Fire. Protest. Courage

Who are those to whom free will is the highest principle and civil protest a fundamental right and duty? Find the answers in four documentary films representing the phenomenon of self-immolation as a form of political resistance. On the occasion of a historical anniversary, recall those who have become “living torches“ of the second half of the 20th century. Watch a special thematic selection of archive films from January 13 to 19 at for free.

Fire has represented a symbol of freedom and indomitability since time immemorial. It is an essential means of many a human activity. In cultural history, it has become a means of Prometheus’ mythological revolt; it represents the eternal flame of memories as well as the last goodbye to a person’s body. However, fire gains a special meaning when started voluntarily in the hands of a certain person; in the act of self-immolation. It was this very act that has become one of the most notable gestures of individual political protest against modern totalitarian regimes. In Czechoslovakia, invaded briefly and unexpectedly by the Eastern armies of the Warsaw Pact that have quickly snuffed out the period of the “Prague Spring” and of a political thaw, young student of history and political economy Jan Palach has committed suicide by self-immolation** on January 16, 1969**. His voluntary death has stirred a great response in the disoriented society and has become a symbol of protest against the Soviet regime. The documentary film The Wake. August 1968 As Seen by Slovak Documakers captures the monumental process of the funeral of Jan Palach. It features interviews with leading period political personalities, including Václav Havel, as well as with unknown citizens. Jan Zajíc – Torch No.2 recalls the story of another young student who was inspired by the deed of Jan Palach. The short film I Am for a Human Face presents the life story of a third yet least known political protester, Evžen Plocek. Made by the citizens of the city where the tragedy took place, the documentary had to remain hidden from the public for two decades. The archive triptych is supplemented by an experimental film bordering on theatre performance Jan Hus - A Mass for Three Dead Men. The feature-length black-and-white 35 mm film is based on an artistic metaphor of an individual’s struggle against a totalitarian society using the examples of another three “human torches”; Britain’s Graham Bamford, German pastor Oskar Brüsewitz and Ryszard Siwiecz from Poland.

Watch the films about fire and political courage at from Monday, January 13 to Sunday, January 19, 2014 for free!

Selected films is powered by Doc Alliance, a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.

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