Otakar Vavra founded the Prague film school, FUMA, and taught Milos Forman and Jiri Menzel. Before the war, he discovered the actress Lida Baarova, who became a favourite of Hitler and Goebbels.
His first prize for Golden Queen at the 1965 San Sebastian Festival marked the dawn of international recognition for new Czech films.
Forman, who admired his early work from the 1930s, makes little mention of him in his memoirs. But Menzel, director of Closely Watched Trains, stayed close (they are pictured together below).
Menzel said: “He taught us that film was not only performing art but that it was part culture, and a very important part of art. So we had to know how to make film as a cultural phenomenon, not only for entertainment or for making money.”
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, was among many cultural and political leaders who honoured Vavra’s 100th birthday earlier this year.
Vavra died on September 15, aged 100. Here’s a comprehensive account of his life (in English) from Czech Radio.