Culture & Society Czech Republic News

Oscars 2020: Czech Republic selects ‘The Painted Bird’ for best foreign film

Prague, Czech Republic – On Monday, the Czech Film and TV Academy officially announced the Czech Republic had selected ‘The Painted Bird‘ as its official entry for next year’s Oscars race in the international feature film category (known as the Best Foreign Language Film category until last year).

Directed by Czech director Vaclav Marhoul and adapted from Polish-American writer Jerzy Kosinki’s eponymous 1965 novel, ‘The Painted Bird‘ is a dark, black-and-white Holocaust-set story of a young Jewish boy struggling for survival and witnessing horrific events in the countryside of an unnamed Eastern European country during Nazi occupation.

Shot in different locations throughout Central and Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia), the movie isn’t set in any specific country. Characters in the movie speak the invented language of “Slavic Esperanto”, according to director Vaclav Marhoul, and a variety of Central and Eastern European languages.

Although led by newcomer Petr Kotlar in the lead role of The Boy, ‘The Painted Bird‘, described as an evocation of wild, primitive Eastern Europe at the bloody close of World War II, includes an all-star cast with Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgard, Julian Sands and Udo Kier, among other famed actors.

Credit: IMDb

Labelled “a grim and violent reflection on the cruelty of human nature” and “an emotional three-hour punch in the stomach”, by The Hollywood Observer, which included it in the top 20 best movies from this year’s festivals, ‘The Painted Bird‘ has caused controversy even before its submission to this year’s Oscars, and prompted mass walkouts in the movie theater when it premiered at the Venice film festival.

It faced a similar fate at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) earlier this month. “It is sometimes very difficult to watch atrocities onscreen, but it is very important to bear witness”, TIFF program director Dorota Lech said, urging the audience to stay until the end of this nearly 3 hour-long disturbing drama.

It was released in the Czech Republic last week.

Prague-born director Vaclav Marhoul’s previous feature films include ‘Tobruk‘ (2008), which received the Best Director and Best Screenplay Czech Lion awards, and ‘Smart Philip‘ (2003).

Credit: IMDb

Nominees for the coveted International Feature Film award will be announced in January, ahead of the official 92nd Academy Awards ceremony due to be held on February 9, in Los Angeles.

The Czech Republic has won the Oscars for Best Foreign Language movie three times in the past: twice as then-Czechoslovakia (‘The Shop on Main Street‘ in 1966 and ‘Closely Watched Trains‘ in 1968) and once since its 1993 split from Slovakia (‘Kolya‘ in 1996).

Last year, the Czech Republic presented ‘Winter Flies by Slovenian, Prague-based director Olmo Omerzu, which eventually failed to win the nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in but won big at the prestigious Czech Lion Awards.

With the Czech Republic’s latest Oscar submission, all four Central European countries have now revealed their official bid for the 92nd Academy Awards: religious drama ‘Corpus Christi‘ for Poland, youth and family drama ‘Let There be Light‘ for Slovakia and  the poetic tale ‘Those Who Remained‘ for Hungary.

Headed by Kafkadesk's chief-editor Jules Eisenchteter, our Prague office gathers over half a dozen reporters, editors and contributors, as well as our social media team. It covers everything Czech and Slovak-related, and oversees operations from our other Central European desks in Krakow and Budapest.