Staring Into the Past

As a 10-year-old, Jan Hrebejk was an enthusiastic fossil hunter who fantasized about time travel and scoured abandoned quarries. Now 35, Hrebejk has traded his geology hammer for a camera, and become an accomplished director with four acclaimed features and an Oscar nomination. Since his latest film, Pupendo, opened March 27, it has become the Czech Republic's top-grossing movie since 1989, pulling in an estimated $2.2 million at the box office in its first seven weeks.

But deep down, the Prague native remains the amateur paleontologist of his childhood. Today, he travels in time through his...

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