Jiri Menzel

Born in Prague 1938. He studied at the Film and TV Faculty (FAMU) in Prague between 1958-1962 and graduated with his diploma film Mr. Foerster Died (1962). During this period, FAMU gave birth to a whole generation of filmmakers to be called the New Wave in Czech Cinema. As a director, he gained the cinemagoers' attention with the episode Mr. Baltazar's Death in the film Pearls in The Depth (1965), based on the stories by well-known Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. He triumphed with his first feature film Closely Watched Trains, also based on a novel by Bohumil Hrabal. For this movie, he won a number of important prizes, including an Oscar for the Best Foreign Film. His film Skylarks on a String (1969) was banned by the official authorities and so it had its premiere in January 1990 after the fall of the totalitarian regime. During that time, Menzel, who had played in his own films and in pictures made by various other directors already before, acted on stage and produced plays in the theatres in Prague, Zurih, Paris and Bochum. He returned to filmmaking in 1974. After a few films he again based his films on Hrabal's work and made Cutting It Short (1980) and Snowdrop Feasts (1983). His comedy My Sweet Little Village (1985) has been one of the greatest box-office successes in Czechoslovakia. A short while he gave lectures on direction at the Film and TV Faculty (FAMU) in Prague. His last pictures are an ironical comedy, The Beggar's Opera (1991) after a play of the same name by Vaclav Havel and a bitter war comedy, The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin (1994).