Czech Docs Project
Czech Documentary Films Keep Up Theatrical Invasion in 2011
21 doc releases, 5 more compared to 2010
Prague, February 7, 2012 – In 2011, 21 Czech documentary films were released in cinemas, 5 more than in 2010. "This is obviously a very good trend that we've seen for a few years now. On the other hand, we should point out that the total number of cinema goers that saw documentary films has dropped," says Hana Rezková of the Institute of Documentary Film, a non-profit that supports documentary films and filmmakers in Central and Eastern Europe. Last year, all older and new documentaries had almost 100,000 viewers, i.e., 60,000 less compared to 2010. "Last year there was no clear documentary hit in Czech cinemas like Helena Třeštíková's 2010 Katka that alone drew 117,000 viewers," adds Ms Rezková. Then again, compared to 2009, cinema admissions were considerably higher in 2011. Leading the way was Nicky's Family with almost 50,000 viewers, followed by Generation Singles (approx. 7,000), All for the Good of the World and Nosovice (approx. 5,000), and the resonating Katka (approx. 5,000). Martin Mareček's Solar Eclipse was the most successful doc, having earned wins both at the Jihlava IDFF and the Czech Film Critics Awards. It also received the Silver Eye Award presented in Jihlava by an international jury (Luciano Barisone – Visions du réel, Switzerland; Claudia Bucher – ARTE, France; Diana Holtzberg – Film Transit International, USA).
Presence at International Festivals
As in previous years, 2011 saw a number of Czech documentaries screened at international festivals. The top festival films included Katka, Czech Peace, Matchmaking Mayor and All for the Good of the World and Nosovice. Though it did not appear at as many festivals as the titles above, Jiří Stejskal's Pit won an award with each festival screening in Poland, Estonia, Portugal, Latvia and Slovakia. Katka received special mentions in the UK, Gemrany and Macedonia, while Matchmaking Mayor scored in Germany, Croatia and Slovakia.
State Fund for the Support and Development of Czech Cinematography
Compared to 2010, there was a marked decrease in funding from the State Fund for the Support and Development of Czech Cinematography that went from CZK 33M to CZK 23M, i.e., 18% of all funds. Documentary applications had a 60% success rate. The Fund granted more money to feature documentaries. "The drop in the percentage of supported documentaries has a number of causes, including the Fund's focus on cinema digitization. As a result, there was less money for documentary films but it was no calculated intention on our part. On the contrary, the voice of documentary organizations has been growing stronger in the Fund's decision making procedures," explains Tereza Czesany Dvořáková, Vice Chair of the State Fund's Board. "I'm afraid that in 2012, the hard times will hit the entire Czech film industry, including regional events, because the Fund's budget has been cut by 150 million CZK compared to previous years," Ms Czesany Dvorakova predicts.
Documentary Films and Czech TV
The same old trends are seen in Czech Television - the series 13. komnata, portraits of public figures and their private secrets had the highest viewer ratings (max. 1,200.000 viewers); other ratings winners include programmes with famous (and dead) TV comedians (around 500,000 viewers).
Czech TV remains the key producer and co-producer for Czech documentaries. Available figures suggest that in 2011 there was a slight increase in Czech TV's investment in non-fiction content. A closer examination reveals that the biggest chunk of that money went to in-house production, which resulted in more documentary programmes made (increase from 785 to 950). Czech TV has cut its funding for co-production projects with independent producers, which has mostly been felt by documentary features.
As a result, documentaries made for theatrical release and festivals received substantially less money from Czech TV than in previous years. (external costs of approx. CZK 2.5M in 2010 vs. CZK 670,000 in 2011 / internal costs of approx. CZK 2.7M in 2010 vs. CZK 900,000 in 2011). With the new General Manager and the new commissioning system in place, it still remains unclear whether Czech TV plans to change its preferences as to the type of programmes and films that will be supported in the coming years.
Film Awards and Documentary Films
"Two fundamental things have changed in recent years. Documentary film has reclaimed its own award category at the Czech Lion Awards. And documentary film gets its own space also at the Czech Film Critics Awards that were handed out for the second time this year," says Ms Rezková. "Our efforts now focus on opening up the technical categories - cinematography, editing, sound, music - to documentary films as well. Only features are eligible for these awards at the moment." This is not uncommon in many countries across the world, e.g., in Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, UK and the US, documentary films can be nominated and awarded in technical categories, with theatrical release being mostly the only requirement. The opposite model that excludes documentary films is applied in, for example, Romania, Switzerland, Hungary or at the European Film Awards. "As in any feature film, cinematography, editing and music all have important roles in creating the final shape of a documentary film. More importantly, the specific nature of documentary cinematography, editing and other disciplines would in many respects enrich the awards and these documentary professionals certainly deserve recognition for their work," concludes Ms Rezková.
East Doc Platform – the largest meeting of documentary professionals in Central and Eastern Europe
On top of its year-round efforts in surveying various aspects of documentary film, the Institute of Documentary Film will host the first East Doc Platform in March, an umbrella event for East European documentary film in all stages of completion. The East Doc Platform in Prague will be the meeting place for more than 120 East European directors and producers who seek creative, financial and distribution support, and over 70 key international commissioning editors, buyers, distributors, sales agents, festival and fund representatives. The event also offers a slate of master classes, case studies, seminars and lectures open to the general public.
2011 by the Numbers:
• documentary releases: 21 (5 more compared to 2010), cinema admissions for documentary film: nearly 100,000 viewers (2010: 160,000)
• top box office documentary film: Nicky's Family (almost 50,000 viewers)
• support from the State Fund for the Support and Development of Czech Cinematography: CZK 23 million - 18% of the total funds granted
• Czech TV involvement in documentary feature co-production: CZK 670,000 in internal costs (2010: CZK 2.4M), CZK 900,000 in internal costs (2010: CZK 2.6M)