‘From freedom to liberty’

The best of contemporary and classic cinema at Czech Film Week.

August 8, 2019 20:04
3 minute read.
A SCENE FROM ‘Shotgun Justice.’

A SCENE FROM ‘Shotgun Justice.’. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Czech Cinema Week, which will take place in cinematheques throughout Israel starting on August 13, will have as its theme, “From Freedom to Liberty,” marking 30 years since the end of communist rule and the beginning of the Velvet Revolution, in which Czechoslovakia transitioned into democracy.

The cinematheques participating will be those in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Holon, Herzliya and Sderot. Seven films will be shown, including classics from the pre-1989 period and some more recent films.

All of the films will have Hebrew subtitles, and most will also have English titles.

Czech cinema is one of the richest in the world. It blossomed during the period in the mid-1960s leading up to the Prague Spring, before the Soviet crackdown. During those years, a group of amazing directors launched their careers – among them Milos Forman, who made Loves of a Blonde in Czechoslovakia in 1966 and went on to direct Oscar-winning American films, such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus; and Jiri Menzel, who made the classic, Closely Watched Trains; as well as a host of other talented directors – put Czech cinema on the map.

Now, Czech cinema is experiencing another rich period, and the four recent films in the festival will spotlight this. Three of the Czech Republic’s most celebrated actors, who star in these films, will be present.

The opening night’s film, which will be screened in the presence of its lead actress, Iva Janzurova, is Shotgun Justice by Radek Bajgar. It’s a black comedy about a retired teacher who gets fed up with corruption and takes matters into her own hands, with unexpected results.

Ondrej Vetchy, one of the stars of Barefoot, will also attend the festival. The 2017 movie, directed by Jan Sverak, tells the story of a boy living in Prague during World War II, who has to move to the country and adjust to a new life.

Alois Svehlík, the star of On the Roof, will be in Israel for the screenings of this 2019 film. Directed by Jiri Madl, it tells the story of a young Vietnamese migrant who came to Prague hoping for a better life, only to live in virtual slavery, working at a marijuana grow house. When he flees during a police raid, he meets an elderly man (Svehlík) who rejects modernity and tries to live an independent life. The film examines the bond that forms between the two men.

The fourth contemporary film is Winter Flies. It tells a coming-of-age story of two mischievous adolescent boys who embark on a journey of self-discovery, in Olmo Omerzu’s road-trip comedy. Omerzu won the Best Director Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2018 for this film.

The three classics that will be shown in the festival are rarely screened and are almost impossible to find any other way, so anyone with an interest in classic Czech cinema will want to see them at this festival.

Ivan Passer was an assistant director on Forman’s Loves of a Blonde and eventually also moved on to Hollywood, where he made the cult classic, Cutter’s Way. The festival is showing his first feature film, Intimate Lighting, a comedy/drama that is one of the best-loved films from the mid-1960s period. It tells the story of two friends from a small town, both musicians, who meet after 10 years and have a bittersweet reunion. The film has a soundtrack rich in classical music.

Vladimir Michalek’s 1998 film, Sekal Has to Die, is the story of a Protestant blacksmith who arrives in the small village of Lakotice to kill a cruel Nazi collaborator who has moved there. The movie won 18 awards around the world.

Jan Nemec’s 1964 classic, Diamonds of the Night, is another World War II-themed film. It tells the story of two Jewish boys who escape from a train transporting them from one concentration camp to another and try to hide out, facing peril not only from Nazis but also from local militias. It’s a gripping and brutal story, told with very little dialogue.

For more information on the festival schedule and to order tickets, visit the websites of the individual cinematheques.

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