Dům u Rotta is one of the most famous buildings by Prague’s Old Town Square, with a facade dating back to 1890 but foundations going back six hundred years. For a century-and-a-half the Neo-Renaissance building was the home of the famous Rott hardware store, but later was turned into a delicatessen and then a glassware and crystal seller. Now, an announced change: the site will soon reopen as a famous international franchise, the Hard Rock Café.
TV dramas in the Czech Republic often aren’t bad, but occasionally something comes along which is a head above the rest. Last autumn, it was a dramatic series on commercial broadcaster Nova, entitled Soukromé pasti (Private Traps). 12 separate stories centering on characters in everyday dilemmas - which critics praised for excellent writing, acting and psychological depth. The project was overseen by filmmaker Tereza Kopáčová, one of the best-known names in the Czech TV business. Her work and Soukromé pasti are the subject of this Panorama.
The 1960s had seen a thriving musical scene in Czechoslovakia, which had been broadly tolerated by the regime, especially during the 1968 Prague Spring. With the political clampdown of the early 70s, rock and pop music were also to suffer. But this was a gradual process, and, initially at least, the communist authorities were careful not to go too far to alienate young people.
More than 700 different cultural events have been planned to coincide with the Czech Republic’s EU presidency. While a lot of these concerts and exhibitions are taking place in the Czech Republic itself, another major centre of activity is, it goes without saying, Brussels. In his role as the head of the Czech Center in the Belgian capital, Petr Polívka has his work cut out. I spoke to him at the opening of a new exhibition at the center last week:
One of the biggest hits with audiences at the One World film festival, which came to a close in Prague on Thursday night, was Japan: A Story of Love and Hate. It is a portrait of a non-conformist, fifty-something ‘kept man’ whose much younger girlfriend holds down three jobs, including being paid to talk to men in bars. While very funny, the documentary also offers a fascinating insight into Japan’s rigid culture, including scenes of workers whose day begins with obligatory exercises and chants about achieving targets. I asked its English director
Contemporary Czech art made international headlines after the Czech presidency of the European Union unveiled the famous Entropa artefact by David Černý in Brussels in January. But contemporary art is doing well in the Czech Republic, too: two years ago, Meet Factory opened in Prague with studios for young artists; last year, the privately-owned DOX gallery opened in the capital. And another such venue of contemporary Czech art is the Vernon Fine Art gallery in Holešovice.
Letters to the President is a documentary about the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known around the world for his verbal attacks on America and Israel. In this film, however, the focus is very much on Ahmadinejad’s relationship with the people of his own country, hundreds of thousands of whom send the populist politician beseeching letters. The film’s Prague-born Canadian director Petr Lom got remarkably close to the Iranian president, though his uncritical approach has been denounced by some.