In 1967, an idea was born to create a festival that would showcase the films made during the auspicious years of political release in 1960s Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, when the idea came to fruition on October 24th, 1968, the “friendly” Warsaw Pact armies had already been stationed in Czechoslovakia – they had marched in to occupy the country two months before. And so, Finále, or the review of the Films of Our Times (FIlmy NAšich LEt in Czech) was born under a dark political shadow.
The very first year showcased the best of all films made between 1960 and 1968. The main award, the Kingfisher, was given to Evald Schorm’s film, Courage for Every Day. The bird, also known as ‘the flying jewel’ for its vivid colors, was chosen as a symbol of hope for a better Czechoslovakia to come after the transformation of January 1968. Yet the following months and years proved this to be more wishful thinking than reality. The third Finále was suffocated under a heavy burden of social and political requirements and demands. There were no Kingfisher winners in 1970, which put an end to a festival that had only just begun. Finále wasn’t resurrected until after the fall of the communist regime in Autumn 1989. The fourth year of the festival took place in October 1990. All twelve competing films were awarded a Kingfisher, as they represented the entirety of Czechoslovak cinema production between 1969 and 1989. However, the festival was shelved again the following year, with no Finále in 1992.
Year six of Finále came in 1993, this time in spring. It was the third re-birth of the festival, this time straight into the fast waters of a new market economy. Since then it has changed management several times, seen the main venue and screening place disappear, and gone through dramatic programming changes. In the meantime, Czechoslovakia was separated, and Slovak films did not compete again until 2014.
Finále has taken place every spring since 1993, showcasing the best of Czech cinema from the previous year. And beginning with the 2003 edition, the competing films are assessed by an international jury and a documentary competition has also been added, awarding its own Kingfisher.
The festival has really boomed in the last 20 years. What started as a complete representation of domestic cinema gradually became a major event, offering archive and thematic programs, glimpses into foreign cinema, honoring anniversaries and presenting films in development. The original venue, Elektra/Moskva/Elektra cinema with a thousand-seat screening hall, became a Vietnamese-owned marketplace and showing festival films in a multiplex was a no-go. So the whole festival moved to Měšťanská Beseda in 2009 and has stayed there ever since. It may well be the only film festival in the world that does not screen in actual cinema halls.
A new team of organizers took over in 2014, bringing a new vision (and visual). Slovak films were again invited to compete for the Golden Kingfisher in one of the categories: feature films and documentaries, as well as the newly added TV production competition. The off-screen program spread into new and attractive locations – such as the Loos interiors of DEPO2015. Finále is alive and well, in spite of politics and the market economy!
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