The publication of the manifesto Několik vět, or A Few Sentences, was a milestone in the final year of communism in Czechoslovakia. After being broadcast by Radio Free Europe and Voice of America on June 29, 1989, the document – calling for the release of political prisoners and other freedoms – was eventually signed by around 40,000 people. I discussed its contribution to the eventual fall of communism with historian Jakub Jareš.
“Love, tolerance and creative freedom aren’t just for fairytales”. That’s the central message of a new documentary called The Art of Dissent, which celebrates artistic engagement in Czechoslovakia before and after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion. Written, directed and filmed by the American intellectual historian James D Le Sueur, the film aims to debunk the myth that life behind the Churchillian ‘Iron Curtain’ was static and grey, and to inspire viewers through the messages of Václav Havel and fellow former dissidents.
Many Czechs remember the concert of American folk musician Joan Baez’s in Bratislava on 10 June 1989 as one of the signs of the approaching fall of communism. During the concert Baez openly expressed her support for Czechoslovak opposition groups and to Václav Havel, who managed to smuggle himself into the concert hall pretending to be a roadie. Her stay in Bratislava was closely observed by the communist State Security services, but they missed the Czechoslovak dissident who fit into his pretended role by carrying her guitar.
A director who documented the last few years of Václav Havel’s life has
received more than twice the initial amount he sought through a Czech
crowdfunding site to begin work on editing his film.
Petr Jančárek, who worked with the late Czech president from 2009 to 2011, shot some 200 hours of material that will be edited for a feature-length documentary.
He had sought 400,000 crowns in public donations through the crowdfunding site HitHit but received more than 1 million crowns in the first 10 days. Jančárek will continue trying to raise money through crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo, his representative told ČTK.
Entitled “This is Havel, Can You Hear Me?”, the documentary is set to premiere in November 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia and the fall of Communism in Europe.
Jančárek is hoping to get the rights for songs by some of Havel’s favourite musicians, including the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and David Bowie, for a symbolic price.
Otakar Dušek is a designer and artist with a passion for history and historical justice – something he hopes to instil in his students at the prestigious Václav Hollar School of Art in Prague. That passion helped propel him from a teacher of graphic design, fonts and computer graphics to world renowned medallist – an artist specialising in commemorative medals.
The Václav Havel Library in Prague follows the US presidential library model in gathering and archiving materials relating to the late Czech dissident turned head of state. In the US, Havel’s legacy is promoted by sister organisation the Václav Havel Library Foundation, which is based at the Bohemian National Hall in New York. The latter is headed by Pavla Niklová, a former director of the city’s Czech Center. When we met, Niklová explained the relationship between the foundation and the library itself.
Tuesday marks the seventh anniversary of the death of Václav Havel. The former president remains a much respected figure in the country, even though his quotes are often used to help delineate the current divide in Czech society. Several commemorative events are taking place across the Czech Republic, including those that seek to bring Havel closer through his works.
The Czech Film Fund will spend CZK 64 million on supporting eight upcoming feature films. The largest amount, some CZK 14.5 million, will help fund an upcoming biographical film about Václav Havel. According to the fund’s director Helena Bezděk Fraňková, the films cover a wide range of genres including historical pictures, those covering present day issues and a film for children.