Countdown to Karlovy Vary Film Festival begins

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is one of the highlights on the Czech cultural calendar. In this, its 43rd year, the festival promises to be bigger than ever. It all kicks off in two weeks’ time in the pretty Bohemian spa town, but ahead of the grand opening, organizers held a meeting in Prague on Monday, to drop a few hints about what could be expected. I spoke to program director Julietta Sichel about what would be new at the festival this year:

“We are preparing a big surprise – there will be four new festival trailers, and the tradition which we are trying to start is that the idea, or the main plot, for all of the trailers for the future will be ‘what happens to the Crystal Globe after it is won by someone famous’. So, this year, the main protagonists of the four new festival trailers will be famous Czech film director - the leading lady of Czech cinema - Vera Chytilová, and from the Untied States Danny De Vito, who got the Crystal Globe last year and Harvey Keitel, who we had a chance to welcome in Karlovy Vary a few years ago, and Czech-American director Miloš Forman.”

When you were talking earlier, you said that there would be some 56 premieres at the film festival this year, which is a sensational number. Can you tell about a few of them which you find particularly interesting?

“Well there are several world premieres in the main competition, so we are really proud to have all of them. There are also premieres in sections like ‘East of the West’ or ‘The Forum of Independents’. From ‘The Forum of Independents’, I think it is worth mentioning an very independent Chinese film called ‘Good Cats’ by a very talented young director [Ying Liang], who was discovered previously at really independent festivals, so this is his big debut at a big international film festival. And then there is an Irish film called ‘Peace Fire’.”

One of the biggest guests this year is Robert De Niro, can you tell me maybe about some of the other guests whose names have been slightly eclipsed by his?

“Well, there are several well-known people on the jury, amongst them is the famous British actress Brenda Blethyn. From other famous people who are not on the jury, but who are bringing their films, I should mention US director and actor Tom McCarthy who is bringing his new film ‘The Visitor’. His previous film ‘Station Agent’ was a big hit at our festival and at Sundance. So it is really great to have him personally finally at the festival. There are other names worth mentioning like Christopher Lee and Nicolas Roeg, who will be presenting his own retrospective. The Mexican director Arthuro Ripstein will be there too, so lots of people to look out for.”

And my final question is about De Niro himself. How did you get him to come to Karlovy Vary?

“We’ve been trying to invite him to Karlovy Vary for a long time, and we think that after we had Robert Redford, this is another important personality who is not only acting but also directing and also supporting culture in the United States. They both try to support cultural life and young filmmakers.”