Czech That Film Festival Returns To Austin

Celebration of Czech cinema includes virtual, drive-in screenings

Alchemical Furnace, the new documentary about revolutionary stop-motion pioneer Jan Svankmajer, will play as part of the drive-in screening series organized by Czech That Film Texas

Here in the States, you may think it unlikely to find a curated selection of Czech cinema available to audiences – and you’d largely be right. That’s why the mission statement of the Czech That Film Festival, now in their tenth year, is to bring the biggest and best films from the Czech Republic to American audiences.

In lieu of its normal 20-city traveling festival, and still reeling from ongoing pandemic complications, Czech That has gone online for 2021 (April 23-May 2). However, under the Czech That Film – Texas banner it is hosting drive-in events for Austin and theater events for Dallas for their 2021 edition throughout April. Festival director Jeffrey Brown explained that being able to bring people together at the physical screenings is a cornerstone of the entire festival’s philosophy. He said, “Now that things are opening up a little bit, we wanted to try to have some physical events that are socially distanced and safe, and these pop-up drive-in events are hopefully going to achieve that”.

The Austin screenings at Pioneer Farms began last week with biopic Havel (recounting the life of reformer and first president of the Czech Republic Václav Havel). This Tuesday (April 13), it continues with Oscar short-listed historical drama Charlatan, tracing the story of life-saving herbalist Jan Mikolasek against the backdrop of Czechoslovakia’s totalitarian Communist regime of the 1950s.

Still to come is documentary feature Alchemical Furnace (April 20) about surrealist Czech artist Jan Švankmajer, whom the fest is proud to be granting more exposure to for abroad audiences. Serving as a significant influence for names like Terry Gilliam and the Brothers Quay, his stop-motion work is some that has reverberated through culture through its singularity, though people may not know the man himself. “His films usually get a release in New York and LA,” Brown said, “but it’s a real treat for us to be able to expose Austin film lovers to his work.”

The last main feature of the in-person fest is psychological thriller Droneman (Modelář, screening April 27), which Brown described as “the most mainstream-esque of the films.” The character-driven political drama, directed by Petr Zelenka (whose 2008 film The Karamazov Brothers was the official Czech submission to the Oscars for the Best Foreign Language category) “is about a guy who has a drone who gets caught up in a plot to assassinate Dick Cheney when he comes to town.”

While the fest may sound somewhat niche, the aim is to introduce a wide breadth of filmmaking from an artistically under-represented foreign country to fresh audiences. It’s also indicative of a culture that has a more significant prominence in the U.S. than many might realize, particularly here in Texas (perhaps you’ve heard the term “Czexans” before). “There’s a significant number of Czechs who were born in the Czech Republic and now call Austin home,” Brown explained, adding that everyone is invited to take part in experiencing this slice of European culture. “There’s something we have for everyone. Non-Czechs, Czechs, the Texas Czechs. There’s an audience for it.”


Czech That Film – Texas, April 20, 27 at Pioneer Farms, 10621 Pioneer Farms Drive. Tickets and info at www.pioneerfarms.org.

April 13: Charlatan
April 20: Alchemical Furnace
April 27: Droneman

Czech That Film Festival 2021 runs online April 23-May 2. Passes and info at www.czechthatfilm.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Czech That Film Festival, Czech That Film – Texas, Alchemical Furnace, Havel, Droneman, Charlatan, Pioneer Farms

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