In November, hundreds of schools throughout the Czech Republic are participating in the project Stories of Lawlessness – Film Month at Schools. The period of the Velvet Revolution will also be brought closer to schools in Kadan, Březno and Chomutov by Karel Strachota’s film entitled 1989: We Want to Breathe.
Stories of injustice – Film Month in Schools 2023
| Photo: courtesy of Filip Šebek
First a screening of the documentary, then a post-film debate with a special guest. That’s what awaits thousands of young people in November as part of the Stories of Injustice project – Film Month in Schools. Among them will also be students of the Secondary Technical School and Higher Vocational School Chomutov and pupils of primary schools in Kadani Na Podlesí and Březno.
High school students will meet Petr Urban, also a high school student in 1989. On Thursday, November 16, from 9:00 a.m., he will share not only his experiences of conflicts with teachers who did not like his appearance, which did not correspond to the ideas of the communist regime. Memorialist Jindřiška Rosendorfová will visit ZŠ and Kindergarten Březno on Wednesday, November 15 at 1:30 p.m. In Kadani, the projection with a discussion already took place on Thursday, November 9. The guest was witness Roman Sládek, a participant in anti-regime demonstrations and banned underground events, who was also active in collecting signatures for petitions and producing samizdat publications.
To the film 1989: We Want to Breathe you can take a look at the One World in Schools project page jsns.cz.
The event is organized by the One World educational program at the schools of People in Need. More than 500 schools from all over the country joined this year’s 19th edition of Stories of Injustice. They will screen a new film by Karel Strachota called 1989: We want to breathe. Many will also organize a discussion with witnesses.
“The month of film in schools has been held every November since 2005 in hundreds of primary and secondary schools throughout the Czech Republic. Participating schools organize screenings of films with the theme of Czechoslovak history and invite guests – eyewitnesses, filmmakers, film protagonists, historians – to post-film debates. During the 18 years of the project’s existence, schools organized 9,767 screenings, in which almost 427,000 pupils participated,” summarizes Karel Strachota, who is also the director of the program.
The students honored the lawless heroes who resisted communism with the Prize of Stories
“The film takes place in the eighties and mainly deals with two themes: independent culture and the state of the environment. I carried both in my head for a long time and was looking for a way to grasp them. In the end, Northern Bohemia was a logical choice. In the north, people were suffocating, smog and inversions were literally killing them. And Teplice’s specific punk and local alternative culture are legendary. A great inspiration for the film was the story of my long-time friend, whose fate forms the basis of the film’s narrative. I projected a lot of my own experiences into the film,” says Karel Strachota and adds: “Another reason for choosing Teplice was the repression directed against young people who lived in the city. For the normalization regime, they represented ‘defective youth’, because they wanted to live freely and in accordance with their ideals. Therefore, they were bullied, persecuted in various ways, and some were also draconianly punished.
The film 1989: We Want to Breathe is based on archival footage and period materials documenting everyday life in the period of so-called normalization. It is a mosaic of authentic situations and events, and its main protagonists, Pavel and Renata, have realistic foreshadows. The film culminates with the demonstrations that began in Teplice a week before November 17, 1989 due to catastrophic environmental pollution, and which subsequently turned into political protests.
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“Although most of my friends are aware of the importance of the Velvet Revolution and freedom, many of them are completely indifferent to these values. That’s why I appreciate that such films are made. I have seen countless films and documentaries about the times before the revolution, but I can say about this one that the content is full of originality and freshness. The interpretation of history and modern history in particular should always be presented to us as a basis for our puzzle of perceiving the world in context. And it is those human, ordinary stories that make it life, and not just a stark interpretation of events. I perceived all this in the film,” wrote student Tadeáš Adam Ševčík after the test screening of the film.