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Mar 9, 2009 12:00 AM - Mar 15, 2009 12:00 AM

Jan Šikl’s Private Century

March 9–15, Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, NYC

Jan Šikl’s Private Century

March 9–15

Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, NYC

The political and social upheavals of twentieth-century Czechoslovakia – war and occupation, the twin specters of Nazism and Communism, the Velvet Revolution – have never been more intimately rendered than in Jan Šikl’s landmark eight-part series Private Century. Composed entirely of family home movies, still photographs, letters, and diaries dating from the 1920s to the 1960s, Private Century explores, in Chekhovian fashion, how sweeping historical events transform the private lives of ordinary people, and how small domestic pleasures can crystallize into profound and enduring memories. Šikl deepens the work’s psychological complexity by having surviving members comment on their family histories, and through the use of image and sound in counterpoint – for example, a 1940s Czech rendition of “StormyWeather” accompanies scenes from an ill-fated wedding. The exhibition opens on March 9 with Šikl in a special Modern Mondays conversation and screening. All films are directed by Šikl, from the Czech Republic, and in Czech with English subtitles.


Organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film, MoMA.

This exhibition is supported by The Czech Center New York. Special thanks to Facets Multi-Media and Irena Kovářová.


Soukromé Století (Private Century), Parts 1 and 2:

Tatíček a Lili „Marlén“ (Daddy and Lili “Marlene”), 2007

The daughter of a prosperous German farmer in Sudetenland, Lili Saisser set her sights on the glitter of Prague, marrying an oral surgeon and living among cosmopolitan society. This episode is based on the childhood memories of Lili’s daughter Eva, centering on her parents’ strained marriage and the difficulties that ethnic German citizens faced in Czechoslovakia during the war. Richly evocative and intimate, the episode is enlivened by snapshots of a family trip to Nazi Berlin in 1934; home-movie footage of a playful but revealing burlesque farce; and erotic images of the vivacious, but ever self-absorbed, Lili. 52 min. (Daddy and Lili “Marlene” only, as part of Modern Mondays);

Thursday, March 12, 8:00


Mávnutí motýlích křídel (A Stroke of Butterfly Wings), 2007

Of all the families depicted in Private Century, perhaps none was more deeply or painfully riven by generational and ideological conflict than the Felixes. This episode traces the political awakening and gradual disillusionment of the prolific and noted Czech composer Václav Felix

from the 1930s until the 1980s. The film reveals the ways in which Václav’s unquestioning faith in Communism shaped both his music and his romantic life, even as it estranged him from his father, who was imprisoned by the Party. 52 min.

Monday, March 9, 7:00



Private Century, Parts 3 and 4:

Ruské obláčky kouře (Small Russian Clouds of Smoke), 2007

A fascinating look at a community of wealthy and cultured Russians who escaped the Bolshevik Revolution and settled in Czechoslovakia during the 1920s and 1930s. With dreams of soon returning home, these fiercely proud expatriates preserved their culture and their language by setting up social clubs, churches, schools, cooperative housing, and by spending

idyllic summers at a Russian boarding house in southern Bohemia. Edited together from home movies, this episode features rare glimpses of Russian émigré society. 52 min.

Nízký Let (Low-Level Flight), 2007

Tána Palejko (née Popov) reminisces about her marriage to an ace fighter pilot in the Czechoslovakian army, a charismatic, ambitious man whose heavy drinking, fits of jealousy, and infidelities would ultimately drive them apart. This episode features remarkable aerial shots taken clandestinely from a MIG fighter jet, as well as footage of a remote military training camp in the Soviet Union where drunken soldiers carouse with Russian girls to while away the lonely hours. 52 min.

Wednesday, March 11, 6:00

Saturday, March 14, 4:30


Private Century, Parts 5 and 6:

Král Velichovek (King of Velichovky), 2007

For as long as anyone could remember, Czechs and Germans in the border region of Sudetenland had lived together in relative peace. But the 1938 Nazi occupation of Sudetenland forever changed all that, turning neighbor against neighbor and friend into foe. This is a portrait of the Sudeten German Karel Saisser, a prosperous and demanding farmer who lived with his wife and three daughters near the spa town of Velichovky. 52 min.

Sousoší dědečka Vindy (Statuary of Grandd ad Vinda), 2007

Vincenc Havel, a sculptor who lived in the Opava region of northern Moravia in the 1950s, was as hard and as immovable as the statues he carved. An eccentric nonconformist, in the early 1950s he nonetheless received some favorable recognition from the State for his Socialist

Realist sculpture of the reviled president Klement Gottwald. But Havel’s opportunism, and the special treatment given him, did not sit well with his fellow artists, and in later years he grew increasingly withdrawn, inflicting much of his bitterness on his own daughter. This episode is drawn from Havel’s home movies and diaries, and is also based on the recollections of his granddaughter Eva. 52 min.

Friday, March 13, 8:30

Sunday, March 15, 5:00



Private Century, Parts 7 and 8:

Sejd eme se v Denveru (See You in Denver), 2007

As a child living in prewar Prague, František Čvančarů loved watching American Westerns and slapstick comedies in his father’s chain of cinemas. When the Communist nationalization of the Czech film industry took away the family business, František satisfied his cinematic

obsessions by shooting his own movies, until he was banned from school and unjustly imprisoned. Swept up in the momentous events of 1968, he decided to emigrate to the country of his silver-screen dreams. 52 min.


Líbám Tě a Miluji (With Kisses from Your Love), 2007

Based on family films and impassioned letters from the 1940s and 1950s, this episode relates the story of high-school sweethearts Marie and Josef Sechtl, who married after the war and inherited the photography studio that had belonged to Josef’s family for several generations. After the 1948 Communist takeover, the Sechtls lived in constant fear of losing their studio and their family’s treasured, irreplaceable archive of photographs dating back to the late-nineteenth century. But nothing, not even show trials and prison, could extinguish their profound love.

52 min.

Saturday, March 14, 6:30

Sunday, March 15, 2:30


Info about tickets: www.moma.org

Discount for members of the Czech Center Club.


321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
United States


From: Mar 9, 2009 12:00 AM
To: Mar 15, 2009 12:00 AM


MoMA, České centrum

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