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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Slovakia / Czech Republic / France

Witchcraft and female empowerment collide in modern-day magical realist drama The Nightsiren

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- Up-and-coming Slovakian filmmaker Tereza Nvotová’s sophomore fiction feature seeks to dispel the myths and conventions surrounding womanhood

Witchcraft and female empowerment collide in modern-day magical realist drama The Nightsiren
The Nightsiren by Tereza Nvotová (© BFILM)

The eagerly awaited sophomore feature by rising Slovakian director Tereza Nvotová (see the interview), The Nightsiren, is finished and ready for its premiere. Nvotová, who started her career as a documentary filmmaker, made her feature-length fiction debut with the rape drama Filthy [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Tereza Nvotová
film profile
]
. The creative team from Filthy have reunited on Nvotová’s sophomore fiction feature, and this includes scriptwriter Barbora Námerová and producer Peter Badač, of BFILM. The director continues to explore the thematic thread of female empowerment, albeit this time through the prism of genre filmmaking mixed with folklore.

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The story revolves around Charlotte and Mira. Charlotte returns to her native village, which she fled several years ago under mysterious circumstances. Mira is a local young and eccentric herbalist, who has recently settled down in the village and befriended Charlotte. Charlotte's memories of her lost sister are brought back when Mira tells her of a forgotten tale of an old witch and a feral child. The locals become frightened when animals start dying for no apparent reason, believing that a witch will return, according to the legends. Soon, Charlotte and Mira are accused of witchcraft, and the former decides to discover what truly happened to her sister 20 years ago. The film addresses the resurgence of ancient beliefs in the modern day, with misogyny, xenophobia and mass hysteria still prevailing.

The Nightsiren holds up a mirror and questions contemporary society, especially “regarding the position of women, their destiny and the expectations of the majority of society. In the film, we focus on finding a way to free oneself from social conventions and norms, but also from a traumatic past. The Nightsiren talks about the value of freedom if we refuse to go down the conventional path,” says producer Peter Badač.

“With this movie, we are trying to break down the stereotypes that boil women down to birth mothers, wives or parents who have to take care of the household, and if they want another life, they are considered selfish careerists or weirdos,” notes Nvotová, adding that her drama employs a blend of horror aspects and magical realism.

The leading characters are portrayed by Natália Germani, from Amnesty [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, and Eva Mores, while Noel Czuczor, who leads the Holocaust drama The Auschwitz Report [+see also:
trailer
interview: Peter Bebjak
film profile
]
, will appear in a supporting role alongside Zuzana Konečná (The Teacher [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jan Hřebejk
film profile
]
, Let There Be Light [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Marko Škop
interview: Milan Ondrík
film profile
]
), Jana Oľhová (Charlatan [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Agnieszka Holland
film profile
]
, The Man with Hare Ears [+see also:
trailer
interview: Martin Šulík
film profile
]
) and Iva Bittová. US cinematographer of Chilean origins Federico Cesca, who worked on the Sundance and Cannes title Patti Cake$, lensed The Nightsiren, and the Slovakian producer notes that 90% of the film takes places in open-air locations. French composer Robin Coudert, who worked on the soundtracks for Rebecca Zlotowski’s films, provided the musical score.

The Nightsiren is being produced by Badač and BFILM, and is being co-produced by Miloš Lochman from Czech outfit moloko film and French company Silvera Productions. The feature was supported by the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, the Czech Film Fund, the Council of Europe’s Eurimages fund and the Slovakian Literary Fund. The project took part in the ScripTeast workshop, and was presented at the MIA Forum in Rome in 2018 (where it received the Eurimages Development Award – see the news), at the Crossroads co-production forum in Thessaloniki in 2018 and at the Frontières Finance & Packaging Forum in Karlskrona in 2020. The Slovak premiere is slated for 29 September, courtesy of Forum Film SK, followed by a Czech premiere on 6 October, handled by Forum Film CZ. The film does not yet have a sales agent.

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