Czech Olympic runner biopic Zátopek to open 2021 Karlovy Vary film fest

With the Czech Republic seeing some success at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo over the past week, a fitting film has been selected to open the 2021 edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in about two weeks.

Zátopek, a highly-anticipated biopic about Emil Zátopek, the famed Czech runner who won three gold medals at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, will play opening night at the 2021 film festival in Karlovy Vary. This year’s fest will officially kick off from August 20.

Nicknamed the Czech Locomotive, Zátopek is widely considered one of the best runners of the 20th Century and the most popular of all Czech athletes. He remains the only runner to win the 5,000 meter, 10,000 meter, and marathon races at the same Olympic Games, and was named by Runner’s World Magazine as the greatest runner of all time in 2013.

Directed by David Ondříček and starring Václav Neužil ml. in the titular role, Zátopek released its debut trailer earlier early last month. Prior to making the dramatic feature, Ondříček directed a 2016 documentary about the Czech athlete, also titled Zátopek.

Alongside Zátopek, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has also released its lineup of films playing in competition at this year’s festival, 32 of which will be having their international premiere in Karlovy Vary.

For the first time, documentary films will play in competition alongside features at this year’s festival, competing for a Crystal Globe in the Main Competition and prizes in the East of the West Competition, a section that highlights European films from countries that were previously behind the Iron Curtain.

A special section of films dedicated to the work of The Film Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving film history established by Martin Scorsese in the 1990s, will also screen during this year’s Karlovy Vary film fest.

A full lineup of films screening at this year’s Karlovy Vary film fest will be released later this week.

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival usually coincides with the July 5-6 national holidays in the Czech Republic. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic that cancelled last year’s fest, however, this year’s festival has been moved to late August to avoid conflict with the rescheduled 2021 Cannes film festival.

This year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will take place from August 20-28 in the Czech spa town.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at

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