Back in 2007, the Bush administration was trying to install a anti-missile radar system at a military base in the Czech Republic. While this issue didn’t really register in North America, according to filmmaker Filip Remunda, it was a big deal in Europe.
“This issue provoked the largest social and political discussion in Czech Republic since the Soviet revolution,” he said. Many feared that installing an anti-missile system in the Czech Republic could be seen as an arms buildup instead of a defensive move, and would kickstart a new Cold War between Russia and the USA.
Remunda is one of the directors of Czech Peace, which looks into the response of Czech citizens to America’s plans. The film is a followup to 2004’s Czech Dream, when Remunda and co-director VÃt KlusÃ¡k tricked the country into believing they were opening a new hypermarket.
Despite claiming not to be political filmmakers, Remunda and KlusÃ¡k decided to make a documentary about the issue of military space as well as the rift caused by the potential radar.
“In Czech Republic, it is a very sensitive topic,” explained Remunda. “[Historically Czech Republic] always used to be in between superpowers.” And since the radar was supposed to be on a former Soviet military base, “People started to somehow compare [it to] the Soviet occupation.”
The film focuses on Jan Neoral, the mayor of Trokavec, a small town near the military base. He is one of the opponents, and the film shows him crusading to prevent the radar from happening. Czech Peace also follows the other side in the form of government spokesperson Tomas Klvana, who spends his time trying to explain the radar to people who wish to hear nothing of it.
The tensions are evident in one of the first scenes of the film, when Czech poet Ivan Martin Jirous, who is pro-radar, verbally attacks protesters gathered in a public square. One of the protesters winds him up by claiming American soldiers got what they deserved in Vietnam, causing Jirous to angrily push and shove the man.
“That’s what we recognized during the film production,” said Remunda. “That actually for most of the sides it was difficult for them to come out with some rational explanations of their position.”
Of course, not everything the Bush administration told the Czech people was true; only after the Obama administration came to power was it discovered that plans for the radar were less solid than most people thought. “Obama’s administration uncovered that Bush’s administration [was] feeding Czech government and people with not-serious information,” explained Remunda. “It is a question of huge money and lobbying and for us filmmakers or normal citizens, it is almost not possible to discover the real truth, we realized.”
However, Remunda and KlusÃ¡k were surprised by how little Americans knew about the issue when Czech Peace premiered at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival in 2010. Meanwhile, the issue was much discussed in countries that disagreed with the radar, such as Russia. While filming for his new project, Remunda discovered that normal citizens knew about the case of the radar in detail. “In any Siberian small village people were informed,” shared Remunda.
The filmmaker is excited to see how Canadian audiences will react to the film, which is intended to be seen under a humorous light. “We meant the film as a comedy about very serious topics,” he explained. “I never try to be focused on some message and try to explain something, I’d rather do my films and the viewer can take the message from the many different situations.”
Czech Peace will play at Cinema Politica April 4 at 7 p.m. For more information, check out cinemapolitica.org