PHOTOPHOBIA wins Europa Cinemas Label

Venice 2023


Slovakian directors Ivan Ostrochovský and Pavol Pekarčík’s PHOTOPHOBIA (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Ukraine) has won the Europa Cinemas Label as Best European Film in the Giornate degli Autori section of the Venice Film Festival, it was announced today by a jury of four Europa Cinemas Network exhibitors. 2023 marks the twentieth time the Label has been awarded in Venice.

PHOTOPHOBIA wins Europa Cinemas Label

In receiving the Label, PHOTOPHOBIA will benefit from promotional support from Europa Cinemas and better exhibition thanks to a financial incentive for Network cinemas to include it in their programming schedule.

The jury issued the following statement: “PHOTOPHOBIA is a very original and beautifully observed film set today in an underground Kharkiv metro station in the middle of the war in Ukraine. But this is no miserabilist cliched war story. We see the way human beings – and the children in particular – learn to create a new way of living. There is hope here, and joy in the small things – the occasional luxury of feeling the sun on their faces for example. The film is exceptionally well made, with the cinematography a stand out.  As it stands, this film has no international sales company attached. We strongly recommend that companies look at this film very quickly and get to work. As exhibitors we are convinced that this film has a wide audience waiting for it. Our unanimous choice for the Europa Cinemas Label here in Venice is PHOTOPHOBIA.”

The Jury consisted of: Gerardo de Vivo (Modernisssimo, Napoli, Italy);  Lukas Berberich (Kino Usmev, Košice, Slovakia); Mira Staleva (Sofia Film Fest on the Road, Sofia, Bulgaria) and Priscilla Gessati (L'Entrepôt, Paris, France).


Synopsis: On a cold February morning, 12-year-old Niki and his family arrive at the Kharkiv metro station to take shelter from the terrifying war raging outside. For Niki's family, daylight is synonymous with mortal danger, and the boy is not allowed to leave the station premises, living under the constant glow of their neon lights. While aimlessly wandering around the abandoned cars and full platforms, Niki meets Vika (11), and a new world opens up to him. As their bond strengthens, the children find the courage once again to feel the sun on their faces.

"When we arrived in Ukraine with humanitarian aid in the spring of 2022, and settled into a life alongside the metro refugees, we realized that the eyes of the world would be on the front line. That was why we decided to find something most closely approaching “ordinary life” and preserve it to the best of our abilities: to find a moment of genuine humanity at a time of devastating horror. We decided to juxtapose the timeless, aimless life lived by Niki and his family with the chilling scenes playing out on ground level, using the format of Super 8mm film footage. We've filmed observations of a war-ravaged country that might seem as the distant ideas of a traumatized child – a fever dream from times long past – if only the audience did not know that this was the reality of Ukraine nowadays." [Ivan Ostrochovský, Pavol Pekarčík]

The film is a Punchart Films and Cinémotif Films production, co-produced with Radio and Television of Slovakia, Arthouse Traffic, Czech Television, Partizanfilm with the support of the Slovak Audivisual Fund, Czech Film Fund and the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic. The producers are Ivan Ostrochovský, Albert Malinovský, Katarína Tomková, Tomáš Michálek, Kristýna Michálek Květová with co-producers Helena Osvaldová, Denis Ivanov, Jakub Mahler and Pavol Pekarčík. Screenplay  is by Marek Leščák, Ivan Ostrochovský and Pavol Pekarčík.

Cinematography is by Ivan Ostrochovský and Pavol Pekarčík; editing by Ivan Ostrochovský, Pavol Pekarčík and Martin Piga; music by Roman Kurhanand Michal Novinski; sound by Jakub Jurásek and Dušan Kozák

Cast includes Nikita Tyshchenko (Niki), Viktoriia Mats (Vika), Yana Yevdokymova (Niki's mother), Yevhenii Borshch (Niki's stepfather), Anna Tyshchenko (Anya, Niki's sister), Vitaly Pavlovitch (Cowboy) and Tetiana Volodymyrivna Syrbu (doctor).

Ivan Ostrochovský and Pavol Pekarčík debuted with their feature documentary VELVET TERRORISTS (2013), which they have co-directed with Peter Kerekes and which won the Tagesspiegel Readers’ Award at Berlinale's Forum. Pekarčík's solo debut feature was hybrid SILENT DAYS (2019), presented at the Karlovy Vary IFF's East of the West competition, while Ostrochovský continued with the feature KOZA (2015), returning to the Forum at the Berlinale once again. Ostrochovský's second feature SERVANTS (2020) was presented in a world premiere at the then newly established Berlinale competition Encounters. Ivan is the author and co-writer of 107 MOTHERS (2021), which won the Orizzonti Best Screenplay at Venice IFF.


Press Release


Photo credits: "Katarina Tomkova with EC Label award": © Giornate degli Autori