James Dean Le Sueur
Mariana Čapková

Documentary Feature Film

Directed, written, and filmed by

James Dean Le Sueur

Produced by

Mariana Čapková (Prague)

James Dean Le Sueur (U.S.A.)

NUtech Ventures
Czech T.V.
Fox Hollow Films
Czechoslovakia’s dissident leader of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, Václav Havel, emerges from totalitarian nightmare and imprisonment to become his country’s first post-communist president. A story that shows why love, tolerance, and creative freedom aren’t just for fairytales.

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We thank our special sponsors, the Glenn Korff School of Music


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Tomáš Kopřiva
Stephen Ourecky
Cheryl Longinotti
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William Skocpol
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Bradley Roth
William Thomas
Matthew Stanard
Rodney Soukup
Daniel Sanley

Contributions to The Art of Dissent are charitable contributions to the University of Nebraska Foundation and will used be to finish the film this summer. The University of Nebraska Foundation is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization and your donation is tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S. law.


Across Europe, 1968 was a turning point. Young people took to the streets demanding change and made powerful and subversive art (movies, visual, literary) and music (classical, jazz, rock n' roll). This wave of dissent also swept through Czechoslovakia, then firmly in the shadow of Soviet control. Our documentary, The Art of Dissent celebrates artistic engagement before and after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.  It debunks the myth that life behind the Churchillian ‘Iron Curtain’ was static and grey. Showing the vibrancy of cultural expression and discourse pre-invasion during the Prague Spring, is crucial to understanding how devastating the invasion was to personal and political life and why the regime then targeted dissidents throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Our film respects the positive heritage of dissent and the relevance of Václav Havel's ideas today. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Havel became the most recognizable opponent of the regime. As an essayist and playwright, he fused literary, rock n' roll, political, and philosophical worlds into a hybrid underground network of dissidents that eventually helped topple the regime. Havel, who was both an admirer of the USA and a critic of the communist consumer society advanced by Czechoslovakia's leaders, advocated for human rights, civil society, democracy, environmentalism, NATO, and a strong European Union.

Our film brings to life the ideas and history of this turbulent era through powerful visuals and a strong narrative. The Art of Dissent has been in development for three years and combines rare archival footage from Czech TV with interviews filmed in the Czech Republic, the United States, and England with Havel's prominent friends, colleagues, and family members.  As a film in co-production with Czech TV in Prague, our project benefits from its unprecedented collaboration with Martin Bouda, Czech TV's extraordinary archivist and TV historian. The pairing of a professional historian and director, James Le Sueur, with a professional TV historian-archivist has allowed our team to uncover never shown before archival film. All of our interviews are filmed by the director-interviewer himself and our team. The powerful interplay of fresh interviews filmed over the past two years and spectacular archival film dating from 1953 gives our movie a unique, personalized, contemporary and historical texture.

The Art of Dissent is a three-part feature documentary with a total estimated time of 1 hour and 45 minutes. Our goal is to complete the production and post-production of the film by August 2019 so that it can be entered in film festivals and broadcast on Czech TV in 2020. Significantly, the 2019 intended festival release of this film commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution (November 1989) and Havel's election as Czechoslovakia's first post-communist president in December 1989. Theatre release is Summer 2020.

® Writers Guild of America


Interview with Radio Prague

“Love, tolerance and creative freedom aren’t just for fairytales”. That’s the central message of a new documentary called The Art of Dissent, which celebrates artistic engagement in Czechoslovakia before and after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion. Written, directed and filmed by the American intellectual historian James D Le Sueur, the film aims to debunk the myth that life behind the Churchillian ‘Iron Curtain’ was static and grey, and to inspire viewers through the messages of Václav Havel and fellow former dissidents.

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Key Creative Personnel

  • James Dean Le Sueur did the research, filming, interviewing, audio recording, lighting, voiceover, script writing, and film editing for the longer Director's Cut. He has a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, has been a university professor for 25 years, and has worked with film for 15 years and with photography for 35 years. He is also a producer for The Art of Dissent.
    He is currently the Samuel Clark Waugh Distinguished Professor of International Relations & the Chair of the Department of History at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
  • Mariana Čapková is associate producer and is responsible for coordinating all aspects of this project with Czech TV, FRMOL, and NUtech Ventures at the University of Nebraska. She and the director started this project together, and she has arranged all the logistics for all interviews in Prague over the past two years and worked as translator.
  • Petr Morávek is overseeing production of the film at Czech TV;.
  • Radomír Šofr is international film development mangager at at Czech TV and overees our film's development.
  • Jakub Mahler is a creative producer at Czech TV responsible for overseeing the movie as it moves through development and post-production. He is helping shape script for the final cut.
  • Martin Bouda is our TV archivist and has been an archivist and TV historian at Czech TV for ten years.
  • Our producer in Prague is FRMOL Production. FRMOL's executive producer for The Art of Dissent is David Hanzal.
  • Evženie Brabcová is our final cut film editor who will edit with the director.
  • Tom Larson is the music composer.
  • Mark Clinton, a Steinway Artist, will preform the score.
  • David Votava is the film technician and assistant editor.
  • Susan Pahlke is a lawyer and researcher who has helped develop the story and worked as the second camerawoman for the past two years.
  • Alena Jirásek is a linguist and translator based in Sydney, Australia, who contributed to content research and informed on language matters.
  • Ivana Jirásek, also based in Sydney, Australia, is a curator and fundraiser who advised on creative content and funding strategies.
  • Daniel Čapek is Special Assistant.
  • Sourabh Chakraborty is providing IT Support.
  • NUtech Ventures at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the film's American Executive Producer. NUtech Ventures team on the film includes Arpi Siyahian, Cheryl Horst, Brad Roth, and Mike Echternacht.