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50 years ago, on 16 January 1969, the Prague philosophy student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. He died three days later. He was 21 years old. To mark the 5Oth anniversary of his ultimate sacrifice, the Czech Centre London organises a screening of a brand new film Jan Palach (2018) followed by discussion with the director Robert Sedláček about a wider socio-historical context of fighting for freedom.

Fighting for freedom is the very current topic, considering Russian political behaviour across the world, but also considering political situation especially in countries in Eastern Europe, where people have been protesting against Hungarian, Polish, Slovakian and indeed Czech government. Jan Palach wasn't the only one who set himself on fire. The act, which is thought to be an extreme form of political protest, had been done by twelve men across multiple countries in Eastern Europe from autumn of 1968 up to the summer 1976, out of whom seven, starting with Palach, did it in Czechoslovakia within just four months (January - April) of 1969.

Robert Sedláček´s film Jan Palach, a story of innocence, naivety, loss of illusions and fatal decision, reminds us what can happen to people's minds, if and when they feel the freedom is gone. Using available sources director Robert Sedláček reconstructs the final months of Palach´s life describing his path from an affectionate son, a devoted friend, a sensitive and thoughtful philosophy student to the 'Torch number one'. The resulting film is an impressive and atmospheric memento successfully portraying an uncompromising young man who brought the ultimate sacrifice in a hope to rouse the nation from lethargy.

The director intends to make Palach an emblematic figure in order to awaken today’s consciences, an extreme example of how a sensible soul can yearn for a free society.

"A call to look for ways to freedom," as the playwright and the first Czechoslovak president Václav Havel defined Jan Palach's sacrifice after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And Robert Sedláček confirms: "I wanted to tell the tragic story of Jan Palach which isn't any kind of a childish naive fight against the totalitarian régime, but an extreme example of what can happen to sensitive people who feel they are cornered into overwhelming conformity and acclimatisation."

The screening is in fact very timely, considering what is nowadays happening not just in Eastern Europe, but across the whole world. Investigation has proved that Russia has been meddling with elections in the US and in multiple countries in Europe, including very probably influencing the UK Brexit referendum. Sanctions followed by Russian anexation of Crimea and Skripals' poisoining in the UK are currently still in place at least till 23rd June and 15th March 2019 respectively.

Jan Palach + Q&A with director Robert Sedlácek
Robert Sedláček, CZ / SR 2018, 120 mins (film is screened with English subtitles)
Cast: Viktor Zavadil, Zuzana Bydžovská, Denisa Barešová, Kristína Kanátová

17 January 2019, 7 pm
Czech Embassy Cinema, 30 Kensinghton Palace Gardens, London W8 4QY
Online booking 

19 January 2019, 3.30 pm
Showroom Workshation, 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX

More information: www.czechcentre.org.uk
For images and other press enquiries please contact:
Tereza Matysová - comms@czechcentre.org.uk, 07768 935 361
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CzechCentreLnd 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/londonczechcentre
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The Czech Centre's mission is to actively promote the Czech Republic by showcasing Czech culture in the UK.  Its programme covers visual and performing arts, film, literature, music, architecture, design and fashion. As well as hosting its own events, the Czech Centre offers support for other groups organising Czech related initiatives in the UK. It is a non-political organisation supported by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of a worldwide network of 22 Czech Centres. The Czech Centre is a member of EUNIC (European Union National Institutes for Culture).

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