Belgian-Canadian picture Angel at Sea wins 44th Karlovy Vary film festival

Frederic Dumont, photo: CTK

The 44th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, which has just come to an end in the west Bohemian spa town, will surely go down as one of the best in recent years. Many believe that there was an improvement in the standard of films in competition, while the glitter factor was also high, with Hollywood stars like John Malkovich and Antonio Banderas gracing Karlovy Vary’s red carpet.

The best film award at this year’s KVIFF went to the Belgian-Canadian picture Angel at Sea, the story of a boy whose life is changed when his father imparts a family secret. The picture was something of a surprise winner, beating off unusually strong competition to take the main prize. It also took a second Crystal Globe for best actor, which its star Olivier Gourmet shared with Paul Giamatti for the latter’s performance in Cold Souls.

Angel at Sea’s director Frederic Dumont was grinning broadly when he spoke moments after Saturday’s awards ceremony.

Frederic Dumont, photo: CTK
“Karlovy Vary is a class A festival, it’s not insignificant. This is going to be all over the Belgium press in the morning. I’ve got a few projects on the go and am currently finishing a screenplay and it’s clear this will help me with those projects. It won’t be easy, but this will help. I’ve proved with this film that I can manage actors, tell a story, I can see the whole process through. This should open doors, at least in Belgium, and maybe in France too, because my next film is a co-production with the French.”

The special jury prize at this year’s Karlovy Vary went to the Iranian film Twenty by Abdolreza Kahani. His call for the audience at Hotel Thermal to stand up in support of the people of Iran was heeded; it also won the backing of John Malkovich, who said he had been at the inauguration of Václav Havel and that Iran’s time would also come.

Antonio Banderas (left) and moderator Marek Eben, photo: CTK
The best director award at this year’s Karlovy Vary went to Andreas Dresen for Whiskey and Vodka; accepting the award, he joked that it was surprising a German comedy would take any kind of prize. Paprika Steen took the best actress award for a stunning performance in the Danish film Applause, while the main documentary prize went to Osadné by Slovak director Marko Škop, who had taken the same award in 2006.

The biggest star this year was Antonio Banderas, who wowed both organisers and fans with his easy-going nature. The Hollywood A-lister spent seven months shooting in Prague in 1992, and was asked by Karlovy Vary Festival TV what his strongest memories of that time were.

“There are many memories, I cannot just specify one. I remember the big long walks I used to take on Sundays. I used to wake up very early in the mornings, put on my sneakers and just go around town and get lost. I loved that feeling of getting lost in Prague, in Malá Strana, just interacting with people I met. I started reading Czech literature, I read Kafka. I remember reading the Trial on a beautiful terrace by the river. Things like that are what I remember. And people – the human factor is very important too.”

Antonio Banderas received a festival president’s award at the 44th Karlovy Vary. The more prestigious Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema was presented to three film greats: French actress Isabelle Huppert, Czech animator Jan Švankmajer, and US actor John Malkovich.