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“We would never take money from a politician”

— David Van & Lukáš Hausenblas

David Van, Lukáš Hausenblas

The young Czech film duo, director David Van and cinematographer Lukáš Hausenblas from Prague, has already made three short films so far. At Filmfest Dresden, they presented their second film ‘Pa'lante’, as part of the workshop ‘Visegrád in short(s)’. The film is about a young cis man who realizes his tolerance and openness is limited when he finds out that his girlfriend has left him for a trans person. After the screening, we were able to meet the filmmakers for a short conversation.

Anastasia Parinow: How did you learn about this festival, and what do you expect from your participation?
Lukáš Hausenblas: At the Evolution Mallorca Film Festival, someone told us about this festival in Dresden and mentioned that Jiří Menzel, one of the most prominent filmmakers in the Czech Republic, was here a few years ago. That fact caught our interest. It's an honor to be here. The festival experience is essential for filmmakers. Talking with other artists, meeting new people, and watching many films is the coolest thing ever. So we just wanted to try out this workshop and festival really.

AP: The film you screened here in Dresden is your second short film. By now, you have already shot another one. Has your ambition and style changed from project to project?
LH: We didn't go to film school, we were studying New Media at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. We've been friends since secondary school, and at University, we just wanted to do films and projects together. So basically, everything we needed to know about filmmaking we had to teach ourselves. Back in 2018, when we shot our first film, we were just starting to explore the process of filmmaking. Each project was a unique experience, and we are still learning. Of course, we also draw our inspiration from filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Milos Forman. By the way, his granddaughter Antonie Formanova is playing the ex-girlfriend in ‘Pa'lante’.

AP: The funding process is often complicated, especially for young filmmakers. What are your experiences in that regard?
LH: Yes, that's true. We founded our own production company Van&Haus. We ask people and companies if they would like to support us as our media partners for each film. It's pretty tough, but it always went well. Most of the time, we are shooting music videos and commercials. All the money we get we try to invest in our film projects. Because film is the main thought we would like to spread.

AP: Do you have ethical or moral principles you want your funding partners to have in common with you?
David Van: We always take into account the moral features. We want good people with specific values. We appreciate their support, but still, we are keeping it independent. For example, we would never take money from a politician; we never used a cinematography fund of the Czech Republic. When we were shooting ‘Pa'lante’, a short film about the LGBT+ community, we paid a lot of attention to finding the right media partners, no one who would be conservative or intolerant.

AP: This film is about a young straight cis guy who has trouble accepting queer people because of his offended masculinity. You mentioned before that ‘Pa'lante’ is based on a true story — how is the current situation of the LGBT+ community in the Czech Republic?
DV: It's inspired by some friends of mine. I wanted to tell a story from a strictly heterosexual perspective and show both its problems and possibilities of acceptance and sympathy. The situation for the LGBT+ community in the Czech Republic isn't too bad. But on a political and structural level, the community is still made invisible. You don't even see the rainbow flag in the cities, like, for example, in Spain. Young people or people from the capital are, of course, much more aware, but the rest of the country has a very narrow perspective of what's going on and is less informed. People may tolerate this community, but rather as a marginal phenomenon, otherwise it's ignored and not seen as part of normality.

AP: So your film is also an attempt to give more visibility to this topic?
LH: Yes, the reason for each of our short films is a message. With ‘Pa'lante’, we wanted to show that even such a disinterested, ignorant anti-hero can have sympathy and humanity. The guy found a way to help prevent a suicide. It's a clear message to help each other and take care of each other.

AP: I was also sure something awful would happen, but all of a sudden, the end seemed more like a fairytale. A few times, I felt trapped and had to rethink my narrative stereotypes and visual habits.
DV: We appreciate that you mention this. I was trying to play with foreshadowing, with the audience and its expectations. What is the greatest thing about short films after all? You can almost do whatever you like; you are very free. Of course, it depends on whether it's an experimental film or a live-action short. But I think short films themselves are something like fairy tales.

This text was developed within the Talking Shorts Film Criticism Workshop during FILMFEST DRESDEN in July 2021, with the kind support of International Visegrad Fund, Deutsch-Tschechischer Zukunftsfonds and Landesdirektion Sachsen.