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Oratorio for Prague

Posted on

Oratorio for Prague

Current Status:
In Season
26 minutes
Jane Nemec
Facets Home Video
Documentary, War

We gave it an A-

In August 1968, Prague director Jan Nemec set out to film a carnival and ended up shooting a war. Wide-eyed and earnest, Oratorio for Prague catches Czechs and Slovaks reveling in hippie love, folk traditions, and the human face of Socialist Alexander Dubcek, all as blissfully unaware as Nemec himself that they were about to witness a doomsday scenario. The shocked crew soon finds its cameras trained on Soviet tanks, shooting the raw footage that would first show the world that, contrary to official statements from the USSR, the Red Army was not ”invited.”

The film Nemec had planned would probably have been a sweet trifle, a spectacle of dancing teens and smiling grannies. Instead, with unanticipated scenes such as that of a grandmother facing down tanks with a portrait of her president, the filmmaker’s naïveté only underscores the poignant futility of his compatriots’ protests. A-