Czechoslovakia 1968 is a short documentary film about 50 years of history of Czechoslovakia, composed entirely of sepia toned archival footage. It was produced in 1969 and it focuses primarily on “Prague Spring”, also known as the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia.
A virtually wordless visual history of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1968, it is a collection of images that are haunting in their beauty. Starting out watching, one cannot imagine the heartbreaking imagery of Soviet tanks entering the city to suppress the political and cultural liberalization of the time which dominate the last half of this film.
Residents of Prague are seen protesting and mobilizing their political strength against the Soviet troops.
This moving film short was produced by the United States Information Agency under the direction of Robert M. Fresco and Denis Sanders. It features the graphic design of Norman Gollin.
Czechoslovakia 1968 received the award for the Best Documentary Short Subject of 1969 at the 42nd Annual Ceremony of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Hollywood and you can see the Oscar win speech here with Fred Astaire giving them their award.
It should be noted there are two rather unsung heroes of this remarkable film: the film editor, Marvin Walowitz, who had a long career in Hollywood, mostly as a feature film sound editor, and the composer of the evocative score, Charlie Bernstein.
This is a film that only came together in the cutting room, and Marvin’s & Charlie’s contributions are clearly enormous.
In 1997, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress having been identified as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
An online review by Robert Reynolds states “The editing job done to put this together is excellent. It’s a very effective piece which is most pertinent today given what’s going on between Russia and the Ukraine. The scenes from 1938, showing Chamberlain, Hitler and the Germans taking over, with Hitler’s insistence that he was acting to “protect” Germans living in the Sudetenland rings rather familiar for some reason. The more things change, the more they stay the same…”
You can watch the complete Oscar Award winning documentary below or support this site by purchasing your own copy on Amazon for your home library.
(Note: The film below is 14.35 minutes. The Amazon documentary is 17 minutes and elsewhere we read that the film is 22 minutes long.)
What happened in the world in 1968 must never get forgotten.