In the 1960s, the Czech New Wave film movement produced some captivating and avant-garde films that engage previously censored communist themes. Fifty years later, Czech New Wave has become emblematic of protest art in the Slavic world. UChicago will honor this legacy with “Pearls of the Czech New Wave”, an event featuring a screening of two Czech New Wave films, a roundtable of scholars to contextualize the films, and a discussion with Czech filmmaker Ivan Passer.
Conceived by Malynne Sternstein, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, the event celebrates the 50th anniversary of the release of the Czech New Wave’s “manifesto” film, Pearls of the Deep (Perličky na dne). This five-part film was directed by key players in the Czech New Wave such as Jiří Menzel, Věra Chytilová, Jaromil Jireš, Jan Němec and Evald Schorm. The anthology pays homage to the legendary Czech writer, Bohumil Hrabal, by adapting several of his short stories and by borrowing its title from his groundbreaking 1963 collection.
“The importance of this celebration cannot be underestimated,” says Sternstein. “The Czech New Wave was one of the greatest artistic dissents of the 20th century. Its special humor, canniness, and iconoclasm, especially now requires celebration because of the 50 years that have transpired and the recent loss of its most cherished artists, Věra Chytilová, Jan Němec, Eva Krumbachová.”
Along with Pearls of the Deep, the event will feature the first English subtitled version from the Czech National Film Archive of Ivan Passer's A Boring Afternoon (Fádní odpoledne), followed by a discussion with Passer. Though released separately, the film was originally part of the Pearls of the Deep anthology. The Consul General of the Czech Republic in Chicago, Bořek Lizec, will introduce Ivan Passer at the event. “Passer also happens to be one of my favorite Czech filmmakers,” says Sternstein, “and so I thought of what a coup it would be if we were able to have him make a campus visit to discuss his part in the Czech New Wave. He agreed. To quote Hrabal, 'The impossible came true!'”
“Pearls of the Czech New Wave” is sponsored by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, the Film Studies Center, the Center for Eastern European and Russian/Eurasian Studies, and the Central Europe Workshop. The event is free and open to the public, though seating is limited. For more details on the event and further information about each of the films, visit the event website.