Czech filmmaker keeps it real in `Some Secrets’
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Each character in “Some Secrets,” the new, second feature film by Czech director Alice Nellis, rings honest and real. Which is saying something, since the characters span four generations of an extended Czech family, from a quiet young boy to a eccentric, old-school great-grandmother to a dissatisfied, pushy young wife.
Nellis credits her scriptwriting philosophy for such honesty. No matter how distant the character is from the 32-year-old writer-director, Nellis puts herself in his or her shoes.
“I try to write the characters in a way that, given the circumstances, I could imagine wanting to act like any of them. Even if I don’t agree with them,” said Nellis, whose film was screened on Aspen Filmfest’s opening night on Tuesday, and gets additional screenings Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale, and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at the Springs Theatre in Glenwood Springs. “I’d never want to write characters I couldn’t find in myself. That I couldn’t imagine.”
The characters are part of what makes “Some Secrets” a standout look at family life. But what also gives the film its universal appeal is the story: The family has embarked on a cross-country road trip for reasons that get odder and more slippery as the troupe stumbles across washed-out roads, past uptight customs agents, and in and out of one drama after another. In America or the Czech Republic, the cramped car is an ideal vehicle for exploring emotions and revealing humor.
Nellis, whose first film, 2000’s “Eeny Meeny,” examined a family against a backdrop of local elections during changing times in her country, wanted to make another family film. But she chose a very different sort of setting.
“If you put them together for three days, what will happen? How will they regard each other?” are the questions she posed in starting the screenplay for “Some Secrets” two years ago. “And I wanted to take them out of their routines. So I put them in a car.”
Nellis finds another good explanation why “Some Secrets,” which premiered at Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival last year, has a fundamental honesty to it. In the Czech Republic, population 10 million, filmmaking is not a money-making business.
“So you have to have a good reason to make it. It’s got to be personal,” said Nellis, a former flute student at the Prague Conservatory. She also produces commercials; teaches screenwriting and directing at the Film Academy in Prague; and has made documentary films about opera, musical instruments and recorders, and a TV strike in the Czech Republic. “Here, film is not a business. No one invests in the movies. Making money is not a reason to make movies.”
Financing a Czech film is a production in itself. Nellis applies for grants and trades television rights for equipment. And if pleasing an audience is enough reward for making a film, Nellis herself should be satisfied. “Eeny Meeny” won awards at various international festivals, including the San Francisco International Film Festival.
“The best thing about [the success] is it led me to do another movie,” she said.
“Some Secrets” is also an prize-winner, having earned a Czech Lion Award for best actress. That has allowed Nellis to make yet another film: “Loving Hell,” her first English-language project, for which she has finished the screenplay, is in the Sundance Festival’s script competition.
“Some Secrets,” directed by Alice Nellis, shows at Aspen Filmfest ’03 Saturday, Oct. 4, at 5:30 p.m. at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale, and Sunday, Oct. 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the Springs Theatre in Glenwood Springs.
Tickets are $9.50.
For a full Filmfest schedule, go to http://www.aspenfilm.org.
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