“Zátopek,” director David Ondříček’s biopic about Olympic champion Emil Zátopek, dominated the 29th annual Czech Lion Awards, winning in eight categories across 13 nominations.
The Czech Lion Awards were held on Saturday evening at Dvořák Hall in Prague’s Rudolfinum. The awards, which are voted on by a 350-person jury of members from the Czech Film and Television Academy, are considered the highest film honors in the Czech Republic.
During the ceremony, “Zátopek” won awards for best film, director, actor in a leading role, cinematography, editing, sound, production design and makeup and hairstyling. Prior to the ceremony, it was also announced that the film had previously won the fan vote category at the awards, as well as an award for its poster design.
“We deeply appreciate that the members of the Czech Film and Television Academy awarded the film ‘Zátopek,’ not only as best film, but also in so many other categories, reflecting the amazing work of the entire production team,” Ondříček said in a statement along with his co-producer Kryštof Mucha. “We have devoted more than ten years of preparation to ‘Zátopek,’ and all those who worked on the film have given not only their professionalism, but also their hearts.”
“Zátopek” stars Václav Neužil, recipient of the Czech Lion for leading actor, as long-distance runner Emil Zátopek, who won four gold medals at the Olympics and is widely considered one of the greatest runners of all time. Martha Issová portrays Zátopek’s wife and Olympic javelin-throwing champion Dana Zátopková, while James Frecheville portrays Olympic runner Ron Clarke. The film is structured around a meeting between Clarke and Zátopek during the 1968 Summer Olympics, during which the film flashes back to notable moments in Zátopek’s life, including his win in the marathon competition of the 1952 Olympics, the first marathon he ran in his life.
“Zátopek” was an instant success upon release, with its opening weekend becoming the most successful for any film in the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, grossing over 17 million Czech Crowns. The film has received positive reviews both in the Czech Republic and abroad. In a review for Variety of the film’s world premiere at Karlovy Vary Film Festival in August, critic Guy Lodge wrote that the film “appears to sincerely grasp the soul of a man for whom winning wasn’t everything, even if he always won. A crowd-pleasing curtain-raiser at this year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival, the film is sure to have legs on home turf, but is accessible enough (with a sizable portion of English-language dialogue) to cross over internationally.”
A U.S. release for the film has not yet been announced. “Zátopek” was selected as the Czech submission for the international feature film category at the Oscars, but was not nominated.
The Czech Lion ceremony also paid tribute to the Ukrainian people as a response to the current invasion of the country by Russian military forces, with the venue decorated in Ukraine’s yellow and blue colors. The audience collectively donated over 5 million Czech Crowns for Ukrainian relief. The ceremony’s afterparty was cancelled, with the money that would have gone to it instead being donated to the Ukrainian resistance.