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Ostrochovský offers in ‘Servants’ a new look at the relationship between the Catholic Church and communism

Ivan Ostrochovský, at an online press conference
  • This is the second fiction film directed by Ostrochovský, who is more involved in the world of documentaries

10/30/2020.- Slovak director Ivan Ostrochovský presented his feature film Servants at the Official Section of the 65th Valladolid International Film Festival this Friday. The film, which premiered at the Encounters Section of the Berlinale last February, offers a new look at the relationship between the Catholic Church and the communist government during the communist era.

Servants is the second fiction film directed by Ostrochovský -who is more involved in the world of documentaries- and it is based on real events. The filmmaker had a friend who studied at the seminary where the movie takes place and where most of the seminarians went on a hunger strike as depicted in the film. The filmmaker thought those events could contribute with “a new point of view on the communist regime”.

“The collaboration between the Catholic Church and communist regimes, which also took place in other Eastern countries, hadn’t been addressed yet, and we wanted to work with real stories“, the director explained at the press conference following the screening. He also said that it was between 1968 and 1989 that the secret police were most active, eliminating a lot of people.

Recounting these events meant exposing the Pacem in Terris organization, a society created by the regime within the Church itself in order to exercise control. According to the director, this organization represents a schism, a division within the institution itself, since both an official and an unofficial Catholic Church had ties with the regime in Czechoslovakia.

Ostrochovský, who had the project in mind since 2014, found that one of its strengths lay precisely in the “visual potential” of shooting at the seminar and filming in black and white. “The subject is very important to me, but so is the location, because I don’t consider myself a good scriptwriter. I’m more the visual type. The choice of black and white was ideal because of the characters’ clothing and environment. Also, when working with non-professional actors who may not always be great performers, atmosphere and space sometimes add emotion and feelings, which become the foundation of the film”, he explained.

Along with the non-professional performers, the cast includes the renowned actor Vlad Ivanov. All of them together, explained the filmmaker, managed to create “harmony”. He also pointed out that the reason behind having Rebecca Lenkiewicz help with the script was to transform his story into something that was “universal, identifiable and relevant” for the whole world, not just for people from Eastern European countries.

After taking part in the Berlinale, Servants was to be released in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania and Ireland last spring. Even though it was postponed until the fall because of the pandemic, it couldn’t be released this time either, said the producer Katarina Tomková. “We’re waiting till we can release it in movie theaters, sooner or later, because both Ivan and I are convinced that it is a film meant for the big screen”, she said. Tomková also talked about waiting to see how events develop in the countries co-producing the film.

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