47th Karlovy Vary Film Festival gets underway

Helen Mirren, photo: CTK

The 47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival kicked off in the west Bohemian spa town on Friday. At the opening ceremony, the British actress Helen Mirren was honoured for her contribution to world cinema. The festival, which this year again features a Czech film in the main competition, will conclude next Sunday with the handing out of the Crystal Globe awards. Radio Prague’s former reporter, Ian Willoughby is at the festival, and we asked him for an account of the happenings so far.

Helen Mirren,  photo: CTK
“The biggest event so far was naturally Friday night’s opening where the special guest was Dame Helen Mirren, the UK actress perhaps best known for playing the queen in the 2006 film of the same name for which she won an Oscar. Helen Mirren received the festival’s Crystal Globe award for an outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema.

“The opening film was Good Vibrations, a movie about Northern Ireland’s music scene during the Troubles. The film’s directors, Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn were in attendance as was well known musician, DJ David Holmes who produced the film.

“The Karlovy Vary film festival is also a big social event for what you might call the Czech elite; the opening had lots VIPs like the Czech President Václav Klaus, other politicians, and lots of wealthy business people.”

You mentioned Helen Mirren - who else can visitors expect to see on the red carpet this year?

“Apart from Helen Mirren, the biggest star is without doubt the US actress Susan Saranadon who is coming at the end of the festival next weekend. She is probably best known for role in the early 1990s film Thelma and Louise.

Istvan Szabo,  photo: CTK
“Other guests include Todd Solondz, an American indie director made the films Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse. He’s here in couple of days with his new movie called Dark Horse. One director who is already here is the great Hungarian filmmaker Istvan Szabo who presented latest picture The Door which stars Helen Mirren.

Any particular films viewers should watch out for?

“It’s hard to say as there are obviously very many – in fact over 200, with nearly two dozen of them being world premieres. As every year, the festival puts a lot of focus on its East of the West section which presents films from eastern Europe that viewers would otherwise have little chance of seeing. The section has been a kind of the festival’s flagship for many years now.

“One film that many people are talking about is The Hunt by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg about what happens when man is falsely accused abusing a small child. I have seen it myself and I have to say it’s brilliant.

“Otherwise, a lot of people here will be looking forward to a Polski film which is actually a Czech movie – and the only one in the official competition – featuring several well-known Czech actors playing themselves in a kind of mock-documentary-style film.”

I understand also some classic Czech films are being screened…

'Polski film',  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“Yes, for instance they are showing Hoří má panenko, or Firemen’s Ball by Miloš Forman which is one of the all-time great Czech films. It has been digitally restored, and that’s something the Karlovy Vary festival began doing last year with the screening of the restored version of the classic Markéta Lazarová.

This year, there’s also a tribute to the actor Josef Somr in the form of a screening of The Joke, the excellent 1969 film based on Milan Kundera’s first novel of same title.”