Days of European Film: first big cultural event in Prague post coronavirus

Film Extra Ordinary, photo: Archive of the festival Days of European Film

The annual Days of European Film, the first major event of its kind held in the Czech Republic in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, gets underway in Prague on Tuesday.

Film Extra Ordinary,  photo: Archive of the festival Days of European Film
Šimon Šafránek,  photo: Tomáš Patrick Hyánek

The eight-day festival, which is now in its 27th year, offers a selection of more than 40 films from across the continent.

I discussed the event with Šimon Šafránek, who is in charge of the programme, and started by asking about the opening film, called Extra Ordinary:

“For me the opening film basically shows what the festival is all about this year, because it combines all kinds of genres, including comedy, horror, fantasy and ghost-buster, and it takes place in the Irish countryside. At the same time, it still feels very humble.

“I am really happy that I can find these aspects in the films, and they also form this years’ main section, called Dreams and Fears.”

You are also introducing a new section dedicated to young audiences, called No Parents. Why have you decided to screen films for teenagers and kids?

“There are a couple of reasons, really. The main one is personal, because I have a son who is ten years old and sometimes I find it quite difficult to find a film for him in the cinemas. Of course he is into Marvel movies, but I don’t see many films that he could relate to.

The Unpromised Land,  photo: Archive of the festival Days of European Film

“So when I had to choose what would be the focus of the festival, I really didn’t hesitate to go for teenage films. I think we have quite a nice selection, with this amazing picture called Away. It is a picture with no dialogue at all, with a beautiful animation inspired by Japanese animated films.

“And then there is this Swedish film, called The Unpromised Land, which tells a story of a friendship of two girls in Sweden. The film depicts the racism and xenophobia that they face on a daily basis, but it deals with these themes without patronizing, which makes it really accessible to the young audiences.”

Free Country,  photo: Syrreal Entertainment

What are some of the main highlights of this year’s edition of Days of European Film?

“I am really happy that we have the German thriller called Free Country, set in Germany in 1992. It is very visual and resembles the series The True Detective, with its heavy mood.

“We have a whole section focusing on Virtual Reality. And what I am also really happy about is a new film by the legendary Costa Gavras. It is called Adults in the Room and it is an adaptation of a memoir of the Greek finance minister Yanis Varufakis and his dealings with the debt crisis that hit Greece in 2015.”

Finally, the Days of the European Film will be the first large event of its kind here in the Czech Republic after the coronavirus outbreak. Will the event be affected by safety restriction related to the coronavirus?

“Well, the programme stays as it was meant to be, but of course we won’t have any international guests. We will have some local directors and people taking part in the discussions after the films, also there will be several Q and A’s and some other accompanying programme.

“We basically follow the rules set by the government so I believe everything will be safe.”

The Days of European Film run in Prague until June 23rd, before moving to Brno and Ostrava.