One of the world’s most acclaimed surrealist filmmakers Jan Švankmajer turned 85 on Wednesday. His signature surreal style, which relies on stop-motion animations and exaggerated sounds, has not only created many world renowned films in the genre, but also influenced other major artists such as Terry Gilliam and Jose Garcia Moreno.
Serial Killer – billed as the first international festival of TV and web series in Central and Eastern Europe – is the brainchild of Kamila Zlatušková, a former vice-dean of Prague’s famous FAMU film school and seasoned TV professional. Inspired by the likes of France’s Series Mania and the Edinburgh television festival, Serial Killer seeks out provocative original stories with novel approaches to telling them.
A new exhibition, marking the start of the school year, got underway at the National Museum in Prague on Monday. It is dedicated to the 17th century Czech philosopher and thinker Jan Ámos Komenský or Comenius, known as ‘The Teacher of Nations’, and focuses on his most famous work for children, called Orbis Pictus.
Tomino Kelar runs Brno’s top independent music venue, Kabinet Múz, as well as drumming with the band Midi Lidi. Kelar is from the Moravian capital but actually lived for several years in Wales and at one point was a member of Mountaineers, a group that were on the Mute label. Our tour of “his Brno” begins at Kavárna Praha, a cool, shoe-box shaped space in the grounds of the city centre Moravian Gallery.
Sundays on Clarendon Road are a highly impressive Prague-based electronic pop duo comprising Jonáš Zbořil and Jan Tůma. After a hiatus they have returned with their second LP, Solid State, reportedly partly inspired by their rediscovery of the classic Burial record Untrue. The new album is not out on any physical formats whatever, though the tracksuit-clad pair have promised to provide instant soup to buyers who attend live shows planned for the coming months!
The renowned Czech baritone Adam Plachetka launched his new CD on Wednesday. Called Winter Journey, the album contains his renditions of 24 poems set to music by Schubert. The opera singer also performed music from Don Giovanni to fully dressed people in bathtubs at the launch’s unusual venue – the rooftop of Prague’s Lucerna Palace. He explained all by phone.
For the first time in 25 years, a majority Czech feature is in the main completion at Venice, one the world’s most prestigious film festivals. Director Václav Marhoul is vying for a Golden Lion award with his adaptation of The Painted Bird, a controversial novel set during WWII about a boy subject to all manner of abuse by eastern European villagers.
Barrel organ players and street artists from the Czech Republic and beyond gathered in Prague earlier this month for the annual festival Flašinet žije! (The barrel organ is alive!), organised by the National Museum. I went along to talk to some of the organ grinders to learn more about the history of the mechanical instrument and their passion for it.