New Wave

The new wave (nova vlna) of artsy avant-garde productions washed ashore in the mid-1960s. Among the earliest and best were CernyPetr (Black Peter, 1963; the US version was called Peter & Paula) and Ldsky jedne plavovldsky (Loves of a Blonde, 1965) by Milos Forman. Slovak director Jan Kadar forged ahead with Smrt si Hkd Engelchen (Death Calls Itself Engelchen, 1963) and teamed up with Elmar Klos to produce Obchod na korze (The Shop on Main

Czech Film Center (www has the iowdown on film festivals and current Czech productions.

You can read snippets of Czech and Slovak authors in translation at http://

Street, 1965), which won an Academy Award for best foreign film. It's a moving film depicting the life of Jews in Slovakia under Nazi occupation. In 1967, Czech director Jiri Menzel garnered the same honour with Ostfe sledovane vlaky (Closely Watched Trains), based on Bohumil Hrabal's eponymous book about growing up during WWII. Frantisek Vlacil's Marketa Lazarovd (1967), a medieval epic of paganism versus Christianity on a personal level, usually tops polls ranking the best Czech films of all time.

It was a busy, successful period, but just a few short years later the Soviet invasion stopped the flow abruptly. Many young directors of the time escaped censorship because they were among the first graduates of the Academy of Film during communist rule and were therefore assumed to be ideologically 'clean'. Some took a hiatus; some left the country. Forman became a successful Hollywood director with films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus (filmed in Prague) and The People vs Larry Flint.

Films critical of the postinvasion regime were made during 1969 and 1970 but were promptiy banned from public screening. The most outstanding of those from Czech directors were the morbid Spalovac inrtvol (The Cremator of Corpses), directed by Juraj Herz, and the gloomy Ucho (The Ear), directed by Karel Kachyna. Zert (The Joke, 1970), directed by Jaromil Jires, is a film version of Milan Kundera's eponymous book. The gritty and powerful documentaries by Slovak film-makers Dusan Hanak and Dusan Dusek were banned during the communist years but their popularity remained strong.

Probably the best among the films of the next two communist decades was the comedy Vesnicko ma stfediskovd (My Sweet Little Village, 1985) directed by Jiri Menzel - a subtie look at the workings and failings of socialism in a village cooperative. One of Slovakia's best-loved directors is Juraj Jakubisko; his Sedim na kondri a je mi dobre (I'm Sitting on a Branch and I'm Fine, 1989) is an excellent but bizarre tale of life in Slovakia after WWII involving stolen gold, murder, bad luck and tree climbing.

One of the greatest Czech exports is the animated work of Jan Svankmajer; his creepy Alice (1988) is a masterpiece. The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984) is a tribute to the film-maker by underground American animators the Quay Brothers.

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