On 16 January 1969, Czech student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Prague’s Wenceslas Square. He did so in order to protest against the 1968 invasion and subsequent occupation of Czechoslovakia by armies belonging to the Warsaw Pact. Palach died from his injuries several days later. Palach is widely regarded as a hero and has since been commemorated in Prague, most notably by a bronze cross where he fell outside the National Museum. Protests on the twentieth anniversary of his death (15-21 January 1989) are generally regarded as a precursor to the fall of Communism several months later.
Burning Bush (directed by Agnieszka Holland) is a captivating and thrilling three part drama which follows these events and the consequences of Palach’s act for both his family and the Czech people. At the centre of this drama is Dagmar Burešová (played by Tatiana Pauhofová), a tenacious lawyer instructed by the Palach family to contest the defamatory remarks of a Communist official regarding Jan Palach. The drama follows the obstacles and inevitable consequences for those seeking justice and truth against the might of the Communist state.
Ultimately this drama is a tale of David versus Goliath and a testament to the bravery of those prepared to stand up for justice and truth against a totalitarian regime.
UK viewers can watch ‘Burning Bush’ as part of the Channel 4 collection ‘Walter Presents’: http://www.channel4.com/collection/walter-presents