Czech Holocaust story wins international screenwriting competition
Screenwriter and director Patrik Křivánek has become the first Czech to win a prize at the Page International Screenwriting Award competition, which aims to discover up-and-coming scriptwriters from around the world. His story about an aging Holocaust survivor who has spent her whole life trying to escape a painful past was selected from nearly nine thousand entries.
INT. COTTAGE IN SUDETENLAND/UNDER THE FLOOR - NIGHT (1938) HANKA (14), in her nightclothes, lies silhouetted in a shallow pantry hidden beneath the floor. She cradles her brother, RUDOLF (5), also in his nightclothes, one hand pressed over his mouth. Dim light seeps in through the cracks in the floorboards.
This is the opening scene of Muddy Shoes, a screenplay written by Patrik Křivánek and his US colleague Laurie Weltz, which won the Silver Prize in the Drama category at the 2022 PAGE International Screenwriting Awards.
It tells the story of an elderly Jewish woman, who was a teenager at the onset of the Holocaust and was forced to choose between her own life and that of her younger brother. After she is diagnosed with dementia, she finally reveals her dark and deeply buried secret to her family.
Patrik Křivánek says the story was inspired by the childhood of his grandfather, who grew up in the Czech-Polish border region:
“Our family is not Jewish, but my grandfather had many friends and classmates among the Jews. At the start of the war, when no-one had yet heard about the concentration camps, the Nazis raided their village looking for Jews.
“Many people, whole families or just their children, saved themselves at the last minute by escaping into the woods. Many of these children were never found or reunited with their families, and I wondered what the fate of these children might have been.”
The 34-year-old-author spent five years writing the screenplay while studying a BA course at the Westminster Film School in London. Originally, it was to be a short-film screenplay, but due to the Covid pandemic, he had enough time to develop it into a feature.
“I had been writing the script on my own for four years, but there was still something missing from the story. The heart of my story is the female character, the mother. That’s why I brought in the American screenwriter Laurie Weltz.
“We spent a long time trying to find a way to tell the story in a way that would be historically authentic, so that our international perspectives would not diverge and we wouldn't end up with some sort of a compromise.”
Patrik Křivánek, who divides his time between Prague and London, has already scripted, directed and produced a number of films that have been screened in cinemas and film festivals all over the world, picking up various awards. He is also the founder of a London-based independent film and TV production company.
The shooting of his feature debut, Muddy Shoes, is set to begin next year, with a number of well-known Czech actors having already signed up for the project.