This epic, long-form docudrama by acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland (made for HBO Europe as a three-part miniseries) chronicles the political, legal, and moral fallout that followed after Czech student protestor Jan Palach set himself on fire in protest against government repression in 1969.

Special Presentations

Burning Bush

Agnieszka Holland

Dramatic, detailed, and full of secrets, Agnieszka Holland's latest is a pleasure to watch. Made for HBO Europe as a threepart miniseries, Burning Bush is the story of Czechoslovakia at the height of political turmoil and personal betrayals.

In January, 1969, just months after the Prague Spring crackdown, a student protester sets himself on fire in Prague. With local authorities still fearful of Soviet leaders in Moscow, the secret police set out to squash any similar dissent. They also begin a clandestine campaign to discredit the dead protester, Jan Palach.

Over three eighty-minute parts, Holland weaves a web of conflicts among the student protesters, the police, the media, and legal professionals, all trying to advance their own interests while watching their backs. At the heart of it stands Dagmar Bure ová, a stylish young prosecutor seeking the truth on behalf of Palach's heartbroken mother. As a principled woman working in a legal system built on lies, loyalties, and trade-offs, Bure ová is constantly at risk. Her husband, a doctor at the hospital where Palach was taken before he died, faces a disciplinary hearing for his own unorthodox actions.

Burning Bush is based on a true story, and Holland does remarkable work capturing the era with authentic cinematic detail. The production design and costumes are pitch perfect for late-sixties central Europe, and the fluid, graceful camera movement lends both urgency and beauty to the storytelling. This is a real coup for Agnieszka Holland, and one of the year's major achievements in longform drama. So go ahead. Binge.

CAMERON BAILEY

Screenings

Fri Sep 06

Scotiabank 8

Industry
11:45am
Sun Sep 08

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Regular
4:00pm
Fri Sep 13

Ryerson Theatre

Regular
3:30pm
Sun Sep 15

TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Regular
9:30am