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There’s only one thing to do on Mondays and Tuesdays – going to the Czech Centre

Every spring and autumn season, the Czech Centre organises its signature film screening sessions, Documentary Mondays and Fiction Tuesdays. It is worth noting that, while Documentary Mondays has become a long standing tradition at the Czech Centre in Bucharest, spanning for about 12 years, Fiction Tuesdays, which only screens Czech films, has had great success with the Bucharest public and all but reached the popularity of its sister series, Documentary Mondays, in two short years.

In recent years, the Centre has also organised offshoots of these film screenings in other cities in Romania, including Braşov, Cluj-Napoca, Iaşi, Arad and Constanţa, and has founded the festival Cinemascop– a bubbling, week long event held in early August, which puts together the main ingredients of what the Czech Centre in Bucharest is all about: bringing culture to areas where it is not present, focusing on socialist-modernist architecture, connecting communities and organizing film screenings, of course.

Coming back to the film screenings in Bucharest, the theme of the season is linked to the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Wanting to reflect on what this event means today, the Czech Centre has prepared a selection of documentaries that deal with the transformations that took place within Czechoslovak society during those moments, as well as a variety of fiction films made throughout the `50s and ’90s, which offer a glipse into how film as an art form developed with the times, as well as the stories and attitudes of the directors towards the system and its changes. The selection is made to illustrate the many approaches one can take to understand the changes that Czechoslovak and subsequently Czech society has underwent since this historical milestone.

Documentary Mondays starts on October 28,  and the films will introduce the viewers into the world of Karel Zeman, that of skateboarding and, more broadly, the dynamics of the political movements in Czechoslovakia during the Normalization years. The first film of the series is Film Adventurer Karel Zeman (r. Tomás Hodan, 2015), which takes us through the life and achievements of the magician of film, who build entire fantasy worlds when digital effects were completely missing. King Skate (r. Simon Safránek, 2018), screened on November 4, invites us to take a look at the lesser-known world of skateboarders in Czechoslovakia, who built their own boards, explored the urban landscape in search of ramps, came into conflict with the authorities and had wild parties, all the while searching for a freedom that seemed far from ever possible.

November 11 brings Citizen Vaclav Havel Goes on Vacation (r. Adam Novak & Jan Novak, 2006), a documentary recreating Vaclav Havel’s journey through Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1985, when he had not yet become president and was among the most well-known dissident artists of the country. Year Without Magor: Genius Cannot Be Faked (r. Oliver Malina Morgenstern, 2012) will be screened on November 18. The film illustrates, on the one hand, a series of stories written by dissident artist Ivan Martin Jirous, and on the other, the brutality of totalitarian regimes in which false accusations lead to the arrest and sometimes even death of those who oppose it. Magor, as he was known, was imprisoned five times between 1968 and 1987 because of his political views. The series of screenings ends on November 25 with Citizen Havel (r. Miroslav Janek & Pavel Koutecký, 2008), which addresses the multiple aspects of the new Czech Republic during Havel’s presidency.

Fiction Tuesdays continues to bring films more or less known to the Romanian public, but which represent important models of Czechoslovak and Czech cinema. So far, this program has given the audience the opportunity to meet new Czechoslovak filmmakers and learn more about their ways of making films, and Karel Zeman is one of the most beloved filmmakers. If a documentary about him can be seen on Monday, on Tuesday, October 29, the fiction is directed by him – The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958). The program continues on November 5 with the movie Run, Waiter, Run! (r. Ladislav Smoljak, 1981), a comedy about a poor bookseller whose life problems lead him to creative ways to make money, and a classic that will be screened on November 12 – My Sweet Little Village (r. Jirí Menzel, 1985) illustrates the life of the community formed around a farming cooperative, and centers on the relationship between Otik, a slow-witted but kind man, and his work colleague, Pavek, who comes to realise the true importance of friendship.

On November 19 the audience moves into the 1990s, starting with the film The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday (1992), directed by the well-known Vera Chytilová, a study on the typology of the country bumpkin, freshly made rich after the fall of communism, who feels the need to exhibit his riches in order to validate his new social condition, but also on the new ways of relating to sex and society that are born with the new economic system. The program ends with the film Kolya (r. Jan Svěrák, 1996), winner of the Oscar and the Golden Globe for best foreign film. It tells the story of a former cellist of the Prague Philharmonic, who is trying to financially support himself by singing at funerals, after being fired on political grounds.

In the end, the customary autumn film screenings at the Czech Centre will be covering some old and some new themes for its audience this year: new wave film veterans like Zeman and Chtyilova, civil dissent  in the years following the Prague Spring, the dissolution of communism and the subsequent years of capitalist transition, as it is approached by the second Havel documentary and by the last two fiction installments of the series.

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