Zelenka’s The Karamazovs wins Best Film at Czech Lion Awards

Petr Zelenka, photo: CTK

This weekend saw the staging of the 16th annual Czech Lions – the country’s main film awards – at Prague’s Lucerna ballroom. On Saturday evening movie stars and movie directors gathered for the prestigious ceremony. Radio Prague has more on who won.

Petr Zelenka,  photo: CTK
“The award goes to…” or its Czech equivalent was heard numerous times on Saturday at the 16th Czech Lion Awards, the country’s answer to the Oscars. This year, the awards were divided among contenders like Guard No. 47 and The Country Teacher but in the end it was Petr Zelenka’s The Karamazovs (inspired by the famous Dostoyevsky novel The Brothers Karamazov), that won big: best director and best picture for 2008. It is the third time a Zelenka film has taken the two top prizes: the 41-year-old director first won for The Buttoners in 1997 and again for The Year of the Devil in 2002. But despite Zelenka’s success, Lidové noviny’s film critic Vojtěch Rynda says this year the competition was even; in his view it was anybody’s race.

“There was a group of basically four mainstream films which gathered most of the nominations and I don’t think there were any clear favourites among them. Each of them garnered at least one Czech Lion and no one really got left behind. There was a point when I thought that Tobruk – the war drama – would get the best picture prize but in the end it went to The Karamazovs. In the end, I don’t think there were any big surprises.”

Zuzana Bydžovská,  photo: CTK
Other winners on the night included Bohdan Sláma, for best original screenplay for The Country Teacher (the story of an unusual love triangle), with the best actress award going to the inimitable Zuzana Bydžovská. The respected Karel Roden, known for his roles in Czech films as well as Hollywood movies (Hellboy, 15 minutes), then won best actor for his role in Guard No. 47. And, the war film Tobruk, directed by Václav Marhoul, took awards for best sound and best camera. The fly-on-the-wall documentary Citizen Havel about Václav Havel’s presidency also received an award.

But in the end, it was perhaps not a single film but public broadcaster Czech TV – involved as co-producer on many projects – that came away the biggest winner. Without the public broadcaster, many films recognised at the Czech Lions simply wouldn’t get made, Vojtěch Rynda says:

“Czech TV has been a big supporter of Czech film for many years and with Guard No. 47 it started a trend when it has begun completely financing its own films again. I think it was involved in many of the movies which were presented at the awards. The role of Czech TV in financing many of this year’s projects was essential.”

The Czech Lions have come and gone and critics say that this year’s awards were largely a success, with one notable exception: the Czech academy ignored the critically-acclaimed Czech film Who’s Afraid of the Wolf, which got exactly zero nominations.