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Oscars: Czechs Choose HBO's 'Burning Bush' for Foreign Language Category

Burning Bush
"Burning Bush"

Director Agnieszka Holland's feature tells the story of Czech student Jan Palach's 1969 self-sacrifice in the name of freedom.

MOSCOW – The Czech Film and Television Academy announced on Monday that the theatrical release version of Burning Bush, directed by Agnieszka Holland, is the Czech Republic entry for best foreign language Oscar.

Produced by HBO Europe from a script by Stepan Hulik, the film is the story of a Charles University student Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in the Czech capital's Wenceslas Square in January, 1969, a year after Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks crushed the Prague Spring, bringing to a sudden halt a thawing of the harsher aspects of Communist rule in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Polish-born Holland was a student at Prague's FAMU film school at the time and, like many of her generation, was deeply affected by the act of ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.

Burning Bush, which was also produced as a three-part television series, follows the story of Palach's death and the legal fight by his family to clear his name in the face of the oppressive communist state propaganda machine.

Picking up the story four days after his self-immolation, the film follows the efforts of communist authorities to discredit his name and the long struggle by his family to establish the truth.

Last year the director's Polish film In Darkness was Poland's Oscar nomination, making it to the penultimate shortlist.