Mission and history

We have been looking after our film heritage for eighty years.


History of the Národní filmový archiv

The Film Archive was founded in 1943. Paradoxically, the conviction of the need for a film archive was only fulfilled during the Nazi occupation. Today it is one of the key memory institutions.

The German Walter Gottfried Lohmayer was officially appointed the first head of the Film Archive. However, the author of the modern concept of this memory institution and a key personality of Czech film archiving is the respected expert on film technology Jindřich Brichta. From his position as deputy head, he sought to create an organisation that would make it possible to preserve and subsequently study the film industry in its complexity. The Film Archive became a Department of film-related documents, research and a professional library. The collection expanded rapidly during the wartime operations and new storage capacity was needed. Film materials were stored wherever possible, for example in the greenhouse of the Kinský Garden in Prague's Smichov district.

After the nationalisation of the Czechoslovak film industry by Presidential Decree No. 50/1945 Coll., the Film Archive was organisationally incorporated into the newly established Czechoslovak Film Institute (ČSFÚ) at the end of 1945. It was admitted to the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) a year later, as its fifth to ninth member. However, the CSFIA was dissolved in the early 1950s. In the course of subsequent reorganisations of the Czechoslovak State Film Archive (CSF), the Film Archive and its individual departments were attached to various companies and departments. The Archive could only partially fulfil its original mission. Its precious film collection was more like a warehouse of discarded films. The period of several years of provisional existence ended in 1963, when the CSFI was re-established. The film archive, together with the documentation and library, became part of it.

With the arrival of Bohumil Brejcha as head of the archive in the mid-1960s, the process of transformation of the hitherto predominantly "collector-oriented" enterprise began. The future activities of the institution were to be based on scientific working practices and professional management. For example, the newly established technical department was tasked with, among other things, sorting and separating materials on a flammable and secure basis, shredding multiples, and treating and protecting film materials using modern methods and procedures. Films were stored in completely inappropriate places, such as former inns, brickworks, garages, or the cellar of Kost Castle. The aim of the new management was to comprehensively describe the stored materials and thus eliminate the prevailing fragmentation and incompleteness of information.

During the onset of normalisation and as a result of cadre checks, the Film Archive was labelled a centre of the right and isolated from international relations for ten years. In 1975, the Film Institute became independent from its long-standing umbrella body, the Central Directorate of the CSF. The Film Institute thus became an independent economic unit and at the same time acquired legal personality. The Film Archive operated under its auspices until the end of the 1980s.

In spite of the many discriminatory measures of the two decades of normalisation, the staff of the Film Archive managed to achieve a high level, especially in identification and cataloguing. They initiated new restoration procedures, de-filming methods, and techniques for viraging and toning films. A general inventory of the collections was completed, the old collections were renovated on their own and a new depository was built. Other plans for possible development were not implemented until after 1989. For example, in the early 1990s a new depository for black and white negatives and written archival material was built in the village of Hradištko near Prague.

In 1990, the CSFI was reorganised and renamed the Czech Film Institute (ČFÚ). Shortly thereafter, by a decision of the Minister of Culture, the state economic organisation of the CFA was changed to a state contributory organisation called the Národní filmový archiv, Prague (NFA). The NFA's designation as one of the most important national institutions protecting our cultural heritage was confirmed by Act No. 273/1993 Coll. of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.

The establishment of the NFA was seen as a definitive break with the past, it meant setting new priorities, strengthening previously neglected activities and abolishing ineffective ones. At the time of the privatisation of state cinema, the NFA took over a large amount of film and written archival material. From the mid-1990s to the present day, activities for which there was previously no capacity have been developed and new ones have been added: an oral history unit has been established, a collection of amateur and family films has begun, a video art collection has been created, and a digital laboratory has been developed since 2012. The NFA has been publishing the magazine Illumination since 1989, and in the 1990s took over the publication of the magazine Filmový přehled, which was transformed into the online portal filmovyprehled.cz in 2015.

The NFA has been involved in several national and international programmes since the 1990s, and in recent years research projects have also focused on interdisciplinary relations. For example, we have created a video archive, we are working on the history of children's film in Czechoslovakia after World War II, we are involved in a digital research infrastructure for language technology, arts and humanities, and we are strengthening cooperation between film archives and academia.

Since 2012, the NFA has regularly presented classic Czech and Czechoslovak films in digital and restored form at major international festivals (Cannes, Berlinale, Venice) and at specialized festivals and professional communities (Bologna, Lyon, Paris, Pordenone, etc.), and regularly presents photochemically restored films at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. The international anchorage in the structures of FIAF and ACE is traditionally strong and is also represented by personal participation in the management of these organisations.

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"The archive is an institution that serves the public - and thinks especially about the future, about the availability of the collection for future generations."

Michal Bregant

Director General of the National Film Archive

what we do


We are a memory institution. Our mission is to care for film heritage, to facilitate its discovery and to help the development of the Czech audiovisual industry and film culture.

  • Every day we care for the collection and continuously expand it.
  • We are dedicated to the distribution of Czechoslovak films to cinemas and online
  • through distribution, research and curatorial activities, we spread the good name of Czech cinema and make the collection accessible
  • researching, exploring, publishing and supporting research
  • we run a library, a Ponrepo cinema and the Filmový přehled portal
  • we are active in the international professional community