November 17 is the anniversary of the Czech Republic's Velvet Revolution of 1989. On this day groups annually commemorate, celebrate, and compete. 2012 was the first year of Sametové posvícení, literally, "Velvet Feast." Since the event is more of a procession or parade than a feast the organizers refer to it in English as "Velvet Carnival." The idea of having such an event originated with Olga Věra Cieslarová, a scholar of religious studies and theater who studied Basel's Fasnacht, published a book about it, and then returned to Prague to create a similar festival. Musicians from Basel were enthused about the idea and sent a delegation from Switzerland to participate. The parade units were created by NGOs and civic organizations, each with distinctive masks, music, and leaflets explaining their causes.
On the morning of November 17, 2012, a massive demonstration and counter-demonstration were also held on Wenceslas Square. Conducted by labor unions, the mood was militant and angry, calling for the downfall of the current government. Riot police were called, and arrests were made.In contrast, the Velvet Carnival was designed to transform anger into creativity, so it was playful, ironic, and gently iconoclastic;
Shortly before the procession was to begin, the labor-demonstration crowd flooded into the streets, surging toward the National Theater, where the Velvet Carnival was assembling. Because the police could not stop the massive herd, Carnival processants were forced to leave early. In the video, you can see the near-collision of the two parades.
The video pays attention not only to visual displays of mask and costume but also to sonic and kinesthetic flow, thus to musical cacophony, trudging feet, and spectators' faces. The camera at first assumes the position of spectator, then of participant.
See also "Ritualizing the Czech 'Velvet' Revolution, (vimeo.com/54936689), which depicts both the demonstration and the procession.
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