held on May 3 - 9, 1997 in Jurmala, Latvia
European Documentary Film Symposiums Riga, 1999
Václav Macek
Nonfiction Films in 1990s in Slovakia

The Slovak documentary cinema underwent changes in the nineties. As there is no time to present more detailed information on the best films and the best filmmakers, I would like to present just some basic information on what was going on in Slovak documentary cinema in these six years. I will divide my speech in three parts. The first part will be devoted to the organizational changes, the second one to the production and the third one to the finance.

The signs of the changes are put down very clear in the process of closing newsreel in Slovakia. The newsreel was closed on January 1, 1991. The reason for the closure was not the government but distributing companies and the owners of movie houses who rejected to distribute newsreels. So, the Slovak newsreel company had no market to present newsreels and it was closed. I think this change was inevitable. We knew that in Germany newsreel had been closed in 1976 and it was quite clear that there would be a year when it would be closed in Slovakia. The peculiarity of the Slovak film market from 1990 to 1995 was that it was illegal. In these years the act on nationalization of cinematography from 1945 was valid while the new law on cinema industry was put to the Parliament only in 1995. So, there were five years when from the legal point of view you couldn't make films outside the state industry. As there was no more state industry, all the private companies, both production and distribution worked outside the law but everybody accepted it.

In these years about ten production companies were created, four or five of them were oriented on nonfiction cinema, mostly on documentary but some of them also on animation films. The production of documentary films started to decrease from 1990, when there were produced about 200 short films, to 30 - 40 in 1996. As to the subjects of the documentaries, they are very different. Mostly they are picked from the periphery of social life. It means that there are films about drug addicts, about people who live outside the society, about homeless and so on. There was also a period from 1991 to 1994 when many films were devoted to church and Catholicism in Slovakia, as in the previous periods there were not such possibilities to shoot films on these aspects of Slovak life.

The most important production company is "Alef". This company shot three feature length documentary films. Two of them were shot in 1991 and 1992. They are "Second profession - mother" and "Babinsky". It was the picture about the so-called king of Orava (it's a region in Slovakia). This man was involved into corruption scandals in the 1980s during the communist regime. And the last documentary feature length film is Dusan Hanák's "Paper Heads" 1995.

The last problem I would like to deal with is financing of nonfiction films. There are three basic funds of filmmaking. The most important is TV. Nowadays in Slovakia there is public TV and two private TVs. The public TV gives possibilities to shoot documentaries but there are not enough people with good background. So, mostly their production are not documentaries but journalistic films, I would say. The second source of the money is so-called proSlovakia. This is a state cultural foundation that gives money every year not only for feature films but also for nonfiction films. Their budget is not very high, they can support from 5 to 8 documentaries every year. The third source is Soros Foundation and some private industrial companies which are able to support nonfiction films mostly as advertisement. It means that they are trying to support their image as good companies by some non feature subjects.

I would like also to mention that in Slovak documentary cinema a trend towards subjectivisation appeared in the 90-ies. If many old authors, Kubenko, Kamenicky and others put the stress on the objectivity of their reports, nowadays the younger generation wants to present movies where they can state clearly "it is my opinion", "it is my point of view". So, this trend is very clear and the most important now in Slovakia. That's all, thank you.

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