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Commentary: Boorishness triumphs at Czech Lion ceremony

Prague, 23.2.2015 20:50, (ROMEA)
Klaudia Dudová received the Czech Lion award in the category of best performance by an actress in a leading role on 21 February 2015 for the film
Klaudia Dudová received the Czech Lion award in the category of best performance by an actress in a leading role on 21 February 2015 for the film "The Way Out" (Cesta ven). (PHOTO: Czech Television)

It might seem that this year's Czech Lion awards are a sign of greater maturity, openness, and self-criticism by this country about its culture, film criticism, and society in general. "The Way Out" (Cesta ven), an authentic, challenging drama about impoverished Romani people from a ghetto that viewers might find hard to watch was not only awarded best film, but won in the most categories overall.

This is a film that does not pretend that any sort of "way out" is on the horizon here or that we are even close to one. The film neither idealizes Romani people nor the efforts of the "majority" to open up to them.

Other significant awards have been won by a film about how local yokels live in a village in Moravia, people who are portrayed as definitely unhappy and more or less evil.  "Nowhere in Moravia" (Díra u Hanušovic) is full of brilliant actors, but is not a film tipped for success with audiences - at times it is downright boring, slow, and not even superficially entertaining.

It could be said that there is a rather strong symbolic correspondence here:  "We", i.e., the yokels who dislike foreigners, gypsies and immigrants, who are shut up in our very small world, do our best to ignore the outside world insofar as that is possible and to enjoy ourselves with what is available to us here. The Czech Lion has really held a mirror up to us!  

A problem, however, could be that these films (primarily "The Way Out") interest almost no one - they have not become and are not becoming the basis for any sort of larger public discussion, to say nothing of social change. Judging by a film like "Nowhere in Moravia", I fear that neither the Bohemian or Moravian horizons will be significantly expanded any time soon.

The Czech Film Critics Award and the Czech Lion this year are ornaments, a sort of appreciative pat on the back. We have shown how good we are and we can keep on going.

What's more, we masterfully displayed our boorishness during the Czech Lion awards ceremony itself. The awards this year were handed out by prominent Czech physicians, but what is at issue here is not whether that was a bad or a good idea, nor how it was actually done.

The issue is that all of the physicians were men and men only! The Czech Republic apparently didn't even have one female physician to invite to host such an awards ceremony.

All of the physicians who were considered sufficiently dignified and eminent enough to participate were male. No, I am not gunning for a "quota system" here at any cost, I don't believe it is essential for the number of men and women on such occasions to necessarily be "half and half".  

Nevertheless, we do have excellent female physicians who could have represented their profession in handing out the awards. On a night when we were ostensibly celebrating our capacity for self-reflection, our openness, and our perspective on our own boorishness, it is ironic that our chauvinistic provincialism triumphed to a degree that would be incomprehensible in a genuinely mature country.

Michal Komárek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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