Eva Tomanova is a Czech author and director with a
background in journalism. For the last eight years, she has worked for Czech TV,
Febio s.r.o., and TV Barrandov, and as a director of documentary films and TV
programs. Prior to that, she worked at TV Nova as an investigator
for Current Affairs documentaries in one of the top journalistic programs in
the Czech Republic. She has worked for television documentaries and reportages
in Ethiopia, Brazil, Spain, and was very successful as a high-level interviewer
(interviewing former Czech president Václav Havel, politicians, actors). She
was a member of the Executive Board of the Czech Cinematography Fund.
Always Together, her first feature-length documentary, will play at the IDFA on November 20, 21, 24, 25, and 27.
W&H: Please give us your
description of the film playing.
ET: Is there a recipe for an ideal family?
Twenty-five years ago, Petr used to be an urban man studying
computer science. Then he met Simona, and they decided to pursue their dream of
freedom together. Choosing a traditional lifestyle of self-sufficiency, love, and togetherness, the couple live in a self-made house in a meadow in a Bohemian forest with the bare essentials — and their nine children.
Can fatherly love become suffocating for the
children? Petr’s frugal, bohemian life choices mean sacrifices for the whole
family. Will they be able to fit into modern society?
W&H: What drew you to
ET: The truth! And I’m very [interested in] the kids, of course. Ten years ago,
that’s when we met. The kids were much younger. And to me, [their home] looked like a
little paradise. Getting to know them made me realize how far from
paradise their life really is.
The man has built his own kingdom in the middle of nowhere. Both parents
are university-educated. They have nine children that they don’t send to
school. In the beginning, you might feel this is like paradise, but then it
starts to crack. The eldest daughter gets pregnant by a local farmer. The
eldest son ran away once. The other children can hardly speak.
And there were
even worse times. For example, for years they were forbidden to use any paper,
even toilet paper. To learn the alphabet, they used wooden sticks. I felt almost
like a missionary because I brought them some stuff. It is a very hard life.
They gave up all the comforts we are used to. I have been to many places. I
lived with rats in South America. I have visited the poorest parts of Africa, doing a documentary about child labor and child trafficking. But then I always
felt happy [to return to] simple things, such as having a bed of my own or a hot shower.
They have never had this.
You must be very strong and very convinced to do that. It is not easy.
They are in a permanent struggle with authorities. The authorities wanted to
take their children and put them into an orphanage. They have conflicts with
the police; even Interpol was after them once!
I care about these children. I wanted to know them better. They have had
such a different kind of education that I wonder how they fit into society. Then there is the question of freedom. They are free from school and
schedules, but confined to just one meadow.
It’s also about him: How can a well-educated person become what he is.
How can he make life so hard for his children? He believes the harder, the
better. How come his wife is so obedient to him? Is it a crazy social
experiment, or has he found some deep family values? But it’s not just about getting answers — it’s also about posing new ones. Which I hope I have done.
W&H: What was the
biggest challenge in making the film?
ET: It was very challenging to
understand them: him, the kids, the sort of life [they lead]. He
is one of the most difficult characters I have ever worked with. He does not
like women who don’t take care of their husbands and children 100% of the time. So first, I needed to earn his trust and respect.
It was also difficult
with the children. They never get any presents, as it is considered a weakness
to receive one. That was very difficult, because you feel like giving them
anything they want because they have had such a hard life. They don’t even know
their exact age because they don’t celebrate their birthdays. You have to
consider all those little things in order to appreciate what is going on with
And also the film had a life of its own; it kept growing longer and longer, and I had to follow. Originally, it
was supposed to be a 52-minute TV documentary. But than I realized I could not
do it all by myself, so I got a producer on board, and then a sales agent.
Everything about that film has been challenging so far. I have enjoyed that. I
have loved that.
W&H: What advice do you
have for other female directors?
ET: Stay passionate, have trust in what you do and your intuition, work hard,
do not give up! Find a good producer and as much support as you can get. Try
do get in workshops like DOK.Incubator! It was a great experience for me. I received very profound feedback from both tutors and participants, which is always needed. The variety of nations
and different points of view are another big advantage, and they were all so
supportive. I believe it made me look differently at this and any other films
that I might possibly make.
W&H: How did you get your film funded?
ET: The film is produced
by Endorfilm Productions, in co-production with Czech Television and the
support of the Czech Cinematography Fund.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
ET: Eva Mulvad and Hanna Polak make fantastic films. They are
passionate, have trust in themselves, work hard, and do not give up.