Martina Buchelová’s ‘Lover, Not a Fighter’ Looks for Hope Amidst Chaos, Debuts First-Look Stills: ‘This Film Will Caress You’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Martina Buchelová’s debut feature “Lover, Not a Fighter” (“Milovník, nie bojovník”) has debuted three first-look stills.

Recently awarded at Karlovy Vary Film Festival’s industry section, Eastern Promises, the Slovak-Czech co-production sees Andrej, who is 20, secretly in love with Miša, living with his grandma, and having the problem of climbing high trees when drunk.

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“I wrote the script during the pandemic. During that first wave of darkness, I wanted to laugh a little, so I started to laugh at all the hardships,” Buchelová told Variety. Her short “Magic Moments” premiered at Toronto.

“This film mirrors so many contemporary problems, so many chaotic things happening in the world. But I wanted to tell a hopeful love story.”

Currently being edited and eyeing a March release, “Lover, Not a Fighter” is produced by Ninja Film (Slovakia) and Unit and Sofa Praha (Czech Republic). Adam Kubala, Michaela Kostková, František Beleš, Jaroslava Pokorná, Marián Mitaš, Adam Burčík and Mia Arpášová star.

Lover, Not a Fighter
Lover, Not a Fighter

“Growing up… It’s an interesting state of mind. You have to overcome so much. All these characters yearn for love – we all do. We are just embarrassed by it sometimes, so instead we push people away,” explained the director.

“Andrej really loves Miša, he loves his grandma and his cousin. He even learns how to love himself! I really wanted to show honest interactions and make sure I believed in these situations as well.”

She also decided to add footage shot on an iPhone.

“Andrej is filming some things to kill time, to make fun of them or simply to commemorate the moment. It brings a fun element to the story, as well as some unpredictability. His generation grew up with smartphones. They influence our reality, which is why we feel it helped us tell a contemporary story.”

Buchelová – who divided the story into seven chapters – has a lot of affection for her “fun” characters, as they battle alcoholism, co-dependency and even conspiracy theories. But she sees them for who they are.

Lover, Not a Fighter
Lover, Not a Fighter

“Andrej jokes all the time, because that’s how he’s coping with chaos. Deep down, he’s actually quite sad and disillusioned. That’s why he decides to live with someone who really cares for him. As for Miša, her father ­– a charming manipulator – is trying to heal her from lesbianism, even though she’s not a lesbian. Just in case. He also wants to move his entire family into a bunker.”

With the Slovak film industry facing turmoil amid the country’s ongoing political crisis – and opposition accusing the government of restricting media freedom – young filmmakers are wary of what the future might bring.

“They just took over everything, within weeks. In Slovakia, things are escalating so quickly,” said producer Michaela Kaliská, who co-produces alongside Erika Paulinská, with Buchelová adding: “So many things in this story used to seem absurd. They don’t anymore. They seem real, which is very, very weird. We don’t want to be naïve, but we want young people to see the film and to see a love story, because our lives are so difficult right now.”

“We see it as a generational statement,” agreed Czech producer Julie Marková Žáčková.

“Our film has this vulnerability about it, even though the older generation doesn’t really approve of it. They call us ‘snowflakes,’ but there is power in vulnerability. Our characters are not some toxic guys, for example: one of them has a guinea pig at home that he loves above all else. But it’s a secret!”

She added: “There is this specific sense of humor in all Martina’s films, which is also why I have been ‘stalking’ her for many years, hoping to finally work together. It’s a bit absurd, or even weird, but it always comes from real-life situations. This film will caress you.”

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