Otakar Vávra

Active - 1935 - 2008  |   Born - Feb 28, 1911   |   Died - Sep 15, 2011   |   Genres - Science Fiction, Drama, Crime, Historical Film

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Before becoming a director, Otakar Vávra was best known for his adaptations of classic literary works. He was born in Hradec Kralove in what was then Austria-Hungary and before becoming a filmmaker attended Brno and Prague universities where he studied architecture. He worked briefly as a publicist and then a film critic before making a few avant-garde short films in the early '30s. He also penned scripts and worked as an assistant director before making his own feature film directorial debut in 1937. In 1938, his film Cech Panen Kutnohorskych/The Guild of the Kutna Hora Maidens earned the Golden Lion at that year's Venice Film Festival. The film was banned by the Nazis who took over Czechoslovakia later that year. Vávra was able to keep making films through the Occupation and the subsequent political and social turmoil that included a communist takeover, by eschewing plots about contemporary issues and looking to history for inspiration. Vávra played a key role in the development of a national cinema. He was also a founding member of the Prague Film School (FAMU) and became known as one of its finest instructors. He was removed from his post in 1970 after one of his students, Vlastimil Venclík, made the politically charged Nezvany host/The Uninvited Guest. In 1973, Vávra again won favor with the first in his wartime trilogy Dny zrady/Days of Treason (1973).