It would be hard to meet a Czech whose childhood was not touched (perhaps unconsciously) by the art of Jiří Trnka, a painter, puppeteer, illustrator and above all, the founding father of Czech animated film. His poetic drawings brought immortality to books that would otherwise be long forgotten. And his animated films bestowed dozens of puppets and drawings with life.
The world-renowned jazz guitar player Rudy Linka was born in Prague but moved to Sweden at a young age. After half a decade there he left for the US, and has been living in New York for nearly a quarter of a century. In recent years, however, Rudy has been home in the Czech Republic every summer, organising the Bohemia Jazz Fest, a great free event which brings world class jazz musicians to a number of Czech towns and cities. We met at Café Slavia, one of the haunts of his teenage years.
Berenika Kohoutová is a name you are probably going to hear more and more in the coming months and years. Here a successful actress, there a rising star of the Czech music scene, the talented 20-year-old is making a good name for herself both on TV and in appearances on stages around Europe, formerly with the ska ensemble Disco Balls and now with her own project Femme Plastique.
In this week’s Arts my guest is a new film director Miroslav Ondruš whose debut feature film Vendeta is now in Czech cinemas. The film, as the name suggests, is a psychological thriller with revenge at its dark heart. It stars an intense Ondřej Vetchý as a father who loses a loved one and is already being described as one of his finest performances.
Stanley ‘Robotman’ Povoda is the father of Czech robotics. After over half a century of bringing people’s old colanders, chandeliers and vacuum cleaners to life, Stanley has just become the subject of his first own retrospective in Prague’s Trafačka Gallery. Stanley (real name Marián) Povoda has been back in the Czech Republic for five years now, after spending most of his life in exile in North America. On a recent tour of his new show, Stanley told me where his passion for robots began:
The Czech illustrator and animator Zdeněk Miler has died at the age of 90. The artist was best known for the creation of Krtek (or Little Mole), a cartoon character loved by generations of Czech children that first appeared in the 1950s. Earlier in 2011, a plush toy of the animated character even went to space on one of the last space shuttle flights.
Ema Destinnová - or Emmy Destinn, as she became known abroad - was one of the greatest dramatic sopranos of the twentieth century and one of the most sought-after singers before WWI, thanks to her voice of exceptional richness, power, and control. She sang with the legendary Enrico Caruso and many other stars in the most prestigious opera houses in Europe and the United States, such as Bayreuth, Berlin's Hofoper, London's Covent Garden and New York's Metropolitan.
The Czech Republic’s Ride of the Kings – a tradition dating back centuries still practiced in south-eastern Moravia – was added at the weekend to UNESCO’s list recognising intangible cultural heritage. The ride – practiced in just four villages in the Slovácko region – refers to the flight of Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus from Czech King George of Podébrady in the 15th century. Organisers had strived for years to see the tradition recognised and – following UNESCO’s decision – had every reason to celebrate.
This week’s Sunday Music Show is devoted to one of the country’s most prominent jazz artists –flutist Jiří Stivín. The 68-year-old musician, who is reputed to be able to play on a blade of grass, says the feel for jazz is something you are born with and some of the best renditions come from children who are as yet unspoiled by the constraints of a music education.
In this edition of Screen Czech I’ll be speaking to one of the most influential people in the Czech film industry – Ludmila Claussova, chairwoman of the Czech Film Commission – a one-stop shop for all producers looking to shoot here in the Czech people. She’ll be telling us about what the commission has to offer and gives some forthright opinions on the country’s much maligned film incentive scheme.