New series maps changes in Czech film industry over last 20 years
The public broadcaster Czech TV has begun airing a new 20-part series looking back on Czech film and the film industry since 1989. Called Rozmarná léta českého filmu (The Capricious Years of Czech film), the documentary looks at difficulties and changes in the Czech film business during the transition from the state-controlled economy to the free market.
“We decided to map the development of the film business because nostalgia has begun to set in, and people are looking back. I think it is always good after a period to look back to reassess events and see them with a new eye. It can take five, ten, twenty years or sometimes just a week. But things can look very different when you have some distance.”
“It’s important to remember that in ’90 and ’91 we all travelled outside of Czechoslovakia and were completely fascinated by what we saw, even something as banal as flower pots on peoples windows. There was Venice, the sea, Paris, so many of us really weren’t interested in the cinema for a while. Meanwhile, the production system at home was stopped, it completely broke down. The only films that drew large audiences were projects which had been completed on the cusp of the revolution or shortly thereafter, often rooted in themes close to viewers’ hearts. Czech film would have to look for new beginnings.”
Filmmakers, says Vachler, had to look for new themes and humour relevant in the new period, when there was no longer a Communist regime to secretly ridicule and oppose but new-found freedom which carried greater risks and responsibilities. But a number of emerging filmmakers, says Petr Vachler, started successful careers while other talents floundered.
On average, 15 – 30 feature films are made in the Czech Republic annually and film, despite difficulties in the 1990s has not disappeared or been abandoned, on the contrary. But Vachler says it is still a labour of love, in most cases not about the money.