Josef Kazda – A Film Legend

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Josef Kazda. A name most have never heard before, but nonetheless, it should be talked about. Kazda was an amatuer film historian, and a true movie buff. If you ever go to Prague, Czech Republic, then you will most likely go to the Golden Lane, which is inside of the Prague castle (and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is the largest in the world!).  This tiny little lane with colorful little houses used to be a place where artisans and fortune tellers would reside. Famous existentialist writer, Franz Kafka, lived there for a while. It wasn’t until the 1950s when the communists changed it the lane to a national exhibit. But if you go to house No. 12 in the lane, you will discover an amazing story!

Now, during World War II, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia) was overrun by the Nazis. If you travel to other countries that were occupied by Germany during that time, you will see new buildings which replaced ones that had been bombed, and other reminders of the war. Prague, on the other hand, seems to have been untouched. It is said that the reason for this is Hitler wanted to retire to the beautiful city once his work was done.

We all know that the Nazi leaders hated the Jews, and actually attempted to eradicate them from the earth by means of the holocaust. But what might be lesser known is the Anti-Slavic sentiment going on during that time. The Hitler and the nazis referred to slavic people as “subhuman.” If the Germans had won the war, the Czechs would not have survived most likely. Although Czechs weren’t sent to concentration camps (however, some of them were), the Nazis did attempt to eradicate them with a slower process: by abolishing their culture!

Czech cinema before the war had really taken off. Over 160 films had been made from the year 1896 to 1938, the year that the Nazis invaded. Most of them were light comedies. It was ordered that any czech film that was in anyway nationalistic, be forbidden by the Third Reich.

This is where Josef Kazda came in.

He is credited for saving many Czech films while their country was occupied. He saved films and documentaries. It’s said that he saved thousands of these films. How did he do this? By hiding them in his house in the Golden Lane. There he would also have private screenings and try to distribute these these forbidden films. It wasn’t until many years after the war that these movies, thought to have been lost, were rediscovered.

It’s important to not only remember those who saved film, but also to remember that film is a part of culture. In a hundred years from now, how will the movies that we make today be viewed? As art? Or just a way to make a quick buck? The more research I do about film history, the more I see that film was meant to be an art. I medium to experiment and try new things. A chance to be original. The films that have stood the test of time did just that. Film is a powerful art, and an art that can preserve and shape culture.

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