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A nation on the screen in ‘Czech That Film’

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When: Sunday to July 3

Where: Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State

Tickets: $11; students, $7; members, $6; double-bill discounts on Sundays

Info: (312) 846-2600;

Updated: July 8, 2013 6:09AM

A biological clock comedy and a twisty sex crime thriller are among the titles scheduled for “Czech That Film,” a series beginning Sunday at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Three intriguing dramas also touch on historical turns in the country’s history: Germans expelled in 1945, an “anti-Zionist” show trial in 1953, and an illicit punk scene in 1983.

Screening through July 3, “Czech That Film” offers eight fiction features (three from 2012, five from 2011) during its 10-city tour run, presented by the Prague brewery Staropramen, with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic. Three of the seven titles recently screened here at European Union Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival also receive reprise screenings. All Czech dialogue is subtitled in English.


3 p.m., “Innocence”: In this thorny domestic drama, director Jan Hrebejk (“Divided We Fall,” “Up and Down”) and his co-writer Petr Jarchovsky depict a physician with a 14-year-old patient who claims they are in love and have sex. The detective on the case was once married to the doctor’s current wife. Then the focus abruptly shifts to another family member. Hrebejk, winner of best director honors in the 2012 Czech Lion Awards, finds a strange justice when a false accusation segues to an age-inappropriate infidelity. Also, 8 p.m. Wednesday.

5 p.m., “In the Shadow”: The Czech Republic’s 2012 entry for best foreign-language film Oscar is a thriller about scapegoats and currency devaluation. Show trials brand Jews as U.S. aggressors. “The early 1950s is one of the darkest times in Czechoslovak history,” says director David Ondricek, who will attend both screenings. “Rain, dark corners, frequent power blackouts help create the atmosphere of a film noir.” Pursuing the case of a sweaty safecracker, police Captain Hakl (Ivan Trojan) is suspiciously replaced by Major Zenke (Sebastian Koch from “The Lives of Others”), an East German investigator with an S.S. tattoo. This paranoid period piece rips the Soviet-instituted State Security apparatus. Also, 8 p.m. Monday.

June 16

3 p.m. “Don’t Stop”: A routine coming-of-age story with disapproving dads and other authorities as filmmaker Richard Rericha frames “Don’t Stop” as a middle-aged dad’s long flashback to his punk band named after France’s public enemy No. 1 in 1950. Smugglers peddle U.K. vinyl. The dropout with the first Mohawk in Prague paints “I Hate You” on his black leather jacket. Early ’80s TV clips indict the status quo, but there is no echo of the Plastic People, the real anti-state rockers in the ’70s. Also, 8:15 p.m. June 17.

5 p.m. “Flower Buds”: Zdenek Jirasky writes and directs a warm look at a downbeat family at Christmastime. The dad (Vladimir Javorsky) neglects his duties as a railroad switch operator so he can build ships-in-bottles. His wife rehearses for a group gymnastics competition. His pot-growing son turns pimp. And his unwed daughter is pregnant. When fireworks ignite due to a tragedy at a train crossing, it becomes clear that this is not the usual Yuletide uplift. Also, 8:15 p.m. June 19.

June 23

3 p.m., “Perfect Days”: Alice Nellis directs a reproduction comedy (that’s a romantic comedy with an emphasis on eggs) based on Liz Lochhead’s play. A 44-year-old salon celebrity with a popular makeover TV show tells her mom: “I refuse to pretend that I’m happy so that you can be happy that I’m happy.” But getting pregnant would make her happy. Enter the sperm donated by a gay pal. Baby ensues. Also, 8 p.m. June 24.

5:15 p.m., “Signal”: An aspiring opera singer and a particle physics student drive around the countryside with a con. Claiming to scout locations for a cellphone tower, they get bribes from property owners and get lucky with local gals. Tomas Rehorek directs a comic drama where the famous Czech director and actor Jiri Menzel plays a scientist discredited by authorities in the bad old days. Also, 8 p.m. June 26.

June 30

5:15 p.m. “Alois Nebel”: Director Tomas Lunak’s auspicious debut also was the Czech Republic’s entry for the 2011 best foreign language film Oscar. A haunting memory of expelled Germans in 1945 sparks visions in 1989 that drive a stationmaster to a sanitarium. Based on a graphic novel trilogy, this animated tale uses black-and-white rotoscoping as it ponders trauma on the Polish border as the Berlin Wall falls. Also, 8:15 p.m. July 3.

Bill Stamets is a free-lance reviewer and writer.

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