The first full-career retrospective of Czech director Jan Němec (b. 1936) to be presented in North America. Though Němec (pronounced Niemetz) was an instrumental player in the famed Czechoslovak New Wave alongside Miloš Forman, Jiří Menzel, Věra Chytilová, and others, the enfant terrible of the movement is relatively unknown here. This long-overdue survey of Němec’s nearly 50-year career of uncompromising work is curated by Irena Kovarova and produced by the Comeback Company in partnership with the National Film Archive (Prague), Aerofilms, and Jan Neěmec-Film. It premiered at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn in November and is now on a North American tour.
The triumvirate of Němec, Forman, and Menzel became the face of a new cinema rushing out of Czechoslovakia in the mid-1960s, with Chytilová, Ivan Passer, and Juraj Herz following close behind. Though heralded as a new generation of masters abroad, their work did not always garner immediate recognition—Czechoslovak state authorities controlled film distribution to festivals and markets, and it could take two to three years before a film was available internationally.
Forbidden from working in film after the invasion, Němec was forced into exile in 1974 and left for Germany. He lived in the United States from 1977 to 1989, but his avant-garde filmmaking style and nonconformist personality made it difficult for him to break through in Hollywood. After several years spent teaching and working as a commercial videographer, Němec returned to his native country following the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Many films in this series will be shown on rare, imported archival 35mm prints.