One of the highlights of this year’s Jihlava festival of documentary films was the Czech premiere of Kings of Šumava, which combines real interviews with animation to tell the gripping story of Josef Hasil. A native of the mountain range, Hasil was a border guard turned cross-border agent whose derring-do in smuggling defectors across the Iron Curtain led Czechoslovakia’s secret police to list him as the “king of Šumava” in their files.
Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, the Ministry of Culture will designate seven sites as ‘national cultural monuments’. All of them are tied to the Czech nation’s struggle to secure freedom or rid itself of Nazi or Soviet oppression. Among them is the Czech Radio building in Prague, a focal point of resistance both in 1968 and at the close of WWII.
Czech Immigrants first started settling in Chicago in the 1850s and continued in several waves in the 20th century. Today the city has the biggest number of Czech-Americans living in the US, with localities known as ”Prague” and “Pilsen”. I recently visited Chicago for the 80th Moravian Day celebrations and took the opportunity to stop by the University of Chicago, where the tradition of Slavic studies is almost as old as the university itself.
The 23rd edition of the annual Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival gets underway on Thursday evening. Over the course of the next five days, the festival will showcase a total of 277 films, including a section dedicated to the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. I spoke to Marek Hovorka, the festival’s director, and asked to tell me more about the opening film, a tribute to the great Czech cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera:
Film director Jan Schmidt has died at the age of 85, Czech Television reported citing family sources. Jan Schmidt directed sixteen films between 1960 and 1995, including Late August at the Hotel Ozone (1967),The Lanfier Colony (1969)and The Death of a Talented Cobbler (1983).The also cooperated on Miloš Forman’s Oscar-winning Amadeus.
In the first of this series we heard the voice of Czechoslovakia’s first President, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. His wife Charlotte was American, and thanks to her influence Tomáš became a champion of feminism. Charlotte went on to inspire many women both within Czechoslovakia and beyond and in this programme we hear some of them, speaking in their own words from the Czech Radio archive.
One of the most striking aspects of director Václav Marhoul’s new film The Painted Bird is the language spoken in it. The characters communicate in Interslavic, or Medžuslovjansky, an artificial language combining elements from several Slavic languages that fits with the WWII story’s unspecified Eastern European setting. Interslavic has in large part been developed by academic Dr. Vojtěch Merunka, who was closely involved in the movie. When we spoke, I first asked him about earlier attempts to create a Slavic lingua franca.
Vaclav Marhoul’s film The Painted Bird has been selected as the Czech
Republic 's official Oscar entry in the international feature film
category. The Czech Film and TV Academy announced its decision on Monday,
saying the film had been selected from a shortlist of ten entries. The
Oscar nominees will be announced on January 13, 2020.
The American magazine The Hollywood Reporter included the The Painted Bird, in its selection of the top twenty films from this year's film festivals. The film, which the magazine described as "a grim and violent reflection on the cruelty of human nature," was selected alongside movies such as the psychological thriller Joker with Joaquin Phoenix, the historical drama The King, starring promising young actor Timothée Chalamet, the comedy drama Marriage Story with Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver or The Two Popes with Anthony Hopkins.
The Painted Bird was screened at festivals in Venice and Toronto and premiered in Prague on September 11.
President Miloš Zeman lit a bonfire at Lany chateau to mark the 82nd
anniversary of the death of Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš
Garrigue Masaryk on Saturday.
The traditional ceremony was also attended by Cardinal Dominik Duka and the honorary chairman of TOP 09 Karel Schwarzenberg.
The tradition of Masaryk bonfires goes back to 1935 when they were lit around the country to celebrate the president’s 85th birthday. The tradition was cut off by the communist regime and renewed in 2001.
Released in 1964, Starci na chmelu is the first and perhaps most famous Czechoslovak film musical. The film’s songs were written by Vratislav Blažek and were recorded with some of the country’s most popular singers at the time, including Karel Gott, Josef Zíma, Jana Petrů and Karel Štědrý. With a story that transcends time, Starci na chmelu was one of the country’s commercially most successful movies and initiated a period which would produce many more film musicals.