The FEDEORA award was conferred on an excellent Czech movie which evokes the uneasiness of a society that is still evolving economically and socially. Poupata (Flower Buds, Czech Republic, 2011) the debut work of Zdenek Jirasky, the 43-year-old director, well known for his documentary films and his in-depth reports for Czech television, who attended FAMU, the celebrated Prague film school.
Poupata is set during Christmas time, in which some situations reach dramatic or comic levels higher than at any other period through the year. It revolves around a badly off family that lives in a parallel land of dreams trying not to see the misery that surrounds them. They live under the same roof but don’t share the same ambitions. The father works as a toll collector, whose hobby is making models in bottles, and who spends much of his time gambling taking his family to financial ruin. He dreams of really changing his life, to lay aside the poverty he cannot put up with.
The mother is a cleaner, who does all she can to make ends meet. She always dreamt of having an artistic career and when, trying to make some extra money, she gets a taste of variety shows and of a nude calendar, she’s happy.
The 18-year-old son falls in love with a pub stripper who is not so young anymore and has a tough manager that eventually offers to sign her over to him. The daughter, who dreams of a life different from the country, is engaged to a boy of her age and flirts with other men; when she becomes pregnant she doesn’t know who the father is. And besides them a Vietnamese couple dreaming returning to their homeland but are strongly hit by fate, and a dodgy pub owner that is friend only of himself.
Trains constantly going by have a strong symbolic meaning because they display a chance to escape. All the characters are connected with trains, for work or for travel and, in the worst case, death. None of them has the courage to leave the life they are living, with the exception of the stripper who’s a stranger and doesn’t belong to that community. A train goes by every 30 minutes which might take them to a better world, but they don’t have the heart to catch it.
The title, Poupata (Flower Buds), is a metaphor of hope and contrasts with the very depressing subject of the movie, which gives an ironic undertone to the social realism of post-soviet society in which poverty is often the cancer that kills all dreams.
According to the director at the press conference: “I worked with the emotions on two levels: first of all through the screenplay, which I always use to try to find a train of thought that is gradually expressed emotionally or physically. Then the other level emerged later on, which happened unexpectedly through improvisation, which always happened on the first take. The credibility and authenticity of the film was mostly thanks to the very careful selection of actors – we try to find very natural people who are believable in the roles that they play, which is why we also like to work with fairly unknown actors. I decided to focus on the issue of gambling because of my own personal experience of how destructive this problem can be for people. My best friend from primary school became a gambler and lost everything he had: his money, his house, his family and it all ended very badly for him.”
Furio Fossati, Italy