1967 • Czech Republic • Directed by Milos Forman
It’s the annual firemen’s ball in a small Czech town, and the organisers decide to liven up the usually dull event with a raffle and a beauty contest. But with the former plagued by thievery and the latter by bribery, the event rapidly descends into farce – and that’s before a fire breaks out…
The last film that Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus) made in his native country and language, The Firemen’s Ball is a sparkling comedy that’s also one of the best showcases of the director’s uncanny ability to extract flawless performances out of an entirely non-professional cast largely made up of actual firemen.
It was nominated for an Oscar, but the Czech Communist authorities were so convinced that it was a satirical allegory about official incompetence that the film was officially “banned forever”, or at least until the 1989 Velvet Revolution. It’s now regarded as one of the greatest of all Czech films.