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Otakar Vávra, 1911 - 2011

As a teacher at the Prague film academuy, the director is credited with helping to launch the Czech New Wave of the 1960s.

"Czech director Otakar Vávra, an inspiration and teacher to the most successful generation of Czech film makers died on Thursday at the age of 100," reports Roman Gazdik. "Vávra came to prominence before World War Two, helped launch what became known as the Czechoslovak New Wave in the 1960s and taught at the influential Prague film academy FAMU, whose graduates include Oscar winners Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel. 'He was one of the most significant people in the history of Czech cinema and the teacher of the most important Czech film generation,' FAMU Dean Pavel Jech told Reuters."

A report from Czech Happenings notes that Vávra published a memoir earlier this year covering not only his 70-year career but also tracing a history from the Czechoslovakia of 1930s to the Czech Republic of today. Besides Forman and Menzel, his students included Věra Chytilová, Evald Schorm, "as well as foreign directors, including Serbian Emir Kusturica and Croatian Lordan Zafranović."

Update, 11/6: "Under the communist regime, Vávra fell easily into line with the ideological requirements of the cinema," writes Ronald Bergan in the Guardian. "For example, The Silent Barricade (1949) celebrates the liberation of Prague by Soviet troops…. In the mid to late 60s, during the time of greater liberalisation, Vávra moved away from socialist realism for a while with more intimate personal films such as Golden Queen (1965), a poetic journey into an old man's past, which was awarded the best film award at the San Sebastián film festival, and Romance for Bugle (1967), a touching love story…. But the 1968 Russian invasion ended the so-called Prague Spring, and thus began the grim period of 'normalization.' While [Ján] Kadár, [Ivan] Passer and Forman left for the US, Vávra signed a document agreeing with the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, an action that many Czechs continued to hold against him."

Image: Vávra on the set of Witches' Hammer (Kladivo na čarodějnice, 1970). For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

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Wow. He has a serious filmography, stretching from the dawn of the sound era in the 30s to the turn of the century. That tops Mikhail Romm, who we were discussing in the column ‘The Forgotten’. I’d love to hear more about Vavra’s career. Does anyone have any information?
Very, very sad news. While Vávra was no longer actively producing films, he leaves behind an incredible filmography that often tied hand in hand with the last 80 years of Czech history. He will probably always be best known for Romance for Bugle or maybe Witches’ Hammer, but many of his other films (Jan Hus, Nema Barikada) stand tall, as well. You will be missed, Mr. Vávra
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Why will he be remembered by those films? What about them in particular?

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