Febiofest: Prague’s biggest film festival aims to satisfy both cineastes and mainstream audiences

'Spoor', photo: archive of Febiofest

Febiofest, Prague’s biggest film festival, gets rolling on Thursday night. Now in its 24th year, the event is bringing a number of noteworthy movie names to the Czech capital and, with several new sections this year, aims to satisfy both serious cineastes and mainstream viewers.

'Spoor',  photo: archive of Febiofest
The 24th edition of Febiofest will open at Prague’s Municipal House on Thursday night with a screening of Spoor, the latest work by Polish director Agnieska Holland. The film is set in the Polish-Czech border area and Holland will present it in person.

Also coming to this year’s Febiofest are such names as Bad Lieutenant maker Abel Ferrara and the great Serbian director Emir Kusturica.

But what makes Febiofest different from other film festivals? That’s a question I put to Michal Hogenauer, one of its two new artistic directors.

“In the Czech Republic there are so many film festivals. Every embassy has its own festival, especially in autumn – every week there is something. But we are the main city festival. So we are trying to cover the last year or half of the year, because before us is Karlovy Vary. Our concept was to show mainstream films in one section and arthouse films in another section.”

Alongside Febiofest’s main New Europe competition, which centres on emerging directors, the festival has several new categories this year. These include music section Hi-Fi Docs, the cult-oriented Night Circus and Masters, showcasing works by the likes of Andrzej Wajda and Werner Herzog. Co-artistic director Anna Kopecká explains the idea behind Masters.

“We thought that when we are having a big special competition for first and second features we should also show some films by directors who are successful, who are acclaimed by the critics. We have Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. We also have a special guest, Emir Kusturica, who will present his new film. We are trying to show that even people who are already known, and whose style is very specific, can surprise you and sometimes show you something newer than young directors.”

Monica Bellucci and Emir Kusturica in 'On the Milky Road',  photo: archive of Febiofest
Fans can interact with a number of guests at free public talks and Anna Kopecká says she is particularly looking forward to Peter Suschitzky, whom she describes as one of the world’s top 10 DOPs.

“One of my favourite directors of all time is David Cronenberg and Peter Suschitzky has been working with David Cronenberg since Naked Lunch. He makes all of his films and I think his eye and his vision are really vital to Cronenberg’s films. But he’s also made episode five of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back. And he also made the really great Tale of Tales and Mars Attacks!”

Febiofest runs in Prague until Thursday next week before carrying on in reduced form at 13 other Czech cities and towns.