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Vinyl Generation

Czech Republic / USA 2016
produced by
Jeffrey Brown, Gary Griffin, Barbara Kopple (executive) for Peligroso Productions
directed by Keith Jones
starring Otto Urban, Ondrej Struma, David Cajthaml, Pavla Jonssonová, Jan Machácek, Jáchym Topol, Václav Havelka, Tomás Vanek, Marcel Hrubý, Veronika Bromová, Josef Bolf, Martin Mulac, Jan Hísek, Jan Kokotek, Michal Parízek, Lubos Merhaut

documentary

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Available on DVD !

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Back in the 1980s, when the Czech Republic was still part of Czechoslovakia and under Communist rule, the regime tried to stub out all influences of Western culture - which only generated a curiosity amongst the young ones, not so much as a form of political statement, and more as an expression of their own generation. And thus, vinyl records were smuggled into Czechoslovakia, of bands and acts like Lou Reed and Velvet Underground, the Sex Pistols, the Cure - to name just those most frequently cited in the film, and those so inclined knew were to secretly buy and trade records - mostly in parks that had sufficient escape routes -, always on the look-out for the secret and not so secret police, as the possession of Western records alone could have repercussions already. Based on the records they got from the West, Czech youngsters would generate their own underground, forming punk and new wave bands of their own, with most of them, just like their Western counterparts, quickly landing on a black list. What started with music soon led to other artforms and even underground jornalism, and eventually it was this generation that helped end Communism in their country. And for the next few years after, the country saw a freedom of the arts as never before, with yesteryear's underground becoming the new mainstream ... before the arts, just like in the West, started to adhere to the rules of the market.

And the protagonists from back then? Many of them (at least those portrayed in this movie) have sticked to their roots, are still making music, writing poems, organizing festivals, or even teaching art at the university themselves, and still feel the spirit of back when ...

 

A very interesting and ultimately also compelling documentary about Western rock music behind the iron curtain, a subject that doesn't usually get a lot of attention, and the underground that developed out of it, which is actually a bit of a revelation to us complacent underground lovers in the West. But the film approaches its subject matter rather lovingly, with many interesting interviewees who relate their stories in a very involving way, with lots of footage from back when, while the story is not told in a dark, communist-bashing way, but lets one take part in the joie de vivre the youngsters found back then through the music and the arts.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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