Must See: Jan Nemec Retrospective

Jan Nemec

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The 21st Made in Prague Film Festival showcases the first UK retrospective of the classic filmmaker of East European avant-garde cinema and enfant terrible of the Czechoslovak New Wave Jan Nemec (1936 -2016). Featuring two of the best films of the 60s as voted by the New York Times critics, Diamonds of the Night and The Party and the Guests (banned ´for ever´ by the Czechoslovak government) and Oratorio for Prague, unique coverage of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakiascreened in the UK for the first time, 11 features and shorts provide a testimony to Nemec’s work and the constant reinvention of his style. Selected films punctuate different stages of his career and reflect his adventures as he re-enacts them in his work. Never sentimental or nostalgic, endlessly ironic and self-mocking, Nemec´ films radiate his energy and fascination with film. 

The retrospective opens with the UK premiere of Jan Nemec’s The Wolf from Royal Vineyeard Street (2016), the final film of his career in which he recapitulates and reimagines his life. Beginning at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival when his film, The Party and the Guests was competing for the Palm d’Or the film follows the trajectory of Nemec’s life – filming the Russian invasion, escaping from Czechoslovakia, life in California and his eventual return to Prague after obtaining a visa for ‘the funeral of communism’. Each filmed as a separate section in contrasting style it presents a multi-faceted, complex film which mixes documentary, re-enactments and fiction to create a cinematic collage which received the Jury’s special mention at the 2016 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

The Wolf from Royal Vineyard Street together with Late Night Talks with Mother (2001) made with small personal cameras, present the pinnacle of Nemec’s deeply personal, intimate films which he started to make after his return from political exile. Late Night Talks with Mother, a Golden Leopard Award winner at Locarno 2001, is Nemec’s stylized selfportrait consisting of his imaginary dialogue with his deceased mother, inspired by Kafka’s Letter to his Father. Set in Prague and presented via fish-eye panoramic shots, the film is full of originality and poetry providing an insight into Nemec’s life and the history of the 20th century. The complex relationship between a mother and her son is complemented by the screening of Nemec’s short film Mother and Son (1967), the winner of the Grand Prix at the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival.

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