It’s a rainy day in Krakow, but the main square is crowded with tourists and youngsters.  We’ve just arrived in the city. Visegrad Shorts on Tour, organised by Daazo.com.

We have no time to look around, the weather is miserable anyway. With full of enthusiasm, we walk straight to the hostel to meet the participants of our ambitious initiative: Visegrad Shorts on Tour. Six directors are travelling together for five days, to screen their six films in four different cities. A new city every day. We already feel like rock stars on tour: we have just driven six hours from Budapest to Krakow in our wonderful big car, which was generously lent us by Citroen Hungary.

Slowly but surely everyone arrives. Robert Hloz and Michal Hogenauer from the Czech Republic, Agata Jagodzinska and Tomasz Jurkiewicz from Poland, Laszlo Csuja from Hungary and Lucija Halmova from Slovakia. The team is together, and everyone is already at ease. It seems so natural – like it’s not the first time we have all met. It seems that filmmakers can easily understand each other, no matter where they come from. The conversation is inspiring and the atmosphere is great, but sadly, we have to leave them. Daniel, Anita, and me, as the organisers, have to go and check the venue: the screening is in two hours. The small, but cosy cinema of Kino 18 is just above Klub Pauza, a popular bar, near the main square. The venue is part of the local Cervantes Institute, which is a guarantee that we can welcome an open-minded audience tonight. “It’s good that it’s raining, more people will come” – says Zosia, our host from the Polish Short Film Agency, one of the collaborators of the project. She is right: after fighting with technology a little, we start the screening with a full house. After each film, I invite the director for a little talk, and suddenly our event becomes much more than a simple screening. The distance between the audience and the directors disappears. After the screening we all go down to Klub Pauza and continue talking about the films and our work that is dedicated to shorts. I am pretty sure now that whenever filmmakers from all over the world meet, there is an instant understanding of each other. Beer helps too.

We need to leave Krakow early in the morning. Such a pity: we would love to stay in this beautiful and vivid city for a while longer. Now the sun is shining and our tour bus is heading to our next stop: Prague. The tour is now definitely on, it’s time to conquer the Czech Republic next. There is a very entertaining rhythm of travelling together: talking-sleeping-talking-sleeping. Everyone adjusts to it easily.

After checking in at the hostel in Prague, we go to the Bio OKO cinema for the screen test. Petr Horak from Ishorts is waiting for us. Ishorts organises popular short film screenings in Prague, and they are now supporting our project, too. Bio OKO is amazing. An arthouse cinema renovated, or rethought, in an artistic way. It’s a huge venue with 200 seats, a number of bean-bags, deckchairs and even a Trabant car which recalls the atmosphere of a drive-in cinema. We are immediately inspired, especially when we find out that they have a DCP projector with crystal clear image. We have one free day until the screening. “Cool, so we’ll just get up tomorrow morning and start the day with a beer!” says Anita who feels herself at home from the moment we arrive. A few years ago, she spent six months in Prague. But yes, one day in Prague is as promising as it is dangerous, if we think about all that drink and food. We refuse to drink absinthe (thank goodness for that!), but anyway, beer surely puts us in a good mood for the screening. We catch up with Haruna Hancoop before the event. She co-organised Visegrad Shorts as a member of KinoPraha. “A lot of people will come.” – she says. “We even had an ad on the local radio station”.  What KinoPraha and Ishorts has done is surely amazing: the six short films have great success with a  full house screening. When the audience learns that the prize going to the audience award winner will be the sum of the donations collected at each screening, they give generously. We collect almost 2000 crowns (around 80 euro). After the screening, a middle-aged guy walks up to our table and asks for autographs from the filmmakers. He loves the concept, he says, and the World of Shorts magazine we issued on the occasion of the project. The magazine is now passed around the table and everybody signs it. One day, with all these signatures, it’s going to be worth a lot, I guess.

Our next stop is Bratislava. We meet Michal Klembara at KC Dunaj, our next venue. Michal manages OZ Publikum, which is a company that organises film industry events and projects. Michal is a bit sceptical. He says:  “It’s Sunday, and it’s Bratislava, you never know how many people will come”. But it seems that the atmosphere of KC Dunaj, this artistically renovated department store from the socialist era is tempting enough: again, we can celebrate a full house screening. The bar on the top level of the building is also unlike an illustration of a boring night in Bratislava. It’s Sunday night but a huge crowd is enjoying a jazz concert and good beer after our screening. Our team of filmmakers seems to be close friends now, we have got used to travelling together: what seemed so exhausting in the beginning, could easily become a lifestyle.

We spend only one night in Bratislava. The next day we arrive at our final destination, Budapest. The crowning event of the project takes place here: we are going to have a conference and a screening where we’ll find out  who the winners of the Visegrad Short Film Award and the Audience Award are. The round-table conference is extremely important. Its aim is to set up a Network of Visegrad Filmmakers, to get to know about each other, and to learn about the film industry of the Visegrad countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Among many other goals, the main objective of the Network is to promote filmmakers of the region, and to find and provide co-production opportunities. The formal network has been set. At present, it’s only a Facebook group, but still, it’s a good start. We are optimistic about the screening and again, there is a full house at the Menta Terrace, a restaurant and club with a nice open-air venue. This last screening is special: the jury (Ferenc Pusztai, Petr Horak, Phil) gives out the main prize. The winner is Robert Hloz for his film “Numbers”. The audience award goes to Tomasz Jurkiewicz for his film “Grandma Has Gone”. This is the last night of the project, the last screening of the series, and the end of Visegrad Shorts on Tour. But it is also the beginning of a tradition we are going to stick to.

You can watch the six shortlisted films on Daazo.com: http://daazo.com/visegrad2012

We invite you to vote online for your favourite from all films submitted to the Visegrad Shorts contest, so browse the channel and dare to „like”!

Visit Visegrad Filmmakers’ Network on Facebook!

Special thanks to our co-organisers:
OZ Publikum.sk, Kino Praha, Krakow Film Foundation, iShorts

text: Zoltán Áprily