Atoms of Eternity: Archive Short Film Online!

What is the role of short film in the history of Czech cinema? How and to whom did it speak in its few minutes? Why is it so important for the contemporary form of documentary film? Open the as yet unknown collections of short Czech film of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s from the National Film Archive in Prague! Immerse yourselves in film history through the unique project Atoms of Eternity and watch five archive short films selected exclusively for the viewers of from Monday, February 23 to Sunday, March 8 for free!

Atoms of Eternity: book, e-book, online programme

The original film study Atoms of Eternity, dealing with the as yet unmapped period of Czech short film of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, was launched in the fall of 2014. The exceptional work by film historian Lucie Česálková from the National Film Archive in Prague, which has been published in book form as well as in electronic form including a selection of the analysed films, is now available to viewers from around the world, introducing as yet unpublished archive short films. Would you like to learn more about the project? Read more in our news!

Short films, big commissions

One of the rather neglected aspects of Czech documentary film of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s consists in the fact that it was often commissioned; the films were most frequently commissioned by the state, or else by other governmental as well as non-governmental institutions. The collection of archive films from this period preserved at the National Film Archive represents the bond between documentary film and the state and (its) institutions, embracing the broadest spectrum of the forms of this relationship. It introduces various types of commissions and their relation to the period priorities (especially social policies), showing that they were made by leading creative personalities of Czech documentary and proving the diversity of employed formal and stylistic means.

Although the earliest and the latest film are mere 12 years away from each other (as the 5 presented films were made between 1936 and 1948), they span one of the most dynamic periods of local history, ranging from the end of the First Republic through the Second Republic and the occupation period to the Third Republic and the events of the Victorious February of 1948. Thus they cover a period of several political regimes whose interests they served.

ATTACK ON PRAGUE by Karel Melíšek is a good illustration of the fighting spirit at the end of the First Republic which was aware of the war threat on the part of the neighbouring Nazi Germany but still believed it could be averted. As part of the media campaign of the Civil Anti-Aircraft Defence, further spread by means of leaflets, posters and handbooks, Attack on Prague demonstrates the basic air raid drill during a potential air raid of Prague, calling for an active participation in the defence of the republic.

Jan Libora’s HEALTH WAR represents the production of one of the most prestigious producers of documentary films from the turn of the First and Second Republic; the cultural department of A-B Company; on the one hand while representing the period tendency to use documentary film to promote local welfare institutions and institutes on the other hand. In this case, it is the National Medical Institute and its role in the development of medications and the organization of preventive vaccination for children.

JOYFUL WORK by Jiří Lehovec from 1946 proves the flexibility with which images filmed for other purposes during the war period could circulate in documentary films of the early post-war period. Lehovec uses footage he filmed in 1942 as a commission by Mautner Textilwerke, a Náchod company controlled by Germans, to promote employment in textile industry. The question of employment is also discussed in LIFE CROSSROADS by Ludvík Toman, a feared chief commissioning editor of Barrandov Studios during the normalization era. As a commission of the Ministry of Social Care, it uses a re-enacted story to point out the significance of career advice services helping people to choose the right profession as a basis for human happiness.

The last presented film TAX DISCIPLINE, on the contrary, was commissioned by the Ministry of Finance. Its director Vladimír Čech conceived it as a defence of the tax system, using hyperbole to show what would happen if we did not pay the taxes among other things.

Set out on a film trip to the cinema archives and beginnings of Czech documentary. Watch five short films of the pre-war, war and post-war years of 1936 to 1948 online and for free at! 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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