Politics and Eastern European film-making went hand in hand for many decades. This was sometimes at the behest of the authorities but the best examples are when film makers use their voice to criticise. Often considered to be the ‘most Czech’ of his contemporaries in terms of inward focus and one of the main influences on the Czech New Wave, Vojtech Jasný like many other filmmakers had to flee his country after the Prague Spring.
Opening in a small Moravian village at the end of World War II, All My Good Countrymen follows the fortunes of seven friends, ordinary men who try their best to earn a living. Life takes a turn for the worst when the Communist administration plan to force collectivisation on the peasant farmers. A self-appointed troika use pressure to make them join, but whilst the most affluent are forced out, most refuse to comply, following the example of their unofficial leader František (Radoslav Brzobohatý).
In many ways All My Good Countrymen is a labour of love for Jasný. It’s based on true events and many of the characters come from his experience living through the period. As the Communist rule spread disharmony and fear, setting friend upon friend, there’s also a strong and loving heartbeat of idyllic rural life continuing regardless. František represents the goodness and determination of peasants to carry on with their lives. All My Good Countrymen is a beautiful film and undoubtedly a Czech masterpiece.
All My Countrymen is released on DVD by Second Run today.