An Aggie grad is bringing his love of the Czech Republic back to Texas A&M at 6 p.m. Thursday for a free screening of Listopad, a narrative film he produced about three friends caught up in the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
The screening, hosted by Aggie Cinema, Texas A&M Libraries and the Brazos Valley Czech Heritage Society, is open to the public and will be in room 2400 of the Memorial Student Center.
Jeffrey Brown, class of '93, was a freshman at Texas A&M when Slovak middle school and university students in Czechoslovakia staged a peaceful protest on Nov. 16, 1989. The next day, the students led another demonstration in Prague, where riot police fought back, sending the country into upheaval. By Dec. 29, the Communist government had removed itself from power and a parliamentary republic was established.
Brown's response, at the time, was to form the Students for Czechoslovakia program and organize students into traveling to the Czech Republic to teach English.
Little did Brown know that 20 years later he would be producing a film about the revolution and three men who lived through the changing of the guard.
"I got involved with Listopad because Gary Griffin, the writer/director, asked me to be involved with the project," Brown said on Friday from his home in Wimberly.
While Brown was studying English and history in College Station, Griffin was in the midst of the Velvet Revolution as a cameraman for NBC. That footage, captured in 1989, found itself into Listopad when production began 20 years after the fall of communism.
Griffin and Brown started talking about the film in 2005 and began filming in November 2009, during the 20th anniversary of the revolution.
"That's probably the best part of the film," said Brown, who lived in the Czech Republic for 20 years after graduating from A&M.
"We started shooting when they were having festivities. We closed the original location of the protest in Prague. We had about 400 extras in that first scene -- as well as hundreds of other drunk people in the background who were celebrating the anniversary."
Listopad, Czech for "November," focuses on the lives of Petr, Jiri and Ondrej, and the story of their involvement in the protests and subsequent revolution.
Griffin wrote the screenplay based on the lives of the three men and the events surrounding the Velvet Revolution, so named because no lives were lost in the government takeover.
The Czech film with English subtitles was shown at the Austin Film Festival in 2014 and premiered in the Czech Republic on Nov. 17, 2014 on the 25th anniversary.
"The story is relevant to anyone who watches it," Mary Compton, program coordinator for Aggie Cinema, said on Friday. "It uses music, animation and other elements that make the story easy to connect with."
EJ Biskup, president of the Brazos Valley Czech Heritage Society, said the group is sponsoring the screening at A&M as a way to reach more young people and bolster membership.
"Many of us were in the same position, too busy to ask questions of our grandparents about their home country and the culture," Biskup said.
Biskup hopes the film raises important questions for students and the community, questions that can be answered by becoming involved with the heritage society.