Culture

The most expensive Czech film ever now comes to cinemas - BATHORY

Jul 9, 14:05 Filed under culture

Director Juraj Jakubisko finished the most expensive film which was so far made in Czech cinematography. His drama and historical movie is called Bathory ad tells a story of Elizabeth Bathory (Ersebet Bathory), a Hungarian countess who lived in today´s Slovakia in 16th/17th century. In those times, Slovakia was a part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Elizabeth Bathory is very infamous for murdering and torturing her vassals. She is also said to kill many innocent young girls to get their virgin blood, which she believed should help her to preserve her beauty. But now, for almost hundred years later, historicians´ opinions about her and her life are not that uniform. Some say that she got extremely rich and independent, and thus become a target of jealousy and then evil machinations of her enemies. So who really was she? An evil murderer or an extraordinary well-educated and rich woman, a lonely widow. Was she an aggressor or a victim? Or both? Now, after release of the movie, we can expect more discussions on this topic.

The Jakubisko´s film was already well discussed even before it started to be made, then shooting finally started in December 2005 and now, in June 2008 the film was finished.

The movie already had its V.I.P. premiere, it was 28th of June in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. The Czech premiere was on Saturday 5th of July in Karlovy Vary, where famous international film festival takes place. Czech and Slovak cinemas start screenings of the film from 10th of July.

Director of the Bathory movie, which was also intended to be called Love Story Bathory, is, already mentioned, famous Slovak Juraj Jakubisko, who did many good films since 1960´s when he graduated at Film Academy in Prague. This year, in Film festival in Karlovy Vary, he also received a prize for his lifelong contribution to cinematography.

The film with budget of 10 000 000 Euros, which makes it the most expansive film in the history of not only Czech, but as well Slovak cinematography, was made in international coproduction of companies from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and United Kingdom with additional funding provided by European Union´s Eurimages, the State Czech funding for cinematography (Statni fond CR pro podporu a rozvoj ceske kinematografie) and the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic.

English actress Anna Friel stars as Bathory, and there are many other popular faces as actors appearing here – as Juraj Jakubisko´s wife Deana Horvathova, Italian actor Franco Nero or popular Czech actors as Karel Roden, Lucie Vondrackova, Bolek Polivka or an idol of some teenagers Jiri Madl.

Czech Juggling Convention Prague

Jul 8, 14:51 Filed under culture

If you like juggling and street art, there are some good news for you. From 24th to 27th of July there is going to be 8th year of Czech Juggling Convention and Street Festival in Prague. It is, as organizers states, a big celebration of juggling, acrobatic, new circus and other street art forms. Not only Czech people will be performers, the event is international. It consists not of performances on streets of Prague, some workshops, but also evening programs, lectures and gala shows.

It was also announced, that this year the festival is focused on diabolo and contact juggling, fussion in between dance and juggling art and exploring of francophony juggling and also new circus scene. That sounds quite interesting, and juggling seems to be a good summer outdoor activity, so why not to get to learn something new about it.

More information about the project in English language is to be found here From what is written here it seems, that the program is still not much fixed, but on the other hand they ask those who would like to perform something to contact them, so maybe you still have a change even for this year…

Summer holidays just started!

Jul 2, 14:24 Filed under culture

On Friday started summer holidays for most of Czech students of basic and high schools. As a school year in the Czech Republic officially finishes 30th of June every year, this time most of school directors decided not to wait until Monday 30th and finished already on Friday 27th, so students have their holidays a little bit longer. As well as their teachers. Now they can enjoy full two months of summer holidays – July and August.

On Friday they got their school reports: in the Czech Republic is used five degrees marking system – students‘ achievements in particular subjects are classified by marks from one to five. One (excellent) is the best mark, while five means failed and student has to repair it at the end of holidays. It is a customary that for their last day of school year students dress well, but lately this custom is often being abandoned. But what stays is a custom to bring some flowers to the teacher (most of Czech teachers, especially at basic schools are female), eventually good chocolate. When teacher gives a report to the student, she/he gets the flowers. And on the afternoon many parents take their kids for ice cream or give them some presents, often also money as a reward for good schoolwork during the year. And then they can go for holidays, although most of high school students also take some summer work to earn some money for their personal expenses.

During summer holidays, some trams and bus schedules are changed, the buses and trams do not have to go so often as during the school year. But there should be a notice on the tram/bus stop.
And after the holidays, school officially starts on 1st of September, which is on Monday this year.

Prague got the 62nd position on the list of 100 best places of the planet

May 28, 11:48 Filed under culture

There was an interesting public enquiry on the website TripAdvisor (www.tripadvisor.com). People were asked to vote for “The Best Destinations for 2008”. Website is very visited and they claim, that the destinations on the list were thus chosen by millions of travelers.

The first place on the list went to Milford Sound at New Zealand, from European places was best Rhodos in Greece, which got 5th position. Prague got 62nd position, if we would consider only European places, then it would be the 21st. Is it good or bad? Prague is a very beautiful town and thus popular among visitors, but unfortunately it has its darker sides. So other European towns, which are usually not that often considered as “one of the greatest places on the world” as Prague often is considered, for example Austrian Salzburg or Italian Sienna got higher positions on the list.

There were some articles in Czech newspapers glossing the enquiry and thinking why awesome Prague did not get better position. According to Tomio Okamura, who is the speaker of the Association of Czech tourist offices, the tourists´ excitement from Prague is often spoiled by bad services. They are not only cheating taxi drivers, but also tricky money changes, where exchange money with “zero provision” but in disadvantageous rate. So there are lots of things, which can be improved and lets hope that improvements will happen and Prague will win better position next year.

The Radar Base- Not Merely a Question of the Present

May 21, 16:06 Filed under culture

One of the most disputed questions of last year is the building of a US radar base in Czech Repulic. It is supposed to be a part of the system of anti- ballistic missile defense system, which would work mainly in connection to the missile base that should be built in Poland.

Several cities, including the capital, have seen demonstrations against the plan. The opposition arouses from both sentiment and reason. Speaking of sentiment, any foreign station in the Republic is out of the question for many. The reasoning is based on some kind of stance towards the US policies and the position of Czech Republic in the world today. The supporters base their argument on the need to strengthen the Czech- US ties. The opposition claims that is not necessary and warns of a new arms race. For both it is mostly a question of principle. For part of the Czech public it also a matter of sour memories it brings back to life.

My intention here is not to suggest my opinion on the question. What one may ask is why is it such a sensitive issue for the Czech public. The 1968 Russian invasion may be the answer. It was not the first time in the recent history that the country was invaded or otherwise subject to foreign power or brute force. It was different in several points.

It did not come from an enemy, it came from a supposedly friendly state, in fact the friendliest of all, our idol the Soviet Union. Not that much of a surprise since they did it before, in Hungary. But it was different. The Czech government did not want to leave the Warsaw Pact. They still did pledge their loyalty to the USSR and to socialism- and still the tanks came.

Secondly, the army did not come completely on its own. A part of the Czech Communist Party sent a letter to Kremlin, asking for a “fraternal help” against the contra- revolutionary elements within the party. Party of ruling party asked for the invasion. Part of the public agreed with it.

Thirdly, the army did not commit a widespread massacre and leave. People died, but there was no large- scale fight going on. The army stayed- for more than twenty years. Most people got somehow used to it, as to an unpleasant, embarrassing memento of this country’s lack of strength, or lack of options.

During the first days of the invasion, on the Wenceslas square some confused Russian soldiers (most of them were unaware of what they are going to and why) opened fire at the National Museum. The rumor is that they thought it was the Berlin Reichstag. The scars are still visible and were referred to as “the frescos by El Grechko” by some Czechs, a reference to current Soviet foreign minister’s surname.

A few months ago, an anti- Radar demonstration took place at the square. The sentiment may be abused by some of the organizers, but it is important to know that it is present. Any permanent presence of foreign troops in CR simply does have a sour taste, be it rational or not.

More ‘Market - Temples’

Apr 26, 14:14 Filed under culture

According to recent news, more shopping malls are to emerge in Prague over next months. It brings one to the question of heavyweight commerce in the Republic. What serves as a source for the current predictions is a press release from INCOMA Research Group, considering the state and prospects of shopping centers in the CR.

The group just announced results of a large- scale survey they conducted. The main statement is that the “hypermarket” sector is growing and about to grow. There are currently 250 shopping centers, fifty of them containing at least fifty different retainers. The most powerful part of the market are said to be clothes, shoes are second, computers third.

prague palladium Anyway, what matters for us Prago-centrists is that Prague hosts 38 percent of the centers. Speaking to people in their forties, you would be stunned by the changes the republic has gone through, concerning commerce. Today it’s hard to believe that some twenty years ago a whole slab block estate would be supplied with one middle- sized grocery store. Now the same area is often surrounded by several supermarkets and in case that would not be enough, there’s a hyper- one within reach.

Few years ago, two young filmmakers caused quite a controversy with Czech Dream, a documentary on a fake hypermarket campaign. Although the fact that ordinary people were used as unwilling participants on a sort of performance is questionable, it did shed light on a phenomenon. One could call it market culture or buydiction, whatever, I mean the tendency to experience the process of buying things as a highlight one one’s week, the best way to spend free time. It is not uncommon that families go on a ‘trip’ to a shopping center and spend an afternoon in the whirlwind of shops. Looking at things, trying them on.

It’s probably sad, but the past has shown that no acceptable way of regulation on people spending their money is at hand. The last thing a state is supposed to do is to tell people how to spend their free time.

What can be talked about is the question of wasting: food, plastic etc. The food chains might adjust their strategy so that large parts of their (over-) productions wouldn’t have to be thrown away for not being sold in time. But that’s another matter.

Not sure whether it ever was Prague’s dream, she will get more giant shopping centers. Two this year, seven more in foreseeable future. One thing’s for sure: if your idea of a good day out is going through various products in carefully designed surroundings, Prague will be at your service.

Great advertising campaign of Czech non-alcoholic beverage in Prague

Apr 3, 09:09 Filed under culture

Kofola a.s. organized sampling of their tasty non-alcoholic beverage Kofola in the streets in Prague in summer 2006. This company produces non-alcoholic beverages in the Czech Republic. The most famous drink Kofola is considered as well-known and favorite beverage among Czech customers.

kofola - If/When you love it/her nothing else matters Kofola used for their promotion a tram with logo of Kofola. This tram took people around Prague for free while hostesses were offering these people a refreshing beverage Kofola in the tram or at tram stops for free as well. There were also other people participating in Kofola promotion. These people were having in-line skates, and they were offering their beverage to the consumers in the streets of Prague. The aim of the promotion was to provide people with great refreshment during hot summer days, and it also worked as a reminder of this brand. They wanted to remind the customers of their great brand name Kofola, and they also wanted to remind of great taste of popular traditional Czech beverage. This promotion campaign succeeded because people started talking about Kofola tram and about company’s hostesses. Consumers started purchasing more Kofola as a refreshment during hot days. This campaign was also mentioned in newspapers.

The target group in this case were people who live in Prague. The aim of Kofola company was to provide refreshment during hot summer days to all age groups. The highest impact should Kofola have had on young generation – teenagers. Teenagers often prefer to drink beverages like Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Kofola was trying to appeal as a cool beverage; therefore the company used the guys on in-line skates, so that this beverage would be perceived as a popular among teenagers.

The Wenceslas Square Project

Mar 28, 15:02 Filed under culture

I believe most people would agree that Wenceslas Square has been waiting for a change of shape for quite some time. It is, in its current form, very car- friendly, overcrowded, noisy, unpleasant and, especially at night, not terribly safe. The flow of people on the relatively narrow pavements make it impossible to walk slowly, you rather have to run across as quickly as you can- which is a shame for the place is carefully planned and quite imposing in its way. Weren’t there the tiny nuisance, the highway cutting through its core, between its two dominants- the St Wenceslas Statue and the National Museum.

Putting aside the question who is to blame for this idiotic move of dragging the highway through the city centre (and so ruining several other spots such as Florenc), there is a reason for optimism. The renewal project was agreed upon several years ago.

Its key point is to re- create some of the visage it had during the 1920’s and 30’s. That includes mainly meeting the pedestrian needs rather than the motorists’. The pavements are to be widened, trees planted and the tram line brought back, the cars parking there moved into an underground parking lot. And, mainly, the stupid highway is to be moved behind the Museum. Not only that, it is to be lowered underground, into a tunnel, meaning that the square would no longer be bothered by the effects of its presence. And if our current mayor, Mr Bém, is serious, he will have it cut in half in the whole of Prague next two years. It’s possible it will be gradually abandoned in the future. The problem is that there is a condition: first the highway around Prague, the alternative to the current one that cuts through the city, must be finished. Not to say that nothing will be done, only the decision- makers will be very careful until this problem is solved.

There’s an impressive visualization of the project here. If it is done this way, we may look forward to a much more convenient place for straws, gathering etc. The question is the time frame, the main works are yet to start and the tunnel building in particular will make some noise.

Czech Cindarella at the Oscars

Feb 22, 10:56 Filed under culture

hansard irglova Once is a 2006 Irish musical film written and directed by John Carney. Set in Dublin, it stars musicians Glen Hansard (of popular Irish rock band The Frames) and Marketa Irglova, a fictional Czech emigrant, as struggling musicians.

Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard’s singing won the American National Society of Film ‘Critics Choice Award’ for the best original film song; Falling Slowly.

The Czech press calls her a modern-style Popelka (Cinderella). The American media love her for her pure, honest and meek personality. Marketa Irglova is a 19-year old country girl from Moravia who was chosen to sing together with her boyfriend Glen at the Oscars 2008 next week.

Read the rest at Czechmatediary.com

Citizen Havel

Feb 21, 12:55 Filed under culture

citizen havel A new and quite unusual document has entered Czech cinemas. It is named after the main „actor“ in this film – Vaclav Havel. Yes, you are not mistaken, that really is the same Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic. This document shows Havel in his years of presidency starting in autumn 1992, and going all the way to January 2003.

Thanks to this amazing document, every one of us can have an inside look at how it really is to be the president of the Czech Republic. We get the chance to see some of the private moments of Havel´s life as well as experience some tough political negotiations.

Vaclav Havel is a very important person in Czech history so it is no surprise that there is a documentary film about him. As the former leader of dissidents and later the first non-communist president after almost 50 years, he has been personified with the Velvet Revolution and democracy that the peaceful revolution brought back to the country.

He was the last Czechoslovak president and the first president of the Czech Republic. He was first elected president in the winter of 1989. He became the Czech president in 1993 and was re-elected in 1998. Because all Czech presidents can serve only 2 terms, he „retired“ in 2003, and was succeeded by Vaclav Klaus.

The idea to make a document about Vaclav Havel was truly amazing. But what is more, the crew had an exclusive position and was given almost unlimited access to all important meetings, including those from international politics. The camera was always by the president’s side for 13 years. The result is quite unique. Tens of hours of shootings were neatly cut into 112 minutes of a great document.

The „actors“ in this document are, apart from Vaclav Havel, no unfamiliar people. Just to name some – the former president of the USA Bill Clinton with his wife Hilary Clinton; the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; the present president of the USA George W. Bush with his wife Laura; the former French president Jacques Chirac; Mick Jagger and other members of the famous Rolling Stones; the present Czech president Vaclav Klaus with his rival for the position Jan Svejnar, and many others.

In the document we get to see the transition of the Czech Republic to a democratic state – getting ready for the NATO and the EU. We see Havel making many state calls but at the same time we see him as a normal guy. During the film making, the first wife of Vaclav Havel, Olga, died. A year later, the president got married for the second time. And we can watch all this on the screen.

I must admit I usually find documents boring, but in this case I have to say my judgment would be wrong. This document is definitely not a boring one. Vaclav Havel is a man who can make fun of himself and I really liked the idea that the camera could be present at all important internal as well as international events. It is truly a unique document!

If you decide to give it a try, visit the Palace Cinemas in Slovansky Dum, where they project the film with English subtitles. You will find this place near the Wenceslas Square, in Na Prikope 22. Enjoy!

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