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Producer Radim Procházka on New Film Planet Czechia by Marián Polák

Planet Czechia

“As far as Czech wildlife is concerned, all foreigners are instantly able to grasp the issue, but the situation is much more complex when human protagonists come into play,” said one TV producer during a discussion which also voiced comments by international reviewers on Marián Polák’s Planet Czechia that is scheduled to hit Czech cinemas in autumn. That was when I realised that it was the first time that I focused on something that appealed to a wider range of people. We find ourselves in a situation when we are even able to choose our partners. For a producer of mostly artistic cinematic pieces which hardly ever reach the cinema screen, this new film provides a new, exciting and, at the same time, controversial, experience.

Outside our borders, such films are called wildlife, or blue chip films (in their top quality), representing the most popular documentary genre. No cinematic scientific films are produced in our country or, we dare say, have not been produced till now – our film has a similar aim. However, Les Seasons released in Czech cinemas this spring, with a budget of 33 million dollars, easily managed to beat all blockbusters on the very first weekend. It is clear that such large-scale productions are impossible to compete with and, in fact, we do not intend to do the same.

Why? The French film is basically a fiction. It features trained animals, the forest is illuminated, the scenes follow the sequence of a fictitious story. When an animal reaches the den and grabs at the poor creature that is trying to escape, the camera switches to a counter-view from inside the den, in which we can literally see the dirt behind the animal’s claws in a big close-up. If a human appears on the screen – we see an actor dressed in a costume of an ancient hunter – after all we are watching a long and dramatic story. Most of wildlife films even have a ban on human protagonists. But we are interested in nature inhabited by people. We are shooting real wildlife animals in their natural habitat. Most of all, I am interested in how fast and efficiently some species adapted in areas only recently dominated by humans – mines and quarries, landfills or even in cities. Is this enough to attract viewers who have already seen a lynx’s claw from five centimetres?

Thanks to a lucky coincidence, enlightened environmentalists, the so-called Norwegian Grants and our traditional partners – The State Cinematography Fund and Czech Television – we put together a budget that no other crew has ever been provided for a similar project in our country. We have 200 shooting days, state-of-the-art technology and the most skilled crew: Czech cinematographer who has collaborated on renowned Austrian blue chip films Jiří Petr, specialist in bird’s eye views Antonín Nevrlý and Filip Brázdil or the best Czech underwater cameraman, Hugo Habrman.


Our crew is capable of capturing a pygmy owl during hunting and a common crane in mating but our aim was to capture much more. My favourite heroes include swallows that learned how to open a photocell controlled doors of the Suchdol nad Odrou train station. Or the rare species of crested lark, a significant share of whose population choses shopping mall carparks for their habitation. Who would expect such areas to be the abode of rare and strictly protected species?

These are examples of some of the situations that we are now trying to put together to create a story which could perhaps start as follows:

Director (voiceover):

I travelled the whole world with my camera trying to capture all sorts of exotic animals. But it was thanks to this project that I eventually realised that what is happening behind the fence of my own garden is even more unusual than that...

This is the message that I want to get across to the audience. But will they appreciate the search for such “pearls” hidden in landfills, suburbs, peripheries and remote dry spruce groves in the Šumava mountains? Why not rather stick to the genre-specific clichés, meet their expectations? After all, even our scenes of the “genuine” Czech wildlife reveal surprising coincidences and facts...

One seasoned film producer advised us during a pitching session: “Don’t mention the word essay, or at least when speaking with people from TV.” Essay is not sexy enough. And so we are making a movie with the ambition to use genre-specific methods and to defy genre boundaries. We believe that this is the only way of producing a relevant movie... But we rather keep it to ourselves when speaking to potential foreign business representatives and Czech distributors. What we tell them is that we are making a family film about nature. I myself am very curious about how this slight schizophrenia will end up. So far, we have produced a teaser, and the final version for release by the end of the year.


more articles from a section:  New release

1.21Shooting About KunderaDocumentarian Miloslav Šmídmajer describes the process of making a documentary about Milan Kundera with the working title “Milan Kundera: From the Joke to Insignificance.” Miloslav Šmídmajer
2.20The Alchemical FurnaceJan Daňhel describes the concept behind his documentary film Alchemical Furnace that portrays the figure and work of Jan Švankmajer.
2.20Heaven over Today’s ChinaWhat is the story behind the feature-length documentary, Heaven, focusing on a Chinese Christian-run orphanage that is also a testimony about today’s China? Director Tomáš Etzler sees the film as a logical ending of his seven years in the Middle Kingdom. The second contribution was written by editor Adéla Špaljová who describes her collaboration with the director on the creation of the final cut of the documentary.Tomáš Etzler, Adéla Špaljová
2.20As Far As Possible Ukrainian documentarian Ganna Iaroshevych describes how she has been preparing her new film called As Far As Possible. It´s a portray of a man who decided to leave Germany and lives in the Ukrainian mountains fighting against the extinction of water buffaloes. „Our film tells about an alternative way of slow living close to nature and animals, and in harmony with yourself. And it seems to us that now this topic is especially relevant to many people around the globe,“ says Ganna Iaroshevych.Ganna Jaroševič
1.20The story of a small provincial townNovice Russian director Dmitrij Bogoljubov tells dok.revue about the circumstances surrounding the origin of his new film Town of Glory, a co-production with Czech production company Hypermarket Film and Czech Television. The film uncovers the mentality of Yelnya, a provincial Russian town that is one of the most depressing in the country and where the legacy of the Great Patriotic War still lingers – something Putin’s establishment has successfully exploited to gain the support of the local citizens. The film was available to stream for a short time in March on the portal DAFilms as a part of the festival One World Online. This fall it will be shown on Czech Television and possibly in cinemas as well.Dmitrij Bogoljubov
1.20Sun of the Living DeadAnna Kryvenko on the loss of compassion in the post-factual age, the battle with the chaos and hostility of the universe, and how to create a documentary essay from archive materials.Anna Kryvenko
1.20FREMWhat is it like to shoot a film in Antarctica? Is it possible to get into the head of artificial intelligence? And what is GAI? All this is described by the documentarist Viera Čákanyová in the text she wrote about her new film FREM in dok.revue.Viera Čákanyová
1+2.19Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me?What were the two last years in the life of former dissident, ex-president Václav Havel like? How did he reflect on the fact that he was gradually leaving this world? Documentarian Petr Jančárek talks about his upcoming documentary film capturing the final stretch of Havel’s, life, the rough cut of which was shown at the Ji.hlava IDFF in the Studio 89 section marking this year’s anniversary of the so-called Velvet Revolution.Petr Jančárek
1+2.19On Adultery as Mirror of Our Own SelvesBarbora Jíchová Tyson, a visual artist, who has been living in America for seventeen years, has finished her first feature film Talking About Adultery this year. According to the author, the film is an essayistic collage and represents a perspective on humanity, which holds the mirror up to us all.Barbora Jíchová Tyson
3.16Gangsters, Helena and Me.Director and actress Petra Nesvačilová on her new movie HELENA’S LAW

starší články

02. 05. 2016

from current issue:

New releaseShooting About KunderaDocumentarian Miloslav Šmídmajer describes the process of making a documentary about Milan Kundera with the working title “Milan Kundera: From the Joke to Insignificance.” Miloslav ŠmídmajerThemeNest in the bedroomPeter Hames, well-known British film historian and author of the book The Czechoslovak New Wave sent his remembrance to Karel Vachek to our magazine.Peter HamesThemeNever stop laughingPaolo Benzi, the Italian film producer and founder of the independent film production company Okta Film, describes for dok.revue how he met famous Czech documentary filmmaker Karel Vachek, who passed away last year. Paolo Benzi is also the main tutor of the Emerging producers in Ji.hlava IDFF.Paolo BenziThemeBehold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightenedIn this English issue of dok.revue we have collected some remembrances to Karel Vachek, the respected Czech documentarist who died in December 2020 at the age of 80. One of the contributors is Olaf Möller, a well-known film theorist and critic collaborating with many renowned film magazines (Film Comment or Sight & Sound), film museums and festivals (e.g. Il Cinema Ritrovato or International Film Festival Rotterdam).Olaf MöllerThemeEvery human being should get to wear comfy shoesThe Czech documentarist Karel Vachek was a chairperson of the jury at Yamagata international documentary film festival (YIDFF) in 2009. The board member of YIDFF and the former director of this festival, Asako Fujioka, has a remembrance of him smoking his pipe and going to the mountains with Japanese poet and filmmaker Yoshimasu Gozo to recite poetry to the skies.Asako FujiokaThemeLike the dog on the beach...American film historian Alice Lovejoy writes her remembrance of Karel Vachek, the remarkable Czech documentarist to whom we dedicate this English issue of dok.revue.Alice LovejoySportPandemic as an opportunityJi.hlava's Emerging Producers discuss the opportunity that can emerge from crisisSteve RickinsonInterviewThe times of lifelong careers are overAn interview with documentarian Jindřich Andrš, whose film A New Shift won the Czech competition section Czech Joy at Ji.hlava IDFF2020.Vojtěch KočárníkInterviewGoing to the Polish Turf with Our Own TeamInterview with documentary filmmakers Filip Remunda and Vít Klusák about their latest joint film project Once Upon a Time in Poland that shows how religion and faith are misused in contemporary Poland for mass manipulation and political purposes. The film‘s Czech premiere was held as part of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival 2020.Kamila BoháčkováIntroductionDok.revue 1.21This issue is dedicated to the doyen of Czech documentary filmmaking Karel VachekKamila Boháčková