HOŘÍCÍ KEŘ

Czech Republic

Synopsis

Based on real characters and events, this haunting drama focuses on the personal sacrifice of a Prague history student, Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1969. Dagmar Burešová, a young female lawyer, became part of his legacy by defending Jan's family in a trial against the communist government, a regime which tried to dishonour Palach’s sacrifice, a heroic action for the freedom of Czechoslovakia. Jan and Dagmar’s story is one of basic human values, truth, honour, justice and courage. The fight for freedom, for moral principles, self-sacrifice and protest in those desperate times led to the moral unification of a repressed nation, which twenty years later defeated the totalitarian regime. The anniversary of Jan Palach’s death inspired a new generation of students to start protests that led to the eventual fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, part of the eventual destruction of the Iron Curtain. Lawyer Dagmar Burešová, who spent her life representing dissident opposition leaders, became the first Minister of Justice in a free Czechoslovakia. www.hbo-europe.com/burningbush

Director's Statement

I was a student at the Prague Film school in the 60s, during the period of the Prague Spring, when Soviet tanks came into the city and there was a period of so called "normalization". It shaped my life, my sensibility, my knowledge of people and political processes. I always wanted to show in the movie this terrible web of communist soft oppression and moral corruption. In Stepan Hulik’s "Burning Bush" script I found the perfect expression of my own experiences. For Czech audiences this movie was a shock, catharsis, for so many it recreated their own personal experiences. For me it was a journey rekindling intimate memories, both private and public, being at the same time a wider, almost universal exploration of human weakness and human strength.

Director's Biography

Born in Warsaw in 1948, writer/director Agnieszka Holland studied at Prague’s renowned FAMU film school, and
graduated in 1971. She began her film career working as assistant director to Krzysztof Zanussi and with Andrzej
Wajda as her mentor. Her TV film debut was AN EVENING AT ABDON’S (1975) and her first feature film was PROVINCIAL ACTORS (1978), one of the flagship pictures of the ‘cinema of moral disquiet’ and the winner of the International Critics’ Prize at the Cannes IFF 1980. Her rich filmography includes a number of prestigious awards and festival prizes as well as three Oscar nominations.

Filmography:
1980 PROVINCIAL ACTORS
1981 FEVER
1981 A LONELY WOMAN
1985 ANGRY HARVEST
1988 TO KILL A PRIEST
1990 EUROPA EUROPA
1992 OLIVIER, OLIVIER
1993 THE SECRET GARDEN
1995 TOTAL ECLIPSE
1997 WASHINGTON SQUARE
1999 THE THIRD MIRACLE
2001 SHOT IN THE HEART
2001 JULIE WALKING HOME
2006 COPYING BEETHOVEN
2009 JANOSIK: A TRUE STORY
2011 IN DARKNESS
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Agnieszka Holland

Written by: Štěpán Hulík

Produced by: Tereza Polachová, Tomáš Hrubý, Pavla Kubečková, Antony Root

Cinematography: Martin Štrba

Editing: Pavel Hrdlička

Production Design: Milan Býček

Costume Design: Katarína Hollá

Original Score: Antoni Komasa-Lazarkiewicz

Sound: Petr Čechák

Cast: Jaroslava Pokorná (Libuše Palachová), Petr Stach (Jiří Palach), Martin Huba (Vilém Nový), Ivan Trojan (Major Jireš), Jan Budař (Radim Bureš), Igor Bareš (Major Dočekal), Vojtěch Kotek (Ondřej Trávníček), Tatiana Pauhofová (Dagmar Burešová), Adrian Jastraban (Vladimír Charouz)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2013