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Two Romani teenagers fall in love after being sent away from their poor village in Eastern Slovakia to beg on the streets of wealthy Vienna. For the first time they get a glimpse of happiness, but it doesn’t last long.

Short Synopsis

Somewhere in the outskirts of Vienna, gypsy mafia man Rocky rules his “family” with an iron fist. Among the members is teenage street beggar Pepe, who is forced to surrender his daily proceeds. One day, young Marcela arrives from East Slovakia, home of the family boss, to work off her father’s debt. Before long, love is in the air. The trouble is that Rocky has plans of his own for Marcela.



Together with other Slovak Roma/Gypsy, the joyful teenager Pepe lives under the supervision of his despotic uncle Rocky in Vienna.

To earn money for his mother and sisters in Eastern Slovakia, Pepe goes begging day after day.
Despite the harshness of his everyday life, Pepe seems to have come to terms with his life situation, but that changes as the same age Marcela comes to work on her father’s debt for Rocky. The two teenagers fall in love and dream of a free self-determined life in which they are allowed to live their love freely.

For the first time in Pepe’s life, he looks beyond his own limits and tries to escape from his dreary everyday life with Marcela.

But it is not to be.


DIRECTOR´S statement

I was born in Košice, near the Ukrainian border in Eastern Slovakia. A poor region, even among the Slovaks smiled at as inferior and that, even though the majority of creative people have it´s origin in Eastern Slovakia. Especially in Eastern Slovakia there are many Roma. Unlike in Austria, in Slovakia people are growing up very aware that there are Roma. Only since a few years ago in Vienna, I saw them again as part of the society, often in the form of beggars. There was an experience with an approximately 12-year-old Roma boy whom I had known by sight for a long time. He came to my table, wanted money and cigarettes, when we did not give him any of it, he began to berate us wildly without knowing that I speak Slovak and understand everything. I was as puzzled and shocked as this boy, who was actually still a child could screw so quickly. His countenance had changed rapidly in recent years, they were grim, aggressive and no longer a 12-year-old boy. The thought of him left me no peace. Where would he sleep, where eat? Did he attend any school? Does he have friends, a favorite song? What does he do if he does not have to beg on the streets? That’s how it all began, first with the help of the Vienna police until the first meeting with Jozefina Tomášová/a Romni from Eastern Slovakia . With her help I visited for almost three years countless slums where the Slovak Roma live, mostly on the outskirts or away from small villages and I was able to get in touch with people, their fears and hopes. From many livestories which people have told me, the script was gradually created. Above all, I had the opportunity to include her in the screenplay asking repeatedly, how would they react, what would be conceivable in their life situation and what not. From the very beginning it was very important to me that I know as much as possible about their customs, their family structures and the rules of conduct. It was also particulary important for me that my research was well founded and I was authentic to the story of our protagonists. I hope this can be seen in the behavior of our protagonists and in the decisions they make and also in the complexion of the film, be it the scene-/costume design or in the music.

An unmarried, childless 35-year-old Roma from an Eastern Slovak slum like Rocky has to deal with a different kind of social pressure and behaves differently than an Austrian craftsman of the same age. Marcela, who has never been on an escalator herself, does not think much about influencers, make-up techniques or Christmas. It’s the same with everyone else of our Protagonists. The only thing that connects all the characters in my film is the search for love and security, the will to be loved and accepted. In a sense, they all want to break out of the role assigned to them by the patriarchal power structure and to be free. Being free in the choice of your partner and being free to be the person you would like to be.
Not only in CRUSH MY HEART, but also in Slovakia, this desire among most Roma is a fight against windmills. The patriarchal power structures and the associated role assignment are deeply rooted in their culture, until today. So our main characters at least try to rebel against the social rules, but fail completely. It was the story of a young couple from Eastern Slovakia who finally led me to deny our lovers Pepe & Marcela the happiness of fulfilled love. Nevertheless, I do not see an absolute defeat in the self-imposed suicide of Marcela and Pepe. A few years ago I had to encounter a near-death experience. I can only remember my last thoughts before the waves carried me with them. My thoughts were as banal as cheesy, so straightforward that it’s almost scary. “Why did not I tell him more often that I love him?”
At that point, I somehow felt satisfied and freed. I had lived a wonderful life and lived more or less everything worth living for. I was not angry, I was a bit concerned that I should not be able to participate anymore in the beautiful life. And that’s exactly how I see the last decision of Pepe and Marcela. In such moments, and I can actually say that from my own experience, one is gratefull for all decisions you made yourself. Pepe and Marcela have experienced feelings that many people are denied. They come from a culture that lives intensely. They lived for love.
The casting took place more or less continuously. During the many research trips we got in touch with so many people that many of their stories as well as themselves are in the film. At the very beginning, we had a Slovak casting agency, which was racist and sent us tanned gadji (non-Roma) with the message they were more reliable and better and the message authenticity was not important. After a short while we broke up with this agency. Funny enough, I found Simona Kovácová on Facebook. I’ve browsed through countless Facebook profile photos, starting with the search entry for a classic Roma surname. She was only 14 years old at that time, but had a very natural approach to the camera, a sensitivity for the scenes and the figure of Marcela.

Roman Pokuta was found with the help of our Slovakian co-casting agent Juraj Baláž, who has also worked for Martin Šulík’s film CIGÁN Roma and had a lot of experience. No one should compare these castings with our standard castings. Most of the casted people do not have mail or trust an official casting call. That is the reason why, we scoured schools, villages, sports fields, music and dance schools, clubs, etc. and asked directly on-site those who we thought might fit for the role, whether they would like to have time and leisure. Those who wanted got a little scene and had a week to prepare for the casting.
Ari Yehudit Richter, my assistant director and I traveled to Eastern Slovakia every week and sometimes it happened that the candidates we came for did not even turn up and that, although we had contact with them on Facebook on a daily basis, often also one hour before the beginning of the casting. Then it was mostly “I have to take care of my brother” or “I have to work.” That’s just a different mentality. When we happened to see Roman at a sports festival near the largest slum in Richnava, it was clear to me: that he could be the right main male character. With an aggressive haircut, piercings, leather jacket and smoking, a sensitive teenager was hidden behind his armor, but he was not allowed to be sensitive in his settlement. Roman also got a small scene to prepare. We had to give money to Marek Horvath – a Rom from Romans Slum, with whom our caster has already worked on CIGÁN – to make sure that Roman comes to the casting and does not shave his hair any further. After realizing that Roman could be Pepe, we brought Simona and František Balog, who plays Rocky and is the only one in whole Slovakia, who has a permanent position as an actor at the State Theater, to see how they harmonize. There was a second candidate for the role of Pepe at the time, but when Simona became totally nervous in Roman’s presence, it was clear: it is novel.

But it was often the case that they only speak Romanes and no Slovak in a slum and ten kilometers away it was the complete opposite.
Only Roman Pokuta, Martin Gábor and Simonida Selimovic spoke Romanes, and even the three spoke so different dialects that they had difficulty communicating with each other. I met Martin Gábor at one of the first auditions when he auditioned for the role of Pepe. His character and backstory exists only for him, he is a very impressive and inspiring person with a tawdry background – much like Jessi, the character who plays Martin.
On the whole, the entire casting process was intriguing and extremely challenging. Many of the young people we casted could not read or write, creating an unpleasant and sad situation for all concerned. There are many dedicated people in Slovakia, who try to get young people out of their slums and give them new perspectives in the form of music, dance and drama – for example Ivan Akimov, who leads together with his Romni wife Helena Akimová full of verve and with a mad energy, the music school Kesaj C. In most cases, however, the attempt fails and often the girls are pregnant before the age of 18, or their families simply do not let them go.




There are two very strong motivations of life in our story. The first is love. A force that each of us has felt. Something where each of us has realized what it can do or what it can trigger. For not only joy, love also includes suffering – even if we learn to forget the pain, we give ourselves to love. In any case, it is an engine for our lives.
The second motivation of our story is a story deeply rooted in our culture. The story of a population living in Europe for more than 600 years. A minority of people without their own state, which is prejudiced and clichéed in our culture. This story has its own power on us. It does something to us, be it negative or positive.
The combination of these two strong poles creates another world in the middle of our own world that is so alien to us. A patriarchal society that may seem unrealistic or clichéd.

In our story two people fall in love, something which is very common, something that happens constantly, every minute, every second. And yet it can be so different. While we are happy to make plans for the future, for other cultures it can mean pain and suffering or even death. In short, something quite ordinary happens in our film, but it is located in a society that escapes our gaze and is mostly denied access to us, the “here-born”.

In recent years we have been to Eastern Slovakia several times to get an understanding of this culture. Poverty, love, joie de vivre, fear, insecurity, but also – and this is the decisive factor – the power of a culture of a population, which, no matter in which social environment they live, can be felt. They gave us a feeling of spontaneous zest for life, but also of a great emotionality, the strength that is also found in their music. It is exactly this power that is typical for this culture. A force that finds something life-affirming even in the most extreme poverty.

It was important to immerse ourselves in this world and to allow the creative departments involved in the creation of CRUSH MY HEART to accompany Alexandra Makarová on research trips. It was essential for us to show this parallel society as realistically as possible.
Under normal production conditions it would probably not have been possible to realize this film. Sometimes we had to take an unjustifiable economic risk. Why? Since the first reading of the treatment by Alexandra Makarová we could not escape the topic. How many times have we experienced that authors and directors work on projects for years and finally fail due to lack of funds, because it would be partially economically unreasonable to produce the film under the given conditions. We as producers worked very hard to insure that this film was made.

The milieu we are trying to portrait is based on a tradition that has not changed for centuries. A patriarchal society that can not freely agree with the notions of a modern world in which each person has the same rights, who she / he loves, or where she / he wants to live with.
Through centuries of expulsion, flight and enslavement, the constant marginalization by the majority society, only social cohesion was left to them. What we experienced in the slum-like Roma villages of Eastern Slovakia was the fact that the man/the father, must provide protection to their women and children. As a result, they also exercise violence over them. Even today, these patriarchal structures are still present and as part of this fathers have the right to dispose of their children. The welfare of the family is above the well-being of the individual. Patterns have been developed in which children and women are treated as commodities.

Shakespeare writes, “… and what love can do, dares to do love.” Our protagonists try to break out of their social conventions. The risk loving, knowing how difficult their lives will be. But through the power of love they forget the impending pain. Here we are again with our two strong motivations of which we write at the beginning. Motivations that have a long tradition in dramatic poetry. (Already in the METAMORPHOSEN of Ovid these motivations break out in PYRAMUS AND THISBE, Bandello introduces in his novel about the TRAGIC DEATH OF TWO UNBELIEVABLE LOVERS Romeo and Juliet, thus offering Shakespeare and de Vega the material for their dramas. This list could be continued through Keller’s ROMEO AND JULIA ON THE VILLAGE until Bernstein’s musical WEST SIDE STORY.)

It is important for us to combine this strong power of love with the emotions of the Roma people in a love story that is so old and yet is reinvented every day in our world.
In Vienna we display a prospective most of us do not know but which exists. We have experienced the power, but also the misery in which the Roma live. We have experienced living conditions in the Slovak villages that are unacceptable. We also see that this misery is not noticed by the public.
We think feature film is a medium to make the public aware and our goal was to convey the inner soul processes as well as the reality.









Director & Screenplay: ALEXANDRA MAKAROVÁ


Cinematography: GEORG WEISS


Production-/Costume Design: MOMO EHEGARTNER







Production: ALTERNATIVE PRODUCTIONS – Konstantin Seitz

Crush my Heart was produced with the support of the Austrian Federal Cancellery/Divison II, Provincial Government of Lower Austria and the Cultural Department of the city of Vienna (MA7) and had its world premiere at the filmfestival Diagonale 2018/AT.

AT 2018, 99 min, Farbe, OF, DCP


Roman Pokuta
Simona Kováčová
František Balog
Simonida Selimovic
Martin Gábor
Maximillian Six
Wolfgang Zechmayer
Eva Spreitzhofer
Sasa Makarová


19th Diagonale Graz – Official Selection/World Premiere – AT 03/2018 25th Art Film Festival Kosice – Official Selection – SK 06/2018 12th Fünf Seen Filmfestival – Official Selection – DE 09/2018 40th Biberacher Filmfestspiele – Official Selection – Award Best Screenplay – DE 10/2018 45th International Film Weekend Würzburg – Official Selection – DE 01/2019 3rd Open Window Film Festival Kolkata – Official Selection – IND 02/2019 4th Indie Lincs International Film Festival – Official Selection – Audience Award – UK 02/2019 5th Felacos – Festival de Largos y Cortos de Santiago – Official Selection – CL 03/2019 33rd Bolzano Filmfestival Bozen – Official Selection – IT 04/2019 8th New Austrian Cinema Festival Moscow – Official Selection – RU 04/2019 30rd Romy Academy Award – Official Selection – Award Best Producer Feature Film/Cinema – AT 04/2019 29th Filmkunstfest MV Schwerin – Official Selection – DE 05/2019 9th South East European Film Festival Los Angeles – Official Selection – Award GoE Bridging the Borders/Cinema without Borders – US 05/2019 16th Indy Film Fest 2019 Indianapolis – Official Selection – US 05/2019 5th Phoenix Film Festival Melbourne – Official Selection – AU 06/2019 6th Mind the Indie Film Festival Plovdiv – Official Selection – BG 06/2019 2nd Porto Femme International Film – Official Selection – Award Best Feature Film – PT 06/2019 8th New Austrian Cinema Festival Krasnodar – Official Selection – RU 06/2019 23th European Film Festival Romania – Official Selection – RO 06/2019 8th New Austrian Cinema Festival Rostov – Official Selection – RU 06/2019 3rd Santiago del Estero Film Fest – Official Selection – AR 06/2019 2nd Hong Kong Film Art International Film Festival – Official Selection – HK 07/2019 The most important Films 2019 – Film Festival Las Vegas – Official Selection – US 07/2019 7th Ariano International Film Festival – Official Selection – Award Best Feature Film – IT 07/2019 4th Regina International Film Festival – Official Selection – CA 08/2019 1st West Europe Fusion International Film Festivals Brussels – Official Selection – BE 08/2019 8th Slum Film Festival Nairobi – Official Selection – KE 08/2019 24th Portobello Film Festival London – Official Selection – UK 08/2019 2nd Undo Divergent Film Awards Boston – Official Selection – US 09/2019 4th Crossing The Screen International Film Festival Eastbourne – Official Selection – Award Best Feature Film – UK 09/2019 2nd Pondicherry International Film Festival Guragon – Official Selection – IND 09/2019 1st Athens Marathon International Film Festival – Official Selection – GR 10/2019 4th Cuzco Underground Cinema Festival – Official Selection – MX 10/2019 14th Das Filmfestival Praha/Brno – Official Selection – CZ 10/2019 4th Fecis Salto Independent Film Festival – Official Selection – UY 10/2019 8th Winchester Film Festival – Official Selection – Award Best Feature Film – UK 11/2019 13th Lublin Film Festival – Official Selection – PL 11/2019 12th SiciliAmbiente Film Festival – Official Selection – IT 08/2020 Louisville’s International Festival of Film – Official Selection – US 11/2020 10th Austrian Film Week Ukraine/Cultural Forum Kiev – Official Selection – UA 07/2021


Open Air Kino wie noch nie – Augarten/Vienna – AT – 18/07/2018
Austrian Culture Forum Slovakia – Cinema Lumière/Bratislava – SK – 17/12/2018
2nd FilmApéro – Soroptimist International Club/Ravensburg – DE – 24/03/2019
Independent Film CollaborativeWinner IFC 2019/Los Angeles – US – 30/04/2019
Austrian Culture Forum Egypt – Cairo – EG – 13/08/2019


Pepe´s Theme I, II & III

Guitar: Marko Ferlan
Violin: Polina Winkler
Music: Johannes Winkler
© 2018 Johannes Winkler

I dream of you

Artists: Nicolas Fischer, Vanja Toscano de Almeida, Polina Winkler, Lukas Fellner
Music & Lyrics: Johannes Winkler
© 2018 Johannes Winkler


Artists: Donauwellenreiter
Music & Lyrics: Casteñeda, Zaric
© 2012 Donauwellenreiter
By courtesy of Donauwellenreiter

A little Prayer

Artists: Polina Winkler, Johannes Winkler, Vanja Toscano de Almeida
Music & Lyrics: Johannes Winkler
© 2018 Johannes Winkler

When I Call

Artist: One Two Three Cheers And A Tiger
Music & Lyrics: Andreas Augustin, Daniel Prochaska, Jakob Hauck
© 2009 Wohnzimmer Records
By courtesy of  Wohnzimmer Records

Funeral march for the wedding I

Artists: Vanja Toscano de Almeida, Polina Winkler, Johannes Winkler, Lukas Fellner
Music & Lyrics: Johannes Winkler
© 2018 Johannes Winkler

A New Error

Artist: Moderat,
Music & Lyrics: Gernot Bronsert, Sebastian Szary, Sascha Ring
© Monkeytown Music GmbH, Random Noize Musick GmbH
℗ 2009 BPitch Control GmbH
By courtesy of Sony/ATV Music Publishing (Germany) GmbH, Budde Music & BPitch Control


Artist: Patrick Schmidl
Music & Lyrics: Patrick Schmidl
© 2018 Patrick Schmidl

Funeral march for the wedding II

Artists: Vanja Toscano de Almeida, Polina Winkler, Magdalena Wieckowska, Johannes Winkler, Lukas Fellner
Music & Lyrics: Johannes Winkler
© 2018 Johannes Winkler

Marcela’s fate

Artists: Polina Winkler,
Johannes Winkler, Lukas Fellner
Music & Lyrics: Johannes Winkler
© 2018 Johannes Winkler


Artists: Polina Winkler, Nicolas Fischer,
Johannes Winkler, Lukas Fellner
Music & Lyrics: Johannes Winkler
© 2018 Johannes Winkler


Artists: Loyko
© Traditional ℗ & © Line: 2000 Network Medien GmbH
By courtesy of
Membran Rights Management Ltd.

Love Theme

Artists: Polina Winkler, Vanja Toscano de Almeida, Nicolas Fischer, Johannes Winkler, Lukas Fellner
Music & Lyrics: Johannes Winkler
© 2018 Johannes Winkler

Funeral march for the wedding II

Artists: Vanja Toscano de Almeida, Polina Winkler, Magdalena Wieckowska, Johannes Winkler, Lukas Fellner
Music & Lyrics: Johannes Winkler
© 2018 Johannes Winkler

Un bel di, vedremo

Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly Raffaella Angeletti
Fondazione Orchestra Regionale delle Marche
Conductor: Daniele Callegari Sferisterio Opera Festival in Macerata
© 2010 UNITEL
By courtesy of Unitel

Remember us

Artists: Vanja Toscano de Almeida, Magdalena Wieckowska, Polina Winkler, Johannes Winkler, Lukas Fellner
Music & Lyrics: Johannes Winkler
© 2018 Johannes Winkler





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