Selected Films by Czech Documentary Filmmaker Helena Třeštíková

"… The essence of films based on long-term observation is that the viewer can follow the lives of the characters as if in a novel, but when I start shooting I do not know what will happen to them over the years…" said Helena Třeštíková, talking about Marriage Stories. Five of the over 30 films of this prolific, yet in Hungary hardly known, filmmaker have been selected for this retrospective.

Třeštíková started building her reputation with a television series telling the story of six young couples, whom she followed for seven years with her camera. The series attracted over one million viewers in Czechoslovakia in 1987. Twenty years later she revisited some of the couples to continue the "novels". (Marriage Stories 20 years later: Zuzana and Stanislav (2005), Marriage Stories 20 years later: Ivana és Václav (2006), Marcela (2006).

Essentially, Třeštíková’s films are portraits. In explaining her two most recent films, René, 2008, about a juvenile delinquent and Katka, 2010, about a prostitute trapped in her drug addiction, she says "…We cannot close our eyes to the reality of this world. Those living in the streets have their own laws…" Třeštíková followed the former protagonist for twenty, and the latter for fourteen years. Her method reminds us of Judit Ember (School Story, Mistletoes) and of Pál Schiffer (Cséplő Gyuri, On Probation). She is sympathetic, involved and patient to her subjects, who open up to her as if in a psychotherapeutic session. Unless she has to call the ambulance or negotiate with the police, Třeštíková does not interfere. She shows us life stories - the lives of those who lived through the regime changes in Eastern Europe. Which of their dreams have come true? What should have been done differently, and how does history and politics influence their – our – lives? The films in the Retrospective give us an insight into the world of an internationally renowned and awarded director, and the era we live in. Three of the five documentaries are screened exclusively at Verzió Film Festival.

Vera Surányi

Negativ Film Production, Czech TV
Czech Center Budapest

Helena Třeštíková / Czech Republic / 2010 / 90 min / Czech
After a14-year downward spiral of drug addiction, theft, prostitution, and illness, will Katka finally find the strength to start a new life when she becomes pregnant?

We first meet Katka in 1996 as a 19-year-old girl in a therapy community. Already an addict for four years, Katka is looking forward to leading the normal life, finding a boyfriend, and starting a family. But the seduction of drugs is stronger: we next meet Katka on the streets of Prague, where she is experiencing a love affair with heroin together with her boyfriend Láďa. Her life is spiralling downwards in a desperate cycle of theft, the search for drugs, moments of unhampered joy and more theft. After she breaks up with Láďa prostitution becomes her main source of income. Katka's awareness of the hopelessness of her existence and serious liver disease finally lead her to embark on methadone substitution treatment. With her new boyfriend Roman, it looks as if there is still a chance for a happy ending: Katka is pregnant, and this time she is determined to stop taking drugs. Yet once her daughter is born, she must come to grips with the fact that things have only gotten worse.

producer: Kateřina Černá
editor: Jakub Hejna
camera: Kristián Hynek, Vlastimil Hamerník, Martin Kubala, Ferdinand Mazurek, Braňo Pažitka, Miroslav Souček, Tomáš Třeštík
sound: Václav Hejduk, Stanislav Hruška, Jaroslav Jehlička
music: Tadeáš Věrčák

production info:
Co-production: Negativ Film Productions & Ceská Televize
Negativ s.r.o. Ostrovní 30
110 00 Praha
1 Czech Republic
tel.: +420 224 933 755
fax: +420 224 933 472

selected filmography
René (2008) / Marcela (2007) / Manzelské etudy po dvaceti letech (2006) / Marriage Stories, 20 Years Later (2006) / Hitler, Stalin, and I (2001) / Women at the Turn of the Century (Trapped) (2001) / Women at the Turn of the Century: Forte and pianos (2000) / Sladke stoleti (1997) / Ripening of Evil (1996) / An Attempt at an Anniversary (1995) / Lida Baarova's Bittersweet Memories (1995) / To Be or to Have (1994) / Rekni mi neco o sobe - Láda (1993) / Rekni mi neco o sobe - Pavlína (1992) / Rekni mi neco o sobe - René (1992) / I Created You (1991) / Behind the Bars (1990) / Hledání cest (1989) / Marriage Stories (1987) / A Thousand Years of the Sobriety (1987) / Z lásky (1987) / Japanese Sunday (1981) / Dotek svetla (1980) / Two Anniversaries of Jan Zrzavy (1976) / The Miracle (1975)
Helena Třeštíková / Czech Republic / 2007 / 82 min / Czech
Early marriage, motherhood, divorce, the death of a child, and unemployment: the fortunes and misfortunes of Marcela Haverlandová filmed over the course of 25 years.

The life of Marcela Haverlandová, an ordinary Czech woman is explored throughout years of her life. Marcela married Jiří in 1980. She could not foresee that she would have problems with her flat and her mother-in-law, that she would give birth to a daughter, and that only 2 years later she would divorce. Unraveling before our eyes is the authentic story of an ordinary woman in an inadequate social environment and a less than satisfactory relationship. As the couple began to drift apart, the filmmaker focused more and more on Marcela. The documentary sees her through not only everyday problems and disappointments but also the considerable shocks she has endured: her divorce, the birth of a son with severe developmental problems, and the sudden death of her daughter, Ivana - a tragedy that leaves Marcela caught between her despair and desire to end her life and the responsibility she bears for her remaining son.

producer: Kateřina Černá, Pavel Strnad, Anna Becková
editor: Alois Fišárek, Lenka Polesná, Zdenek Patočka
camera: Jan Malíř, Miroslav Souček, Vlastimil Hamerník
sound: Zbyněk Mikulík, Petr Provazník, Jan Valouch
Marriage Stories 20 Years Later – Ivana and Václav
Helena Třeštíková / Czech Republic / 2006 / 57 min / Czech
More than two decades after their marriage, the film follows up on Ivana and Václav, and wonders whether their personal and professional dreams have come true since their marriage in 1980.
In 1980, architecture students Ivana and Vašek decided to manage both family life and professional ambitions. They had maried a year earlier and had recently welcomed a baby into their lives. As the two tried to keep up with their studies while looking after their child in a cramped apartment, the couple displayed optimism about their future despite their taxing circumstances. In 1999, Trestikova paid a visit to Vaclav and Ivana on the occasion of their twentieth anniversary, and found that not everything had worked out as they had hoped; Vaclav's career in architecture didn't pan out and now he runs a furniture store that's slowly going broke while the stress of looking after their five children has pushed Ivana to the edge of a nervous breakdown. Yet they have managed to keep the most precious thing: their relationship.

producer: Anna Beckov
editor: Zdenek Patočka
camera: Vlastimil Hamerník, Miroslav Souček, Richard Špůr, Jan Malíř
sound: Jan Valouch, Miroslav Šimčík, Vladimír Nahodil, Zbyněk Mikulík
Marriage Stories 20 Years Later - Zuzana and Stanislav
Helena Třeštíková / Czech Republic / 2006 / 57 min / Czech
A long-term observational documentary in which Zuzana and Stanislav share the challenges and disappointments of their early marriage and discuss what has become of their lives since the separation.
During the period 1981–2005, filmmaker Helena Třeštíková followed the progress of couples who married at the beginning of the 1980s and, over the subsequent two decades, had to confront their dreams and ideals with a society in transformation. “You and I, that’s who we are…” such were the lyrics of Zuzana’s and Stanislav’s favourite band Olympic; however, they never managed to accomplish the “we.” They married out of necessity; she was still in her final year at grammar school, he was an electrical technician just one year older. Due to difficult housing conditions, they started living together only three years after their wedding. Though they already had two children at the time, the immaturity of their early marriage as well as their completely different characters soon started to take their toll. While energetic Stanislav kept moving forward in life, towards new interests, a new job and a new relationship, ambitionless Zuzana, whom motherhood prevented from making her own way in life, remains passive and is having difficulties finding a new partner.

producer: Anna Beckov
editor: Zdenek Patočka
camera: Vlastimil Hamerník, Miroslav Souček, Richard Špůr, Jan Malíř
sound: Jan Valouch, Miroslav Šimčík, Vladimír Nahodil, Zbyněk Mikulík
Helena Třeštíková / Czech Republic / 2008 / 83 min / Czech
In and out of prison for twenty years: an intimate portrait of a man on the margin of society.

A petty offense as a teenager earned René a prison sentence, and set him off on a life of crime. Misanthropic, intelligent and introspective, he spends his life in and out of prison, struggling to fit in anywhere in the quickly changing Czech Republic. Filmmaker Helena Třeštíková began filming René in 1989, and kept up with him over the next two decades, even after he burgled her flat. Their collaboration, and his brief fame as a documentary star, spur him to write, and he becomes a published author. Yet the demons driving him remain. This engrossing film takes us on a journey of a life lived outside of society.

producer: Anna Beckova, Kateřina Černá, Pavel Strnad
editor: Jakub Hejna
camera: Martin Kubala, Petr Pešek, Stano Slušný, Václav Smolík, Marek Dvořák, Ondřej Belica, Miroslav Souček, Vlastimil Hamerník
sound: Vladimír Nahodil, Pavel Sádek, Jan Valouch, Václav Hejduk, Miroslav Šimčík, Štěpán Mamula, Daniel Němec, Zbyněk Mikulík, Petr Provazník, Jan Valouch
music: Tadeás Vercák