‘The Painted Bird’ is the Czech Republic’s official 2019 Oscar submission – and it might just win

Václav Marhoul’s epic masterpiece The Painted Bird, which I reviewed in detail last week, has been selected today by the Czech Film and Television Academy as the Czech Republic’s official submission to the 2019 Academy Awards in the category of Best International Feature Film (formerly Best Foreign Language Film).

Ten Czech films produced over the course of the past calendar year were submitted by their producers for consideration, and also included Jiří Mádl’s On the Roof (Na střeše) and Radim Špaček’s Golden Sting (Zlatý podraz).

At the annual Academy Awards, each country is allowed to submit a single film for consideration in the category of Best International Feature Film. The Academy’s International branch will whittle those down to a nine-film shortlist in the first week of January 2020, and five finalists for the official Oscar nominations on January 13.

For director Václav Marhoul, who has been working to get The Painted Bird made since 2008 since first reading Jerzy Kosiński’s controversial novel, the submission has been a long time coming.

“The moment I finished reading the book in 2006 I knew I wanted to make a film based on it. And from 2008 all my efforts went to it,” Marhoul, who produced, wrote, and directed The Painted Bird, stated in a press release.

“I stand by every second of that movie, there are no compromises. And I am glad that everybody who took part in that film went on that journey with me without missing a beat. From the genius of a director of photography Vladimír Smutný to Harvey Keitel or Stellan Skarsgård.”

Production of The Painted Bird, which was filmed in sequence to chart the aging of its young protagonist, took place over the span of 15 months in 43 separate locations across the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Ukraine.

Cinematographer Vladimír Smutný shot the movie on 35mm film, a rarity in the digital age; speaking to local media after the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Marhoul went as far as to say he expected an Oscar nomination for Smutný, which may or may not be realistic. In any event, The Painted Bird is one of the most beautifully-filmed movies you’ll see this year, or any other.

What is much more realistic is The Painted Bird’s chances to land an Academy Award nomination for Best International Feature Film – which would be the first for a Czech movie since 2003’s Želary.

It could also win: among highly-touted international productions released wide so far this year, which also include Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, The Painted Bird rates at the top according to many reviewers. The last Czech movie to win an Oscar was 1996’s Kolya.

Despite some heated reactions to the film’s content at the Venice and Toronto film festivals earlier this month that resulted in highly-publicized walkouts, Marhoul’s epic has a real shot at becoming the next Czech Oscar success. Regardless of award season accolades, The Painted Bird the best film I’ve seen this year thus far.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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