Underdog arthouse film sweeps Czech Lion nominations
This year’s nominations for the Czech Lions – the awards given annually by the Czech Film and Television Academy – offered a big surprise, when a little-noticed film called Pouta (Walking Too Fast) walked away with 13 nominations in only 12 categories, a record for the Lions. Whether it will lose in the end to bigger-budget and more conventionally made films will be interesting to see, but for now the nominations themselves mean a serious accomplishment for art-house cinema in the Czech Republic.
What’s more, Walking Too Fast is neither a big-budget production nor a blockbuster success. The tense psychological thriller about an agent in communist Czechoslovakia’s notorious secret police who snaps, is a more artistic rather than commercial offering, and it showed in the box office, with only around 22,000 tickets being sold since it was released over a year ago. Vratislav Šlajer is the film’s producer:
“It was clear from the beginning that it wouldn’t be a commercial film for large audiences. It’s a very serious subject, and my hope was just to do it in the best possible way, with no compromises, which is not very typical for Czech or Central European films, which tend to bend a little to popularity and be more audience-driven, in my opinion. So we decided it would be a very tough, dark film, which I think it is.”
Set in the 1980s, Walking Too Fast seems to be yet another contribution to the often redundant Czech genre of films about the late communist era – an image that its producer thinks may have stunted its attraction among cinema-goers. However, what lies beneath and likely did win the favour of the academy filmmakers is a tough, dark tale told through uncommonly edgy cinematography.
Regardless of how many prizes Walking Too Fast wins from this point – and the bookkeepers say a lot – it will certainly be an inspiration to other Czech filmmakers looking to make the unconventional story they want but concerned it will not get the mainstream recognition it could deserve.