Underdog arthouse film sweeps Czech Lion nominations

'Walking Too Fast'

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.

'Walking Too Fast'
The Czech Lions are the major film awards in the Czech Republic – at least for the time being, with the new Czech Film Critics’ Awards appearing desirous of the position. They are not however like the Oscars in that a mere nomination would be forever after affixed to recipient’s poster. No so for the psychological drama Walking Too Fast, which even if it goes home empty-handed from the actual awards on March 5, can boast having received more nominations that any film in the 18 year history of the Czech Lions. There are, after all, only 12 categories (two of the film’s male supporting actors will be vying for that award).

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.

Czech Lion prize
“It takes place in the 80s, but it’s not really a film about that era. The point was to make a story about a man who is ‘in the system’, and he might not like it, but the system allows him to do things that he wouldn’t be able to do without it. So it’s not really a film about the 1980s in Czechoslovakia, but of course it has that image for audiences, and I think that’s also one of the reasons why the film wasn’t a hit in Czech cinemas – there has been too much of this setting lately”.

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.