Selling ‘Czechness’ abroad: images of Jan and Zdeněk Svěrák in promotion and reception of Kolya

Richard Vojvoda

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In this article I argue that debates about Kolya (1996) and the images of its two authors Jan and Zdeněk Svěrák that were circulating in the media at the time of its release reveal several hopes and anxieties about Czech national cinema’s coming to terms with the effects of post-communist transition. I will analyse interpretations and discourses about the film circulating primarily in Czech press. The aim is to look at how the talk about Kolya developed as several discourses and interpretative strategies were introduced in different attempts to make sense of the film. The time frame I focus on here starts before the film’s release and reaches until the coverage of the Academy Awards ceremony in 1997 where the film received an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film. I argue that in this timespan, the film’s value was negotiated and contested prominently along a set of two references–the ‘truthfulness’ of the Czechness it represents, and the importance of international recognition for Czech cinema. I analyse these discourses in the context of changing conditions in Czech cinema after the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-210
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in Eastern European Cinema
Issue number2
Early online date28 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Czech Cinema
  • Film reception
  • film awards
  • national cinema
  • post-communist cinema

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