Born in 1965, Jan Svěrák studied documentary filmmaking at the Prague Film Academy (FAMU), from which he graduated in 1988. At the Academy he directed several short films. Jan Svěrák’s talent first attracted attention through his short film Space Odyssey II, a dramatic story of two retired women living on a snow-bound estate. Here he paid his first ironic homage to mainstream American commercial film genres. Jan’s ability as a filmmaker was confirmed by his “sci-fi ecology” documentary dealing with a “newly discovered species”, supposedly flourishing in the devastated region of what was then Northern Czechoslovakia. In 1989, Oilgobblers received the most prestigious prize in its category, the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Student Oscar® for the best foreign film.
Two years later Jan Svěrák completed his feature debut, Elementary School, the screenplay for which was written by his father, Zdeněk Svěrák, who also acted in the film. In 1992, this heart-warming period film set in post-war Czechoslovakia was nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film.
Jan’s next movie was Accumulator 1, an action fantasy about television’s vampire-like capacity to suck out a person’s life-force and deplete their energy, which he wrote with Jan Slovák, a member of the theatre company Sklep. At the time the film, with its budget of over forty million crowns, was the largest scale Czech production ever. It was awarded the Media Prize at the 1994 Venice International Film Festival and received the Grand Prix at the International Fantastic Adventure Film Festival at Yubari in Japan. On home territory the popularity of the film brought Jan Svěrák the Czech Lion Prize, awarded by the Czech Film and Television Academy for the most popular film of the year.
Jan Svěrák’s road-movie, The Ride, was also a big hit with audiences in the Czech Republic. He wrote the screenplay of this ultra low-budget film with his college mate Martin Dostál. As soon as it was released, the film acquired an almost cult status and for more than a year it was one of the top Czech box-office hits.
Kolya, Jan’s first collaboration with Eric Abraham, was scripted by his father Zdeněk Svěrák, who also stars. This movie won Jan his second Oscar® in the cathegory of The Best Foreign Picture. Since then Jan Sverak made two more fiction features. Dark Blue World - Second world war drama set in Britain - and Empties - comic love story about men facing old age. In 2004 he made the documentary Papa about his father and frequent film collaborator Zdenek Sverak.
Jan is married with three children and lives in Prague.
Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.