Future Frames 2017 Interview: Michal Blaško (Director of Atlantis, 2003)

Michal Blaško’s Atlantis, 2003 is a timely and gripping story of immigration set in 2003 on the Slovakian / Ukrainian border. You can read a full review of the film HERE.

The Slovak film has already made a splash, screening as part of Cinefondation 2017 and it continues it’s A-List ways with a screening as part of EFP’s Future Frames at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Blaško talked to Cineuropa Shorts about where the film originated, what it was like in Cannes and his hopes for Future Frames.

Cineuropa Shorts: Can you tell us how Atlantis, 2003 came to be?
Michal Blaško: The very first idea of the story of Atlantis, 2003 came shortly before I started my studies at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. At that time, I read an article about people who came to Slovakia at time when Slovakia wasn’t part of the Schengen Area. Among all these portraits there was a photo of a young Ukrainian, who in six or seven sentences wrote her dramatic story. And Atlantis, 2003 is a story of this girl.

CS: Did the film require a lot of research?
MB: It took us more than two years to prepare everything for the shooting and to find the locations we needed. Each year we travelled to Ukraine to find these locations and to know better all the circumstances, that happened at time Slovakia wasn’t part of Schengen. The Slovakian-Ukrainian border has a very difficult nature – it’s all mountains and forests, so crossing this area is very difficult for anybody.

CS: Was it a difficult shoot? It feels very expansive, with lots of locations (which is something you don’t often see in a short)
MB: We had six shooting days plus three days for traveling. We were shooting in four countries – Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine and this “luxury”, to shoot at the location we wanted to shoot, costed us more than anything. But me and the cinematographer Adam Mach we knew from the beginning that with each location we must be satisfied – it was very important for the whole atmosphere and the visual outcome of the film.

CS: This subject of immigration is a popular one currently in both shorts and features. Were there any films that influenced you?
MB: I can honestly say that I wasn’t influenced by any. I always say that more than an immigration theme this movie is about conscience and about responsibility. It is very intimate, because more than 90% of the time there are just two characters and crossing the borders is important in their lives, but it is not the most important point of the movie.

CS: The film was also screened in Cinefondation at this year’s Cannes. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?
MB: It was probably the best place for us to have a premiere of our movie. From the first moment it felt more or less like a dream. The fact we were there helped the film so much and people became curious not just about the movie, but about the theme and the topic of it, which is great. I find it important to show people what really happened. The Cannes factor really helps.

CS: What does being part of Future Frames mean to you? What do you hope to get out of Karlovy Vary?
MB: I think that it is a great opportunity to meet other young and talented filmmakers and their work. I am sure that all of us are very different not just about form, but also about topics, so it will be great to know each other.

CS: What are working on next?
MB: As Atlantis, 2003 was only my bachelor project, I still have one more year for the MA studies. That means that currently I am preparing my MA degree film called Victims along with a short animation film Wild Beasts co-directed with animator Marta Prokopová. Meanwhile I am also preparing a feature film with producer Jakub Viktorín, that will be ready to shoot not long after I finish my studies.

04 July 2017, by Laurence Boyce