“I simply felt, I have to make it” – Václav Marhoul’s Painted Bird cleans up at Czech Lions

Václav Marhoul, photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek

This year’s Czech Lion film awards were dominated by The Painted Bird by Václav Marhoul, which triumphed with no fewer than nine prizes. Two of the other main contenders, Owners and Old-Timers, shared the best acting gongs. I spoke to several of the winners at Saturday’s ceremony.

Václav Marhoul,  photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek
The Painted Bird by Václav Marhoul took the coveted Best Film award at this year’s Czech Lions at Prague’s Rudolfinum on Saturday.

It also won seven other prizes, including Best Director and Best Cinematography (for Vladimír Smutný) and one for “extraordinary audio-visual achievement”.

Marhoul, who also produced The Painted Bird, devoted a decade of his life to making the exploration of the horrors of war based on a novel by Jerzy Kosinski.

“When I read this book I felt the story was so important, it’s universal, it’s a timeless story. It’s not only about the second world war and that the main character is a Jewish boy – it’s absolutely not so important, because this is, let’s say, a message about us, about humankind. The book, and my film hopefully, just gives so many questions and doesn’t give any answers. So all of us, we have to find our own answers. I simply felt, I have to [make it], I have to. That was what the source of all my energy and my will.”

The Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor gongs went to Jiří Schmitzer and Ladislav Mrkvička, stars of the revenge drama Old-Timers.

Schmitzer plays a wheelchair-bound octogenarian ex-political prisoner in the film and, asked about the demanding nature of the role, paid tribute to his co-star.

“It was tough, for sure. But my colleague Mrkvička had it harder. Because I was sitting in a wheelchair the whole time and he had to push me, he had to run about. I had relative comfort.”

The Czech Film and Television Academy bestowed the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress prizes on Klára Melíšková and Tereza Ramba from Owners, a dark comedy about a meeting of apartment proprietors.

Its director Jiří Havelka also won the Czech Lion for Best Screenplay and had this to say about the hit movie’s resonance with domestic audiences.

Jiří Havelka,  photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek
“Almost everyone knows the situation and if he or she is not an owner, that he understands what’s going on – that people are not able to achieve any kind of solution or agreement.”

Have you yourself been to similar meetings of apartment owners?

“I have. Many times. But of course this is a kind of compilation of my own experiences and also I asked a lot of my friends to send me reports from these meetings and I pulled out situations that fit into this construction.”

The Best Documentary prize at the 27th Czech Lions went to Martin Mareček for Over the Hills. The Academy Award nominee and Student Oscar winning Daughter by Daria Kashcheeva was named Best Animated Film.