After a busy second half of 2005, Praguestudios are experiencing a slow period. No major international productions haveyet been announced to shoot in the Czech territory, which is not unusual.

A similar production gap opened in mid-2005before Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask, Omen 666 and Casino Royale filled localstages.

Rumours that Part 2 of The Chronicles ofNarnia would shoot in the Czech Republic could notbe confirmed. Rather 2006 is shaping up to be a comeback year for localauteurs.

As previously reported in ScreenInternational and, Oscar winners Jan Sverak and Jiri Menzel have both returned to thedirector's chair.

Menzel is in the midst of shooting hislong-awaited opus, I Served The King Of England,which will see limited domestic release in December 2006. The film is based onthe Czech novel of the same name by Bohumil Hrabal, who also wrote the bookwhich Menzel adapted for his 1968 Oscar winner, Closely Watched Trains. Given that Hrabal and Menzel both approach the status of nationaltreasures in the Czech Republic, and the cachet of an international star inJulia Jentsch (Sophie Scholl), the film is asure Czech entry for the 2007 Oscar nominations.

In 2008, that honour will likely go toSverak's Empties, which will be released inMarch 2007. Sverak, who won Best Foreign Language Film in 1997 with Kolya, has re-teamed with actor-screenwriter father Zdenek and Britishco-producer Eric Abraham for Empties. The film,about a reluctantly retired teacher, is a modest outing for the Sveraks aftertheir big-scale WWII aerial drama Dark Blue World but should better showcase their talents.

Surrealist filmmaker Jan Svankmajer, whoselatest film, Lunacy, is included in this year'sTribeca Spotlight section, has announced his next project: Surviving Life(Theory and Practice) will be Svankmajer's firstsince the death of his wife and long-time collaborator, Eva Svankmajerova.

King Of England will be a hit at the Czech box office due in no small part to thepopularity of Hrabal's book. Local filmmakers have cottoned on to the magic ofliterary adaptations following the success From The Subway With Love, the top box-office earner in the Czech Republic in 2005, based ona novel by bestselling author Michael Viewegh. It's Gonna Get Worse is likewise based on a popular work. Dealing with communistCzechoslovakia in the 1980s and filled with retro music, the film will drawsome comparisons to Wolfgang Becker's Good Bye, Lenin. Keeping with the counter-culture spirit of the book, the Czechfilmmakers are skipping traditional distribution channels and plan to screenthe 16mm black-and-white film at clubs, pubs and music festivals.

Lit adaptation Gympl also looks at the underground in the form of present-day graffitiartists, giving the film a ready-made audience, primarily teenage boys. Thesame demographic is being courted by Ro(c)k of the Pariahs, which comes at the end of string teen comedies that began with the2005 hit Snowboarders.

But while filmmakers await business resultsto learn whether sex, drugs and rock'n'roll continue to sell at the box office,upcoming films focused on young people are becoming more sophisticated. ThreeSeasons in Hell and English Rhapsody both feature young people contending with crucial moments inhistory - the former with the onset of communism in Czechoslovakia andthe latter with the Anschluss. Bestiar, CrashRoad, I Am Wanderingand Kisses feature strong central femalecharacters and will measure the box-office power of young women. Kisses will be shot in part on HD video.

While producers watch the current boom ofCzech filmgoers grow up, they are also casting an eye on the next generation.Fantasy-driven films Darkness, Last Childrenof Aporver and Code Name Maharal all seek to draw Harry Potter fans, including parents.

Czech productions continue to see strongsupport from the State Fund for the Support and Development of CzechCinematography, but not from the private sector as had been hoped. News of moreprojects and production support will likely be announced at the Finale Plzenfilm festival in Pilsen, April 3-9.

For full Czech Republic listings, click here