Spotlight on Czech Cinema

  Every year Tiburon International Film Festival places a spotlight on a number of global filmmaking regions. This year TIFF will shine a light upon Czech Republic, showcasing some of their latest and finest films.

Milos Forman: What doesn't kill you...
The Devil's Mistress
Every Million Comes Handy
I Love You Heavenly


The history of the Czechoslovakian cinema started with a presentation by Eugene Dupont, a Lumiere cameraman on July 15th, 1896 at the Lazensky dum in Karoly Vary when Czechoslovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. There is a report that there was an earlier presentation in May in Belgrade, but it hasn't been confirmed.

In Czechoslovakia, an early pioneer that had been working on the idea of animated photographs was Jan Krizenecky who filmed the first actuality or 'factual' called Dostavencicko ve Mlynici and the first short Plac a Smich in 1898. The first film/drama produced in Czechoslovakia was Vystavni Parkar a Lepic Plakatu in 1898. Because of the growing political tension that led to World War I, the film industry stayed small and self sufficient.

After the war, the Czech cinema began being influenced by the American film industry as did most film industries in Europe. By 1921, the A-B Company opened a studio in Vinohrady and produced a fairy tale called Zlaty Klicek (the Gold Key). Also, as a note, the first Slovak full-length feature movie was Jaroslav Siakel's production of Janosik in 1921.This era produced several notable works with several films from famous novelist Jaroslav Hasek. Many major pre-war film directors continued to make films, including Otakar Vávra, Martin Frič, Miroslav Cikán, Jan Sviták (who was murdered at the end of the war by an anti-fascist mob), Vladimír Slavínský, František Čáp, Zdeněk Gina Hašler (who emigrated to the USA after the war) and Václav Binovec. Vladimír Čech started his career during the WW2, as well as Václav Krška. Scenario writer Karel Steklý turned to film directing at the end of the war and maintained both careers until his death.

The Czechoslovak New Wave is most frequently associated with the early works of directors such as Miloš Forman, Věra Chytilová, Jiří Menzel and others, although works by older, more established Czechoslovak directors such as Karel Kachyňa and Vojtěch Jasný are also placed in this category. Encompassing a broad range of works in the early to mid-1960s, the Czechoslovak New Wave cannot be pinned down to any one style or approach to filmmaking. Examples range from highly stylised, even avant-garde, literary adaptions using historical themes (e.g. Jan Němec's Diamonds of the Night (Démanty noci)) to semi-improvised comedies with contemporary subjects and amateur actors (e.g., Miloš Forman's The Firemen's Ball (Hoří, má panenko)). However, a frequent feature of films from this period were their absurd, black humour and an interest in the concerns of ordinary people, particularly when faced with larger historical or political changes. The acid western comedy film Lemonade Joe was a famous parody of old-time westerns. Cinematic influences included Italian neorealism and the French New Wave, although the Czechoslovak New Wave also builds organically on developments in Czechoslovak cinema in the late 1950s when directors broke free from the influence of Stalinism in the film industry.

Currently the Czech Republic has a population of about 10.3 million people with 1.5 million of those living in Prague. The Czech Republic has approximately 920 screens, while the Slovak Republic has about 5.4 million people. Because of the low production cost and highly skilled film industry labor, the Czech Republic is becoming a favorite place for major film production with such titles being filmed in the Czech Republic as: Spy Game (2001), A Knight's Tale (2001), XXX (2002), Bourne Identity (2002), Blade II (2002), Underworld (2003), Shanghai Knights (2003), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), Van Helsing (2004), Hellboy (2004), Alien vs Predator (2004), Chronicles of Narnia (2005), and Brothers Grimm (2005).

The Czech Republic continues to grow as a hot destination for foreign movie production.

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