A film by David Suchar, in partnership with Prime & Fire Selects, Talenthouse and BFI Future Film; Unfinished Stories puts a spotlight on the skateboarding scene in Slovakia.
This is the inspirational story of an underground skateboarding community in a rural part of eastern Slovakia. Through a mixture of personal statements, animations, photographs and tricks; we, as the viewer, begin to understand how skateboarding can help people to escape from the mundane realities of living in a dead-end town.
The film shows the power of skateboarding to transform lives, and how it can give the young people of Europe a purpose. Yes, it's a film about skateboarders but it's also so much more than that. In a nutshell, it's a sociological look at how less traditional sports can thrive in places you wouldn't expect to find them.
The young skateboarders of Slovakia want to create something and leave a legacy for future generations to build on. They often feel like the world is against them, but they refuse to let anything get in the way of their love for skateboarding.
Prime & Fire Selects, in association with Factory Media, is an annual film competition giving up-and-coming filmmakers the funds and support to create short human-interest documentaries within the realms of action sports.
We spoke to David Suchar about his life so far, what motivated him to make the film, and his plans for the future.
I come from the eastern part of Slovakia. I now live in Prague.
I used to play around with my uncle’s handy-cam. I shot everything I saw and would often tried to copy what I saw on TV. Later on, when things got more serious, I worked in production and also as an assistant director on several documentary projects.
Outside of film production, I have organised a skate festival and a competition in the last few years. I also have a number of ongoing photography projects.
When I started to skate at the age of 13, I always imagined a camera capturing all of the moments. Gradually, my need to document my skateboarding evolved into photography and sometimes videos.
The whole process of making the documentary was very natural for me. One of the first impulses we had was to make it in my hometown. We had a civic organisation and had made some serious attempts to build a solid place to ride.
At some points over the years it seemed really hopeful, but our plans collapsed every time. Around that time, I started to notice that other towns in Slovakia were going through similar struggles and in some it went well but in some of them it fell apart like in our case.
Naturally, it came out of the fact that most of my life I was a part of it. Growing up in a post-socialist country meant skateboarding for me evolved in quite a different way.
We were mesmerised by most of the stuff from western countries so the reception was very intense. The result of all the repression was that in some things we were very behind and on the other hand we maybe absorbed things too quickly.
I felt the need to express my thoughts on the way it still affects people without turning it into a historical documentation of events.
Skateboarding is different and I wanted to tell it differently.
I didn’t have problem approaching the people because I am one of them. What was maybe difficult was to keep a distance and stay detached, despite that connection.
Larry Clark’s work had quite an impact on me, although it doesn’t really show in what I do. Mostly it is not about who made the piece but the way it speaks to me as a person.
Weather and time (the biggest difficulties).
Towards the end of filming, I realised that the story doesn’t end. It goes on and on. From this thought we derived the title – Unfinished Stories.
Unfinished isn't meant in a sad way. It is about an ever-present hope and about how you always have to work with what life gives you and make the best of it no matter what.
The biggest down moment for me was the realisation that there is so much material and so much to the story that I wanted to tell and I had to cut it down to 8 minutes. I felt a great responsibility to make it the best film I could make and that's why I decided to focus on one particular story rather than make a superficial overview of the whole country instead.
TREBADREC comes from an eastern dialect of Slovak language and is also a name of a skate video made by people portrayed in the documentary. It's difficult to translate properly, even into official Slovak, but it means "you have to work for it."
One of the most memorable moments of the experience was when I found myself alone in the ruined skatepark after I listened to the whole story of it. It gave me the positive feeling that there is a future but that you have to go and get it, not wait for it in the middle of some ruins.
The film is much more focused on a small group of people than I first planned so it's definitely different to how I first envisaged it. I wanted to cover a wider part of Slovakia but that demands a much longer format, so I find this to be more like a sketch for something bigger. Nevertheless, I am pleased that I could make it as a compact story as this gave me a lot of inspiration.
The film has a few technical imperfections that are difficult to avoid sometimes, but when I look at it now I don’t think I would make it any differently.
Each project gives you some extra knowledge and there is always a lot to learn. A great plus for me in this project was the fact that once I finished, it gave me inspiration for further projects.
The pressure was more subjective, coming from myself, because I didn’t want to make the film all about me. I was trying to be objective, and was worried that I might slide into negativity because of my own experiences.
The Prague skateboarding scene is interesting and unique. But right now, in my free time, I am working with the idea of a feature-length version of Unfinished Stories because there is a lot of material with a strong informative value. There is a lot to say about the subject.