10-09-2020

EnergaCAMERIMAGE Newsletter

LEGEND OF THE CZECHOSLOVAK NEW WAVE, JIŘÍ MENZEL, OUR GUEST, HAS DIED

It is with great sadness that we learned about the death of Jiří Menzel, Czech director, screenwriter and actor, two-time guest and friend of the EnergaCAMERIMAGE festival. The winner of two of our prestigious special awards passed away on Saturday, September 5, after long-term health complications. His death is an irreparable loss for the world of cinema and our festival.

Pobierz obrazkiJiří Menzel at CAMERIMAGE in 2007, photo by Grzegorz Piekarski

Jiří Menzel honored CAMERIMAGE Festival with his presence for the first time in 2005, when he received a Golden Frog for Lifetime Achievement Award to Director with Unique Visual Sensitivity. Receiving the distinction, he joked: "My friend Jacek Bromski said that I get this award only because I have never offended or hurt any cinematographer throughout my long life." It was this unpretentious and accurate humor that sparked his film scripts that stole the hearts of his fans around the world. The packed hall of Teatr Wielki in Lodz gave the Master a thunderous ovation.

Pobierz obrazkiJiří Menzel receives the Lifetime Achievement Award for the Director,photo from EnergaCAMERIMAGE Archives

Jiří Menzel's second visit took place in 2007, when he and Jaromir Šofr, his regular collaborator, received an Award for the Director-Cinematographer Duo. In the same year, one of his many adaptations of Bohumil Hrabal's prose, I Served the King of England, was included in the Main Competition at our festival. The film was received with great enthusiasm by the audience.

Pobierz obrazkiJiří Menzel receives the Lifetime Achievement Award for the Director,photo from EnergaCAMERIMAGE Archives

For the EnergaCAMERIMAGE Festival, Jiří Menzel was an inspiration from the very beginning of its existence. Already during our second edition, in 1994, we showed his Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin as part of the World Panorama. Despite many prestigious awards and his status as a legend of Czech cinema, he remained an open and kind artist, willing to discuss his films with younger generation of filmmakers. We were hoping that the Master would visit us again sometime.


Jiří Menzel (1938-2020)
Jiří Menzel
graduated from the film school in Prague (FAMU) and very quickly found international recognition. His full-length debut - Closely Watched Trains (1966) - was awarded an Oscar® in the Best Foreign Language Film category, which established him as a main representative of the Czechoslovak New Wave.

Jiří Menzel turned out to be one of the best adapters of Czech prose, working closely with writers to adapt their works to the form of film. There was a particularly prolific collaboration between him and Bohumil Hrabal, who co-wrote not only his debut film, but also Larks on a String (1969), Cutting It Short (1980) and The Snowdrop Festival (1984). Larks on a String were deemed inappropriate by the Czechoslovak authorities, and their premiere took place only after their fall. The film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1990. After Hrabal's death, Jiří Menzel adapted his novel I Served the English King (2007), for which the film received the only Czech Lion Award in his career.
Throughout his career, Jiří Menzel collaborated with the cinematographer Jaromír Šofr, with whom he made 14 films. In addition to Havel's novels, they also adapted two novels by Vladislav Vančura: Capricious Summer (1968), which won the main prize at the festival in Karlovy Vary, and End of the Old Times (1989), for which Šofr received an award for best cinematography at the festival in Valladolid. Another writer adapted by Menzel was Zdeněk Svěrák, whose works were used as the basis for the films Seclusion Near a Forest (1976), Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin (1993) and the Oscar®-nominated My Sweet Little Village (1985). In addition to numerous film awards, Jiří Menzel was awarded the First Class Medal of Merit by the Czech government.

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