Posts Tagged ‘Made in Prague’

Made in Prague Festival 2022

The popular, multi-genre festival Made in Prague returns to London for its 26th year. Representing one of the oldest national celebrations of European culture in the UK,
the festival presents an exciting programme covering film, music, science, visual art and literature across London and beyond between 1 November and 4 December 2022.

This year’s highlights feature:

Olmo Omerzu’s wry black comedy Bird Atlas, often quoted ‘Czech Republic’s answer to the smash hit series Succession‘.

Kunstkamera, Czech surrealist and filmmaker Jan Švankmajer’s lastest film introducing the artist’s unique private collection of artefacts to the world.

Powerful documentary 107 Mothers, an exquisite docudrama telling the stories of mothers and pregnant woment in a Ukrainian prison.

Gustav Machatý’s 1929 silent gem Erotikon + live accompaniment by UK pianist Stephen Horne at the BFI Southbank.

Hommage to the great Czech film composer Zdeněk Liška available on BFI Player.

a number of critically acclaimed contemporary Czech films, many of which will be introduced by their directors.


Occupation | Okupace (2021) Made in Prague Festival 2022

Dir.: Michal Nohejl; Cast: Antonie Formanova, Aleksey Gorbunov, Martin Pechlat, Otokar Brousek, Tomas Jelabek, Cyril Dobry Vlastimil Venclik; Czech Republic 2021, 98 min.

This bizarre absurdist chamber from Czech director/co-writer Michal Nohejl (Fobie) sees the crew and cast of a Prague theatre imagine the emotional aftermath to the invasion of their country by Russian and Warsaw Pact troops in 1968.

Okupace never really escapes its stagey stetting – the bar of the theatre – Nohejl borrowing freely from Milos Forman’s Fireman’s Ball – but adding a critical nuance in terms of the historical traumata of the old Czechoslovakia.

For many Czechs the Munich tragedy of 1938 comes back to haunt them in 1968. In both cases, there were no heroes to save the day and the drunken arguments of the cast and the play’s director (Brousek) are very much a reaction to this lack of muscular leadership. Pavel Neskudia (Pechlat) plays the artistic boss of the theatre. The play – about the Czech communist martyr Julius Fucik – is hailed as ‘mediocre’ by all present. Neskudia is interviewed by the enigmatic beauty Milada (Formanova), who heaps praise on him for having returned from Western exile after the invasion. Unfortunately Neskudia, like everyone one else in the room, is slightly paranoid, and accuses the woman of being part of the secret service STB, sent out to spy on him.

One of the actors has remained in his SS costume and this freaks out a drunken Russian officer (Ukranian actor Aleksey Gorbunov), who arrives desperate to get even more drunk. He accosts Milada and a scuffle breaks out. Somebody decides it would be good idea to pretend that the Russian has fallen into the hands of the Nazis, represented by the “SS man”. Violence escalates, and the artists leave the Russian for dead. A Russian patrol then turns up inquiring where their officer is, and the Czechs’ total denial of his whereabouts leaves the group in a precarious position: they know very well what will happen to them if the truth comes out. Fuelled by more alcohol, the  troupe decide to aspire to the heroes the country never had.

Inspired lighting effects from DoP Jan Baset Stritezsky make the bar look like something out of Visconti’s The Damned. He then conjures up pure evil with his shadow-play as the violence escalates. Performances are decent with the protagonists falling out with each other over the violence they have brought upon themselves. Despite all this the production fails to soar above the confines of its one-location setting. Occupation remains very much a filmed theatre play which does require a basic knowledge of Czechoslovakia’s history. The war in Ukraine also plays a role, underlining how just much Czech people feel let down by their own country. Occupation is a brave and avant-garde endeavour which doesn’t quite live up to its intentions. AS


Every Single Minute (2021) Made in Prague Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Erika Hanikova; Cast: Documentary with Misco, Lenka and Michal Hanuliak; Czech Republic/Slovakia 2021, 80 min.

A new documentary looks at the merits and drawbacks of a controversial Czech educational system through one couple’s experience with their own son.

Czech writer/director Erika Hanikova (Nesvatbov) takes a year in the life of Misco Hanuliak and his parents Lenka and Michal. The couple opts for the rather dogmatic approach of the Kameveda (Comprehensive Multi-Developmental Education of Children) based on the success of founder Pavel Zacha, who managed to get his when son into the famous American National Hockey League (NHL) – a rare exception for a non-US player.

We meet Misco, who is still barely out of nappies when his parents fill every minute of his day with sport: ice-hockey, tennis, basket ball, BMX cycling, all forms of athletics and fitness training The Hanuliak home is a paradise for the sport obsessed, with plaques bearing the platitudes “Home, Sweet Home” and “Family, were life begins, and love never ends”. hanging over doorways. Bilingual Lenka, is a full time mother and coach, running around with a stop watch, checking her son’s progress in the various activities. Michal runs a business but still finds time to ‘coach’ Misco who has no friends, and only has time for the Kamevada obsessed members of his family

Whilst Lenka shows her son affection, this is usually coupled with him breaking just another record. The couple is strangely reserved with each, all conversation targeting Misco’s progress: more a work relationship than a love affair. Misco is certainly indoctrinated by his parents: at a visit to his grandparents he says “yack” to chocolate and “Yummy” to a carrot offered, whilst his grandfather congratulates him on his stance, telling him, that he won’t end up with a big belly like he himself.

Every obstacle can be overcome, with Lenka giving a good example, driving – to just another sport’s venue – in spite of a very high temperature. Even a visit to a beach is used for Misco to break another record. When the latter tells is mother, that he has seen a tramp fishing around in the bins of their apartment block, Lenka uses this as a didactic opportunity: The man has certainly not trained and worked enough, so he has nothing to eat. But if Misco trains and works hard, he will be able to buy himself everything he wants.

DoPs Simon Dvoracek and Lukas Milota adopt a “fly on the wall” approach with Erika Hanika staying a non-judgemental observer. A sad fate awaits Misco – and the many other children of this cult-like organisation which robs them of creativity and a identity thanks to a misguided group of parents, trying to give their children the success they never had, by making them into little “Stepford” acolytes. AS


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