In early November, the Czech foreign affairs and culture ministries combined efforts with the country’s film industry to make a promotional push in India’s film capital Mumbai. Culture Minister Jiří Balvín together with representatives of the Czech Cinematographic Fund, the Association of Producers, and the Czech Film Commission made a pitch to the Bollywood elite to make better use of Czech film services and spectacular locations. Those have already become a favorite for a number of international productions.
One of the most compelling Czech documentaries of the year gets a cinema release on Thursday. Show! follows manufactured teen pop group 5Angels as they are drilled for fame by the super ambitious father of one of the young girls. Musicians who have remained popular since the communist era also appear in a film that lifts the lid on the Czech entertainment industry and raises questions about exploitation.
Republic of Two comprise a pair of songwriters, Jiří Burian and Mikolas Ruzicka. Their debut Raising the Flag in 2010 earned the duo, who both play guitar and alternate on vocals, an Anděl award for best newcomer. Since then the pair have released a remixes LP and another regular album of gentle, acoustic-guitar driven indie inspired by the likes of Norway’s Kings of Convenience.
Last week, Prague hosted a conference devoted to Ivan Martin Jirous, one of the legends of the Czechoslovak underground of the 70s and 80s, who died in November 2011. The poet, better known as Magor, which means “loony” in English, was familiar to many as the artistic director of the Czech rock band The Plastic People of the Universe and as the wild man of the underground scene, but over the years his output as a poet has won ever growing acclaim. Much of his best poetry was written during the eight-and-a-half years he spent in communist jails,
Michal Bregant is the director of the National Film Archive, a state body that oversees over 150 million metres of film, tens of thousands of movie posters and other valuable materials. When we met at a lively bar near the FAMU film school, of which Bregant was dean for six years, we discussed film preservation, digitisation and the future of the NFA. But the first topic of conversation was the foundation of the Archive way back in 1943: Were the Czechoslovaks unusual in realising at that time that their movies needed to be looked after?
Today’s programme will be dedicated to the Velvet Revolution which brought down the communist regime in November 1989. The events of November and December 1989 had a very distinctive soundscape: the rattling of the keys that thousands of protesters shook above their heads as well as slogans chanted by the crowds. But the soundtrack to the Velvet Revolution is much richer. A number of songs became unofficial anthems of the political change and the heady days of late 1989 are forever connected with music.
With Museum Night and Church Night having already become a tradition in Prague and some other Czech cities, this weekend the Czech Republic will live through its very first Theater Night. Theater halls and performance groups will offer a whole variety of programming indoors and in the streets on Saturday afternoon. For this week’s Arts, we had a chance to speak to Petra Pavlová, the director of the Arts and Theater Institute in Prague, which is organizing the country-wide event.
Přiběh kmotra (A Godfather’s Story) opened in Czech cinemas last month and has attracted both thriller fans and those who remember the turbulent 1990s, when Czech society underwent a major transformation but also saw the rise of organised crime. The story is both about underworld bosses who conducted illegal operations in the hundreds of millions and left a bloody trail in their wake and the cops who tried to stop them.
Director Tomáš Pilař is regarded as a coming man in the world of Czech opera. And the 25-year-old is already incredibly busy; this season he is working on more than a dozen different projects at opera houses in various corners of the country. When we met recently, we discussed the craft of opera direction, the state of the art form in the Czech Republic and his own ambitions. But I first asked Pilař – who is also a stage designer – whether he came from a musical family.
In this week’s show, we will listen to some music by a young singer named Debbi. She’s put out two albums before turning 20, and captured the attention of Czech, and even some international audiences with her husky voice and bubbly personality. Her music has given the Czech pop scene a bit more depth, a few more good songs in English and even a slightly retro dimension.