Czech Peace: a pre-war comedy

Czech filmmakers Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda follow up their 2004 doc Czech Dream - a social experiment that showed how much consumer culture consumed the people of Prague - with Czech Peace, a doc that covers the dispute over a U.S. military base planned to go up near a small Czech village. Klusak and Remunda spoke to realscreen about their doc which poses the question, after 20 years of independence, are the Czech people willing to invite another foreign army to their country?
January 26, 2009

In the 2004 documentary, Czech Dream, filmmakers Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda performed a social experiment of sorts by inventing a fake Walmart-esque discount department store, or ‘hypermarket,’ and a massive advertising campaign to promote it, with commercial and radio spots, focus groups, billboards, jingles and 200,000 distributed pamphlets which advertised the hottest items at the cheapest prices. Klusak and Remunda even went so far as posing as CEOs and constructing a life-size façade of the store on the outskirts of Prague. But when the ribbon was snipped at the ‘grand opening,’ consumers found nothing but scaffolding behind the colorful façade, leaving the masses perplexed in both good humor and total disappointment.

Czech Dream was a cleverly crafted hoax that held the mirror up to consumer culture and advertising ploys. Now, with the team’s newest doc Czech Peace, we get another reflection – this one of fear and freedom. The film covers the hot-blooded dispute over a U.S. military base, as part of the National Missile Defense Program, which is planned for construction in the woods surrounding Brdy Military Area, a former hiding place for Soviet nuclear rockets during the Cold War, and only two kilometers from the quaint Czech village of Trokavec.

The filmmakers describe their film as ‘playfully explosive,’ as they document the issue from both sides of the argument – those who support the radar base and those who protest it, the latter accumulating in the largest Czech civil movement since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, with 73% of Czechs against the plan. ‘We are most threatened by fear,’ explain the filmmakers. ‘Those who are afraid are the easiest to manipulate. During the Cold War the media scared us with a war threat coming from the West, after 9/11 they scared us with Islamists, and now it seems to be Russia’s turn.’

For almost two years, and close to 100 days of shooting, Klusak and Remunda have been covering the tug-of-war over the radar base. With support of the Czech Embassy in Washington D.C., the crew took two trips to the U.S. – first to follow ‘Mr. Radar’ (Tomáö Klvaňa who was chosen by the Czech government as the spokesman for the American base) to the U.S. Department of Defense, Congress, the Missile Defense Agency and the Pentagon; and the second with Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek, during his visit to the White House.

Now in the editing room, the filmmakers are working with delicate material, and with the intention to shoot a few more crucial scenes, such as an interview with Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama’s springtime visit to the Czech Republic. So when does the story end?

Ideally, the filmmakers would like to see a theatrical release on November 17th 2009, the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and freedom from Soviet occupation. With Czech Peace, Klusak and Remunda are not supporting either side with powers of persuasion – but they are adamant about supporting critical thinking, with a deeper interest in whether it is possible at all to find out who is right. It seems they’re humble enough to make no claims about where the truth lies on the issue, because as documentary filmmakers, Klusak and Remunda don’t enjoy their work without a sharp sense of humor. ‘Of course the film won’t be a political dispute,’ they state, ‘but an ironical comedy… a very serious one!’

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