The Power of the Powerless (educational)

  • Directed by: Cory Taylor
  • Produced by: Darin Nellis & Jonathan Terra
  • Executive Producers: Darin Nellis & Cory Taylor
Released: 2009
Running Time: 78 min
Narrated by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, THE POWER OF THE POWERLESS explores Czechoslovakia's legacy of communist rule and the struggle against it: from the iron-fisted Stalinist government of the 1950s; through the vibrant and politically active Prague Spring of the 1960s; the hard-line backlash of the 1970s; and finally the bloodless revolution of 1989. At the heart of the film is the story of blacklisted playwright Václav Havel and his fellow dissidents who, for two decades, spoke out against totalitarianism. THE POWER OF THE POWERLESS features rare and never-before-seen interviews with key figures of the Velvet Revolution, including Václav Havel. The participation of young Czechs in the film, who reveal that much of their country's recent history has already been forgotten, makes the film all the more pertinent for young viewers. Directed by Primetime Emmy Award winner Cory Taylor. THE POWER OF THE POWERLESS has already been broadcast in 30 countries on 10 television networks, featured in 21 international film festivals, won multiple awards, and is currently being used by human rights organizations to encourage dissidents struggling in non-democratic countries including Burma, the Middle East and Cuba.

The Director's Statement

Czechoslovakia's "Velvet Revolution" is one of the most stirring episodes of people-power in recent history. Inspired by the courageous struggle of a handful of dissidents, and sparked by idealistic students demonstrating in the streets of Prague, Czechs and Slovaks brought an end to forty years of communist tyranny through bloodless revolution in 1989. Today, Vaclav Havel, the former outlaw playwright who led the opposition, is respected as one of the most important human rights figures of the 20th Century. Though many informed people see the relevance of the Velvet Revolution to current events, great majorities of people around the world are still unaware of this inspiring story. Fewer still are those who know the trials and tribulations Vaclav Havel and his fellow dissidents endured to achieve a bloodless transfer of power. For this reason, and in support of freedom and human rights around the world, we set out to make this documentary.

What we couldn't have known until we made the film, is how little is known about what really took place even in the Czech Republic, where many young people remain in the dark about their country's communist past.

We are grateful that so many key figures from this important episode, including President Vaclav Havel, agreed to participate in this documentary. In a world where viable alternatives to armed conflict are still desperately needed, the time is right to reflect on 1989's Velvet Revolution.

Cory Taylor


  • DOCUMENTARY FEATURE AUDIENCE AWARD - Sacramento Music & Film Festival, USA
  • WINNER GOLDEN PALM AWARD - Mexico International Film Festival, Mexico
  • OFFICIAL SELECTION - Tallahassee International Film Festival, Tiburon International Film Festival, St. Louis International Film Festival, United Nations Association Human Rights Film Festival, Burbank International Film Festival 


Academy Award® winner Jeremy Irons, who narrates The Power of the Powerless, recently offered these words of praise for the film: "So much of history has been airbrushed. It is an exhilarating experience to watch the brutal honesty of The Power of the Powerless. To witness fallible human beings make their way through this period of turmoil, in all their hopelessness, fear and bravery, is a truly uplifting experience. I was proud to be, in a small way, involved."

"It brings to mind the great BBC series WORLD AT WAR: the extraordinary historical astuteness, the gorgeous and artful narration, and a calamity of emotion that will leave anybody watching it shaken. "

– Rod Lurie, Former KABC Film critic & Director of Oscar Nominated The Contender

Power of the Powerless Special Edition DVD Includes:


  • 78 minute version (NTSC)
  • 58 minute version (NTSC)

40 minutes of Extras

  • Never before seen interview clips of Vaclav Havel
  • Inspirational messages for young people
  • Contrary opinions on Havel's impact
  • Prague city guide to the Velvet Revolution
  • Deleted scene featuring student leader Jan Bubenik 
  • Montage of deleted scenes and dramatizations
  • Director's comments
  • Clips depicting four years of November 17th celebrations in Prague
  • Original theatrical trailer

CD-ROM Teacher Support Materials

  • 200 searchable, printable pages
  • 23 lessons covering topics such as communism, the Prague Spring, transitional justice, nonviolence, music of protest, student power and many more
  • Maps of Czechoslovakia, Europe, Prague & resources for IB schools and more in-depth study
  • Click here to see full table of contents 

The Power of the Powerless Commemorative Color Booklet

  • Historical overview by Paul Wilson
  • Excerpts from Vaclav Havel's 1978 Essay: The Power of the Powerless
  • Timeline from 1945 up to the Velvet Revolution
  • Maps: Europe, Czech Republic & Slovakia
  • Prague city guide to the Velvet Revolution
  • Prague - "Mother of Cities" (photo montage)
  • Recommended reading from the filmmakers
  • Where are they now? Biographies of key individuals in The Power of the Powerless
  • The Making of The Power of the Powerless