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Vintage art propaganda Czech film Smugglers of Death premiers in Manila

Vintage art propaganda film Smugglers of Death also known as King of Šumava (Král Šumavy, 1959) is to premiere in Manila as a part of the Czech Movie Gems film festival

Despite having the typical look of a propaganda piece in a similar vein as dozens of other films in the then-Socialist bloc; Smugglers of Death was considered a distinctive art piece for its cinematic point of view that garnered it an audience of over four million viewers after its release in 1959.

The plot of the film revolves around the heroic border guards defending communist Czechoslovakia from mysterious smugglers who are supported by imperialist enemy forces. What sets Smugglers of Death apart from other films produced during the time was the impressive and thrilling filmmaking done in atmospheric locations deep in forests. Major climactic parts were shot at nighttime for which the cinematography brilliantly played with the natural light, mist and darkness of the set – the same characteristic found in the famous British gothic horror mystery film released the same year, The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Czech Ambassador Jaroslav Olša, jr. speaks highly of the film for its priceless cinematography, and notes it as a very good example of great filmography of the era long-forgotten. “It is an interesting example of a propaganda that best captures the audience with great ideological impact through its then-relevant plot and moving characters. With this Czech film offering, I believe Filipinos, especially historians and academicians; will be able to see a different vantage point from the “opposite’ ideological side of the world, which is now inexistent.”

Smugglers of Death is the first feature film by then young director Karel Kachyňa (1924-2004) who was later one of the protagonists of the so-called New Wave of Czech cinema. The 1960s movement included household names such as Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel. Kachyňa’s career spanned over five decades directing many classics. One of which was the haunting psychological movie The Ear (1970), that was filmed shortly after the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia and immediately banned by the censors only to be released twenty years later after the fall of communist dictatorship. This political drama depicts a paranoid family of a high ranking Communist official who thinks they are under surveillance and fears for their lives. The film competed for the Golden Palm at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival.

Another Kachyňa masterpiece was Love Between the Raindrops (1979), a comedic coming-of-age story of love and betrayal set in the 1930s that became an official Czechoslovakian entry for the 53rd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film. Kachyňa achieved numerous accolades until the end of his career. One of his last films was the drama Fany (1995) which was the Czech film of the year awardee telling the story of the “necessary” coexistence of two very different women after a life-changing familial situation.


Catch the screening of vintage classic, Smugglers of Death at Cinematheque Centre Manila on February 14 at 6:30 pm. Admission is free on a first come, first served basis and subject to capacity.

"Czech Movie Gems" film festival is the first year-long event of Czech movie screenings, celebrating best the achievements of Czech cinema. 

Hosted by Cinematheque Centre Manila, Czech Movie Gems features a spectacular line-up of films spanning almost 50 years from the 1950s to the 2000s. Screening every second Wednesday of the month, 13 films of different genres from drama, comedy, romance, musical to science fiction, animation, historical and war will be screened from January 2018 to January 2019.

The festival was open on January 10, 2018 by the Chairperson of FDCP Ms. Liza Dino and Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Philippines Mr. Jaroslav Olša, jr. by screening of the Award-winning film “Kolya”. 

Next screenings: 

14 Mar 2018 The Rebels (2001) – retro 1960s musical
11 Apr 2018 Ikarie XB-1 (1963) – inspired by Star Trek creators
9 May 2018 Dark Blue World (2001) – Czechs had its Pearl Harbor (and film)
13 Jun 2018 Beauty in Trouble (2006) – what about marrying a rich foreigner?