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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Czech Republic / Slovakia

Conflict and hope reflect inter-generational cohabitation in Waltzing Matilda

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- A degenerative disease glues a torn family together in this fiction feature debut by veteran Czech documentary-maker Petr Slavík, which stars Karel Roden and Regina Rázlová

Conflict and hope reflect inter-generational cohabitation in Waltzing Matilda
Actress Regina Rázlová during the shoot of Waltzing Matilda

The upcoming Czech tragicomedy Waltzing Matilda is named after the famous Tom Waits song about dancing in the face of life’s obstacles. Veteran Czech documentary filmmaker Petr Slavík is currently shooting this first fiction project of his, which he co-wrote with his wife Nataša Slaviková, who also produced the film. Rigorous research into the realities of living with Alzheimer's disease preceded the movie’s script, which the husband-and-wife team previously transposed into a successful television documentary, Life with Alzheimer's, for Czech TV.

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Despite its social relevance, Alzheimer's disease doesn’t play a dominant role in this family drama, but is only one aspect of it, according to the producers. Inspired by true events, the film follows a former opera singer, octogenarian Matilda. Unlike his extroverted mother, Karel is emotionally cold, but continues to visit his mother out of a sense of obligation. Yet Karel also has a dysfunctional relationship with his own son, Pavel, who can’t forgive him for leaving the family when he was small. When Matilda develops Alzheimer's disease and loses her apartment, Karel is unable to care for her properly on account of his demanding job as a court executor. Pavel's carefree nature proves to be the sole solution to the situation. And a way to mend fractured family relations.

“Our story contains motifs of illness, death, and the breakdown of traditional family ties, and, for this reason, it couldn’t be a light-hearted comedy. But we haven’t abandoned our viewers in any way. On the contrary, we look for moments of hope and optimism, opportunities for personal development, and, thanks to personal experience, we know that living with an ill family member leads to many comical or tragicomic situations,” Petr and Nataša Slavík explain.

Shooting on the film started in July, in Prague, and will subsequently move to Pilsen and then Bratislava, Slovakia. The crew are one third of the way through the scheduled 28 days of filming. The main part – of the Bohemian opera singer and, later, bar singer – is played by Czech actress Regina Rázlová (who recently starred in Mira Fornay’s provocative, absurd drama Cook F**k Kill [+see also:
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). Her son is played by a Czech actor who’s no stranger to Hollywood, Karel Roden (who has been in films like The Bourne Supremacy and RocknRolla [+see also:
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, and more recently in Czech titles like The Glass Room [+see also:
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). The remainder of the cast includes Antonio Šoposki (Suspicion [+see also:
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), Simona Postlerová (Like Summer Snow) and Zuzana Kanócz (From Subway with Love). Photography is entrusted to Slovak DoP Martin Štrba (Charlatan [+see also:
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, Man with Hare Ears [+see also:
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), costume design to award-winner Katarína Štrbová Bieliková, set design to Jan Vlasák and make-up to Andrea McDonald.

Waltzing Matilda is produced by Nataša Slavíková for Czech outfit Phoenix Production and Vít Janeček and Zuzana Piussi for Slovak outfit VIRUSfilm, in co-production with Czech Television (Helena Uldrichová). The movie enjoys the support of the Czech Film Fund, the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, the Pilsen region, Radim Passer, and the City of Bratislava Foundation. Bontonfilm will oversee the film’s release in Czech and Slovak territories in 2023.

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