Česká centra, Czech Centres

Česká centra / Czech centres - logo


May 6, 2004 12:00 AM - May 9, 2004 12:00 AM

The Magical Worlds of Czech Animation

The Czech Center of New York and BAMcinematek co-present a comprehensive survey of Czech animated film including 28 shorts and 4 features dating from the 1940s to the latest animated feature film released in 2003. The series was curated by Florence Almozini and Irena Kovářová and based on an earlier larger series organized by the Czech Centre London from the collections of the National Film Archive and Krátký film in Prague.


Thurs-Sun, May 6-9, 2004

For times and schedule call (718) 636-4100 or visit www.bam.org




BAMcinematek at BAM Rose Cinemas

30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, NY


The history of animation would not be complete without names such as Jiří Trnka, Karel Zeman and Jan Švankmajer who together established the fame of Czech animation throughout the world. While the roots of Czech animation reach back to the mid-1920s, cartoon and puppet animation asserted themselves after World War II. The Czech school gained in definition, becoming a phenomenon whose exponents' exploitation of both form and content produced a force of poetic imagination that echoed the long-standing traditions of Czech art. Four generations of talented artists, directors, animators and musicians now cast their spells worldwide.


The nationalization of the Czechoslovak film industry in 1945 laid the foundations for major development in this field. At the cradle of Czech animated film were three names -- Hermína Tyrlová, Karel Zeman and Jiří Trnka -- who established both cartoon as well as puppet animation in Czech film.  Success of their films established Czech animation as the principal alternative to the Disney tradition. Trnka’s studio later produced such names as Břetislav Pojar and Zdeněk Miler. The outstanding figure of the past twenty years has been Jan Švankmajer, and the advent of the young generation of art school graduates (including Jiří Bárta, Pavel Koutský, Aurel Klimt and Michaela Pavlátová) breathed new life into Czech animation with its energetic approach to new themes, artistic styles and techniques during the ‘80s and ‘90s.


Czech animated film found its place in an international context chiefly thanks to its artistic style and poetic imaginative strength. With the artists' individual poetic styles and bold experimentation, they discovered new possibilities in film language and expression, paving the way for new themes and genres. Remarkable qualities present in the Czech school of animation distinguish it from other schools: an absence of uniformity, a strong desire to search and a considerable individualism; an intellect which makes it oppose schematism; a respect for film language, its montage and its spatial and temporal nature; and, finally, humanity which can go as far as self-irony. Many of its pioneers are still active today and there is also an abundance of new, no less significant names which all contribute to the fame of Czech animation.


The series presents the major figures of Czech animation with short and feature-length films and provides a wider context for films by their contemporaries. Jiří Trnka (1912–1969) is a great example of an auteur capable of creating films on all levels – from artistic design and script writing to direction and animation. He is presented in the series with two programs: his first feature film The Czech Year (Špalíček, 1947), Trnka’s own favorite, in which he illustrates Czech folk customs using wood-cut figures; the program Pioneer of Czech Animation brings 5 short films including some of Trnka’s first and the last film he made – The Hand (Ruka, 1968), an allegory of artistic freedom in which he criticizes Stalin’s personality cult. As in his last film, he did not shy away from political commentary as was apparent in his early short The Springer and the SS (Perak a SS, 1946), a parody of German occupation, also on the program.


The signature style of Karel Zeman (1910-1989), an innovative combination of live actors and animated drawings spiced with dry humor, is at its peak in Baron Munchausen (Baron Prášil, 1961) presented here in an excellent English version. In the program The Great Tradition two Zeman shorts are presented along with films of his contemporaries – Hermína Tyrlová (1900-1993), Břetislav Pojar (b. 1923), Eduard Hofman (1914-1987), and Zdeněk Miler (b. 1921), the author of the famous Krtek series.


The key figure in Czech animation during the 1980s was Jan Švankmajer (b. 1934). His wide-ranging artistry includes any creative disciplines such as literature, stage puppetry, the modeling of ceramics, all of which can be seen in his film work. If we remind ourselves of just a few of Švankmajer’s creations, an extremely broad spectrum of themes, genres, film methods and techniques will open up before our eyes. He is presented in the series with the feature Faust (1994), a surreal combination of live-action and animation in which a man receives a map that leads him to a copy of Goethe’s Faust. Five more short films give a picture of Švankmajer’s range in a program surveying the current trends in Czech animation.


Jiří Bárta (b. 1948) is a representative of New Puppet Cinema. As one of the most important current directors, Bárta’s films animate virtually any material, from paper cut-outs to firewood and walnuts. The central films in this program are The Pied Piper (Krysař, 1985) re-telling the German legend with Gothic wit, and his first major work The Lost World of the Gloves (Zaniklý svět rukavic, 1983) where he selected sequences of films by famous directors and paraphrased the chaotic social changes, myths and illusions of the 20th century.


The latest Czech animation is presented in the series with Fimfárum (2003) directed by representatives of two generations: Vlasta Pospíšilová (b. 1935) and Aurel Klimt (b. 1972). Based on ‘adult’ tales by the revered Jan Werich, the film is a great example of the tradition of the Czech animation school and contemporary wit. The youngest of the directors, Klimt brings his twisted sensibility to this collection of animated shorts where his work stands tall next to the films of his better known colleagues, Pavel Koutský (b. 1957) and Michaela Pavlátová (b. 1961), whose films had brought awards from many international festivals including an Oscar nomination for Pavlátová’s short Words, Words, Words (Reči, reči, reči, 1991). 





In Czech with English subtitles or without dialogue.


May 6-8

Fimfárum (2003), dir. Aurel Klimt, Vlasta Pospíšilová.


May 7

Pioneer of Czech Animation All dir. by Jiří Trnka. The Animals and the Brigands (1946), The Springer and the SS (1946), Song of the Prairie (1949), Archangel Gabriel and Mother Goose (1964), The Hand (1965).


A New Puppet Cinema All dir. by Jiří Bárta. Disc Jockey (1980), The Extinct World of Gloves (1982), The Club of Discarded Ones (1989), The Pied Piper (1985).


May 8

The Czech Year (1947), dir. Jiří Trnka.


The Great Tradition The Christmas Dream (1945), Inspiration (1949), both dir. Karel Zeman; Revolt of the Toys (1947), The Star of Bethlehem (1969), both dir. Hermina Tyrlova; One Glass Too Many (1953), The Lion and the Song (1959), both dir. by Břetislav Pojar; The Angelic Coat (1948), dir. Eduard Hofman; The Mole and the Hedgehog (1970), dir. Zdeněk Miler.


May 9

Faust (1994), dir. Jan Švankmajer.


Baron Munchausen (1961), dir. Karel Zeman; English version.


Švankmajer and Beyond Darkness Light Darkness (1989), Punch and Judy (1966), Manly Games (1988), The Flat (1968), The Fall of the House of Usher (1981), all dir. by Jan Švankmajer; Bloody Hugo, an Eastern (1997), The Fall (1999), both dir. by Aurel Klimt; The Portrait (1989), Pygmalion (2002), both dir. by Pavel Koutský; The Crossword Puzzle (1988), Words, Words, Words (1991), both dir. by Michaela Pavlátová.



Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
United States


From: May 6, 2004 12:00 AM
To: May 9, 2004 12:00 AM



Remind me
This event has already started.