Kino Kultura no. 4 (2006)

"Záviš, kníze pornofolku pod vlivem Griffithovy Intolerance a Tatiho prázdnin pana Hulota aneb Vznik a zánik Ceskoslovenska (1918 – 1992) [ Záviš, the prince of porn music under the influence of Griffith´s Intolerance and Tati`s Monsieur Hulot`s Holiday or The Establishment and Doom of Czechoslovakia [1918 – 1992]"

Date: March 5, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: Karel Vachek, 2006.
Joint screening: with Avant Doc. Guest speaker : Alice Lovejoy, Yale University

Alice Lovejoy's discussion will also open the conference Avant-Doc:
Intersections in Avant-Garde and Documentary Film, March 5-7, 2009
See full schedule at:

This week's film features:

Jaroslav Cejka, mime artist, Ivan Dejmal, ecologist and politician, Stanislav Gross, ex-Prime Minister, Dana Kolárová and her dog Sydney, Pavel Lukáš, owner of an animal cemetery, Miroslav Macek, politician, Jirí Paroubek, ex-Prime Minister, Jakub Patocka, Chief Editor of Literární noviny weekly and ecologist, Petr Pilát alias Rasper, the youngest man in the world who completed a "backflip" on his motorcycle, Jakub Procházka, a young offender, David Rath, ex-Minister of Health, Milan Záviš Smrcka, the prince of porn music, Jaroslav Spurný, the Editor of Respekt weekly, and others.

Karel Vachek on his film:

"Most world events are pseudo-events and most human activity is pseudo-activity. We engage in things that do not provide us with sustenance, do not lead to the preservation of the human species or the multiplication of knowledge. We engage in pseudo-activity and afterwards want to have fun or forget. We use energy, obtained from God-knows where, use it for pseudo-activity and, thus, break the branch we sit on. That is what my film is about.“

And also:

“His obvious elements –chaos, passion- megalomania and vast cosmos of used material, obsession – clustering and incomprehensible merry-go-round of things and people, and randiness to be sure – grotesque touches, some kind of geological fractures of objects and people whose only link is their congregation in one place. … Vachek adorned himself with a leading role, h is the instigator of the situations, at times (rarely !) remains a silent witness, at other times he is the one asking questions of his often paralysed partners. Transforms himself into a comedian, a preacher who fuses into some hopeful mixture of Quijot, Švejk and half-anointed half-affronted sage-commentator of the tale…. At such times it becomes very clear that in a typically play-acting, grotesque form Karel Vachek is basically a poet – a poetical rejoicer of “ties” between those he sees as “media”, a walk-through stage of creative acts.”

Source: Jirí Cieslar, 'A duel with Vachek {as regards Karel Vachek's film
'What is to be Done ?´}. Revolver Revue no. 6, 1996

"Dlug [The Debt]"

Date: March 12, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: K. Krauze, Poland, 1999

"Prvni Ceska Filmova Reality Show Cesky Sen [The First Czech Film Reality Show Czech Dream]"

Date: March 26, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: Klusak and Remunda, Czech Republic, 2004, 90 minutes

Politics like Yoghurt: An interview with Klusak and Remunda
Filippo del Lucchese

JG – Let’s start by the idea, which is original as well as controversial. How did the project come about and why did you decide to work together?

VK, FR – Both of us were born at the time of the communist propaganda. There were not any commercials on TV, but propaganda was everywhere, in the school for example, and in any other sort of public space. In 1989, drastic changes were made in our country, and the idea of supermarket also arrived there. In 4 or 5 years the westerns built up hundreds of hypermarkets and this, of course, drastically influenced Czech society. It was a sort of social experiment, because our people were not ready for this to happen so suddenly. It is not only about shopping, but a matter of how people spend their free time, it is a lifestyle. If we take, for example, the case of Holland, which has a population as large as Czech republic, well, in 25 years they built the same number of hypermarkets there that they have built in our country in only 5 years! You can imagine how drastically it has influenced society as a whole. We live through these times, on the border between communism and capitalism, everything is new and very strange and we wanted to show what was going on during this age. That was basically our motivation.

JG – But ‘commercials’ are not the only or even the main topic of your film...

VK, FR – The hypermarket is the subject of our advertisement, but our film is not only about consumerism and the market, it is also about marketing campaigns and commercials. People are not ready yet. They are not ready to live in the world of commercials, because we – the Czech – still think that everything is showed on the screen is definitely true. The reason behind this is the fact that there has never been any sort of ‘media education’ in Czech republic. You can see our work as a sort of educational film as well. It deals with a market campaign and people can see what there is behind the stage, what there is before the final product you see at the end of the campaign. We wanted, for instance, to show how many experts work on the product, how the whole system functions, in a word, the hidden face...

JG – I see, but I find quite strange the fact that you speak so much about the Czech people, about the weaknesses of your society. Do you think that these weaknesses are similar to the weaknesses in so many other countries in the world? Not only in the East or in the so-called Third World, but also, and maybe especially, in the Western hypermediatized countries?

VK, FR –We planned, in fact, to work on a film which would speak not only about the Czech republic because we are well aware that globalization is a major topic everywhere. For this reason we hope to sell the film in many countries and finally to become real businessmen!

JG – What were the main difficulties while making the film? You seem to show only the funny side of the whole story.

VK, FR – The most difficult thing was to connect the three different roles we play in the film. In fact, we are the directors but we produce the film as well, and lastly, we play our roles in the film. So, directors, managers and actors at the same time. The other main problem was that at one particular point we were lacking money. It was time to print the front wall of the false market. We had all the rest, the parking area, the security service, we needed only the front wall but we had no money. Now, as producers, we were aware of the responsibility and of the fact that in any case we had to achieve the project even without the printed wall. On the contrary, as directors, we were convinced that this was impossible, that it did not make any sense to go ahead without it. It was the most important piece. So we decided to act as irresponsible producers and that hopefully we would find the money later somehow. We borrowed money, mainly from our families, trying at the same time to find some other source of finance. Eventually, we were very happy about this dramatic decision. It was just two days before the false opening ceremony. Without this, we are not able to imagine the film now.

JG – What was the attitude of the other financial and supporting institutions towards this controversial project?

VK, FR – It was difficult to convince the Public Service Czech Television to take part in this quite controversial project. They finally decided to support the project, after three years of negotiations. The support was not only financial, because they worked with us on something that was both incredible and unbelievable, and we are convinced that most television channels, both in the East and in the West, would not have accepted to support such a foolish idea. That’s why we are so proud of Czech television and of its role as partner.

JG – Another very interesting point about the film is the people. All these people working in the advertisement industry, in a very professional way. They try to justify, at every step of the film, their job and their acting from an ethical point of view. They seem to be well aware about how and what they are doing...

VK, FR – Someone criticized us in the Czech republic for the fact that we decided to show all our cards to them from the very beginning. We decided to explain that the hypermarket was false to the people we were working with. It was also a way to confront them with the moral hub of their work as well as with the moral subject of the whole project. This produces important and interesting effects in the film. Especially when, throughout the film, they consciously try to lie to us, but repeat that in their ordinary work they don’t. They just pretend to deal with the language and double meanings, but they don’t manipulate reality. Actually we show a lot about this world and how it works. You never find exactly what the advertisement promises you in the products. Wonderful girls that you can have if you order this drink or if you drive this car and so on. Always provoking us is lying to us at the same time, but they don’t think this is wrong, this is just how the market functions.

JG – In any case they decided to help you. They seem to be very involved in the project...

VK, FR – Many people asked us why these people decided to help us in making the project reality, one which is so controversial and respected in terms of what they usually do. We think – at least this is what we believe to understand – that they essentially consider themselves as artists. Many told us that they are film directors as well, even if their ‘film’, that is, the commercials, are very short, some 30 seconds. They feel like artistic creators and the bad thing is that they don’t receive any credit at the end of these ‘films’. As the aim of the commercial is to let the client name to be known, whereas their names remain unknown. Through the film Cesky Sen they wanted to somehow display their work and their artistic features. To be more recognizable and finally to say “we are the artists and we are moving the world, indeed”.

JG – In the film you directly associate commercial and political advertisement, especially when relating the Cesky Sen Campaign and the political campaign to join the European Union. What did you imagine at the very beginning about the possibility to obtain such a reaction concerning this association?

VK, FR – Yes, we were well aware about the need to find a link between politics and commercial propaganda. We decided to transform our image in the same way as our politicians usually do. The pictures they showed to the people and our pictures as businessmen were produced by the same image-makers. There is a committee for regulation of advertisement in Czech republic. Both campaigns were submitted to this committee and the answer was the same. They said that Cesky Sen is not a commercial campaign because there isn’t any product to be sold. They stated the same about the EU Campaign, because there isn’t any possibility to verify political campaigns, so that they cannot touch either of them.

All of this was part of the scenario, as well as the fact that the EU Referendum and the Cesky Sen Campaign were taking place at the same time and place, i.e. in Prague. Our posters were beside the governmental posters for the EU Campaigns. At the ‘opening day’ of the hypermarket some people immediately mentioned the association between the two campaigns. If the commercial and market world deals with something which is not rational, something could be said about commercial politics as well. The association was there, open and clear for everyone to see. Mark Bodo, the same agency, was working for the government as well as for ‘Klusák-Remunda Agency’ on Cesky Sen. For example, they show in their advertising Portuguese fishermen or Danish teachers saying “welcome to the European Union society!”. But we used the same rhetoric strategy for Cesky Sen to welcome people in the hyper-market society. The association was immediately pointed out. That was a good reaction by people as well as a very good point for the film. We didn’t create this similarity between commercial and political campaigns, we just recorded and showed it. It is really something horrible, politics is just like yoghurt...

"Ceský sen [A Czech Dream]"

Date: April 2, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: Klusak and Remunda, Czech Republic, 2004


Date: April 9, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: Benedek Fliegauf, Hungary, 2007 or Taxidermia; György Pálfi, Hungary, 2007

Some Hungarian critics have proclaimed Taxidermia an extraordinary, if peculiar, aesthetic achievement [...] Others contend that what you need for it is not so much a strong aesthetic sense but a strong stomach. I first saw Taxidermia two years ago in Budapest at the annual presentation of new Hungarian films. A number of people walked out of the screening and I understand this happened at many subsequent showings of the film. But Taxidermia was also voted best Hungarian film of 2006 in Budapest, and since then it has been recognized internationally, garnering prizes at various film festivals. Serious film critics in Hungary have discoursed eruditely on the film's stunning visual effects and the profound meaning behind them [...] the film's British distributor, by comparison, is banking on its lurid, stomach-churning images, billing Taxidermia as “hilariously sick and outrageously deviant … [a] gross-out visual feast … shock cinema at its best.”
Taxidermia is György Pálfi's second feature film. Human physicality is György Pálfi's main preoccupation and terrain in Taxidermia, as it is for such prominent contemporary Hungarian writers as Péter Nádas and Lajos Parti Nagy (some of the latter's stories served as the basis for the film). Pálfi breaks new ground and old taboos; he literally digs into flesh, human and animal, concentrating on guts and gore, and the bodily fluids responsible for the ebb and flow of life—blood, sweat, mucus, semen, excrement. So the images are in turn repulsive, pornographic, clinical, and strangely beautiful. For a film that has its share of bizarre and extreme situations, grotesque characters, and in general an air of the surreal about it, Taxidermia tells in traditional linear fashion the story of three generations of Hungarian men in three distinctly different periods between the 1940s and the present, evoking each with robust realism.

Ivan Sanders, “Oversexed, Overstuffed, Over the Top: György Pálfi's Taxidermia “

[...]The film is a brilliant alloy of the three stories, handling scene changes with the well-timed harmonisation of several events. Pre-eminent among the visual representations of Vendel’s “fuck-fits” is the scene connecting the cold with Andersen’s story of the little match girl. Hallucinating in the cold, Vendel – or the grandson visualising his grandfather – moves in his imagination into a picture book where he seduces the freezing little girl. In his moment of satisfaction, he hands over the stars he promised her with the image exploding out of the book’s fairy scene, flinging the storybook picture to the heavens in a moment of temporal pleasure. In another similarly beautiful harmonisation of events, a cock bites Vendel’s penis, which sticks out from the shed as he masturbates while watching the captain’s daughters at play. His scream of pain and the captain’s wife calling the children back into the house are heard simultaneously. The depiction of the various functions of the trough that plays multiple roles in the life of the family is also beautifully done. It is as if we were travelling spatially, walking through walls from one room to the next; while in fact, the camera is wandering in time. In the trough we find bathing girls, then the bread kneaded by their mother, then the processed pork, a dead family member or a newly born child.
The transition to the second period of the film – the story of the father and the grandfather – is another beautiful element. The camera turns from the child to the captain lifting the child, scanning his figure in a 360 degree turn from the ground to the top of his head, and then it moves on. Turning toward the sky, the lens focuses on three airplanes, drawing behind them lines of red, white and green. Finally, returning to the ground, we find ourselves at the Olympic speed-eating qualifications where the grown-up Balatony is proving his competitive and womanising talents, all the while eating goulash.
Richest in picturesque and detailed scenes is perhaps the story of the grandfather; the depiction of the story of later generations is more realistic. It is as if the producers were trying to compensate for the plot’s shortcomings in credibility with a realistic language of imagery. (For example, the officer’s servant seeing his superior’s daughters in his bed in his fantasies is far more realistic than the several-hundred-kilogram eating champion being devoured by his own cats, trained for eating competitions, or his son dissecting himself alive with a machine he designed.) The technical devices of the movie pay due respect to a number of predecessors. To mention but two obvious examples, the long and uncut scenes call to mind Béla Tarr’s Satan’s Tango , while the circular movements of the camera scanning the sky remind us of Guy Ritchie movies – but as a whole, they recall the meticulous world of Pálfi we first encountered in Hukkle. The writings of Lajos Parti Nagy – even if not shown in their own light, but in the interpretation of Pálfi, Ruttkay and Pohárnok – served as worthy material for the creation of an artistic product at least as unique as the literary pieces themselves.

Gabriella Györe, “The Artists of Taxidermy”

"White Palms "

Date: April 16, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: Ferenc Török, Hungary, 2007 or White Palms; S. Hajdu, Hungary, 2006

WHITE PALMS, Szabolcs Hajdu's film brings back memories of the vital, politically charged Hungarian cinema of the '70s and '80s. Mr. Hajdu's brother, the professional gymnast Miklos Zoltan Hajdu, stars as a promising young athlete whose life is taken over by the pre-Glasnost Hungarian government. Raised like a precious farm animal, he has nowhere to turn when the system of state subsidies collapses, except to a teaching gig in Canada. Excellently shot by Andras Nagy, the film courageously resists the standard sports movie clichés of triumph and redemption

Dave Kehr, N Y Times, 5/6/07, "Summer Movies"

filmhu: White Palms, your latest feature film in the making, is based on an autobiographical story, the relationship of your gymnast brother and his Canadian trainee, Kyle Shewfelt, who won the gold medal at the Athens Olympics. Do you agree that practically all of your films from Necropolis to Tamara were autobiographical?

Szabolcs Hajdu: I’m probably unable to make a movie about anythingelse, since I’m afraid to talk about things I’m not familar with. White Palms is truly based on autobiographical events. I’m piecing together motifs from my own life and my brother’s life, but we are going to create an entirely new reality from those. My brother and I started to train as gymnasts in Debrecen when he was 4 years old. We were living in a village at the time, 32 kms from the city, and travelled each day to the sports school in Debrecen, which was considered to be very modern at the time. 40 kids started training and eventually a single one was left, my brother, who became a gymnast, made it to Budapest and became a member of the national team and the Olympic team. He did not succeed in reaching the the greatest goal every sportsman strives for: participating at the world championship or the Olympics, but he ranked high at the World Cup and the European Cup. At this level, the differences are very slight, everyone is really good, and tiny nuances decide who is the best. My brother had to quit because of an injury and he was invited to Canada to work as a trainer. He started to train the guy who won the gold medal at the Athens Olympics. With this, my brother closed the 25-year period that connected him to sports. Right now, he is a member of one of the most interesting Canadian circus troupes, Cirque du Soleil.

So that is the backbone of the story, but White Palms is not going to be a career story or a sports movie. Gymnastics is a good pretext for us to explore the social issues related to education: the relationship of parents and children, sports leaders and children, and schools and children. When our hero grows up, he makes the same mistakes his own trainer did. He inherited a mistaken model – the question is, is he able to transform it? Most teenagers realize the faults of their own parents, yet they have difficulties in treating their own kids differently. Those who are able to must establish a new set of values, which is a great achievement. In this story the hero tries to shed the curse afflicting several generations – a mistaken model of parenting, training and education – and to establish a new set of values. I’m at the age where I’m interested in this issue, it’s my own problem, too. There seems to be an explosion, everyone in my generation are having children, all of my colleagues and friends have a little kid at home.

filmhu: I’ve heard that you have one, too.

Szabolcs Hajdu: Yes, I have one, too. So the issues I raise in the movie are pretty serious ones.

"Plac zbawiciela [Saviour Square]"

Date: April 23, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: Kos and Krauze, Poland, 2007

"It's Better to be Healthy and Wealthy Than Sick and Poor":
Changing Currencies in post-89 Central-European Cinemas

Date: April 30, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: Stestí (Something Like Happiness)
(Czech Republic, Germany, Dir. Bohdan Sláma, 102 min)

[…] a slice-of-life serio-comedy on devotion, friendship, family, and missed connection. At the heart of the film is the scruffy bohemian, a perennial "sweet guy" named Tonik (Pavel Liska) who lives with his aunt in a derelict house on a scrap of land overlooking a sprawling industrial complex in which they are two of the few remaining holdouts in a proposed factory expansion project (long after other residents, including his own parents, have moved into residential apartments with all modern conveniences). Secretly carrying a torch for his childhood best friend, a beautiful store clerk named Monika (Tatiana Vilhelmová), his prospects for winning her heart prove ever fading when, at the start of the film, her dashing and affable boyfriend immigrates to America and subsequently sends her a ticket to join him after he secures a steady job for both of them. However, when the Tonik and Monika become unexpected custodians to a pair of young boys after their mother is institutionalized, her decision to defer her trip until her release from the hospital provides the shy Tonik with a glimmer of hope for their long awaited romantic union. Like the character Tonik, the film is also gentle and unassuming, but ultimately haunting and endearing portrait of compassion, unrequited longing, and human dignity.

-Aquarello, Strictly Film School

Despite its grim setting, the film is strikingly beautiful. Every frame - most of which are shot with a handheld camera - is suffused with a strange luminescence, whether it shows a smokestack, a child, or a housing block. Even the grimmest, most depressing image appears somehow lovely in the lens of Sláma's camera.

-Martha Fischer, Cinematical

Winner of Golden Seashell Award for Film and Lead Actress (Anna Geislerova) at the 2005 San Sebastián International Film Festival

"Karamazovi [The Karamazovs]"

Date: May 7, 2009
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: 101 BCSB
Director: P. Zelenka, Czech Republic, 2008 or Workingman’s Death; Michael Glawogger, Austria, 2006