Victim | Obet (2022) Toronto Film Festival 2022

September 13th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir. Michal Blasko; Cast: Elizaveta Maximova, Vita Smachelyuk, Gleb Kuchuk, Igor Chmela, Victor Zavadil, Inna Zhulina, Alena Mihulova, Veronica Weinhold; Slovakia/Czech Republic/Germany 2022, 92 min.

This feature debut for Slovakian director Michal Blasko is a tightly-wound political thriller asking the question: How far would you go for a better life? Written by Jakub Medvecky, it takes place in a Czech border town where Roma are used as scapegoats for Neo-Nazis.

Ukranian hairstylist Irina (Smachelyuk) dreams of a better life in the Czech Republic where she wants to open a hairdressing salon. On re-applying for citizenship – having failed on a technicality – she finds out her teenage son Igor (Kuchuk), a talented gymnast, has been ‘purportedly’ set upon by three “non-white” assailants in their building, and has been hospitalised after losing a kidney in the attack.

Inspector Novotny (Chmela) orders the arrest of the eldest son of a Roma family living in the same building as Irina and Igor. The media gets hold of the story, and agitator Michal Selsky (Zavadil) organises “A March for Igor”, and the mayor tries to score  political points with the incident. Meanwhile, Igor admits to his mother that he fell over while trying to impress girl friend Lenka, and no assault actually took place.

The focus is firmly on Irina who becomes an overnight celebrity, winning a reward of  around £2000 sterling, and taking out a lease on a Hairdressing salon. Life is sweet. And the Czech Republic is now her oyster. But the lie plays on Irina’s conscience and she sinks deeper and deeper into a moral morass when Igor insists on sticking to the racist lie.

DoP Adam Mach uses handheld cameras tracking the action as Irina desperately looks for a way out of her dilemma. But being to be a good citizen and a supportive mother has its conflicts. Selsky is a mini-monster who, even when wrong-footed by Irina, still keeps the racism pot on the boil. Although schematic at times, Victim is a thorny morality play with no easy answers. AS


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