The Czech Republic is and always has been a country of film. The history of Czech film dates back to the very origins of world cinematography. Barrandov Studios was the most modern studio in Europe in its heyday and it continues to be a symbol of the Czech film industry.
Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU), founded in 1946, is another important pillar of the Czech film industry and is the alma mater of many outstanding Czech and foreign filmmakers. The largest Czech film festival, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF), was first held in 1948 and today it is one of the most important film festivals in the world. The National Film Archive (NFA), set up in 1943, is one of the ten oldest and one of the biggest film archives in the world. In addition to archiving and preservation services, it provides access to Czech film materials, conducts research, and has its own publishing department. Several Oscars have been awarded to Czech films: The Shop on Main Street directed by Ján Kádár and Elmar Klos in1965, Closely Watched Trains directed by Jiří Menzel in 1966, Amadeus directed by Miloš Forman in 1985 and Kolya directed by Jan Svěrák in 1997. In 2019 two films were nominated for Oscars – The Painted Bird directed by Václav Marhoul and the animated film The Daughter directed by the FAMU student Daria Kashcheeva.
After the revolution in 1989, the different sections of the film industry were privatised bit by bit and the old monopolist structures were replaced by modern ones. Each year more than thirty new Czech feature films are premiered in Czech cinemas. The variety of genres has remained relatively consistent over time: comedies traditionally account for a large share of new films, along with fairy-tales, children’s films, and films dealing with issues of the Second World War. Many young filmmakers are currently addressing the communist past in their work.
Since 1989, various professional organisations representing the interests of filmmakers have been formed. The Association of Audiovisual Producers (APA) and the Czech Film Center, founded at the initiative of the APA in 2002, promote Czech film abroad and represent Czech cinematography at international festivals and fairs.
Since the division of Czechoslovakia in 1993, around 500 production and post-production companies, large and small, have been set up in the Czech Republic. They produce every genre of film, from feature-fiction to documentary and animation, commercials, and music videos. The monopolistic system of film distribution that dominated under the previous regime has been replaced by new private distribution companies of which there are currently around 30. Since 1992 these companies are associated with the Union of Film Distributors, and one of its tasks is to monitor and publish attendance figures for Czech films and foreign films in Czech distribution.
The most important source of funding for domestic films of every genre is the State Cinematography Fund, which supports local cinematography by providing direct grants for films and providing film incentives for large foreign productions. The office of the Czech Film Commission promotes and supports the filming of foreign productions in the Czech Republic. Czech Television, the largest co-producer of Czech feature and documentary films, is another important source of funding for Czech film.
Documentary film has a long tradition in the Czech Republic and in recent years it has witnessed a revival of interest amongst cinema-goers. There are several institutions associated with documentary film, the most important one is the Institute of Documentary Film (IDF) The promotional and practical service of IDF includes a wide range of online and offline catalogs being created annually, updating a thorough database of CEE documentaries and professionals and a calendar of important deadlines for producers, and bringing news from the world of documentary film in general via dokweb.net. Documentary Film Festival Ji.hlava is organised in Jihlava each year. One World is a documentary film festival devoted to films on human rights that is organised by the People in Need Foundation.
Education, showcases, and awards
Already mentioned FAMU has programs both in Czech and in English within 11 departments include Directing, Photography, Animated Film, or Audiovisual Study Centre. Others include Faculty of Multimedia and Communication of Tomáš Baťa University in Zlín and the Film Academy of Miroslav Ondříček in Písek, an independent private film school.
Around 70 film festivals are organised in the Czech Republic each year and they focus on various film genres. Besides KVIFF, One World or Ji.hlava, we mention Febiofest and Finále Plzeň, festivals devoted to a Czech feature film, for children’ films The International Film Festival for Children and Youth in Zlín, for popular science films Academia Films Olomouc, Summer Film School in Uherské Hradiště with a long tradition and high popularity, or Mezipatra a queer film festival centered around LGBTQ+ issues.