A Brief Story of Slovak Cinema

A Brief Story of Slovak Cinema

To trace the steps of Slovak cinema, one must return to Czechoslovakia’s past, when the Czech Republic and Slovakia were one country and shared some of their art traditions. The story of Slovak ― as well as Czech ― cinema began in 1921 with Jánošík, a full-length feature movie starring Jaroslav Siakel.

Professionalization of the industry

In those early years of Czechoslovakian cinema, plots were based on the traditions and folklore of the country, often filmed in rural locations.

A year before Slovakia’s first independence began, the first Department of Film in Czechoslovakia within the School of Industrial Arts in Bratislava was created. That first organization ― said by experts to be amongst the first five in Europe ― was commanded by the future Oscar-winning director Ján Kadár and other students. However, its fate was to be short and the department was closed in 1939 after the independence of the First Slovak Republic, a client state of the Nazi Germany.

An avoided censorship

As part of the Nazi “empire”, the Slovak film productions were dedicated to propaganda newsreels through the short-films studio Nástup. After a short–lived reunification of an independent Czechoslovakia during which few films were produced, censorship was reestablished, this time at the instigation of the Soviet socialist regime.

Between the 50s and early 70s, social-realism took over the film productions in Czechoslovakia, with directors like Paľo Bielik, Václav Kubásek and Juraj Herz. Their films often depicted the social change and progress of the working class in movies like The Struggle Will End Tomorrow (1951). Other directors, with the approval of Soviet authorities, dealt with World War II and the fall of the Nazi regime. An outstanding example of those films is Juraj Herz's The Cremator (1968), a black comedy about the Final Solution which became a cult film in both the Czech and Slovak republics.

A difficult environment for cinema

The decades from the 70s to the early 90s saw a more muted Communist censorship of Slovak cinema. As a consequence, there were handful of opportunities for innovative directors to deal with subjects like adventures and fiction. From those days, the films Dušan Hanák’s Rosy Dreams (1976), Zoro Záhon's The Assistant (1982) and Dusan Hanák’s I Love, You Love (1989) are among the more remarkable.

Sharing the same condition of most of the former USSR estates, Slovakian cinema saw a decrease due to a lack of funding and ongoing political changes: the fall of the Soviet regime and the split of Czechoslovakia. However, the Slovak film industry did not completely disappear and important post-Communist era films include Martin Šulík's Everything I Like (1992) and The Garden (1995).

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