Jan Nedbal in Brothers (2023)

‘Brothers’ selected as Czechia’s official submission to the 2024 Academy Awards

The Czech Film and Television Academy has selected Brothers (Bratři) as the Czech Republic’s official submission for the Best International Film at the 2024 Academy Awards. Brothers tells the story of Josef and Ctirad Mašín, who put up an armed resistance to communist oppression in the early 1950s and later fled to the United States. The film was directed by Tomáš Mašín, himself a distant relative of the titular resistance fighters.

Brothers has yet to receive a theatrical release in the Czech Republic, and is slated to premiere in Czech cinemas from October 26, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Mašín brothers’ escape from behind the Iron Curtain. That’s just days before the Academy’s deadline for International Film submissions which falls on October 31 this year.

The Czech Film and Television Academy chose Brothers from among 12 Czech feature and documentary films submitted by their respective producers. Other films considered for the submission included the high-profile sci-fi feature Restore Point (Bod obnovy), and The Exhale (Němá tajemství), which was also directed by Tomáš Mašín and is currently playing in Czech cinemas.

Brothers delves into one of the biggest turning points in Czech history, when the communist party seized control of the country and executed political opponents such as Milada Horáková during show trials.

The titular Mašín brothers, Josef and Ctirad, were inspired by their father, an army officer and WWII resistance fighter who was executed by the Nazis in 1942.

Oskar Hes, Václav Neuzil, and Jan Nedbal in Brothers (2023)
Oskar Hes, Václav Neuzil, and Jan Nedbal in Brothers (2023)

Believing that Western forces would liberate Czechoslovakia from Soviet power following the communist coup, they formed their own resistance group that performed activities including armed robberies that resulted in the deaths of police officers.

Czech society remains divided in its perception of the Mašín brothers, with some advocating for state honors while others condemn their actions as murder.

Written by Marek Epstein (who also wrote Charlatan and the upcoming Kafka biopic Franz for Agnieszka Holland), Brothers follows Josef and Ctirad Mašín from the aftermath of World War II until their escape to West Berlin and later the United States.

Brothers stars Oskar Hes (Avenue of the Giants) and Jan Nedbal as the titular Mašín brothers, with a supporting cast that includes Václav Neužil (Zátopek) as their uncle Ctibor Novák alongside Adam Ernest, Matyáš Řezníček, Antonín Mašek, Matěj Hádek, and Tatiana Dyková Vilhelmová.

Director Tomáš Mašín has been working on producing Brothers for the past ten years, and met with Josef Mašín several times during that span. Ctirad Mašín passed away in 2011, but the 91-year-old Josef continues to reside in Santa Barbara, California, and refuses to return to the Czech Republic until fully rehabilitated by the state.

Adam Ernest and Jan Nedbal in Brothers (2023)
Adam Ernest and Jan Nedbal in Brothers (2023)

Each country is able to submit just a single film for consideration for the Best International Film Oscar, which can sometimes result in controversy. A shortlist of 15 films eligible for the nomination will be announced by the Academy on December 21, and the final nominations will be revealed on January 23, 2024.

The 96th Academy Awards ceremony is currently scheduled to take place on March 10, 2024, but could potentially be affected by the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, which prohibit writers and actors from taking part in promotional activities.

Last year, the Czech Republic selected the historical biopic Il Boemo for contention, though it ultimately failed to make the shortlist. Charlatan in 2020 and The Painted Bird in 2019 both made the shortlist, but failed to secure a nomination.

It’s been 20 years since Želary received the last Oscar nomination for the Czech Republic for what was previously Best Foreign-Language Film in 2003, while Divided We Fall earned a nomination three years earlier. 1996’s Kolya remains the only film to win the award in the history of the independent Czech Republic.

As part of Czechoslovakia, The Shop on Main Street and Closely Watched Trains both won Oscars during the Czech New Wave in the 1960s, while Miloš Forman‘s Loves of a Blonde and The Fireman’s Ball also secured nominations. Jiří Menzel‘s My Sweet Little Village (1986) and Jan Svěrák‘s Elementary School (1991) were also nominated on behalf of the country.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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