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Thematic sections

1. Little brother, do close the gate!

The starting point of the program is the reflection on the turbulent year of 1968 in Czechoslovakia and exploration of the short reform period called Prague spring analyzing the beginning of the subsequent normalization era. We'll pay a tribute to Czech documentary film director Milan Maryška (1943-2002), a film-making student at the time who captured the students' riots in his school debut documentary Ten points (1969), for which he became persecuted by the state authorities. After the fall of the regime he refreshed his memories by producing a documentary mini-series depicting with complexity 3 stages of the political process of normalization. The Prague Spring was suppressed by the invasion of foreign armies who left civil victims, injuries and ruins behind themselves. The citizens revolted in the streets and we would like to commemorate them with a collection of shorts from different towns, some of them produced by amateur filmmakers. We would like to introduce, as well, a new and original viewpoint on the occupation from the “russian perspective” shot by Czech documentarist Josef Pazderka interviewing former Soviet soldiers, journalists and politicians of the era as well as surviving representatives of the contemporary Russian dissent movement who risked their lives by organizing protests against the occupation at the Red Square in Moscow.

2. Living Torches for Freedom

Public protests weakened significantly few months after the invasion as most citizens got used to the regime under the tight pressure of pervasive repressions. In a short time, a series of radical protests of self-immolation inspired by Buddhist monks escalated throughout the Eastern Block. We'll pay honour to the heroes from Central Europe who made the absolute sacrifice to raise public awareness against the occupation and censorship and to make the citizens realise the price of truth and freedom. We'll introduce the historic figures of Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc (Czechoslovakia), Riszard Siwiec (Poland), Sándor Bauer (Hungary) and Romas Kalanta (USSR/Lithuania) in a collection of documentary and fiction films. The accompanying lecture will present the profiles of other living torches who remained largely unknown.

Nowadays we're negotiating an opportunity to introduce the very fresh TV mini-series Burning bush (2012) directed by Agnieszka Holland from the HBO production about the era of starting normalization by commemorating the sacrifice of Jan Palach and making tribute to other valiant heroes who dared to fight with the regime for his memorial. The film script was written by Štepán Hulík, a young promising Czech script-writter, who is also one of our programming supervisors.

3. From shipyards to the streets

We'll portray significant events of Polish history since the 1968. Starting with the students' riots in '68 and abandonment of the originally liberal politics pursuit by the chancellor Gomulka's wing at the Polish United Workers' Party we'll follow the massive strikes of workers at the shipyards in Gdańsk and Gdynia in December 1970 and their brutal suppression by the army with many victims on streets. The 70s are characterised by the intensifying economic crisis, which provoked next workers' strike in Radom and the establishment of the trade union based Solidarity moment (Solidarność) in 1980 at shipyards, which rapidly spread to the whole country. The declaration of the state of emergency, imposition of the martial law, the subsequent bans of public speeches and persecution of the political opposition during the 80s resulted in the fall of the regime in 1989. In our program selection we prioritize contemporary Polish movies outside of the national Czech film distribution to introduce new and fresh perspectives on the epoch. On the other hand, the classic titles as for instance the Man of Iron of Andrzej Wajda will be presented in the scope of the accompanying lecture devoted to the Polish wave of the Cinema of Moral Concern (Kino moralnego niepokoju).

4. Parallel culture or the literature in underground

Exploration of the world of independent publishing initiatives trying to resist the censorship in the 70s and 80s on both sides of the iron curtain. We'll introduce the samizdat literal production in Czechoslovakia, the literature of the second circulation (drugi obieg) in Poland and the exile literature published in the free world and managed by emigrants from both countries. The presented authors could only get published outside of the sight of the repressive system. We'll depict, as well, the illegal distribution systems, reflect the contemporary critical feedback and introduce the most known Czechoslovak typewriter-printed samizdat editions, Polish underground publishing houses and famous exile periodicals including the comparison of situation of independent publishers in both countries. The block of documentary films will be completed with thematic lectures including a profile of the Polish exile poet, novel writer, essayist and translator Czesław Miłosz.

5. On the ways to friendship

The parallel culture had personal links with informal political human-rights movements protesting against the oppression, the dissent. We focus on the foundation, operation and mutual collaboration of the most known Czechoslovak and Polish dissent movements, in the 70s and 80s: the Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted (VONS) in Czechoslovakia and Committee for Social Self-defence of the Workers' Defense Committee (KSS-KOR) and Movement for Defense of Human and Civic Rights (ROPCiO) in Poland. The movements were not isolated from each other and the cross-border contacts organized partially in conspiracy or, on another occasions, in public gatherings on the border under the official pretext of tourism became very soon the target of investigation and persecution by the state security police on both sides of the borderline. We would like to deliver portraits of the activists organizing the meetings and disclose the actions of security forces against them through documentary films and the lecture consecrated to the Polish-Czechoslovakian Solidarity of the dissent movements.

6. Music against the iron curtain

The independent music scene of the 70s and 80s in the communist countries was closely bound with the underground culture since to be really independent meant to ignore the establishement and its censorship authorities. Unlike the informal political movements of the dissent or partially the illegal publishers, the underground was formed mostly by ordinary people with no political ambitions and often without formal education who managed to establish their own free millieu for artistic expression and found their own way of protesting against the boredom of the communist society, restrictive rules imposed by repressive forces and the sterile mainstream culture pandering to the ideology and mass consume.
The second culture, as defined by Ivan Martin Jirous, Czech poet, fine art scholar, performing artist, producer of illegal concerts and one of the leading characters of the Czech underground, involves the total refusal of contacts with the establishment, critical stance againts the “values“ of the regime, opposition to any compulsion including no mandatory artistic program and most of all the emphasizes on the authenticity of everyday life and in artistic creation. They called themselves the funny ghetto being apolitical on principle and trying to completely ignore the regime. Unfortunately the regime didn't ignore them at all.
The situation on the Polish music scene at the beginning of 80s was paradoxically getting much better despite the political situation. The authorities tolerated the foundation of the legendary festival All-Polish Review of Music of Young Generation (Ogólnopolski Przegląd Muzyki Młodej Generacji) in Jarociń which seemed to be a miracle not only for many Czechoslovak punks and rock fans. Our program selection of fiction and documentary films will trace the stories of underground musicians, their fans and independent youth of the period who desired just to play and enjoy the music they liked, but refused to pay for it by collaboration with the establishment and couldn't conform with the situation in the society.

7. The darkest place under the candlestick, for a while...

Stories of surprisingly open fiction films produced in 1968-1969 by the studios in Prague and Bratislava under the turmoil of protests against the occupation, fire on streets and raising threats of upcoming political purges. We'll focus on movies critically reflecting the contemporary situation mostly in the form of allegories which the courageous filmmakers managed to write, get approved, shoot and edit before a new political establishment took charge of the studios. After completion often in a very improvised conditions all of them received bans from the new censorship board. We'll trace the destiny of persecuted filmmakers and their artworks closed under the lock without a single public screening during the era and whose premiere was postponed for 20 years.
In parallel to the situation of the Czechoslovak cinema we'll introduce several Polish połkowniks (trans. as the films put away on a shelf (połka) by the film censors) reflecting the same period and similar topics of the modern Polish history. In addition to the well-known ironical allusions to the invasion from Piotr Szulkin whose art-work is quite popular in the Czech republic we will prioritize the vault films from the Cinema of Moral Concern (Kino moralnego niepokoju) outside the Czech national film distribution. Our selection will focus on describing the everyday situation in Poland in the epoch and disclosing the demagogical nature of the totalitarian state forcing its citizens to live in situations with no option to make free moral decisions according to their own believes and conscience.
Besides the presentation of the vault films we'll give oppotunity to Štěpán Hulík, a young Czech film scholar and script-writter, to introduce his theoretical work Cinematography oblivion (published in Academia, 2011) mapping the dramatic situation at the Film Studios Barrandov in Prague during the political changes between 1968-1973. The book was awarded the Magnesia litera award in 2011 at the category of the Promising talent of the year.

8. Amateurs for the truth

The critical voice of the era wouldn't be complete without contribution by non-professional filmmakers who recorded what they wittnessed on their home motion picture cameras. A selection of short films of the era collected in the collaboration with historical archives, documentation centres and amateur filmmakers' clubs from both countries will depict the historical and policital events from the viewpoint of the ordinary people. The shots of the invasion, strikes of workers, people rioting on streets, illegal music concerts dismissed by the police, or just everyday life in communist Poland and Czechoslovakia. Except of the anonymous and apolitical amateur camera operators a similar contribution was delivered, as well, by members of the dissent movements. The Original Videojournal as an occassional video news-bulletin tried to compensate for the truth missing in the official Czechoslovak TV news.