“Very powerful”: New Havel doc gets special Prague Castle screening

Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me? is the name of a brand new documentary tracing the final years of Václav Havel’s life. The current Czech president and his Slovak counterpart were in the audience for a special screening of the film at Prague Castle on Monday night.

Over the years there have been several documentary films about Václav Havel, the dissident playwright turned head of state. In fact Citizen Havel from 2007 did some of the best box office for a Czech documentary ever.

Now a new film about the final years of the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of Czechia is ready to hit cinema screens.

Petr Jančárek | Photo: Tomáš Vodňanský,  Czech Radio

Entitled Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me?, it has been directed by Petr Jančárek, who worked closely with its subject for years.

“Surprisingly, President Havel came to me with the idea. At that time I had for several years shot video greetings from him that were sent to places that he couldn’t physically get to. And in April 2009 he surprised me by asking me to document the remainder of his life.”

Václav Havel lived two and a half years longer – and the director was present at all kinds of occasions during that period.

“There are many powerful moments in the film where I managed to get close to the president. It was an exceptional opportunity – and a unique one in the life of a documentary maker.”

Václav Havel | Photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio

The film is due out over 12 years after its subject passed away. Petr Jančárek explains why.

“There were several reasons, including trouble raising funding and Covid. But neither I nor my colleagues from the crew or the production team regret that at all, because we think the longer time gap benefited the material in the end.”

The documentary is set to enter cinema distribution in Czechia next month and will be shown in “pre-premiere” form at the One World film festival in Prague and elsewhere.

Petr Pavel and Zuzana Čaputová | Photo: Vít Šimánek,  ČTK

However, on Monday night there was a special gala screening at Prague Castle’s Spanish Hall.

The roll call of guests included President Petr Pavel and his Slovak counterpart, Zuzana Čaputová – who offered this “review” right after the film.

“Very powerful and very positive. I think the ideas of Václav Havel are highly useful to all generations. For me the example of his wisdom combined with modesty is very inspirational.”

The Slovak head of state’s own term is coming to an end – and she was asked if she could draw inspiration from Havel’s post-presidential years.

“I think the film contains the idea that we never know what lies ahead of us. So I don’t know how my time as an ex-president is going to be either. But I hope it will be another period of my life that I can regard as meaningful.”

Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me? – which so far has been receiving positive reviews – will enter cinemas around Czechia on April 11.