Shadow Country chosen by critics as best Czech film of 2020

'Shadow Country', photo: Czech Television

Director Bohdan Sláma’s Shadow Country (Krajina ve stínu) won the 2020 annual Czech Film Critics’ Awards on Saturday. The black and white film which depicts life in a Czech border village during the most tumultuous period in twentieth century history also received an award in the best female actress category. Ivan Trojan, who played the role of healer Jan Mikolášek in Agnieszka Holland’s Charlatan (Šarlatán), took the award for best male actor.

Top actors and filmmakers gathered at Prague’s Archa Theatre to attend the annual Czech Film Critics’ Awards on Saturday, this year in a more cosy setting due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

The historical drama Shadow Country, which focuses around the village of Tušť where an infamous revenge massacre on German inhabitants took place in May 1945, took the award for best film.

Bohdan Sláma,  photo: Elena Horálková / Czech Radio

Its director, Bohdan Sláma, is known for writing his own screenplays, but Shadow Country was an exception in this regard. He told Czech Radio ahead of the awards ceremony that he was “positively shocked” when he first saw the script written by Ivan Arsenjev.

“The first half of the script was a sort of description of things that I had already been generally aware of. The various nationalist squabbles, the deportation of a Jewish family, those were all motives that had been explored before.

“But the sudden moment when people shut their neighbours in the cellar ahead of a sort of ‘judgement’ grabbed me. Surely something so absurd could not happen. Their subsequent execution, mass grave and all, was a shock. How could neighbours, people who know each other, do this? I felt I needed to explore with each character how this total loss of humanity, of wisdom, is possible.”

Shadow Country actress Magdaléna Borová received the award for best female actress. Her character was based on the true story of Marie Kolberová, whose husband was among the 14 people shot following a hurried tribunal in May 1945.

Ivan Trojan in 'Charlatan',  photo: Marlene Film Production

She told Czech Radio that the performance itself required little acting, as she herself was pitted into the role of a shocked bystander.

The award for best director was given to Agnieszka Holland for the biographical drama Charlatan. Ivan Trojan, who depicted the film’s main character Jan Mikolášek received the award for best male actor.

Caught in the Net (V síti), which received much attention for shedding light on the dangers from sexual predators online, won the award for best documentary.

Meanwhile, Adam Martinec’s Anatomy of a Czech Afternoon (Anatomie českého odpoledne), which explores the Czech psyche, won the award for best short film. It was the first time that this category was featured at the annual awards.