Vladimir Motyl was born in Lepiel, Belarus. His father was a Polish émigré, who was arrested in 1930 and sent to Solovki and died there the following year. Many of his other relatives suffered similar treatment. Vladimir and his mother were exiled to the Northern Urals, where he became fascinated in theatre and cinema, and later graduated from the Sverdlovsk Theatrical Institute. For about 10 years he worked in various theatres in the Urals and Siberia and eventually became chief director of Sverdlovsk Young Spectator's Theatre.
He decided to start afresh in cinema, despite having no technical qualifications. Eventually he directed his first film, Children of Pamirs (1963) (Detyi Pamira/Дети Памира) in Tajikistan. This work was met with public success, as well as earning him the State Prize of Tajik SSR (1964), and the title of honorary citizen of Dushanbe (1977).
His next film Zhenya, Zhenechka, and "Katyusha" (1967) (Женя, Женечка и "Катюша"), a romantic comedy/drama set in 1944, was warmly accepted by the public as well, but earned the displeasure of the Soviet agitprop for "disrespectful" treatment of the second world war theme, and the director fell into disfavor.
Nevertheless, he was invited to direct a film which was to become one of the most popular Soviet cult films, the "Red Western" (or technically, "Ostern") White Sun of the Desert. Notably, this film has a strong theme about exile, as its protagonist, Sukhov finds himself waylaid in Central Asia when trying to return home.
For his work, Motyl received numerous awards.
- 1963: Children of Pamirs (Dyeti Pamira/Дети Памира), film director
- 1967: Zhenya, Zhenechka, and "Katyusha" (Женя, Женечка и "Катюша"), playwright, film director
- 1969: White Sun of the Desert (Beloye Solntse Pustnyi/Белое солнце пустыни), film director
- 1975: The Captivating Star of Happiness (Zvezda plenitelnogo schast'ya/Звезда пленительного счастья) (the title is a line from a verse by Pushkin), playwright, film director
- 1980: Forest (Lyes/Лес), playwright, film director
- 1984: Unbelievable bet (Neveroyatnoe Pari/Невероятное пари), film director
- 1987: My Best Respects (Tchest Imeyo/Честь имею), playwright
- 1991: Let's Part while we're alright (Rasstanemsya, poka khorishoye/Расстанемся, пока хорошие), playwright, film director
- 1993: (Okhlamon/Охламон), playwright, play director
- 1996: (Nesut menya koni/Несут меня кони), playwright, film director, music for the songs
- 2009: Crimson Colour of the Snowfall(Bagrovy Tsvet Snegopada/Багровый цвет снегопада), playwright, film director, music for the songs
- 1996:Order of Honour for the film White Sun of the Desert
- 1998: State Prize of the Russian Federation category Literature and Arts for year 1997, for the film White Sun of the Desert
- 2003: Honorary title of People's Artist of Russian Federation
- Echo of Moscow 22 February 2010.
- Владимир Яковлевич Мотыль
- decree of President of Russian Federation of July 12, 1996 № 1026
- decree of President of Russian Federation of June 6, 1998 № 656
- List of awards (Вручение правительственных наград российским кинематографистам) (in Russian)