Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Czech National Museum has rejected a gift of exceptional Chinese pottery worth some five million crowns. The museum also declined to send a representative at the weekend to an exhibition showcasing the pottery. While the museum rejected the gift on procedural grounds, the incident underscores concerns about opaque Chinese business practices and the communist country’s exercise of “soft power”.
Ida Kelarová is a singer, musician and choirmaster who performs some of the best Romany music to come out of the Czech Republic. Paradoxically it was years before she discovered her Romany roots and drew inspiration from Roma culture and music. Today this legacy has become an important part of her life and she works hard to help talented Romany children living in excluded localities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
A charity concert in support of the victims of the Easter terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka will take place in Prague’s Hilton hotel on Saturday. The event, organised by the Czech Centres and the Catholic Charity, in cooperation with the Czech Foreign Ministry, will feature the Zlín Philharmonic Orchestra led by Prague-based Indian conductor Debashish Chaudhuri. The proceeds from the concert will go directly to the families affected by the attacks.
Celebrated author, screenwriter and documentary filmmaker Jiří Stránský has died, at the age of 87. A former political prisoner, he led the Czech branch of the international PEN club after the fall of communism and later headed the state cinematography fund. He also dedicated himself to educating schoolchildren about the perils of totalitarianism – all the while nurturing an infectious optimism.
The 12 films contending for the Best Film Crystal Globe at the 54th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival have just been announced. They include works by hot young directors, as well as faces familiar to regular attendees at the Czech Republic’s biggest cinema event. However, when the festival takes place from the end of June there will be no Czech films in the main competition, which is something I discussed with KVIFF’s artistic director, Karel Och.
Mexican animator José García Moreno studied at Prague’s famous film school FAMU and apprenticed at the animation studio Bratři v triku in the last years of communist Czechoslovakia. There, he made his fist short film, and developed what would prove to be a life-long love for Czech auteurs, especially the surrealist Jan Švankmajer. Now a professor in Los Angeles, he spoke to Radio Prague about the differences between American and central European animation, Czech and Mexican humour, and the need for tactility and relation to the animated object through
Waldemar Matuška, without question one of the most gifted Czech popular singers of the modern era, passed away 10 years ago this month, on May 30, 2009. Born Vladimír Matuška in Košice, Slovakia, he grew up in Prague and started out as an actor with the legendary theatre company Semafor, before making an impact in movies such as If a Thousand Clarinets and All My Good Countrymen.
With three books published just last year, Marek Toman is currently one of the most prolific Czech authors. He last spoke to Radio Prague almost three years ago after he published a novel narrated by a building – Černín Palace, seat of the Czech Foreign Ministry. Since then, he has written two other novels closely connected to historical Prague. When we met up I asked him what it was about Prague and its particular districts that inspired him to write whole books about them.