Film fans from at home and abroad have descended on the west Bohemian spa town Karlovy Vary for the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival which opens on Friday night. The festival will screen over 200 films, including seven international and two Czech premieres. Ian Willoughby is in Karlovy Vary for the event and I called him ahead of the big night to find out what would be the main attraction at the festival’s opening.
“That will definitely be the arrival later today of the biggest star at this year’s festival Mel Gibson who is receiving the festival’s Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema. But, as you may have heard, this award had some controversy around it. The Czech Jewish Community has expressed dissatisfaction that he is getting this prize. They have protested about the fact that he made the film The Passion of the Christ in the mid-2000s which they say is anti-Semitic. For their part the festival organizers are saying that he is a big film star, that they are giving him the award for his film work and are not concerned with anything else attached to Mel Gibson. But it is quite unusual that there would be any controversy surrounding a festival guest. Though I should add, that Mel Gibson is without doubt a big Hollywood star. I was just reading that his film have earned 2.5 billion dollars so even if he is controversial he is a major Hollywood star.”
And what else can visitors expect this year?
“There are several other interesting guests coming including the American actress Laura Dern that people may know from Wild at Heart, the David Lynch film, the French actress Fanny Ardante is coming to present her latest film as director. There are scores of interesting film makers coming here from all over the world, many from Eastern Europe, there are hundreds of films and of course many accompanying events like master classes where Hollywood directors teach young people, or anyone interested, how they make films and run through the film-making process, and of course as everyone knows there are lots of bars here and parties ranging from high-end VIP events to beer tents for ordinary Joes like me.”
What about Czech films at KV-anything in particular to look forward to?
“Yes, there are several interesting Czech films. There’s a restored version of Closely Observed Trains – the Jiří Menzel film that won an Oscar in the mid-1960s. Every year for the last few years they have restored a classic Czech film and this year it is Closely Watched Trains –so people will be looking forward to that. Also many older visitors will be very interested I think in a new documentary about the singer Marta Kubišová, it has a rather grand title The Magic Voice of a Rebel, and that will be a big hit I am sure at this year’s festival. Also in the main competition there is an interesting Czech film called Nowhere in Moravia directed by Miroslav Krobot who is an actor and the head of the Dejvické divadlo theatre, one of the country’s most renowned theaters. Krobot has now made his first film behind the camera (this Nowhere in Moravia), it is said to be a small town comic drama and it is one of twelve movies in contention for the main Crystal Globe prize for Best Film.”
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