Czech and Slovak presidents to attend premiere of new Václav Havel documentary in Prague

Amid current tense relations between Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová is set to visit to Prague on Monday, March 18. Both Čaputová and Czech President Petr Pavel are slated to attend the premiere of the new documentary Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me? (Tady Havel, slyšíte mě?), spokespeople for both leaders have confirmed.

Directed by Petr Jančárek, Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me? showcases Václav Havel, the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic, through never-before-seen material. Jančárek edited the film together from more than 200 hours of footage he shot of Havel in the final years of his life, from 2009-2012.

“[Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me?] aims to show Havel as a dramatic figure through his history and development, as a shy but consistent director of his own destiny, as a man with a life full of paradoxes, absurdities and unexpected twists,” reads the film’s official description. “And also as a person whose credo was that our actions must always be in accordance with our conscience.”

Despite being one of the most important political figures from the former Soviet Bloc in the years following the fall of the Iron Curtain, most behind-the-scenes portrayals of Václav Havel capture him as a modest everyman. In that regard, Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me? seems to follow in the footsteps of Pavel Koutecký’s excellent 2008 documentary Citizen Havel.

“[The film] certainly does not intend to become a formally polished monument to the giant or slogan in the encyclopedia of world statesmen,” director Jančárek remarked before presenting portions of the film at last year’s Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.

Čaputová last visited Prague in December, when she attended the funeral of Karl Schwarzenberg. The Slovak President has maintained friendly relations with the Czech Republic since appearing at on stage with Pavel at Prague’s Forum Karlín as he announced his victory in the 2023 Czech presidential election.

However, Čaputová is not running for re-election in the next Slovak presidential election, which will see its first round take place later this month.

Czech-Slovak relations are currently strained with Czech leaders including Pavel and PM Petr Fiala strongly advocating for military support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, and Slovak PM Robert Fico heavily opposed. Relations could further deteriorate should Fico ally Peter Pellegrini replace Čaputová in office.

Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me? will open wide in Czech cinemas from April 11. A Slovak release date has yet to be confirmed.

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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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