This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.
Registrants received a link to independently view the film prior to the live event.
The East Central European Center at the Harriman Institute presents its 2020-2021 film series: Contemporary Society and Its Discontents, a series of screenings and discussions of films from the past five years that comment on various aspects of contemporary life in East Central Europe. The first event of the series concerns the Czech film Vlastníci (The Owners, 2019). Join us for a discussion with screenwriter and director Jiří Havelka and producer Marek Jeníček, moderated by Christopher W. Harwood (co-director, East Central European Center).
The comedy-drama The Owners was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed Czech films of 2019, winning Czech Lion awards for Best Actress (Tereza Ramba), Best Supporting Actress (Klára Melíšková) and Best Screenplay (Jiří Havelka), and receiving additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Jiří Havelka), Best Actor (Jiří Labus), Best Actress (Dagmar Havlová), Best Supporting Actor (Vojtěch Kotek, David Novotný), Best Supporting Actress (Pavla Tomicová), Best Editing and Costume Design.
About the film:
A comedy for those who have not experienced it.
A drama for those who are living through it.
Many apartment owners are probably familiar with the situation from their own experience. The protagonists of the film The Owners own units in an old apartment building and they are convening a meeting to discuss and make decisions about several urgent matters. Among them there are idealists trying to serve the common good, calculating wheeler-dealers who just look out for themselves, even subtle manipulators— but there are also some people who are lost in despair at their own insignificance. In the end, they must all come to terms on how to maintain the building in which they make their homes.
Jiří Havelka was inspired in his choice of subject matter by his own experiences attending apartment owners’ association meetings. He has this message for viewers of his film: “This film is a comedy. And I think it is a comedy for all age groups and for voters of all political parties. I think you can see all of today’s political spectrum in it. So it would be ideal if people could have a good time watching it at the cinema and hope that “Hell is other people.”
Jaroslav Sedláček, a creative producer and Chief Dramaturg for Czech Television’s Film Center, offered the following reaction to The Owners: “What bothers me about a lot of contemporary Czech films is that they seem to take place outside of real space and time. This is not the case with The Owners. In this film you can see our contemporary reality in all its tragicomic nakedness. Sometimes it makes you laugh, and sometimes it sends chills down your spine. Everyone wants more than they have. Everyone insists on their own rights, but no one acknowledges their own responsibilities. That is Czech society of the present day. Jiří Havelka did a brilliant job writing it, and the actors give brilliant performances.”
Jiří Havelka is a director, a playwright and screenwriter, an actor and a television moderator. While a student at the Theater Faculty of Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts, he began directing for the small stage of Studio Ypsilon, and he became one of the leading creative voices in the innovative and improvisational theater group VOSTO5. He was also a co-founder of the Óčko television station, where he created and performed in the sketch comedy shows Baráž and Baráž Speciál. Over the years he has directed for several of the Czech Republic’s most celebrated theaters, including the Dejvice Theater, Theater Archa and Theater on the Balustrade in Prague, HaDivadlo in Brno and the Petr Bezruč Theater in Ostrava. In 2007 he received the Alfréd Radok Award for Talent of the Year, and he has acted in numerous Czech films and television shows.
Marek Jeníček is the Managing Director of CinemArt, one of the largest film distribution companies in the Czech Republic, which he joined in 2013. His film production credits include, in addition to The Owners (2019), the popular romantic comedy Stuck with a Perfect Woman (2016) and the new Slovak mafia thriller Scumbag (2020).