Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Slovakian film Koza kicks of the European Film Screenings

Ahead of a gala screening opening the European Film Screenings series, Koza director Ivan Ostrochovský talks us through the film's genesis, and his future plans.
Slovakian film Koza tells the story of a former Olympic boxer forced back into the ring.
Slovakian film Koza tells the story of a former Olympic boxer forced back into the ring.

The third edition of the European Film Screenings gets underway on Wednesday, October 19, kicking off a nine-day feast of the best recent ­movies from the ­continent.

It starts with a red-carpet screening of gritty Slovakian drama Koza at Novo Cinemas, in World Trade Center Mall, Abu Dhabi. The film’s director Ivan Ostrochovský will answer questions after the screening, then do it all again on Thursday, October 20 for the ­Dubai screening at Novo Cinemas in Ibn Battuta Mall.

Selected as Slovakia’s entry in the best foreign-language film category for the Oscars – though it did not make the final shortlist – Koza, which translates as Goat, blurs the lines between fact and fiction.

Best known as a documentary filmmaker, Ostrochovský was inspired to make the film after meeting Peter Baláž, a retired boxer who represented Slovakia at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He subsequently devoted four years to making the film.

How does it feel to have your film showing in Abu Dhabi and Dubai?

I was pleasantly surprised. I haven’t been to the UAE, so I’m very much looking forward to visiting.

How can cinema, and festivals such as this, give audiences an insight into other cultures?

Cinema was intended to become a window into different cultures. For me, it is primarily a window into the way we think because my personal opinion is that people are not different at all. We all know hunger, fear, pain. That unites us. That is what allows us to screen a film from Eastern Europe in Dubai without the fear that the local audience would not understand it.

Koza is your second feature and first fiction film. How did it come about?

I knew the main protagonist of my film – Peter Baláž – for years now. I always wanted to make a film about him. Once, Peter came to me with a problem of his that became the main inspiration for the film: he had to come back to the boxing ring to fight and earn money to talk his wife out of a planned abortion. We shot the film for four years. Besides a few obvious disadvantages, it had one great advantage: Peter, as a non-professional actor, learnt how to act.

Tell us about your previous film, the documentary Velvet Terrorists.

Velvet Terrorists is a film about three people who were sentenced for terrorism during the 1980s rule of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. Today, they are considered to be fighters for freedom. I like it when an individual hero stands up to something that is generally considered not possible to change.

What is next for you?

I’m working on a script for my new feature film. It is a story of two young boys who decide to enter a Catholic seminary in the 1980s, during the Communist era. They slowly start to realise that the Communist totalitarian regime is not only present outside the walls of the seminary, but is controlling the minds inside the school. The boys organise a hunger strike against the Communist collaborators. So, similar to Velvet Terrorists, this is also an individual revolt against a totalitarian regime. My inspiration comes from reality, and the reality ... is invisible in new ideas.

Koza will be screened at Novo Cinemas WTC Mall, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, October 19 and Novo Cinemas, Ibn Battuta Mall, on Thursday, October 20, both at 8pm. Tickets are free, on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit www.europeanfilmscreenings.com for more details

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: October 18, 2016 04:00 AM

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