Review: ‘A Trial in Prague’

A measured, informative history of events leading to the 1952 show trial of 14 leading Communists on trumped-up treason and espionage charges, "A Trial in Prague" sheds valuable light on a complex period of post-World War II Czechoslovakia. As 11 of the defendants subsequently hanged were Jewish, item could travel to like-themed fests, with subsequent edutube play a natural prospect.

A measured, informative history of events leading to the 1952 show trial of 14 leading Communists on trumped-up treason and espionage charges, “A Trial in Prague” sheds valuable light on a complex period of post-World War II Czechoslovakia. As 11 of the defendants subsequently hanged were Jewish, item could travel to like-themed fests, with subsequent edutube play a natural prospect.

Neatly structured pic mixes archival footage with interviews of surviving participants and relatives in chronological chapters to explain the dark forces at work. Story begins with the initial, idealistic lure of Communist ideology to the diverse group, explains Joseph Stalin’s anger at Tito and charts growing wave of anti-Semitism that lead to the trial. Interviewees include current Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan, whose father was one of the group; Lise London, whose husband Artur’s surreptitious prison memoir became 1970 Costa-Gavras pic “The Confession”; and, most moving, widow of party second-in-command Rudolf Slansky, for whom trial is often named. Docu helmer Zuzana Justman wrote and exec-produced 1989 “Terezin Diary,” 1993 “Czech Women: Now We Are Free” and Emmy-winning 1998 pic “Voices of the Children.” Tech credits were workmanlike on 16mm caught.

A Trial in Prague

Production

A Pick production, in association with Space Films. Produced by Zuzana Justman, Jiri Jezek, Zuzana Cervenkova, David Charap. (International sales: Pick Prods., New York.) Directed, written by Zuzana Justman.

Crew

Camera (color, B&W), Miro Gabor, Marek Jicha; editor, David Charap; music, Peter Fish; sound Jiri Kubicek, Jan Valouch, Kamil Hodousek. Reviewed at Montreal Film Festival (World Cinema: Reflections of Our Time), Aug. 27, 2000. Running time: 84 MIN.

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