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LONDON — Vaclav Havel, the Czech Republic’s first president after the Velvet Revolution against communist rule, has died at the age of 75.
The former dissident playwright, who suffered from prolonged ill-health, died Sunday morning, his secretary Sabina Tancecova told BBC news.
Havel had been due to travel to 2011’s Berlinale in February this year but cancelled at the last minute due to ill health.
The tenth and last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic, was offering European Film Market buyers a little piece of history.
The trailer for his directorial debut Leaving, unspooled there to buyers and sales agents for the first time during February’s market.
The Czech multi-hyphenate counted playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician on his “done that” list.
His uncle founded the famous Barrandov Studios near Prague also.
Based on his own play, first published in 2007 some 18 years after his first playwriting efforts and a political career in the intervening years, Havel’s filmmaking efforts came as he approached his 76th year.
Starring Josef Abrham, Atiana Vilhemora and Oldrich Kaier, Havel’s movie also includes turns from Karlovy Vary film festival director Jiri Bartoska and the former Czech president’s wife, the actress Dagmar Veskrnova.
Havel’s movie details the story of a government chancellor who faces a crisis after being removed from political power.
He based it on Shakespeare’s King Lear and Anton Checkhov‘s The Cherry Orchard.
Havel said his film version revolves around “the theme of the end. The end of man. The end of an epoch. The end of some community. The end of love.”
As president, he presided over Czechoslovakia’s transition to democracy and a free-market economy.
He oversaw its peaceful 1993 split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“Vaclav Havel was one of the greatest Europeans of our age,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted.
Havel died at his country home northeast of Prague.
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