'Empties' helps fill up Czech slate


LONDON -- "Empties," a boxoffice record-breaking new comedy from Oscar-winning Czech director Jan Sverak, will spearhead the Central European country's Cannes sales push, the Czech Film Center said Monday.

Sverak -- whose father, Zdenek, wrote the film's script -- broke Czech Republic boxoffice records with more than 210,000 admissions in the first fortnight after "Empties" was released in early March.

The same father-son pair shared best foreign-language Oscar laurels in 1997 for the comedy "Kolya."

The film, which has pulled in a cumulative 830,000 admissions and is on target to be the first Czech film to take in more than $5 million at the local boxoffice, is another comedy of manners but this time about an elderly couple grappling with the challenges of retirement.

"It has the same sort of humor as 'Kolya' and is both very Czech and universal in its theme and comedy," Jana Cernik, manager of the Czech Film Center, said Monday.

Sverak's film, which producer Eric Abraham will rep at Cannes, stars Zdenek Sverak as a grouchy old retiree disgruntled with the inactivity life as a pensioner appears to offer.

It is one of four films the Czech Film Center will promote during the market at Cannes, which opens this week. Other films include Alice Nellis' "Little Girl Blue," which Cernik said is an ideal pickup for an international film festival; Jiri Menzel's "I Served the King of England," which was in competition at the Berlinale in February; and "A Bitch's Diary," by Irena Pavlaskova.