Athens International Film Festival

Spring awakening: Wild flowers of the Czech New Wave

For a brief but deciding period, beginning from the early ‘60s till the August of 1968, one of the most amazing film movements ever flourished in Czechoslovakia. Benefiting from a short period of relaxation of the political climate and the promise of a gradual liberalization, a group of directors who had studied at the distinguished Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) tuned in beneficially to the same artistic frequency and began unleashing on screen some of the most innovative, narratively wild and formalistically bold films ever made.

Drawing inspiration from literature, surrealism, visual arts, the recent and primal History, but giving their multidimensional narrations a timeless and universal energy, these directors set as their fundamental goal to
completely free their imagination. As a s result? Films that original examples of modernism that influenced countless directors (Yorgos Lanthimos is the most recent, who noted 'Cremator' by Juraj Herz as inspiration for the 'Favourite').

Parallel with the French Nouvelle Vague, the English Free Cinema and the Brazilian Cinema Novo, the Czech New Wave, not only had immediate international impact, but has an impressive series of participations and awards from respectable film festivals abroad, as well as two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. And while the famous Prague Spring, initiated by Alexander Dubček, leader of the country at the time, promised democratization and full freedom of the arts, the USSR tanks invasion (August 1968) lead the newfound film movement to vanish.

In many cases filming stopped abruptly, approved scripts were now being rejected, films were banned forever and many of the creators were forced either to leave the country (Milos Forman, Ivan Passer) either to stay behind and watch their careers being destroyed. Maybe the violent invasion of reality meant the inglorious end of the Czech New Wave and halted unfairly the ecstatic blooming of the film-making of the country, but there is a whole legacy left behind, so many masterpieces. Twelve of the masterpieces of that era, many of which had been considered undesirable and dangerous by the regime, were chosen by the 25th AIFF, which proudly introduces them anew to Greek audiences, digitally remastered. The Spring Awakening is not another festival feature. It’s a precious world of unexplored emotions that you simply must discover. Loukas Katsikas

We appreciate the support of the Czech Centre of Athens and the help of its director, mrs Lucie Kuligová.

    Publication date: 2019-09-09 15:57:33