Saturday, August 28, 2010

CZECH PEACE, from the duo who gave us Czech Dream, debuts at Traverse City Fest

TrustMovies is breaking one of his almost cardinal rules (call it a bishop rule) by reviewing a new documentary that recently made its American debut at Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival but might never be seen in this country again. As the film is very good -- and very important -- TM wants to beat the drum a bit and maybe get some further interest going.

A few years back a pair of Czech filmmakers Vít Klusák (below, left) and Filip Remunda (below, right) made a funny and fascinating documentary called Czech Dream (my GreenCine review of it appears here). This concerned a hoax perpetrated upon the poor (in spirit and intelligence, among other things) Czech consumers, informing them of the grand opening of an important new store that never did or would exist.  How this happens, why, and what everyone involved made of it, is the subject of the film -- which skewers consumerism, capitalism and a number of other "isms" along the way.

The duo's new documentary CZECH PEACE (ČESKÝ MÍR) stars George W. Bush and Barak Obama, among others (Condoleezza Rice has a walk-on or two) and tells the apparently true story of how the American government wants to locate a radar base, manned by American military, on Czech soil. While the "radar" capabilities turn out to be nearly as fake as the fabulous new consumer store of the earlier documentary, the base itself is all too real, and Czech citizens (70% percent or more of them) resolutely oppose its location on Czech soil, as everything from street demonstrations to town meetings (that's the mayor -- center right, below -- of a small town located near the base) to government sponsored programs (Let-us-teach-you-how-wonder-
ful-this-base-will-be-for-the-Czech-Republic) make perfectly clear.

The Czech government, you see, is as every bit behind the whole program as is the American government -- despite the opinions and wishes of the vast majority of its own citizens.  As the protests build ("A foreign army has no business being in a sovereign country," notes one fellow with intelligent certainty), we meet many of the principals involved, and also see some of the other side -- Czechs who want the base on Czech soil.

This is where the movie comes closest to problematic, as Klusák and Remunda show us much less of these people than they do the anti-base groups. Further, they choose what looks like the town drunk (above) to lead off the "pro" display. Still, with finally only 30 percent of the population "for" or "undecided," they seem to have weighted their movie in similar -- or close to it -- fashion.

One Czech government official even writes (or maybe she adapts) a popular song (performed above in,  I think, an ironic fashion) to celebrate this wonderful Czech/American connection (another example of which is shown below). Some scenes shot in the US may remind you -- visually, not verbally -- of In the Loop.  Soon we see the most peaceable-looking and sounding American military commander possible, and later we watch a well-endowed toy soldier (below) masturbate atop the miniature White House, and a live bird sit in (and shit in) on one of those Czech-government-sponsored "educational" pro-radar-base meetings.

A "green" group of protesters declares the radar area as "Peaceland," a state separate from the Czech Republic.  When one of these greens refuses to leave, Czech soldiers evict him. Later we learn that the whole radar thing is unworkable. Yet when Obama makes a visit here, he seems to indicate that the base itself will remain. Later he seem to indicate otherwise.  Government "indication," whether Czech or American, consistently trumps plain-speaking, truth and reality.  

By the end of Czech Peace--a movie that seems absolutely all over the place and yet never leaves its subject matter for a moment--we are left to marvel (that's not quite the right word) at how small countries are forever co-opted by large, and governments exist to trash even the most reasonable will of their people. We learn how some Czechs, just as some Americans, consistently elect and follow politicians who clearly do not have the best interests of those people in mind or heart.

From its opening moments (after a bit of scenery, the movie begins with a Czech newscast of maybe five or six years past, in which the radar project is officially announced) to its conclusion (which I'll let you discover -- and I hope you finally get the opportunity, should this film have some sort of U.S. release), Czech Peace covers several full years. During this time we see some very ugly and dangerous barbed wire placed around the "radar" base, even as elected Czech government officials leave office and then go to work for the very lobbyists and/or companies with which they were doing business, or move on to cushy job in the media -- which in Eastern Euope seems to serve a similar function as does media here in America.

Klusák and Remunda have given us a thoroughly depressing look at our world, even if the look is almost consistently filled with very funny moments that skewer the hypocrisy and denial of everyone from Presidents downward (or maybe I should say "upward," given the sleaze quotient displayed by both Bush and Obama).  I hope you'll have the chance to view this documentary treat. For myself, as soon as I post, I will try to Google any late-breaking information on that American military base in the Czech Republic -- which I should think might prove an interesting topic for WikiLeaks....

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