New Czech Films
June 26–28

This annual series originated in 2000 at BAMcinématek in New York; this year, for the first time in its history, the program is touring the United States. The centerpiece of this year's series is WALKING TOO FAST [Pouta], a multiple award winner from director Radim Špaček, who will appear in person for a post-screening Q&A. Other highlights are LEAVING [Odcházení], the film-directing debut of playwright and former president, the late Václav Havel, and FOUR SUNS [Čtyři slunce], the latest drama from Bohdan Sláma which premiered at the Sundance and Rotterdam Film Festivals this past winter.

Organized by the Czech Film Center and the Embassy of the Czech Republic, curated by Irena Kovarova. Additional support provided by the Czech Center New York.

 AFI Member passes accepted at all screenings.

In Person: director Radim Špaček

This dark drama about a secret agent using his power to destroy the lives of those who oppose the Communist regime of the 1980s is the first film to deal with this chapter of history since the Velvet Revolution. None of the characters, including the agent and his archrival in politics and love, lead content or fulfilling lives, and all of them are looking for an escape. But there is nowhere to go, and the despair at the heart of the film mirrors the general experience of life in those days in Czechoslovakia. The film took home every major award of the Czech Film Academy, as well as the newly established Czech Critics' Award in 2011.

DIR Radim Špaček; SCR Ondřej Štindl; PROD Petr Bilek, Vratislav Šlajer. Czech Republic/Slovakia, 2010, color, 146 min. In Czech with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Tue, Jun 26, 7:30

FOUR SUNS [Čtyři slunce]

Coming fresh on the heels of international premieres at the Sundance and Rotterdam film festivals, Bohdan Sláma — whose debut, WILD BEES, won him the Tiger Award at Rotterdam and whose subsequent works, SOMETHING LIKE HAPPINESS and THE COUNTRY TEACHER, played festivals the world over — returns in fine form with his fourth feature film. The small-town story rings painfully true, centering on a middle-aged man in a downward spiral who sees his teenage son making the same mistakes he did. With his wife's patience running out, he undertakes a risky partnership with his oddball best friend. Despite crushing tragedy, Sláma finds transcendent moments of grace and redemption.

DIR/SCR Bohdan Sláma; PROD Petr Oukropec, Pavel Strnad. Czech Republic/Germany, 2012, color, 102 min. In Czech with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Wed, Jun 27, 9:00; Thu, Jun 28, 7:10

LEAVING [Odcházení]

Before becoming the first president of a free Czechoslovakia after 1989 and a world-celebrated politician, Václav Havel, who passed away this winter, was first and foremost a great playwright. In the 1960s, Joseph Papp premiered all his plays at the Public Theater in New York, inviting Havel for his first visit to America in 1968. After leaving office in 2003, Havel returned to writing with this searing political satire about a womanizing politico facing the end of power, first mounted as a play in 2008 and subsequently adapted for the screen. Based as much on Shakespeare's "King Lear" and Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" as on the president's real-life experience in politics, the resonance with Havel's personal life is allegedly accidental, though playfully referenced by casting Havel's wife, Dagmar Havlová, in the role of the politico's girlfriend.

DIR/SCR Václav Havel; PROD Jaroslav Bouček. Czech Republic, 2011, color, 94 min. In Czech with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Wed, Jun 27, 9:10; Thu, Jun 28, 9:20

IDENTITY CARD [Občanský průkaz]

Another film set in the Communist-era 1980s, but farcical in tone, this bittersweet comedy chronicles the highs and lows of four teenage boys coming of age amid the (sometimes laughable) strictures of everyday life. The receipt of a state-issued identity card marks their entrance into adulthood, with all its pluses — the ability to buy alcohol freely — and its minuses — identity checks by police and the need to make decisions about what comes next in life. Director Ondřej Trojan returns to collaborating with screenwriter Petr Jarchovský, who penned Trojan's directorial debut, ŽELARY, and Jan Hřebejk's DIVIDED WE FALL, both nominated for Oscars in the Foreign Language Film category and produced by Trojan.

DIR/PROD Ondřej Trojan; SCR Petr Jarchovský, based on a story by Petr Šabach. Czech Republic, 2010, color, 129 min. In Czech with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Wed, Jun 27, 4:40; Thu, Jun 28, 8:45


Many villages in contemporary eastern Slovakia face a dire future — not for lack of comfort — and in the case portrayed in Erika Hníková's documentary, not for lack of jobs, either. The dwindling population in this picturesque setting is due to the dwindling choice of suitable partners, and to the young generation's reserved attitude towards marriage and long-term relationships. So the local mayor decides to step in and introduce his fellow thirtysomething citizens to the benefits of couplehood. The film premiered to delighted audiences at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2011.

DIR/SCR Erika Hníková; PROD Jiří Konečný. Czech Republic/Slovakia, 2011, color, 72 min. In Slovak with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Wed, Jun 27, 7:15; Thu, Jun 28, 7:00

HABERMANN [Habermannův mlýn]

"It takes a brave soul to tackle a WWII film about the atrocities directed against Germans at war's end."
– Karsten Kastelan, The Hollywood Reporter

Juraj Herz, director of THE CREMATOR [Spalovač mrtvol], another film on an uneasy subject, is a brave man. Exposed to the war's inhumanities as a child, he knew at that early age that the expulsion of the German family that hid his family during the war in Slovakia was unjust. In his film, he refrains from giving preference to either side, taking a clear look at a German family who settled in the Sudetenland decades before the war. The young Habermann, owner of a successful mill that employed and fed Germans and Czechs alike, gets married to the beauty of the town at the onset of the war. Only at the wedding does he learn from the papers that the father she never knew was Jewish.

DIR Juraj Herz; SCR Wolfgang Limmer, Jan Drbohlav, based on the novel "Habermannův mlýn" by Josef Urban; PROD Karel Dirka, Jan Kudela, Pavel Nový. Germany/Czech Republic/Austria, 2010, color, 104 min. In Czech and German with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Wed, Jun 27, 7:00; Thu, Jun 28, 5:00