Hard-hitting Venice Film Festival competition movie The Painted Bird has been selected by the Czech Film and Television Academy as the Czech Republic’s international Oscar entry.
Described as an “evocation of wild, primitive Eastern Europe at the bloody close of World War II,” director-producer Václav Marhoul’s black-and-white 35mm Holocaust feature follows the journey of The Boy, entrusted by his persecuted parents to an elderly foster mother. The old woman soon dies and The Boy is on his own, wandering through the countryside, from village to farmhouse. As he struggles for survival, The Boy suffers through extraordinary brutality meted out by the ignorant, superstitious peasants and he witnesses the terrifying violence of the efficient, ruthless soldiers, both Russian and German.
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Adapted from the novel of the same name by Jerzy Kosinski (Being There), the dark drama prompted a number of walk-outs at Toronto and Venice due to its tough subject matter. The cast, led by newcomer Petr Kotlar, includes Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgard, Harvey Keitel, Julian Sands, Barry Pepper, Lech Dyblik, Jitka Cvancarova and Aleksey Kravchenko.
The actors speak an invented language, described by Marhoul as a “Slavic Esperanto,” so the film isn’t associated with any one country. Shoot on the movie is said to have taken around 16 months at 43 locations in the Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
To date, two Czechoslovak and one Czech film have won the Best Foreign Language Oscar prize. In 1965, the award went to The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na Korze) by Ján Kádár and Elmar Klos, while in 1967 the film Closely Watched Trains (Ostře sledované vlaky) by Jiří Menzel won the prize. In 1996, Kolya (Kolja) by Jan Svěrák took home the award. Six more films have received nominations.
Also declaring in the past 48 hours for the international Oscar category have been Poland with Toronto title Corpus Christi, Pakistan with Laal Kabootar, and Taiwan with Dear Ex.