‘107 Mothers’ Director Péter Kerekes Talks Upcoming ‘Marathon’ newsbhunt

Péter Kerekes will follow “107 Mothers” – which won Venice’s Horizons Award for best screenplay – with “Marathon,” currently in production and eyeing a winter 2024 release.

Set in his Slovak hometown and revolving around the Košice Peace Marathon, established in 1924, the doc will clock in at exactly 2 hours and 7 minutes, mirroring its current record.

“It’s not just about people who run, get to the finish line and that’s it, end credits. There are so many beautiful contradictions in the stories we are recounting here,” Kerekes tells Variety ahead of the film’s bow at Ji.hlava New Visions Forum.

He didn’t immediately jump at the idea, he admits.

“I am not a runner and I already made one film about the history of my city [‘66 Seasons’]. I didn’t want to repeat myself. Then the organizers forced me to meet some of the veterans connected to the marathon and I completely fell in love with them.”

“I realized so many of them weren’t runners, but they experienced the fascist occupation of my city, then the Soviet ‘liberation.’ They really had to run for their life, for their freedom.”

Produced by Kerekes and Tereza Tokárová for kerekesfilm (Slovakia), “Marathon” is co-produced by Filip Remunda and Vít Klusák for Hypermarket Film (Czech Republic) and Julianna Ugrin for Eclipse Film (Hungary). Slovak National Television and Czech Television are also on board.

As the history of the town and of the marathon start to intertwine, Kerekes will try to reflect the emotional turmoil of the sport, however.

“There will be many optimistic and joyful stories at the beginning. Then you have to go through terrible pain, but when you finish, there is this extra dose of endorphins,” he assures, mentioning some of his headstrong protagonists.

“We interviewed a lady who is 103 years old. She comes from a typical local Jewish-Hungarian family and she is the narrator of the film. When talking about how they walked from [concentration camp for women] Ravensbrück, she said the SS people were more human than some personal trainers, because they were ‘only’ supposed to walk 30 km a day. The runners have to reach 42. Talk about black humor.”

At the moment, Kerekes is not ruling out the use of archive footage.

Courtesy of Kerekesfilm

“At first, I didn’t want to do it. But we found such wonderful images,” he notes.

“The most important thing is the rhythm of the film. We are talking to one wonderful woman who won several marathons in Slovakia, but she works in a hospital, teaching people how to walk again after a stroke. This is what I am doing now, in the editing room. Sometimes I go very fast and sometimes, I need to change my pace.”

The film, edited by Martin Piga and lensed by his regular cinematographer Martin Kollár, hasn’t ignited Kerekes’ love for running just yet.

“My grandfather used to say: ‘A gentleman never runs.’ I am really not a sportsman. Then again, ‘107 Mothers’ took seven years to make, ‘Cooking History’ – five. My films are my marathons,” he jokes. Noting that “love for his hometown” will be one of the characters too.

“If they asked me to make this film in Boston [famous for its marathon], I would have to refuse.”

“There is a statue of a runner [in Košice] and we realized several men modelled for it. Some are still alive. They talk about aging and eternity in the film, because they can still see parts of their body immortalized in bronze,” he recalls.

“These people survived very harsh times and they never gave up. They always have this beautiful sense of humor, so maybe that’s what I would like to transmit? When I showed our local swimming pool in ‘66 Seasons,’ someone asked what I wanted the audience to get out of it. I said: ‘I have no idea.’ I am just obsessed with stories, I guess. It’s like when you have a crazy dream or you read something interesting. You just want to share it with others.”

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