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Robert Kirchhoff / NORMALIZATION

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Thruth is simple – lies are complex.

Documentary tragedy on the right for justice.

The film takes on the topic of a murder case which happened in former Czechoslovakia 30 years ago. The murder victim was a young woman who was a daughter of a high-ranking communist official.

The film addresses the issue of abuse of the judicial system – a manipulation perpetrated by the communist regime. This manipulation resulted in the sentencing of seven men who to this day are struggling to prove their innocence and clear their names. We chose this topic because it serves as a good illustration of the situation in the society under the socialist regime. Moreover, we feel that there are some issues which extend to the present and continue to affect the society as a whole. 
For decades, the unresolved murder case from 1976 involving a medicine student Ľudmila Cervanová is “hanging” like a cloud over Slovakia. After all these years, the tragic events of that evening are with us. They are present in the media and discussed among the public. This case, which in all likelihood will be heard by the senate of The European Court of Human Rights in Strassbourg is familiar to almost all Slovaks. What is more, everyone is also convinced that they know the truth about what happened on that night and who is responsible.

The massive coverage that this murder case has attracted resonates with the public chiefly because the propaganda of the regime then in power has vociferously proclaimed the quilt of the defendants. The police and the secret police have immediately embarked on a frenetic investigation, detaining and bringing charges to dozens of suspects. In the end, based on fabricated evidence, seven persons from a small Slovak town of Nitra were charged with this horrific crime.

For the defendants and their families the case has become a life-long struggle and a continuous nightmare. To this day, there is a vivid discussion in the society about the innocence or guilt of the accused. To this day, the murderer has not been found.

This endless and mysterious case is in a sense a story of Slovakia, its power structures – then and now. It convincingly portrays the period of Czechoslovak normalization (normalization refers to the period 1970-1989 and was invented by the communist party after the invasion of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia in 1968). Even though this period is long gone, the “men of power” who held the reins of the regime then through the judiciary continue to endure time and societal changes.


 

The topic of this documentary „Twin Peaks“ will not be chiefly about a mysterious disappearance and a murder of one young woman. Through the protagonists whose lives have been affected by the case, the film has the ambition to capture broader societal issues, which are protracted into the present, since the lives of persons represented in the film have been forever altered and the never-ending drama of the case continues to affect them. The tragic event was not merely something that happened and would go away – it is constantly re-appearing in their lives. The tragic fate of Ludmila Cervanová has become their perpetual nightmare.

The film sets out to uncover the fate of several families, relations between their members and life stories in a specific and changing social context - as they unravel from the time of the tragedy to social reality of present day. In this remarkable story, with relevance today, we become witness to methods of obstruction of democratic values and civic freedoms in a society that outwardly proclaims to be built on these values.

The Cervanová case serves as focus loci of the story and provides an entanglement which allows us to broaden its scope and explore the motives and life’s journeys of the story’s protagonists.
An unsolved criminal act thus serves as a backdrop for the portrayal and examination of interpersonal relations, views, and societal development spanning the period of the 70’s all the way up to present day.

www.kauzacervanova.com