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Czech Republic, 1997 (MIFF 1998, International Panorama)

Director: Petr Zelenka

Could you forgive your wife if she had sex with a stranger in a cab? Could you forgive the pilot who dropped the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima? Could you forgive yourself if you accidentally killed a young couple? Life is so complicated that you may be asked to do all three within a single night! A jet black comedy about forgiveness, Petr Zelenka's Buttoners is six short stories peopled by truly bizarre oddballs that inhabit a cruel but hopeful world full of mistakes, perversions, coincidences and miracles, where everything is linked to everything else and time flows in both directions.

The story of ordinary (in the loosest possible sense of the word) people trying to cope with their destinies at the end of the twentieth century, Buttoners combines science with science fiction, realism with surrealism, twisted humour and farce. One of the film's protagonists, depressed that his sperm was not selected to be frozen and launched into space, decides to unwind by indulging in his favourite pastime, laying on the railway tracks. A psychiatrist advises his dreary patients that all their problems will be solved if they comb their hair, brush their teeth and shine their shoes regularly. The pilot of the Enola Gay appears to four little girls at a seance demanding to make a public apology on Czech radio...

Crazed logic abounds and everything seems to make perfect (non)sense in this eccentric world. Meanwhile the Buttoner plys his shadowy trade: the compulsive and surreptitious theft of garment and upholstery fastenings. Hysterical, complex and highly original - and the recipient of the grand prize at Rotterdam Film Festival - Buttoners signals the emergence of a major new talent in East European cinema.

Petr Zelenka was born in 1967 and commenced studying scriptwriting at the Prague Film School in 1984. He began working as a documentary director and a script editor at Barrandov Film Studios and also for the BBC on the Czech Mate programme. Buttoners is Zelenka's second feature after Mnaga-Happy (1996).

See also...


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