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. In the 1980s he worked as a driver. 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 In¬tolerance 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.
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