Czech Dream + Pussy Riot: Political reviews

Czech Dream – a hoax reviewed

The Czechs got punked in this smart and funny documentary set in 2003 Prague. It was created by two film students, who get government support to create the documentary.  Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) introduces the film. He says admiringly, “I wish I’d thought of it.”

ceskysenlogoThe two filmmakers (Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda) go through the elaborate process of launching a new hypermarket for the shopping-crazed Czechs (who still remember waiting in long lines for basic necessities in the Communist era). Vit and Filip, as the store managers, get personal makeovers, pose for corporate portraits, and work with the local office of a well-known global advertising agency (BBDO). The agency (they’re in on the hoax) creates logos, signage, clever anti-consumerist advertising, giant billboards, flyers, even fake product labels for house-branded products. The campaign teases about the nature and location of the hypermarket, named Czech Dream (Cesky Sen) as a result of a focus group process.

The film ties in with the 2003 Czech Republic referendum on the question of joining the EU. The referendum passed with 77 percent of the votes and the country joined the EU in 2004. The political overtones of the film are probably more apparent to Czechs than they may be to viewers today.

On opening day, May 31, 2003, thousands of people gather hours before the store opening. Fencing keeps them a long hike from the colorful and massive storefront, which they can view in the distance. Finally, after long opening ceremonies and a bungled ribbon-cutting, the crowd is allowed to enter.  The crowd trudges across the field toward the store, including families with baby carriages, and elderly people using canes and walkers.

When they get there, they find it is a Potemkin village. A storefront with nothing behind it.

The reactions of the prospective customers are most interesting. Some are really angry. Some blame the government. Some get the joke and enjoy it.

Both filmmakers have continued to make films in the Czech Republic since then. They must have learned a lot about audiences from this process – and so will you.

Pussy Riot, A Punk Prayer – an activist’s review

We’ll stay in eastern Europe for this 2013 film: a profile of the feminist performance-art collective known as Pussy Riot, which premiered on HBO this week. Because of their February 2012 performance on the altar of a Moscow church, a protest against Putin’s reelection, they were arrested, tried, found guilty and sentenced to two years in a penal colony.

Pussy Riot on trial: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova,Yekaterina Samutsevich,Maria Alekhina

L to R, Masha, Katia, Nadia (Maria Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova)

Nadia and Masha are still serving prison terms; Katia’s sentence was suspended and she was released. They have become poster children for free speech all over the world. They are activists who use art to communicate and bring about political action. They were defiant to the end. “Come and taste freedom with us,” was Nadia’s closing remark at the trial.

In the film, religious people tell the filmmakers how much they were offended, even insulted, by Pussy Riot’s protest on the altar. Russia supposedly is a secular state with a secular constitution, according to one of the defense lawyers. But they were charged with blasphemy. Katia’s sentence was suspended because she had not actually done anything on the altar; she was taken away by police before being able to perform. She continues the Pussy Riot activities while Nadia and Masha serve their terms.

Pussy Riot has many more members who demonstrated in Moscow wearing neon-colored balaclavas and tunics. One of their early protests was “kiss a cop.” The documentary shows video of members attacking Moscow police with kisses. The day of the sentencing, many protestors wearing trademark balaclavas protested around the trial site. Their protests involved climbing on to the court building, shouting and singing their political messages and punk lyrics.

I wrote about Pussy Riot last fall and showed this photo of the three defendants; Nadia is wearing her No Pasaran shirt. @free pussy riot is on Twitter and has a multilingual website http://www.freepussyriot.org To my great joy, #nopasaran is a trending hashtag on Twitter, almost 70 years after the Spanish Civil War.

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3 Comments on “Czech Dream + Pussy Riot: Political reviews”

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    • nancysbishop says:

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      Like

  2. […] Riot: A Punk Prayer. I wrote about this documentary on the Russian protestors a few months ago. They are activists who use art to communicate and […]

    Like


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