David Knight - 11th Nov 2020

Jay Walker's spellbinding video for Slovakian singer Katarzia Kubošiová is a gripping, impressionistic affair, dramatising different historical strands, connected by their theme: the subjugation of women by men and their institutions. It's so impressive it has been championed by women's groups protesting against systematic sexism and limits on reproductive rights in Slovakia and neighbouring Poland.

In storylines that she devised with Katarzia and her DoP Anna Smoronova in response to recent events in Slovakia, NFTS graduate Walker interweaves three enigmatic narratives: in the first, set at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a group of women gathering quietly in a forest are discovered and then chased by the menfolk of the village; in the second, a Catholic priest whips himself up into a frenzy of anger; in the third, perhaps set in the Soviet era, a pregnant woman is wheeled into a committee, to be gynaecologically examined by apparatchniks.

Each separate narrative strand features leading Slovakian acting talent, which has been a factor in popularising the video and getting its message across to Czech-speaking audiences. But the real power and instant engagement of the piece comes from Walker's assured direction and in Smoronova's exceptional cinematography.  

The DoP was one of an all-female complement of heads of department on this video, and as Walker explains below, she instigated a mentoring scheme on the production as well, so three young women could shadow her and the department heads during the making of the film, to get that crucial first foothold in a male-dominated industry. Not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

And since it has been released, events in neighbouring Poland, with women's groups protesting against draconian new laws forbidding abortion in almost all cases, Walker has been fielding numerous enquiries from Polish press to comment on the situation. If the video has become a cause célèbre, then its entirely worthy of the attention. 

JAY WALKER:

"We created this video as a statement against the movements that Slovak (and now Polish and otherwise) governmental and religious institutions are making to limit women's reproductive rights.

"Also due to a recent event in which a make-up artist was sexually assaulted on daytime television by a high profile media personality, Slovakia has entered into its first clear public discourse on equality and feminist topics. I developed the concept alongside the artist and DP, who are both Slovak women, with the intention of adding our voices to the conversation.

We created this video as a statement against moves that government and religious institutions are making to limit women's reproductive rights.

"We intentionally cast as many Czech and Slovak celebrities as we could, with the hopes of reaching a wider national audience that our usual art/culture bubble. We also had all-female heads of department, which created a compassionate, understanding and communicative working environment for all of us.

"Lastly, I developed a shadowing program alongside Girls in Film Prague that we ran fully in this project. The culture of education, mentorships, shadowing and interning for the younger generation is almost non-existent, even in concept, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. So I decided that I would create what I had been looking for for years.

The result... sparked the birth of a supportive, collaborative community of creative girls and women.

"I linked up with Julie Začková, who runs the Prague branch of Girls in Film Prague, and discussed developing a shadowing program to get young aspiring female creators on to my sets regularly. For me, it's important to show that there are people in the local industry who are welcoming and supportive of their creative development, and to create space for them where few others would. We took on three girls between the ages of 18-21 who are in film-oriented high schools or just starting university. They watched what we did in the prep process, were present with me at the monitor through most of the shooting, and even sat in (or were separately mentored on) many elements of the post-production process.

"It was, and still is, very important to me that I live the feminism that I present in my work. It's become very popular to be political in a vacuum, so implementing the shadow program was an important element for me of having real skin in the game. I was as committed to being a good mentor and leading by strong example to these girls, as I was about creating a powerful video with an important, current and relevant message.

"The result was a beautiful process, from prep to post, which sparked the birth of a supportive, collaborative community of creative girls and women, that I will continue to invest myself in developing in the coming years." 

• BTS photography by Hana Knížová
• Jay Walker is represented in the UK for music videos and commercials by Blink, contact Laura Northover at laura@blinkprods.com for details.

PRO Credits

Credits

DirectorJay Walker
ProducerKlára Plechsson
Production CompanyCreative Embassy
Executive ProducerPetr Oplatka
Production ManagerJakub Koula
1st ADKristýna Rousková
Director of PhotographyAnna Smoronova
Focus PullerPatrik Rams
2nd ACRadka Filipská
GafferJirka Vrana
Production designerNina Feriancová
WardrobeMartin Polák
Hair & Make-upPhil La Noiraude
Casting directorSimon Says Casting
EditorJakub Jelínek
ColouristMarina Starke
Post production companyPfx
Post ProducerTomáš Brož
LabelSlnko Records
Other creditsCast: Katarzia Kubošiová, Tereza Hofová, Anežka Pithartová, Melika Yildiz, Tereza Ondrová, Kristína Martanovićová, Verica Nedeska, Angela Nwagbo, Nhung Dang, Annamária D’almeida, Šima Mullerová, Radka Fidlérová, Valérie Váchová, Markéta Tanner, Mia Strangmullerová Tereza Švejdová, Martina Sĺuková, Jan Hájek, Robert Mikluš, Cyril Dobrý, Bob Boudreaux, David Bowles, Brenden Douglas, Josef Vrána Executive Producers: Petr Oplatka, Vaclav Sládek, Matouš Heger

David Knight - 11th Nov 2020

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