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Conflict and Controversy in Small Cinemas


Edited By Janina Falkowska and Krzysztof Loska

This book examines small cinemas and their presentation of society in times of crisis and conflict from an interdisciplinary and intercultural point of view. The authors concentrate on economic, social and political challenges and point to new phenomena which have been exposed by film directors. They present essays on, among others, Basque cinema; gendered controversies in post-communist small cinemas in Slovakia and Czech Republic; ethnic stereotypes in the works of Polish filmmakers; stereotypical representation of women in Japanese avant-garde; post-communist political myths in Hungary; the separatist movements of Catalonia; people in diasporas and during migrations. In view of these timely topics, the book touches on the most serious social and political problems. The films discussed provide an excellent platform for enhancing debates on politics, gender, migration and new aesthetics in cinema at departments of history, sociology, literature and film.

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7. Tourists, migrants and travellers: The role of women in reshaping Slovak (cinematic) identity (Jana Dudková)

← 100 | 101 →

Jana Dudková

Institute of Theatre and Film Research, Slovak Academy of Sciences

7. Tourists, migrants and travellers: The role of women in reshaping Slovak (cinematic) identity 1

Abstract: The chapter focuses on changes in representations of (or attitudes to) journeying and international mobility as seen through post-socialist phase of the Slovak cinema, namely its fiction film. These changes were made more visible especially through generational exchanges, thanks particularly to debuts and second films by debutants of the respective decades. What is particularly interesting here is, nevertheless, the role of women in shaping new attitudes to international mobility. Due to the crisis of Slovak cinema during the 1990s, many male directors ended up in advertising industry, leaving the space for the emergence of the first two strong generations of female directors in the history of Slovak cinema. The chapter examines how these women responded to the image of national cinema built up by debutants of the 1990s, how they abandoned (but at the same time made indirect homages to) generations of their teachers and how they intuitively used their female, cautious and existential stance to the new possibilities of East–West mobility – but at the same time indirectly helped to establish more assertive images of international travellers.

Keywords: Women directors, images of journeying, international mobility, post-socialist cinemas, Slovak cinema, generational exchanges, debuts

The negative experience of travelling, migration and international mobility is a common feature of most of the cinemas of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. In some cases, the concept of migration as a traumatic experience, together with unclear regional identity (mostly shaped by Western optic and even Western travelogues), paradoxically leads to a frequent exploitation of journey, travelogue or diaspora narratives.2 In others, the traditionally sedentary way of life motivates the hesitation to travel.

In her article “Staying Home and Safe: Czech Cinema and the Refusal to be Transnational,” film scholar Petra Hanáková points out “the notable and surprising ← 101 | 102 → absence or a conspicuous stigmatisation of motifs and themes dealing with international travel or migration in Czech, or more broadly Czechoslovak, cinema,” and suggests a peculiar tendency to employ “confused wandering and even an essential disposition towards stasis” as “the core of the movements and travels” depicted already in the films of the Czechoslovak new wave in the 1960s.3

In this chapter, I would like to examine the topic of international migration and travelling in Slovak films after 1989, especially with regard to the role of women in reshaping the Slovak cinema. The reason is that the more positive approach to travelling appears not earlier than in new millennium, with emergence of a new generation of female debutants. At the time when international travelling starts to be perceived as more natural by younger generations of Slovaks, most of the male directors move to television or advertising industries. Nevertheless, even the female stories share some marks of hesitation to travel typical for older, almost exclusively men-directed narratives. Thus, even these stories prove the dominance of traditional, at the same time patriarchal and isolationist rhetoric of Slovak cinema.

On the one hand, it is tempting to link this hesitation to see international mobility and travelling as a positive experience with post–World War II history of the region when travelling abroad was often politically stigmatised. But as Petra Hanáková suggests, the more important roots of it could be found in historically much deeper patterns of thinking, including the revivalist imagination with its figure of a nation as a garden and intellectual/artist as a gardener.4

The most explicit example of the interrogation of this tradition, within the whole “Czecho-Slovak” film context, is the 1995 Slovak film Záhrada (The Garden) by Martin Šulík with its intertextual references to various national revivalist texts as well as to famous figures of “western” European modernism (Rousseau, Wittgenstein, St. Benedict, etc.). 5 ← 102 | 103 →

Similar to other post-socialist cinemas, the Slovak one also appeared sceptical when it came to a more positive embracing of the topic of international mobility even after the “opening of borders” in 1989. An entire generation of debutants from the 1990s reacted to the new travel opportunities with particularly strong scepticism, most systematically expressed in the films by Martin Šulík but obvious also in most of the other debuts of the decade. This is partly due to the fact that the first debuts still mirrored a feeling of inner paralysis typical for the late socialism and chaos of transformational times. That applies not only to those debuts that were indebted to dramaturgical plans of the ending 1980s (i.e. 1990 Okresné bluesDistrict Blues by Juraj Bindzár and R.S.C. by Martin Valent), but also to Martin Šulík’s debut Neha (Tenderness, 1991). Nevertheless, a more positive approach to travelling wasn’t introduced into following debuts either, which can be interpreted also as a result of identification with a new “lost generation.”6 In fact, the rest of debutants already entered a collapsing industry,7 in times of the increasing nationalism and political isolationism of authoritative Vladimír Mečiar’s government (1992–1998, with a short pause in 1994). What appears striking here are, nevertheless, gender and generational differences (but also similarities) in approaching the topic of international mobility, as well as the case of what we can label as “symbolic capital” of feature-length fiction debuts. ← 103 | 104 →

In the group consisting of altogether nine debuts8 and four “further” films by 1990s debutants made during the period 1990–2000 (actually, all of the latter being directed by Martin Šulík), the only film made by a woman is 1997 Modré z neba (Blue Heaven) by Eva Borušovičová, conceived as a female variation on the plot of Šulík’s third film The Garden.

Most of these films depict isolated and elitist social groups (artists, intellectuals, students, bohemians, flaneurs), and are driven by a hesitant or sceptical attitude to new possibilities of international mobility – expressed explicitly, indirectly by the plots (about voluntary isolation), or by introducing metonymical and thus unreal presence of supposed emigrants – such as Andy Warhol who appears as a symbolic “Slovak”9 ex-patriate in no less than two films, Šulík’s second film Everything I Like and Semjan’s debut On the Beautiful Blue Danube.

The most explicit expression of a hesitant stance towards international mobility can be found in Šulík’s Everything I Like, where generational dilemmas of people who grew up in socialism are explained through the cameo role of writer Rudolf Sloboda who, in several staged pseudo-documentarian monologues, refers to unnecessary, tiring or even dangerous nature of travelling, while combining examples of Goethe or Immanuel Kant with experiences of his own acquaintances, or even his own catastrophic dreams (e.g. about getting lost and robbed in New York).

However hesitant the directors may be about the topic, Slovak cinema of the 1990s, nevertheless, does offer motives related to international mobility, travelling or intercultural exchange. It is just that most of them appear in films by older directors who managed to make their debuts in various periods before 1989.10 A star of the 1960s’ Slovak New Wave, Juraj Jakubisko, in his Lepšie byť bohatý a zdravý ako chudobný a chorý (It’s Better to Be Rich and Healthy than Poor and ← 104 | 105 → Ill, 1992) confronts emigration before and after the fall of the “iron curtain.” In each case, it is motivated by the adventurous and fickle nature of the main male protagonist, albeit being justified by political attempts at restricting human freedom, including the rise of nationalism in public life at the beginning of the 1900s.

On the other hand, the box-office hits by Dušan Rapoš, Fontána pre Zuzanu 2 (The Fountain for Suzanne 2, 1993) and 3 (1999) are also fixated on the topic of travelling. The first film transforms the original 1985 story of a socialist housing estate beauty Suzanne into a tale of truck drivers who are permanently on the road, including even a trip to Russia, while the second sequel offers a quasi-colonial narrative on Suzanne’s journey to Africa with an “African-turned-Slovak” who tries to avoid his prearranged marriage with a local girl.

It is important to understand these are no exceptions. The entire decade is, in fact, characteristic for its absence of images of travelling as a natural phenomenon. In general, filmic Slovaks of the 1990s still do not feel like travelling, they search for freedom in their private, closed worlds. The topics of a life-on-the-road, migration or even emigration concern only adventurers or foreigners, who are clearly different from the rest of the population literally at first sight or by their accent (typical examples include the character of English lover from Everything I Like, or the “black-skinned” character portrayed by dancer and singer Ibrahim Maiga in The Fountain for Suzanne 2 and 3). The idea or prospect of moving to a different country is interpreted as a traumatic dilemma, a crisis, overcoming of which usually results in the decision to stay put (Tenderness, Everything I Like).

Lightness of tourism with a touch of trauma

This situation changes only at the turn of the millennium. Starting with Vadí nevadí (Truth or Dare, 2001) by Eva Borušovičová, the attitude to travelling and mobility frees itself from stories of hesitation, albeit not from the potential of trauma.

Truth or Dare continues in the almost forgotten direction of Štefan Semjan’s debut On the Beautiful Blue Danube. Its characters are young bohemians living in loose, open relationships, but tied to the capital city and mostly its night life. Characters of Borušovičová’s film are, nevertheless, constantly confronted with the topic of emigration or tourism. They share a flat with a couple of never-present globetrotters, or, as a part of film’s crime plotline, make verbal jokes about running abroad from the law. 11 ← 105 | 106 →

This, however, also means that none of the characters depicted in the film really travels. During the first decade of the new millennium, the films by upcoming generation of female directors offer a symptomatic paradigm where desire to travel occurs more naturally than in films by 1990s’ male debutants, but, on the other hand, travelling itself remains either imagined (as in Truth or Dare) or presented as a carefree whim inevitably followed by a harsh fall. In her second film Nebo, peklo … zem (Heaven, Hell … Earth, 2009), Laura Siváková for example tells the story of a ballet dancer who receives an offer to dance in one of the best ensembles in the world – but, shortly before making the trip, she breaks her leg and spends long months re-evaluating her past life and her attitude to men. The film itself is thus constructed as a narrative about a long process of reconciliation and self-reflection, and the scenes of heroine’s leaving the country appear not earlier than in its finale.

A debut by another young female director Katarína Šulajová, O dve slabiky pozadu (Two Syllables Behind, 2004), offers an autobiographically motivated main character (portrayed by the director’s sister) hysterically fluctuating between middle-European past of her city and more globalised world she tries to integrate in. Her travelling to Paris for a weekend, which should signal a carefree lifestyle of the youth, becomes the beginning of a traumatic experience instead: confronted with disillusion in her Parisian love affair, the heroine blames her post-socialist identity as the basis of her uprootedness in the Western world.

What is common for all of the three films is that they are all made by young graduates of Dramaturgy and Scriptwriting from the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava (VŠMU). All of the mentioned films are also part of a trend branded by Slovak film critics as “urban lifestyle film,”12 usually taking place in urban settings of country’s capital and focusing on art students or the upper middle class often employed in show business, television or advertising industry. According to Martin Šmatlák, this type of film “does not attempt to portray either the contemporary or the historic social context”; at the same time, it is emphasising ← 106 | 107 → “music-video-style” or visually segmented storytelling, as well as “several other external characteristics (emphasised by J.D.) of contemporary world, such as cars and drugs, businessmen and bars, ubiquitous telly, dubbing or intrusive adverts, well-known city figures, socialites, petty celebrities and local wannabes […].”13

Even if more conservative critics and historians like Šmatlák perceive the trend as detached from life and meaningless, the trend actually meant a progressive distancing from even more “detached” films of Martin Šulík and his epigones, usually taking place in isolated, heterotopic or idyllic places – gardens and countryside family residences.

In other words, the transition to urban lifestyle films was the result of the need to change the dominant paradigm of Slovak art-house cinema represented predominantly by early Martin Šulík’s films and oriented more to the festival audiences and universal artistic values but ignoring “the pulse of the times.”14

This can be interpreted as a generational gesture (since these films usually deal with generational dilemmas of young artists), as well as an attempt to transform the Slovak cinema in order to be more attractive to (young) domestic audience. That is why these films often resemble Czech commercially successful ones,15 even though their success with the audience was actually negligible. It is important to stress that the trend of “urban lifestyle film,” which starts in 2001, with Eva Borušovičová’s Truth or Dare and her classmate Vladimír Adásek’s Hana a jej bratia (Hannah and Her Brothers), did not become the domain of female directors, and not even of the new generation of debutants. Miroslav Šindelka, one of the debutants from the 1990s, made his second film in this fashion (Zostane to medzi name – It Will Stay Between Us, 2003) and even Miloslav Luther, who usually makes classical historical narratives, made his Tango s komármi (Mosquitoe’s Tango, 2009) as an “urban lifestyle film.”

The style, however, appeared during the continuing crisis of Slovak cinema when many young male directors ended up in advertising industry or television, and when more persistence in their film-making efforts was demonstrated by young female graduates. As I already pointed out, all of them were graduated scriptwriters,16 faced with the lack of potential directors who would share their sensibility or generational perspective, and finally encouraged by their teachers to ← 107 | 108 → direct their own scripts17 (in a similar fashion, yet another graduated scriptwriter, Zuzana Liová, became a pioneer of another genre – social drama).

What is, nevertheless, quite symptomatic here, is the fact that some of them, i.e. Eva Borušovičová and Laura Siváková, even debuted within the very paradigm of The Garden,18 using the element of an isolated family settlement as the dominant topos.19

Thus, the “urban lifestyle film” didn’t appear as a radical opposition to cinema of the 1990s. In a way, behind it even stayed some of the most prominent creators of the 1990s’ paradigm of “hanging gardens”20: Peter Šulaj, one of the scriptwriters of The Garden, who is not only the father of the debuting Katarína Šulajová but, together with Martin Šulík, was also one of the most prominent teachers at the Academy of Performing Arts at the time when the mentioned generation studied there; or Rudolf Biermann, who appeared as the producer of Eva Borušovičová’s and Laura Siváková’s debut films Blue Heaven and Quartétto,21 in response to which both female directors continued their careers in a different, “urban lifestyle” trend. The most prominent filmmakers of the 1990s not only shared their know-how or co-workers with their students but also, indirectly, encouraged some major changes in Slovak cinema,22 including its metaphors and allusions representing the relation between the search for national identity and the opening to the world. ← 108 | 109 →

In contrast with debutants of the 1990s who question the sense of leaving the country, female debutants of the 2000s represent travelling abroad as a natural part of the new lifestyles. Unlike early films by Martin Šulík, millennial debuts and second films by young filmmakers also shift their focus more to young female or even transgender characters (e.g. the playfully semi-autobiographical character of a transgender singer Hannah played by the director himself in Vladimír Adásek’s debut Hannah and Her Brothers). The decade of reconciling with societal changes influences also the works of older directors at least in the sense of accepting the international mobility as a basis of changing social environment with increasing presence of immigrants from various parts of the world (mostly the “third” one, though: e.g. in films such as Mosquitoe’s Tango, Ženy môjho mužaMy Husband’s Women, 2009, dir. Ivan Vojnár, but also Two Syllables Behind).

On the other hand, the millennial debutants reproduce two important features that are characteristic also for the films of Šulík’s generation: isolation of the cultural elite, and perception of the new travel opportunities as a test or even a trauma. In all of the “urban lifestyle films,” there is a remarkable focus not only on artists, art students and creative industry workers, but also on the upper class or members of show business. Unlike the films of a bit older directors who also embraced this style, films by upcoming debutants such as Truth or Dare, Hannah and Her Brothers and Two Syllables Behind go beyond this attractive surface and suggest the intergenerational solidarity between artists,23 thus modifying the idea of intellectual as a gardener (whose role is to cultivate and protect the real humanistic values despite the disfavour of the political establishment) – and propose an idea of an isolated professional community instead. ← 109 | 110 →

Every day in the lives of the uprooted ones

Within less than a decade, the situation changes again, and – peculiarly enough – again the change is mostly brought about by female directors and their films about young heroines in search of their place in the world. But instead of “urban lifestyle film,” the new debuts place emphasis on “minimalistic” narration that fares better with international festival trends (abandoning thus the idea of focusing predominantly on domestic cinemagoers) and draw attention to the social, existential and economic aspects of migration: to issues of poverty, and conception of journeying as a metaphor of essential uprooting in contemporary world.

In 2009, Prague-based FAMU (Filmová a televizní fakulta Akademie múzických umění v Praze) graduate Mira Fornay makes the first “Slovak” debut24 to have made it into the official selection at a major film festival (namely, IFF Venice). Líštičky (Foxes) is also the first film that deals predominantly with the experiences of Slovak economic migrants. It tells the story of two sisters trying to integrate in Ireland: the older, Tina, is getting married to a successful Irish businessman while having also a love affair with a young Pakistani, and the younger, Betka, still tries to find her place while at the same time furiously refusing the sister’s help. The film demonstrates not only solidarity among the uprooted ones,25 but also mutual exploitation between minorities (e.g. Betka becomes a throwaway toy in the hands of a “negro” businessman). Within Slovak cinema, Foxes is the first example of a film that thematises uprooting of Slovak economic émigrés, their feelings of frustration and tenacious efforts to be included into the new society.

In her cinematic debut Dom (The House, 2011), Zuzana Liová uses the topic of a generational conflict between the desire to support a family – literally to build a house for each child – and the desire of a young protagonist to move to England. The film ends with a hint at a reconciliation between a father and a daughter, opening up the possibility the daughter will finally manage to leave her birthplace. On the other hand, focusing on the desire of moving away – and not on the moving away itself – can be interpreted as a sign of a continuing paradigm, in which each journey is preceded by a long process of deliberation, long (and often hidden) preparations, and inter-generational negotiations.

Iveta Grófová’s debut Až do mesta Aš (Made in Ash, 2012), a combination of live-action, documentary and animated film, returns to the topic of Slovak economic migrants living “west” of their homeland. It, however, does not offer a confrontation ← 110 | 111 → with the well-functioning, metropolitan world, as is the case in Foxes, but rather a continuous picture of social decline at a periphery, regardless of the point of reference. The main character Dorotka moves from a Romani settlement to a borderline Czech city of Aš (pronounced as “ash”). Despite of her Romani origin, here she becomes literally referred to as one of the many other “Slovak” girls and many more from the East (i.e. from former Soviet republics, or even Mongolia) who, after losing their poor jobs in the declining textile factories, end up in the hands of pimps or elderly German men looking for a second chance before their retirement.

Made in Ash suggests a meaning of the journey as an attempt to escape from a hopeless situation one couldn’t change in his or her original environment. While Dorotka and other immigrants come to Aš looking for work, elderly German men criss-cross the streets in hope of meeting a girl not only for amusement but also in order to have someone to spend their approaching old age with. Instead of fulfilling their dreams, both groups experience rather various forms of displacement, losing the support of their languages, family ties or authentic feelings.

After Made in Ash, the topic of international mobility completely moves from “women’s” hands and becomes the domain of male directors. A “scenario” from the turn of the millennium is being repeated where stories about women, written and directed by women, only helped to change the dominant paradigm of Slovak cinema – but their continuation was not so dependent on female authorship. What is interesting here, though, is the fact that male films dealing with journeying, mobility or migration are usually made by renowned directors. Despite of that, they still continue to refer to a “symbolic capital” of fiction debuts. In other words, the topic appears exclusively in the first fiction films by documentary directors.

Not all of these films offer the topic of international travelling, but most of them make use of topics of journeying and escape. Already the very first of these “debuts,” Zázrak (Miracle, 2013) by Juraj Lehotský, brings the story of a girl running away from a detention centre. Maratón (Marathon), an episode from another live-action debut by documentary director, Deti (Children, 2014) by Jaro Vojtek, starts as an existential journey narrative and portrays an escape of a Romani prisoner through a snow-covered landscape, in order to embrace his wife and son once more. In both cases, the protagonists are eventually captured and returned to the disciplinary or correction institutions from which they had fled – while at the same time they discover that their dreams of love or family happiness have crumbled, their lovers or wives cheat on them and their children do not even recognise them. Thus, both films continue the paradigm of an existential scepticism typical for the first Slovak “social dramas.” In both of them, trips are conceived as possible and even liberating, yet both remain sceptical about the possibility of improvement or happiness as the final goal of moving. ← 111 | 112 →

A small step apart from this scepticism appears only in 2015, when the first two Slovak variations on the road movie were made. The first one is Koza, a fiction debut by yet another documentary director Ivan Ostrochovský, a fusion of road movie and social drama about the unsuccessful tour of a former Olympic boxer (today an outcast living in a Romani settlement). The second one is a directorial debut by scriptwriter Rastislav Boroš Stanko, telling the story of a petty criminal returning to Slovakia with a task to bring along pretty local girls for his Italian Mafioso boss. As a permanent loser, he manages to get only a naive Gypsy girl who believes he will take her to her mother in France.

The journeying theme is also key for another 2015 live-action debut by a documentarian, Eva Nová by Marko Škop. In this film, the main protagonist obstinately shuffles between her tediously empty flat in the capital and a family house somewhere in eastern Slovakia in a desperate attempt to reunite with her son, whom she had abandoned years ago. Images of the protagonist in an old-fashioned dress, repeatedly pulling her wheeled suitcase, refer to the burden of the past she carries with her, preventing her from starting anew. Similarly, like Foxes, Eva Nová introduces the motive of work-related migration. However, instead of the topic of uprootedness in the foreign world, it focuses on the issue of leaving the nest and the decay of family ties.

Instead of a sceptical approach repeated in multiple variations throughout the whole history of Slovak post-socialist cinema, both Eva Nová and Koza choose a parable of journey as a calvary. Koza literally “creates a parallel between Christ’s calvary and the last tour of a former Olympic champion”26 by using several visual references to the biblical story: before departing to his tour, Koza rests with his girlfriend creating a visual paraphrase of Michelangelo’s Pietà; while training, he drags a wheel resembling Christ carrying his cross etc.27 Similar visual parallels can be found in the trope of dragging a suitcase (= the burden of the past) along in Eva Nová.

While in the social dramas from previous period (Made in Ash, Miracle, Children etc.), the journey was still perceived as an unsuccessful (or traumatic – Foxes) escape, with the exception of Zuzana Liová’s The House, which refers to an even older paradigm of conceiving the journey only as a dream or desire (and not reality), films released in 2015 also break through the sceptical attitude towards the ← 112 | 113 → possibility of change and a proactive attitude on the part of their protagonists. All of them are possible to be understood also as stories about revealing of empathy: the Romani girl in Stanko, boxer Koza and the former actress and alcoholic Eva Nová are all Christ-like figures who – through their own suffering – bring empathy to the world. During his journey, the main character of Koza changes the cynical nature of his manager, the Romany girl alters the character of the petty criminal Stanko, and, in the end, Eva Nová cracks the rejecting mask of her son.

Strangely enough, this transformation of the typical paradigm could be perceived exactly through the lenses of a traditional dichotomy between male rationality and female emotionality. Starting with Eva Borušovičová’s debut Blue Heaven, Slovak producers continued to invest in female debutants perspective, which, in the end and often in contrast with their original intentions, resulted in overcoming the limits of metaphorical male gardens. But – not surprisingly – all of the crucial and most inspiring transformations of dominant paradigms were actually brought about by abandoning the father/teacher patterns as well as the stereotypical division into “male” and “female.” After 2009, the journey finally starts to be associated with crossing the boundaries, not only those between nations and cultures, but eventually also those between human beings. What is also interesting here is the fact that the latter tendency was preferred more by men – even though it had been provoked by female debutants and their harsh scepticism. So, while “urban lifestyle films” often refer to the aesthetics of “coolness,”28 and first “social dramas” by female directors are sceptical depictions of cruel, emotionless world (unlike the much more sentimental attempts on the genre by Martin Šulík, i.e. his Cigán – Gypsy, 2011), only a new type of debuts – fiction debuts by already renowned documentarians such as the aforementioned Children, Eva Nová, Miracle or Koza – bring these two polarities together.


Čulík, Jan. Jací jsme: Česká společnost v hraném filmu devadesátých a nultých let. Brno: Host, 2007.

Dudková, Jana. Slovenský film v ére transkulturality. Bratislava: Drewo a srd – Vysoká škola múzických umení, 2011. ← 113 | 114 →

Dudková, Jana. “Between the Center and the Margin: The Notion of Central Europe in Slovak Cinema After 1989.” Iluminace, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2013, pp. 7–94.

Gindl-Tatárová, Zuzana. “The Garden.” In: The Cinema of Central Europe, ed. Peter Hames. London, New York: Wallflower Press, 2004, pp. 245–253.

Hanáková, Petra. “Staying Home and Safe: Czech Cinema and the Refusal to be Transnational.” In: European Cinema after the Wall: Screening East-West Mobility, eds. Leen Engelen and Kris van Heuckelom. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013, pp. 113–124.

Iordanova, Dina. Cinema of Flames. Balkan Film, Culture and the Media. London: British Film Institute, 2001.

Krekovič, Miloš. “Stratená generácia?” SME, 4 March 2010. (11 July 2017).

Krekovič, Miloš. “Ako vzniká hit: Na krásnom modrom Dunaji.” SME, 12 April 2012. (11 July 2017).

Macek, Václav. “1 297 254 000 Sk.” Kino-Ikon, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2010, pp. 125–154.

Malíček, Juraj. “Pop po domácky.” Slovo, Vol. 7, No. 9, 2005, p. 16.

Mišíková, Katarína. “The Real Story: Indexing Strategies of Slovak Social Film Dramas.” In: Transformation Processes in Post-Socialist Screen Media, eds. Jana Dudková and Katarína Mišíková. Bratislava: Vysoká škola múzických umení v Bratislave – Ústav divadelnej vedy SAV, 2016a, pp. 60–76.

Mišíková, Katarína. “Žánrové križovatky a rekordy slovenského hraného filmu roku 2015.” Kino-Ikon, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2016b, pp. 85–99.

Šmatlák, Martin. “Cool XXL.” Domino fórum, Vol. 12, No. 42, 2003, p. 26.

Šmatlák, Martin. “Hľadanie vlastnej cesty.” Kino-Ikon, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2008, pp. 135–147.

Šmatlák, Martin. “Dlhý čas ožívania. Dvadsať rokov na ceste k odštátneniu slovenskej kinematografie.” Kino-Ikon, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2016a, pp. 5–50.

Šmatlák, Martin. “Slovak Audiovisual Fund – A Brief History of Prolonged Time.” In: Transformation Processes in Post-Socialist Screen Media, eds. Jana Dudková and Katarína MiŠíková. Bratislava: Vysoká Škola múzických umení v Bratislave – Ústav divadelnej vedy SAV, 2016b, pp. 11–20.

Tatárová, Zuzana. “Visuté záhrady Slovenska.” Kino-Ikon, Vol. 2, No. 4, 1998, pp. 75–76.

Zuska, Vlastimil. “Topos zahrady v Zahradě a jeho časoznakové implikace.” In: Svet v pohyblivých obrazoch Martina Šulíka, ed. Marián Brázda. Bratislava: Slovenský filmový ústav, 2000, pp. 122–147.

1 This work was supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency under the contract no. APVV-0797-12.

2 Dina Iordanova, Cinema of Flames. Balkan Film, Culture and the Media (London: British Film Institute, 2001), p. 263.

3 Petra Hanáková, “Staying Home and Safe: Czech Cinema and the Refusal to be Transnational,” in: European Cinema after the Wall: Screening East-West Mobility, eds. Leen Engelen and Kris van Heuckelom (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), p. 113 and onwards.

4 Hanáková, “Staying Home.”

5 For more about this topic see Zuzana Gindl-Tatárová, “The Garden,” in: The Cinema of Central Europe, ed. Peter Hames (London, New York: Wallflower Press, 2004), pp. 245–253; for more about the idyllic nature of the central spatial metaphor in Šulík’s third film see: Vlastimil Zuska, “Topos zahrady v Zahradě a jeho časoznakové implikace,” in: Svet v pohyblivých obrazoch Martina Šulíka, ed. Marián Brázda (Bratislava: Slovenský filmový ústav, 2000), pp. 122–147, and Jana Dudková, Slovenský film v ére transkulturality (Bratislava: Drewo a srd – Vysoká škola múzických umení, 2011), pp. 46–55; and for more about the impact of Šulík’s conception of the garden on the contemporary Slovak cinema, see Jana Dudková, “Between the Center and the Margin: The Notion of Central Europe in Slovak Cinema After 1989,” Iluminace, Vol. 25, No. 4 (2013), pp. 7–94 (especially the section “From Irony to Cynicism: From Gardens to Non-Places,” pp. 82–87).

6 The term is, nevertheless, suggested by a journalist Miloš Krekovič post-festum, e.g. in a 2010 and 2012 articles on the phenomenon: Miloš Krekovič, “Stratená generácia?” SME (2010), 11 July 2017,; and Miloš Krekovič, “Ako vzniká hit: Na krásnom modrom Dunaji,” SME (2012), 11 July 2017,

7 Slovak cinema was in transparently privatised since 1991 – with Šulík’s debut as the last one produced by the state-run Koliba Film Studios. For more on the topic of political and economic history of privatisation of “Koliba,” see Václav Macek, “1 297 254 000 Sk,” Kino-Ikon, Vol. 14, No. 1 (2010), pp. 125–154; and Martin Šmatlák, “Slovak Audiovisual Fund – A Brief History of Prolonged Time,” in: Transformation Processes in Post-Socialist Screen Media, eds. Jana Dudková and Katarína MiŠíková (Bratislava: Vysoká škola múzických umení v Bratislave – Ústav divadelnej vedy SAV, 2016b), pp. 11–20.

8 As a matter of fact, two of the 1990s’ debuts were prepared in the pre-1989 period: District Blues and R.S.C. As the first genuinely post-communist debut, there appears Martin Šulík’s debut Neha (Tenderness, 1991), followed by Na krásnom modrom Dunaji (On the Beautiful Blue Danube, 1994, dir. Štefan Semjan), Vášnivý bozk (Passionate Kiss, 1994, dir. Miroslav Šindelka), Hazard (1995, dir. Roman Petrenko), Modré z neba (Blue Heaven, 1997, dir. Eva Borušovičová), Tábor padlých žien (The Camp of Fallen Women, 1997, dir. Laco Halama) and, finally, Všetci moji blízki (All My Loved Ones, 1999, dir. Matej Mináč).

9 Andy Warhol is, nevertheless, an ethnic Ruthenian and his discovery by “patriotic” post-1989 public discourse in Slovakia is mocked in both of the films.

10 The only exception among the debuts is Martin Valent’s R.S.C. which, in the manner of late socialism, refers to the decadent nature of East-West mobility, and to the topic of gastarbeiters abandoning their children, who, despite living in relative luxury, turn to moral decay.

11 This could be understood as a continuation of the socialistic paradigm, when the characters travelling abroad were often associated with crime or moral decline (as Petra Hanáková shows taking the example of Czech cinema, see Petra Hanáková, “Staying Home and Safe: Czech Cinema and the Refusal to be Transnational,” in: European Cinema after the Wall: Screening East-West Mobility, eds. Leen Engelen and Kris van Heuckelom (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), pp. 113–124).

12 This term was for the first time coined by Juraj Malíček in his review of Katarína Šulajová’s debut film (Juraj Malíček, “Pop po domácky,” Slovo, Vol. 7, No. 9 (2005), p. 16), and soon after re-used by several other authors, e.g. Martin Šmatlák, “Hľadanie vlastnej cesty,” Kino-Ikon, Vol. 12, No. 1 (2008), p. 135–147; Jana Dudková, Slovenský film v ére transkulturality (Bratislava: Drewo a srd – Vysoká škola múzických umení, 2011).

13 Šmatlák, “Hľadanie vlastnej cesty,” p. 145.

14 Malíček, “Pop po domácky.”

15 For example, Truth or Dare shares similar motifs with David Ondříček’s cult movie Samotáři (Loners, 2000).

16 Eva Borušovičová is the only one to have graduated also in directing from the same school.

17 The only exception is once again Eva Borušovičová and her directorial debut whose script was written in collaboration with a young graduate from scriptwriting, Jana Skořepová, according to Skořepová’s autobiographical master’s script.

18 This is true namely for Borušovičová’s debut Blue Heaven as a direct female reaction to The Garden, but also for Siváková’s Quartétto (2002) as an inter-generational family drama of a dying mother and her three daughters, who meet in an isolated family residence.

19 A similar topos is characteristic also for the post-November Czech cinema – emphasised e.g. by Jan Čulík, Jací jsme: Česká společnost v hraném filmu devadesátých a nultých let (Brno: Host, 2007).

20 The term was coined by Zuzana Tatárová in her review of Blue Heaven, as a reference to the ironic attitude of some critics to a trend fostered by Martin Šulík’s early films. See Zuzana Tatárová, “Visuté záhrady Slovenska,” Kino-Ikon, Vol. 2, No. 4 (1998), pp. 75–76.

21 Biermann produced Šulík’s films for more than 10 years (starting already with Šulík’s debut Tenderness, still within the frame of state-run cinema, and continuing as an independent producer). Besides this, he also produced some other debuts that followed Šulík’s powerful garden metaphor, such as Miroslav Šindelka’s 1994 Passionate Kiss, prepared and released in the time when Šulík already worked on The Garden.

22 Martin Šulík was considered even as the potential director of the television film Ticho (Silence, 2005) which eventually became the directorial debut of Zuzana Liová, and together with his own Slnečný štát (The City of the Sun, 2005), the first Slovak contemporary social drama.

23 For example, the cast of Truth or Dare and Hannah and Her Brothers include numerous classmates or teachers of their authors from both Theatre and Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, while, in its conclusion, Two Syllables Behind features one of the most respected authors of psychological drama in Slovak cinema between 1962 and 1989, the director Martin Hollý (1931–2004) in a cameo role of an empathetic dubbing director. The relationship between the film’s heroine, a dubbing actress, and Martin Hollý refers to an unfulfilled need of debuting generations of film authors, a need to stay connected to or even taught by professionals of the previous era, since most of the older directors got completely lost after the collapse of post-1989 Slovak cinema, occasionally working in other spheres of the industry like in the aforementioned dubbing.

24 In fact, it is a Czecho-Slovak-Irish co-production.

25 For example the relationship of a Slovak girl and a Pakistani, or the Polish-Slovak-Czech attempts at establishing a contact.

26 Katarína Mišíková “The Real Story: Indexing Strategies of Slovak Social Film Dramas,” in: Transformation Processes in Post-Socialist Screen Media, eds. Jana Dudková and Katarína Mišíková (Bratislava: Vysoká škola múzických umení v Bratislave – Ústav divadelnej vedy SAV, 2016a), pp. 60–76.

27 See also Katarína Mišíková “Žánrové križovatky a rekordy slovenského hraného filmu roku 2015,” Kino-Ikon, Vol. 20, No. 2 (2016b), p. 97.

28 See, e.g. the title of Martin Šmatlák’s review of It Will Stay Between Us (Martin Šmatlák, “Cool XXL,” Domino fórum, Vol. 12, No. 42 (2003), p. 26); for more about the domestic perception of “urban lifestyle films” within the intuitive frame of the aesthetics of coolness, see Jana Dudková, Slovenský film v ére transkulturality (Bratislava: Drewo a srd – VŠMU, 2011), pp. 75–76.