Sometimes a revolution can be started by a seemingly futile act. That's the premise behind the Czech miniseries Burning Bush, which made its American debut this week. It's playing theatrically in New York and can also be viewed on Fandor.com. Kino Lorber will be distributing the DVD release.
Burning Bush follows the aftermath of Czech patriot Jan Pallach's suicide in 1969. He literally set himself on fire to protest the Soviet invasion that crushed the Prague Spring. Twenty years later he became a symbol for the movement that led to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. The film follows a court case in which Pallach's mother filed a Quixotic defamation lawsuit against a Communist official who libeled her son. The attorney who represented her, Dagmar Buresová (played by Tatiana Pauhofová), later became an official in the free Czech government.
Three-time Oscar-nominee Agnieszka Holland directed Burning Bush, and she has a unique perspective on the events that followed. She was a student at Prague's FAMU film school--where Milos Forman (the director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus) taught--and took part in the protests that drove the Prague Spring.
I contacted Holland, who has been corresponding with me for about 20 years, in her native Warsaw, where she recounted how the events of 1969 affected Czechoslovakia (later The Czech Republic) and eventually the rest of the world.
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