A Polish filmmaker takes to Prague’s streets for inspiration.

It's strange that Prague has somehow stumbled into a reputation for being a literary city – you can count the number of world-class writers who came out of the city on one hand. The number of great films to roll down the Barrandov hills, however, is staggering, especially for such a small country. It's not hard to say what inspires so many talented people to turn their cameras to Prague, but since the revolution the Czech industry has skyrocketed, due in large part to the influx of foreign energy and
investment colliding with homegrown talent.

Sambor Wilk, a Polish graduate of Prague’s FAMU film school, is part of that new generation of international filmmakers who are rediscovering Prague. His new independent film Duende, which starts shooting this weekend, is proof that the energy doesn’t pack up with Jackie Chan and Bruce Willis. Conceived by Wilk and scripted with the help of Czech novelist Vlastimil Třešňák (Romulus and Romus, Everything You Need to Know About Mr. Moritz), Duende centers around the life of the small street of the same name nestled between the river and Betlémské náměstí in Staré město.

Wilk assembled an allstar cast, mostly composed of actors from Prague's respected Divadlo na zábradlí, based on their connections to the street itself. Since 30 percent of the script consists of coached improvisation, Wilk specifically sought out the cast, even integrating elements of their actual connections to the street into his script. “These are very talented actors,” said Wilk, “but more importantly in my point of view, they can really feel the street because they live and work here.”

The action of the film follows the character Karel (Karel Dobrý), who loses his finger in a car crash early in the morning. After crawling out of the wreck, he spends the remainder of the day searching for his finger, which was stolen by a small stray dog, and navigating the odd characters who populate the street. Dobrý is supported by Josef Hrubý (alias Žluták, of Divadlo na zábradlí), Eva Holubová (also of DNZ), Zuzana Stivínová (National Theater), Rychard Němčok and Saša the clown.

“This is a filmmaker's town,” says Wilk, “and this street is absolutely magical. Every moment of the day you can find something strange happening here...It has a good spirit. It's important for me to make films about what I know –things I have real emotion for. Wilk came to Prague in 1998 to study at FAMU because of the influence of Czech filmmakers, but maintains that good film is truly international.

Further inspired by the “new wave” of Czech filmmakers like Bogdan Sláma (Divoké včely), Wilk hopes to remain in Prague (hopefully on Karolíny Světlé) and carry the torch. Look for Duende in Czech theaters late this year.

—Micah Jayne might leave Karolíny Světlé to answer mail at [email protected]

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