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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Czech Republic / Slovakia

Tomáš Hodan aims to set the historical record straight with The Last Race

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- The Czech director has started shooting a period drama film about the tragic true story of a 1913 skiing race, previous versions of which tended to omit a crucial person for political reasons

Tomáš Hodan aims to set the historical record straight with The Last Race
The Last Race by Tomáš Hodan (© Punk Film)

Czech documentarian and prolific television writer Tomáš Hodan, who directed the documentary biopic Film Adventurer Karel Zeman, about one of the most influential Czech directors ever, is tackling another biopic for his first feature-length fiction offering, The Last Race. The period drama, which is set before World War I in the Czech-German environment of the Krkonoše mountains, will relive a tragic skiing race from 1913. Czech skier Bohumil Hanč remained alone on the piste after a snowstorm forced all other competitors to abandon the race. Hanč was found frozen to death, as was his friend Václav Vrbata, who lent him a jacket and a hat, as Hanč was racing in a shirt and with no gloves.

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This was the official version of events. However, one crucial person has so far been erased from the story for political reasons. Czech-German man Emmerich Rath found the frozen Hanč and started to carry him. Rath figured that he wouldn’t be able to bring him to safety by himself in such unfavourable weather conditions and used all his remaining energy to reach help. Rath managed to pass on the location of Hanč to others before he passed out from exhaustion. Vrbata’s body was found later.

“A German hero did not suit the communists. They erased him completely from the story after the war. Being an anti-fascist, the communists could not get Rath out of the republic, so at least they confiscated his property and sent him to prison, and he eventually ended up as a stoker. We want to pay tribute to him with our film. He will be the narrator of the whole story, which we managed to reconstruct minute by minute,” said the film’s producer, Ondřej Beránek, of Punk Film. “Hanč died and became a legend; Rath survived and died in oblivion,” the filmmakers add. The events of this tragic race have already been the subject of a film adaptation in 1956, Sons of the Mountains, albeit without reference to Rath. The Last Race aims to set the historical record straight. “Originally, I wanted to shoot a mountain survival film. While studying period materials, I realised that this story encompassed some interesting things about the 20th century, and I began to focus more on the historical context. For example, we deal a lot with Czech-German relations before World War I in the script,” reveals director Tomáš Hodan, who also penned the screenplay.

The first clapperboard has already slammed, and the crew will be shooting at the authentic, real-life locations of the tragic race until the end of April. DoP Jan Baset Střítežský, of the mediaeval road movie Little Crusader [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Václav Kadrnka
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]
and the period sports drama Fair Play [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, is lensing the movie, with Kryštof Hádek, of The Snake Brothers [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jan Prušinovský
film profile
]
, starring as Bohumil Hanč. Marek Adamczyk portrays Emmerich Rath (while Oldřich Kaiser takes over the role as the elderly Rath). Slovak actress Judit Bárdos, who played the lead in Fair Play, is also among the cast of The Last Race, which includes Vladimír Pokorný, Vladimír Javorský, Jan Hájek, Pavla Beretová, Jaroslav Plesl, Jan Nedbal, Cyril Dobrý and Jan Hofman.

The Last Race is being produced by Ondřej Beránek, of Punk Film, and is co-produced by Czech Television and Slovak outfit D.N.A. Production. The Czech Film Fund has supported the film. The domestic release is preliminarily set for 24 February 2022 in the Czech Republic and Slovakia; Bontonfilm will handle the theatrical releases in both countries.

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