Temir Asanov-Anglo American University
It is commonly known that the word “robot”, introduced in the 1920’s play R.U.R., was the brainchild of Czech playwright and novelist Karel Čapek. However, in 1937, Čapek wrote another prophetic play, in which he described our current state of the world — a pandemic.
Starring and directed by Hugo Haas, the film “Bílá nemoc” (“The White Disease”) shockingly resonates with the current era of COVID-19. Today, as scientists from around the world are involved in the fight against coronavirus, this film could be a source of hope for all of us. Beautifully shot in striking black and white, and with English subtitles, the film reflects our current anxieties, carrying a very real warning for our times.
The film is about a nationalist leader, Marshal, who plans to attack a small country when a strange and highly contagious illness begins spreading through his nation. Originating from China, the infection turns people’s skin into white marble and kills the infected within three weeks. The disease only affects those older than 45 years, and it is so contagious that people are discouraged from shaking hands. This is hitting a little too close to home, isn’t it?
This film is prophetic even in the smallest details: a father of a middle-class family reads in the newspaper that it is impossible to protect oneself against the disease, which will eventually afflict all people in their fifties.
“Is a man expected to die at fifty?” the father asks outrageously. “Strange justice it would be if only the middle-aged were affected, and what for?”
“It is high time something comes to make room for young people, don’t you think” his daughter replies.
“That’s what everybody says,” his son adds. “If it weren’t for leprosy, I don’t know what would become of us.”
The same attitude is seen today by millennials and Gen Z, who think that the coronavirus is a joke, referring to it as “a boomer remover.” Trending social media memes play on the virus’s enhanced risk to older people. Consciously or subconsciously aware of the perception that the youth is less likely to get ill and die from COVID-19 than oldies, one can see how many youngsters violate social distancing by having picnics during the lockdown or by crowding bars and beaches.
In the film, the Marshal’s rationale closely resembles Adolf Hitler’s reasoning for invading Czechoslovakia, but with the pandemic standing in the way of his plan. The best hospitals in the country are choked with dying and decaying patients. Everyone is feverishly searching for a remedy but to no avail. The fate of humanity depends on one person, Doctor Galen.
Dr. Galen, played by Hugo Haas, discovers a cure, but he will reveal his miracle compound only on one condition: call off the war that the Marshal is preparing. Until that happens, Galen will only treat the impoverished. Following his pacifistic ideals, he refuses to treat any of the wealthy and military bigwigs for not refraining from the war. The protagonist and antagonist are different and similar at the same time, as both intend to save their nation with war and peace.
The Czech National Film Archive is currently streaming a number of digitally-restored Czech films with English-friendly subtitles on YouTube, and “Bílá nemoc” is one of them. Does good prevail over evil? Is the world doomed due to this deadly disease? Watch this film to find out.
Film lovers in Prague can go on a journey into the world of French art: Institut français de Prague is to host the 22nd edition of the French Film Festival from November 20 to 27. Some of the entries will be English-friendly.
This year, the festival will take place not only in Prague but also in the regions: in České Budějovice and Ostrava from November 21 to 27, in Hradec Králové from November 24 to 28, and in Brno from November 25 to December 1.
Four Prague cinemas – Lucerna, Svetozor, Edison Film Club, and Kino 35 in the French Institute – will screen recent hits and a few classics with English subtitles as part of the Critics’ Choice, a Tribute to Henri-Georges Clouzot, Short Film Evening, and Focus Adèle Haenel.
CZECH CRITICS’ CHOICE
Chambre 212/On a Magical Night (2019)
Director: Christophe Honoré
After 20 years of marriage, Maria decides to leave. She moves to the room 212 of the hotel opposite her marital home. From there, Maria can scrutinise her apartment, her husband, her wedding. She wonders if she has made the right decision.
A 2019 French comedy film was premiered on May 19 at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where Chiara Mastroianni, a starring actress, won the award for best performance. The film was released in France on October 30, 2019.
21.11. – 18h00 – Kino 35, Štěpánská 35, Praha 1
23.11. – 21h15 – Lucerna – Velký Sál, Vodičkova 704/36, Praha 1
25.11. – 20h30 – Kino Světozor – Velký Sál, Vodičkova 791/41, Praha 1
TRIBUTE TO HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT
Clouzot was a French film director, screenwriter and producer. Also known as a “French Hitchcock”, he is best remembered for his work in the thriller film genre, having directed The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques, which are recognised as among the greatest films from the 1950s. Clouzot also directed documentary films, including The Mystery of Picasso, which was declared a national treasure by the government of France. All of these films will be screened as part of the tribute to the great film director.
1) The Wages of Fear/Le salaire de la peur (1952)
The Southern Oil Company, which pretty much rules the roost in the impoverished village of Las Piedras, sends out a call for long-distance truck drivers. Southern Oil’s wages of 2,000 dollars per man are, literally, to die for — the drivers are obliged to transport highly volatile nitroglycerine shipments across some of the most treacherous terrains on earth. Through expository dialogue, tense interactions and flashbacks, we become intimately acquainted with the four drivers who sign up for this death-defying mission: Corsican Yves Montand, Italian Folco Lulli, German Peter Van Eyck, and Frenchman Charles Vanel. The first half of the film slowly, methodically introduces the characters and their motivations. The second half — the drive itself — is a relentless, goosebump-inducing assault on the audience’s senses.
The film brought Clouzot international fame—winning both the Golden Bear and the Palme d’Or at the 1953 Berlin Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival, respectively—and allowed him to direct Les Diaboliques.
20.11. – 18h00 – Lucerna – Malý Sál, Vodičkova 704/36, Praha 1
23.11. – 20h00 – Kino Světozor – Malý Sál, Vodičkova 791/41, Praha 1
2) Les Diaboliques/The Devils (1955)
Clouzot’s Les Diabolique is set in a provincial boarding school run by headmaster Michel Delasalle (Paul Meurisse). A ruthless lothario, he becomes the target of a murder plot concocted by his long-suffering invalid wife Christina (Vera Clouzot, the director’s own spouse) and his latest mistress, an icy teacher played by Simone Signoret. A dark, dank thriller with a much-imitated “shock” ending, Diabolique is a masterpiece of Grand Guignol suspense. The simple murder plot goes haywire, and Michel’s corpse disappears, prompting strange rumors of his reappearance which grow more and more substantial as the film careens wildly towards its breathless conclusion.
The film was the 10th highest-grossing film of the year in France, with a total of 3,674,380 admissions and received the 1954 Louis Delluc Prize, a French film award presented annually since 1937.
23.11. – 15h30 – Kino Světozor – Malý Sál, Vodičkova 791/41, Praha 1
24.11. – 17h30 – Lucerna – Malý Sál, Vodičkova 704/36, Praha 1
3) The Mystery of Picasso/Le mystère Picasso (1956)
A filmed record of Pablo Picasso painting numerous canvases for the camera, allowing us to see his creative process at work. Clouzot concentrates upon a real-life enigma in The Mystery of Picasso. While we are treated to several scenes of the legendary Spanish artist at work, explanations of his inspiration are not always forthcoming. As with Pablo Picasso’s paintings, this documentary is meant to be experienced, not understood. The in-progress paintings displayed in The Mystery of Picasso were destroyed by the artist after the film was completed, thus this feature-length documentary has in the past forty years assumed the status of “Must See.”
The Mystery of Picasso was released in France on May 18, 1956. The film won the Special Jury Prize at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
22.11. – 18h15 – Lucerna – Malý Sál, Vodičkova 704/36, Praha 1
24.11. – 16h00 – Kino Světozor – Malý Sál, Vodičkova 791/41, Praha 1
SHORT FILM EVENING (SOIRÉE DU COURT MÉTRAGE)
The Short Film Night, prepared in collaboration with Unifrance, presents eight short films: Plein Ouest (2019), Per Aspera ad Astra (2019), Sape (2018), La Mouche de bronze (2019), Hurlevent (2019), Crazy Hair (2018), Le Chant d’Ahmed (2018), and Ma Dame au Camélia (2019).
26.11. – 20h30 – Kino Světozor – Velký Sál, Vodičkova 791/41, Praha 1
27.11. – 18h00 – Kino 35, Štěpánská 35, Praha 1
FOCUS ADÈLE HAENEL
1) In the Name of My Daughter/L’homme qu’on aimait trop (2014)
Director: André Téchiné
Nice, 1976. When her marriage falls apart, Agnes Le Roux (Adèle Haenel) moves back to the South of France from Africa to live with her mother, Renee (Catherine Deneuve), owner of the Palais de La Mediterranee casino in Nice. There, Agnes falls in love with Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet), a lawyer and Renee’s business advisor, who is ten years her senior. Maurice continues to have relationships with other women. Agnes is madly in love with him. As a shareholder in the Palais de la Mediterannee casino, Agnes decides to sell what should have been her inheritance to go it alone. A fixed card game threatens the casino’s financial stability. Someone is trying to intimidate her mother. Behind the scenes hangs the shadow of the mafia and Fratoni, the owner of a rival casino, who wants to take over the Palais de la Mediterannee. Agnelet, who has fallen from grace with Renee, introduces Agnes to Fratoni. Fratoni offers her 3 million francs to vote against her mother in the shareholder’s meeting. Agnes accepts the offer. Renee loses control of the casino. Agnes finds it hard to cope with her betrayal. Maurice also distances himself from her. In November 1977, after a failed suicide attempt, Agnes disappears. Her body is never found. Thirty years on, Maurice Agnelet remains the prime suspect in a murder case with no body and no proof of his guilt. Convinced of his involvement, Renee is prepared to fight to the bitter end to see him put behind bars…
23.11. – 21h00 – Lucerna – Malý Sál, Vodičkova 704/36, Praha 1
24.11. – 18h15 – Kino Světozor – Malý Sál, Vodičkova 791/41, Praha 1
25.11. – 16h30 – Lucerna – Velký Sál, Vodičkova 704/36, Praha 1
2) Orphan/Orpheline (2017)
Director: Arnaud des Pallières
Screened at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, the film narrates about four moments in the lives of four female characters. Sandra’s youth as she moves to Paris and has a brush with disaster. Karine’s teenage years, an endless succession of runaways, men and mishaps, because anything is better than her desolate family home. The childhood of a little girl called Kiki, captured as a game of hide and seek turns to tragedy. And finally the grown-up life of Renée, a woman who thought she was safe from her own past. Gradually, we come to understand that these four characters are actually different sides of the same woman.
22.11. – 20h15 – Kino Světozor – Malý Sál, Vodičkova 791/41, Praha 1
23.11. – 16h30 – Edison Filmhub, Jeruzalémská 1321/2, Praha 1
26.11. – 16h00 – Lucerna – Velký Sál, Vodičkova 704/36, Praha 1
The Czech branch of Extinction Rebellion held a peaceful demonstration with a traffic blockade, intending to call attention to the climate crisis. The blockade lasted 40 minutes.
Dozens of campaigners demanded climate change policy reform from the Czech government. Around 100 protesters laid down on the pedestrian crossing by the National Museum.
“There is a climate and ecological crisis,” national coordinator of Extinction Rebellion in the Czech Republic Kate Wiseman says. “And governments of the world, which have the power to legislate and stop the worst impacts of this crisis, are not doing enough.”
The impact of global warming on the Czech Republic has been manifested by six consecutive years of drought and deforestation at an alarming rate.
“30 percent of Czech forests are gone,” Wiseman says. “I know people can say ‘bark beetles are destroying the forests’, but climate change makes the bark beetle problem much worse in two ways: firstly, bark beetles reproduce more frequently because it is not cold enough in winter anymore; secondly, trees cannot fight bark beetles because of drought: they do not get enough water from the soil.”
Describing itself as an international “non-violent civil disobedience activist movement”, Extinction Rebellion (abbreviated as XR) has three demands:
- Tell the truth: The movement wants the Czech government, media and schools to inform the public about the seriousness of the extreme weather caused by heating. The biggest thing XR wants under this demand is the Czech Republic to declare the climate and ecological emergency. “After the April protest in London, the United Kingdom declared the climate emergency,” Wiseman says. “We are a bit behind here in the Czech Republic with regards to “Tell the truth” demand. The Czech Republic along with Poland, Hungary, and Estonia refused to adapt the EU climate neutrality target at the summit in Brussels on June 20, 2019, as the Guardian
- Act now: XR demands the Czech Republic to become carbon neutral by 2025. “It is challenging but possible,” Wiseman states. “We are going to have a different life, but it is a lot better than what is coming if we do absolutely nothing.”
- Beyond politics: The movement believes the democracy is broken on a matter of climate and ecological crisis. XR suggests creating a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice. It is a form of more direct democracy, under which Czech citizens will decide how to go carbon neutral by 2025. “As a movement, we do not propose solutions,” Wiseman explains. “Our job is to allow people to choose solutions through a democratic process that has delivered progressive results on difficult political problems like the Irish abortion referendum.”
Extinction Rebellion activists are subject to criticism and harassment in many countries, including the Czech Republic. Jiří Ovčáček, a spokesman for President Miloš Zeman, compared the extinction symbol, a stylized hourglass within a circle, to the Nazi swastika, as Wiseman says. Former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Mirek Topolánek tweeted: “I request that the Extinction Rebellion be included in the list of potential terrorist organizations.”
Žádám, aby Extincion Rebellion byla zařazena na seznam potenciálně teroristických organizací. Co udělají poté, až šíření poplašných zpráv, nezákonné blokády a nátlakové akce nezaberou. Budou se radikalizovat jako Antifa? Nebo jako Rote Armee Fraction?https://t.co/OGpnPbZnIH
— Mirek Topolánek (@MirekTopolanek) October 5, 2019
“Even though we are much smaller than in the UK and have not had a direct response from Babiš or Zeman, we are still getting the same kind of response from the people who represent the system that needs to be changed,” Wiseman says.
Prague joined the second period of the International Climate Rebellion, started on October 7 in London, Paris, Berlin, New York and 60 other cities (where Extinction Rebellion is present) across the world. Formed in April 2018 in the United Kingdom, Extinction Rebellion has expanded to now include 340 groups in 72 countries.
Hundreds of protesters around the world have been arrested during the climate strike. The Guardian reports that almost 1,300 arrests of Extinction Rebellion have been made since Monday in the UK. The Prague police removed protesters from the road individually and checked their IDs, but the mood remained peaceful. About 20 rebels, who were involved in road blocking on Friday, have been taken to a police station for a repeated minor offense.
By the demonstration with a traffic block, the movement also wants to inspire Czechs who are worried about the climate crisis but feel that they cannot do anything about it. “We hope to do something loud enough to reach those Czechs and give them courage and confidence to create change on this matter,” Wiseman says.
Eyewitnesses of the demonstration share differing opinions on the activists.
“I feel sorry for policemen who have to deal with those clowns,” says a tourist from Russia Vladislav. “By blocking the road, you are just wasting everybody’s time.”
“I think blocking oxygen is more important,” interrupts Lucinka, a student from Prague. “Not to be shady, but we are going to die if we do not do something.”
The only European emergency medical service (EMS) mobile app Záchranka reached 1 million downloads in July 2019 after three years of saving lives by locating people in case of an accident or emergency.
The Záchranka EMS app, financially supported by the Vodafone Foundation, provides emergency services with the most accurate GPS location and all the data phones have about users of the app to help dispatchers and other EMS workers to find and save injured people quicker. The number of calls from this app has reached over 30,000 with 50 calls received every day.
How does the software work? After you press the app’s emergency button, the app connects you directly to the emergency rescue services and also sends an emergency message with your exact location and other information. If you use the app to call 155 in the mountains, the app will recognise this based on your GPS coordinates and will also send an emergency message to the nearest Mountain Rescue service in that area.
Besides sending your location and connecting you to EMS dispatcher, the Záchranka app can also serve as an encyclopedia in which you can find the first-aid manual and the map to see the nearest hospitals around you. The mobile app currently works only on smartphones and the Apple Watch, but the company works on implementing the app on other technologies and will introduce smart wristbands this year that will work just like the mobile app.
The founder of Záchranka, Filip Maleňák, says that even a weak mobile signal is enough to send an emergency message with all the necessary information. “The software has proven to be effective in terms of facilitating the conversation with dispatchers,” he says. “The dispatchers now simply confirm information they received and you do not need to tell it verbally.”
“The only weakness of the application is that it works only in four Central European countries, including Austria, Hungary, and Slovak Mountain Regions,” Maleňák adds. “But we are cooperating with countries with similar EMS systems.” After the second year of functioning within Czech borders, the area of influence has expanded to the Austrian and Slovak mountains by integrating the app with local mountain and water rescue services.
Maleňák was studying Biomedical Technologies and Bioinformatics at the Brno University of Technology when he got the idea of creating the app. “I enjoyed walking in the mountains and I once thought that if I got injured, I would need to call emergency service and describe my location and injuries verbally,” he recalls. “But things can get tricky when you call emergency service while being under stress, unable to explain where you are and what are the injuries.”
Maleňák developed this idea in his bachelor thesis and presented it at the Czech medical conference, getting positive responses from rescuers. They believed that the app would facilitate the rescue process in terms of timing and locating wounded people. However, it was difficult to implement the technology because the country is divided into fourteen regions and each region has its own medical service centre with different people in charge.
“It was a challenging process to persuade all regions to implement this new technology, but Filip was very focused in getting it done and providing this tool to everybody,” PR Representative of the Vodafone Foundation Veronika Řídelová says. “And this is something we really value in cooperation with him and his team — he manages to get things done.”
Working towards the goal of “Connecting for Good,” the Vodafone Foundation uses the EU and Vodafone funds and invests in projects with a technology-oriented vision for improving people’s lives. Operating in 27 different sites around the world (in countries where Vodafone is present), the Vodafone Foundation is devoted to three main programs: “Laboratory”, “World of Difference”, and “Technologies for Society”. Since 1991, Vodafone and its foundations around the world have invested over $1 billion into positive social change programs. The Záchranka app went all the way from “Laboratory” to “Technologies for Society”, being financially supported by the Vodafone Foundation Czech Republic.
Currently co-financed by the EU, “Laboratory”, a 9-month program for startups and entrepreneurs, has been going on now for 7 years, has supported three projects, including the Záchranka app, which have expanded into more than one country, according to Řídelová. As part of “World of Difference”, the Vodafone Foundation provided Záchranka team with an Internet of Things (IoT) expert, whom the non-profit organization would not be able to afford otherwise, to help develop the smart wristbands. Now, the Záchranka app is at the “Technologies for Society” stage with the yearly cost of the support amounted to Kč 3,7 million, according to the Vodafone Foundation website.
Since Vodafone Foundations are operating in 27 countries, supported projects can be proposed to all member countries and eventually be adapted there. Záchranka has been presented several times at the Vodafone Foundation annual meetings, as Řídelová says. After the huge success in the Czech Republic, Vodafone Hungary started to cooperate with Czech Záchranka to launch the Hungarian EMS app, interconnected with the original software, though under new titles. It means that Czech Záchranka will work in Hungary, Austria, Slovak mountains and vice versa.
“If you are deaf or use the Záchranka app outside of the Czech Republic and speak neither German nor Hungarian, you can still communicate with local PSAPs by pressing ‘I cannot talk’ button,” Řídelová says, explaining another feature of the software. “By pressing it, you will just need to indicate the type of injury and send the emergency message.”
Along with the expansion and development of new features like making the app compatible with the users camera, voice call functionality, and via sensors, Maleňák’s team is introducing the reverse emergency service that will warn people in certain areas about terrorist attacks or chemical accidents by sending notifications within the app, which, he says, “is more efficient and cheaper than sending millions of SMS.”