The 62nd annual Cannes film festival has come to a close and things couldn’t have gone better for Czech filmmakers. First, young filmmaker Zuzana Špidlová’s 21-minute short feature Bába was voted best film in the Cinefondation section, recognising young new talent; and the seasoned Czech documentary filmmaker Helena Třeštíková clinched the Media European Talent award.
Wolves in Poland, Shakespeare in Japan and the pitfalls of literary translation. These are just three of the many subjects that came up when I visited to the Bookworld international book fair in Prague last week. Bookworld is a huge and diverse event, by far the biggest of its kind in the Czech Republic. It would be impossible to cover everything that was going on, even during the few hours that I was there, but here at least is a taste of the event.
An exhibition of works by Britain’s Damien Hirst has just opened at Prague’s Rudolfinum. He is the richest living artist the world has ever seen, and perhaps best known for placing dead animals in formaldehyde and covering a human skull in diamonds. The new show is curated by Gunnar Kvaran from the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo. At its opening, I asked him what it was about Damien Hirst that made him such an art superstar.
Amanita Design is a Brno-based, award-winning game development studio whose creations have become a huge hit on the internet. Their games combine elements of the technical world with nature in a way not seen before. Their signature game, Samorost, takes you to a universe composed of rusty parts of old, derelict machines and mossy, gnarled stumps of rotting wood. In this edition of the Arts, we meet the studio’s founder Jakub Dvorský.
At least in terms of the musicians he has played with George Mraz (born Jiří Mraz in Písek, south Bohemia in 1944) may well be the most successful Czech in the history of jazz. Indeed, the list of people the acoustic bass maestro has accompanied reads like something of a Who’s Who of jazz, including Dizzie Gillespie, Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson, Chet Baker and Charles Mingus. Incredibly, George Mraz has appeared on over 1,000 albums. When the New York-based musician was in Prague recently, we discussed his beginnings in jazz, as a teenager.
Czech animator Jan Balej’s knack for pulling off unsuspected blockbusters has made him one of the most prominent figures in the animation industry in the Czech Republic. Now the winner of two Czech Lions and numerous foreign awards is turning his attention to Hans Christian Andersen, and has received a record subsidy to promote his effort.
This week’s Music Profile will introduce the Prague band Tatabojs, familiarly called “Tatáči”: they won the “best live rock band” three times, and former Education Minister Ondřej Liška has been spotted at their concerts zealously tapping his feet in time to the beat. Jan P. Muchow, an important figure on the Czech music scene, has even said that Tatabojs have the potential to fill stadiums.
Spring has come again to Prague and with it the Prague Spring Festival. For those of you not in the know, think not flowers and spring showers, but rather Mendelssohn, Mozart, and the climax of the classical music calendar in the Czech Republic. Perhaps however classical music’s simply not your thing – in that case this is the classical festival for you. In Arts this week, Christian Falvey reports on the start of the three-week Prague Spring International Music Festival.