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Burning Bush: New York Film Festival 2013

Prague, 1969, five months into the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia: Real-life student Jan Palach walks into a public square, douses himself...

New York Film Festival 2013: Burning Bush

Prague, 1969, five months into the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia: Real-life student Jan Palach walks into a public square, douses himself with gasoline and sets himself ablaze. This political statement will send shock waves through the lives of numerous people, including his family, his fellow anti-Communist agitators, the detective investigating the case and, notably, a lawyer who’s defending Palach’s good name from being slandered by the government. You can see what Polish filmmaker Agnieska Holland is going for here: a multi-character dramatization that starts small and ends up putting an entire society under the microscope à la The Wire or Treme. (Given that the project had been commissioned for HBO Europe and Holland has helmed episodes for both TV shows, the similarity isn’t a coincidence.) Yet this three-episode miniseries never finds its footing as either a historical document or a layered look at the reverberations of martyrdom. Click for showtimes.—David Fear

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