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Interview with Damian Vondrasek
Director of "Imprisoned" (CZ)
KVIFF - Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2017 - Future Frames: Ten New Filmmakers to Follow

C. Photo Credit: Imprisoned ​(2016)



Name: Sabine Kues

Nationality: Germany

Contact: sabinekues@gmail.com

The Czech director Damián Vondrášek brought his short film Imprisoned to the screens at the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Jakub (Jakub Koudela) considers a job as a prison educator and his father-in-law just cannot wait to see him fail. With Imprisoned the film student of FAMU in Prague dares to bring a sensitive male lead to the screen which brought him a nomination for the Magnesia Award for Best Student Film at the Czech Lion Awards. 

As part of the Future Frames program presenting new European signatures we caught up with the writer and director to talk about his expectations.

You've made a few short films already before going to film school. How did you enter filmmaking?

Damián Vondrášek: I was hesitating before applying to FAMU, so I spend three years preparing on it by making short films. Some of them were locally successful, I would say, and then I said now is the right time to finally seriously get into this.

In Imprisoned you brought a male character to the screen who has a sensitive and fragile side to him. Was that the outset for you?

DV: Yes, it is one part of it. This topic of sensitivity is in the point of view of some people considered as a weakness and to some it is a strong ability to show that you are sensitive. That is the question for the character, if he can continue on with being fragile and sensitive or has to change himself in order to better fit into society.

Would the film have worked for you outside the setting of a prison?

DV: Well, as a first thing, I was just fascinated by this environment of prisons. I've seen many prison films and you mostly see the inmate perspective. Since I was thinking of this dilemma of my character looking for a job I figured out it would be a good connection. Also in a symbolic way because he is sort of imprisoned in his decision and his family and now he goes to a prison.
We went to visit prisons and talked to people who live the life as it is pictured in the film. And it is the most rewarding thing when I can be sure it's not just my theory but it's reality.

You're leading cast had to be well chosen as a big part of the development happened within him. How did you find him?

DV: On this film I really focused on the physical appearance of the actor, the physiognomy – so I started with pictures. I needed someone with a really interesting face that would say a lot without huge movement. It had to be subtle. And I found Jakub Koudela and we worked on this minimal approach. He was really great. He also had to quit a main role in a play because he really wanted to make this film. That is what I really liked about his attitude towards making the film.

What will be your next film project?

DV: Again it will take place in a short period of time. Imprisoned is about one day and this will be one night shift of a police squad. I'm planning to create a situation with many characters where they are forced to act and make decisions. The characters each have their own motivations and I would like to make these crash. That is the structure for the next project: more active. Let's say, more action and less silence.

From a prison to a police squad. Is there some theme of law and punishment you are working on?

DV: There is some weird continuity in that which is not planned. My teacher in film school is making fun of me, in these terms, if I have some deep trouble within me with uniformed guys. I don't know. It is not intentional. For me, the important topics are: values and some sort of system. And when you want to make values and systems clash you sometimes have to use these representations of systems.
One of my earlier short films, which I like the most, is the complete opposite, for example. It is about two poor young people, a boy and a girl, who just struggle with life. The guy steels something in order to proof to her that he loves her. But this is contrary to her view of what is right.

It is a lot about living up to expectations. As a filmmaker and part of Future Frames, how do you feel about this?

DV: The pressure? [laughs] Well, it is not very positive. I like it in terms of when it pushes me to do something better. At this level the pressure is very beneficial but when it changes into fear and prevents you from doing something because you are scared that it wouldn't be accepted, that is a negative thing. For me, the only solution is to not care about it, as much as possible. It is quite natural that after all this pressure you get scared and you become more average. It is important to take risks. Everything meaningful is opposed to something that is easy and comfortable. You have to leave your comfort zone to find something meaningful.