Czech Film Industry

Czech Film in the Past and Present
Czech Film Industry Resources
Foreign Movies Filmed in the Czech Republic
Czech Films on DVD and VHS


Czech Film in the Past and Present

The Beginning

The history of Czech cinema has its roots in the Austro-Hungarian empire. A feature film was shot in Bohemia in 1896. The Czech movie industry, already influenced by Hollywood, flourished after World War I. Extasy (Extase, 1933) directed by Gustav Machatý, and River (Řeka, 1933) directed by Josef Rovenský were the first Czechoslovak movies that had success reaching an audience abroad. The Barrandov Studios, founded by Miloš and Václav Havel (the father of former president Václav Havel), were completed in 1933. It did not take long for the studios to ramp up production to 80 films a year.

The Golden Age of the 1960s

The golden age of Czechoslovak film took place in the 1960s, during the era of increased political and cultural freedom. The top directors of the time included Miloš Forman, Jiří Menzel, Ján Kadár, Elmar Klos, Vojtěch Jasný, Jan Němec, Věra Chytilová, and Ivan Passer. Most of them studied at Prague's Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU), one of the oldest film schools in Europe. Kadár and Klos's The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na korze, 1965) and Menzel's Closely Watched Trains (Ostře sledované vlaky, 1966) both won Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. The Soviet invasion in August 1968 brought the era to an end.

Post-Communist Era

The Czech movie industry changed dramatically after the Velvet Revolution and the fall of communism in 1989.  Barrandov Studios were privatized and were no longer guaranteed productions and funds from the government. Foreign film studios discovered the Czech Republic and the dramatic increase in foreign productions more than made up for the decrease in local films. The Czech Republic became an attractive location for foreign film makers thanks to its historical beauty and well preserved architecture that was not damaged in the world wars. Lower filming costs, coupled with the long history of the Czech film industry and the resulting expertise of local crews are also a factor. To support the growing number of foreign film projects, local production companies as well as companies providing casting, lighting, editing, and special effects services have been established - most of them in Prague.

The 1990s saw the rise of a new generation of Czech film makers, including Jan Svěrák, Jan Hřebejk, Saša Gedeon, Petr Zelenka, and David Ondříček. Svěrák's Elementary School (Obecná škola, 1991) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and his movie Kolya (Kolja, 1996) won it. Hřebejk's Divided We Fall (Musíme si pomáhat, 2000) also received an Oscar nomination.

The Future of Czech Film

There are still questions about the future direction of Czech cinematography. Raising funds for Czech movies is as challenging as ever. Many directors need to earn their living by making commercials. Finding foreign distribution for Czech films remains difficult. The Czech Republic however, will continue to develop new film talent through FAMU and the overall movie industry will keep gaining expertise through the foreign productions that have been flocking to the country.