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Born in 1940. Studied direction at the Prague Film Academy (FAMU) under Elmar Klos. In 1963 he shot his thesis film, Moravian Hellas, in Strážnice, then-Czechoslovakia, about their traditional folk celebrations. The film’s unusual approach—blending humor and intellectual aggression—caused furor and indignation as well as admiration in official cultural and political circles. It took several years for it to be allowed to be screened publicly. As a director with the Krátký Film studio in Prague in 1968, Vachek shot the film Elective Affinities a legendary portrait of the protagonists of the Prague Spring during the presidential elections of that year. He had to leave Krátký Film with the onset of the post-1968 “normalization” process, working in manual trades until emigrating with his family in 1979 to the USA via France. Due to his wife’s bad health, he eventually returned. After 1989 he returned to Krátký Film and, over time, completed an extensive film tetralogy that portrays Czech society from the 1990s to the next century in his inimitable style.

Since 1994 he has taught at FAMU in the Documentary Film Department becoming its head in 2002. With his films and professional stance he has influenced many younger artists (e.g. Jan Gogola jr., Vít Janeček, Filip Remunda, Vít Klusák, Martin Mareček, Erika Hníková, Theodora Remundová). In 2004 he published a book, The Theory of Matter, which is an important conceptual milestone as regards his newest film, Záviš, the Prince of Pornofolk Under the Influence of Griffith’s Intolerance and Tati’s Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, or The Foundation and Doom of Czechoslovakia [1918 – 1992] . In 2008, the AMU publishing house released Karel Vachek, etc. by Martin Švoma.


Moravian Hellas (1963)
Elective Affinities (1968)
New Hyperion or Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood (1992)
What Is to Be Done? (A Journey from Prague to Český Krumlov, or How I Formed a New Government) (1996)
Bohemia Docta or The Labyrinth of the World and the Lust-house of the Heart (A Divine Comedy) (2000)
Who Will Watch the Watchman? Dalibor, or the Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (2002)
Záviš, the Prince of Pornofolk Under the Influence of Griffith’s Intolerance and Tati’s Mr. Hulot’s Holiday or The Foundation and Doom of Czechoslovakia (1918–1992) (2006)
Obscurantist and His Lineage or The Pyramids' Tearful Valleys (2011)
Communism and the Net or The end of Representative Democracy (2019)

What is to be done ? - sample - Jirous

What is to be done? (A journey from Prague to Český Krumlov, or how I formed a new government)

Year of production 1996
Written by Karel Vachek
Screenplay Karel Vachek
Director Karel Vachek
Dir. of photography Karel Slach
Editing Renata Parezová
Sound Libor Sedláček
Music Jiří Vondrovic, various songs
Prod. manager Petr Brada
Production Česká televize, Barrandov Biografia a.s.
Premiere Aug 29th, 1996

Eva Vobrubová, balladeer Pepa Nos, botanist Jirí Haager, writer Eda Kriseová, director Jirí Krejcík, puppeteer Miloš Kirschner, poet Andrej Stankovic, actress Vlasta Chramostová, physician Eva Zvolská, cameraman Stanislav Milota, playwright Jan Vodnanský, poet Ivan Martin Jirous, psychologist Milan Nakonecný, director Tomáš Vorel, writer Eva Kanturková, artist and poet Ladislav Novák, natural scientist Karel Drbohlav, flutist Václav Žilka, philosopher Erazim Kohák, writer Václav Jamek, Mayor of Ceský Krumlov Jan Vondrouš, Minister of Culture Pavel Tigrid, Minister of the Interior Jan Ruml, Minister of Foreign Affairs Josef Zieleniec, Minister of the Economy Karel Dyba, Minister of Industry Vladimír Dlouhý, Chairman of the Government Václav Klaus, President Václav Havel, Minister of Defense Antonín Baudyš, Minister of Defense Vilém Holán, Minister of Education Ivan Pilip, Minister of Transportation Jan Stráský, Mayor of Prague Jan Koukal, philosopher Ivan Sviták, ecologist Ivan Dejmal, chairman of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party Miloš Zeman, deputy chairman of the Christian Democratic Party Václav Benda, chairwoman of the Democratic Union Party Alena Hromádková, activist Petr Cibulka and others