Občanský průkaz - a new film about youth & rebellion in Communist Czechoslovakia – premieres in Prague

'Občanský průkaz'

Wednesday evening saw the highly-anticipated premiere of the new Czech film Občanský průkaz about youth & rebellion during the Normalisation period in Communist Czechoslovakia. Directed by Ondřej Trojan of Želary fame, Občanský průkaz (which means identity card or simply I.D.) is being distributed by Falcon films. Radio Prague spoke to the head of Falcon, Jan Bradáč, and asked him how the opening went.

Jan Bradáč, photo: VAC
“It was a big surprise for everyone! On the one hand, the film is a comedy, it is definitely a comedy, but at the same time it a very good description of the situation 30 or so years ago. That is something largely unknown to today’s teenagers. Today, for them the period is completely invisible or unknown. For them, it can be described as discovering a new world. And from this perspective Wednesday’s screening was a big event and many reactions followed.”

The film is set in the 1970s: could you tell me a little about that period, or at least how it is shown in the film?

“At the time the government and the system was trying to lock people in by systematically checking up on them through all kinds of steps. The identity card was one of the tools that the Communists used to force people to follow their rules: everything they needed to know about anybody was written there. Whether you were married or single; whether you had children; whether you were employed and what you did. Almost everything about every single citizen in Czechoslovakia was there and any policeman could check it. The story in the film is about four young men who begin to protest and while it is very funny, it is frightening as well.”

Screenwriter Petr Jarchovský has made a bit of a name for himself by now for writing screenplays going back to the past – from the Stalinist 1950s to later on in the 1980s – whether it was Pelíšky or Pupendo. Does Občanský průkaz follow in a similar vein?

'Občanský průkaz'
“There are of course joint themes which connect all of these movies together, given they are all based on the novels of Petr Šabach. Jarkovský often uses his books as a source for new stories. So the movies have more in common than just the period described. What I like about the latest film, is that it doesn’t take the point of view that some of us were good, some were bad but ‘we’re all friends now’. By the end of the film it’s very clear who was bad and who was trying to fight against.”