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A single place that remembers a miscellany of historical events. Houses that have seen shifting waves of inhabitants who come and go. The new feature documentary by director Pavel Štingl explores the past and present of the Baluty neighbourhood in Lodz that, in the course of the 20th century, transformed from a feared hotbed of thieves and a Jewish ghetto into a social trap for today's low-income inhabitants. The film - previously carrying the working title The Report on Lodz - will be accompanied by a unique exhibition of photographs by Karel Cudlín who ran into Pavel Štingl and cinematographer Miroslav Janek on his way to Lodz and started documenting the shoot. Cudlín's photographs provide a contrast to the war photographs by reporter Henryk Ross that appear in the film. The film opens Monday May 26 at Prague's Bio OKO.


(Ghetto jménem Baluty)
87 minutes, 2008

Written and directed by: Pavel Štingl
Produced by: K2 s.r.o., Yeti Films Sp. z o.o., Evolution Films s.r.o.,
Czech Television, Ostrava TV Studio
Cinematography: Miroslav Janek
Editing: Tonička Janková
Sound: Michael Míček, Daniel Němec
Script editors: Hana Jemelíková, Lenka Poláková
Executive producer: Ondřej Zima
Financial support: Státní fond ČR pro podporu a rozvoj české kinematografie, Polský filmový institut
Support: Archive of Modern  Conflict/Collection Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

The project was presented at the 2007 East European Forum.


New inhabitants live today in the same flats, houses and streets that many years ago saw Jewish citizens fight for their everyday survival. Before WWII, Baluty was a feared neighbourhood filled with thieves. Following the occupation of Poland, a Jewish ghetto was established here by the Nazis, in which 200,000 Jews awaited their death, including Jewish prisoners from five Czech transports arriving in Lodz from Autumn 1941. The lifestyle of today's inhabitants of this working-class part of the industrial city of Lodz is affected by poverty, alcoholism and unemployment. Baluty of the past and present have a lot in common. Images capturing the afflicted area at various time periods are accompanied by interviews with former and current inhabitants as well as unique photographs by Henryk Ross depicting times long gone. During one of their trips to Lodz, director Pavel Štingl and cinematographer Miroslav Janek met photographer Karel Cudlín. In the course of the shoot, Cudlín made a collection of photographs that is exhibited along with the film. The film screenings and photography exhibit represent a unique project in which Cudlín's contemporary photographs provide a counterpoint to the war photos made by Henryk Ross that were used in the film itself.


The shoot was planned so that it would include all four seasons. "Since the winter in the last two years was scarce on snow, we can see white streets only in Ross's photographs. The shooting itself lasted one year, carried out in several cycles and with elaborate preparations," says director Pavel. "The preparation was inevitable mainly to get people used to our wandering through the streets with a camera. The locals have come to accept us as acquaintances, and were happy when we brought back some photos, children even came to greet us when we returned. That was fairly important because in most cases, all other agreements with various inhabitants of Baluty failed," Štingl adds. In Baluty, agreements are short-lived. Even a seemingly warm friendship that was established and confirmed would vanish overnight. People wouldn't show up, wouldn't open their doors, or disappear from their homes for long periods of time. "However, we found that in a location like this one, it is most effective to just place the camera on the tripod and wait. Things started happening on their own. We would see unexpected protagonists and events that one could hardly direct. At the same time, this is a privilege of this environment, even if it doesn't happen with everyone and every single time," says Štingl. More than any other place, Baluty confirms the famous documentary rule that accidents can serve those who are ready.

The post-production stage lasted almost three months. The film was edited by Tonička Janková who is creative editor on most of her films. "This is the right approach, especially with material like this one that was filmed by Miroslav Janek. When a film is this long, it's quite stressful for the director to wait and see what the editor makes of the material. But it turned out remarkably well," concludes Štingl.


Screening Schedule:

9. 5. advance screening kino Androvna Malá Skála, photography exhibition
26. 5. premiere Kino Oko, Prague
27.5. Kino Oko, Prague
28.5. Kino Oko, Prague
3. 6. Kino Nový Bor
exhibition 1. 6. – 30. 6. only photographs
16. – 17. 6. Kino Art Brno
+ autumn, Pavel Štingl's film + photography exhibition
1.7. – 14. 7. synagogue in Polná
exhibition + screening
16. 9. Kino Beseda Plzeň
exhibition 1. 9. – 16.9.
29. 9. La Fabrika, Prague
30. 9. Kino Písek
photography exhibition
1. 10. Kino Písek – school screening
9. 10. Kino Panorama, Boskovice
photography exhibition 1. 10. – 16. 10.
20. 10. – 2. 11. Synagogue in Děčín
photography exhibition + screening
photography exhibition, autumn:
TIC Třešť - Dům J. A. Schumpetera