Česká centra, Czech Centres

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Feb 15, 2011 7:00 PM


FILM CLUB Do we rule the city, or does the city reign over us? Are we becoming automats?

Film screening. No reservations. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Film: Auto*Mat, director: Martin Mareček, 2009, 90 minut
Do we rule the city, or does the city reign over us? Are we becoming automats? (In Czech, the word automat means a machine, maybe even an automobile. If, however, it is written as Auto*Mat, it actually means “Check-mate for automobiles”). Searching for answers to questions related to life in the city, civilization in motion, this inspiring, emotional and witty documentary attempts to achieve change. A stylistically diverse film, combining animation, music and home video segments, Auto*Mat protests against the tyranny of cars and automobile traffic. Starting from the simple filming of a road accident that occurred in front of his house, Prague resident Marecek seeks to raise awareness among citizens and victims of the city’s traffic problems. To do so he involves family, friends, politicians and urban designers.


Three Views of Prague
Apart from the shared theme of Prague, the three films in this series all deal with the ethical dilemma of how to respond in a moment of threat. One of the roles of an artist is to realize the threat more quickly and acutely than other people and take appropriate action.

The Ferrari Dino Girl, directed by Jan Němec, was released in 2009 but deals with the events of August 1968, when the Soviet-led forces of the Warsaw Pact invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia. Němec is the type of director whose instinctive yearning for freedom has always enabled him to find a way out of situations where compromise seemed inevitable. This is the message of most of his films, as individuality and personal morality triumph over the collective power of the mob.

Prague: The Restless Heart of Europe, directed by Věra Chytilová, released in 1984, is the oldest of the three movies in this series, and the hopelessness of Czechoslovakia's inhabitants at the time, amid the depths of the harshly authoritarian era so ironically known as "normalization," is clear to see. Chytilová's film dropped like a bomb, waking viewers from their lethargy, shaking their belief that freedom would never come, and enraging the powers that be. Despite the clear political subtext of her portrait of Prague, even today, after nearly three decades, Chytilová's obsession with questions of identity and what role we ourselves play in our lives remain as relevant as ever.

Auto*mat, directed by Martin Mareček, presents an entirely different view of Prague, unburdened by the Cold War–era concept of a divided world. Now, however, the city that Mareček so fondly calls home faces a new danger, as the destructive ideas of communism have been replaced with the destructive ideas of consumerism. Making no attempt to "encode" his theme, the director voices it loud and clear, addressing society right here and now. The title Auto*mat is a pun: mat in Czech is "checkmate"—in other words "checkmate for cars" (a loose and free translation might be something like "Car-Tomb"). Mareček seeks to change the world not just by making this film, but with direct personal action, resulting in a broad and ambitious civic initiative aimed at improving the environment and living conditions in Prague.

-Michal Bregant
Film historian, critic and curator; FAMU lecturer; chair, FAMU International Department


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Feb 15, 2011 7:00 PM


Czech Center

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