August 1968

Spent five hours yesterday at the Film Forum, NY's great retrospective movie theater, watching "Burning Bush." It seems the FF is the only venue now showing the film but it is available for streaming on Fandor (about which I know nothing).

Czecheslovakia after the Soviet invasion in '68 is the background to the story of Jan Paluch who immolated himself in protest and the people who tried to preserve the meaning and purpose of his act. Here is the link to Fandor. Here is a brief description of this remarkable film.

Agnieszka Holland is an extraordinarily gifted and versatile filmmaker and although the events depicted in BURNING BUSH occurred forty-five years ago, the issues it explores are entirely relevant today. Acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland returns to a pivotal time in modern Czech history: the shocking act of a student of the Charles University's Faculty of Arts, who in protest of the Soviet occupation, set himself on fire in Prague's Wenceslas Square on the 16th of January in 1969 and died four days later. Through the story of the brave defense attorney Dagmar Buresova, who defended Jan Palach's legacy in a doomed lawsuit, the film examines the transformations taking place in Czechoslovak society after the invasion of the armies of the Warsaw Pact in August of 1968. It depicts the beginnings of Czech and Slovak resistance against the occupation, which reached its apex with the mass protests during Palach's funeral. It also shows the nation's gradual resignation under the pressure of fear and harsher persecution.


Margaret O’Brien Steinfels is a former editor of Commonweal. 

Also by this author
Obama sticks to the point.

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads