Václav Marhoul: Hard-headed film buff
Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Photo: Pavel Veselý
What is the former general director of AB Barrandov, who refused to be a puppet of the majority owner, doing today? Living as a gallery operator, and preparing to return to the film business with his first feature.
THE BARRANDOV STUDIOS played a role in the life of Václav Marhoul (42) since he was eighteen, when he drank in the atmosphere of the silver screen first as a production assistant and later as a film and theatrical producer for Sklep theater and the feature films Kouř (Smoke) and Pražská pětka (The Prague Five). In 1990, he won a competition and became the general director of the indebted giant. With hatchet in hand he dismissed hundreds of employees and halted 20 films already in production, for which he reaped criticism from his filmmaker friends – but he managed to stave off the bankruptcy of AB Barrandov. He held his position for seven years, and he might have been here to this day had the majority owner, Moravia Steel, not decided to pledge some of the Barrandov property as collateral for a loan to buy Třinecké železárny. “I was principally against using Barrandov as collateral, so the Moravia Steel board of directors demoted me in 1997,” Marhoul recalls. As a minority owner with a stake of under 1%, he is still keeping an eye on the planned sale of Barrandov. He says that an emotional relationship is involved: “The child was taken from me, but I want to watch it as it grows and comes to thrive.”
He gave up his highly publicized position for a job as a gallery operator for the Tvrdohlaví (Hard-heads) group, opening its permanent exhibition in the Lucerna passage in Prague in 2000. Additionally, he is the owner and director of the Silver Screen production company, which encompasses his gallery and film activities alike. Marhoul has no plans to give up his passion – he has slated the realization of a feature film, an adaptation of his play Mazaný Filip (Foxy Filip), a parody of American gangster films of the thirties. He concedes that engaging in the culture business is no mean feat. He has been looking for funding for his low-budget CZK 16 million film for five years already, and he is still 5 million short. Nevertheless, he still believes that the film will be successful. “I wrote and directed Mazaný Filip for Sklep, it ran for seven years, and the audiences enjoyed it immensely,” recounts this director, who already has ideas for two more feature films.