Jánošík (1921)

Following the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 film production in Slovakia continued to take the form of individual activities, only several fragments of which have been preserved. These were predominantly films of a reportage nature, because the technological conditions in Slovakia at this time were inadequate for the production of more difficult film projects.
The initiative for the creation of the first full-length Slovak feature film originated amongst the community of Slovak emigrants. In November 1920 a group of American Slovaks established the Tatra Film Corporation in Chicago, which planned to establish branch offices in Prague, Bratislava and Žilina. In May 1921 the company’s representatives arrived in Slovakia and the brothers Jaroslav and Daniel Siakeľ (director and director of photography) together with producer Ján Závodný and František Horlivý (a Czech theatre director from Chicago) began to shoot the film Jánošík.
The film was shot on location in Blatnica near Martin and at a mansion in Štiavnička. Some interior scenes were later shot in A-B Company’s Prague studios. The principal role was played by Czech theatre and film actor Theodor Pištěk. The film was shot using two cameras (Oldřich Beneš was the second director of photography). The preserved shots and the period information reveal that the film was made in two versions – one for the Czechoslovak market and one for distribution in the USA. The film’s premiere was held on 21 November 1921 in Žilina; four days later it was introduced into cinemas in Prague. The American premiere took place on 1 December 1921 in Chicago. The film did not bring any profit to the Tatra Film Corporation and the company later discontinued its film production activities. In 1975 film historian Ivan Rumanovský reconstructed the surviving fragments of the film, setting them to music composed by Jozef Malovec.
Jánošík depicts the story of the eponymous legendary Slovak hero as a struggle against feudal and national oppression. When telling the story, the authors applied the principle of retrospective and parallel events. This, together with the use of detail and some advantageous or western motifs, indicates the inspiration of American film at that time. The Siakeľ brothers’ Jánošík remains the only complete example of Slovak professional feature film production which has survived from the silent movie era. Its combination of animated Slovak national tradition and popular US film style made it one of the most unique film manifestations of the entire inter-war period, not just in Slovakia but also in the wider Czech Republic.