Febiofest offers big picture on refugee crisis


One of the biggest Czech film festivals, Febiofest, gets underway in Prague on Thursday night. The event, which is now in its 23rd year, will highlight more than 150 films and a host of internationally recognised stars, including German actor Daniel Brühl or British screenwriter Peter Morgan.

I spoke to Febiofest’s programme director Štefan Uhrík and I first asked him to about this year’s biggest highlights:

“I would like to recommend the Evening of Stars, on Friday. Between six and seven we will greet three big starts of world cinema. There will be the great classic of Italian cinema, Marco Bellocchio, introducing his movie ‘Blood of my Blood’.

“There will be the star of Pedro Almodovar movies, Carmen Maura. She will introduce her latest work as an actress, ‘Le Vanité’, a bittersweet comedy about euthanasia.

“There will also be the great Scottish actor and director Peter Mullan, who will receive the Kristian award for lifetime achievement in cinematography. And the fourth star night will be dedicated to what I think is the best Czech movie of the last two decades, and that is ‘I, Olga Hepnarová’. So this is something people should not miss.”

This year you have introduced a new section dedicated to refugees. What will be on the programme in that section?

'Inside the cell', photo: Official website of Febiofest
“I would say it is not only about refugees. There are also more controversial films. There is a film about a jihadi terrorist cell preparing an attack in Paris, but it gives you a chance to see who these people are.

“Of course there are also the classic stories of people trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the African people living in miserable conditions in Italy. So the refugee crisis is not reduced to only one theme, it is about seeing the refugee topic from different angles.

“I also have to say that all these movies were actually made before the big crisis, before last summer, so it shows that this topic has always been interesting to a sensible soul of an artist.”

You will also be handing out a new award called Amnesty International Febiofest Award. Can you tell me more about it?

“We selected ten movies from different sections, so there is not a special competitive section of the Amnesty International Febiofest Award, and we will have a jury that will decide which film will get the award.

“We got this idea last year, when we supported Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian documentary filmmaker who is in prison in Russia. He was taken from his home in Crimea and received a 20-year sentence.

“We wanted to dedicate him the prize but we didn’t put the Oleg Sentsov name on it, because it is dedicated to all injustice in the world, to many other political prisoners and to many other people suffering inhumane conditions.”