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“Why are we here?”: Karel Vachek and the Film of the Week

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“Why are we here?” The brief and apt question invites an unlimited number of possible answers. Czech film classic Karel Vachek seeks possible indications of those answers and perspectives of the sense and meaning of human existence in his latest essay THE OBSCURANTIST AND HIS LINEAGE OR THE PYRAMIDS’ TEARFUL VALLEY. Watch the film that will transport you to the transcendental levels of human existence in the week from April 11 to 17 for free!


Director Karel Vachek has been one of the leading personalities of Czech documentary film since the second half of the past century. The filmmaker whose student years as well as his current teaching activities are inseparable from the internationally renowned Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) confronts the viewers of his films with difficult social, political and philosophical questions, forcing them to reflect on their personal and cultural identity. Vachek is characterized by his sense of humour which he calls an internal laughter. By means of a surprising montage, he connects seemingly unconnectable scenes, creating new meanings and interpretations of events. His most acclaimed film Elective Affinities capturing the Prague Spring of 1968 received the Berlinale Camera award. His latest film The Obscurantist and His Lineage or the Pyramids’ Tearful Valley, which now enters VoD distribution, was internationally premiered in competition at Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX and received the FNE Prix for the best coproduction of Central and European countries at [Jihlava IDFF] (http://www.dokument-festival.com/). A retrospective of his work was presented at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. among many others.

In his latest film THE OBSCURANTIST AND HIS LINEAGE OR THE PYRAMIDS’ TEARFUL VALLEY, the director, who could not make or present his films during the long three decades of communist rule in Czechoslovakia, deals with the ubiquitous question of the origins of human existence. He bravely faces its width and depth, in which one can get lost or scared easily, using interviews with representatives of various religious and intellectual movements to make a collage of various perspectives from which people try to explain their lives. Esotericism, mysticism, religion, sectarianism, extraterrestrial civilizations; he approaches all of these with respect and without disdain. Although he takes an atheist stance himself, he calls for a common discussion, offering many surreal, bizarre moments. At the same time, he does not refrain from his analysis, linking the boom of esoteric and mystical narratives in the life of modern man with the phenomena of contemporary society, such as the ubiquitous commercial and political spectacle and the considerable influence of capitalism.

“Seeing The Obscurantist and His Lineage is like travelling through the brain of a nuclear physicist interested in theology and under the influence of psychedelic drugs. The film is about alien civilisations living among us here on earth. Nothing less. But Vachek’s work is more than a documentary version of X Files. It is an examination of how we make the world provide meaning to us, of the wafer-thin border between belief and institutionalised religion, and of everything that is on the margins of our knowledge. Like a drunk man on a limp tightrope, the gigantic pipe-smoking Karel Vachek miraculously balances across the precipice of existence armed with quantum mechanics, religious books and philosophical ideas. En route, he meets people like Barack Obama and the Pope on his visit to Prague, the mysteriologist Erich von Däniken and a biologist who has been attacked by the invisible Mongolian death snake! The Obscurantist shares both its length and subject matter with Peter Mettler’s masterpiece Gambling, Gods and LSD, but Vachek’s humour, crazy ideas and distinctive world views lend the work an energy that we have to go back to the Czech New Wave and Makavejev’s work about the mysteries of the organisms to find equals to. A mysterious, magical and unequalled trip,” wrote the organizers of the Doc Alliance CPH:DOX festival about the film.

Explore the yet unknown and unknowable from April 11 to 17 at DAFilms.com. Watch the film of the week THE OBSCURANTIST AND HIS LINEAGE OR THE PYRAMIDS’ TEARFUL VALLEY for free!


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Films for the event

Tmar_a_jeho_rod_1

Obscurantist and His Lineage or The Pyramids' Tearful Valleys

Tmář a jeho rod aneb Slzavé údolí pyramid (Orig.) / 2011 / Czech Republic / 209 min

Karel Vachek’s latest documentary essay deals with the fine line between an internal belief in God and institutionalized religion. At the same time it brings up the need for a healthy sense of skepticism and the benefit of not believing in anything that advertises itself as certain.

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