Shadow Country – an intricate portrait of human fragility and community segregation

5th October 2020

(Krajina ve stínu)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Shadow Country is showing at BFI London Film Festival from the 14th to the 17th of October.

The lasting horrors of war within communities, cultures and countries can take many different forms, from social devastation to forever-changed community dynamics and displacement. Border towns, countries and villages during the Second World War often saw there the very fabric of their history, community and social order torn apart by conflict, their streets, roads and forests a maze of ghosts and secrets to this day. Shadow Country places the often unheard and untold history of Czechoslovakia centre stage, a country that sat at the epicentre of the Second World War and the Cold War that followed.

In 1939, the world turned a blind eye to the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, its sovereignty and people viewed as a mere negotiating tool in the ill-fated ‘Munich Pact’ of 1938. By the following September, Hitler had invaded Poland, igniting the flames of a devastating World War. Czech resistance fighters and soldiers, many of whom fought alongside allied forces, never gave up on their country or communities, yet the story of the Czech towns and villages invaded in 1939 is rarely told. Also missing is the story of what came after Nazism as the Russians took control of Czechoslovakia, and a new battle began.

Bohdan Sláma’s Shadow Country (Krajina ve stínu) explores the fate of one small village, Tušť, on the Czech-Austrian border over fourteen years. This sweeping journey is an attempt to tell the hidden story of a country that bravely fought for its freedom as it explores war, peace, segregation, betrayal and the shadows left behind on every street corner. Eight years in the making, Bohdan Sláma’s portrait of communities torn apart is both powerful, stunning and intricate. Here, Sláma offers us a nuanced portrait of humanity and survival as each resident, young and old, is faced with choices that have unavoidable consequences. There are no easy solutions at play as Tušt and its people fight for survival just as the horrors of The Holocaust breach the town walls and persecution turns villagers on villagers for survival. Like The Painted Bird, Shadow Country is a stark warning from history that safety, democracy and care are fragile even in our apparently modern world.

Director: Bohdan Sláma

Cast: Magdaléna BorováCyril DrozdaCsongor Kassai, Stanislav Majer, Robert Miklus, Pavel Nový


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