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The film censorship in Czechoslovakia 1919 – 1940

During the existence of the Czechoslovak republic film censorship was in the jurisdiction of Ministerstvo vnitra (Ministry of Interior). The ministry abolished the regional censor committees by the statute No. 22.261-6 from 16.6.1919. According to this statute the existing committees were dissolved and substituted by the Cenzurní sbor kinematografický (Censor Advisory Board), which started to sit on 1st July 1919.

The number of the members was variable. In the period 1919 – 1927 the Censor Advisory Board had 8 members:
· Ministry of Interior (the chairman of the Board)
· Ministerstvo školství a národní osvety (Ministry of Education)
· Ministerstvo spravedlnosti (Ministry of Justice)
· Ministerstvo národní obrany (Ministry of Defence)
· Ministerstvo sociální péce (Ministry of Welfare)
· Ministerstvo obchodu (Ministry of Commerce)
· Ceskoslovenský cizinecký úrad (Czechoslovak Foreigner Department)
· Masarykuv lidovýchovný ústav (Masaryk´s Institut for National Education)

From 1927 till 1936 was the number reduced for 5 members:
· Ministry of Interior
· Ministry of Education
· Masaryk´s Institut for National Education
· Ministry of Defence
· Zástupkyne žen z kruhu vychovatelských (Women’s organizations)

In 1936 the Board was extended for 6 members and the Ministry of Defence became a member again.

Each distribution company (the applicant for the process of censorship), which wanted to explore any film in the Czechoslovak republic, had to surrender an official appeal. The applicant filled in the first and the second page of the application [application form], paid the fee for the proceeding and sent one film print to the Board. After the screening the present members of the Board wrote an expert’s statement. The Censor Advisory Board was accredited to issue statements concerning the assessment of films and the Ministry of Interior decided about the distribution permission with or without possible restrictions. However, the final decision belonged to the Ministry of Interior. Finally clerks of the Ministry of Interior issued a registration card. If the film was permitted with the restrictions, excluded scenes or titles were mentioned on the card.

In case of some disagreement or doubts concerning of the verdict the film was performed to Rozšírený cenzurní sbor poradní (Extended Censor Advisory Board), which was composed of 2 groups. In the permanent group were in session the same six members as in the Censor Advisory Board plus the representatives of the Ministry of Welfare, Ministry of Commerce and the representatives of the film industry.

The temporary group was created by 3 subgroups. In these subgroups following institutions were represented:
· Delnická akademie (The Labours Academy)
· Spolek výtvarných umelcu Mánes (The Society of Creative Artists Mánes)
· Syndikát denního tisku (The Press Syndicate)

· Jednota výtvarných umelcu (The Association of the Creative Artists)
· Ústrední škola delnická (The Central Labors School)

· Ceská zemská komise pro péci o mládež (The Provincial Committee for the Youth)
· Syndikát ceských spisovatelu (The Syndicate of the Czech Writers)
· Umelecká beseda (The Artists Club).

During the process of correction (repeated censorship) the Extended Censor Advisory Board consisted of the permanent group and one of the three above-mentioned subgroups. It had the jurisdiction of appeal, but its statement was not binding for the final decision of the Ministry of Interior.

Reaching all requirements of the censorship the film acquired permission for the public performance, which was valid 5 years. After this period the distributor had to apply for the new censorship procedure.

The censorship decisions were usually valid for the whole area of the Czechoslovak republic. But some special cases were marked by Ministry of Interior with the affix “s výhradou Slovenska” (except Slovakia). In such cases the Ministry of Interior asked Cenzúrna komisia pre filmy [pri ministerstve s plnou mocou pre správu Slovenska] v Bratislave (Censor Advisory Board [by ministry for Slovakia] in Bratislava) for censoring the film “from the point of view of Slovakia”.

A special rule for imported films was valid since 1934. Each imported film had to acquire an importing permission, granted by Filmový poradní sbor (Film Consultative Committee), before the usual process of censorship. The Ministry of Commerce established this institution in 1932 as a consultative board for the questions of the film commerce and film production originally. However, after the reconstruction in 1934 the Film Consultative Committee became the most important institution for the decision of the financial support of the Czech film production.

The system of film censorship was newly organised after the occupation of Bohemia by Nazi Germany. According to the statement of “Reichsprotektor” the Censor Advisory Board was abolished and on 26th October 1940 a new censorship institution was established – Filmová zkušebna v Cechách a na Morave (Film Headquarters in Bohemia and Moravia/Filmprüfstelle in Böhmen und Mähren).

by Tomáš Lachman


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