West News Wire: Juraj Jakubisko, a Slovak filmmaker who was honored as his nation’s best film director of the 20th century, has passed away. He was 84.

According to his daughter Janette, Jakubisko passed away on Friday just before midnight in Prague, where he had lived with his family ever since Czechoslovakia split in 1993. The Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic also reported his passing.

Many honors from international film festivals have been given to Jakubisko’s dozens of short and feature films.

He was frequently referred to as the “Fellini of the East” or the “Slovak Fellini” after the renowned Italian director Federico Fellini for his metaphorical, symbolic, and poetic films.

Born April 30, 1938 in the village of Kojsov in what is now eastern Slovakia, Jakubisko graduated from Prague’s Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in 1966.

He debuted with the critically acclaimed “Crucial Years” the following year. With that, as well as “Deserters and Pilgrims” (1968) and “Birds, Orphans and Fools” (1969), he cemented his place as part of the Czechoslovak New Wave in cinema together with a number of other young directors of the time, including Milos Forman and Vera Chytilova.

All those films were banned by the hard-line communist regime that was established following the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed a period of liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring.

For the next decade, he was allowed to make only documentary films. He returned to feature movies with “Build a House, Plant a Tree” in 1979 which was soon also banned.

His major success was “The Millennial Bee,” in 1983, an epic family saga in the late 19th and early 20th century that won awards at film festivals in Seville, Spain, and Venice, Italy.

In 1985, Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina, starred in Jakubisko’s fairy tale for children “The Feather Fairy.”

His biggest box-office success after the 1989 collapse communism was “Bathory” in 2008, a historical drama starring English actress Anna Friel as Elizabeth Bathory, a Hungarian countess who according to legend used to kill virgins in order to bathe in their blood. It was at the time the most expensive motion picture production in Central Europe.


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