Introductory remarks by Alison Greene, MFAH curator of Contemporary Art and Special Projects
In 1989 the MFAH presented the landmark exhibition Czech Modernism: 1900–1945, which inspired the current exhibition New Formations: Czech Avant-Garde Art and Modern Glass from the Roy and Mary Cullen Collection. Hej Rup!, featuring the comic duo George Voscovec and Jan Werich, was among the many films screened as part of the original exhibition. In the late 1920s and 1930s, these Czech burlesque entertainers were leaders of The Liberated, a theater group that became a center for Czech clownery and a reaction to contemporary political and societal problems. Hej Rup! pairs their slapstick antics with a pointed anti-fascist message. Two unemployed milk-cannery workers (Voscovec and Werich) discover that one owns a half-finished apartment house and rallies fellow workers to complete the building for use as a collective dairy.
Special thanks to Karel Zima, National Film Archive (Prague), and Irena Kovarova, freelance film programmer (New York).