Professional Foreigner (2016, 63´)

“To me Switzerland seemed like Paradise … For pensioners. Wherever I stepped, I left craters behind.” A documentary about the writer Irena Brežná, émigré from Communist-era Czechoslovakia, who was a war correspondent in Chechnya.

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Shortly after the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the eighteen-years-old Irena Brežná unwillingly followed her parents to emigrate. Not only she had to face a new culture that was inconceivable to her, but also the remorse that she did not fight for her homeland. That is why she went to write about the dissident movement in Eastern Europe and the Russian invasion in Chechnya. Gradually we discover the emergence of the „patchwork identity“ of Irena Brežná, geographically located not only between Switzerland, Germany, France and Slovakia, but also in Africa and Russia. In her homeland, called Emigration, many languages are spoken and many interesting and diverse people appear. The film provides a unique archival footages, topped up with fresh tears and laughter.

The film about Irena Brežná (born 1950) aims to be a unique example of a very successful, yet very difficult process of creating new identity – or multiple identity – after emigration at young age. A combination of intimate experience of the main character, of her family members and international colleagues is presented in a dynamic structure, driven by Brežná's sportive and lively spirit. We follow her life on bicycle (partially using GoPro camcorder) through a few “language nests“ that characterise her different life periods: Slovak as the language of the collective identity in her young age, Russian as the space for dissidents, war in Chechnya and sensual experience, French as her start of exploring (and helping) Africa and giving birth to her second son, and then German, the language of her adulthood and mature age, and of her journalistic and literary proficiency and success.

The film was produced and distributed with the support of Audiovizuálny fond, Rozhlas a televízia Slovenska and Grimaldi Production.

Photo © Vasilij Ščekoldin, Anna Grusková and Personal Archive by Irena Brežná