‘The Painted Bird’ and ‘Charlatan’ nominated for the 2020 European Film Awards

Two Czech co-productions are competing for top prizes in what is called the European Oscars

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 11.11.2020 11:00 (updated on 11.11.2020)

Two Czech co-productions have advanced to the European Film Awards finals. Václav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird has been nominated for the top prize for European Film, and Agnieszka Holland is competing for best European Director for her work on Charlatan.

The winner will be announced at a virtual ceremony in Reykjavik, Iceland, on December 12.

In addition to directing, Marhoul also wrote the script for The Painted Bird (Nabarvené ptáče), an adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s 1965 novel, and produced the Czech-Slovak-Ukrainian co-production. The international cast included Petr Kotlár, Nina Šunevič, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier, Harvey Keitel and Julian Sands.

“It was a shock to me, I really didn't expect it because The Painted Bird differs significantly from the trends of European cinema in the last 10 years,” Marhoul said in a press release,

The film won eight Czech Lion awards, including Best Film and Best Director. The Czech Lion is the top domestic film competition. It was submitted for Academy Award consideration for Best International Feature Film but was not nominated. It also competed for prizes at the Venice International Film Festival, and won the Cinema for UNICEF award. The film was seen by over 100,000 viewers in Czech cinemas.

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The plot involves a young boy cast adrift in World War II after his aunt dies. He faces a series of horrific incidents as he tries to find his way home. The film is notable for being the first in Interslavic, an invented language. This was so that no specific country would be singled out as the location of the action.

Holland’s film Charlatan (Šarlatán) was inspired by the life of Czech folk medicine practitioner Jan Mikolášek. Over his career he allegedly treated 5 million patients by examining urine samples and prescribing herbal teas or ointments. He saw many famous patients including Czechoslovak communist leader Antonín Zápotocký. Mikolášek’s fortunes changed after Zápotocký’s death in 1957.

Mikolášek is played as an adult by actor Ivan Trojan, while Trojan’s real-life son Josef Trojan plays the role in flashbacks. The film premiered at the 70th Berlinale.

 The operators of the film’s Facebook page simply said “Thank you” in response to the nomination.

Charlatan, a Czech-Irish-Slovak-Polish co-production, has been submitted as the Czech candidate for Best International Feature Film. Nominations for the coming awards have not yet been announced.

Holland is best known for her 1991 film Europa Europa and her 2011 drama In Darkness, which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards, but did not win.

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The European Film Awards have been given out since 1988 by the European Film Academy and are sometimes referred to as the European Oscars.

This year, the nominations in each category were increased to six from the previous five. To be eligible, films must have premiered between June 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020.

Films from the Czech Republic have won twice. In 2008, documentary film René from director Helena Třeštíková won the Prix Arte award for the best European documentary. Tomáš Luňák in 2012 won for Best Animated Feature Film for Alois Nebel, an adaptation of a graphic novel.