An exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution has just got underway at Prague’s Municipal House. Called Nezlomní, or The Steadfast, it showcases the work, but also personal diaries and correspondence, of 30 artists, active between the years 1919 and 1989, including Jindřich Štyrský, Toyen and Karel Nepraš. It also highlights their joint inspiration by the writings of Franz Kafka.
Animator Gene Deitch settled in Prague almost 60 years ago and directed Tom and Jerry and Popeye cartoons behind the Iron Curtain for the US market. The small number of other Americans who moved here in the communist period were one subject we discussed in the second half of an extensive interview. But I began by asking Deitch about the time the great folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger, a good friend of his, visited Czechoslovakia in 1964.
Gene Deitch, who turns 95 next month, is by some distance the US citizen longest resident in Prague. Deitch had run a successful animation studio in New York prior to the fateful meeting in 1959 with his future wife Zdenka that led him to settle in Prague soon after. From behind the Iron Curtain, he produced an Oscar-winning animated short, as well as directing Tom and Jerry and Popeye cartoons for the American market.
One of the most accomplished Czech Jazz guitarists, Rudy Linka, first gained fame abroad after moving to Sweden in 1980 and later learning from jazz titans such as John Scofield and John Abercrombie in the USA. Today he lives mainly in New York, but has also become a popular music personality in his native Czech Republic, founding one of Europe’s biggest summer jazz festivals and hosting his own shows on Czech Television and Radio. We caught up with him in Prague, while he was preparing this year’s Bohemia Jazz Festival.
The Czech guitar manufacturer Furch Guitars has been growing steadily since the Velvet Revolution and its instruments are played by many famous musicians. Now the company has announced that it plans a big expansion in the United States, specifically to Nashville, the city many call the country music capital of the world.
Linguist and budding historian Martin Neudörfl is on a mission to codify and save two languages from extinction: Sercquiais, a Norman dialect from the Channel Island of Sark only four people speak as natives, and Šumava Bavarian, the West Germanic language of his ancestors from Český Krumlov – where he’s helped revive the Schwarzenberg guard, of which he is the youngest captain in history and official archivist.
For over a decade and a half, the Karlovy Vary film festival has been bringing works from the former communist bloc to broader international attention with its flagship East of the West competition. How has the industry in the region developed over the years? And what is the importance of East of the West to Karlovy Vary? I discussed those questions with its programmer, Lenka Tyrpáková.