Burning Bush

(Horící ker)
(Czech Republic, 2013, 231 mins, DCP)
CAST Tatiana Pauhofová, Jaroslava Pokorná, Petr Stach, Vojtech Kotek, Patrik Dergel
EXEC PRODS Tereza Polachova, Antony Root
PRODS Tomas Hruby, Pavla Kubeckova
SCR Stepan Hulik
CAM Rafal Paradowski, Martin Strba
ED Pavel Hrdlicka
PROD DES Milan Býcek
MUS Antoni Lazarkiewicz
Special Event Price: $20. There will be two short intermissions.


Here’s your only chance to see Agnieszka Holland’s epic three-part docudrama—made for HBO Europe—examining the emotional, political and societal fallout from Czech student Jan Palach’s self-immolation in Prague’s Wenceslas Square in 1969. Palach’s brave gesture of protest against the Soviet occupation sparked massive spin control by the Czech government and its Soviet overlords, rather than the expressions of dissent he’d hoped to inspire. Holland’s expert direction anchors this compelling film; it’s a taut, nuanced work that represents a valuable contribution to understanding the past half-century of Czech history.

Rather than telling Palach’s story in straightforward biopic form, the series concentrates on the impact his act had within the social and political climate of the time. The action centres on charismatic attorney Dagmar Buresova and the remaining members of the Palach family—Jan’s mother Libuse and brother Jiří—who hire Dagmar to sue parliament member Vilem Novy for libel. (After Jan’s death, Novy made a much-reported speech that scandalously belittled him and falsely suggested the existence of a conspiracy.) Surrounding these principals is a large, well-etched ensemble, encompassing the student protesters who attempt to preserve the remaining ideals of the Prague Spring as well as the STB, the Czech secret police, who deal mercilessly with any activity that could be considered anti-communist. Overall, the thriller plot, complex characters and sumptuously re-created period detail make for "a master class in modern historical drama."—Indiewire

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