THE FILMS OF KAREL ZEMAN: A Journey to the Beginning of Time & Karel Zeman: Adventurer in Film

Co-presented by Czech That Film

A Journey to the Beginning of Time

A children’s science fiction adventure in the spirit of a wildlife documentary, and a dream-voyage through the wild epochs of prehistory, A Journey to the Beginning of Time (Cesta do pravěku) broke ground with Karel Zeman’s unorthodox special effects techniques. Seamlessly integrating live actors with stop-motion, 2-D animation, and puppetry in beautiful constructed environments, Zeman crafts set pieces so lavish that realism becomes irrelevant. Ostensibly a children’s educational film – the team included a noted paleontologist and the designs were taken from the paintings of world-famous paleo-artist Zdenek Burian – yet explicitly indebted to the fantastic tales of Jules Verne, and overflowing with majestic, painterly visuals, Zeman’s timeless vision of prehistoric Earth is also an ode to childhood and the childlike innocence of scientific curiosity.

Dir. Karel Zeman, 1955, HD Digital Presentation, 93 min.

Karel Zeman: Adventurer in Film Begins approx. 4PM

Join us on a Journey to Prehistory… the prehistory of special effects! Before CGI, before there were entire teams of post-production technicians, before the endless barrage of high-budget fantasy films, early animator Karel Zeman was creating technically astounding visual masterpieces, using the kind of masking and in-camera editing that is arduous enough for a still photographer; for a filmmaker it was painstaking (and high-stakes!) labor. We are so excited to introduce the Cinefamily audience to Zeman, who is heralded and beloved in the Czech Republic and among hardcore animation fans, and is too little known outside these niches! Untrained as a filmmaker, Zeman taught himself how to animate by studying film prints of Felix the Cat cartoons, and hired artisans and craftsmen, not filmmakers, to aid him in creating immersive fantasy worlds, rife with “analog” special effects, and a contagious playfulness and conviviality. In this charming documentary portrait, Zeman’s former collaborators and fans (filmmakers Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton among them) speak of the mythical life and work of this impossibly innovative director, artist, magician, and perfectionist force.

Dir. Tomás Hodan, 2015, DCP, 80 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!