The Firemen's Ball
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Medium: Film Video
Artist: Milos Forman (b. 1932)
Confronting Bodies: Czech communist government
Dates of Action: 1967, 1969, 1973
Location: Czekoslovakia (Czech Republic)
Description of Artwork: The Firemen's Ball is about exactly that: a dance organized by firemen. At this dance a beauty competition and a raffle are going to be held. The two main developments in the movie occur when the raffle prizes are stolen and when the firemen try, unsuccessfully, to hold the beauty competition. As chaos ensues a fire alarm goes off and the brigade fails to put out the fire, leaving a man homeless. The film ends with the homeless man and the fireman whose job it was to make sure nothing was stolen standing on a snow covered bedstead beside a wastebasket with a discarded cross in it. This social comedy can be interpreted politically in many ways.
The Incident: In 1967 the communist party did not like to ban films without public support. So, the party worked to generate public support against the film. A public screening was done in the village where the movie was shot, but the villagers ended up liking it. President Novotny then convinced the Union of Fire Fighters to come out against the film and then it was banned. It was released in 1968 and nominated for an Oscar and then banned again the following year. In 1973 it was listed as being banned "forever".
Results of Incident: The Firemen's Ball was released again in 1989, just before the "Velvet Revolution" and the collapse of the Soviet system.
Source: "Censorship: A World Encyclopedia"