And the Oscar Goes To NaFilM’s “Exhibition on Film!—In Motion”

“Exhibition on Film!—In Motion” has been extended until the end of 2017 @ Palác Chicago

“Come experience film differently” is the motto of the National Film Museum, or NaFilM, and “experience” is the key word here. According to Terezie Křížkovská, who is one-fourth of the museum’s young, quirky founders, “People are usually consuming films. This can enrich them.” Due to its success in enriching its visitors, “Exhibition on Film!—In Motion” has been extended until the end of 2017.

NaFilM is a museum that defies the term. Its current “Exhibition on Film!—In Motion” provides visitors with an engaging look at the history of cinema through an interactive approach, focusing especially on the Czech film industry. The displays are safe to touch, and some of them look like toys for grown-ups. Take the Zoetrope: a large cylinder lined with slits and housing an inner lining with cartoonish pictures, the Zoetrope gives the illusion of animation when in motion. Guests are welcome to give it a spin and peek through the slits in order to witness the nineteenth century version of a film. When the lights are shut off, the Zoetrope goes one step further: it projects its image upon the walls of the museum, creating an enlarged light and shadow show.

The Zoetrope is part of the exhibit’s Locomotion section, which covers the prehistory of film. Other sections include: the Avant Garde, which covers the bizarre, surrealist Czech film projects of the 20s and 30s; Animation, which covers flipbooks, puppeteering, and a short about a moving handkerchief. “Exhibition on Film!—In Motion” places the unique Czech contribution to film within the larger historical context. “You can’t divide it,” says Křížkovská, referring to text about Walt Disney in the Animation section. There is no Czech Walt Disney, though, she explains, “They tried to mimic him, and they got very good, but they ultimately decided not to.” Czech animation is diverse, varied, unable to be defined by an overarching God of Animation.

The exhibit itself is homey, not too fancy. It is a grassroots movement, and it shows. However, despite the simplicity, it’s anything but cheap; there’s a wall of virtual reality glasses that give patrons a taste of “virtual reality” of the nineteenth century. Two hundred years ago, people used to sit in train cars and watch as a projection of a “train ride” played in front of them; they would travel alongside mountainous scenery, grassy green fields, and clear blue streams, all without leaving their seats. While wearing the virtual reality glasses at NaFilM, twenty-first century visitors view a scene not unlike one of the past, in an attempt to demonstrate that, while technology has improved, the basic ideas of entertainment through film has stayed constant.

NaFilM’s founders wanted their museum to be exciting, to be more than an artifact behind a sheet of glass. “A lot of people don’t read the text at all,” Křížkovská says, in reference to how information is presented at museums. Instead of simply reading about film history, visitors to “Exhibition on Film!—In Motion” get to supplement their learning with doing. The exhibit is active, engaging, and even downright fun. When asked what makes the exhibit so special, Křížkovská replies, “the way of interaction, how it engages the visitors.”

“Exhibition on Film!—In Motion” is accessible to both English and Czech-speakers, and it is housed on the second floor of the Palac Chicago, Narodni 32, in Prague 1. It is extended till the end of 2017. More information can be found on the website.

Palác Chicago, 2. floor | Národní třída 32, Praha 1 (entrance Charvátova 11)
extended until the end of 2017
Open: Tuesday to Sunday | 13:00 - 19:00
Entrance Fee: basic 80 Kč | children, students, seniors  60 Kč | groups: 30 Kč

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