The Czech Republic and Hungary are countries of similar size with plenty of history in common, whether we look back to the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the common experience of invasion in more recent decades: in 1956 for Hungary and 1968 for Czechoslovakia. And you don’t have to look far to find parallels in the literature of the two countries. In Czech Books, David Vaughan looks at some of these Czech-Hungarian literary links from the point of view of a Czech who is steeped in contemporary Hungarian writing.
Ten historic synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia are undergoing massive renovations and are set to reopen in all their former glory next year. The Ten Stars project includes such gems of Jewish heritage as Baroque synagogues in Mikulov and Jičín and neo-Romanesque ones in Plzeň and Krnov, as well as several other minor Jewish monuments.
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.