For producers, distribs and broadcasters of arts programming, the International Prague Golden Television Festival is the equivalent of the Emmys or the Cannes Film Festival. Held annually in Prague since 1964, the festival recognizes excellence in four categories: music conceived or adapted for television; dance conceived or adapted for television; arts documentary; recordings of concert or stage performances; and the Grand Prix, which is accompanied by a DM$10,000 (US$2,200) award. Entries are submitted predominately by European broadcasters and distributors and a few North American broadcasters, such as Thirteen/wnet New York and Canada’s Rhombus Media.
The 38th annual Prague Golden Television Festival took place from April 1 to 10 at the historic Zoflin Palace in Prague. The jury – consisting of Henk van der Meulen, head of dance and music programming at NPS (The Netherlands) and president of the International Center for Music (IMZ); Susanna Scott, director of international sales and coproductions for Ideale Audience (France); Bernhard Fleischer, producer, Moving Images (Austria); Tomas Simerda, artistic director, opera, opera and TV, National Theater in Brno (Czech Republic); and Elizabeth Sheldon, senior acquisitions manager, Films for the Humanities & Sciences (U.S.) – actively sought to recognize programs that incorporated the television format to push the boundaries of traditional arts programming.
While all good programming must have both strong content and be well executed, the Prague Golden Award is unique among festivals because it seeks to recognize arts programming that emphasizes ideas, approach and skill of the producers rather than the performers. While this might seem fairly straightforward, most arts programming depends upon the reputation of the performers and does not incorporate the format into the program’s overall conception. Two Prague Crystal winners were selected because the conceptual execution incorporated the visual and audio elements to create programs that are a unique experience for television viewers. For this reason, In Absentia from the BBC, a copro between the Quay Brothers and Karhlheinz Stockhausen, was the winner for music conceived and adapted for TV. The haunting black and white images and Kafkaesque storyline demanded a second and third viewing. Likewise, the jury awarded a Prague Crystal in the category of dance conceived or adapted for TV to the BBC’s Birds, directed by David Hinton. In this piece, footage of birds from around the world was matched with music that, in the words of the jury, ‘creates a highly imaginative experience that stretches the definition of the genre dance film.’
The jury also recognized excellence in the doc category. Although a number of the entries were memorable, Ideale Audience’s Another Life by first-time filmmaker Dominique Pernoo received the Czech Crystal. A portrait of Vladimir Perlin, a passionate cello teacher, and his three teenage students, the film illustrates the power of music, and of a gifted teacher, to transcend the grim reality of life in Minsk today.
The Grand Prix, the Prague Golden Award 2001, was given to RM Associate’s The Green Table: Dance of Death In Eight Scenes. Directed by Thomas Grimm, the 1930s masterpiece, choreographed by Kurt Joss with music by F.A. Cohen and performed by Chicago’s Geoffrey Ballet, addresses the horrors of death and war in a way that remains relevant and impressive to audiences today. Director Grimm successfully conveyed the essence of this piece for TV viewers.