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Fireman's Ball

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Horí, Má Panenko (1968)

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A Masterpiece from Czechoslovakia

Firemen's Ball was Czechoslovakian director Milos Forman's final film in his home country; he was scouting locations in Paris when the Russians moved their tanks into Prague in 1968 causing Forman to decide to remain an expatriate. Because of the supercharged political climate of the era, critics read all sorts of allegory and hidden meanings into the Firemen's Ball. Other critics simply accepted the film as the slapsticky tale of a disastrous small-town celebration in honor of a retiring fire chief, and laughed accordingly.

The Fireman's Ball (or The Firemen's Ball, Czech: Hoří, má panenko) is a 1967 comedy film directed by Miloš Forman. It is set at the annual ball of a small town's volunteer fire department, and the plot portrays the series of disasters that occur during the evening. The film uses few professional actors – the firemen portrayed are primarily played by the firemen of the small town where it was filmed.[1] In its portrayal of the prevailing corruption of the local community, and the collapse even of well-intentioned plans, the film has widely been interpreted as a satire on the East European Communist system, and it was "banned forever" in Czechoslovakia following the Soviet invasion of 1968.
The Fireman's Ball was the last film Forman made in his native Czechoslovakia before going into exile. It is also the first film he shot in color, and a milestone of the Czechoslovak New Wave.

Forman has commented on the issue of whether his film should be seen as an allegory of the larger society of the time:
I didn't want to give any special message or allegory. I wanted just to make a comedy knowing that if I'll be real, if I'll be true, the film will automatically reveal an allegorical sense. That's a problem of all governments, of all committees, including firemen's committees. That they try and they pretend and they announce that they are preparing a happy, gay, amusing evening or life for the people. And everybody has the best intentions... But suddenly things turn out in such a catastrophic way that, for me, this is a vision of what's going on today in the world.[4]
The film generated considerable controversy on its release. Among other things, fire companies across Czechoslovakia protested that the film was an attack on their integrity, to the extent that Forman and his team felt obliged to tour the country dispelling this literal reading.[5] The Czechoslovakian Communist party and the censors took exception to the film's cynical tone, and may also have feared that it represented a political allegory attacking the Communist system. The film ran for three weeks during the Dubcek era, but after the post-Prague Spring crackdown it was "banned forever".[6]
Carlo Ponti, the film's Italian producer, also took umbrage at the film and pulled his financing, leaving Forman to face a possible 10 years imprisonment for "economic damage to the state". Producers in Paris, such as François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, picked up the rights and spared him the charges. The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia occurred while Forman was still in Paris courting these producers, and he decided to remain outside Czechoslovakia.

The film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 41st Academy Awards.[7] The film was also listed to compete at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival,[8] but the festival was cancelled due to the events of May 1968 in France.

Release Date: October4, 1967

Distrib: Cinema V


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