rozhovor peter maraky etnofilmThe twenty-second year of the film presentation covering the theme of folk culture and an individual in contemporary world will be held in November 2022. Its main organizers, the Kysuce Cultural Centre in Čadca, the Žilina self-governing region and the Town of Čadca, are launching the Festival preparatory works these days.

We have therefore interviewed the Festival's founder and director Peter Maráky who provided us with the details on the Festival itself, its history, and its current edition.


The International Film Festival Etnofilm Čadca is a presentation and confrontation of the current worldwide production of a documentary ethnographic film. The international competition displays a wide variety of topics related to social and cultural anthropology as well as ethnology. The themes covered in the presented films range from various manifestations of traditional folk culture to the depiction of a modern man living in the complexity of the changing world and lifestyle.

How and why did the Festival come into being?

The idea of ​​organizing an ethnographic film festival came to life in 1978 as a result of contacts between the Kysuce Museum and the staff of the Ethnomusicological Department of the Institute of Arts of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (now the Institute of Musicology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences). A team led by an outstanding Slovak folklorist Dr. Oskar Elschek and by the head of the technical team Ing. Miroslav Ruttkay-Dauk on one side and the Museum on the other co-produced the film documentation of folk dances and music in the vanishing village of Riečnica, as well as the production of traditional musical instruments - the whistle of the mouthpiece, portable dulcimer and violins. Common debates and ideas of the creators inspired mainly by the proposal of the well-known film director - documentary filmmaker Dr. Martin Slivka together with the idea of the already existing festival of amateur ethnographic films in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm eventually led to the agreement to organize a festival of professional film and television production showing the folk culture in Čadca. The management of the Kysuce Museum acting as the Festival's administration body was highly motivated by the interest of top experts - ethnographers in Kysuce and by several ambitious projects in the field of protection of traditional folk culture launched in the mid-1970s. In addition to these activities, there were the others such as the creation of museal collections and the establishment of the Museum of the Kysuce Village (open-air museum) in Nová Bystrica-Vychylovka as well as a comprehensive research of the villages of Riečnica and Harvelka planned to be flooded for the purpose of a water reservoir construction.

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The Town of Čadca and the management of the Ministry of Culture in the district found the preparation of a nationwide cultural event of the Festival to be a suitable opportunity to support the completion and co-financing of the local House of Culture being under construction. The Kysuce Museum gradually managed to involve up to twenty co-participating organizations to support the Festival materially and financially. The Film Festival Etnofilm was co-organised by the regional, district and town organizations and by the central Slovak film, television, and scientific institutions. Dozens of experts, artists, scientists, journalist, cultural and educational workers dealing with the knowledge, protection and popularization of traditional culture from all over the then Czechoslovakia and from abroad thus managed to participate in the preparations and course of the Festival. Duly planned were the activities of its preparatory committee, organizational staff, selection committee and evaluation jury, as well as the participation of the festival guests and active speakers in free stands who were enjoying the informal discussions following the presentations of the competing films.

The Festival is specific in its focus, wasn´t it a problem at the time? Weren´t you afraid of low interest in such kind of Festival?

In the second half of the 1970s, Čadca and the whole region of Kysuce experienced an extraordinary development of active interest in culture. Naturally, special attention was paid to traditional artistic expression - folk song, music, and dance. The activities of local folklore groups and folklore ensembles - Kysučan and Kelčovan - developed successfully, folklore festivals were established in Dunajov and Turzovka. Furthermore, a few amateur theatre ensembles were flourishing, the Festival of amateur theatre Palárikova Raková was running successfully and the excellent Kysuce Choir was established. The Palárik Cinema functioned well in the town, and the museum's and gallery's exhibition activities developed dynamically. The events such as the finalization of the Palárik House, the opening of the museum premises, the erection of the experimental District Library and the House of Culture meant the accomplishment of the neglected cultural infrastructure of the Town. Except for this, several cultural monuments in the district were restored successfully. It was an ingenious and systematic concept of the Department of Culture of the then District National Committee led by Dr. Rudolf Gerát.

So, what were the reactions of the professional and general public?

In those times and situation, the enlarged and more comfortable offer led to a fast increase of the public interest in cultural events. The first year of the Festival was held in the Palárik´s Cinema in December 1980 as the House of Culture had not been completed yet. The listing of the non-competitive part of the program involved a few remarkable and publicly well rated featured films as well as a number of animated films devoted to children. As far as I remember, the interest of the public was wide. The reactions of experts were well documented in the periodical press and in the monothematic issue of the Slovak Ethnography magazine.

From the very first year, the Etnofilm Festival was a highly welcome and respected event among experts, artists, and cultural workers, not only in the Kysuce region, but in the whole country, including its Czech part. Thanks to the gradual presence of participants from abroad and after the changes brought by the Velvet Revolution opening access to foreign contacts, Etnofilm turned into an international Festival in 1990. Its fame did not suffer even after the separation of Czechoslovakia as Czech colleagues continue to take an active part in the work of the festival jury, and Czech production is widely represented in the film and video competition until these days. As a rule, the Embassy of the Czech Republic is never absent among the cooperating institutions.

Has anything surprised you in positive or negative sense?

rozhovor peter maraky etnofilm 2In recent years, the Festival Etnofilm has recorded a decline in the number of participants, film producers and viewers, which could have been partially caused by the pandemics but it cannot be considered to be the only reason. The influence of the Internet, streaming options enabling viewers to view movies directly at home is a general trend of these days and the festival organizers have not yet managed to respond sufficiently to the trend. The problem also consists in the underestimation of the dramaturgical composition and the selection of non-competitive films. Their offer must be more attractive than the extensive offer commonly available on a number of television channels, via freely available Internet channels and smartphones always connected to the ubiquitous Internet. It's not easy after all. Even the organization of scientific and film expert meetings counting on the personal presence of the participants is not without problems, as the people invited are engulfed by symposia, seminars, conferences, and many other festival events. The Kysuce Cultural Centre and other current organizers of Etnofilm are therefore facing a great challenge to return the Festival its attractiveness and a dignified place in the social and cultural life of the Town of Čadca and the whole Kysuce region.

To put it simply, from the very beginning, the Festival being a combination of film and science gathered cultural, scientific institutions and public authorities of the time. Have the general conditions somehow influenced the character and mission of the Festival?

Yes. The beginnings of the Festival were mainly related to direct personal contacts. What I can see as an advantage was the fact that the Festival was relatively successful in avoiding the ideological influence of the ruling regime. On the contrary, Etnofilm took advantage of the period of the so-called “perestroika” when the films forbidden till then could finally be played. In fact, it can be said that the Festival kept relative independence during the years of the so-called real socialism and has preserved such character up to now.

Why is it worth being a part of ETNOFILM as an expert or as a viewer?

The reason is simple. Today's controversial society needs self-reflection. The films dealing with the themes such as anthropology, people's behaviour in formal and informal groups, responses to different social situations, positions of an individual in different environments, differences in cultural phenomena in a globalized while ethnically and culturally diverse world can contribute to a better understanding of the diversity and to the enhancement of the so much needed tolerance among people.

Will this year's 22nd edition be anything different from the previous ones?

It should be noted that many changes have taken place since the first years of the Festival. The coordination among increasingly divergent co-organizers is now more difficult since the personal contacts among the active organizers and Festival participants became less intense especially as for Čadca and Bratislava and the contacts need to be restored. Even in comparison with recent years, the way the Festival is organized needs to be re-evaluated with its program adapted to the new conditions, taking into account both, the opportunities provided by the latest information technologies and the types of audio-visual products. It is certainly necessary to make the offer of non-competitive films more attractive and above all, not commonly available in the distribution. The other points of interest that should be followed are to prepare targeted screenings suitable for the relevant groups of potential viewers (youngsters, children, seniors, etc.), to enable the viewing, especially of the competition screenings online, via the Internet, to involve the local and state television RTVS during the festival.

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As for the accompanying events, it is necessary to identify those that will attract the personal participation of producers and experts and that will allow them not only to exchange experience and opinions, but also to motivate them to cooperate in the production of films, videos and other audio-visual works dealing with anthropological and ethnological themes focusing on an individual and its interaction within various human communities. In other words: to make the Festival locally and globally useful for the enrichment of the cultural life in Kysuce and to the general nationwide offer of cultural events.

PhDr. Peter Maráky, ethnographer, experts on museal and monument culture, former director of the Slovak National Museum and Kysuce Museum, co-founder of the Etnofilm Čadca Film Festival

The interview was made by Mgr. Silvia Kajánková
Photo: Peter Maráky