Within steps of Kafka’s rotating face, tucked into the Palác Chicago on the second floor, NaFilM (National Film Museum) operates in it’s second but hopefully not last location in Prague. As a student run project it is the only of it’s kind in the Czech Republic.
A few years ago, Charles University film students noticed that the only museum dedicated to film was specific to Czech pioneering filmmaker, Karel Zeman. Instead, they wanted to establish a showroom for the history, art, and literacy of all Czech film. NaFilM’s current exhibit stands as a preview for what possibilities lie ahead in the future for a national museum of film.
The lobby of the museum is fresh with simplistic decor and a wall dedicated to multi-color sticky note gratifications from patrons. They offer coffee for purchase and seating to invite those who enjoy discussion and caffeine. Czech film oriented pins, tote-bags, and other gifts are available to show support for the growing initiative.
The exhibit reveals surprises around every corner revealing a timeline of film history. It is a hands on exhibit from the start, beginning with the Zoetrope, a pre-film device that shows how our minds create the illusion of motion with lights and small slits. Museum goers are encouraged to spin and view many different illusions as they learn the basics of film in motion.
Terezie Křižkovská, one of the three founders of NaFilM, explains that having a hands-on museum is important for the community. “Experience is important for engagement,” she says.
NaFilM shows the futuristic abilities of the Samsung Gear VR, a virtual reality simulator where goggles and headsets are needed to leap into a virtual tour of the world. The headsets do not tune out the awe and laughs from those who have never experienced the new technology. This makes for an interesting transition into viewing one of the first Czech films. The film possesses a self-awareness of shocking and entertaining viewers as a new technology.
The museum’s tour is completed with installations of the Devětsil avant-garde movement from the 1920’s, early animation, and some of the first films. All require active engagement and imagination to behold how film and specifically Czech film have had crucial impact on modern culture and society.
While their second and current location allows NaFilM to expand, Křižkovská’s goal for the future includes finding a bigger space to make a permanent home for NaFilM. She strives for adding in editing and sound components to educate further on film’s diversity. “I hope to include a cinema and an established center for others to come and have discussions and workshops on film,” she says. NaFilM does currently include workshops for cinema and stop-motion animation in Czech and English.
Although the future of NaFilM could inspire and educate many, there is little confirmation in it’s continuation.
“Czech Republic is a small country but it comes with a huge film industry.” says Křižkovská explaining the importance of Czech film. For instance, in the Czech Republic there are seldom books that introduce a person to the rich history, according to Křižkovská.
“Film talks a lot about culture and its context,” she says when asked about how Czech culture translates to the screen, Křižkovská is also remindful of the strength of Czech culture, since many Czech filmmakers were forbidden to express culture and new concepts in the previous century. “When there is a fight for culture, every time that happens, it is a powerful output.”
Film is uniquely expressive of time, culture, and political forces. Many who have recognized this see the importance for the student’s passion in creating the Czech Republic’s first national film museum. NaFilM has extended its lease for its current location until March 31, 2018.
Photo courtesy of NaFilm