Czech Society as Reflected in Contemporary Czech Cinema1
The “Velvet Revolution” in November 1989 brought about enormous changes in the political and social environment: the communist regime was abolished and after forty-one years democracy was reestablished in Czechoslovakia. In art, the most important change brought by the Revolution was the end of censorship. Since 1989 artists have been allowed to do as they wish—as long as they can find the funding. Film in socialism was funded exclusively by the state, but since about 1990 the state has not been responsible for what is produced and, not surprisingly, the authorities have cut the subsidies of the costly film industry. Compared to other arts, cinema has faced greater challenges, for even the most independent production needs some money for filming.
Miloš Forman, the Czech director who has been living in the U.S. since 1968, once perceptively observed that Czech film in the early 1990s was in transition between a greenhouse and a jungle.2 Filmmakers had to get used to the free market, to competition and, above all, to the new situation in financing. The average cost of a Czech film today is about thirty million Czech Korunas (CZK) (approximately USD 1.5 million) and due to the limited possibilities of distribution it is extremely difficult to cover expenses.3 The only state subsidy comes from the State Fund of the Czech Republic for the Support and Development of Czech Cinema4
11 would like to thank John Fackenthal for his indispensable help with the first version of
this article, his many useful suggestions and his infinite patience.
2 Boca Abrhámová, “Czech Film in 1992” in Filmová ročenka/Film Yearbook 1992 (Pra-
gue: NFA, 1993), 20.
3 Details about the impossibility of covering the expenses of Czech films and about their
distribution in the Czech Republic can be found in T. Dvořáková, “Rozhovor s Janem
Bradáčem” [Interview with Jan Bradáč], Cinepur 12 (November 2003): 37-8.
4 Further information available at www, mkcr. cz/statni-fondy/fond-pro-podporu-a-rozvoj -
ceske-kinematografi e/default.htm (accessed 19 January, 2006).