Jirí Menzel was still in his 20s when he won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film with Closely Watched Trains, a classic of the Czech New Wave, in 1967. He has said it was just good timing. But five decades later, timing continues to serve him well as a filmmaker whose offbeat, satirical approach to films like My Sweet Little Village, Larks on a String and I Served the King of England has had a marked impact on Czech cinema and culture.
In this enlightening documentary, Swiss director Robert Kolinsky focuses on what fuels Menzel’s work: a love for the theater and literature of his homeland, where he stayed when Russian occupation began in the late 1960s even as many other artists fled, bringing the stories of fellow subversives like writer Bohumil Hrabal to the big screen along the way. Making this chronicle of his life all the more fun are accounts by contemporaries whom he’s influenced, from Miloš Forman to Ken Loach (whose own I, Daniel Blake is screening at DFF39).
Director Robert Kolinsky in person
Producer: Sarah Born, Alfi Sinniger | Editor: Andrea Pugner | Cinematographer: Elia Lyssy, Jana Marsik, Ines Thomsen, Stefan Dux, Jan Kuldan | Screenwriter: Robert Kolinsky