Love, tolerance and creative freedom aren't just for fairy tales


Directed by
James Dean Le Sueur


Writing, narration and cinematography by James Le Sueur, Edited by Evženie Brabcová & James Le Sueur, American Executive Producers: NUtech Ventures, Arpi Siyahian, Associate Producer: Mariana Čapková, Film Archivist: Martin Bouda, Music by Tom Larson, Sound by Petr Sýs,  Production Manager: David Hanzal, Co-Produced by NUtech Ventures (USA) & Czech TV (Czech Republic), Produced by Fox Hollow Films, James Le Sueur  (USA) and FRMOL Productions (Prague), Czech Republic Executive Producers: FRMOL Production, David Hanzal & Vít Bělohradský, Czech Television Creative Producer: Jakub Mahler
NUtech Ventures logo
NUtech Ventures logo
NUtech Ventures logo
NUtech Ventures logo

The Boston Globe Film Review
"...the resistance was down but not out. An underground army of writers, academics, musicians, and other intellectuals sustained it, chief among them the internationally renowned playwright Václav Havel."

RESPEKT Film Review
"A remarkably apt analysis of the emergence, tribulation and final victory of our dissent;" and, "at the same time,  James Dean Le Sueur  deliberately follows a musical thread. After all, had it not been for The Plastic People of the Universe, whose natural desire to play music their way had been defended by Havel since the late 70s, Czechoslovak dissent would never have been as colorful: the expelled professors and priests or forbidden authors found themselves on the same ship with musicians whose music was too daring."
We wanted to take risks.
After all, what could be more daring than to make a movie about intellectuals today?
But this came with cinematic challenges. How do you make a movie about intellectuals banned by a regime? Where do you find the footage? And how do you use state-controlled media to flesh the story out? The results are dramatic, surprising and above all, new.
Love, tolerance and creative freedom aren’t just for fairy tales.
The Art of Dissent celebrates the power of artistic engagement in Czechoslovakia before and after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion. The documentary’s main protagonists – Václav Havel, banned singer Marta Kubišová, and the underground rock group the Plastic People of the Universe – became the most recognizable dissidents during the 1970-80s. Havel fused literary, political, philosophical, and rock ’n’ roll worlds into a hybrid network that eventually toppled the totalitarian regime.

A co-production with Czech TV, The Art of Dissent combines rare archival footage with interviews filmed over three years in the Czech Republic, England, and the United States. James Dean Le Sueur worked closely with Czech TV archivist Martin Bouda to weave historical footage and contemporary interviews into a unique and compelling interplay. Our film celebrates the power and courage of dissent to build tolerance, truth and civil society.
A James Dean Le Sueur and Mariana Čapková Production
Written, directed, narrated and filmed by James Dean Le Sueur
Cinematic Division of Labor
The Art of Dissent’s journey began in 2017, when producer and director James D. Le Sueur and producer Mariana Čapková conceived the idea and planned for the movie. In 2017, they made the pitch to producers at Czech TV in Prague together with Susan Pahlke. Over the next three years, James, Mariana and Susan filmed interviews with 30 people to map out the networks of dissent in Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968. During this time, as a film co-produced with NUtech Ventures (American Executive Producer) and Czech TV, James began working with Czech TV film archivist Martin Bouda on the archival collections necessary to build the storyline. This core group then formed an international team of researchers, which included translator and advisor, Alena Jirásek, who worked primarily with James and Susan throughout development.

In 2018, as development transitioned to production, James worked with Executive Producer Arpi Siyahian at NUtech Ventures and with a creative team in Prague, partnering with FRMOL Productions. Mariana Čapková assumed responsibility for co-ordinating among NUtech Ventures, Fox Hollow Films, FRMOL, and Czech TV. David Hanzal is the film's Executive Producer in the Czech Republic.
Throughout 2019, James edited with Evženie Brabcová, worked with dramaturge and Czech historian Vít Poláček, and collaborated with Czech TV creative producer Jakub Mahler. Over the course of the year, the movie transformed from the director’s 6-hour long version of edited film to one of 1 hour 45 minutes. In the spring of 2020 the film was completed. The film is made in English for international cinema and festival presentations. A Czech language version of the movie will be broadcast on Czech TV in December 2021after our festival screenings, with the well-known Czech actor Martin Pechlát’s voiceovers.

As his first feature documentary film, James directed, wrote, filmed, co-edited, and narrated The Art of Dissent. Susan Pahlke conducted research and worked as the principal second camerawoman and filmed with James in the Czech Republic, England and the United States over the course of three years. Alena Jirásek oversaw the translations for both versions of the movie and worked as a consultant on the project for two years. All financing came from NUtech Ventures in the United States.
Director and Ivan Havel in Prague
Development Team
Director & Producer
James Dean Le Sueur is Samuel Clark Waugh Distinguished Professor
of International Relations and Chair of the History Department at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He completed his PhD in history at the University of Chicago, and was elected Senior Associate Members of St Antony’s College, Oxford in 2002. He has written extensively on the history of decolonization, terrorism and intellectuals and has worked with film for 15 years. The Art of Dissent is his first feature documentary, and he is currently working on three new films. The Peril of Dissent focuses on death threats against writers, artists, athletes and activists by authoritarian regimes and religious extremists after 1989; Before September is a study of terrorism and law in the United States before 9/11; Four Seasons of Covid concentrates on everyday life during the Covid-19 pandemic. He teaches history and filmmaking. He is a producer, editor, writer and cinematographer and is a professional photographer.
Associate Producer
Mariana Čapková, Czech citizen and politician, is a member of the Prague City Council, in charge of Education, Schooling and Educational Programmes. She graduated from the University of Economics in Prague, in Diplomacy and European Politics Major and also studied at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and Universitaet Passau, Germany, as well as in Heidelberg and in Moscow. She worked for the Czech National Security Authority and National Cyber Security Centre. She has overseen several Prague cultural events connected to former Czechoslovak President and dissident Václav Havel and the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.
Mariana and Alan Pajer during interview in Prague
Mariana, Marta Kubišová and James
Principal Second Camera & Research
Susan Wood Pahlke is a native of Omaha, Nebraska and received her juris doctor degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law. She specializes in legal research/writing currently at the Pahlke Law firm and also works as a second cameraperson, researcher and advisor in film projects.
Creative Team
Creative Producer
Jakub Mahler is a creative producer at Czech TV and oversees production of documentaries and feature films. He often takes part in projects that are created in international co-production, mostly with German ZDF, Austrian ORF or Arte television. He also acts as an independent fiction films producer in the MasterFilm production company he co-founded in 2011.
Vít Poláček is a Czech historian, screenwriter and dramaturge. He has worked on many projects, such as the feature fiction film Chvilky of Beata Parkánová or Journey to Rome of Tomasz Mielnik. When he was 4 years old, Vít wore a badge of the Občanské fórum or Civic Forum and took part in the 1989 demonstrations.
Translator & Researcher
Alena Jirásek is a translator and speech pathologist of Czech background based in Australia, currently working on translations of the works of Josef and Karel Čapek. Her direct family experience of exile in 1969, keen interest in Central European history and current affairs and active engagement both with the diaspora and in the democratic transformation following the 1989 Velvet Revolution allows her to offer a unique insight into the chronological and personal warp and weft of that remarkable time.
Evženie Brabcová has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in film editing from Film & TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU). During studies she attended an internship at Middlesex University and at the LUX Artists film agency in London. She has worked as a freelance editor for different production houses and TV and edited over15 feature-length documentary films, such as Never Been Better (BiH, CZ),The Day After a Long Night (CZ, DE), Powrot Agnieszky H. (PL, CZ), Looking for President (CZ), Plan (CZ), FC ROMA (CZ). She is the co-author of two film scripts and director of three short films and a TV docu-series. She has edited the book Ludvík Šváb - Tidy Up After and recently took part in the Nipkow programme in Berlin to develop the script of her authorial debut.
Shirley Bassey singing in Prague in August 1968
Recently discovered 16mm film of the 1968 invasion
Claudia Holm, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
music performance student
Tom Larson is Professor of Music Composition at the Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has composed the musical scores to dozens of films including Follow the Water (PBS), and Monkey Trial (The American Experience, WGBH, Boston). He has made recordings in Paris (An Afternoon in Paris, a duo with Hans Sturm, 2012) and Tokyo (Focus, the Tom Larson Group, 2019) as a jazz pianist, written three textbooks: The History and Tradition of Jazz; Modern Sounds: The Artistry of Contemporary Jazz; and The History of Rock and Roll and served as recording engineer for artists such as Paul Barnes, Jackie Allen, and François Rabbath.
James interviewing Timothy Garton Ash in Oxford
Mariana with Josef Janíček and Vratislav Brabenec (Plastic People of the Universe)
Mariana, Eda Kriseová and Susan in Prague
Production Team
executive producer
Dr. Arpi Siyahian is a Senior Technology Manager at NUtech Ventures, the technology transfer affiliate at UNL, working on bringing a diverse set of innovations from academia to the public. Arpi was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq and is a descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors. She holds a PhD in biological chemistry from UCLA, and a BS in biochemistry from UC Riverside. The Art of Dissent is Arpi’s first foray into the world of film.
David Hanzal graduated from the Production Department at Film &
TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU). Since FAMU, David has worked in the film industry for 25 years and on many projects as a production manager and executive producer. David mainly focuses on TV production (TV shows, such as the worldwide distributed documentary series Národní klenoty, Miracles of Nature, Unusual Cultures); his portfolio also includes feature films (Jízda, Šeptej, Protektor) and documentaries (Sny o toulavých kočkách).
Ben Kreimer using a drone to film the end of the movie
Composer Tom Larson (left) with Steinway Artist Mark Clinton at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Petr Sýs graduated from the Czech Technical University and since 1989 has worked as a sound engineer. Petr created and owns the Professional Sound Studio in Prague and has done sound on thousands of television shows over his career. He has worked extensively in live broadcasting and has done recording for dozens of renowned singers and musicians, such as Karel Gott, Helena Vondráčková, Miroslav Žbirka and Chick Corea. He has been the sound designer and sound master for 10 television series and also works with documentaries.
film & tv archivist
Martin Bouda is a film and television archivist at Czech TV. Between 2010-2016 he co-ordinated the promotion of Czech TV by using almost 1,300 curated videos to explore the Czech Republic’s rich and diverse cultural history via television content in the EU screen project. Currently he supervises the Audiovisual Archives and is involved in their research, digitization, reconstruction, and online archival publication.
James D. Le Sueur
James D. Le Sueur
Evženie Brabcová & James D. Le Sueur
Director of Photography:
James D. Le Sueur
Film Archivist:
Czech TV, Martin Bouda
Tom Larson
Music Recording:
Fuse Recording, Tim Kechely
Petr Sýs
Ivan Dvořák
Vít Poláček
Co-produced by:
NUtech Ventures (USA) & Czech TV (Czech Republic)
Produced by:
FRMOL Productions (Prague)
Associate Producer:
Mariana Čapková
Executive Producers:
NUtech Ventures, Arpi Siyahian & Brad Roth FRMOL Production, David Hanzal & Vít Bělohradský
Fox Hollow Films, James Le Sueur
Production Manager:
David Hanzal
Česká televize
Creative Producer:
Jakub Mahler
Production Manager:
Jana Vokrouhlíková
Production Assistant:
Žaneta Malečková
Development Manager:
Radomír Šofr
Realization Manager:
Petr Morávek
James D. Le Sueur (First)
Susan Pahlke (Principal Second)
Sef Sarroub-Le Sueur (Second)
Sofia Sarroub-Le Sueur (Second)
Daniel Čapek (Second)
Translator & Researcher:
Alena Jirásek
Voiceover Director:
Otto Kallus
Graphic Designers:
Michal Volf
Petr Andrle
Editing Assistants:
David Votava
Jan Řehák
Roman Škára
Interviewees in order
of appearance:
Timothy Garton Ash
Jacques Rupnik
Tomáš Halík
Eda Kriseová
Michael Žantovský
Paul Wilson
Josef Janíček
Vratislav Brabenec
Ivan Havel
Kamila Bendová
Marta Kubišová
Jaroslav Hutka
Edward Lucas
Alan Pajer
Žaneta Malečková
Žaneta Malečková
Original title:
The Art of Dissent
English, Czech
Color and B&W
ProRes 2.0; DCP 2.1 (Dolby)
ProRes HQ 422; DCP
ProRes 2.0; DCP 2.1 (Dolby)
ProRes 2.0; DCP 2.1 (Dolby)
Artwork: Otakar Příhoda and Miroslav Krátký
Mariana, James, Jaroslav and Susan
Susan, Ivan Havel and Mariana
Filming Edward Lucas in London
Edward Lucas, journalist
James filming


Arpi Siyahian

NUTech Ventures

2021 Transformation Drive Lincoln, NE 68508

(402) 472-1783

Cell: (818) 599-2542


James D. Le Sueur

Fox Hollow Films

2831 Fox Hollow Road Lincoln, NE 68506

Cell: 402-202-6150


Jakub Mahler

Na Hřebenech II 1132/4

147 00 Praha 4

+420 732 670 027




Kamila Bendová, mathematician and activist
James with sculptor David Černý, whose art appears in the film
Michael Žantovský
Presidential photographer Alan Pajer being
interviewed about his Havel photos
Donors & Sponsors
We thank our special sponsors, the Glenn Korff School of Music.
Producer Level: $1,000 and greater
Jan Rudolph
Pavel Valek
Priscilla Grew
Supporter Level: $250 and greater
Nancy Zuerlien
Tomáš Kopřiva
Stephen Ourecky
Cheryl Longinotti
Anonymous (Prague)
William Skocpol
David Wood and Karen Griffin
Maryhollis Troup