The 13-year-old son of a Ukrainian immigrant to the Czech Republic is laid up in the hospital with horrible injuries. He accuses local Roma of the assault, but holes in his story — which has already circulated through town — begin to emerge.
Irina, an industrious single mother and Ukrainian immigrant, lives with her 13-year-old son, Igor, in a cozy Czech border town, where she works as a housekeeper. While back in her homeland on a mission to secure documents for a bid towards European citizenship, she receives news that Igor — whom she left behind in the Czech Republic to keep up with his studies and rigorous gymnastics training regimen — has been involved in a serious accident.
Upon her frantic return, she learns from an investigator that her boy was assaulted by home invaders, a claim confirmed by a vigilant neighbour. When Igor awakens and is questioned by both his mother and the authorities, he identifies the assailants as Roma. Focused on justice, Irina mobilizes her neighbours, who, like much of Eastern European society, are already prone to anti-Roma sentiment. However, inconsistencies arise in Igor’s account — and now that her case has been co-opted by right-wing campaigners, it seems impossible to stop an avalanche of xenophobia and racism.
Victim is the emotionally sober first feature of Slovak director Michal Blaško, whose short film Atlantis, 2003 was selected for Cannes’s Cinéfondation in 2017 and won the award for Best Short Film at the Cottbus Film Festival that same year. His knack for well-paced and authentic character studies, matched with a sharp-shooting script and visual style, make for a powerful and thought-provoking debut. Blaško uniquely exposes the fragility of society and how easy it is to topple its pillars when the ground they’re built on is already fragmented. Unmissable, Victim is sure to remind audiences of storytelling’s powerful consequences.
Content advisory: themes of racism