Andy Garcia star guest at 41st Karlovy Vary Film Festival

Photo: CTK

The official trailer of the 41st Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The festival is now in full swing in the west Bohemian spa town of Karlovy Vary. It opened on Friday with the world premiere of "Time", which was presented in person by Korean film director Kim Ki-Duk. By the end of the weekend, over five thousand visitors had already flocked to the festival and some 50,000 tickets had been sold for over eighty screenings. Dita Asiedu is there:

Andy Garcia,  photo: CTK
Greetings from a very sunny Karlovy Vary. And as every year, this beautiful spa town is gripped by a festive atmosphere with bands playing anything from jazz to folk songs at various venues around the colonnade. And as has become tradition, the festival has attracted a number of renowned figures from the world of film. In past years, we have seen personalities like Matt Dillon, Ben Kingsley, and Morgan Freeman walk the red carpet.

This year, one of the biggest stars was US actor and director Andy Garcia, who we have seen in films like "Ocean's Eleven" and "Ocean's Twelve", "The Godfather Part 3", and "The Untouchables". He was presented with the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema. Andy Garcia presented his independent movie "The Lost City" starring him, Dustin Hoffman, and Bill Murray. The film about 1950s Havana debuts Andy Garcia as film director. He also composed the music. Although he had dreamed about making it ever since the 1980s, it took 16 years for that dream to become reality. As Andy Garcia tells us, it took so long not only because he had to find financial support but also because it bears a special place in his heart:

The Lost City
"I chose this subject matter because I am a product of this story. I came to the United States from Cuba when I was five and a half years old, so very early on in my life I had a very profound nostalgia for my native country and its culture and as I began to make my way in films I quickly realized that I wanted to not only act in films but to make movies.

That was in the mid-1980s. As soon as I made that commitment to make movies and not only act in them, the first movie I wanted to make was a movie about Cuba and about the experiences that I had growing up and a movie which would pay tribute to the music and culture in Cuba and using music as its sort of metaphoric protagonist.

So, very early on in the mid-1980s, I began with that dream and it solidified when I read that the novels and the writings of Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who dedicated much of his life writing about that time period and the cabaret world and the coming of age of Cuba and that is where the dream was born."

Andy Garcia with his doughter,  photo: CTK
Groups of the Cuban community abroad are debating how to bring forth that transformation from totalitarianism to democracy. Some radical thinkers would say that there should be a revolution right now while others want to wait for Castro to die and then do something about it. Are you engaged in that debate, and if not, what is your view on this? What path do you think should be taken to bring forth that transformation?

"I'm not involved in any of those kinds of debates. I'm only involved when people ask me a question about it. My feeling is that the Cuban people are suffering so the sooner that kind of transformation can happen in Cuba the sooner the Cuban people can be free. Hopefully, you would like to achieve that to a very peaceful and a passive type of changeover. That is what we hope for. You don't want in any situation to have any kind of bloodshed. But the Cuban people are suffering so the quicker the Cuban people can move to a democracy, the better. So, that is what I pray for."

The Fine Art of Love
Another big name in the world of cinema who arrived on Sunday is British director John Irvin. He presents his film "The Fine Art of Love". French director Luc Besson was supposed to present Angel-A to the Czech audience but had to cancel. Brazilian film director Andrucha Waddington was also unable to attend the screening of his film "The House of Sand". He was going to "stop by" the festival during the making of a documentary of the Brazilian football team at the World Cup in Germany but Brazil's surprise defeat on Saturday has forced him to return home with the team. And actress Jacqueline Bisset has also called off her visit.

Danny Huston,  photo: CTK
But despite these cancellations, the festival will not be without stars. Director Terry Gilliam arrived on Monday to present his film "Tideland" and up-and-coming actor Hugh Dancy is also here. He stars in the movie "Shooting Dogs". As part of a tribute to John Huston, his son - the actor and director Danny Huston - presented "Reflections in a Golden Eye" on Monday.

Fifteen feature films are competing for the Crystal Globe - the Grand Prix of the festival - this year. Among them "Kraska v nesnazich" or "Beauty in Trouble" by Czech director Jan Hrebejk. Czech film has enjoyed little promotion at home and abroad and the festival, this year, gives the Czech film industry a large platform to present its movies made in 2005-2006. Part of the festival was also a meeting of Czech film producers and directors with President Vaclav Klaus and representatives of the emerging three-party coalition government. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss public funding schemes for the industry after Czech deputies failed to vote on a presidential veto of a bill that secured higher state subsidies for Czech filmmaking. Film producer Pavel Strnad attended the meeting:

Meeting of Czech film producers and directors with President Vaclav Klaus,  photo: CTK
"In comparison with the state support that the film industry has in other European countries, the Czech Republic has only about ten percent that of neighbours like Poland and Hungary, which is a big handicap for us and we would like to get on the level of the standard European approach to cinema. I think the meeting was quite effective because we spent more than ninety minutes talking about the way the Czech film production should be supported in the future. So we hope that it will bring result."

The three-party coalition of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens, have pledged to form a group of experts that will concentrate on the film industry and state subsidies if their emerging government gains a vote of confidence in parliament.