Saturday, October 16, 2010

Requiescat in pace Jiří Křižan, Co-Founder of the Civic Forum & 1989 Velvet Revolution leader

Prague Daily Monitor

Screenwriter Jiří Křižan, Havel's former aide, dies
15 October 2010

Prague, Oct 14 (CTK) - Award winning Czech film scriptwriter Jiří Křižan, who was an adviser to former Czech president Vaclav Havel, died all of a sudden on Wednesday aged 68 years, CT24 TV news channel reported Thursday.

Křižan died of heart attack in Branky near Valasske Mezirici, north Moravia, junior ruling TOP 09 regional manager Petr Jan Krystof told CTK.

Křižan was unsuccessfully running as unaffiliated for TOP 09 in the May general election.

In 1989, Křižan helped Havel draft the "Several Sentences" manifesto that called on the communist authorities to release political prisoners and observe fundamental human rights and freedoms.

"I am deeply touched by the sudden death of Jiří Křižan because we were very close friends. Since the spring of 1989 he has belonged to my closest aides, he co-organised the Several Sentences petition and he was in the inner leadership of the Civic Forum (OF) (the main force behind the fall of the Communist regime in late 1989). He helped me very much as my adviser at the Prague Castle," Havel, 74, told CTK.

He added that in Křižan Czech society had lost a strong personality with firm stances.

Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra, former dissident, also expressed regret at Křižan's sudden death.

"My friend and one of the closest people of mine from the breakthrough year of 1989 has left. The Several Sentences manifesto would never have been so successful without him," Vondra told CTK.

Křižan was born on October 26, 1941, in Valasske Mezirici. His family's was persecuted by the Communist regime. His father was sentenced to death on the basis of fabricated charges in a show political trial and executed in 1951. Křižan was expelled from a grammar school before the school-leaving exams in 1958.

In 1964-1968 he studied at the Film Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague. He worked as a journalist for a couple of years and then he wrote film manuscripts.

From 1986 he was actively involved in the anti-communist dissident movement. In January 1989 he established the petition committee for the release of Havel from prison.

Along with Havel and Vondra he was a co-author of the Several Sentences petition that was signed by tens of thousands of Czechs, including some popular culture personalities, and contributed to the fall of communism.

During the November 1989 Velvet Revolution Křižan was a constituent member of the Civic Forum that associated all anti-communist forces. After Havel was elected Czechoslovak president in December 1989, Křižan became one of his main advisers.

In 1992-1994, he occupied the post of deputy interior minister. In 1995 he returned to screenwriting and he was also lecturing at FAMU.

Thirteen films based on Křižan's script have been shot, including Signum Laudis (1980, directed Martin Holy) and Shadows of a Hot Summer (Stiny horkeho leta, 1982, directed by Frantisek Vlacil) that won the main awards at the International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary, west Bohemia.

In 1998, Křižan received the Czech Lion film award for the best script for the film Sekal Has to Die (Je treba zabit Sekala, directed by Vladimir Michalek).

Křižan's novel Exercicia was publishes in the Netherlands and in Sweden 1971.

Prague, October 15, 2009 - Theatre on the Balustrade.
Meeting of the main leaders of the Civic Forum after 20 years.
Vaclav Havel, Jiri Křižan, Michael Zantovsky and Alexandr Vondra.

Havel, the former president, likened the meeting to their first gathering in November 1989. They were in the same theater, which was crowded, microphones did not work, translator not heard ... Vaclav Havel, also remembered his beginnings in theater - where he worked as a lighting technician and stagehand. Jiri Křižan speaks in the above video beginning at 4:21

[Please if you speak Czech translate what they are saying in comments below. Thank you]

The screenplay for the above film Pokoj v duši titled in English: Soul at Peace: A story of friendship and betrayal (2009) was written by Jiří Křižan. His filmography is available here.

A great artist and defender of human rights the world is a lesser place with his absence. Requiescat in pace

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