The Power of the Powerless Synopsis
Narrated by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, “The Power of the Powerless” explores Czechoslovakia’s legacy of communist rule and the struggle against it: From the iron-fisted Stalinist government of the 1950s; through the vibrant and politically active Prague Spring of the 1960s; the hard-line backlash of the 1970s; and finally the bloodless revolution of 1989. At the heart of the film is the story of blacklisted playwright Václav Havel and his fellow dissidents who, for two decades, spoke out against totalitarianism. The film culminates with the student-led movement in Prague, which sparked 1989’s Velvet Revolution and drew a half-million people into the streets, catapulting Václav Havel into the presidency. The documentary features rare and never-before-seen interviews with key figures of the Velvet Revolution including Václav Havel. The participation of young Czechs in the film, who reveal that much of their country’s recent history has already been forgotten, makes the film all the more pertinent for young viewers. Directed by Primetime Emmy Award winner Cory Taylor and completed in 2009, “The Power of the Powerless” has already been broadcast in 40 countries on 10 television networks, featured in 20 international film festivals, won multiple awards, and is currently being used by human rights organizations to encourage dissidents struggling in non-democratic countries including Burma.
The Director’s Statement
Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” is one of the most stirring episodes of people-power in recent history. Inspired by the courageous struggle of a handful of dissidents, and sparked by idealistic students demonstrating in the streets of Prague, Czechs and Slovaks brought an end to forty years of communist tyranny through bloodless revolution in 1989. Today, Vaclav Havel, the former outlaw playwright who led the opposition, is respected as one of the most important human rights figures of the 20th Century.
Though many informed people see the relevance of the Velvet Revolution to current events, great majorities of people around the world are still unaware of this inspiring story. Fewer still, are those who know about the trials and tribulations Vaclav Havel and his fellow dissidents endured to achieve a bloodless transfer of power. For this reason, and in support of freedom and human rights around the world, we set out to make this documentary.
What we couldn’t have known until we made the film, is how little is known about what really took place even in the Czech Republic, where many young people remain in the dark about their country’s communist past.
We are grateful that so many key figures from this important episode, including President Vaclav Havel, agreed to participate in this documentary. In a world where viable alternatives to armed conflict are still desperately needed, the time is right to reflect on 1989’s Velvet Revolution.
“The Power of the Powerless”