23rd Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival
Thirty years after the events of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution of 1989 that brought fundamental changes in political issues in former Czechoslovakia, their remembrance will probably look different from what they did in the past. Today, the rich country is divided more than ever, and it seems to be once again looking for its future and appearance. The Ji.hlava festival holds in esteem and protection the values that have helped to shape the direction of our country after 1989: freedom, democracy, justice, interest in public affairs and respect for different views. The anniversary of this major change in the life of Czech society will be remembered by presenting an original collection of films and lectures that will help to understand the pre- and post-revolution era, along with roots of the current crisis which may result in a sort of The Judge on the Czech Way turned into a documentary reconstruction by director Robert Sedláček. The time and spatial circumstances of the exhausted finish line of the so-called “real socialism” are described in the films by dissident filmmaker Michal Hýbek who was recording Václav Havel’s reactions after his last release from the prison, but also interviewed Alexander Dubček, the symbolic figure of the famous Prague Spring of 1968. Dubček in a previously unpublicized interview from September 1989, premiered at Ji.hlava festival, represents former communist reformers who were not pondering Western-style democracy in Czechoslovakia, but a reformed version of socialism. The voice of rigid communist representation is also heard in Jan Rousek’s new film, still in progress, A Normalization of Power. The breakthrough events of November 17, 1989 are summed up in the documentary by Lea Petříková and Jan Rousek, Velvet FAMU. The building of Prague’s famous film academy stands just around the corner from Národní třída where communist police forces stormed a peaceful student march on that day. And it was the students of Prague’s FAMU and DAMU (i.e. film and theatre academies) who initiated a general student strike at universities across the country. The strike very soon disseminated into theatres and led up to the general strike that virtually ended the communist sovereignty. Testimonies of former university students hold arguments against various conspiracy theories that are listed in a film by Andrea Sedláčková. The fast and furious pace of post-revolution years is captured in a documentary on Czech advertising and a lecture on ownership restitutions in the Czech film business. Advertising became symbolic of the rapid introduction of free market, meanwhile restitutions were attempts to come to terms with 40-year-old process of so-called nationalization whereby the communist government had relayed private businesses to state ownership. It remains an interesting fact that the topic of restitutions was more often dealt with through fiction film than documentaries at the time. A distinguished personality, playwright, essayist, dissident and later a president of both Czechoslovakia and the independent Czech Republic will be remembered in an almost forgotten documentary Vision 2000 by Juraj Herz and fragments from Petr Jančárek’s film (still in making) This Is Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me?