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3 You Must See: Czech Film Classics Free on BFI Player

Watch three Czech classic films on BIF Player for free! Featuring a masterful adaptation of Milan Kundera’s The Joke; beloved comedy My Sweet Little Village from the Oscar-winning director Jiří Menzel, and Trnka’s stunning stop-motion spectacle of folklore Old Czech Legends.
Part of the 27th Made in Prague Festival organised by the Czech Centre.


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The Joke / Žert

Jaromil Jireš, Czechoslovakia 1968, 80 mins
Cast: Josef Somr, Jana Dítětová, Luděk Munzar, Jaroslava Obermaierová

Jaromil Jireš’s masterful film adaptation pays homage to great Czech-French novelist Milan Kundera (1929 – 2023) who co-wrote the script. Based on Kundera’s first novel, this is a tragi-comic story set against the backdrop of the period of developing socialism and Stalinist repression in fifties Czechoslovakia. The controversial film proved too much for the authorities; it was banned for twenty years and Kundera self-exiled to France.

Ludvík returns to his hometown for a traditional folk festival and by chance meets the wife of his former friend, Pavel. It was thanks to Pavel that Ludvík’s life was ruined by expulsion from the Communist party and university fifteen years earlier following a political joke. Seizing the opportunity Ludvík plots his revenge by seducing his wife only for life to play a joke on him. Using a folkloric framework, understated film language and mixing past and present Jireš conveys Kundera’s reflections on a difficult period when lives were changed forever. A digital restoration of one of the iconic films of the Czech New Wave.

Winner of OCIC Award for best adaptation at the 1969 San Sebastian International Film Festival.
A new digital 4K restoration by Národní filmový archív, Prague.

My Sweet Little Village

Jiří Menzel, Czechoslovakia 1985, 103‘
Cast: János Bán, Márian Labuda, Rudolf Hrušínský, Libuše Šafránková, Petr Čepek, Jan Hartl

The Oscar winning director Jiří Menzel (Closely Observed Trains, 1967) got his second nomination for Best Foreign Language Film with this charming bucolic comedy penned by Zdeněk Svěrák. Set in a picturesque village, the story centres around the wobbly friendship of local trucker Pavek, short and round, and his intellectually challenged assistant, tall and skinny Otík who keeps botching simple jobs. When he directs long-suffering Pavek’s truck into a gatepost, their Laurel & Hardy relationship is threatened leaving Otík open to the scheming of a corrupt politician who wants his house. Inhabited by a bunch of eccentric characters including the absent-minded doctor (the wonderful Rudolf Hrušínský), poet at heart but a menace on the road, a pretty young wife, her young lover and her jealous older husband, and a teenager with a crush on his sibling‘s teacher, this is a warm-hearted, funny and moving portrait of a village life.

Finalist for the 1987 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
Best Actor Award for János Bán,  Paris Film Festival
A new digital 4K restoration by Národní filmový archív, Prague.

Old Czech Legends

Jiří Trnka, Czechoslovakia 1952, 85 mins, English subtitles

The world of Czech myths and legends inhabited by puppets is magically brought to life by master animator, ‘the Walt Disney of the East’ Jiří Trnka, in his digitally remastered spectacular fourth feature.

Based on Alois Jirásek’s collection of legends this stop-motion feature powered by Trnka’s poetic imagination tells the story of the mythological foundation of the Czech nation. From the stories of Forefather Czech, Princess Libuše and Přemysl The Ploughman, the founders of the Premyslid dynasty, and a womens’ revolt, to a king obsessed with gold and a fierce battle between neighbouring clans, it portrays early Bohemia as the promised land for the Czech people full of magical creatures and ferocious beasts. Using a cast of ‘thousands’, all hand-carved wooden puppets, and transforming the heroes of national myth and legend into live characters, Trnka conveys the drama and emotions through his figures’ body language, camera angles and evocative lighting, which take on epic proportions when accompanied by Václav Trojan’s orchestral score. A stunning stop-motion spectacle of folklore culminating in a climactic battle against attacking wolves and birds worthy of Kurosawa.

A new digital 2K restoration by Národní filmový archív, Prague.


November 3, 2023
December 3, 2023


30 Kensington Palace Gardens
London, Select a State W8 4QY United Kingdom


Czech Cenrre London
020 7836 3669


Full Name
Veronika Blues