Former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek

Documentary Český mír is staying on the radar

Film takes top honors at film festival in South Korea

Perhaps one of the funniest moments of the documentary Český mír (Czech Peace), which explores the proposed construction of a U.S. military radar base on Czech soil, is a scene that shows a number of older Czechs protesting against the radar project, yelling the popular 1950s battle cry “Ami, go home!” (a German-English mish-mash, meaning “Yankee, go home!”) with conviction, but mispronouncing the word “home,” making it sound more like “hom-ay.”

The film approaches the divisive U.S. radar base – part of a proposed missile-defense system plan that was scrapped in 2009 – with a keen eye for the absurd. This unique approach was apparently enough to impress the jury at the equally unique South Korean DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) International Documentary Film Festival in Paju, which awarded the competition’s main prize to Český mír Sept. 13.

The film has drawn additional praise from others, including controversial U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore, who plans to distribute the film in the United States.

Český mír is the second documentary success of directorial pair Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda, who first made waves with their critical look at Czech consumerism, Český sen (Czech Dream), in 2004.

“After Czech Dream, we wanted to find another topic that reflected the state of Czech society,” Klusák told The Prague Post, “And the issue of the radar struck us as one of the most controversial, and one that yielded an unprecedented wave of protests from Czech citizens.”

Klusák and Remunda’s idea was spurred-on by the massive public reaction to former U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit to the Czech Republic in 2006. The film pits the mayor of the small Czech village of Trokavec, where the radar was to be placed, against the world’s lone superpower.

“We really took to the mayor of Trokavec,” Klusák said. “He seemed a genuine guy who did not come across as corrupt or keen to use the issue to make himself more visible. He was something of a David fighting against Goliath.”

Remunda said the jury’s response proves that the issues the documentary covers are universal.

“This is a very unique festival, held in a town situated in the demilitarized zone of South Korea, near the North Korean border, so it’s a special location,” he added. “And we were told that among the viewers were some American soldiers. I would have been really curious to hear their reaction to the film.”

Klusák and Remunda are currently brainstorming ideas for a new topic to complete a planned trilogy on Czech issues, and are developing a pitch for a film that would take a look at the country’s institutions, such as prisons, hospitals and the Supreme Court.

“We would like to make it a humorous and interesting look behind the scenes of these places,” Klusák said.

Český mír premiered in Prague cinemas earlier this year and will return to movie houses in the capital in November, when it will also be released on DVD with a spoken introduction by Michael Moore.

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