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FAIR PLAY – A Director’s View

Director Andrea Sedláčková presented her new film Fair Play at the Avalon Theatre on May 13, offering insight into the story, the actors, and her personal vision for the successful film. The poignant mother-daughter story centers on an Olympic dream and a desire for freedom—set against a backdrop of the 1980s under communist rule.

Pavla Veličkinová, Head of the Public Diplomacy Department at the Czech Embassy, facilitated the Q&A between the director and the audience. A number of the answers from the discussion are posted below.       

Is the film based on a true story?

Some years ago, I found an article about secret materials concerning the doping of Czechoslovak sportsmen organized by the state. The article revealed that the doping started in 1983 and 150 top sportsmen and women were involved. It was terrible because of the “voluntary” aspect – either you signed up voluntarily and stayed among the top athletes for the Olympics, or you finished your sports career. The article described terrible practices of the state that knowingly destroyed their health to have them win at any price. There was only one woman, a skier, who refused and that was my inspiration, the problem in general.

Are you interested in sports or doping issues?

I am not into sports myself. For me, I was interested and more in the relationship between the mother and daughter. In my previous films, I focused on father-daughter relations. Generally, I wanted to tell about how my generation lived under a communist regime. We wanted our parents to be heroes, to be brave, but they did compromises for our sake, which we had protested against. I think the moral issues, the decisions we make in our lives is not only a contemporary issue but universal too.

Were there more versions of the manuscript and is the result very different?

There were twenty versions of the manuscript during three years. I contacted several people who knew about the practices, interviewed them, and had them read the versions. They did a number of changes, which helped me very much. In one version, Martina (one of the lead characters in the film) dies but as you may have seen, I decided to let her live after all.

How did you choose the actors, are the main characters real runners?

Anna Geislerová who plays the mother is a Czech movie star. The two young female runners are both beginning actresses, too, with some experience. I had to find actresses who would be able to train hard, they had to have trainings four times a week for one year to be true on screen. In the end, they had to be able to run 60 kilometers. I hired a trainer and did a rather unusual casting. We just summoned the actors in a stadium and had them run. The trainer was the one who decided who could be able to make it.

What was the perception of your film in the Czech Republic?

Well, it is neither a comedy, nor a blockbuster. There are certainly not crowds gathering in the cinemas to watch Fair Play. However, I was pleased to hear that the film succeeded in depicting the atmosphere of the 80s. (The film had 15 nominations for Czech Lions Award, the highest Czech film awards and represented the Czech Republic for Oscar contention for the Academy Awards in 2015).

Can you tell us more about your emigration?

Almost all people of my generation had thought about emigrating, it was a frequent topic of our discussions. I left Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1989, when I was 22, and applied for political asylum in Paris. I got it on November 17, 1989, paradoxically the very same day when the Velvet Revolution started. As a political asylee, I could not leave France for three months. I missed the most exciting time in my country but traveled back and forth as often as I could, which I still do.