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Director, screenwriter Helge dies aged 88

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Prague, Jan 31 (CTK) – Film director and scriptwriter Ladislav Helge, from the successful and highly appreciated generation of Czechoslovak film makers of the 1960s, died after a long disease in a Prague hospital on Sunday at the age of 88, film producer Jaromir Kallista told CTK.

Like the careers of others, Helge’s promising career was interrupted by the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the following period of normalisation, or communist hardliners’ rule.

In the early 1970s, his films were banned due to their subtext critical of the communist regime, as was his further work as a film maker. He was forced to earn his living as a clerk.

In 2009, the Czech Film and Television Association (FITES) bestowed the prestigious Vladislav Vancura Prize on Helge for his lifelong artistic and moral contribution to Czech cinematography.

Born in Prague in 1927, Helge started to work in various film professions after World War Two. He shot his first film, the School for Fathers, in 1957.

His other significant films include Great Solitude (1959), Spring Breeze (1961), White Clouds (1962), Without a Halo (1963), Chance Meeting (1965) and Shame (1967).

He was elected deputy chairman of the Czechoslovak Film and Television Association (FITES) at its constituent congress in 1965, and he headed the Czech branch of FITES in 1969-70.

After the abolition of FITES in January 1970, he faced political persecution and gradually ousted from the film branch.

In 1977, he succeeded in gaining the position of a scriptwriter and director in Laterna magika, the Prague theatre combining film and live performance, where he stayed for 15 years.

In 1990, after the fall of the communist regime, Helge was elected head of the restored FITES organisation, but he did not return to shooting films of his own. From the mid-1990s, he headed the department of film direction at Prague’s Academy of Film Arts (FAMU).

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