Czechoslovak Radio in 1968 invasion setting for new film by Jiří Mádl

Jiří Mádl

Czechoslovak Radio saw some of the most intense violence when the USSR led an invasion of the country in August 1968. That traumatic moment and the preceding Prague Spring period are the setting for a new film, Vlny/Waves, now being made by well-known actor-writer-director Jiří Mádl. I discussed the project with him at Czech Radio this week.

Jiří Mádl | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Czech Radio

“The main focus is on two brothers and I’d say that the main topic is taking care of your loved ones in hard times.

“The story takes us through their relationship, where the older brother is hired under strange circumstances into this very high-profile newsroom – a group of journalists.

“That puts him in danger, which he doesn’t want; he was trying to avoid any kind of danger in the ‘60s, which was a hard time for journalists and for freedom of speech in general.

“So he doesn’t really want to work for the heroes, he wants to be hidden – but he’s there.”

Warsaw pact troops on Vinohradská st.,  August 1968 | Photo: Czech Radio

How did you research this story?

“I researched this story with the great help of Czech Radio, of all the workers that I met eight years ago [when the project began].

“They really opened doors for me, not only to the archives but also to the real journalists who were still alive at that time; so I was very fortunate to get to speak to them.

“Then the story simply evolved and unfolded for me later, when I was speaking to them.

“I think that through this film I’m bringing something very new, not only to the history of Czech Radio but also to the history of the Czech Republic as such.”

Czech Radio’s main headquarters in Vinohradská street in the centre of Prague | Photo: Lenka Žižková,  Radio Prague International

We’re here at the historical building of Czech Radio on Vinohradská St. How much will you actually be filming in this building?

“Not very much actually [laughs], because it only has some features of that time and we’d have a hard time avoiding the modern stuff that belongs to this building, naturally.

“But we will have, like, a day or two here, shooting especially in front of the building, where actually the turmoil was happening, and then a little bit in the inside.”

Czechoslovak Radio building,  August 21,  1968 | Photo: archive of Pavel Macháček

This was of course a very important moment in Czech history. How much pressure do you feel to get it right?

“A lot [laughs]!

“But I’m a filmmaker, I’m not a making a documentary.

“I feel the need to actually move some of the things on timeline, so that I can really tell a story in a thrilling way, not too boring.

“So I changed some of the facts, but not very much.

“I still believe that I’m bringing fully, and nicely, the spirit of the time and the group of journalists that I’m talking about.”

When can we hope to see this movie at the cinema?

“I’m hoping… or actually now we’re contracted to deliver it [laughs] in I guess April 2024 or something.

“But I can’t really tell – my producer knows more.”