10 Directors to Watch 2013: David Ondricek

Not everyone is a born director, but a few — like helmer David Ondricek — are born into the business. The son of famed cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek, second-generation cinephile David has spent the past two decades writing and directing modest features in his native Czech Republic. This year marks a breakthrough of sorts, since his Cold War thriller “In the Shadow” was tapped to represent his home country in the Oscar foreign-lingo film race. (His dad was nominated twice, for lensing “Ragtime” and “Amadeus.”)

“My father taught me that you have to make films very realistic,” Ondricek says. “It’s my mantra: Don’t make any artificial things.”

A paternal influence can be found throughout the director’s life: His Lucky Man Films production outfit is named for one of his dad’s first non-Czech assignments, “O Lucky Man!” One of several seeds for his interest in film was planted on his childhood trip to the set of another project his dad lensed, “The World According to Garp.” And the basis for his latest, most acclaimed work came from the elder Ondricek’s suggestion to make a film about currency devaluation in post-WWII Prague.

Combining detective fiction and film noir, Ondricek’s film touches on real events of personal significance to his family. “After financial devaluation, we lost everything,” he recalls. “I’m part of the last generation who lived through communism, and I never forgot the feeling from that time. It was terrible — no freedom of expression.”

“Shadow” is a departure for Ondricek, who has mostly worked on comedies, most notably the 2000 local hit “Loners.” He plans to return to the genre for his next feature, followed by a biopic of 1950s Czech Olympic legend Emil Zatopek. But he notes that they could easily be postponed for the right U.S. project, preferably one that allows him to shoot in Europe.

Homebase: Prague
Inspired by: His father, Miroslav, and longtime collaborator Milos Forman (“They are my biggest teachers”), Ivan Passer, Stanley Kubrick and “Garp” director George Roy Hill
Rep: Krystof Mucha (producer and exec director, Karlovy Vary Film Festival)

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