There are so many films made in Czech co-production in this year’s Febiofest that it has dedicated the new Centropa section to them. The first to be screened was By a Sharp Knife, the feature debut of Teodor Kuhn. A crime drama that is also competing in the New Europe competition section, it is based on actual events in 2005, when neo-Nazis in Slovakia killed a student. “Even more horrifying than the murder was the fact that Slovakia lacked sufficiently developed institutions to help clear up the case,” says Kuhn, who focuses in the film on the efforts of the victim’s father to get justice.
The future director, who was 17 at the time of the killing, still remembers how it shook him. “It was like a slap of reality. I realised that we lived in a society in which we could die. When I later started focusing on film, it was clear to me that I wanted to make this my debut. I felt that the theme was bigger than me. And also that I could explore in the background of this story what was ailing Slovak society,” he says, adding that he hopes the film helps viewers become more sympathetic toward victims of similar crimes.
The film came about thanks to the involvement of Czech company nutprodukce, which was also behind the documentary Nothing Like Before or the series Wasteland. “We were familiar with Teodor’s school films and liked them. We were unaware of the murder case, but not of the general problem of enforcing one’s rights, and the film struck us a good way to highlight that and spark a debate,” says producer Pavla Janoušková Kubečková.